Fanfiction - He Who Loves Him (College AU)
He Who Loves Him
Claire was brushing her teeth, silently going over every possible therapeutic scheme for a pneumonia – she had a pharmacology test later that week -, when her phone buzzed inside her pocket.
“Going for an early session with JG, need to train our plays. Meet me there later, Snch? Love u. XO”
The image of John Grey the previous night, his unshielded emotions pouring out, came to her mind with the impact of a slap. Could she be wrong? She didn’t thought so. In that fraction of time John had laid down his guard, totally exposed as his heart called out for Jamie’s. She knew that look – had surprised it enough times while looking into the mirror or gazing at Jamie’s eyes since that first night, months ago.
Was Jamie aware of his affections? That issue was even more complicated. He was a sensitive and wise man – Claire highly doubted he would proposedly seek John’s company so often, knowing that it might encourage him somehow. Knowing that, deep down, every time they stood close he was teasing John. No – she was fairly sure Jamie had no clue. Besides, she was confident he would have shared any thoughts of that nature with her.
It was like holding a grenade – a weapon of destruction had been bestowed into her care and now she had to decide what to do with it – she could almost feel it, throbbing dangerously in her hand with each passing second. Should she share her suspicions with Jamie? The repercussions of that discovery floated in front of her eyes, as ripples of a disturbance in the water. Perhaps she ought to remain silent and wait for things to unfold as they would? Perchance knowing his feelings unreciprocated, Grey would slowly forget Jamie?
Slowly she typed her answer and hit send, her chest heavy as a quarry. “See you then. XX”
She went to the library in search of some articles, needed to complete her essay on the benefits of breast cancer screening. All the time, while she perused the books and medical publications in search of helpful materials, a permanent weight was trapped inside her, like a vine around her trachea and lungs, threatening to suffocate her – the burden of secrets kept and the clairvoyance of pain to come.
“Claire!” Ian called her with urgency, hurriedly walking along the corridor of bookcases. He was almost breathless and he had a deep crease on his forehead. “A Dhia! I’ve been searching everywhere for ye. Something happened.”
“Jamie.” She whispered, dropping a pile of books on the floor, her lips numb. “What is it, Ian? What happened?”
“He is alright.” Ian comforted her, but his lips were twisted in apprehension. “But he punched John Grey – hit him pretty badly.”
“What?!” Claire asked, astonished. She grabbed Ian by the shoulders and shook him slightly, as if panning gold from a river. “But they are friends.”
“Well…” Ian swallowed hard and blushed like a lobster under the influence of the cooker. “Apparently Grey kissed him in front of the whole team.”
Claire found him sitting – of rather collapsed - on the lawn of the nearby park – usually a perfect hiding place, if not for the gossip that followed him and made him as easy to trace as a fugitive kangaroo.
“Have you come here to yell at me?” John asked, his eyes caught in the distant flock of birds, raiding the top of the trees like a heavenly army, flaunting their freedom with a stroke of wings. “God I wish they’d stop doing that.” He grumbled, as a couple of girls blatantly pointed in his direction from afar, their laughs clear as seagulls’ cries calling for a storm at sea.
“You kissed my boyfriend.” Claire said in a conversational tone while she sat next to him on the grass, folding her legs in a meditation position. “The thought of giving a shout or two has crossed my mind. Don’t you think I’m entitled to it? Or being a boy is supposed to offer you some privileges?”
“I was thinking you’d find it ridiculous enough to pity me.” He snorted, brushing his knuckles. He was sporting an impressive black eye, as if something had started to rot from the inside out, hidden truths closer to the surface of the skin. “I’m not your rival, Claire – never will be.”
“There’s nothing ridiculous about your feelings, John.” She said softly, brushing away a stubborn curl waving like a flag on the breeze. “I hope you know that.”
“Jamie didn’t seem to agree.” John closed his eyes and grimaced. “I didn’t mean to disrespect you in any way, Claire. I know what you are – who you are – to him.”
“So what did you mean?” She waited patiently as his fingers played with a solitary dandelion, an outcast amongst the green blades of grass, akin to himself.
“I’m in love with him.” He whispered, his ears acquiring a faint pinkish tone – his light blue eyes serious and tormented. Was it the first time he admitted it out loud? “I had promised myself I would never act upon it – would never sought nothing more than his friendship. I was decided to cherish whatever he chose to give me as my most precious gift.”
“What changed, then?” Claire nodded, observing as an ant made its way across her finger, tickling her with its infinitesimal steps – unbelievingly strong by nature’s standards and yet so fragile had she chosen to crush it.
“He was so happy after practice today – so hopeful for the Championships next week.” John explained in a choked voice, shrugging. “For a moment I lost track of reality – I was entangled in the fantasy that I could be part of his elation. I kissed him because I forgot myself.”
“I understand.” She gently placed the ant on the ground beside her, contemplating as it continued its previous path, undisturbed. “I do.” She repeated, noticing his sideways glance of doubt. “I know how easy it is to love him. I could never reproach you for that.”
