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I'll Never Love Again

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July 1982

Jamie had spent a lot of years in pubs – it was a place he went back to time and time again, always looking for a way out. A way out of the pain, of the heartache and loss. He drowned his sorrows and at the bottom of the bottle, he never found what he was looking for.

One time, however, a fateful encounter in a pub changed the rest of Jamie’s life – he found what he had been searching for all along. Love.

She was standing on the stage, her curly mop of brown hair with a mic in her hand, doing her best Stevie Nicks impersonation. Jamie was mesmerized, he couldn’t take his eyes off her – and he didn’t want to.

Her voice was calling to him like an enchanting mermaid, so he walked a little closer to the stage, forgetting that he had just ordered another whisky. The woman was swaying, her hips moving in such a tantalizing way.

“Blue-gray eyes they change with the colour
Change with the sun they run with the sight”

He could tell she had a bit to drink already from the way that she laughed, and Jamie decided then and there that he wanted to spend the rest of his days making this woman laugh.

“They change with the wind but they’re always bright
Bright eyes Blue Denim
Bright eyes Blue Denim”

Jamie’s breath got stuck in his throat when the woman’s whisky coloured eyes met his blue ones, she winked and he thought his legs would give. Still singing, the curly head slowly made her way to him, her mouth curled up into a smirk, and sang in front of him – as if he was the only one in the pub. His blue eyes were stuck on her and his mouth was shamelessly hanging open, while all the alcohol in his blood seemed to evaporate.

Her lips formed the lyrics, but Jamie didn’t hear anything, couldn’t focus his mind on anything but her and the effect she was having on him.

Jamie didn’t even notice the song ending and the woman looking at him with an amused grin, “You’re drooling.”

He shook his head slowly, coming back to reality – to the sounds of cheers and applause for the woman whose lips were smirking at him. Speak damnit!

“That was… “ He started, unable to find the right word to describe what he had just seen and felt.

“Horrible?” She said with a thick British accent. “I know, I don’t usually get up and sing but I’m afraid I’m a bit tipsy!” The woman turned and handed the mic to someone on the stage, and then started walking over to the bar.

“I’m Jamie!” The words came out of his mouth before he understood what was happening but they made the Englishwoman turned around again to look at him smirking, “Thank you for that information.” She continued her path to the bar and took a seat on one of the stools. Jamie followed her, feeling brave and sat down next to her.

“Are ye not goin’ to tell me yer name, Sassenach?”

“Sassenach?!” She laughed, her mouth open in offence. “I will not tell you my name since you already have such a rude nickname for me.” The woman crossed her arms over her chest, sitting up straight.

“No! No,” Jamie tried to correct himself, “I mean it in a good way, of course, I would never…”

“I’m only joking, Jamie.” She smiled, her hair shaking slightly as she turned her head to him.

At the sound of his name on his lips, he felt it. The pieces of his heart coming back together, slowly but surely… he was being healed.

“I can keep callin’ ye, Sassenach if ye prefer no to tell me yer name,” Jamie lifted his eyebrows slightly.

She stuck her hand out in front of him, “It’s Claire. Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp.” She smiled, “There. Now you know my full name.”

“I’m James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser,” Jamie brought her hand to his lips.

Claire giggled softly, “I’m too drunk to remember all of those, Jamie.”

“If ye’re standing it means ye’re no’ that drunk,” Jamie smiled, watching her, “That’s what my Da used to say.”

“He might be right, but still I believe I’ve had enough to drink… and I’m sitting down,” she laughed.

“Och, I thought I could offer ye another one?”

“Water then,” Claire nodded her head.

“Two glasses of water it is,” Jamie winked – or tried to, something that made her laugh again – and quickly got them both a glass of water, “Ye have a lovely voice, Claire.”

“Oh God no,” She held up her hand, waving it in front of her chest. “I cannot sing, but it’s something fun to do when I have a night off. Yes, I like to spend my nights off, alone in a karaoke bar, you can judge me,” She grinned.

