original prompt: I would love to know what Lord John Grey is up to in the Modern Glasgow AU and what his relationship with Claire and Jaime is like. Are they friends or is it all very fraught?
Claire snapped awake, reaching by reflex to the pillow next to her.
“Whatever we deny or embrace // For worse or for better // We belong, we belong, we belong together…”
Quickly she fumbled in the dark on her bedside table. Her phone screen read 2:26 AM.
A picture of Jamie – taken just the week before – flashed up on the screen.
Fingers trembling, she swiped to accept the call.
Instantly she was alert.
“Jamie? What’s wrong?”
“Claire. *Mo nighean donn,* I need to see you. Please. Please.”
Swallowing down panic, she quickly started a video call.
As she waited for his face to appear, she soothed him – using the same voice as she would with one of the children.
“Hush, Jamie. Just a second, and then I’ll see you. Hush.”
And then his tear-streaked face flooded her screen – and she disconnected the audio call.
At the sight of her, he visibly relaxed. But his eyes were still unfocused, his hair all messy from undoubtedly running it through his hands over and over.
Gaelic words flooded from his lips, his voice hoarse.
“Jamie,” she whispered, shifting to turn on the bedside lamp. “Tell me. Please. Are you in your hotel room?”
He nodded, swallowing. Clearly breathing hard.
Mentally she calculated how long it would take for her to drive from Glasgow to Sheffield at this hour of the night.
“Jamie, love. Tell me. Please.”
Never had she seen him so upset. And how her heart just *ached* that she couldn’t be there with him.
He swallowed, nostrils flared, struggling to find the words.
So she did what always worked best when Faith or Brianna or William or Fergus was upset – helped them visualize something warm, comfortable. Something happy, and safe.
She had learned the technique back in medical school, during her pediatric rotation – and had never, ever thought she’d need to use it on her husband – the most level-headed person she knew.
“Breathe, Jamie. Please breathe for me. Come back to me. Picture me there, holding you.”
She watched him pull off his tie, and then the long column of his throat swallowed.
He breathed in, and out. In, and out.
“Do you remember the night before you left, Jamie? When I cradled you so close to my heart?”
He nodded, eyes wide, wordless.
“And then you fell asleep inside of me, remember? And when we woke up – I told you that you are my forever.”
“Aye,” he croaked, blinking harshly. “Aye. I am. And ye are, for me. My soul is yours.”
She smiled – heartbeat beginning to slow. “Yes. And I love you, you proud Scot. How I love you so.”
He shut his eyes, pursed his lips, and inhaled hard.
Twenty seconds later he released his breath – opened his eyes – and cleared his throat.
“*Mo nighean donn,*” he rasped. “That I could lay my head on yer lap, lass, and have ye care for me. As I would care for you.”
She settled against the pillows, allowing the deep neck of her sleep shirt - *his* shirt, really – to fall over one shoulder.
“Tell me, Jamie. Please. You’re scaring me, love. Tell me what’s upset you so.”
Her image of him shifted – his face disappeared, and all she saw was the ceiling of his small but well-apportioned hotel room.
“One sec,” his muffled voice implored. “Hold on.”
And then he was back – his button-down gone, his sweat-soaked undershirt clinging to his chest.
“I wish I could kiss you,” she soothed. “Right there – right under your neck.”
He pushed down of his undershirt to show a fading bruise on his collarbone. “This is yours,” he breathed, voice soft, reverent.
She tilted her phone down and pushed back the neck of her own sleep shirt – exposing a dark spot blooming on the side of her breast. “And this is yours, Jamie. *I’m* yours.”
“Ye ken I’m always true to ye, Claire? That I’d rather die than play ye false?”
She peered closer into his pixelated blue eyes.
“I do, Jamie. I know you’re mine – every inch of you is mine. And every bit of me is yours.”
He nodded, considering. Turning the words over and over in his mind.
“Did something happen tonight?” she gently prompted. “Did a woman approach you?”
