APWOA: Chapter Three
The third chapter of A Penny’s Worth of Affections, my Claire / Jamie AU that takes place during WWI!
Customary shout out to the fabulous @internallydeceased because without her this would probably be a hot mess. And a most exuberant a shoutout to @marlosbooknook who’s legitimately the cutest person ever. Both these ladies have really great fanfictions going right now, and I highly recommend you read them at some point (after reading this one, obviously 😉)! You can read them here and here, respectively. 💙
Let me know what you think of this chapter! I love hearing your theories!! ✨
III. Heroic Acts and Twisted Scars
28th April 1914
Following an extremely pitiful attempt to move the gigantic red-haired man, Claire, with the help of Murtagh the barkeep, managed to get him standing. The pair of them, standing on both sides of the patient, were able to guide him carefully into the recluse of the cabinet particulier so that Claire could provide him with the care he so desperately needed. Claire knew the customary uses of such a room, given the cornflower-hued baize settee that sat in front of the large expanse of the fireplace, but resigned to ignore the conclusions that came to mind. The mental images of what had taken place in that room prior to her visit could stay locked away in her subconscious until after the injured man was seen to. But until the doctor arrived, La Dame Blanche would have to suffice.
Settling her patient onto the settee, she glanced towards the burly older man behind her, pushing the sleeves of her cream-colored dress up to her elbows. “I’m going to need a bucket of the cleanest water you can find, a couple strips of linen—also clean, and as long as you can make them. A bottle of the strongest alcohol you have, a pair of tweezers, and some tea—along with some ground willow bark, if you have any.”
Murtagh raised an eyebrow skeptically, but nodded and turned out of the room without a word.
Claire swiveled around to face her patient. He laid on the settee serenely, almost as if he had gone there on his own volition. His eyelashes fluttered against his flushed cheeks, hued a dark scarlet that faded to blonde at the roots. His eyes fluttered underneath the lids as he dreamed, and she saw the small sparks of blue veins striking across the pale surface like lightning.
As she attempted to help free him of his restraints (consisting of an ebony jacket, a gray waistcoat and a white collared shirt), she realized just how young he truly looked. As monstrous as his frame was, his face aged him significantly younger. Looking upon his bulky, sleeping form, she thought he looked more like a babe placed in the trundle by his mother than a heroic man of action.
She imagined a woman with hair the same fiery shade as his own, lulling him to sleep with a lullaby sung from honeyed lips, serenading him into the arms of Morpheus*. The innocence of his stoic face compelled her to reach forward, stroking the side of his face with her left hand.
The texture of growing hair on his unshaven cheek was like that of an old-fashioned couch: rough against the grain but soft the other way. His lips turned upwards slightly into a smile, and she thought she heard her heart burst, like the fiery blaze emitting from the fireplace a mere foot away from where they sat.
Realizing that she had lost her right mind, she shook her head once and resumed her intended duty. She reached for his jacket so as to remove it, but the boy jerked away from her icy cold hand. He said something harshly in a language she didn’t understand, but she didn’t need to understand it to know it’s connotation.
“Good morning to you, too,” She retorted sharply, reaching back for his arm to pull the blood-soaked jacket sleeve away from his trembling body. When he finally opened his eyes, he looked at her intensely with no more utterances escaping his lips. His eyes focused solely on her own, the flicker of recognition shining as brightly as sunlight reflected off of the bluest of waters of his irises.
The fixed look broke when the door reopened. She turned her eyes quickly away from the unnamed man and towards Murtagh, whose hands were piled high with the different items she had requested. A small form emerged from behind him, a mug of a steaming liquid held between both of his tiny hands.
“For you, mademoiselle,” the boy said, setting the cup at her feet before scurrying away.
Claire raised her right brow quizzically at the retreating form, but did not dwell on the matter, turning towards Murtagh and smiling benevolently in thanks.
The man nodded, setting the items on the floor by her feet. He turned towards the man on the settee, of whom was still grunting softly in pain, and asked, with a twinge of fury, “What in God’s name were you doing out so late? What if ye’d been caught?”
