Someone to Stay - AU
There was a short line of people standing outside Duke’s, waiting for their turn to go in. Claire, arms crossed, went up to the security guard holding a clipboard.
“Are you on the list?” he barked.
“Um, Claire Beauchamp?”
“Oh.” His gruff demeanor changed instantly. “Says ‘ere you’re VIP.” He pulled a lanyard with blue tags dangling that read DUKE’S. “Go on in. Ask for Duncan at the bar.”
“Thanks.” Claire slipped the pass over her head and walked into the pulsing, smoky darkness.
Everyone inside looked like they’d stepped out of Rolling Stone or something, Claire thought. She was glad for once she’d listened to Geillis’s advice and dressed up a little for the occasion; she was wearing makeup on her normally pale face and wild curls, a short blue dress with heels – and the black biker jacket Mary her co-worker had lent her to match a certain red-haired singer.
She walked up to the bar. The only bartender on duty could only be Duncan. As she approached, he noticed the VIP pass and immediately gave her a glass of champagne, directing her backstage. “To the green room, love!” he shouted over the din.
Claire was still unsure about this. And this, exactly, was whatever she wanted it to be. Wasn’t that what he had said? For now, he was a friend. And friends could see other friends and support each other at events like this. As much as she – and Rupert – would have liked Geillis to be there, a seven hour drive from Edinburgh and a hectic work schedule was not feasible.
Down a darkened hallway hidden behind a black curtain by the bar, Claire reached a door marked for performers. Boisterous laughter could be heard on the other side, and Claire wondered which was Jamie’s. For courage, she downed the champagne all at once, bubbles fizzing in her mouth. Thinking perhaps they wouldn’t hear her knocking, she decided to turn the knob and walk in.
A group of faces turned to stare, but she only had eyes for one. Towering over most, Jamie’s gaze found hers and a blinding smile widened on his face. Pushing through the crowd sitting on chairs and sofas, he met her at the door.
“You’re here!” Jamie leaned in and pecked her on the cheek. Claire was enveloped in the warmth of his scent – spice, citrus, and honey all at once. Resisting the urge to wrap her arms around him, she merely smiled and squeezed his shoulder.
“How are you, Jamie? Nervous?”
“A wee bit.” He grinned. “The day I dinna get the cramp in my wame, I’ll ken ‘tis time to retire.”
“Makes sense,” Claire laughed.
“Here, let me introduce ye.” Jamie took her hand (with only a minor jolt) and pushed past the throng. Composed of band members and a few random girls, the rest were close friends of Hugh Munro’s, who enjoyed the perks of knowing the owner.
Claire was greeted cheerfully by Willie, Ian, and Rupert, who pulled her into a bone-crushing hug. She solemnly promised him to bring Geillis next time, regardless of work schedules. All the while introductions were made, Jamie did not let go of her hand. And neither did she.
Lastly, they approached a taciturn man who stood off by himself behind the chairs. He nursed a beer, and only raised an eyebrow as Jamie advanced closer, Claire in tow.
“Claire, this is Murtagh, my uncle and our manager. Murtagh, this is Claire, whom I told ye all about.” A faint pink tinged his ears and the back of his neck. Again, he rifled his hand through the red tresses, embarrassed.
She stuck out her hand and was surprised by the firm grip, which held hers for a second longer than normal before he took a swig of beer.
“Mmphm. Ye’ll be the Sassenach lassie then. Yon lad hasnae shut up about ye since Edinburgh.” A thick Scots accent permeated his words, mumbled barely audibly. Claire strained to catch the tone of them, but they lacked any sort of discernible emotion.
“Sassenach?” Claire peeked at Jamie, who turned even redder.
“It only means English, to a Scot. Uncle?” Jamie nudged Murtagh, who shook his head.
“Aye, no offense, lass. ‘Tis only he’s never dated an Englishwoman before. French fer sure, mebbe a Lowlander here and there.” He winked at Jamie, who covered his face in despair.
“Really? Well now, that’s interesting. Tell me more.” Claire winked back at Murtagh, who seemed on the verge of smiling.
“Nay. That’s enough. Thank ye, Uncle.” Jamie steered Claire away with a broad hand on her shoulder. She turned back to Murtagh one last time.
“A pleasure, Murtagh!” The man raised his beer briefly in acknowledgement. She could clearly see that he was protective of his nephew, and liked him for it.
At the back of the room stood a long table, crammed with platters of finger food. Squeezed in were bottles and bottles of whiskey. Claire could glimpse Laphroaig, Glenfiddich, Macallan, Glenlivet, and the odd bottle of Chivas and Johnnie Walker. Jamie insisted on exchanging her empty champagne glass with the whiskey , which she took neat.
“Sláinte!” Jamie clinked her glass, and poured the liquor straight down his throat. Claire followed suit, grimacing a bit at the peaty taste and shivering as the heat of the whiskey lit her insides.
