Continuing on from womans-world I didn’t want to write a huge chapter about Claire and Laoghaire fighting it out because I don’t think it is a fight to be had, Claire has already won just because Jamie loves her, but based on a prompt I received here is a moment that I felt Voyager was missing - Laoghaire realising a little of what lies between our dear J+C. Thank you for reading, H xx
Laoghaire exhaled heavily through her nose and eyed Claire warily. Both women had sat quietly as Jamie explained the situation to Laoghaire. She had blinked away tears and flushed with anger in turn but at his urging had remained silent.
Claire for her part had maintained a firm grip on Jamie’s thigh beneath the table, a small token of her claim on him that she told herself was ridiculous, but kept all the same.
“Jamie, if ye wish to be rid o’ the Sassenach, I will support ye wi’ a divorce petition and …”
“No, Laoghaire, I thought Claire dead and would never have remarried had I ken the truth. It is to her that I was wed first and with her I wish to remain.”
Jamie had said the same thing in different ways more times than he could count and his patience was slipping.
“But ye love me, do ye not?”
Torn between shame, guilt and frustration, Jamie hesitated and felt both women’s gaze upon him, Laoghaire’s blue eyes as damp and hopeful as summer rain, Claire’s a blazing inferno burning into him, a look that warned him to keep his silence at his peril.
Jamie squeezed her fingers gratefully beneath the table. His wife, his Sorcha, had never let him be a coward. She understood and respected the parts of him that Laoghaire either did not know were there or could not comprehend and so chose to ignore.
“No, I dinna love ye. I’m sorry Laoghaire, truly. The hurt ye must feel rests at my feet and I will see that you and your girls are seen right.”
When delivering bad news after a surgery, Claire had the often seen the fight go out of a person. Always after a long struggle and always when the latest verdict was final. She saw it happen again now as Laoghaire’s shoulders rounded and the tight lines around her mouth relaxed. Her worst fears had been confirmed and she could no longer fool herself.
“The money is a help but it isna a protection the likes of having a man…”
She shook her head slowly and looked very, very tired.
“All these years of loving ye, wantin’ ye and for this … I dinna ken why God would wish this upon me. The humiliation of it…”
She seemed to be talking to herself; her hands, rough and red from years of hard work, resting on the table palm up and Claire was overcome with an urge to take hold the younger woman’s fingers in her own. She realised that in her own poor and misguided way, Laoghaire had loved Jamie. Perhaps not the man he was but the man she saw in him and the realisation allowed compassion to overcome Claire’s jealousy and anger.
“You are not humiliated Laoghaire.”
Claire said softly and felt Jamie jerk beside her in surprise
“I am sorry that you are hurt, but you pursued something that not meant to be. You and I know the truth of how far you were willing to go to try and get it. Perhaps this is a chance to start again… to find something real.”
Laoghaire snorted and glared at Claire with sudden venom
“Do not dare to pity me, bitch. Aye, I did ye wrong once when I was a girl and ye have come back to pay me in kind all these years later, speak it plain and be done with it.”
“I haven’t come back to do anything to you! My God! Your arrogance!”
Anger bloomed in Claire’s chest afresh and she held Laoghaire’s gaze unwaveringly
“Arrogance? Ha! Ye sit there claiming a man ye long since abandoned, stealin’ him away from his bairns and yet ye speak to me of arrogance!”
“Jamie has just one daughter. My daughter. Do not throw your children before you as a shield for your own petty desires.”
“Speak of my children again and I’ll rip the throat from ye! I see no bairn at your side, most like as it is waitin’ for ye to return to it in the fires of Hell…”
Laoghaire screamed and stood with surprising speed.
“Do you mean to let her speak of Brianna that way?”
Claire demanded turning to fix Jamie with that same withering look. Jamie opened his mouth to speak but with a noise of disgust, Claire was on her feet and heading toward Laoghaire.
“Claire! Stop it!”
Jamie caught his wife’s arm and pulled her back, the arc of her outstretched palm sailing past Laoghaire’s face, close enough to lift the hair from her neck.
“Enough! Both of ye need to calm down! This is not … Oof!”
The breath left him as Claire’s elbow found his gut but Jamie refused to relinquish his hold and half dragged, half carried her toward the door.
Laoghaire made as if to come after them, straightening her cap
“Dinna move another step!”