“I wasna judgin’ ye, Sassenach.” Jamie grinned back, “I come to this pub a lot, but I’ve never seen ye.”

She looked up at him, her eyelashes fluttering, “Maybe you just weren’t looking before.”

“Och no trust me I would have noticed ye,” Jamie took a sip of his water – it wasn’t the warm rush of whisky he was so accustomed to, but he was getting drunk on Claire, and that was enough.

“Sure,” She smiled shyly, hiding her face in her curls. “What are you doing later?”

“Talkin’ wi’ ye of course!” Jamie smiled, bumping his knee against hers.

“Is that so?” She quirked up her brow.

“Aye. That is… only if ye want to.”

She looked down at her hands, her fingers fiddling with her left ring finger, but it was bare, then back up at Jamie. “I do. Only maybe not in this bar… it’s really dark and I can’t even see you properly.”

“So where would ye like to go, Sassenach?”

“Anywhere, Jamie.”

He took her hand and they both stood up, walking out of the pub and onto the streets of Edinburgh. The night air was crisp, and it felt like one of those nights where anything was possible – anything could happen.

Jamie started walking in the direction of the royal mile, relishing in the quietness of the city so late at night – removed of tourists and music. Even though it was a cold night, neither of them had their hands in their coat pockets – leaving a chance for their hands to “accidentally” bump into the others.

“How does an English lass end up in Scotland?” Jamie asked, slowing his pace so she could keep up with him.

“Because of my residency, I’m a doctor. Well soon anyway,” Claire pushed a stray curl behind her ear.

“I kent ye were smart,” Jamie smiled.

“You flatter me so,” She laughed, placing her hand over her heart.

“Nay, I dinna think I can flatter ye, tis’ only the true, Sassenach.”

“And what do you do?”

“I paint,” He shrugged.

“So you’re an artist?”

“No,” His mouth curled up into a smile – he never saw himself as an artist, “I just paint.”

“I would like to see some of your paintings one day,” Claire said as she slid her fingers through his, “If you’ll show me.”

“I’ll show you anything you want, Claire.”

“That’s what she said,” Claire laughed, making Jamie scrunch his nose, his eyes squeezing shut.

“I didna ken ye liked to make dirty jokes, Sassenach.”

“Oh yes….” she winked. “You have no idea just how dirty I can be.”

Jamie’s heart almost stopped beating in his chest, and Claire must have noticed because she squeezed his hand before smiling a bit awkwardly. “Oh it’s Princes Street Garden, want to sit?”

“Aye.” Jamie followed her lead over to a nearby bench under a lamppost and for the first time, he really saw her – those deep whisky eyes, full lips and rosy cheeks.

“You said you go to that pub a lot…” Claire pulled his hand to rest in her lap, anything to feel him close.

“Aye, I go to a lot of pubs actually,” He looked down at their hands, noticing her smooth white skin.

“What are you trying to forget?”

“I’ve lost someone,” He said softly. “Two people actually.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“I dinna wanna bore ye wi’ my burden,” Jamie shrugged as if his shirt was too tight.

“No you wouldn’t,” Claire looked at him, “I’ve lost people too…I get it.”

“My brother… and my Da. A car crash,” his voice trembled. “It’s been hard – after they died… I havena felt like a real person. Do ye understand that maybe?”

“I do,” Claire smiled warmly, and he could see in her eyes that she did understand the loss, but most likely not in the same way he did.

“But I like talking to ye, a lot. You make me feel like I’m home, and I’ve never really felt like that before.” Jamie brushed his thumb across her cheek.

Claire blushed, “I told myself I wouldn’t let myself feel like this so soon…” She moved in closer to him, “But the way that you look at me…. I never ever do this.” Her lips hovered over his, barely touching and it was him that sealed them together. She tasted warm, like whisky, and Jamie knew that he would never need to numb the pain if he had her in his arms.

