It Has Always Been Forever - Part 16
After a number of failed attempts to sync up their schedules (seeing as how they covered shifts for each other), Claire and Joe finally sorted out the particulars with the hospital and both got a Sunday off. Jamie, who’d been talking nonstop about meeting Joe and his wife Gail, could not make up his mind about what he wanted the meal to be. Every time Claire came home, she was inundated with questions. What did Joe like to eat? What did Gail like to eat? Were they allergic to anything? What about waffles for dinner? - Waffles? she’d thought amused, someone’s been watching Parks and Rec. Formal or informal? And on and on. She answered as best she could, but after yet another menu change a few hours before the Abernathys’ were meant to arrive, Claire had had enough.
“Pizza and beer,” she said with finality. “Oooh and some spicy chicken wings for me. I’ve been craving the buggers all day!”
“Sassenach! We canna serve them take out! We have to make something special,” he said, exasperated. “And I’ll order some wings for ye, from the Indian restaurant ye like so much,” he added, giving her peck on the forehead.
“Thanks, love. Extra spicy, yeah? And no. No more menu changes. No more questions. Pizza and beer - and orange juice for me,” she said as she dialed Joe’s number. “Hi, Joe. Pizza ok?” she asked trying to hold Jamie off as he made to grab the phone. “And the toppings?” - she jerked out of Jamie’s reach and round the kitchen table so it stood between them - “Perfect! We’ll order when you’re on your way. Yup, 7:30! See you guys then!” - Jamie lunged across the table, but she dodged past him and ran behind the sofa. “Its done, Jamie! No-no-no-no stop!” She shrieked with delight as he picked her up and dumped her on the sofa, and began ruthlessly pinching her bum.
“Why would you do that, woman?!” He said, interjecting every word with pinches.
“Because,” she said breathless, slapping his hands away to no avail, “ow! You were driving me insane! Joe’s a very laid back guy. He isn’t one for fuss making.” She got hold of his wrists then and yanked him on top of her. Like a magnet, his lips found hers.
“Aye, well…” he said, when he eventually came up for air - shifting so he didn’t squish her - his nimble fingers having already unbuttoned her top. “What time did ye say they’ll be here?”
They sat around the coffee table - Claire and Gail sitting on cushions on the floor opposite Jamie and Joe on the sofa - and had made their way through two large pizzas (Claire’s discarded chicken bones scattered in one of the empty boxes), and were slowly nibbling at a third - a fourth pizza sat untouched on the kitchen table, with a fair amount of beer bottles strewn around them.
As it was, Claire and Jamie had been rather preoccupied when they heard a cheery knock on their door promptly at 7:30, realizing with a sudden shock, they hadn’t ordered dinner yet. But in true Joe and Gail fashion, they didn’t mind, it gave them time chat while they waited for the dinner to arrive. Conversation came easy and they all soon found their rhythm.
“So how d’ye two meet?” Jamie asked, taking a sip of beer.
“Well,” Joe began, settling himself more comfortably on the sofa, looking at Gail over the pizza boxes. “I was here with a few friends for a two week vacation, and a few days in - while they were getting piss drunk in the middle of the afternoon, I took a walk, got caught in the rain and ducked into a building that turned out to be the Museum of Edinburgh. I walked around for a bit, then heard this sweet, powerful voice, with an American accent, giving what sounded like a tour.”
“But, alas it was just me jabbering on to a couple of girlfriends,” Gail coquettishly put in.
“I discreetly - and in no way creepily - followed them around awhile.” Joe said, sheepishly.
“Then he finally gathered up his courage and came up, asking me out for drinks.”
“Turned out, she was living here. Studying Art History.”
“He-” Claire cut in, pointing at Joe in mock accusation, “-gave up a Harvard scholarship, to move here and be with her.”
Joe threw a crumpled up tissue at her. “I didn’t give anything up I wasn’t willing to part with in the first place. Best decision I ever made.” He leaned over to grab another slice, giving Claire a gimlet eye, “and you’re one to talk, LJ!” Turning to Jamie, he continued. “In all the years I’ve been at the hospital, she never once took any extended leave, no matter how much they urged her too, apart from a couple of days here and there when Frank blew into town, or a weekend off for studying. She took double shifts or switched with those of us wanting nights off. She worked her ass off - that is, until a few months ago. All of a sudden, she’s clawing like crazy for days off and shift changes… Wonder why that was!”
