Fanfiction - Stealing Tomorrow (Chapter 5)
Chapter 5 – Boston Calling
Edinburgh, 12 years ago
Claire absentmindedly twisted her silver wedding ring on her finger, listening as Jamie rummaged in the adjacent bathroom, preparing for bed. The sounds he made – whistling as he shaved, cursing in Gaelic as he cut himself with the razor or tunelessly singing in the shower – were her favourite playlist in her life’s soundtrack.
He came out and turned off the lights, immersing their room in shadows, as the wind howled outside. Pulling up the sheets to slide in next to her, she yelped as his cold hands grabbed her buttocks with purpose.
“Hmm.” Jamie growled. “Ye’re so plump and warm, Sassenach. Can’t think of a better way to warm myself.”
“My ass is freezing, but you’re welcome.” She complained, but scooted closer to him nonetheless. Claire enjoyed the feel of his hands, brushing her arms and waist, tracing her outline from shoulder to hip, melting against him as she had so many times before. She bit her lip, trying to regain focus and not to surrender completely to the sensation altogether. “I received a letter today.”
“A secret admirer, lass?” Jamie said jokingly, but she heard the hint of jealousy in his lilt. She was very popular amongst the young doctors - and even some professors treated her with unwanted gentleness and looks filled with longing directed to her bosom. Jamie always managed to rein in the urge to kill them all in gruesome ways, leaving her with the task of subtly display her wedding ring and casually mention her husband’s menacing height.
“Not quite.” She softly said and rolled to face him. “Before we met I applied to a scholarship in Harvard – they have a fantastic program and…Well, I really didn’t have anything to root me here.” Claire shrugged. “As so much time passed without an answer, I forgot I even sent them my application.”
“And ye got an answer today?” He brushed her curls, caressing her face.
“I did.” She swallowed hard. “Apparently my papers were lost – placed in the wrong archive. They found them a few days ago.” Claire looked into his eyes. “And they want me, Jamie. They are offering me a full scholarship to graduate there. There was a note with the letter – from Doctor Raymond. He directs the surgical program at Mass Gen and he is offering me a spot there to learn under him.”
“Doctor Raymond.” Jamie massaged her hand, furrowing his brows in concentration. “The wee doctor whose articles ye keep reading even while we eat? The one ye once called “A legend disguised as a toad”?”
“Yes.” She smiled. “That’s the one.”
They stayed in silence for a while, contemplating the ramifications of such mind-altering news.
“A Dhia! That is amazing, Sassenach!” Jamie smiled at last, kissing her deeply. “I’m verra proud of ye. I always knew ye were extraordinary and I’m so glad others are coming to the same conclusion. When will ye go?”
“What do you mean?” Claire asked, confused. “I can’t go! It’s on the other side of the bloody planet!”
“I ken that.” He scoffed, rolling his eyes. “I have my geography up to date, Sassenach. But ye have to go – it’s your dream we’re talking about, your career. If they really are the best, ye must learn from them - the chance being offered so prettily.”
“But this means years there, Jamie!” She insisted, agitated. “To change our lives so profoundly they will barely look the same!”
“The most important things will remain the same, mo nighean donn.” Jamie said in a soft tone. “I will still love ye with all my heart. I will still be proud of you to the point of bursting with it.”
“But Jamie…” Claire said in a husky voice, fighting back the sudden threat of tears. “You can’t come. And I won’t leave you!”
“Aye.” Jamie agreed, his eyes downcast. “I canna come.”
One year before Brian Fraser had been walking on his state, overseeing the harvest intended to the malting of whiskey, when a shattering headache had overcame him. His workers had found him on the ground, barely breathing, his left side paralyzed and his speech incomprehensible. Victim of a massive stroke, he had managed to survive by sheer Fraser stubbornness – but in spite of vigorous physical therapy and all around the clock care, he would never regain full function of his hand and leg. Jenny had been forced to assume the bulk of the Fraser business, but Jamie went to Lallybroch every week to assist his father and help his sister – spending himself on tiresome journeys and constant heartbreak. It was impossible for him to leave the country for a long period, and they were both painfully aware of that realization.
“I will write them explaining it is impossible for me to go.” Claire insisted, entwining their fingers, their wedding rings touching as chains of an unbreakable bond. “I can become a surgeon just as easily here.”
“You canna do that, Claire.” Jamie said vehemently. “I canna live with myself knowing I hindered ye. That our marriage was an obstacle for ye to move forward – I can’t and I won’t. We have our entire lives to be together – we can manage to survive a few years of distance. Besides, I’ll come to visit ye as often as I can manage.”
“I can’t, Jamie…” Claire pleaded, entangling her fingers on his auburn hair, already dreading the moment she wouldn’t be able to touch him – to roll in bed in the middle of the night and find him waiting for her. To hear his voice coming up the stars, joyful with the prospect of kissing her once he opened the door. To smell him on her skin as an invisible cloak he had offered her to wear.
“You can and you will.” His thumbs traced under her eyes, as if predicting the need to wipe out tears, still to come. “For I love ye, Sassenach. Nothing will ever change that.”
A grief strong as lightening was already ravaging her body, searing her chest and belly, turning iron into steel for the armour she would wear in his absence.
“Alright.” She accepted, closing her eyes – but still seeing him clearly, gazing at her with love and confidence. “I’ll go.”
He kissed her with fervour, pulling her against his body to remind her that their farewell was still impending, that their touches could still be carved in more than memories.
“We should stop trying, then.” Jamie whispered softly, rubbing her flat stomach – the box of wonders where they had been hoping to create their own shared miracle. “We’ll think about it again in a couple of years.”