His hand settled on her hip, feeling the gentle curve of her body, and he could have sworn that he heard someone moan but wasn’t exactly sure which of them it had been. What started out as a simple kiss quickly grew into a hungry desire to be closer as their tongues met. It was Claire that pulled away first, her chest panting as she placed both her hands on his chest.

“Will you walk me home, Jamie?”

“You’re drunk, Sassenach.” Jamie laughed, but stood, offering her both his hands.

She fell into him, her hands sliding easily around his waist, “Only on you, Fraser.”

*******

Jamie’s hands touched her bare shoulders, feeling a slight vibration run through her body. He held her gaze as he let his hands slid down her body, pausing slightly to trace the curve of her breasts with his fingers. Claire shivered, leaning into him and stood on her toes to kiss him briefly before taking a step back and falling onto the bed behind her.

“Sorcha,” Jamie whispered. He climbed onto the bed, moving one hand up her calf and settling on her thigh. Squeezing it gently, he watched as Claire’s back arched off the bed, and a soft moan left her lips. Her legs parted for him, beckoning him home.

He moved over her body, placing one arm beside her, tangling it in her loose curls, while he took hold of his cock, moving it slowly against her slit. Claire squirmed, bucking her hips, trying to close the distance.

“Yer so beautiful,” He sighed, rubbing his thumb over her lip.

“Jamie,” she panted. “Please,” her eyes sparkled with tears and it pained him to see them. Jamie bent his head and placed a tender kiss against her temple and then slowly pushed forward, opening her up.

“Oh God,” She cried out. Her arms came around him, fingers lightly touching his back and she felt deep scars scattered across his skin. Claire pressed her fingers hard onto his back, into the grooves of his scars and Jamie moaned – not from pain, but from recognition of a deep loss.

He thrust forward several times, losing himself in the sensation of her. Lifting up, Jamie looked into her eyes and saw it – their life together, fifty years from now, and they were happy. He pressed his lips against hers, matching her every moan and sigh.

“Oh God, oh Claire!” Jamie’s body shook, and he pressed his face into the crook of her neck, breathing in her scent. He rolled to the side, cupping her face gently with the palm of his hands but he kept them still joined.

“That was….” she smiled.

“Aye, it was.” Jamie grinned, pressing his forehead against hers.

*******

3 months later

Claire grabbed her bag from her locked, checking her reflection in the mirror. Her hair was a mess and it should be considering she had just finished working an 18-hour shift. Walking towards the door, her friend Rachel Hunter, tapped her on the shoulder.

“Happy Birthday, Claire!” She smiled, drawing her into a hug, “I hope you have some fun plans with Jamie tonight.”

Claire pushed her hair back off her forehead, “Oh, I don’t think we’ll do much of anything.” She looked down at her watch, “It’s already 11pm, not much of a birthday left anyway.” Claire gave her friend another hug and waved goodnight.

She wasn’t big on celebrating her birthday so it didn’t really bother her that she wasn’t able to do anything for it. Wrapping her coat tightly around her to keep out the chilly air, Claire walked out the doors of the hospital. She immediately saw him, Jamie, standing near a tree, with a cupcake and flowers.

Claire walked over to him, grinning from ear to ear, “I thought I would see you at home!” She kissed him, then pulled back, looking down at the cupcake he was holding. “Thank you, Jamie.”

“Och, wait!” He handed her the flowers, a bundle of wildflowers, and pulled out a lighter from his pocket, and lit a small candle on the cupcake. “There we go, now make a wish, Sassenach.”

Claire held the flowers close to her chest, “But what if I already got my wish?”

“Then ye make another,” Jamie beamed.

Taking a big breath, she blew out the candle, and the smoke swirled away into the night. “What kind of cupcake is it?”

“Vanilla with buttercream frosting, just as ye like of course,” Jamie pulled out the candle, tossing it into the grass nearby.

“Jamie! Don’t litter,” She swatted his arm and retrieved the candle, promptly throwing it into the trash nearby. “Now… give me my cupcake!”