It certainly wouldn’t have been the first time. He’d been on the road for ten days, traveling with Lord John Grey – war hero, member of the House of Lords, handsome scion of a wealthy and powerful family, a very eligible bachelor, and more recently an accomplished author. Jamie had overseen publication of Lord Grey’s three previous books, all focusing on different aspects of life in World War II-era Britain. This new book told the stories of families who had sheltered in Tube stations during the Blitz – and it was already a runaway bestseller.
Which required Jamie to accompany Lord Grey on a six-city book tour in England. He spoke to a mix of veterans’ groups, literary agents, and historians, and always followed up with a book signing. Jamie was there to make sure that everything went smoothly – including the cocktail receptions that the publishing house hosted in each city.
Claire rarely travelled with him – the demands of her own job at the hospital, together with the need to care for their small army of Frasers, meant that Jamie was always on his own. Without fail, in almost every city a beautiful young woman would approach him toward the end of the evening and offer to provide him some entertainment for the rest of the night.
His retort was always the same – that he had to make an important phone call to his wife. And then he would - and they’d laugh about it.
But tonight, something was different. “No, Claire. Nothing like that.”
She yawned. “What, then?”
He licked his lips. “Tonight’s event was huge – a big reception done by the local historical society. John had to make a big speech – I could tell all day that he was nervous, because Rupert told me that the BBC would be sending someone to observe him. We’ve been approached to adapt his books into a television series.”
“That’s wonderful,” she mused. “But what does it matter?”
He sighed. “It went well – John was his usual charming self. And afterward, he invited me to meet him for a drink at the hotel bar.”
He paused. “I was so tired, Claire – but I could tell that he needed someone to talk to. And I should have said no – I should have just gone up to bed. But it’s my job to support him. So.”
Another pause. Jamie’s eyes darted back and forth, struggling to find the right words.
“So?” Claire asked after a while. “What happened?”
Jamie shrugged his shoulders. “I got to the bar – he was already tipsy after his speech, but now he was almost full-on drunk. And we chatted for a bit – I kept to my one whisky, but the man was throwing back gin and tonics like they were going out of style. And then – ”
He licked his lips. “Well. He lay his hand on top of mine, right there on the table – and asked me to spend the night wi’ him.”
“What?” Claire gaped. “What the hell? Are you serious?”
“Hush, Claire – ye dinna want to wake the bairns.”
“Who the fuck does he think he is?” she raged. “You’re the most married man on the face of the earth. Christ, Jamie, he’s been here to dinner and has met all the children!”
“I know, Claire. I know.”
“Well, what did you tell him, then?”
“I asked him - verra politely - to take his hand off me. Then I said no, I’m verra happily marrit. Then I paid for my drink, came upstairs, and called you straight away.”
“But I don’t understand, Jamie – why were you so upset? I’m sure he just had too much to drink – ”
“Ach – I’ve kent he’s gay for a long time. He doesna want it to be verra public, but I ken he broke up wi’ his partner right before the tour started, and he’s still reeling from that. Percy has been threatening to take it to the tabloids.”
“That’s terrible. But you still haven’t answered my question.”
He looked away.
“By the time I made it upstairs, I was shaking so badly. And I couldna understand why, at first - I mean, it was surprising for John to do that, but it’s happened to me wi’ those women before.” He paused - still not willing to meet her eyes.
“But now I understand why my mind just - just shut down, and couldna do anything except find a way to talk to ye, *mo chridhe*. Because it wasna *what* he said, so much as *how* he said it.”
“He said – well. He said, ‘Were I to take you to my bed, Jamie – I could make you scream.’”
Claire squirmed underneath her duvet. “Well *that’s* a bit awkward.”
Jamie swallowed – eyes and voice so far away.
“Do ye remember what I told ye about the night my father died?”
Her brows furrowed, startled. “Yes – he died when he saw you in jail, after you were arrested at that independence rally.”
