Fanfiction - Stealing Tomorrow (Chapter 3)
Chapter 3 – As We Were
Skye, 14 years and 11 months ago
“Hush, Sassenach.” Jamie urged her, mischief in his eyes. “The fairies dinna care for loud people.”
“Really?” She smiled, amused. “They inhabit the wrong country, then. Scottish people aren’t exactly the serene and quiet type. Any more useful tips for avoiding to displease the little creatures?”
“They don’t like whistling or crossed fingers.” Claire could hear the smile on his voice, even if he had his back turned to her, working his way up the rocky and muddy ground. “Or cursing.”
“Oh, fuck! I’m doomed!” Claire laughed, covering her mouth in self-reproach. “They don’t sound that much fun, if you ask me. Are we almost there?”
“Aye.” He answered and his voice was carried by the wind across the green hills, as if hidden crowds were there to repeat his words in a ghostly choir. “Are ye tired?”
“I know you are half mountain goat, but I might be persuaded to rest a little after this.” She admitted, almost breathless.
Jamie had prepared for them a weekend away from Broch Mordha, that so far had included climbing the Old Man of Storr – a strenuous ascend that left her feeling a sharp pain on her side, but well compensated by a magnificent view with a double rainbow to boot -; sightseeing in Staffin; and – as the hours of sunset quickly approached – a detour to the Fairy Glen. They were in the middle of the climb to the Fairy Castle and Claire was forced to divide her attentions between the marvellous sight – the sky painted by a talented hand in purple, pink and blue – and the attention necessary to avoid falling and breaking a leg.
They had been dating for a month – the happiest days she recalled in her entire life. She was busy working during the days – but most nights they would get together. Jamie had a gift to make every occasion special – may it be a homely cooked dinner (even the slightly burned bits, when they were distracted by each other’s lips and forgot to time the oven, tasted like haute cuisine), a walk in the woods or swimming in the hidden lakes. He was funny and tender – and a true gentleman. Claire smiled, recalling the way he had made sure she was alright during the entire day, adjusting his pace by hers, stopping regularly to allegedly admire some plants or take a picture - only so she could rest a couple of minutes without feeling weak.
As they came closer to the structure resembling a miniature castle, a narrow passage made of slippery stones stood between the hill and the opening – as if the fairy queen had lowered the bridge to welcome them to her realm, should they be brave enough to attempt the crossing.
“Alright.” Claire murmured between her teeth. “Am I really supposed to do this without cursing?”
Jamie looked back and held out his hand in support, grinning to her. Together they made the daunting crossing, being rewarded with an exquisite view once they reached the top.
“It is breath-taking, isn’t it?” Claire gasped, still holding Jamie’s hand, their fingers entwined.
“Aye.” He answered in a hoarse voice – but his blazing eyes were focused on her face and not on the hills bellow them. “It is.” His mouth enveloped hers then, his tongue tasting the playful words she had been about to say – passionate, knowing and sure.
Later that day, tired from the day’s exertions and cradled by the moving car, feeling secure and at peace with Jamie driving – tunelessly humming along with the song on the radio - Claire allowed herself to close her eyes until she reached that peculiar state – brushing her bodiless fingertips on the edge of oblivion, dreaming knowing she was dreaming, unconsciousness still subtly penetrated by the sounds around her.
“I love you, mo nighean donn. You are my forever, Claire.” Jamie whispered softly, thinking her asleep – and her arriving dreams knew the undeniable truth of his words.
Edinburgh, Present day
Jamie had been moved to a room while he waited for an OR vacancy. The A&E staff was still working untiringly to try to save as many critical patients as possible, victims of collapsing beams and smoke inhalation, and Jamie’s condition – in spite of painful – was stable enough for the time being, allowing him to wait a few more hours. Claire had supervised his transfer, making sure his vitals were tightly monitored.
“Will ye stay with me?” He asked slowly, when the orderly and nurse left them alone. “I’ve never had surgery – I’m a wee bit scared, I’ll admit to it.”
“There was a time when you had the right to ask me that.” Claire answered haltingly, avoiding his gaze as she pretended to examine the collector bag. “But you don’t – not anymore. You lost it a long time ago.”
“I ken I’ve done ye wrong, Claire.” Jamie licked his chapped lips. “But everything I did was…”
“Don’t you dare say it!” Claire almost shouted, her fists closing until she felt her nails digging into her palms – pain was reassuringly present, a life raft she could hold on to. “Don’t you fucking dare say it! You broke my heart, James Fraser. You made me love you and then you broke me.”