“Yes.” John bit his lip, until a drop of blood was formed underneath his teeth – as if he had been kissed by an angry deity, marking him for the ultimate sacrifice. His voice was low and almost angry – not with her but with himself; with the temptations of loving a man beyond his reach. “And how hard is it to laugh with him and not touch him? To hear him talk and not kiss him to drink down his words – ever thirsty, ever wanting? This mark,” He brushed the bruise on his face with moving tenderness, as a caress of a lover. “It’s the closest thing I’ll ever have of his touch on me.”
“You took him by surprise.” Claire watched as he finally crushed the dandelion bellow his trembling fingers, annihilating the part of himself that stood out from the crowd. “I’m sure that’s why he hit you.”
“Perhaps.” The young man laughed – a short and forced sound, like thousands of cries trapped bellow his ribs, cracking every vessel, every organ, wide open. “But now I lost him forever. I won’t have him in any capacity – and I don’t think I can live with that notion. He demanded that I never speak to him again – or even call him Jamie. I feel small and pathetic as only loveless beings can be.”
They sat in silence for a while, strange companions linked by the shared love of a single man – one heart sure and complete reaching out to glue the shards of one irredeemably broken. Claire felt a million different emotions, battling inside her mind like opposing armies, until she was ready to surrender to a numbing conclusion – part of her mourning for John’s uncorresponded love; another screaming in blasphemy at him, who had dared to steal a kiss promised only to her.
“I’m sorry I told you these things.” John whispered, as shadows grew around them, finally making him invisible to unwelcome eyes. “It can’t be easy hearing another soul lusting after what is rightfully yours. How do you feel about all this?”
“Sad.” Claire said in a soft tone and then, looking to him with sincerity written all over her face. “Avenged.”
She knew where to find him – there was only one place on campus that could ease his troubled soul, where he would go to release his consuming thoughts.
Claire entered the locker room without knocking on the door – it was late and any practice had surely ended hours ago. He was there, sitting on the bench, a towel draped around his shoulders – he looked worn out and battered. His fast breathing was the only audible sound besides her own steps – he had been working out, probably repeating the dynamics she had witnessed the day she first saw him. Once upon a time he had been consumed with the desire of being better, of overcoming himself – now he was using the same tactics to run away from things that awaited on the inside, dreary and haunting.
“I’ve been looking for you.” She said softly, coming closer to him. “I thought you would come to me after what happened.”
“I needed to think.” Jamie looked at her with troubled eyes. “Besides, I dinna know what ye’d feel - and think - about all of this.”
“I think you’re hurt.” She whispered, her thumb touching her silver ring for strength – it seemed like a lifetime ago, the night he had given it to her, the fountain singing around them. “And you shouldn’t be alone.” Jamie glared at her and his lips contorted in agony.
“Ye knew.” He affirmed – almost accused – in a raw voice, his eyes drifting away from her face. “Didn’t ye?”
“I did.” Claire admitted, leaning against the lockers behind her.
“Why didn’t ye tell me?” Jamie asked, cleaning the sweat of his brow with a towel. “I thought we had honesty between us, Claire.”
“We do.” She inhaled deeply. “Between us. This had nothing to do with me, Jamie – it was not my place to tell you of those suspicions. What if I had been wrong?”
“Ifrinn! I would have been prepared.” He hissed, throwing the towel on the floor. “I wouldna have been caught unaware like a blind fool.”
“I am sorry.” She breathed, sitting on the bench – keeping a respectful distance from him. “I didn’t want to torture you with things that might never come to pass. And John, he…”
“Dinna say his name to me!” Jamie spat out, closing his fists over his knees. “I should have killed the man.”
“I know you didn’t punch him because he likes men.” Claire said evenly. “I know you Jamie. You’re better than any of those prejudices.”
“He touched me against my will!” He snickered. “And you think I’m not entitled to be outraged?”
“I’m sure you are.” She conceded, leaning over to search for his eyes. “But that is not all of it, is it?”
“I hurt him because he betrayed me, Claire.” He said between his teeth, sounding as broken and ruined as John had sounded earlier. “I opened up with him. Told him personal things, allowed him inside – and he used it to get close to me. He abused my trust.”
“That’s not all of it either, is it?” Claire demanded, sliding from her seat and kneeling in front of him – she held his hands on hers, battered and swollen knuckles as medals of sorrow, and felt the tremor in his body. “Tell me, Jamie. Why are you like this?”
“I’m angry because he got hurt!” He yelled, his fist releasing form her grip and hitting the locker next to him with a bang. “He left me no other choice! And now we canna go back and pretend this never happened, Claire.”
“You lost him too.” She realized, licking her lips, watching his blue eyes moist and fierce. “But you can still amend things.”
“He robbed me of something.” He shook his head, his hands finding their way to her face, as he held on to her. “I’m yers, Claire. I dinna want to belong to anyone else, ever again – he had no right to endanger that. If ye had suspected me or heard what people are saying…I canna breathe thinking I could lose ye.”
“I’d sooner doubt my heart than yours, Jamie.” She assured him, cradling his head between her hands. “Trust me in this – as I’ve trusted you. I will only believe that I don’t hold your heart the day you tell me so, yourself. Nothing else on this earth can part me from you.”
“Claire.” Jamie whispered, tugging her closer. “Claire, I need ye so.”
She allowed him to claim her body there and then – pressing her against him in an urgency that was a coronation of his fears. And while he sought reassurance of his rightful place, she prayed for those who would never know such love, alone in the darkness outside of a healing heart.