The boy seemed amused by this statement, for the corner of his mouth twitched upward slightly, despite his pain. “I’m afraid the word if implies that I had not been caught.”
Murtagh, evidently angered with this information, turned his head away and stomped towards the fireplace. He stared at it intently, watching the flames flicker slightly from where he stood. Impatient to wait for his next revelation, Claire turned back towards her patient.
Not sure what else she could say, she simply murmured matter-of-factly, “I need to check your arm.”
The boy nodded, his eyes returning to hers once more. She felt an odd shiver run up her spine, but chose to ignore it as she helped him out of his coat, vest, and shirt. It was then that she saw what the issue—or, rather, issues—were.
“You’ve been shot?” Claire questioned, carefully reaching toward the bullet wound located on the back of his upper right shoulder. The form by the fireplace shifted, but did nothing else.
Wondering if the bullet had exited elsewhere on his body, she delicately placed her fingers near the reddened edges of the entry wound. A low hiss pressed past the patient’s teeth. I suppose that’s my answer, then, she thought to herself wryly. She inspected further, pulling his shoulder forward in order to inspect the cavity in better light. Staring into the mass of blood, tissue, and cartilage, she finally saw what she had been looking for.
“Fuck,” She whispered, praying that neither men in the room had heard the unladylike profanity that passed her lips. The shoulder beneath her hand started to shake slightly, as if it’s owner was laughing. Peering over, her assumption proved true as she watched the boy’s face, contorted with mirth.
Through his laughter, he managed to sputter out, “That bad, is it?”
“That bad and worse,” She replied, moving from her position so that she could look him in the eye. “The bullet didn’t pass through the tissue, so I’m going to have to extract it. Then I have to go about setting your shoulder—that’s out of joint, mind you—which is a different endeavor entirely.”
He nodded, his eyes not leaving hers for a moment. The dilation of his pupils, the slurring words of his speech and the inconsistent fluttering of his eyelids told her exactly what was needed: she turned towards the pile of necessities next to her foot and grabbed the steaming cup of herbal tea, pouring the packet of willow bark in and mixing it a few times with the forceps. She then thrust her arm forward forcefully and commanded her patient to drink.
The smile didn’t leave his lips as he did as he was bid, drinking the entirety of the brew in three long gulps. She rolled her eyes as she turned towards Murtagh, asking in the most authoritative voice she could manage, “I need you to hold him steady.”
The man was by her side in an instant, wrapping his small form around the patient. Claire almost laughed at the sight, but suppressed her mirth.
She looked back into the boy’s crystalline eyes, murmuring softly, “This is going to hurt.”
After extracting the bullet, cleaning out the wound—of which the patient only emitted soft grunts of pain in response—and resetting the dislocated joint, Claire had only the wrappings left to complete. Sitting behind him on the settee, she wrapped the linen cloths tightly around his damaged shoulder, but not too tight to completely limit his range of motion.
As she wrapped, her mind began to rehash the words that Murtagh had uttered earlier. Curiosity was getting the better of her; she leaned forward slightly so that he could hear her better and inquired, “What, pray tell, got you in such a compromising predicament, sir? If you don’t mind my asking.”
He smiled at her over his shoulder, not moving too much so as to keep the bandages applied to his tender muscles in place. “Just a ‘bit o’ heroic acts, ‘sall. Nothing like a few good punches and a bullet wound to put a few hairs on a man’s chest, aye?”
“I suppose so,” She murmured, her lips turned upward in a smirk. “But really, what happened? Tell me honestly.”
A moment passed between them, the air thick with humidity. The windows had been opened partially to let out the smoke of the fire, and the sticky Highland air wafted towards them in large waves, as if they were standing directly on an open shore.
“There was a lass,” He had said finally, pulling Claire from her wandering mind. “No’ much more than sixteen or so. A man was pursuing her against her wishes. I figured I’d do something about it.”
