Imagine that after Helwater Jamie comes home and Jenny insists he marry Mary McNab instead of Laoghaire. Jamie finally relents and they set up a happy home filled with respect that develops into real, deep phileo love. It may not be the rock your world type of love that Jamie and Claire had/have but it is solid. Then after 20 years, Claire returns… This one could be really, really angst filled. Thanks for your time mods!
@jerribwarren submitted: We all know that if Jamie had to remarry, Laoghaire was probably the best person for him to marry as a marriage to her was never going to work (between her unrealistic expectations, her jealousy of Claire and Jamie’s apathy after his return from Helwater). My question is: don’t you think that if he had married someone (like a Mary McNabb but who wouldn’t necessarily have seen him with Claire) other than Laoghaire, someone he might have actually become friends with and grown to have a genuine affection for, it would have been much harder to reconcile the situation after Claire’s return especially if they had actually had a child or children together? I would think that he wouldn’t have left his second wife in this situation or would have brought her with him to Edinburgh. I’d appreciate a discussion or even an AU on this subject about how this situation could/would have been resolved. Thanks and I really love all of the writers for imagine.
Love in Other Words (Part One of Two)
“I know why the Jews and Muslims have nine hundred names for God; one small word is not enough for love.” - Claire in Voyager
The ancient Greeks had at least four words for love: agape (unconditional love); eros (romantic, passionate, sexual love); storge (familial love); and philia (the love of friendship, regard).
Jamie and Claire together share all four.
– Mod Lenny
It was Claire. She was really here in the shop with him. At least, he was pretty sure she was real. He could feel the warmth of her in his trembling arms, could smell that fresh, clean scent of her, heard her saying more than just his whispered name. But there was only one way to be completely sure…
“Can I kiss ye?” he asked quietly.
She nodded and blinked at the wetness in her eyes before closing them and tilting her face towards his. Swallowing hard, he refused to close his own eyes as his lips met hers, afraid that she would dissolve just as she had so many times before in his dreams.
But her lips were soft and pliant beneath his own and he let his eyes close as he let his lips part and breathed her in, tasting her as her mouth opened too and their kiss became more desperate, deeper, hungrier.
They parted with a shuddering sigh of relief, knowing they had both felt the same need, the same desire, the same flame that had been there all those years ago. It was still there for them to reclaim if they chose to and heaven help him, but he wanted to––wanted her––more than anything.
He was still getting drunk on the whiskey in her eyes when he heard the door at the front of the shop and Mary’s voice calling his name.
“Jamie? Ye’ll never guess who––” Mary cut off abruptly with a surprised gasp.
“Who’s that?” a familiar voice asked with louder surprise.
Claire stiffened in his arms and her gaze broke from his as she looked over he shoulder at the intruders. He froze, unable to find the words he needed to explain, to push the encroaching world back away from them and the moment they had been sharing when hope had reignited in his heart.
“Oh god,” Claire gasped, pulling away.
Jamie remained speechless and numb in the moment, his mind telling his body to act but his limbs not responding.
Soon after he returned from his parole, Jenny had made the off-hand suggestion that he marry again. He thought he had made his position on the matter clear but come Hogmanay it became apparent that Jenny hadn’t abandoned her opinion and had, in fact, started to take actions of her own to ensure it happened.
When he’d seen her talking with Laoghaire and leading the young widow in his direction, he knew it was with one aim in mind. Before they could reach him he had turned to Mary MacNab who was refilling guests’ drinks and he asked her to dance, setting the half-empty bottle she carried aside before she could find her words. Later, Jenny scolded him about the way he’d avoided Laoghaire all evening.
“Ye want me to court the woman tha’ tried to get Claire burnt for a witch?” he had asked Jenny who looked momentarily surprised but then rolled her eyes.
“No Laoghaire then but ye ought to be wed again and to someone who might give ye bairns. Ye deserve to be happy again, brother.”
“What I deserve is for ye to leave me in peace,” he spat back.
But Jenny’s hints and efforts persisted and Jamie’s resistance wore thin. Jenny wouldn’t leave him be and he knew eventually she would have her way. The best he could hope for was to choose for himself. The thought of having someone to take care of wasn’t completely unwelcome but the memory of Claire and the thought of their child made the idea of raising a family with another woman… He had no desire for that.
He’d been contemplating his prospects when Mary had come to fetch him for Ian and that’s when it occurred to him to marry her. It had been several years since her Rabbie had gone south to London seeking a different life for himself while she remained behind; she too was separated from the person she loved most. He thought she might be able to understand him better than most.
“You’re… you’ve…” Claire stammered glancing between him and Mary before shaking her head and darting away from him and out of the shop.
