Fanfiction - Stealing Tomorrow (Chapter 1)
New fic, yeah! This fic actually was born (in my mind), while I was in Scotland, so I hope it is the real deal! There will be angst, so be prepared. See you on the other side. <3
Chapter 1 – In media res
Edinburgh, Present day
Claire was lulled by the subtle trepidation and constant movement of the train – she would terribly miss it when she started to drive her car around Edinburgh. The daily train journey allowed her precious moments to think, to contemplate – and sometimes to be lost in nothing but mere existence. She fancied to observe the ever-changing mass of people around her – mothers composing their toddler’s beanies, friends discussing the rugby game from last night – the referee wasn’t exactly a popular person that particular morning! -, high school girls talking about a dreaded chemistry test, lovers kissing goodbye. The fleeting touches of lips, the hands that searched each other, the promise to return living inside their smiles. She closed her eyes, blocking the image. Don’t think.
When she felt steady enough, she opened her eyes and looked through the window, visualizing the right-handed vicryl knot she’d learned so many years ago. She thought about Mister Stein, by then nervously waiting for her to come and close his colostomy, allowing him to run freely after his granddaughter again.
The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh was now her home, after so many years in Boston. It had been a great opportunity – she was still young at thirty-five and the move back to Scotland had represented a huge climb in the hierarchy of a surgeon’s career. She directed her own team and people from all over Scotland came searching for the best general surgeon in the country – and that was synonym of Claire Beauchamp and her unit.
The train rushed near a park, the large treetops undulating on the morning’s wind. She had been there before – on her previous life. She remembered how she had lain in a blanket, the scent of crushed leaves and growing grass filling her nostrils, the sun’s warmth in her face. A light touch on her cheek and then his voice “I love ye, mo nighean donn”.
She still had a couple of hours before her scheduled surgeries – unable to sleep past dawn, she made herself useful by lending a hand on the A&E department. Frequently, young interns were puzzled when they arrived to do rounds only to discover her already doing stitches on a hand or evaluating a tender belly.
As soon as she entered the sliding doors, Claire realized that all elective surgeries would be pushed on that day and all available hands called to work on the emergency department – gurneys pilled the corridor, nurses ran hectically around carrying trays and saline bags and her friend, Joe Abernathy, was doing triage like a general commanding troops to war.
“What happened?” She asked him, jumping to the side in order to avoid being bumped by a crash cart being wheeled to a curtain near them. “You should have paged me!”
“I knew you were coming either way, Lady Jane.” He shrugged, wincing as he tried to complete the central line he was placing. “Seemed like a waste of precious time. A residential fire near Murrayfield – some casualties already and plenty of wounded still coming. Here,” He pushed a chart in her direction. “Take this one. I believe he’s the Station Officer – hurt himself saving a couple of his men. The rest of the firefighters here are giving me hell to make sure he’s well taken care of.”
“Alright.” She gave an evaluating look to the elderly man whom Joe was treating. “His left leg is broken – save him a trip to the X-ray.”
Joe gave her an irritated – but still somewhat amused – look. “If only I was a pretty witch like you. Alright, alright!”
Claire quickly changed into her scrubs, neatly wrapping her curls into a functional bun, and marched to curtain four to tend the brave firefighter.
The first thing she saw was his hair. The striking mixture of auburn, amber, cinnabar, copper and cinnamon. She could still feel it, between her fingers – slightly moist after their lovemaking; curling when he laid his head on her lap, surrendering into her keeping. Her heart was galloping, so much so her chest hurt – fear and pain gripped her, until her soul was curled into an infinitesimal display of what she once had been. It couldn’t be.
His hand had been roughly ligated on the scene, but hints of blood were beginning to appear – like drops from a brush on an empty canvas. He had his eyes closed, but his forehead was wrinkled in pain – was that little scar on the edge of his cheek new? Or in her efforts to forget, she had effectively managed to erase something of him from her memory?
She halted by his bed, a sudden rush of bile coming up her throat, as if her insides were actually threatening to reverse themselves. Claire silently contemplated him, breathing deeply.
Jamie opened his eyes, sensing a nearby presence. He stared at her and smiled – so tenderly, that unwanted tears welled up in her eyes.
“It’s good to see ye again, Sassenach.”
Broch Mordha, 15 years ago
Claire pedalled furiously, pushing her bicycle forward across the slippery hill, green and purple from the heather and thistles blurring around her. She was terribly late – her alarm clock had been turned off after electricity failed the previous night, courtesy of another summer thunderstorm. She didn’t exactly have a rigorous schedule, but she hated to fail her commitments – and was sure that her first patient, a sour and somewhat irascible eighty year old man with a foot ulcer, wouldn’t fail to notice her lateness.
Coming to the countryside for the summer had been a sudden decision – she liked the opportunity of leaving the city’s crowd and the constant rush; and being able to combine that with some medical work had seemed perfect. Her volunteer work at Broch Mordha’s small, yet capable, general practice was a good addition to her curriculum and a chance to keep her skills sharp during the summer break from Medical School. So when the opportunity had presented itself on the notice board of her dorm, she applied without further thought.
She could already see the small building, slightly croaked in appearance after having been expanded and rebuilt after a series of unfortunate meteorological events, appearing after the next turn of the earthy path. Her second-hand ride - a rusty but functional bicycle purchased for the grand total of fifteen pounds and the promise of free consults for the duration of her staying - slid on the mud, almost projecting her to the ground like a temperamental stallion.
“Bloody thing!” She hissed, struggling to control the erratic movements of the ancient wheels.