Jamie traded the flowers for the cupcake and smiled, watching as she took a large bite, getting frosting on the tip of her nose. “Wait, ye’ve got somethin’…” He bent his head, flicking out his tongue and swiping the frosting off her nose.

Claire wrapped one arm around his waist and they started walking to the car, “This has been a good birthday,” she smiled.

“Has it? Even though you worked all day?”

“I like what I do,” she said and took another bite. “And it’s the first one I’ve spent with you so that makes it wonderful.”

“Oh God, I love ye,” Jamie smiled, and Claire stopped walking.

“What?” She looked up at him, her mouth still close to the cupcake.

Jamie’s cheeks grew red, but he pulled her close, smelling the sugar on her lips. “I said… I love you, Claire Beauchamp.”

“Oh. That’s what I thought you said.”

Jamie didn’t say anything else, hoping but not expecting for her to say it in return. Once he thought the silence was becoming awkward, Claire surprised him by pressing her frosting covered lips against his.

“I love you too, Jamie.”

He kissed her again, savouring the taste of her, and then opened the car door for her. “Come, get it. I’ll draw ye a birthday bath.”

“Oh, yes sir.” Claire put her hand to her forehead in a salute and climbed into the car.

*******

The water was warm oh her skin, and she could feel Jamie’s heartbeat against her back. “Jamie?”

“Hmmm,” he said, drawing his hands over her arms.

“How are you?”

“I’m feeling perfectly happy, Sassenach.” Jamie kissed the spot just under her ear.

“So am I, but I meant… how are you really? It’s been 3 months since you stopped drinking.” Claire’s heart raced, she felt like she was treading on sensitive ground and was worried that Jamie would get mad.

He took a deep breath, sliding his hands over her stomach and holding her just under the swell of her breasts. “I’m doing alright. Some days are worse than others, but it’s no as bad as it used to be… the shaking and the need to drink.”

“That’s good.” She rested her head back on his chest, “Promise me you’ll tell me, if it ever gets to be too much for you to handle.”

Jamie squeezed her, moving one hand to gently cup her breast, flicking his thumb against the hard bud of her nipple. “I promise, Sassenach. Yer my anchor in all of this.”

Claire sighed, letting her eyes shut and Jamie’s hands move over her body. “Thank you for tonight,” she said, feeling like she was drugged from his touch, her thoughts and speech were slow.

“My pleasure,” he kissed the tip of her ear, “Now, let me make ye fall apart.” Jamie slid one hand down over the flat plane of her stomach, feeling her squirm because he knew she was ticklish there. His fingers tapped lightly against her mound, feeling the heat between her legs. Her knees opened for him and he traced her outer lips with two fingers, pressing his thumb against her clit.

Claire started to moan, and the water was moving, daring to slosh out of the tub. Jamie’s other hand began to gently massage her left breast with pressure and occasionally flicking her nipple, eliciting more moans from her sweet lips.

Jamie finally slid his long middle finger inside of her slit, feeling her walls clench around him. “Christ,” he mumbled. She was moving her hips against his finger, begging for it. He started to push his finger deeper inside of her, then drawing it almost completely out before sliding it back in again. With his thumb, he pressed on her clit and watched as she fell apart, moaning and calling out his name.

After Claire’s breath slowed to a normal tempo, he climbed out of the bath, pulling her out and to her feet. Jamie dried her off slowly, wrapping a big towel around her body and picked her up, carrying her to the bed they shared.

As he watched her relax on the bed, her arms lifted high above her head, Jamie realized how much better he was doing. He had only wanted to drink twice since they had met, and both of those times it had been quite easy for him to refuse. It did make him nervous though, wondering if the day would come when he would slip.

Jamie laid beside Claire, running his fingers lightly across her collarbones, seeing the way her chest rose and fell. Never in his life had he felt so inspired by a woman, and it sparked something in him, the need to create. Jamie felt like he was changing for the better – leaving the past behind and finally moving on from the worst day of his life.