Jamie nodded. She could see his chest rapidly rising and falling.
“I was arrested by that sadistic bastard police captain. Captain Jonathan Randall. He beat me up – broke my nose. Held me captive.”
“Oh, love. Yes. I remember. But I don’t understand – ”
“He locked me in a cell, all by myself. Visited me every hour that night to kick me, and beat me some more. I was hungry, and cold, and alone, and in so much pain.”
“Jamie – please – you don’t need to tell me this,” she implored. “It’s all in the past, love. I don’t-”
“And one time when he came by – he said to me that it would all be over if I would make free of my body to him.”
Claire’s heart stopped. Ice flooded her veins.
“He said – he said nobody else would know, or care. And that he would make me scream.”
Tears sprang to Claire’s eyes.
Jamie’s voice was cold – he spoke in a monotone. Devoid of feeling.
Why hadn’t he ever told her?
It didn’t matter, not now. Tonight she needed to bring him back to her – to the present.
Still she only saw the side of his face, the vein in the side of his neck throbbing in terror.
“Jamie. I love you. Look at me.”
He looked back into the camera, fresh tears streaming down his face.
“I’m so sorry that happened to you. And I’m so, so sorry that bloody drunk writer brought it all back to you tonight. But you can’t – you can’t let it destroy you like this. He certainly didn’t mean it the same way that that bastard captain did.”
“I want you here with me,” he whispered, voice choked. “I want to feel ye close. I want to be inside you. To forget.”
“Hush, love. Hush. I’m there with you, right now. Look down at your hand, Jamie. Your left hand. Tell me – what’s there?”
He drew in deep breaths through his mouth.
“That’s right. My ring. The one I put on your finger when we married. Do you remember?”
“And tell me, Jamie – what’s there, right by your thumb?”
“C. Your C. *You* are there, Claire,” he whispered.
“That’s right. Jamie, my love. I am with you always. And you are with me. See?”
She held up her right hand – watching him find the blurry J tattooed at the base of her own thumb.
He swallowed, choking back a sob.
“I love you so much.”
“Oh, I love *you* so much,” she whispered. “Focus on that. Focus on how much I love you. How beautiful our love is. How strong it makes us.”
“And how it will help you overcome anything. Even this.”
And then for a long while they just looked at each other – watched each other breathe. Wishing desperately that they were separated only by inches, rather than hundreds of miles.
Slowly, slowly Jamie relaxed. Grew more confident. Returned to himself.
“Do you want me to drive there? Give this Lord John a piece of my mind?”
He smiled. It was so, so beautiful to see.
“Nay bother. He probably won’t even remember it in the morning – God knows I certainly won’t remind him. *And* I’ll have to deal wi’ his hangover on the drive to Manchester tomorrow.”
His smile widened. “Ye’re finally making the proper Scottish noises, Claire. It’s taken ye long enough.”
She smiled back – heart so full of such strong love.
“Do you want me to stay on with you? I need to be up in a few hours, but you can watch me sleep. Almost like if I was next to you.”
“Aye - I’d like that. But it’s definitely no’ the same. Because if I was there - ye ken weel we wouldna be sleeping.”
She smiled - heart slowing - and blew him a kiss. Then she dimmed the light, tugged the pillow down, and settled on her side, bringing her phone along with her.
“Tell me how you’d hold me, if you were here right now.”
She drifted off to sleep at the soothing sound of his voice - rich with love, strong with promises. The stuff of her - their - dreams.
As dawn approached, one by one the wee Frasers crawled into bed with their Mama - first two-year-old Brianna, then three-year-old Faith, then eleven-year-old Fergus carrying one-year-old William. They waved a sleepy hello to their beloved Da - who smiled back his own quiet hello - and settled in with Mama and each other for a bit more rest.
Jamie watched the beautiful, peaceful faces of his family. Each face was his heart, in its own special way. Each one he loved more than his own life. And each one loved him more than he deserved.
And only then did Jamie finally, finally close his eyes.