A couple of weeks past, Claire and Jamie found themselves falling into a routine of their own. Finding Jamie in her bed - in his customary white tank and plaid board shorts - Claire would fall asleep in his arms, at least for a couple of hours before he woke for work. Jamie would have lunch with Claire (and sometimes work from home in the afternoons, if he could) before she headed for the hospital - taking his former morning jogs in the early evenings.
When Claire’s nights were free, they’d plan small nights out, or stay home and binge-watch shows they knew the other hadn’t seen before - the latter proving tricky with Jamie’s ‘we wait’ policy. It was one thing going out for dinner or a movie, it was a whole other challenge sitting next to him, feeling the heat radiating from his skin after a run or shower, the twist and flex of muscle of his body against hers as he settled them more comfortably on the sofa. She knew it was taking a toll on him too - there wasn’t much he could hide while wearing those bloody board shorts of his - after fervent (and quite handsy) makeout sessions, that always resulted in him retreating back into his flat.
In fact they’d come close on a few occasions, but Jamie being the stubborn Scot that he was, had somehow always managed to stop it just before…
She’d persistently called Ned everyday, asking for an update, but from Frank’s end they’d heard nothing. According to Ned, there was nothing left but for him to sign the papers. For whatever reason though, Frank Randall was yet to make things official. This set both her and Jamie on edge.
Seeing her agitation, Jamie knew he’d do just about anything to get her mind - and his - off Randall. And so, after she’d had yet another fruitless conversation with her lawyer, he had no choice. He set his jaw and said, “Tonight, you and me. And karaoke.”
“We are young. Heartache to heartache, we staaaand! No promises, no demands! Love is a battlefield… Whoooo-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh…”
She was phenomenal. Of course Jamie already knew that, but seeing her, completely carefree, curls exploding about her as she belted out one tune after another, he realized it was indeed possible to fall more in love with her each day. He’d heard her sing at home, but never like this.
“We are strong! No one can tell us we’re wrooong! Searching our hearts for so looong! Both of us knowing LOVE is a BATTLEFIELD!!!”
Her voice was beautifully powerful and delicate all at the same time. The crowd too, loved her - how could they not, he thought - and gave her rousing rounds of applause whenever she’d finish a song.
She came back to their table flushed with excitement - and not a little buzzed - he raised his hand which she obligingly high-fived heartily, as she sat down. “You were incredible,” he said every time she’d done a song, and leaned over to kiss her.
“You always say that!”
“Because it’s the God’s honest truth.”
“Your turn?” she asked, hopeful.
“Not nearly drunk enough yet.” was his standard reply. To which she ordered another round of drinks. Jamie had agreed to go, but hadn’t yet got up the courage to try his hand at a song, he’d been reluctant, she knew, but he’d promised her at least one song.
Finally, after a little more encouragement - and a lot more drink - he got up a little unsteadily and said, “For you, my Sassenach, I’ll do anything. Even make an utter arse of mysel’,” kissing her hand formally, he determinedly headed toward the little stage, beer in hand.
Claire watched as he picked his song, then stood waiting for the music to start up - he solemnly blinked at her and she winked back. The music began and it wasn’t at all what she was expecting. Is that…? Is he doing... Sure enough,
“Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world. She took the midnight train goin’ A-NY-WHERE!”
His voice was terrible. The song fluctuated high, then higher still, then low and deep. There was no melody or rhythm. His voice cracked and rumbled, leaving the audience cringing in feigned agony.
“It goes on and on, and on, AND OOON! Strangers waiting, up and down buuulevaAAard! Their shadows searching in the niiight. Streetlight people, livin’ just to find emotion, hidin’ somewhere in the NIIiiiIIGHT!”
She realized his eyes were closed as he “sang”, mic held up against his chest, he knew all the words without having to look at the monitor and was leaning back, feeling the music, playing his air guitar, as if he stood alone in the world.
“DON’T. STOP. BEEELiEVIN’!!! HOLD ON TO THAT FEEEeeLINnNN’!!!!!”
And as he croaked his way to the end, Claire knew beyond anything, it was the most beautiful thing she’d ever heard.
Claire was still humming it as the arrived back home, Jamie steadied her hand so she could get the key into the door. “You can’t sing for shite, love, but you were just incredible tonight!” she said, completely sincere, her blood still fizzing with energy. He laughed.
“Worth every minute to see ye had fun!”
He turned her round then and held her against the door, wedging his thigh between hers and kissed her for what seemed an age and at once, no time at all.
“Let’s get inside, shall we?” Claire said as her hips swayed against his, her lips pleasantly tingling - like they always did - from the rasp of his scruff.