His mind hadn’t quite caught up to everything that had just happened. Maybe it had all been a vision after all…
Mary’s hand was on his shoulder, rubbing him reassuringly and guiding him to a nearby chair. He could tell she was talking and her tone was soothing but all he could think about was that Claire was gone… again. The flame of hope that had been reignited sputtered and shrank leaving him cold.
The fog of confusion began to clear and he sat up straighter in the chair feeling his face flush with guilt and shame. What must Mary think of it all, walking in and seeing him and Claire like that with…
“Where’s Ian?” he asked, glancing frantically around the shop. It wouldn’t be the first time his nephew had appeared on their doorstep without warning and Mary always made sure to bring the lad to the shop since Jamie was one of the few people he would heed.
“I sent him after Claire,” Mary told him, her posture relaxing now that she could be sure he was coming back to himself. “He’ll slow her down at the least till we can find them and ye can talk to her proper like.”
Jamie looked back at the printing press; he hadn’t finished fixing it––couldn’t remember what had been wrong with it, at the moment––and he had orders still to fill, customers who wouldn’t care that a rug had been pulled out from under his feet and he was still sitting on the floor uncertain whether standing again was possible or if the fall had caused something to break.
“I dinna ken that there’s anything I can say to her that’ll make much difference,” he murmured.
“I think there’s a great deal ye can tell her,” Mary disagreed. “And if you dinna want to say it, then I will. Ye can start by askin’ her no to go again.”
At that he looked at Mary whose eyes crinkled with her familiar, quiet amusement.
“Did ye really think I’d ask ye to let her go?” she asked him, reaching up and tucking in the end of his stock.
“I canna do that to ye,” he protested weakly, “set ye aside like that and leave ye alone without someone to provide for ye.”
“Ye wouldna be settin’ me aside,” she argued softly. “I’m perfectly able to step’ aside wi’out yer help. You and I both ken it willna be difficult for either of us to secure an annulment.”
The ceremony had been smaller even than the hastily arranged one he’d had when he married Claire. He wasn’t as nervous during the ceremony as he had expected to be but by the time they arrived at their small renovated cottage after nightfall, nerves had begun to twist his belly.
Neither had said much of anything to the other as they took in the small space that would now be theirs. One large main room with a hearth and small pantry constituted kitchen, parlor, and study; there was a door to the back that led to the small bedroom.
Mary took off her cloak as Jamie set about shutting the cottage up for the night. When he turned, she had disappeared––presumably into the bedroom––and he sighed with relief.
He shouldn’t overthink this; it wasn’t as though he hadn’t bedded a woman before––it wasn’t as though he hadn’t bedded Mary before. But it had all been different then. I know the look of a true love, and it’s not in my mind to make ye feel ye’ve betrayed it… What I want is to give ye something different. Something less, mayhap, but something ye can use; something to keep ye whole. He wondered if she’d known then that he hadn’t been whole to begin with. But she had given him something and it had helped him then as he faced Ardsmuir. But now… I never had that, she’d confessed. He couldn’t give it to her now either but maybe he could give her something like what she’d given to him in that cave some ten years before.
When he worked up his courage and eased open the bedroom door he could just make out the shape of the bed in the light of the candle. He stopped, puzzled. He didn’t think he’d been standing out in the main room for very long but maybe it had been longer than he realized.
Mary was in bed with the blankets pulled up over her chest; she was turned on her side, her back to the middle of the bed and he could see the stark white of her new shift standing out against the darker wool of the blankets. She appeared to already be asleep.
Quietly, so as not to wake her, he slipped inside enough to close the door behind him and began stripping down to his shirt then eased himself beneath the covers next to her. He lay there on his back with his fingers nervously tapping his chest as he listened to her steady breathing. Should he wake her up so they could get it over with? He scolded himself for thinking of it in such terms; she was his wife now and she deserved more thought and care than that. Still, he didn’t think he’d be able to settle to anything until it was over and the nerves in his belly could be calmed.
But Mary wasn’t asleep.
“Ye ken it doesna have to be like that between us,” she said quietly, startling him.
He froze beside her, felt the bedding shift under him as she strained to look at him over her shoulder.
“I ken ye didna wed me because ye wanted to bed me,” she continued, no self-pity in her voice. “And I dinna want ye that way if ye only see it as bein’ yer duty.”
“It’s no as though we havena… before,” he answered.
“And I ken it helped and hurt ye to do it then. Ye feel yerself bound to yer Claire still and I’ll no have ye takin’ me to bed only to feel regretful about it later. I’ve been in marriages where one of us was lyin’ wi’ the other from duty and I’ll no be the one askin’ ye to do the same; it doesna make for the best of marriages in my experience.”
He felt a stab of sorrow both for himself and for her. He would forever feel himself bound to Claire and sorrowed that Mary seemed so resigned she would never know what a love like that felt like. But he couldn’t give that to her, whether she wanted that or not and she had wed him knowing that.
