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How Will I Know

Chapter Text

 I'm asking you what you know about these things

Having promised his father that he'd be there to help around the farm, Jamie found that he actually welcomed the distraction. He'd left Lallybroch when he enrolled for Seminary. After graduating, he rented a flat in town, a decision supported by Jenny and Ian. Brian was not too pleased with his decision, having always pictured his son settling in and raising his family at Lallybroch, but made a concession as he too saw that Jamie would sooner meet someone better suited in the city, not giving up on the prospect that one day he'd return to Broch Tuarach.

Jamie knew that all too well. It was the very reason why he kept his distance from his ancestral home, and it pained him to do so for he loved Lallybroch deeply. It was the one place where he felt at peace with himself, the one place that remained a constant throughout his life. He'd grown up there, running through the neverending fields, nature was everpresent in his day to day life. Forests, hills, lochs, he knew the terrain like the palms of his hands. He loved getting lost in the nature. Farmlife was part and parecel of his upbringing in the highlands, and he enjoyed every aspect to it. He loved animals, loved tending to them, especially horses with which he'd always had a special bond. He missed it, missed all of it, and was sad to have had to move to the city. He enjoyed his privacy, enjoyed having the liberty that came with it, but felt it in his bones, his acute longing to be out there in the fields. They called out to him.

Having done most of his seminary at a monastery, it had provided him with ample opportunity to continue on with his lifestyle from back home. There were plenty of chores needing to be done, and he was more than happy to tend to the animals in particular, but what he couldn't do was wander off into the woods, at least not nearly as much as he'd liked, and that had been a problem. So when sleep evaded him, he'd turned to the altar and had found great comfort then in the early hours

When he'd come back home, his father had expected him to dive right into priesthood. Just one little box left that needed to be ticked off the list- he needed to get married first in order to be ordained. And Brian had kept busy, keeping an eye out for prospect daughters in law. Jamie had been appalled when his father kept shoving so and so down his throat, pushing the matter incessantly, until he'd had no other choice but to leave Lallybroch and move into the city. He'd began working at the printshop to earn a living, pay the rent and whatnot, but the pay wasn't enough for him to afford a house. A small flat it was, then; but it had made Jamie feel almost claustrophobic.

He'd started munro bagging for this very reason, an excuse to be out in the wilderness, whilst also blowing off steam in the form of physical exertion. That's what he'd known all his life, he simply could not sit idle at home and do nothing in the way of manual labor. All his life he'd gone to bed physically spent and that was the only way he knew how to have a good night's sleep.

Jamie was there to break in a filly, old Alec had come down with a stomach bug of some sort and could not tend to the horses properly so Brian had asked Jamie to come and lend a helping hand. Ian was usually at Lallybroch more often than not himself, pretty much having taken over Jamie's responsibilities, and it infuriated him that his father had still not asked Jenny and her husband to move in. With them already having a kid and another one on the way, Lallybroch was the perfect place for them to raise their family, and Ian was out there helping his father in law or in church most of the time anyway. The fact that Brian stubbornly wanted Jamie to be the one to raise his family at Lallybroch, and only him, made absolutely no sense, there was plenty of space to fit 3 families at the very least. But his father was of opinion that the wife should move out with her husband, not the other way around. He knew well enough how oldfashioned he could be, especially when it came to patriarchal values he so cherished. Speaking of which, his eyes darted around, there was no sign of Ian today. But he did spot Brian heading towards him, and he inhaled sharply, readying himself.

"M'annsachd" Brian greeted Jamie smiling softly "Sae glad ye came"

"Said I would"

"I ken ye did. But I'm still glad fer it. Ye're a sight for sore eyes"

"Ye've just seen me Sunday"

"Briefly. Wasna like ye to skip church like that"

Jamie immediately regretted bringing it up, but he'd fallen right into his father's trap. There was no use trying to disentangle himself from that conversation now "I know, I'm sorry. Willna happen again"

"So ye've said" Brian leaned over the fence enclosing the paddock "Met anyone at the wedding?"

Jamie sighed, keeping his eyes glued to the filly "Wasna looking to". It wasn't a lie, after all.

"Ye have to try harder than that, mo mhac" his father chided, in what appeared to be a soft pleading tone, but Jamie knew better.

"Maybe I am" he all but grumbled before he could stop himself. A deep pang reverberated in his heart knowing that his father would not let this slip unnoticed. He praised the Lord in his mind when he heard Ian's 4x4 pull up. Thank God for small mercies. He stole a glimpse at Brian and noticed how annoyed he was to have the conversation interrupted, but could not press the matter further now that Ian was approaching them.

"Jamie, glad tae see yer alarm clock is working again!"