“Do ye hate me for it?” He closed his eyes and asked softly, pain choking his voice. “It’s well within yer right to do so – and still, you could never hate me as much as I hate myself.”
“I’d hate you if I was to feel anything at all.” Claire’s hands remained still on each side of her body, like forgotten parts of her that she used to cherish, now ripped away from her grasp. “But I don’t. At last I’m numb – at last you can’t hurt me anymore.”
Liar. He can still hurt you – just be being here, looking at you like he once did. Saying words that used to meant other worlds, other lives. As we were.
“I just wish to know that ye are well.” Jamie turned his head and glared at her – there was sadness in his eyes, but also resolve. “That you are happy.”
“And do you want to know that for my sake?” She laughed – a brief and acid sound, which sounded like a wail from a shrinking heart. “Or so you can be at peace with your conscience?”
“I want to know…” Jamie swallowed hard, his face shockingly white against the linen of the bed. “Because I promised to make ye joyous once. I vowed to fill yer life with laughter – and it would ease my heart to know you happy, even without me having a part in it.”
Sometimes in the morning, before I’m completely awake, I forget that you aren’t there. I erase years without you – and for that small moment, I know what happiness is.
“I’m happy.” Claire croaked – even if her face hurt from straining, the salty taste of tears filled the back of her mouth and her voice was a distant echo of elation. “I moved on. Unlike you, I keep me promises, Jamie.”
Claire sat in inviting obscurity. The darkness in the small room was only hampered by the constant red and yellow lights of machines, gently assuring her that his heart kept its usual rhythm - a foreign concept to her, whose heart skipped and fluttered madly, propelled by memories and distant words.
Jamie was profoundly asleep, a saving grave provided by the morphine drip – each droplet a fountain of dreamless sleep, so much so she craved to drink down the whole vial and travel to a faraway land, where promises were held and kisses lasted forever.
She had stormed out of the room after their brutal conversation, pretending not to hear him calling her name. Claire’s steps had guided her to the on-call room, nodding to people passing by, her lips wording words of reassurance that she didn’t mean at all. Once there, she had grabbed the pillow and had screamed against it with abandon, muffling years of anguish and solitude – but most of all releasing the despair of knowing herself still an unwilling prisoner of her heart.
When she had composed herself, Claire made her rounds and settled the orders for the day, even pulling herself together enough to issue a statement to the media about the injured in the residential fire. But late in the afternoon, when chaos had given place to a more usual pace of a healthy hospital, the pull had been irresistible – and she had found herself at his door again.
“Where have you been hiding, LJ?” Joe startled her, his head peeking on the door. “Why am I suddenly assigned for a splenectomy? Not that I don’t appreciate it, but it’s your patient and I can barely feel my feet already.”
“I can’t do this surgery, Joe.” Claire said, watching as he fully entered the room. “It has to be you.” Her friend raised his eyebrows in surprise and confusion, padding to the bed until he could read the chart, dangling from the frame.
“James Fraser.” He articulated slowly and she watched, half amused, as his mouth dropped open in bewilderment. “The James? Jamie?”
“The man himself.” She nodded, curling her legs beneath her on the armchair. “In all his redheaded glory.”
“Oh my! It really is a small country.” Joe shook his head and offered her a concerned look. “I had no idea when I offered him to you – I hope you know that.”
“I do.” Claire sighed. “I thought this could happen when we came from Boston – even told myself I was ready. I was so wrong, Joe – seeing him just….disassembled me. I was so angry – still am.”
“You are angry…” Joe slowly said. “And yet you are sitting here in the shades watching over him. And you want me to do his surgery when any resident could have easily done it.”
“You are the best.” She smiled with sadness, brushing her hand against her eyes. “I can’t be inside that OR, Joe. I can’t be a doctor for him – it’s not that I couldn’t see you cut him. But if something goes wrong…” Claire gulped, softly biting the knuckle of her finger in thoughtfulness. “I can’t think clearly. My place is in the waiting room because I can’t be a doctor for him right now – not when I’m too busy being a woman.”
“I was there, Lady Jane.” He moved closer to her and softly touched her shoulder. “I know what it did to you. How hard you had to fight to pull yourself together. If you were any other woman, you’d be running the other way the instant you saw him. And yet, here you are.”
“Yes.” She whispered, watching Jamie’s lips slightly quivering in his sleep. “Here I am.”
“And what does it mean, darling?” Joe pressed on with tenderness.
“Jamie lied when he told me it was meant to last forever.” She looked at him, defeat in her eyes. “But I didn’t.”