Fic: As a Door Closes
Here is the latest part of my Heartlines AU story. I hope you all enjoy it.
The rest of the chapters (and my other work) can be found here
As always I’d love to know what you think.
She opened the door and Jamie was speechless. Claire was always beautiful, more than beautiful, but looking at her right now he simply could not formulate thoughts into speech. She wore a tight fitted black sequinned gown with a high neck and capped sleeves. A slit ran up one side revealing an expanse of creamy leg and strappy silver sandals. But her head was the biggest shock. Normally Claire favoured natural looking makeup, muted tones in browns and greys, her hair either haphazardly restrained or a riot of curls which grazed her shoulders. But today she looked entirely different, her whiskey coloured eyes looked even more tigerish with an application of flicked up eyeliner and her lips were an enticing cranberry red. Her hair, normally such a riot, fell in sleek, smooth waves down to her breasts. She looked at him shyly. “What do you think?” She gave him a little swirl revealing a low back. His mouth opened and closed soundlessly and she laughed. “Oh good, you like it!” He watched her sashay down the path towards the waiting car, swallowing audibly.
The event was a combination of wealthy donors, local businessmen and hospital staff. As it happened, because of this Jamie knew at least as many people as Claire and he was kept more than busy shaking hands, answering queries about Lallybroch and talking shop. Claire moved round the room, chatting, smiling and generally trying to encourage the great and good in attendance to cough up some money to help refurb the ailing pediatrics wing. Prior to choosing General Surgery Claire had rotated through the department and had been sorely tempted by a career in that speciality. As it was she had gone another way, but she was often called upon by the department when a general surgeon was needed and she had campaigned passionately for the wing in its bid to upgrade its facilities. Jamie watched her work the room. Her smile was simply radiant. He was struck again by his sheer fortune that such a wonderful woman was his. His pride in her and her achievements was endless and to see her here, tonight, amongst her peers, he thought his heart would burst with it. He lost sight of her for a moment and he scanned the room, his height giving his an advantage. She popped up beside him holding two glasses of champagne. “I managed to charm these out the waiter. He didn’t want to give me any as they are having terrible trouble rounding everyone up to go into dinner” Her face was flushed slightly from the champagne and it gave her a glow that made her look even more lovely. She hooked an arm through his. “I forgot to ask. What happened to the kilt I was promised?” Instead of the aforementioned kilt, Jamie was wearing a bright blue three piece suit. Single breasted with a sharp white shirt and blue tie he looked magnificent amongst the sea of black tuxedos, his red hair and towering height making him stand out even further. “Well, the last time I wore a kilt to an event like this I spent half the night bein’ asked what I wore underneath it an’ the other half fending off women tryna find out for themselves. I figured I’d save myself the bother this time” he laughed. “Are ye disappointed?”
“Well, a little bit,” she answered tilting her head to one side to look at him. “But on the other hand you look sexy as hell in that suit, so I can’t complain too much can I?” She gave him a lewd wink which made them both laugh and he drew her to him and kissed her on her forehead.
“And you, Mo Nighean Donn,” He said, “I canna begin to say how wonderful you look. Ye’re always the most beautiful woman in the room, but tonight, well, I keep having to pinch myself to make sure I’m awake.” Her colour heightened a little more, but her response was cut off by the the boom of the ever jocular chief of surgery.
“Claire, Claire. I hardly recognised you without your scrubs and cap! Isn’t it fun trying to spot everyone in their civvies?”
He kissed her lightly on the cheek and she turned to introduce Jamie. He shook Jamie’s hand warmly.
“This is Dr Grant, our chief, this is Jamie, my…” she paused slightly as she cast around for the right title. They’d only know each other three weeks and whilst what they had was clearly serious, they’d not yet gotten round to defining it in any way. “…my partner” she settled for, looking at Jamie meaningfully.
“Partner,” he thought “Aye, that’ll do for now, but one day…”
This thought was abruptly cut short, by Dr Grant turing behind him and pulling forward a couple about Jamie and Claire’s age. “This is my nephew, David.” He said smiling broadly, “He’s a property developer. And this is his fiancee, Geneva.”