“Mmm, I want to, mo nighean donn. Badly. Perhaps its best I go to mine tonight,” he sounded thoroughly unwilling. Jamie felt her grip on his arms tighten automatically.
“Jamie, this is ridiculous! We’re both going to explode if we keep this up,” she said, shaking him gently.
“Aye, I know! Soon, Claire, I promise ye. If I have to go down to Oxford and get that wee bugger to sign those bloody papers myself.”
Before his resolve could waver, he gave her one last kiss, opened her door and closed it behind her. And made for his apartment.
Claire felt dazed, the night’s adrenaline still pumping through her. She stood a moment by her kitchen table, listening. Hearing Jamie’s door open and shut, she smiled to herself and said a trifle louder than necessary, “Good night!”
After a pause, Jamie’s clear voice came through the wall, “Good night!”
Claire came home the next night, tired from her day shift, but looking forward to curling up next to Jamie. When she entered her apartment however, it was dark and empty but for a chicken stew she’d immediately smelled when she walked in, waiting in her oven.
Her balcony doors were open and she could see light spilling out from Jamie’s flat. She knew he’d opened them. Claire moved quietly toward them and saw Jamie leaning against his railing, looking out into the night. He looked faraway.
“There you are,” she said in greeting, stepping out onto her own balcony.
“Feasgar math, mo nighean donn,” he said, his eyes focusing, coming back to her, face splitting into a dazzling smile that made her heart give a sharp, pleasant jolt.
“What’s the matter, Jamie?” She asked, even though she already knew the answer. He’d greeted her in Gaelic - a sign he’d been deep within himself. It hadn’t been the first time they’d stood, separated, on their balconies. When the wanting got too much, reaching an inevitable peak (it always did), Jamie would keep to his flat, and so would she. There were nights they’d spent countless hours just talking about everything and anything, in the solitude of their own divides.
He stood mere inches from her, but didn’t move to take her hand that rested on his rail. Instead he shoved his balled-up fists in his pockets.
“I’ve been thinking about ye. I always think about ye,” he said with a rueful laugh, moving to face her. “All last night - and today - I thought about your body against me, your breath on my neck, you fingers digging into my back… I willna be able to keep my hands from ye,” He finished quietly.
‘Then don’t,’ Claire wanted so badly to say, but instead replied, “I understand,” taking hold of his shirt and pulling him closer. The only thing separating them was the railings. He came without much reluctance. “Can I at least get a good night kiss?”
Jamie moaned helplessly as she gently pulled him down the last bit of space between them to her, till her lips met his. She wanted to be slow, to make it last, but knew it would be torture for him - and her. Instead, she peppered his lips with butterfly-light kisses, then cupped his face between her hands and pulled him down a little more, kissing his forehead.
“I’ll see you tomorrow?” she asked hopefully. At his nod, her hands slid down to his chest and shoved him playfully. “Tomorrow, then.”
Jamie watched her disappear back into her flat, his blood buzzing. He stayed outside longer than he intended, letting the fresh, chilly air cool him down.
Damn ye, ye bloody Englishman.
Jamie didn’t, however, have to go down to Oxford himself after all. A couple of days later, he got home late - having missed lunch with Claire for the meetings he had all day - to find Mrs. Bug hovering about her door, thick brown envelope in hand.
“Och finally, laddie!” she exclaimed when she saw him. “A Mister Ned Gowan came by, said he had a package for Claire, that she’d given instruction should anything urgent arise or papers to be delivered - and should she not be home - the papers be left wi’ you or me. He said he knew how important this was for her, that he felt only right bringing them himsel’, wished he could have given them to her directly, had even gone to the hospital, but she’d been in surgery or somesuch.” She handed him the package, and a jolt went right through him. He grabbed the old lady in a bear hug that lifted her straight off her feet.
Claire came home that morning and found Jamie exactly where she knew he’d be. He woke as soon as she’d come in, but didn’t move or put on the light, only watched her dark silhouette as she stripped off her clothes - her back turned to him (his breath catching in his throat as it always did when she took off her bra), and put on one of his oversized shirts, then slid into bed as he lifted the covers for her.
He’d texted her soon as Mrs. Bug gave him the bulging envelope, asking if he could open it. Frank had finally signed the papers. Ned hadn’t given an explanation for the delay, only that there was a letter addressed to Claire among the divorce papers; she saw a number of envelopes and documents strewn on the kitchen table, but didn’t bother looking. She didn’t care, he’d signed them was all that mattered now.
“Free up your weekend, Sassenach. We’re going away,” he whispered into her hair when she’d finally nestled up against him.