“You were sticking up for her?”
He nodded, “Aye. There wasn’t anyone else ‘round, and I couldna just walk away, could I?”
“No, I suppose not.” Claire smiled wider, averting her eyes back to the bandages on his shoulder. She pulled another piece of folded linen cloth to it’s full length and began wrapping it around his torso.
“Ye’re a kind woman, Miss Beauchamp,” He said a moment later, after Claire had managed to secure his bandages. “With a good touch.”
She smiled at him. Trying to keep their relationship strictly professional (despite becoming increasingly more unsuccessful with each word that was exchanged between them), she said instead, “This isn’t my best work, but I suppose the doctor’s going to take it all off, anyhow.”
He stared at her, discernibly bewildered. “I thought you were my doctor, Miss Beauchamp.”
Claire was charmed by the notion, but shook her head. “No, I’m afraid not. I’m not yet licensed, you see. I have experience, but not the kind that quantifies me as a medical professional.”
“Ah,” he nodded. His eyebrows drew together in confusion, the space between them creasing deeply. Claire wanted nothing more than to press her lips to that crease and make it disappear. “Wouldn’t any work ye’ve performed count as legitimate experience?”
She shook her head, moving from her spot behind him to the floor at his feet. “No, not exactly. I didn’t have a very conventional kind of schooling. Nor a conventional childhood, for that matter.”
Claire paused. She didn’t even know this man, yet she was about to confide in him the complete tale of her origins? What was it about him that made talking seem so easy, as if they had known each other their entire lives?
“My parents passed away when I was five,” She began, trying to keep her voice as deadpan as she could.
He reached forward, taking her hand in his own. Squeezing once, he murmured, “I’m verra sorry for yer loss, Miss Beauchamp.”
Claire’s lips twitched upward in a pained smile.
“Claire,” She said a moment later. “If I’m about to tell you the entirety of my adolescence, you might as well use my Christian name.”
He nodded, her hand still encapsulated in his own. “Claire.”
It took her another moment to continue, but once she started talking, she couldn’t seem to stop. She told him everything, from her unusual expeditions with her archeologist Uncle, the medicine woman in Zambia, Uncle Lamb’s colleagues and La Dame Blanche, all the way up to the present—leaving out the personal burdens of Gillian Edgars, of course. He listened to the story in it’s entirety, showing the intended emotions for each of her tales, enthralled through the entirety of it.
When Claire finished, she looked down at her lap, where their woven hands rested. She was kneading and pressing out the kinks in his left hand when she noticed a deep scar that crawled down his middle finger.
“What happened to your hand?” She implored, tracing the scar lightly. It ran from his knuckle to the distal interphalangeal joint, weaving across the digit like a river on a map. She noticed him shiver slightly at the touch.
Seemingly unsure of what to say, he murmured softly, “You’ll find out, someday.”
She looked up then, meeting his eyes, darkened to a saturated sapphire by the firelight.
Each time she looked at him, she noticed something different about his appearance. How his eyes — as pellucid as the waters of the Cape — always shone with the same astute glow, like the cogs of his mind were always turning. How his lips were the same hue as a cut of salmon, and that they were always turned slightly upward, as if his mood was in a permanent form of contentment. How his touch — despite the calloused texture of his palms, worn from years of hard labor — was just as soft and light as the petals of a Rosa banksiae*.
The air in the room seemed to rise in temperature, causing Claire’s face to flush. She broke their eye contact and slowly pulled their hands apart. Confused by this development, he attempted to speak, but was cut off abruptly as the door swung open forcefully.
Claire barely had any time to react before a figure stood between her and her patient, bright green skirts flowing about her face and shrouding her in a silky, pastel veil. Understandably vexed, Claire stood bolt upright, straight as a steel rod as she stared at the mass of skirts enveloping the injured man seated on the settee.
Claire stared menacingly, not making her feelings ambiguous as she snapped, “Pray, do announce who the bloody hell you are!”
