Loved how Jamie gave claire the medical book in the Boston story. Can we maybe see her starting to look at which one she wants to go to? Does she have her sights set on Harvard??
Flood my Mornings: The First Step
Notes from Mod Bonnie:
- This story takes place in an AU in which Jamie travels through the stones two years after Culloden and finds Claire and his child in 1950 Boston.
- See all past installments via Bonnie’s Master List
- Previous installment: Samhain (Jamie stumbles upon a new community)
“Jamie?” I called urgently across the evening-shadowed house, rustling the pages on the rolltop. “Jamie? Did you move my essay?”
Ah yes, My Essay:
Why should you be admitted to Harvard University’s Program for Correspondent Students?
Well, you see, honorable gentlemen of the admissions committee, my applications for medical school a few years hence—even if not at Ivy League institutions— will need to look as goddamned impressive as can possibly be mustered, since they will almost certainly be reviewed by a panel of elderly male fuddy-duddies like yourselves.
Thus, having Harvard University on my CV (even if it’s only for these pre-requisite courses), will only serve to impress said fuddy-duddies, and as a female with a spotty-at-best record in formal education, I need all the bloody help I can get.
The almost-final draft of my personal statement had been more subtle, but it was God’s honest truth.
I’d been working incessantly on the damned thing for weeks, sleeping little and poorly from the stress. I’d downed more coffee than I’d previously have deemed safe for human beings, and was looking and feeling decidedly the worse for wear for it all.
Meanwhile, my sainted husband had tirelessly picked up my slack with the house and with Bree night after night as I hunched over the desk, scribbling and scratching out. This last week, in particular, he’d given me more than enough space, bless him, speaking softly, keeping Bree out of my hair, giving kisses, but not initiating sex, nor even the casual touches that were so much a part of our daily rhythm with one another. I knew he meant well by it—to allow me to focus my non-hospital- and non-sleep-hours upon the task at hand… but LORD, another part of me wished that he would just hoist me out of my chair, throw me onto the ground, and give me an hour’s rough relief from my own mind and Harvard blasted University! I didn’t hold it against him, of course, and it would be over soon, in any case, but his walking on eggshells around me was its own breed of stress.
‘Stress’—such a tiny word for so much inner turmoil. It wasn’t just the essay in front of me or the way my gut had felt all tied in knots for the past week; it was the entire trajectory of which this was only the first step: the prerequisite courses, the MCATs, applications, interviews, medical school, internship, residency, fellowship—the next decade or more of my life! So much would hinge on every single decision I made from here on out. I couldn’t afford any mistakes, starting with this bloody essay.
I had put the entire packet together last night in the Manila envelope: application, references, ESSAY. Stamps, on. Addresses, penned. Seal…well…left UN-sealed, because I wasn’t bloody ready. And good thing, too, for I’d spent my entire shift that day replaying the words in my mind, every phrase sounding wretched, every choice of words trite or cliché or childish, and screaming for another revision. I’d rushed home, called a ‘hello, darling,’ to Jamie, who was tucking Bree in for the night, and then gone directly to the rolltop, still in my coat and hat, to read it through again and exorcise this demon. Except my packet wasn’t there.
“Jamie??” I called again, louder, my anxiety mounting. I hissed at two sudden papercuts as I rummaged frantically again through the stack. “Darling? Did Penelope say anything about moving my—”
“Sassenach, keep your voice down, for God’s sake—” Jamie whispered loudly as he came around the living room door, looking harried. “Brianna’s only just gotten to sleep, lass!”
I lowered my voice but not my urgency, and I barely even looked up. “The envelope with my application and personal statement? Have you seen it? I swear, it was right on top of the stack with the blue folder here on the desk.”
“Oh, aye, I sent it in.”
“What?” I laughed weakly, still rummaging. “Ha-ha, very funny.”
“I did,” he said simply, “I mailed it in.”
I froze. And STARED at him. “What?”
“It was complete. The deadline was coming up in a few days; so,” he shrugged, ACTUALLY shrugged, “I mailed it in for ye.”
“It was NOT complete.”
The words came out low and lethal, and I could see Jamie’s shirt-too-tight-shrug that indicated he heard the danger in them. “Ye packed it all in the mailing envelope, no? It was ready to be submitted.”
“Yes, but I wasn’t ready to send it yet!”
He made a small sound of carefully-controlled exasperation. “Claire, mo chridhe, how should I have known th–”
“You should have asked! You should have called me at work to ASK!” I threw up my hands. “Not just assumed that I was ready to have it sent off without my permission!”
He squirmed perceptibly but wasn’t giving in. “Lass, you’ve been slaving over that essay for weeks. You’ve barely slept—You put it in the envelope, wi’ the address and stamps and everything. I read it again last night after ye went to bed and it was perfect.”
The truth was that despite my obsessing over it, it HAD probably been as bloody close to perfect as I could get it. I’d double-checked and triple-checked and quadruple-checked; revised and wordsmithed it to within an inch of its life. But I’d wanted to wait ‘til the very last moment to send it in, to feel absolutely certain it was as good as I could make it; and having that control so unexpectedly pulled out from beneath me—
“—Even if it had been, Jamie, you still had no—NO—bloody right—”
He ran his hands back through his hair. “Sassenach, come now, it’s no’ as though—”
“Jamie, this isn’t a recipe I’m sending to a Ladies’ Magazine!” I didn’t know what to do with my hands but they gestured wildly in my livid rage and tears. “This is—was—Harvard!”
