Jamie is the towns local vet, he is about to close the practice for the day when Claire rushes in with a sick/injured Adso! Sparks fly between the two.
Jamie closed the last chart of the day and stretched, enjoying the soft rock playing over the clinic speakers. It had been an unusually long day, but his paperwork was finally done, and he was ready to close shop for the weekend.
Just then, a cloud of curls burst through the doors, looking about as distressed as the woman who bore them and, for that matter, the wee cheetie she was holding carefully under its belly. It wore a crest of painful looking porcupine quills; the work of a half-hour at least.
Yet his protest that it was a minute to closing died on his lips as he met with the woman’s golden eyes.
Dumbstruck as he was, it took him a minute to connect the crisp English accent to her.
“I’m terribly sorry for bursting in so late, it’s just that it seems there are no other veterinarians open at this hour, nor for the weekend, and I came home to find that Adso had picked the wrong fight -“
The kitten narrowed its eyes and let out a rumble of displeasure, as though remembering its foe and their undoubtedly bitter battle.
“Nae trouble at all!” Jamie said a tad too enthusiastically. “Ms…”
“Beauchamp. Claire Beauchamp.”
“Jamie Fraser. Call me Jamie.” He replied, standing back and motioning the way to one of the exam rooms.
She visibly relaxed and followed him back. “Thank you so much. Lord knows the little fool deserves it -“ was it Jamie’s imagination, or did the “little fool’s” rumbling get louder at that? - “but I worry he’d hurt himself more if I left it for next week,” Claire continued, placing the cheetie on the exam table; either unfazed by its behaviour, or used to it.
Seems ye’ve caught a witch, Jamie lad. He stymied his thoughts before they could say any further stupid things.
“A porcupine, ye say? Weel he’s luckily he didna get it worse then.” Jamie commented as he placed a hand on the cat’s fluffy rear in an attempt to stabilize him.
Lightning-fast, he pinched the quill near its base and tugged, simultaneously freeing it and producing a loud yowl from the unfortunate critter.
“One down, about seven more to go.” Claire beamed at him.
“Ooch the first is the easiest,” Jamie explained, “these last ones, weel it depends on the beast, but I dinna think yon cheetie will let them go without a fight.”
He was somewhat embarrassed to find his Scots accent deepening in her presence, and he wondered if she noticed.
“Shhh wee cheetie, dinna fash” he murmured reassuringly, petting its unquilled lower half as he slowly lowered his hand towards what currently resembled nothing so much as a sentient and very angry dustball.
A quick paw reached out and batted his hand away, hissing.
“Adso!” Claire admonished the cat, strikingly like a parent castigating a small child, “let the nice man help you.”
Jamie couldn’t hide his grin as Adso reluctantly lowered his paw, as though he understood his human’s words.
Weel if she is a witch, I’d let her enchant me any day.
She turned an apologetic gaze towards him, “I’m so sorry, he’s really normally sweet…”
“Aye, it’s the pain doing it. I’ve had it happen with horses, so a cheetie’s no trouble.” He reassured her.
“A horse? Really! I’d wouldn’t imagine they would be so foolish as to take on a porcupine.”
She shot an accusatory look at Adso, and he looked away with as much dignity as he could muster in the situation.
Jamie couldn’t help but smile even more broadly. He was uncomfortably aware that he’d been smiling far more than was normal. Complete dolt, that’s what she thinks of ye, lad.
“Not generally, but some sometimes the two startle each other and there’s a wee stramash.”
Claire laughed, and Jamie felt oddly proud to have achieved that. When, he wondered, had he become such a bonehead around women?
He returned his attention (or at least his eyes) to the kitten, gently questing for information as he divested it of its painful ornaments.
“Ye’re not from here, I think?” He asked.
“No, I’m new to Inverness. Moved here to… finish up my medical residency.”
Caught by the sorrow of her tone, he didn’t get his hand back fast enough, and found it instantly mauled by the offended feline.
Claire let out a huff of laughter, but the echo of sorrow was still there.
Jamie extracted his finger from the beastie’s wee claws and tentatively pushed her on it.
“A sassenach in Inverness? That’s an odd choice, if ye don’t mind my saying.”
For a moment she looked as though she would brush him off, but then she let out a breath and something about her seemed to relax, to accept whatever it was she had to tell him.
