Fanfiction - To Build a Bridge (College AU)
To Build a Bridge
Claire surreptitiously watched Jamie, his eyes guarded – surrounded by deep dark circles born from sleepless nights –, as he pretended to read a large book, written in Latin. She moved uncomfortably on the picnic towel, battling the urge to say something. Tired of the confinement of the library and wishing to speak to him alone – but not really knowing how to introduce the subject – she had proposed for them to study outside and enjoy the sunny day, laying on the grass of the nearby park.
She gulped and opened her mouth to speak, words dying inside her throat like decaying flowers, too weak and soulless to thrive.
“What?” Jamie whispered, his eyes still fixed on the book – they hadn’t moved an inch for the past minutes, his mind absorbed in replaying the events of the last few days.
“You should talk to him.” Claire blurted out, finally closing her own book with a slapping noise. “You should go to John.”
“I should not!” He furrowed his brows, silently admonishing her to stay away from the topic. She blatantly ignored him.
“You should!” She insisted, nervously trapping a curl behind her ear. “You’re hurting and the only way to solve it is to say what’s on your mind!”
“I already did!” Jamie hissed, almost projecting the paperback to the nearby pond, where ducks splashed and played, hiding their faces bellow dark waters. “Loud and clear. I remember my fists were involved.”
“That wasn’t talking.” Claire pointed, grasping for patience. “You were angry – maybe rightfully so. But John is your friend and you can’t have peace until you settle things with him.”
“Was.” He growled, tilting his head to look away from her pressing eyes. “He was my friend – and it seems that friendship was verra one-sided. John had other plans – like sticking his filthy tongue inside my mouth.”
“You’re being unreasonable.” She said heatedly, sliding to be within his eyesight. “John has feelings for you, Jamie. He is in love with you.” Jamie winced, but Claire pressed on. “Is it easier for you to pretend it was just a whim? A physical thing? To act like there wasn’t something much deeper there?”
“Claire.” He gave her a serious and warning look. “Ye’re out of line. This has nothing to do with ye.”
“Am I?” She asked, her voice softer. “I’ve held your soul between my own two hands, James Fraser. I have given you my body to bring you back, to keep you here – with me. I wear the ring you offered me and vowed to entwine my life with yours, for as long as we may live. I thought I was carrying your child – I still carry them all with me, the children you may one day give me. I have kissed you, loved you and fought you every day since you told me you’d have me. So don’t talk to me about a bloody line!” Claire finished in a broken voice. “There is no line between us. One soul, one heart – even when it hurts the most.”
They were silent for a moment – Jamie’s eyes moist and troubled, Claire almost panting from the effort of excavating such words, deep truths hidden in the vault of her chest. Eventually he sought her hand – and she allowed him to find her. Right there. Always within reach.
“What can I tell him, mo nighean donn?” He asked in a hoarse voice. “What words may I use to take us back in time? What may I tell him that wouldna sound heartless, diminishing to his feelings?”
“You’ll find the words.” She promised him, lightly caressing his temple, admiring the way the light caught in his eyelashes. “You always do.”
“I don’t love ye.” Jamie whispered. “Such few words. And yet entire worlds are crumbling, visions of a life never to exist disappearing like sand in an hourglass. I’m sae angry still, mo ghraidh. It simmers and coils inside me like a fire snake ready to pounce.” He leaned over and rested his forehead against hers. “I fear I’d be crueller than needed if I went to him in such spirits.”
“You need to tell him what you told me.” Claire kissed the corner of his lips, slightly chapped from the sun exposure. “How afraid you were for us. How heartbroken over the idea of losing his friendship. And just how much it costed you to hurt him.”
“I never asked for any of it.” He sighed, tugging her closer to hug her body with his powerful arms, hiding the pain in his words inside the mass of her hair.
“No.” She whispered against the warm skin on his neck. “But only you can make it right.”
