She saw Jamie Fraser in the hospital once more during the divorce proceedings, a meeting of eyes and an exchange of smiles as he’d been describing something to a doctor about the accident victim the paramedics had just brought in and she’d been on her way to take blood from a patient who didn’t look away from her phone the entire time. By the time she’d finished, he was gone again.
There was one afternoon, too, where she thought she might have spotted him in the street, was fairly certain that she had even though it was only the back of his head - her new flat is near the firehouse, after all, and how many massively tall redheads could be roaming around Leoch? - but when she’d looked again he’d been gone.
She tells herself that it doesn’t matter, that she’s thankful to him for the part he played on that night but doesn’t need any more.
She finds herself a liar when he’s wheeled, groaning, into A&E on a beautifully sunny Wednesday.
“We were finishing a high rescue at a construction site and I had my back turned,” the paramedic who helped wheel him in, a bright, round-faced little blonde, reports breathlessly. “There were unsecured materials on the back of a trailer. They would ha’ hit me, but Jamie—Jamie pushed me out of the way...” She trails off, biting her lip shyly as she glances down at him.
“Aye, and got hit with them himself for the trouble,” grunts the fire chief, a bearded older man. Claire recalls Jamie mentioning that they were related, finds herself examining his face for a resemblance and seeing little there. “Likely a concussion at least for the lad.”
“I’d hoped not to see you back here so soon, Mr. Fraser,” she tells Jamie later, once he’s been assessed - a concussion indeed, mild but considering it’s not his first it warrants him another stay, along with horribly mottled bruising on his chest and shoulders - and brought to the same room as before. She even allows a bit of teasing into her voice.
“So long as you’d hoped to see me back eventually, Sassenach,” he says, a grin coming to his face as if he can’t help it any more than he could the words.
“There are such things as well visits,” Claire says. She shakes her head, checking over his file. He has, she notices, altogether too many middle names. “I see that your birthday is in May. Perhaps you could try your best to keep yourself safe, and you can drop by to say hello then.”
When he looks over at her, his face is filled with less humor and more contemplation. “I’ll certainly try to keep myself safe, aye, but as for waiting until May—”
“And what’ve ye done to yerself this time? Dougal said I’d find ye here, but nothing more about the condition of ye.”
Claire recognizes the bearded man suddenly looming in the doorway from the first time she encountered Jamie, although he is dressed now in a pullover and jeans; the scowl has remained though, and perhaps furrowed even deeper. She steps over toward the doorway, shoulders back, and summons the tone of her favorite matron from training.
“I prefer to at least be introduced to people before they threaten my patients,” she says. “Claire Beauchamp.” She extends her hand with no hint of doubt that he will shake it.
It takes a moment, but he does. “Murtagh Fizgibbons Fraser,” he says begrudgingly. “Godfather to this one”—he jerks his chin toward where Jamie is lying in the bed—“and growing aged before my time for my pains.”
“Surely I’m not as bad as that, a ghoistidh?” Jamie comments, in a voice that makes Claire want to shake her head and mutter ‘bloody charmer.’ It works, though. Murtagh folds his arms and glares but steps further into the room.
“I’ve a spare charger for your phone, and a few odds and ends besides. Thought ye might be here for a while, considering whatever damned heroics you’ve been up to.”
The next time Claire has a chance to check in on Jamie, Murtagh is gone, his seat beside Jamie’s bed filled instead by a woman Claire doesn’t recognize.
Of course you wouldn’t recognize her, she admonishes herself as she quickly and vigorously applies hand sanitizer. You barely recognize him and he’s at least been your patient. She tries to pretend that vague recognition is all that fills her thoughts when she sees Jamie.
The woman seems to be at least a few years older than Jamie. She’s petite and pale-skinned, her dark hair pulled back in a smooth bun. Her rose pink sweater dress and slender figure emphasize her tiny baby bump. Claire finds her eyes flitting over to Jamie, examining his hands for a ring she might have neglected to notice and his face for an explanatory expression (guilt? contrition?), finds her mind turning over their conversations for mention of a wife or a child on the way.