“So why did ye agree to marry me then?” he couldn’t help asking.
“I suppose for the same reason you asked me.”
“Was Jenny tryin’ to make a match wi’ you and another fellow ye didna care for so much?” The joke caught him by surprise but to his relief Mary laughed. It was a quiet laugh, startled by itself.
“No,” she finally said with a sigh. “I’ve been servin’ yer family at Lallybroch for years now––as ye well know––but since my Rabbie left… It’s different, servin’ folk an’ no buildin’ a home for yerself… no havin’ someone to really care for, to build a home with…”
“Aye…” Jamie murmured. “I ken what ye mean.”
“I thought ye would,” Mary said with satisfaction. “Caidil gu math… Jamie,” she added with hesitation.
“Caidil gu math, Mary,” Jamie responded, relaxing into the warmth of a shared bed and the quiet night. It was becoming clear that navigating this new marriage wouldn’t quite be what he had expected earlier but he was also beginning to suspect that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Claire hadn’t looked back as she burst into the street. She was still too disoriented by everything. Seeing Jamie again––touching him, holding him and being held by him––that had all been overwhelming and emotional, more than she could have imagined. And she had known that there was a possibility that he had moved on, that he would have known she believed him dead at Culloden and therefore unlikely to ever return for him. Life was too long to be lived alone; too short to waste it wallowing in grief and sorrow.
“Hey!” she heard a youthful voice calling behind her and made to step out of the way so the lad could get past and reach whomever it was he was trying to catch up with.
But then she felt him reach out and tap her on the arm repeating, “Hey,” breathlessly.
“Me?” she asked in disbelief even as she searched his face for a resemblance to Brianna. The shape of the eyes was right but his coloring was all wrong and while he had the promise of Jamie’s height, he hadn’t endured the growth spurt that would give him the muscles his father possessed.
“Aye,” the boy panted. “Ye’re…”
“I’m leaving,” she interrupted. “You can go home and tell your mother that I won’t be bothering you again.”
The lad’s face twisted with confusion. “My mam? Ye mean Mary? She’s no my mam and Uncle Jamie’s no my da.”
The wave of relief nearly knocked Claire off her feet. The boy wasn’t Jamie’s. And the more she looked at him the more she could see the marks of Jenny and Ian in him––the Fraser slanted eyes if not the color and his gangliness was certainly more in the vein of Ian’s build than Jamie’s. “You’re Jenny and Ian’s boy,” she guessed.
“Aye. Named for my da. Will ye no come back, Auntie Claire? Ye are my Auntie Claire, are ye no? Mary said it’s who ye were. I ken a bit about ye––Mam and Da always said ye were deid but they’d tell tales about ye of a time when Uncle Jamie wasna around. It always makes him sad to talk of ye, even after he wed Mary MacNab,” young Ian Murray rambled. “Mam thinks it’s why they left Lallybroch for Edinburgh; said they’ve too many ghosts roaming there between them. She blames herself for stirrin’ up yer ghost by pushing Uncle Jamie to wed agin though she also says she’d as soon he be content in Edinburgh than miserable at Lallybroch.”
The sheer volume of words and the pace at which he spoke them left Claire blinking and uncertain.
“I… I am Claire,” she said, no longer quite sure of even that simple fact. “But… I’m not interested in disrupting anything. I just thought… I had heard that Jamie… I don’t know what I was thinking,” she confessed turning to continue up the road. She wasn’t even sure if she was headed in the right direction.
“But… ye came back for him… Ye canna just leave,” Ian objected.
“And I can’t just stay, either,” Claire retorted, unsure why she was bothering to argue with the young teenager. “What about his wife?”
Ian shrugged dismissively. “She’s the one sent me to get ye.”
“What? Why would she do that?”
“I dinna ken. Why don’t ye come wi’ me and ask her?”
Claire looked at the eager lad, her heart aching to believe that if she went with him there was a chance it might stop and curious to see what Jamie’s new wife might have to say.
In the early days of their marriage, Jamie was surprised by how little he knew about Mary and how much she knew about him.
“I served at Lallybroch for near twenty years,” Mary pointed out with a laugh when he expressed his surprise aloud. “Ye think I wouldna notice such about everyone that lived there––especially the laird himself?”
Jamie flushed. “I’m no the laird and Lallybroch’s no mine anymore; and how many of those twenty years did I live under the roof, eh? No even five did ye string all the nights together.”
“Yer nephew may be possessed of the land and the house, but ye ken weel enough to all the tenants as are old enough to remember, ye’ll be the true laird till the day ye die. No sense denyin’ it.”
He chose not to argue but rather to change the subject.
“Have ye heard from Rabbie of late? He’s settled in London still?”
“Aye,” she had smiled before giving Jamie a summary of the last letter she’d had from him.
