Original prompt: I love the Jamie/Claire modern Glasgow AU. Can you write a story about why they got married so fast? Or just them getting to know each other. Thank you!
The skin on his back was so fair that the burn looked much worse than it likely was. She had rubbed him from nape to tail with the aloe gel and helped him into the spare button-down shirt packed in his bag – “Just in case,” he had grinned at her.
Now they faced each other directly, cross-legged, the armrest still up between them. Any sense of awkwardness was long gone. They were three hours into the seven-hour flight – and if he never saw her again, he wanted to cherish every single moment he had with her. Every single moment God had blessed him with.
“You need to get some aloe cream as soon as we land,” she said softly.
He nodded. “Aye. Any particular kind?”
She paused, head down, considering. “Well – ” She hesitated, then drew in a deep breath. “I’ll be on duty tomorrow. You could come by the hospital and I could see to it myself.”
Jamie’s heart, already thundering in his chest, almost stopped. “Ye’d do that for me?” he said in a small voice, so full of promise.
She nodded, shyly. “I feel responsible for what happened to you. It’s the least I can do.”
“Dinna fash yourself,” he said quietly. “I’ve been hurt much worse, and by people much less pretty.”
She blushed prettily and held back a smile, eyes still downcast. Jamie watched her idly twist the diamond around her finger.
“You’re a kind woman,” he said gently. “Wi’ a good touch.”
He paused. What the hell.
“He’s a verra lucky man, your professor.”
She swallowed, and he hoped desperately that he hadn’t crossed a line – that he hadn’t severed the so very fragile connection between them.
He watched her slowly remove the diamond ring and hold it between her thumb and forefinger. “I’m leaving him,” she said softly.
“What?” Jamie said stupidly.
She licked her lips. “I came to New York to surprise him – his sabbatical is for a year, and I haven’t seen him for three months. I didn’t tell him I was coming, so I showed up at his flat without warning. Just in time to see him kiss his research assistant goodbye on the landing.”
Overcome, Jamie reached across the space between them – where their knees nearly touched – and softly, gently took hold of her right hand. He twined their fingers together, hoping she couldn’t feel how badly his hand was shaking.
“I’m so sorry.” And he was.
She nodded absently and gripped his fingers. “I confronted him. He couldn’t deny it, so he told me everything. About how – how he felt we’d grown apart. How I had my own life, separate from his. I decided not to move with him, you know – I fought so hard to rise to my position at the hospital, and I wasn’t going to give that up.” She sniffed. “He didn’t understand – he thought that I could just pack up and find another nursing job in New York. But I couldn’t, and I wouldn’t. So.”
She swallowed. “I didn’t even make it inside the flat. I couldn’t stay. So I hailed a cab, came right back to the airport, and got on the next available flight.”
He reached his other hand to tilt up her chin. Her tear-filled eyes met his.
God, she was beautiful. Trusting him with her vulnerability. It stirred something protective, deep inside him.
Softly, gently he traced her cheekbones with his fingertips.
“I’m sorry. I don’t normally break down, but - I gave him six years of my life. And now it’s all gone,” she whispered, closing her eyes.
She was ashamed. His heart clenched to see it.
He wiped away one tear with the pad of his thumb. And then before he could think, he gathered her into his lap and held her tightly against him, pressing her face into his neck.
She shook silently in his arms, gripping the front of his shirt. His heart surged with feeling. What kind of man would do that to a woman? Do that to this woman? What he wouldn’t give to protect her, to love her in the way she deserved…
So he did the only thing he could – offer her comfort, and whisper his feelings in a language she wouldn’t understand.
“Hush, my heart. Be still. No one can harm ye. I’m here,” he murmured over and over in the Gaidhlig.
She sighed deeply. He nuzzled his nose in the clouds of her hair. This was what Heaven must be like, he thought dimly.
“What are you saying?” she said, almost soundlessly, against his neck.
He swallowed. “Ach – just some silly things. Like what my Mam used to say to me when I was a bairn, and needed comfort from her.”
She sniffed. “She must be a remarkable woman.”
Jamie grit his teeth and breathed in deeply. “She’s dead,” he said softly. “My father, too. That’s why I left home.”
She sat up straight, face level with his. Even with smudged mascara and reddened eyes she was so beautiful he almost couldn’t breathe. Slowly she cupped his cheek with her right hand. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
He closed his eyes and leaned into her touch. “Dinna fash,” he said, voice thick. “I can mind myself.”
“I don’t doubt that. When was the last time you let someone take care of you?”
His heart rose to this throat, a witty rejoinder dying on his lips. He opened his eyes and met hers, squarely. God, how he could lose himself in her…
No. Not while she still wore another man’s ring. He could never do that.
“I let you take care of me, just now,” he said softly. Teasing.
She sighed and shook her head slightly. “You Scots. Bloody effing heroes, the whole lot of you.”
His smile echoed hers.