Jamie walked in long steps, his hands plunged inside his pockets, his head slightly bent against the dusk’s strong wind. Claire had texted him, asking him to meet her near the track and field. He didn’t like to be so close to the rugby stadium, knowing the team would be training at that time. After the fallout with John, both players had been punished and suspended from the team, until they had put on an agreeable display of contrition. The coach’s screams still echoed inside his ears – the wrath of losing both of his best players because of their hot-headedness had been phenomenal.
A tall and lean figure became apparent in the periphery of his visual field, equally busy battling the unpleasant weather.
“What are ye doing here?” Jamie snapped, biting the inside of his cheek. John Grey looked distraught and positively mortified to be unexpectedly face to face with the captain.
“Claire asked me to meet her here.” He said haltingly, his usually fair cheeks flushed with crimson. “Said she needed my help with an assignment.”
“Did she now?” Jamie said between teeth, half irritated, half amused. “I think I ken exactly what assignment she needed help with.”
“Oh.” John looked around nervously. “Do you mean - did she plan for us to meet, then?”
“Aye.” Jamie sighed and shook his head in disbelief. “Claire is a healer – not just what she does, but who she is deep down. She is trying her hardest to fix us.”
“Jamie – sorry,” He grimaced, remembering the brutal way Jamie had demanded for him never to address him in such manner again. “I want you to know that I am sorry and I –“
“Don’t.” Jamie interrupted him, his jaw tense. “Maybe someday I’ll be able to talk about it – to really listen to whatever you have to say – but not now. Not yet, anyway.”
“Alright.” The blonde young man looked utterly broken, forcing a good-humoured smile into his lips. “At least you didn’t punch me this time around, so I call it an improvement. I should be on my way, then.”
They glared at each other – almost hearing the distant echoes of their former selves, laughing and pushing each other in that exact same place, just days before. Jamie finally looked away and slowly walked, the rugby field coming within sight. When he talked, be didn’t look at Grey, but his voice softened.
“Michael really needs to pass the ball to Glen, if that play is going anywhere at all.” He waited, as a surprised John gathered himself enough to mumble an agreement. “Watch Glen now. He is about to get tackled and doesna have a clue about it.”
“That pass should have been longer.” Grey analysed a bit later, as they sat on the grass watching the practice, a respectful distance separating them. “Christ Gavin, move that shoulder son!”
It was a pale comparison with what they used to have – the complicity, the easiness - but it was a truce. A kind of hesitant companionship, every movement and word calculated. It was a start, nonetheless – a fragile bridge they might cross, ignoring the haunting canyon bellow, to find common ground. A safe haven.
“I should go.” John said, as night fell around them. “I have an essay to finish. I – it was good seeing you, Jamie.”
“I’m sorry I hurt ye, John.” Jamie rushed through the words, his voice almost lost in the howling wind. “Not that I punched ye – just that ye were hurt. But I wasna ready for any of it and I let my fear get the best of me.”
“I blindsided you.” He twiddled his thumbs. “I just wish you could forget it all, to be honest.”
“Well, I canna do that.” Jamie got up and brushed his jeans, getting rid of wet green leaves. “I still respect ye too much to forget what ye feel, John. But maybe there is a way forward, if we are given enough time and us being willing.”
Claire was waiting close to his dorm, an expectant smile written on her lips. Jamie strode to meet her – his eyes and the lines of his face burning with a fierceness that almost frightened her. She half-expected him to yell at her - and maybe she deserved it for meddling.
When he finally reached her, his arms crushed her against his body, and she relaxed feeling the waves of relief pouring from him.
“Thank ye, mo nighean donn.” Jamie whispered against her mouth, as the tip of his tongue slowly caressed her bottom lip. “For being not only my heart, but also my conscience.”
“Did you find a bridge, then?” She leaned against his body, melting with the hard slopes of him.
“Aye. My lass, my love.” He whispered almost breathless, right before he kissed her deeply. “Ye are the bridge.”