Jamie felt the heat rise in his face and Claire coughed slightly as she took a too big gulp of champagne. Geneva’s chestnut hair was swept back from her face and she wore a flowing tulle gown with a slight princess skirt in a soft blush pink. She also wore a very large, if conventional, diamond which she had not been wearing the last time the three of them had come face to face. She looked ethereal and stunning. She also looked uncomfortable and embarrassed, clearly not enjoying this impromptu reunion any more than Claire and Jamie. David, a handsome man, with dark hair a soft brown eyes, also appeared somewhat discomfited by this meeting. He may or may not have been aware of the show down in Jamie’s living room, but it was obvious he knew who Jamie was. He moved slightly closer to Geneva, placing a hand around her waist. Claire recovered herself first.
“Oh how lovely. And what a beautiful ring. Have you set a date?” The corner of Geneva’s mouth lifted slightly as she answered. “Oh, not yet, but we’re hoping for next summer. We only got engaged last week, didn’t we darling?’ She turned to David. “Oh, yes, just last week” he replied. Dr Grant laughed loudly digging poor David in the side. “But how many times did ye have to ask the lass? What was it four times before she finally said yes to you?” David smiled blandly, Jamie developed an acute interest in the pattern on the carpet. Thankfully the waiting staff took that moment to get assertive and they were promptly rounded up and herded into the ballroom.
Fortunately, Dr Grant’s table was over near the front of the room, whilst Jamie and Claire, along with a host of other hospital staff were tucked away near the back.
“Keeping us hidden” said Geillis, archly, flipping red hair over her shoulder. “But still, least we’re much nearer the bar here” She waved a red nailed hand in the direction of a waiter beckoning him over. Next to her, her new boyfriend, Josh sat looking slightly bemused and very much under her spell. Jamie was thrilled to at last have a chance to meet all the friends that Claire had regaled him with stories of. Her friend Joe Abernathy, who had transferred here from Boston, the indomitable Mrs Fitz, who despite clearly having a first name, no one called anything else, including her husband a jocular highlander with a big laugh who had clearly not suffered the same concerns as Jamie as he wore a kilt in eye catching MacKenzie tartan. Timid little Mary who spoke quietly but after a few drinks it turned out had a fondness for rude jokes and a huge dirty laugh. These were the people who he knew were important to Claire. As someone with no blood ties, this was the closest she had to real family and he was acutely aware of what it meant that she had wanted him here, with her and them tonight. The night was a lot more fun than he had expected. He found that he had an easy rapport with Claire’s friends who made him welcome, and with the exception of Geillis, who Claire had warned him about, none of them felt the need to grill him too intently. They danced until Claire begged for mercy, her high heels finally getting the better of her. Moving off to the side he drew her close and kissed her deeply. “Shall we go home now, Mo Nighean Donn?” he murmured into her ear.
“Oh yes” she replied. “I might not be getting the chance to find out what a Scotsman wears under his kilt, but I’m still pretty interested in what might be going on under that suit” She tugged his earlobe gently with her teeth and he gave a shudder. “I’ll just pop to the bathroom and then we’ll leave”
He waited across the hall for Claire, fiddling with his phone. A blur of pink caught the corner of his eye as the statuesque figure of his ex wife strode purposefully into the bathroom in which Claire had just entered.
Claire had been in there for a while. So had Geneva. He’d seen David go by looking for her, but offered no information. He stared at the door willing it to open and for Claire to come out. He couldn’t hear any shouting. Or screaming. That was something he supposed. Surely if something terrible was happening he’d hear it. But still what were they both doing in there. The door opened and Geneva exited, catching Jamie’s eyes briefly. He tried to make out the expression behind them, but she was gone too quickly. Another minute later, the door opened again this time bringing Claire with it.
Jamie’s eyebrows were almost under his hairline. “And what was that about? Should I be worried? She’s no been telling you what a terrible man I am has she?”