They stood side by side, watching the men interact with a group of girls. They didn’t look older than 25, some of them, Claire noted wryly. A few cast furtive glances at the corner where Jamie and Claire were standing, smiling when they looked at him, frowning openly at her. Claire tried not to care; she reminded herself that Jamie was after all famous, and it was only natural that they wanted to capture his attention. Finally, a girl gathered her courage enough to walk over and introduce herself to Jamie.
“Hiiiii,” the girl tittered, flipping her long blonde hair and briefly touching Jamie’s arm. “I’m Malva. How are you?” She smirked, and slid sideways casually to block Claire completely from sight.
“Hello, Malva. Nice to meet ye. Who are ye with tonight?” Jamie offered a polite smile, used to fan encounters.
“Oh, I’m here with friends. Can’t wait for your set tonight. Which is your favorite song?” Malva sidled closer, and Claire was forced to take a step back, nearly knocking over some whiskey bottles.
“Och, weel, I like them all, I guess. Bad if I didn’t, eh?” Jamie reached out a hand behind Malva, and pulled Claire gently into his side. “This is a friend of mine, Claire Beauchamp.”
“Hello.” Claire felt the words stick in her throat. The back of her neck felt alternately cold and hot and prickly.
“Hey.” Malva’s stare was anything but friendly. If looks could kill, Claire thought briefly. She felt the momentary urge to nuzzle into Jamie’s neck, maybe plant a kiss or two there, marking him as hers.
Oh wait. Am I… jealous of her?
Claire dismissed the idea and tried to smile at the girl. She was only a fan, after all. Malva did not return her gesture and just flipped her hair again, hoping for Jamie’s attention.
“Well, I guess I’ll see you around. Good luck with the show.” Malva let the tip of her tongue trail over her lips suggestively. Claire fought the impulse to scratch her eyes out and let her instincts take over, wrapping her arm around Jamie. Surprised, he glanced down at her, and smiled briefly at Claire.
“Thank ye. Hope ye enjoy it.”
Malva sauntered off, moving her hips in a really obvious way that made her look mostly ridiculous. Angus seemed willing to deal with her, and Claire breathed easier for the first time in minutes.
Well. Was it always like this? she wondered.
“It isnae always like this, ye ken,” Jamie said.
Claire, startled, cursed her glass face again. “Like this what?”
“The fans. Some are pushier, or even grabbier, than others. Mainly they are respectful, they only want an autograph or picture. A bit of a chat. A hug sometimes. But that’s it.”
“Jamie, you don’t have to explain to me. I’m not—”
“Och, yer face looked like bloody murder fer a second there. I promise, I’d never dally with a fan like that. ‘Twouldna be right.”
“What about me?” Claire asked with a smile.
“Ah, weel, ye said so yerself. Ye didna ken who we were to start with.”
The concert was phenomenal. Close to two hundred people crowded near the stage, clapping, and singing along. The surprise performance had gone over spectacularly, the patrons raising the roof when The Clan was announced.
Murtagh had led her to stage left, where Claire had stood mesmerized by the show, and by Jamie in particular. He was great at what he did, playing off the audience and gauging their mood and seeming to know just when to kick it up a notch. The band had them all riled up since the beginning, playing upbeat songs that had everyone, Claire included, dancing in their spots.
Finally, as the hour grew late, the songs grew mellower. Claire swayed on her feet, head keeping time with the rhythm. Every once in a while, Jamie would turn to look at her and smile. Finally, close to one in the morning, Jamie pulled up a stool and took up his acoustic guitar. The crowd quieted down a bit to listen.
“Now fer a new song, written verra recently. This one goes out to the girl with whiskey eyes.”
Despite the screaming of a few girls who no doubt thought the song was for them, Claire felt her heart quicken and her palms tingle. He had once told her she was “bonny, with eyes like whiskey.” Was this song meant for her?
Jamie strummed his guitar, caressing the mike in a way that was only his.
I know you’re hurting
You know better than anyone
It’s hard to let your heart trust
But this is real
I’m here for you
Good times and bad
This isn’t an ending
Only the beginning of something
I promise I will wait
As long as it takes
Because your heart is worth it
But let these words and actions show
To help you see, give me a chance
I promise I will wait
As long as it takes
Because your heart is worth it
Claire’s cheeks flushed; she held her hands up to her face, trying to contain the heat. She looked around, but she was alone in the dark, staring out at the blue-lit stage where Jamie was calling out to her. Time ceased to matter; what she thought she ought to do or feel was irrelevant. It seemed like everyone would read it on her damned glass face.
As Claire realized herself in that moment, in the space of a ¾ tempo, her heart had decided of its own volition to tumble over the abyss and into those feelings unknown.