Jamie shot his brother in law a look that told him to knock it off and he could see he'd gotten the message loud and clear "Father" he addressed Brian "Jenny is in the car, she wondered if ye could help watch wee Jamie as she has an OB-GYN appointment today"

"Of course. I'll take the lad out to pet the animals"

"Only tae pet them, aye? Dinna let him get too close" Ian was waved off by his father in law who was already headed towards the car

"So I take it Jenny is still holding a grudge since she dinna care to come say hi tae me" Jamie approached his brother in law at the fence

Ian raised an eyebrow "Hey, ye dinna need me to be telling ye what yer sister is like. Ye're avoiding her too"

Jamie mirrored the man, raising his eyebrow "Am I now?"

"What's worse, ye're avoiding me"

"Hmph."

"Are ye no gonna tell me what's happening, brathair? Oh ye of little faith..."

Jamie eyed Ian cautiously. He was dying to confide in someone, and who better than Ian who had always been there for him. He could also do with his whole view on the matter as a priest himself. Inhaling profoundly he rested his hands on his hips and looked around making sure there was no sign of his father anymore, and also avoiding eye contact while doing so "I... met someone"

"Well thank God, it was either that or ye were leaving church or something" Ian chuckled but he stopped dead in his tracks when Jamie didn't correct him "Didna realize it could be both, though. Will ye speak up?"

Jamie was impressed. No doubt Ian's experience in confessional rendered him the ability to read people easily when in anguish, but he never counted on him deciphering his renowned poker face "I dinna ken where tae begin" he sighed "She's..."

Ian was losing his patience "What? Divorced? Underage? Dinna tell me she's married!"

Jamie shot Ian a look "She isna married. Definitely not underage, she may be older than me, actually, I'm not very sure. She could also be divorced? I dinna ken, tae be honest"

Ian's mouth fell agape "What do ye mean ye dinna ken? Well what do ye ken?"

Jamie drummed his fingers against his hipbones, growing impatient himself with Ian's inquisition "Look. Do ye want me tae tell ye or no?"

Ian sighed, and fished a cigarette from his backpocket. He too looked around making sure Brian was nowhere to be seen "Aye. Sorry. I just... wasna expecting it, I guess. I mean, I only thought ye were keeping this a secret so that father wouldna jump tae conclusions again. Ye're tellin me she's older? Well, what of it. I dinna think he'll object solely for that reason. Even if she's divorced. It's not like it's taboo anymore. Sure, he won't like it, but it wouldna stop him from giving ye his blessings.

Jamie furrowed his brows "His blessings?" he scoffed "I dinna ken about that..."

Ian took a drag and tried to compose his apprehension "Why is that?"

Jamie looked him in the eye then "She's not religious, I dinna think. I couldna say for sure, but I dinna think so. Dinna think she's orthodox either" he was taking in Ian's visibly growing shock as his eyes widened "She's very... outspoken. She has a mind of her own, definitely. She doesn't shy away from what people may think or say. She had a whole other life before she moved here"

"Wait a second" Ian placed the cigarette between his lips and gestured towards him "Is this the woman that opened that flower shop not far from church? The one that just moved here, aye" Ian's eyes widened in realization "Christ, man. She's gorgeous"

Jamie grinned and then sobered up upon realizing that this was the man that was married to his sister appraising his woman's beauty "Watch it"

Ian laughed out loud "Och brother, ye've got it bad. Och, Christ. Ye're in trouble, deep, deep trouble, a charaid!"

Jamie's features softened and he felt his body slump a bit in relief "Glad ye find this funny" he chided

"It isna. But it's still funny somehow" Ian chuckled, trying to compose himself "Ye've never strayed, not once. Yer father is gonna have a heart attack"

Jamie's eyes widened, his anxiety spiking up again "Ye cannae say that, 'tis been eating at me already. Dinna ken how to handle this."

Ian kept quiet for a few moments, looking at his brother in law intently "Ye're in love with her, aren't ye?"

Jamie just looked at Ian, telling him what he couldn't put into words. He knew it was too soon, but he also couldn't deny his feeling any longer. He was, God help him, he was head over heels for her.

"Christ" Ian exhaled "Didna realize it was this serious. Well, that... changes things. How serious is it, exactly?" Jamie once more looked at Ian and clenched his jaw and Ian nodded in understanding "Have ye bedded her, then?"

When Jamie ceased to reply Ian's eyes blew even wider but he finally cleared his voice "No, but it hasn't been completely... innocent, either" Ian had to light another cigarette, both eyebrows raised in consternation. Jamie huffed "Sorry not all of us got to meet their other half since childhood and had their whole life laid out perfectly before them"

Ian narrowed his eyes "Do ye think this is what this is, me judging you?! Far from it. And ye should know better! I would never judge you, ye're my best mate. Ye eejit"

"Well then dinna just stand there. Tell me. What should I do? I dinna want to disappoint him, Ian. I really don't. But I gotta tell ye. I'm not feeling guilt over it. I thought I would, but I don't. She makes me happy. She feels... right. I canna explain it, she just does. I may not know her all that well, but ye know me, ye know I wouldna just lose my heid over something like that if it werena serious."