Claire laughed at Jamie was surprised to feel his heart and stomach both unclench a little. She stood on tiptoes and kissed him lightly. “Let’s go home and I’ll tell you everything”
She sat facing him on the sofa in her living room. She’d kicked off her heels in the hall and her hair was starting to kink slightly.
“Well, I don’t think you need to be too concerned with Geneva from now on Jamie. We had a good chat and I think things are going to be ok on that front.”
“Oh yeah? How can you be so sure? We’ve been seperated for over 4 years and she turned up at my house because she’d heard I’d been kissing someone. She’s no exactly rational.”
“No really, Jamie. Just listen”
As Claire had stepped out of the cubicle she had walked straight into Geneva. Dodging round her to wash her hands, she had become aware of the fact that Geneva was clearly there to speak with her. She waited for a beat.
“C..Claire?” Geneva began unsteadily, clearly searching for the words. “I just wanted to say… I’m sorry. For the other day. It was, it was… unacceptable.” Claire opened her mouth to respond but Geneva raised her hand imploring to be allowed to continue. Claire nodded.
“Jamie was right. It was pride. I was so angry with him. For so long. I felt cheated by him. When we got married I wanted it to be a certain way. But it wasn’t. So I tried to change him. To make him into what I wanted him to be, rather than simply accepting that he wasn’t what I wanted any more than I was what he wanted. And he, being the honourable man he is left. He couldn’t live a lie, he couldn’t be less than his true self. And I was so angry. For almost 5 years it’s eaten away at me. He’s the only thing I’ve ever failed at. That I haven’t been able to bend to my will as it were. And so I couldn’t let go. Even after I met David, who is everything I was looking for in my marriage to Jamie and couldn’t find, I still didn’t let go. I didn’t let Jamie go. I knew, deep down that he would feel the weight of the failure of our marriage whether it was his fault or not and I used that to hurt him. Whilst I was living my life and being happy elsewhere, and Jamie was right about that, David does make me happy, I kept on punishing him. And all because I couldn’t admit failure. When my friend called me and told me she’d seen the two of you. I don’t know what came over me. It was like all the anger and bitterness of the last four years were just poured over my head. I wanted to rip my skin off with it. But I saw then , the way he looked at you. The way he never, ever looked at me. But I do have someone who looks at me like that. David has been asking me to marry him for years and I’ve always said no. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t bear for Jamie to feel like he had permission to move on. And I’m sorry. I’m so very fucking sorry.” The profanity seemed out of place coming out of the mouth of one so perfectly coiffed and softly spoken. She seemed a different person to the wild eyed, object flinging woman of only a few weeks earlier. She looked at her hands and adjusted her ring.
“Tell Jamie.” She looked Claire in the eye. “Tell him I’m sorry. For all of it. And that I wish him… I wish him joy.” Claire nodded slowly and Geneva smiled, tears in her eyes. Claire unthinkingly reached out a hand and Geneva took it squeezing her fingers slightly. She nodded stiffly and in turned and was gone in a swish of pink tulle and chanel No 5. Claire stood there for a moment, wondering if that had really happened. She took a deep breath and went back to join Jamie.
“So she really said all that?’ Jamie asked incredulous. He had known Geneva a long time and whilst he knew she did have her virtues he wasn’t sure magnanimity had ever been one of them.
“She did” Claire replied nodding. “Whether she meant it, I guess only time will tell, but she seemed genuine” She shrugged. “I’m glad we can put it behind us though. I’m glad that *you* can move on with your life now.
“Aye, aye I can” he met her eyes and held her gaze, reaching for her hand as he did so. “And I so what you to be part of that life, Claire. Next weekend, I ken ye’re off work until Wednesday, will ye come to the Highlands wi me? To Lallybroch?” Nerves were making his accent thicker.
“Jamie, I honestly cannot think of a nicer way to spend my time off.” He smiled a smile of such joy that he looked, for a moment like a small boy. She leaned forward and kissed the tip of his nose. “But right now I want to find out what a scotsman wears under his suit.”