“Does that mean you won’t make love to me anymore?” Claire asked in a fearful tone. “Because I won’t have that, Mister Fraser.”
“Nah.” Jamie smiled with mischief and rolled to place her atop of him. “Just that I will love ye more safely.”
Boston, 11 years ago
“I can’t take it anymore, Jamie.” Claire declared to her phone. “I can’t concentrate on anything. I miss you too much.”
“I miss ye too, mo ghraidh.” He sighed. “I’ll be there in a couple of weeks – I can’t stay more than a few days though. Jenny is huge like a ripe watermelon and she can go into labour soon – I must be here to see to Da when she goes to the hospital.”
“Send her and Ian my solidarity – or don’t, she might bite your head off.” Claire laughed and then turned on her side, watching the snowflakes twirling and dancing through her Boston window – she could pretend she was in Scotland, talking to him while he was on another room of their house. “I might just go back with you. This is going nowhere – I’m so behind everyone else. I’m failing, Jamie. Miserably. If I keep this up I’ll be invited out of the program.”
“Ye canna be serious, Claire.” Jamie admonished. “I’m sure ye’re exaggerating.”
“No – I’m not!” She closed her eyes, shielding her eyelids with her palm. “Doctor Raymond called me to his office yesterday – he told me forthright he was very disappointed in me. “Waisted potential” – I believe is what he said.”
General surgery is a hard and demanding residency on a good day – an inferno of sleepless hours, endless techniques and competing colleagues on a mild one. A desperation pit where all hope goes to die on a bad one. Claire had started hopeful and energetic, trying her hardest to be the first to arrive for rounds; reading ahead for every surgery in order to know the answer to every possible question; prescinding of her scarce hours of sleep for the chance of doing one more minor procedure.
But as time went by, Jamie’s absence became an unsurpassable obstacle – the miles separating them a looming shadow, that consumed everything else delicately touched by any light form. Claire started having sleeping problems – which made her unfocused and sometimes late for rounds, arriving just in time to hear a reprimand from her superior. She would ignore what was being said while she texted Jamie, being caught off guard by their questions. She became increasingly more unhappy and sloppy – which had culminated on her neglecting to prescribe the right antibiotic for a patient with known allergies, resulting in an almost fatal anaphylactic shock.
Jamie stayed silent on the line for a moment – she could hear him breathing deeply on the other side. Eventually, he talked again – his voice husky.
“Everything will be as it should, Claire. I’ll take care of it – I promise.”
Boston, 10 years and 9 months ago
Claire smiled as she poured water on her vase – the Forget-Me-Nots starting to bloom in a promising array of blue. Jamie had surprised her by bringing the plant with him when he came to visit – it had been peacefully living on their room’s balcony in Edinburgh since they moved there.
Her eyes drifted to the place near the door where they had parted. Jamie already had his travelling bag next to the door, ready to take the cab to the airport. She had located her purse to accompany him and smiled to him in an expectant way, when he had grabbed her by the waist and pressed her against the wall.
“Once more.” He growled against her ear, his hands feverishly displacing her clothes before they locked themselves on her hips. “I must.”
He had entered her like a storm, powerful and devastating, raining on her senses as he thundered on her body, a passion so violent it bordered on despair. All the time his body rocked against her, his forehead was nestled on her neck – he spoke in Gaelic, broken sounds that he repeated like a prayer, as he worshiped her with abandon. When he lost himself to her, moistness bathed her shoulder - tears and sweat like christening presents, offered to protect her against the demons of separation.
The sudden ringing of the phone jumped her, ripping her out of the trance of memories.
“Hey, you.” Claire saluted, knowing it must be Jamie calling. “Not a word for the last couple of days – I was beginning to think you had found yourself a new wife.”
“Claire.” He sounded detached and cold. “I…Needed some time to think.”
“About what?” She said, surprised. Her knowing heart was already racing, preparing her body for an impact she hadn’t predicted. “You’re scaring me, Jamie.”
He stayed silent – like he was reuniting every shred of courage left – and then talked again, sounding supernaturally calm.
“This isn’t working, Claire. I think we should end it.”
“What?” She croaked, her lips numb, as if kissed by unforgiving black death. “You can’t be serious. Is this your idea of a joke, Jamie?”
“No.” He said with assertiveness. “We should separate.”
“But what happened?” She raised and started to walk around her room, everything spiralling around her in a descent to nothingness. “How can you say something like this?”
“Ye were right.” He said in a laconic tone. “It’s too hard. I thought I could – but I can’t. This isna a marriage, Claire. It’s best if we’re both freed from it.”
“I can come back!” She sobbed, rubbing her face – the metal of her ring taunting her like a distant laugh. “I’ll go to Scotland and we can make things right again.”
“No!” He answered, almost angry. “Seas. Don’t come back.”
“What are you saying?” Claire pleaded, her voice no more than a rasp.
“I don’t want ye anymore.” He whispered. “It’s over. I…I want to be with someone else.”
“Jamie…” She cried, sliding to the floor where she curled. “Jamie…”
“I am sorry.” Jamie said and the phone call ended.
I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry.
Somewhere, something was breaking. Maybe it was the heart they had built together which she carried inside her chest – maybe the entire world was crashing down, through the vortex opened by the death of their shared star. Maybe all the stars were actually falling from the sky, as the ultimate shower of unfulfilled desires, until nothing remained but meaningless darkness, where she could find solace in the broken shards.
I don’t want you anymore.
Or maybe it was the way her hands blindly searched for the vase - where flowers of ancient promises could never live again, to remind her of his betrayal – as she crushed it on the floor.