“Sorry to interrupt, just here for a vitals check,” she says, brusquely, diverting the flow of Gaelic conversation between the two of them. “I hadn’t realized that you had a visitor, or at least a new one.”
“Murtagh phoned me,” says the woman. “I don’t usually come all the way out only to mop the brow of my fool brother, but I’ve a wee rascal running around my house and this new one going to join him before too long, so these days a hospital visit is actually a bit of a holiday when it comes down to it.”
“This is my sister, Jenny,” Jamie fills in. “Jen, this is my—This is Claire. Beauchamp. She’s been my nurse.”
“Aye,” says Jenny, her mouth twisting somehow, becoming more serious. She gives a sideways glance to her brother, then an up-and-down, examining look toward Claire. It isn’t the first time Claire’s had her professional abilities questioned - only two days ago, an elderly gentleman had informed her that she was “quite young and quite English to be taking care of my Gladys,” and she had laughed it off and told him that she had the feeling she was exactly the right age for the task, Englishness notwithstanding. Somehow, though, she wants to stand a bit straighter at this scrutiny, to ensure that her scrubs are unstained (fat chance) and her hair hasn’t gotten itself into too much havoc within its ponytail (even fatter).
“Aye,” says Jenny again, looking back at Jamie. “Your nurse indeed.”
“Not for much longer, I think,” says Claire, mentally reaching out and grasping luckily onto cheerful professionalism. “I doubt he’ll still be here by the time I come back on duty tomorrow. We only wanted to keep him to ensure there hadn’t been any issues following the concussion, but he’s held up well during the observation period.”
“I’m no’ surprised, considering how hard that skull of his can be,” Jenny says, seeming not even to need to see Jamie rolling his eyes to know he has done so; she snakes out a hand and gives him a quick, nipping pinch on the rib cage. He squirms away, his “Janet” half laugh and half warning.
Claire crosses her arms, trying to hide a smile, though she has the feeling she hasn’t been successful. “Well, he’s been a model patient, regardless of the reason why.”
“Ah, now, Claire, we’ll avoid years of trouble in future if ye learn straight off no’ to lie to me,” Jenny tells her with a shake of her head, her own hidden smile flashing there-and-gone-again across her face.
“I didn’t specify which model of patient he was,” Claire says. “I’ve had some extremely rude and difficult ones, after all. Although your brother certainly hasn’t sicked up all over me three times then stuck his hand on my chest while asking me to ‘give us a smile, will you, love.’”
“If I ever did that, I hope that you’d discharge me right into the street with a boot to my arse and no’ bother to let me get dressed either,” Jamie says, somber and vaguely horrified. Jenny laughs.
Claire says, “If you ever did that, I’d take you for imaging straightaway because you’d obviously developed the sort of brain tumor that entirely changes a personality,” and Jenny laughs again, but it’s different this time, considering, the way she had first looked at Claire.
It doesn’t occur to Claire until she’s after she’s actually taken Jamie’s vitals and returned to the nurse’s station to wonder what exactly Jenny meant when she was talking about years in the future. She tells herself that it was certainly a reference to the fact that Jamie is likely to find himself back in her care at some point and leaves it at that.
Well, wondering when that some point might be isn’t exactly leaving it, but she shoves that thought aside too; she’s getting very good at it.
Even though she’d predicted it, she’s a bit disappointed to spot Jamie’s empty room when she arrives for work the following day.
“Mr. Fraser discharged alright?” she asks Mary offhandedly as she rolls her neck and enters her login into the computer.
"He’d been in room four," Claire reminds her, and Mary's head pops up, that familiar nervous panic overtaking her face again.