Jamie laughed, seeing Claire’s cheeks flare. “Aye, that may have been my fault,” he said, nudging her outstretched foot under the table. “And ‘LJ’?” he looked from one to the other, but Joe answered readily enough.
“Ah, yeah, that was me. Her accent, you know. Sounds like she just had tea with the Queen. Very posh and authoritative,” he mimicked terribly. “Reminded me of the heroine in this raunchy and highly cheesy romance novel that’s been in the doctor’s lounge forever.” Much to Jamie’s amusement, Claire’s cheeks flushed even more.
“Yeah, I think it’s time for dessert, wouldn’t you say, Gail?” Claire said, as she got up, clearing some of the mess around the table, not meeting Jamie’s eye.
“I think you’re right,” Gail replied, following Claire to the kitchen, three empty beer bottles in each hand. They’d brought a box of cupcakes with them, and all Claire had to do was make the coffee.
As they watched the ladies chatting in the kitchen, Joe turned to Jamie, his expression stern. “I’m glad we have a chance to talk alone for a moment,” he said in hushed tones. “LJ doesn’t have much in way of family, and I’ve come to care about her a lot over the years. She’s a little sister to me. I see she cares for you - as I hope you do her. A lot. Like I’ve never seen her before.”
Jamie, affixed with solemn look and all, listened to Joe, nodding when he needed to, agreed when appropriate, but wanted nothing more than to give the man a hug. He found he loved Claire having someone to look out for her as Joe was doing. A comfort.
“I just,” Joe said, earnestly. “I don’t want to see her get hurt.” Jamie looked over Joe’s shoulder and watched a moment as Claire fiddled with the coffee maker, before answering. His eyes then focused squarely on Joe’s.
“I willna hurt her. Ever. She’s…” his voice unexpectedly caught in his throat and he had to take a swallow of beer to clear it. “She’s my heart. As I am hers. Ye have my word.”
Claire and Gail made their way back to the living room, cupcakes and coffee in hand, Claire laughing at something Gail had said. Joe clapped Jamie on the shoulder and whispered, “well I do believe you, brother. But just so you know, I’m pretty efficient with a scalpel,” he added with a cheeky little wink, as the ladies sat back down.
The Abernathys left well after midnight, all having lost track of the time as they were never left wanting for conversation. As Jamie shut the door on their departing guests, he turned to find Claire cleaning up, humming quietly to herself. She moved slowly about the kitchen, shoulders slumped a little, he could tell she was spent, but knew she hated leaving dishes undone. But despite her fatigue, she was radiant, her skin flushed with more than just the evening’s exertions. She hadn’t really started showing yet but for the smallest of small swells straining slightly against her fitted shirts. She was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
“Leave it be, Sassenach, I’ll sort it out tomorrow,” he said coming up behind her, placing his hands on her waist. She gratefully leaned back, pulling his arms tighter about her.
“You’re sure?” she asked. He wasn’t one for cleaning, but did keep his word when he said he would.
“Aye, dinna fash yersel’. Tighinn an seo, mo ghràdh,” he said turning her around and lifting her onto the counter so he stood between her knees. She wrapped her legs round his hips and lightly bit his bottom lip, pulling him closer. He kissed her hungrily, hands slipping beneath her shirt. She breathlessly moaned against him as his fingers found the sensitive peaks of her breasts, her nipples aching for him.
“I’m sorry,” he said after a moment, drawing back. “I ken yer tired, but I just canna keep my hands from ye.” He slid his hands into the back of her jeans, squeezing gently.
“You don’t ever have to apologize for this,” she answered, unbuttoning his khakis, which promptly pooled around his ankles - his boxers immediately following suit.
“Here?” Jamie asked cautiously, yet slowly undid her jeans and tugged them off her hips, watching all the while as she shed her top and tossed it to the floor. Then, rather roughly, yanked his over his head.
“Here,” Claire said, definitely, and in a manner that brooked no argument, as she guided him inexorably into her.
He didn’t argue.