After parking without further disgraceful events, she debrided and cleaned the wound already expecting her, patiently ignoring the grousing and cursing involved in the process. While she carefully washed her hands and packed some clean bandages for the old man to take with him, she silently congratulated herself on the substantial improvements obtained.
“Is there anything else I could do, Maisri?” She asked the young nurse in charge for the day, absorbed in doing inventory of their drugs cabinet.
“Oh, aye!” She said cheerfully, smiling to her. Maisri was only ten years older than Claire and they got along very well. “A laddie came in while ye were tending Old Grumpy. Got himself in some kind of brawl – I expect seeing yer bonny smile will do him some good, even if there’s no sae much ye can do for his cuts and bruises.”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” Claire blushed, gently slapping Maisri’s shoulder. “He probably needs a good smacking to learn how to behave like a man and I ain’t his Mama.”
“Wait until ye see him.” The nurse laughed and winked. “Young Jamie is quite…remarkable.”
Claire snorted in disbelief and, taking hold of a chart to complete his medical history, walked towards the small treatment area.
When she opened the door, Claire immediately understood Maisri’s words – the young man waiting for her was unbelievably tall, even slightly curved as he was on the gurney, clearly uncomfortable of finding himself in such shameful circumstances. His face had enough softness and angles about it to make him very handsome, as only a man can be – the curve of his jaw was beautifully made, as was his almost-too-long-nose and his high cheekbones.
“Hello, Mister…” Claire squinted, trying to decipher Maisri’s temperamental handwriting. “Fraser?”
“Yes.” He nodded, still looking down, as if completely immersed on the design of her sneakers. “But Jamie is just fine.”
“Alright, Jamie.” She tilted her head, noticing the bruise that was flourishing on his left cheekbone and the cut on his bottom lip. “Do you want to tell me what happened?”
He whispered something that sounded an awful lot like “Not really.” Claire raised a brow and folded her arms, summoning her best doctor in charge look.
“I can’t help you unless you tell me what happened.” She said with assertiveness. “Everything you tell me is confidential, you know.” Claire added softly. “Unless you killed someone.” She ended as an afterthought.
Jamie snorted with mirth and raised his eyes to her – he seemed surprised for a moment and then his face relaxed into stillness, like curtains closing to hide an ongoing theatre play, shielding the actors from the eyes of the audience.
“No one was murdered.” He assured her. “I wouldna have come – ‘tis naught but scrapes – but Laoghaire insisted that I should come and I didn’t want to worry the lass more than she already was.”
“Is Laoghaire your girlfriend?” Claire asked nonchalantly, preparing some iodine to clean the wounds.
“No.” He shook his head, his eyes for a moment capturing hers, as if it was vital to him that she knew that piece of information to be true. “We are acquainted – everyone is, I guess, in a wee place like this. His father has a wicked temper and a steady hand with the belt.”
“Oh.” Claire said, surprised. She slowly began to touch his face, softly, easing the burn of the medicine with light touches on his face. “You tried to protect her from him, then?”
“Aye.” Jamie offered her an embarrassed half smile. “He saw us talking when he stepped out of the pub – she was just asking about my horse that was injured – and he came screaming the worst insults ye can possibly imagine for a lass, thinking that she was offering herself to me. He slapped her right there and then, in front of everyone in the square.”
“Some people really make me question Darwin.” Claire rolled her eyes. “I’m not sure Laoghaire’s father has evolved anything at all from the Neanderthal. And then?” She went to the small fridge in the corner and retrieved a small ice pack, which she skilfully applied to his face.
“He grabbed her arm and tried to drag her home.” Jamie groaned. “I’m not in love with Laoghaire – much to our family’s displeasure – but I couldn’t let her be mistreated for something she didn’t do - and on my account. So I got him into a bear hug – might have punched his nose too – and she fled while he was busy handling me. He dinna like it one bit.”
“That was very chivalrous.” Claire smiled, impressed. “Luckily your zygomatic bone doesn’t seem to be broken. If you apply plenty of ice and disinfect the wounds, everything will heal nicely.”
“I thank ye, Doctor…I’m sorry, I didn’t get yer name.” Their glances met and she noticed his disarming blue eyes.
“I’m just a medical student.” She shrugged and offered her hand for him to shake. “Claire Beauchamp, at your service.”
“Claire.” He repeated, smiling, holding her hand longer than it was strictly necessary. Something in the way he said her name – his Highland lilt making it seem like he was savouring every letter that compounded the word – made her toes curl and small shivers shot through her spine, like evanescent bubbles on sweet champagne. “Are ye staying for the whole summer, then?”
“Yes.” Claire blew a stubborn curl that had managed to escape her bun. “Maybe I’ll see ye around, Jamie. Take care of yourself.”
“Perhaps we could go to the cinema.” Jamie said slowly, holding the ice pack against his cheek. “Ye probably have seen whatever is on – it takes about six months for a movie to debut here. But I’ll buy the popcorn – ye know, to thank ye for this.” He pointed in the general direction of his face.
“There’s no need to, really.” She hurriedly said, muddled. “I’m just doing my job.” Jamie walked closer to her and grabbed her arm, kissing the back of her hand. It was an old-fashioned gesture – but strangely erotic, with the feel of his small stubble and his hot breath against her sensitive skin.
“I’d like to see ye again, Claire.” Jamie said softly.
“I…that seems…if you’re sure…” She babbled. Noticing his tender smile, slightly mischievous - noticing her increasing embarrassment - she snuffled. “Yes. I think we can do that. I happen to quite like popcorn.”
“Tomorrow, then?” He grabbed his coat and waited for her answer, hope shining in his bright blue eyes.
“Tomorrow sounds lovely.” And she offered him a radiant smile.