"H—He hasn't been discharged! Or, well, he's meant to be soon, but he hasn't signed his paperwork or spoken with the doctor again. He is—isn't supposed to just leave. Oh, bugger, if I've lost him—"
"I'm certain you haven't lost him," Claire soothes. "He probably just stepped away for a moment. Here, I'll go track him down for you, it's not too busy just now."
But when she checks, Jamie isn't walking the nearby halls. He isn’t in the restroom or the café. He doesn’t return even after being paged - she doesn’t think he’d ignore that, but there certainly are places in the hospital where such messages can’t be heard. Finally she looks up his cell phone number among his intake paperwork. She knows she shouldn't do this, but her chest squeezes in something other than warning as she does.
Jamie, it's Claire. Where on earth have you gone?
If you've left the hospital without being officially discharged
I'm going to be extremely put out with you.
No need for displays of temper, Sassenach. I'm only in the chapel.
She doesn't typically visit the small space, although it isn't far from where she works every day. The hush within has little to do with the heavy wood paneling which likely blocked out the sound of his name over the intercom, or the fact that Jamie is the only one inside, his head bent and clasped hands resting on the pew in front of him. She finds herself stepping carefully, trying to keep the silence intact.
"I didna mean to cause trouble," Jamie says as she takes a seat beside him. "I spent the morning doing nothing but lying around - I didn't think a wee walk would do any harm."
"You might be feeling fine, you might be fine, but at least tell someone next time," she admonishes. "Mary thought she'd misplaced you and nearly fainted on the spot."
"The little blonde slip of a thing? Och, she’s made of tougher stuff than that, but I'll let her know I'm sorry for worrying her."
"Very gracious of you.” She looks around them; the place has quite a Christian feel to it, pews and crosses and not much room to meditate or roll out a prayer rug, for all that it’s supposed to be interfaith, but she supposes it’s to be expected considering the demographics of Scotland. She settles back against the hard wood of her seat and directs her attention back toward him. “At least you didn't venture far. I might have found you earlier but I hadn't realized that you were religious."
"I might not be a Mass every Sunday type," he says, "although I’m fair regular to that as well. But I believe in…something, and I dinna only mean traditions or scripture. Perhaps it's God, or saints, or angels, or the spirits of my parents and ancestors, but I do believe that there's a greater power watching over us."
"'More things in heaven and earth, Horatio'?" she offers, and he blinks, a smile blooming slow on his mouth. He lets out a one-note chuckle.
"Aye, precisely. So every time I manage to come through something dangerous, I’m sure to take some time to say my thanks for seeing me past it."
He separates his clasped hands so that she can see the religious medal on a chain between them. "St. Florian," he tells her, letting it dangle it in the air so it catches the limited light. "Jenny got it for me after I'd finished my training at Cambuslang. He's meant to be the patron saint of firefighters." He leans his shoulder a bit closer, a grin teasing the boundaries of his mouth as he adds, "Chimney sweeps and soapmakers as well, but I’ve the feeling there isn't much trouble wi’ them these days."
"A good thing too, as I suspect you take up a fair amount of time and oversight all on your own." She can't help the smile edging up her lips in a match with his.
"But well worth it, I hope."
"I should think so," she says, too quickly. She clears her throat, hoping he won't have noticed, although it doesn't seem that much escapes him. "Well, have the two of you finished your conversation, or do you need another few minutes?"
The direct gaze of his eyes on her nearly makes her look away, but he does first. "Just another moment," he says, holding up a finger before bowing his head again. She observes him there, his expression serene but intense beneath his vividly red curls. She doesn't know enough Gaelic to understand what he's saying, her mind only able to pick out a cognate around every tenth or twelfth word. There is one thing, “sorcha,” which she does manage to catch several times; perhaps she's able to make it out because it seems to have extra weight on Jamie’s tongue. She wonders if it means "please" or "thank you" or "God," something which would inspire the care and reverence he endows into the syllables.
But she doesn't want to interrupt or break the surrounding peace to ask him now; she can find out later. After another moment, he nods to her and they stand together to return to the world.