Jamie glowered at her and Laoghaire wilted beneath his gaze, sitting down obediently. Claire bit his wrist sharply and Jamie cursed, bundling them both from the room.
“Let me GO!”
“No! I have lost ye once and I’ll no’ lose ye again under the charge of murder.”
Jamie grunted, kicking the door closed behind them and placing himself bodily in front of it, releasing Claire and inspecting his arm, grinning.
“I think ye damn near broke the skin, Sassenach.”
“I meant to break the bone, you smug bastard!”
Claire snapped, swiping the hair back from her face.
“How could you let her speak like that? How could you let her think you LOVED her?”
“It was in the vows – love, honour … ye ken them, aye?”
His grin was gone but to Claire’s absolute fury he still sounded almost amused
“Oh and so you had no choice then?”
“Should I have replaced the words with a diatribe of vicious ill wishes?”
Jamie’s eyes had narrowed and Claire could see that he was now close to losing his own temper and she didn’t care.
“YOU SHOULD NEVER HAVE FUCKING MADE THEM!”
She screamed, the words ripping from her throat with a guttural rawness. She seldom shouted, unlike Jamie her anger was usually colder but she felt the heat of it now, burning her from the inside out.
“You are mine, do you hear me?”
“And Brianna is your child! Not those girls! BRIANNA!”
“Do you hear me? I have not been through EVERYTHING it took for me to get here for you to sit, cowed in silence before that woman…”
“I wasna ‘cowed’!”
Jamie snapped, catching Claire’s wrist as she pointed an accusatory finger at his chest
“Get your bloody hands OFF ME! I will not be intimidated by you or her or anyone else!”
“Aye! Ye make that plain! Screaming the house down like a banshee! Do ye hear yourself, woman?”
“Oh! How awful of me! Of course a woman should be silent and meek in your presence! The great James FUCKING FRASER!”
“Careful Sassenach, I ken ye are angry and I am tryin’ to respect that but my patience has its limits…”
“HA! Don’t I know it!”
On the other side of the door, Laoghaire sat ramrod straight, eyes wide and mouth working silently in awe. She would never have spoken to Jamie the way that woman did. She simply would not have dared. It was not the way a wife spoke to her husband! A part of her saw it as further evidence that she was morally superior to the Sassenach but also …
To hear them rant at each other and be able to still hear the love that lay betwixt them reverberating over the raised voices and the curses was so strange and so beautiful that for a moment Laoghaire didn’t know what to make of it. She had led a life based on quick decisions and rash judgements that pride would not let her renege on but she began to suspect that she had been wrong about some things.
Wrong about Jamie loving the woman because she tricked him with her sweet musical voice and firm breasts. No such flimsy trick could stand up beneath the barrage of insults and squawking that was being thrown at him now.
Wrong about what made a man desire a woman because she could hear the wanting in his voice, Jamie’s beautiful, deep voice, raised in anger and frustration but filled with hunger for Claire despite it all.
Wrong about her own ability to drive the memory of his first wife away. Aye, she had so very clearly been wrong about that. She couldn’t bring herself to admit that what lay between the two warring people outside the door was a love like she had fantasised having her entire life, but she could admit that her place was not here.
Gathering herself, she marched forward and opened the door, swinging it hard enough to hit the wall and bounce back, slamming shut again, but not before she saw Jamie kissing Claire with the sort of fierce passion she had always imagined him capable of, but had never seen before.
It settled the matter. She seized the door and wrenched it open again, striding out, forcing her way bodily between them with a mighty push. For the first time raising her voice to Jamie Fraser she squared her shoulders and said
“Have each other then! But ye will pay my rent and my girls dowry and no’ argue it!”
Before storming out of Lallybroch for the last time.
Claire blinked as if waking and looked up at Jamie. With all the turmoil between them, she had rather forgotten that Laoghaire was still in the room.
Jamie puffed out his cheeks and shrugged
“No a verra dignified moment but it seems to have solved any lingering issue there.”
“Yes, yes it rather has.”
Claire wiped a hand across her lips and reached up to touch a graze at Jamie’s temple.
“We should probably try not to savage each other for a day or two …”
“I make no promises, Sassenach.”
Jamie smiled, placing a gentle kiss on the bridge of her nose
“Bed wi’ a vixen, ken?”