The girl, jumping at Claire’s words, shrieked as if an apparition had just appeared before her. Hand flying to her barely-covered breasts, the girl sputtered out a reply in deep Scots vernacular, “And who en God’s sweet Alba* are you?”
“I am his—” Claire cut herself short, realizing the ridiculous nature of this situation. Here she was, the man’s blood splattered across the chest of her dress, her pale hands faded to crimson at the fingertips and her hair, falling out of its delicately tailored updo, forming a riotous cloud around her head; she was sure she truly did look like a wraith of some kind.
The girl raised her eyebrows expectantly, glancing from Claire to the settee. Are you genuinely that inane? Claire thought to herself.
“She’s my doctor,” The patient chimed, catching the attention of both of the young women standing before him. His eyes met Claire’s from across the room, tinged with an emotion she couldn’t quite place.
“Yer doctor?” The girl spat, as if the word had meant whore rather than medical professional. She scoffed, her eyes rolling towards the ceiling before placing themselves back on Claire.
Despite the six-year difference in their ages, Claire felt a bit intimidated by this girl. Not by her mein* — for a short, blonde girl with green eyes did nothing to strike fear into Claire’s heart — but instead by her body language. So confident she stood, adamant that Claire really wasn’t doctoring the young man beside her.
“I dinna ken there were lassie doctors in Scotland. From whom did ye learn yer craft?”
Claire, after a moment’s composure, straightened her spine even more than she had before, a flagpost standing tall in the midst of battle.
“Northern Rhodesia,” she said, to which she got no response. She tried again, “Africa, from a Dame Geneser. She taught me everything I know.”
“She’s a ban-druidh*, Laoghaire,” The man said at last, not taking his eyes off of Claire.
Whatever he had said, it had resonated with the girl, Laoghaire. Her eyes widened with shock as she backed away from Claire, murmuring a few words in the same Scots tongue that her patient had used a mere moment before.
Gaining her composure once more, Claire looked the girl up and down once and said, “That’s right. And this ban-druidh suggests that you make yourself scarce,” She looked back at him again, noting the look of amusement bright in his eyes. “Lord knows you’ve done enough damage already.”
Laoghaire’s face turned to a pale white as she turned out of the room, her dress a flash of bright green flowing after her. Claire immediately felt a pinch of sympathy for the poor girl; she obviously had an infatuation with her rescuer, and understandably so, given his heroic persona and pleasant appearance.
Was it empathy that she felt, then, given her own attraction to this man?
“What ails you, Claire?”
His voice brought her from her reverie. Realizing she was standing in front of the fireplace — how had she gotten there? — and walked back towards the man on the settee.
She smiled at him shyly, “Thank you for defending me.”
He mirrored her smile. Realizing what she had intended to do, she stepped closer and inspected the bandages on his injured shoulder. “She didn’t maim you any further, did she?”
“Och,” He dismissed, the very Scottish noise causing her smile to grow ever wider. “No. At least, nothing I couldna handle myself.”
Claire nodded, not sure how to respond. She probed softly at the area surrounding the wound, making sure the tenderness of the area hadn’t spread, to which he made no sound. A good sign, then, she noted.
Suddenly, Claire had a revelation. “You have yet to tell me your name, sir.”
Her patient, realizing this as well, went to stand. Claire, nervous about his shoulder wound, lurched forward to stop him, but when he held up a hand, she remained stationary. When he was standing upright, he bowed gallantly before her.
“Fraser,” He said softly. “James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. Jamie, though, if it pleases ye.”
Her eyes met his for what seemed to be the millionth time that night, a vibrant whiskey engulfed by a vivid blue flame. He filled the space between them, murmuring, “And yer servant, madam.”
*Morpheus: the Greek God of dreams.
*Alba: the Gaelic word for Scotland.
*mein: a person’s look or manner, especially one indicating the character or mood.
*ban-druidh: the Gaelic word for white lady, taken from pg. 146 of Voyager.
*Rosa banksiae: a yellow rose, native to central and western China. Also called a Lady Banks’ rose.