“I don’t, it’s just… I’ve just gotten divorced. Wanted a fresh start and all that. Some distance.” She looked past the room as she said it, but returned to the present after a moment, meeting his eyes in a manner that had a hint of a challenge to it.
Jamie held her eyes, hoping he was managing to convey sympathy instead of the pity he imagined she often received.
“I understand, though for what it’s worth, I’m surprised any man would willingly part from you.”
He felt the heat rise in his face once more. Ye damn clumsy fool. She’s being open with ye and ye decide the best response is to flirt? Ye should be happy if she claps yer ears and walks out. No less than ye deserve.
Yet she did not clap his ears, nor indeed did she walk out. Jamie seized on the silence to make amends.
“I’m sae sorry, that was rude of me, I-“
“No, no. It was fine, really.” She seemed to hesitate over her next words, and Jamie held his breath.
“It’s just been a while since… I don’t know, since such advances were welcome, I suppose.”
Jamie felt as though he was bolted to the spot. He knew he should say something, but his mind had gone completely blank.
Strident rock chords broke their bubble.
“HEAVY PETTING / COME UP BREATHING” growled the singer
Jamie looked as though someone had dropped him in a boiling pot. Ears glowing bright enough to rival a phone booth, he leapt out of the room and fumbled with the computer, mumbling something about “damn playlist,” and “Alec’s nephew, wee sod.”
Claire burst into laughter at this sudden spectacle, gasping for breath and earning an inquisitive “mrrp?” from Adso that perfectly matched the expression Jamie turned towards her as he re-entered the room. This did nothing to help with the breathing situation, which was becoming quite dire, all sound having been cut off in her mirth.
“Are you laughing at me?” Jamie asked, grinning as he leaned against the door frame.
“Yes, I most certainly am!” Claire gasped, trying to regain her composure.
Jamie found himself unable to resist laughing with her.
Another delicate bubble of silence enveloped them as they recovered.
“I should be on my way. Weekend clinic tomorrow.”
“Oh, aye. Of course.” He agreed, clearing his throat and trying to hide his disappointment. And what did ye think ye’d do, hey? Invite her to yer home just after meeting her? Along with her cheetie?
Claire picked up her unhappy but now de-quilled kitten, tucking him in the crook of her arm to prevent him from squirming too much as he saw her to the door.
She opened her mouth, her face seeming to indicate something was on her mind. But she seemed to decide against it, simply smiling, thanking him, and bidding him a good night.
He beamed, transfixed by the warmth of her smile; a heat he felt right down to his bones.
“Nae trouble, Claire. Good night to you as well.”
Jamie stared at the door for some time after she left, enjoying the flittering of butterflies in his stomach before he realized he’d not thought to ask for her number.
The following week was one of the rare busy weeks at the hospital, and as such, Claire pushed her plans to meet the hot vet once more to the back of her mind. Yet as luck would have it, life intervened to give her another chance.
A plaintive howl emerged from behind the nurse’s desk as Claire walked up to it, eager to confirm her shift was indeed over so she could go home for the weekend.
Nurses Hildegarde, Fitz and Duncan were crowded around its source.
“I dinna care if it’s ill, it’s a mangy dog, no’ a person!” Geillis griped.
“Oh no, is Bouton under the weather?” Claire asked, leaning over to get a look at the miserable dog. Affectionately known as the “petit docteur,” Bouton was a familiar presence on the ward, beloved by the patients and staff (save for nurse Duncan, who seemed to be the only person in the world he didn’t get along with), and known for catching things that even the doctors missed.
“I am afraid so. He has been under the weather for the past few days; I am concerned for him.” Nurse Hildegarde explained, casting a sympathetic look at the poor beast.
“I’ll bring him to a vet!” Claire offered, rather too hastily.
At the nurses’ raised brows, she tried to amend her enthusiasm. “It’s just that I know a very good vet, and I live close… well, close-ish…”
Seeing her rising blush, Nurse Hildegarde hid a smile. “That would be so kind of you, Claire.”
“No trouble at all!” Claire hastily threw on her coat and rushed out, bearing a somewhat startled terrier.
“A vet, then? Geillis grinned slyly. “Think that means he likes it doggy-style?”