“I ken it IS Harvard,” he said pointedly, putting his hands firmly on my shoulders “—and I ken you’re going to be ACCEPTED there when they read your—”
“And what the hell would YOU know about it?” I snapped, perceiving only the hurt flashing across his face before I was down the hallway and into the bathroom, locking the door. I yanked the shower handle and sunk down against the tub, letting the water mask the sounds of my weeping.
A few minutes later, Jamie was knocking softly on the door.
His voice was quiet, and, I thought, abashed. “Claire…? May I come in?”
I covered my mouth so he couldn’t hear me. I felt tears trickling over my hand but I wouldn’t open my eyes. It’s not the end of the world, Beauchamp.
A long silence.
He was leaning against the door, I thought.
“It was…an impulsive thing I did— I—” he sighed miserably. “—I thought better of it throughout the day, but…Christ, i’m sorry…It was foolish. I was wrong to do it…”
A long silence.
A long…long silence.
“I’m truly…truly sorry, Claire.”
I took a deep breath.
It would be alright. I hadn’t been ready, but the essay was fine. Jamie regretted what he’d done. It would be alright.
But I was too spent and too upset to consider opening the door.
He HAD been wrong to do it—knew not ten minutes after the post had gone that he’d made a grave error in judgement. But the essay had been perfect, BRILLIANT, and Claire had been so plagued by self-doubt over it. It was as if she had placed her entire sense of her own worth upon success in this single endeavor, this single writing. He’d simply wished her to feel as if she had finally accomplished the thing, after such a harrowing period these last few weeks.
But she was completely right: what he wished her to feel was irrelevant, and he had betrayed her trust. She was well within her rights not to be ready to forgive him.
He waited more than an hour, until long after he’d heard her enter the bedroom; giving her the space she apparently wanted. At last, though, he entered the darkened room.
She was already in bed with her back turned to him. Asleep? He couldn’t tell—but even if she were awake, he didn’t expect her to speak until morning. He deserved her fury for at least that long.
He undressed and slipped quietly under the covers, taking care not to jostle her. Without really thinking about it, he mirrored her posture, coming to rest on his side, facing away from her.
He listened to the clock tick and tried to let it lull him to sleep.
“Can’t you at least bring yourself to have sex with me?” Sharp. Wide awake. Dangerous.
Startled, he blurted, bewildered. “Bring myself—?”
He felt her bolt upright beside him, her hands slamming onto the bedspread. Her voice was still laced with anger, but desperate, forbye, and hurting. “Jamie, you haven’t touched me in a week! I need to—to feel close to—”
“You’ve never wished me to have ye during your courses before, Sassenach,” he said, scrubbing his hand over his face as he rolled onto his back. “Do ye really want to that badly tonight?” His ‘especially when you’re not too keen on me at the moment, in any case,’ was implied. He would serve her, of course, if she wished it, but–
“I’m not on my goddamned ‘courses,’ you absolute bastard!”
Jamie opened his mouth to fire back.
—but then, she gasped—
—a tiny sound, barely more than a sharp breath, really, but so deeply unlike Claire that—
He was on his knees beside her in an instant. She was kneeling on the mattress, too, clad in only her underclothes, both hands clapped over her mouth. “Oh, God,” she croaked between her fingers, her eyes wide and wide and wider.
“Mo ghraidh—?” He grappled for her face, pushing back the wildness of her hair to hold her between his hands. “Mo chridhe —? you're—?”
“Oh—God!” she said again, eyes brimming and hyper-focused upon nothing, her mouth gaping open and shut, “—I didn’t—I was so busy, I hadn’t been—No—” she moaned softly as he lifted her and gathered her, cradled her to him. Her body was rigid, pushing back, and her head shaking violently back and forth. “No,” she wept, “no, no, it’s—Jamie, it’s too soon.“ He could see her eyes sparkling with life through her tears, even as she tried to resist the truth. “We can’t—can’t know for certain—not yet.”
“Six days, Claire—” he gasped, his free hand roaming up her back to cup her cheek, hard. “One day—two days, maybe, but—SIX?”
She lowered her fingers tentatively to graze the natural curve of her belly. Jamie watched in a trance as her palm slowly came to lay flat against her skin. “Oh, God,” she whispered, swaying on her knees and leaning her forehead against his shoulder as her arms came around him. “Jamie…Jamie…”
He held her and rocked her (THEM!) and kissed her, crying, laughing—but then remembered—
“I'm—truly sorry about the application, mo nighean donn,” he choked out, feeling the guilt seize this moment of joy. “It was your task—your choice—It wasna my place at all to—”
“Forgiven,” she whispered, putting her fingers to his lips and shaking her head. “Forgiven…. And I’m sorry, too….for what I said—I didn’t mean—”
He kissed her, and she kissed him, and there was nothing except her arms; her fingers cupping the back of his head; the taste of her tears and his; her lips; her sweet voice, breaking. “Jamie...Jamie, I’m so—happy—”
He couldn’t say a word. He could only nod his head slowly over and over again, completely overcome, his shoulders shaking. His heart felt ready to burst as he watched his wife, her face shining, go softly to her back and reach up for him. “Come to me?”
And he came to her, made love to her—the only woman he’d ever had; the only one he would ever have in his lifetime.
And as he lay awake long after, holding her, cupping the bairn that slept within her, he prayed; but unlike the night more than two years ago when he’d held Brianna in this same fashion, heart breaking from despair and fear and the looming specter of death, his prayer this night was hopeful and strong.
Lord…that this child will be safe.
[oh-so-much-more to come]