"Aye, that I ken well enough. I also ken that ye're a realist, a pragmatist. Surely ye ken what ye'd be giving up for her. The question is, is she worth it? Truly. It's not something ye can go back and reconsider"

"Ye dinna think I ken that?! I need... time. I need more time with her. I need to know where she stands with all of this"

Ian whistled "She doesn't know about...? Jamie, she doesn't know ye're preparing for priesthood?"

Jamie shook his head "No, and I'm terrified of telling her. I dinna want her to label me as churchboy and dismiss me before she even gets tae know me, in the real sense"

"You being a "churchboy" is very real, my friend. It's a huge part of yer identity. Ye canna erase all that, surely ye dinna want to"

"Of course not"

"Well, then? Tell her, man. She deserves tae know the truth of it. She needs to know what ye're willing to give up for her. Unless ye think... and it's a long stretch, by all means, but do ye think she'd even consider converting?"

Jamie huffed a laugh "Even if she would, she's not exactly priestess material. I wouldna want her to if it's not who she is, I would never force something like that on anyone. And no, I dinna want to tell her, not yet. That would just put pressure on something that is still really fragile between us. It's not ready for this thing to weigh it down like that. I want her to get tae know me better before I tell her about this"

Ian was silent a long while again "Don't jump at me, it's an innocent question, aye? Do ye mebbe think this might have to do more with... lust, rather than love?"

Jamie was surprised himself at how he didn't feel the need to bark back at his friend for asking that. He'd been contemplating it himself incessantly since he'd met Claire "I've had plenty of time to go over it time and again, and no, I'm certain 'tis not just lust. It's sae much more than that. Tae me, at least"

"How about her? Do ye know where she stands?"

Jamie shook his head running a hand through his curls "No idea. None whatsoever. That's the thing. I'm sure of my feelings for her. But I can't open up like I'd want to until I ken how she feels. If it's just physical for her... I'll call it quits. As much as it'd pain me, I'm not looking for just a bit o'fun"

"Well then. Do that. Take yer time, get tae know one another better. Mebbe not too well, if ye catch my drift"

Jamie raised an eyebrow "I'm trying. God knows I'm trying"

Ian nodded "I get it. She's a wee bit older, aye, I've seen her a couple o' times. And people talk. Obviously. Most likely she'd been married, would explain why she opened up shop out of the blue, with no prior connection tae the place, and her being an englishwoman, no less"

"Why, what have people been saying? Not that I care, but I dinna like them spreading falsities about her. I've witnessed some snarky remarks too" Jamie grimaced

"The usual. Men had no objections, to be clear" Ian raised an eyebrow, smirking "But women? Christ help them. They cannae help it, I guess. But they dinna like her coming here, catching their men's attention perhaps"

Jamie's eyebrows shot up. Well, it wasn't as though he'd been fooling himself he'd been the only one to notice her. Surely there'd been other men trying to catch her attention. Suddenly he felt a lump form in his throat. He hated the fact that he couldn't be sure whether she'd returned any of their affections. She'd told him she'd never taken a man home before, one she'd just met at least. But that didn't exclude the possibility of her going out with someone else. Especially someone as open minded as she clearly was.

"Heard Tom Christie has been frequenting her shop. There's only sae many occasions tae buy flowers in the span of a week, if ye ask me" Ian chuckled and then it morphed into laughter taking in Jamie's shocked expression "Calm down, aye? Ye ken he's been going after every single woman in town for years now. She was prone to be top of his list now, would've surprised me if it weren't the case"

"I'll wring his neck" Jamie grunted

"Aye, keep adding tae the list, yer confessional is gonnae be a long one, brathair" Ian kept on laughing which earned Jamie flipping him off

"How's that for adding tae the list?"

"Oh, I doubt it deserves even an honorable mention at the rate ye're going!'" Ian wiggled his eyebrows and ducked when Jamie pretended to go in for a punch

"Let's get some work done before father gets any ideas. Which reminds me, ye saved me earlier. I may have slipped about seeing someone. I doubt he didn't catch it"

"If he did, he's going tae make some inquiries, to be sure. If ye dinnae want him to know about it yet, mebbe keep it lowkey fer now. But dinna hide it for much longer, it's gonnae catch up with ye eventually.

Jamie nodded "Whatever ye do, do not mention anything tae Jenny", he warned

"Yer confession is safe with me, my son" Ian grinned

"Och, wipe that smirk off yer face, ye eejit. Ye really did help. I'm grateful for ye, brother"

Ian sighed and squeezed Jamie's shoulder reassuringly over the fence "All in the day's work, what's some extra Fraser drama on my plate? Come on. Let's get tae work"