Someone to Stay - AU
“It’s f-f-freezing!” Claire stuttered, holding herself tight inside her fluffy down coat.
“Aye, ‘tis.” Jamie smiled, hugging Claire close. “But beautiful.” Wrapped as they were in thick scarves and warm hats, no one looked twice at the couple—particularly at Jamie, who usually stood out like a sore thumb.
Frost and snow hung thick on the branches, the pathways cleared of ice. Holiday decorations were up, and everything was ablaze with twinkle lights. The Christmas markets were brimming with Santas, snowmen, and candy cane crafts.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland teemed with Londoners and tourists. They walked hand in hand—or mitten in glove—swinging, giddy with the knowledge of each other. It was only the last week of November, but Christmas was already on display.
“Christmas with Uncle Lamb wasn’t always traditional,” Claire said, gazing in true wonder at the holiday explosion around her. “I’ve lived here forever and I’d never been to this market.”
“At Lallybroch, we usually do Hogmanay – sort of a New Year’s celebration.” Jamie stood behind Claire, holding her close, as they both admired a Christmas village miniature. “Verra traditional.”
“Thank you Duke’s! Good night!”
The Clan trooped offstage, glistening with the sweat of their efforts and the heat of the spotlights. Jamie had found Claire in the wings.
“Jamie, that was amazing!” Claire exclaimed, impulsively throwing her arms around his broad shoulders clad in his signature jacket. Jamie, heat radiating like a furnace, grabber her by the waist and swung her around.
“Did ye like it?” he whispered, words muffled by her hair.
It was easier this way, to tell him without having to look into the sapphire depths. “Of course I did! I can’t believe you would—that anyone would write a song. For me.”
“It was my favorite place, whenever my uncle brought us to the city. Frank’s job as historian would occasionally bring him here too, but mostly libraries,” Claire said lightly.
They climbed the steps to the entrance of the British Museum, arms linked. The lighting threw the shadows of the columns onto the square, at the late hour.
“I think my parents brought me here when I was a bairn. Jenny and I, we were young.”
“Do you have more siblings?”
“Nay. My mother, Ellen, she died when I was twelve. And my newborn brother with her.” Jamie swallowed hard, and shook his head at the memory. “My father followed when I was 23, from a stroke.” He ran his hands through his fiery thatch. “His name was Brian.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” She squeezed his arm in sympathy, knowing in their shared experiences that no more words were necessary between them.
Jamie got their passes, smiling widely for the museum employee who recognized him. He paused to grab a map of the galleries, but Claire immediately headed to the left for the elevators. “Come on!”
“We only have an hour! Fridays close at 8:30. What would ye like to see, Sassenach?” Besides Lady Jane, now she had new nicknames.
“Follow me!” She grinned and stepped inside the elevator; pushing the button for the third floor, Jamie slipped in next to her.
“What is it, mo nighean donn?” He nuzzled her neck briefly and she pulled away, tickled.
“The Roman Empire. Then the Greek rooms. They were remarkable healers, for their time.”
“Of course it was fer ye! Who else, mo nighean donn?” Jamie’s smile was blinding; he felt breathless from the high of the performance and the feel of Claire in his arms.
“You’ve called me that before. What does it mean?”
“Come wi’ me.” Jamie looked around, and seeing no one, took Claire’s hand and led her towards the back exit.
They stepped out into the cold London night, their breath visible in the light from a single halogen lamp above the door. They found themselves in an alley that reeked of refuse, but Claire scarcely noticed. Sliding his arms around her again, Jamie’s fingers traced patterns on the back of her jacket. Claire wished it was her skin, and felt her cheeks flame again.
“Is it Chinese?”
“I think they call it Mandarin.”
“So the sword was stolen.”
“Yes. Shhh.” Claire pulled a packet of Cadbury English toffee from her purse and shoved it into Jamie’s hands. “Watch the movie.” The tiny art-house theater was almost empty, but she knew how annoying they were being.
Jamie opened the bag and took a piece, offering another to Claire. She ate it absent-mindedly, focused on the film. The assassin was revealed when she felt a hand resting lightly on her knee.
Claire looked down, then at Jamie; his expression was perfectly neutral, eyes on the screen. She crossed her right leg over the left, and saw Jamie’s mouth twitch.
“Watch the movie yerself, Sassenach. Ye’ll miss the subtitles.”
“Can’t think you’re paying much attention either.” She took Jamie’s hand in her own, twining her fingers with his.
“I thought of the phrase from the moment I saw ye. Mo nighean donn means ‘my brown-haired lass’ in the Gaelic.”
“Brown is rather dull, I’ve always thought.” Claire’s heart pounded disjointedly; she was sure he would be able to hear it if he moved any closer.
“Not at all. There’s flecks of dark gold and a bit of red too, like water ruffles over a rock in a stream.” Jamie tangled a hand in the unruly curls. Claire closed her eyes, enjoying the gentle touch.
She reached up and tentatively fingered the wavy locks, vivid fire in the light. There was amber and roan, orange and auburn. She had never seen anything like it.
“Claire,” Jamie whispered, bringing his forehead against hers.
“’Tis only 5 days ‘til Christmas, Claire. I’d like to ask ye to come to Lallybroch with me.” Jamie’s eyes were eager, hopeful.
“Scotland? Really?” Claire put down her fork, wiping her mouth with the napkin.
“Where we first met.” The smile he gave her was only hers. She blushed and sipped her wine.
“I’d have to work overtime, to ask for some days off. Also—” she paused shyly.
“What is it?” Jamie took her hand encouragingly.
“I’d like to turn in applications for medical school in January. If I get accepted, then I’ll have to start studying again.”
“That’s wonderful, Sassenach! I’m so proud of ye!” Jamie kissed her hand, holding it tightly. He signaled the waiter for another bottle.
“It will mean I will probably see less of you than I do now.” Claire sighed.
Jamie nodded. “We start recording a new album in the New Year as well. In Edinburgh, the label’s recording studio.” He poured out another glass, and clinked it against Claire’s. “But we’ll talk every day, mo nighean donn. I promise.” He took her hand again. “We’ll both be busy, and time will fly by.”
A quiet but distinct noise caught their attention. The click and whirr of a camera from a corner of the restaurant. Claire turned casually, and spotted the culprit a few tables away.
“I think they’re photographing us, Jamie.” Claire looked down and tried to extricate her hand from his.
“I dinna care. We’re not doing anything wrong.” Jamie leaned in and gave each of her knuckles a soft kiss. “On the contrary.”
“And we’re doing what, exactly?” Claire smiled, tapping his foot under the table with her heels.
“I’m having dinner. On a date. With my girlfriend.” Jamie smiled. “I want the whole world to know.”
Jamie’s lips brushed softly against hers, warm and gentle. He pressed a hand hesitantly against her back to bring her closer.
Claire rose on her toes, her arms around him in response. He tasted of salt and whiskey and promises and she wanted it all.
“Your heart is worth it,” Jamie murmured in the dark.