It took time and effort to get her to talk about herself and her past. As she began to trust him with more of the details of herself and her first two marriages, he found himself sharing more than he expected about his past as well, specifically Claire. He had long ago gotten used to the ache and yearning for her; it was simply a part of him at that point. The comfort of being able to talk of her though, that was new. He couldn’t understand why talking of her with Mary was more soothing and less painful than talking of Claire with people who had known her better––Jenny or Ian. Perhaps it was because Mary didn’t seem to pity him for having been broken by the loss; she too was a little broken.
Though they grew to understand and appreciate each other, the match itself was considered an odd one by the families that lived and worked around the estate. Mary had been right about folk still viewing Jamie as the laird and the laird––even one as respected and compassionate as Jamie––was not supposed to marry one of his servants. It was a fact that might have been overlooked were it not for the never-to-be-forgotten fact of Ronald MacNab and his betrayal.
Everyone had pitied Mary at the time and quietly judged Ronald for what he did to his wife and child whenever he’d been drinking. Everyone who heard about the beating Jamie had given the man his mistreatment of those whose care belonged to him had agreed the bullying drunkard deserved it. Everyone had banded together to see justice done for their laird when Ronald betrayed Jamie. Everyone had settled down to their lives after the fire, content that balance had been restored when Mary along with her Rabbie were taken in at Lallybroch and given occupation.
But Jamie marrying Mary––even so many years later––unsettled that balance in ways that couldn’t be explained. It cast events long past in a questionable light; it elicited narrowed eyes; it encouraged tongues to wag.
Neither Jamie nor Mary was oblivious to the change and neither wanted to be at the center of such attentions. After going to Edinburgh to fetch some things that Jenny wanted for up at the main house, Jamie proposed a change and Mary agreed that one fresh start deserved another.
“I want ye to be happy,” Mary insisted quietly to Jamie.
“I wasna unhappy,” he pointed out to her, taking her hand and giving it a gentle squeeze. “Before I was but… no wi’ you.”
“I’m glad of that,” she told him with a smile. “But I ken ye well enough to know that ye will be if ye let her go again. She can give ye more of what ye need than I can. I’m no ashamed to admit it.”
“And have you been happy?” Jamie asked in turn, suddenly afraid.
“Aye,” she assured him with a nod. “It’s been a peace I didna ken was possible in marriage and for that I’ll always be thankful to ye. I dinna want ye thinkin’ ye havena treated me well.”
“What does it matter how I’ve treated ye in our marriage if I leave it to end like this? I’ll no leave ye wi’out someone to provide for ye.”
“I ken well ye’re too honorable a man to do somethin’ like that, James Fraser.”
“Ye canna stay in a city like this on yer own and goin’ back to Lallybroch would be an insult to ye that I couldna countenance. And there’s nothin’ to say that Claire… She may no want me back…”
“Well, ye’ll never ken for certain if ye dinna talk wi’ her. And ye’re right about Lallybroch; we left for a reason. But ye ken Rabbie’s been after me to visit him in London. He’s wed now and I’ve yet to meet the lass,” Mary mused. “First things first, though. Go after Claire.”
Jamie nodded and rose brushing himself off. Mary set about untying his heavy leather apron for him and gave him directions for the way Ian had set off after Claire.
“I’ll speak wi’ Geordie and lock up here,” she told him. “Then I’ll stop at the butcher and start on supper. Ian will be lookin’ for food after runnin’ about. Mhá lorg thu i.”
There were small flashing lights at the edges of my sight.
“Ian,” I said, as calmly as possible. “I think I’m going to faint.”
The pressure in my chest seemed to rise, choking me. I forced a cough and felt a momentary easing. Dear God, was I having a heart attack? Pain in left arm? No. Pain in jaw? Yes, but I was clenching my teeth, no wonder.… I didn’t feel myself fall, but felt the pressure of hands as someone caught and lowered me to the deck. My eyes were open, I thought, but I couldn’t see anything. Dimly, it occurred to me that I might be dying, but I rejected that notion out of hand. No, I bloody wasn’t . I couldn’t. But there was an odd sort of gray swirling mist approaching me.
“Ian,” I said—or thought I said. I felt very calm. “Ian, just in case—tell Jamie that I love him.” Everything did not go black, rather to my surprise, but the mist reached me, and I felt gently enveloped in a peaceful gray cloud. All the pressure, the choking, the pain had eased. I could have floated, happily mindless, in the gray mist, save that I could not be sure I’d really spoken, and the need to convey the message niggled like a cocklebur in the sole of a foot.
“Tell Jamie,” I kept saying to a misty Ian. “Tell Jamie that I love him.”
“Open your eyes and tell me yourself, Sassenach,” said a deep, urgent voice somewhere close.