3 year ago
“Claire, if you walk out that door don’t bother coming back.”
The words had been ringing in her ears since she’d left Frank less than 24 hours ago. Claire had left him in London. And now here she was, in the Scottish Highlands. She was taking a week off up north before she traveled back to her internship in Edinburgh.
She was 25 and had just finished medical school. She’d spent the past 2 years making rounds at the Royal London Hospital. It was where she was continuing as a resident-in-training after the summer. After the summer where one of her professors had recommended her for a UK-wide exchange program in Edinburgh. It was a great opportunity, one that Claire had jumped at.
She’d fallen in love with Scotland when she’d studied a semester in Glasgow in undergrad and she’d been itching to return. Unfortunately, her studies didn’t allow a vacation and she had to work during the summer to save for the next year. It had been exhausting and Claire wouldn’t have really used time off for anything other than sleeping anyways, let alone traveling and sightseeing. But that was over now. She had graduated medical school near the top of her class and finally earned herself a paid position at one of England’s best teaching hospitals. The summer stretched out blissfully in front of her, but Claire never really knew what to do with idle time. So when the internship in Edinburgh came across her radar and one of her favorite professor’s urged her to apply…
She’d applied without even talking to Frank about it. Then she accepted the offer with just a passing comment to her boyfriend of a year. He hadn’t taken it well. They’d fought about how Claire wasn’t making any time for him. She’d shot back that it wasn’t her fault his graduate program in history was mostly done from home while hers’ also meant nights and weekends away from him. Of course she didn’t like it (when the reality was she sort of did), but it was her career. Her dream. Yes, he’d replied, I understand your career. But these four months of summer were going to be her last break for the foreseeable future and she couldn’t even give him that. So he’d told her, if you take this internship we’re over. Claire hadn’t even hesitated.
Claire, if you walk out that door don’t bother coming back.
She was feeling quite a bit less sure of herself now that she was alone and more than a little tipsy in the Inverness pub she’s stumbled into. Frank hadn’t been right to give her an ultimatum, but Claire should have told him about the program before she’d been accepted and decided to go. They’d been together more than a year and she knew this was more than a passing fling. Even if she wasn’t quite ready to love him yet, Frank loved her. For someone like Claire, an orphan with very few friends and one sickly uncle, that meant quite a lot.
She was fighting the urge to call him when the bartender gave her a third pint of Guinness. She gave him a grateful smile. He was going to be getting a very good tip. She needed the drinks even if she didn’t need an enabler to the pathetic groveling she was now considering. She was just about to give into it when she heard a distinct voice behind him.
“Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp, is that ye?”
Claire turned around and was faced with none other than Jenny Fraser.
“Jenny?” she gasped as the woman in question threw her arms around Claire, “God, it’s been years.”
“4 years,” Jenny confirmed. Claire stood up from her bar stool in an attempt to make the embrace less awkward, but in her inebriated state she did just about the opposite and then they were laughing together, “What’re ye doing here?”
“I’m doing an internship for the summer in Edinburgh,” Claire said, “I thought I’d see some of the sights before I start.”
“And ye didna think to call me?” Jenny asked. Claire looked at the ceiling guiltily because honestly she hadn’t. Jenny and Claire had met when she was doing her semester at Jenny’s university in Glasgow. Jenny’s business degree didn’t overlap much with Claire’s pre-med program, but they’d found enough free time to tear through the clubs of the city with Jenny’s childhood friend, Geillis Duncan and her boyfriend, Ian. Geillis had also been pre-med (she wanted to be an obstetrician, Claire recalled) and Claire hadn’t thought to give her a call either. She wondered if Geillis was graduating this year as well. Was there a chance they’d be working together in Edinburgh, or had she stayed in Glasgow?
“Never mind,” Jenny said as she interrupted Claire’s train of thought, “I’ll forgive ye if ye buy the next round of drinks.”
That’s how things were with Jenny. She was easy to anger but also quick to grant forgiveness with a well-timed apology. This apology consisted of Claire buying (and drinking) three rounds of tequila shots. By the time Jenny suggested the fourth, they were the best of friends once again. Jenny lived in Edinburgh now with her brother, Jamie, and was just up north to deal with some matters at her family farm of Lallybroch. Her father wasn’t doing well and it was looking like they were going to have to sell the property. Claire offered her condolences but Jenny brushed them off.
“We ken this was coming. Da’s been running things alone since Jamie decided he wanted to go to university. We ken it couldn’t go on forever. We’re all resigned to it.”
James Fraser (Jamie, to Jenny) was a 21 year old freshman studying linguistics at the University of Edinburgh. He’d put off his studies for a few years now to help his father at Lallybroch and save money, but Brian Fraser wouldn’t let him put things off any longer. His children were simply not farmers, and Brian Fraser had made his peace with it. So he was moving in with the Murrays and whatever money they made from selling the land would be distributed between father and children.
Jenny was using her share to start up a pub in the heart of the city. Claire wished her well and soon Jenny was dragging her back to Lallybroch and inviting other people over.
“Ian will be so happy to see ye,” Jenny gushed as she snapped a picture for him. Claire didn’t doubt it. She loved Jenny’s boyfriend and he was rather fond of her. He didn’t join them in their clubbing adventures often, but when he did… Claire wanted a kind of love like that. She’d witnessed often enough how he’d watched Jenny rage and rant until she tired herself out before calmly explaining all the things she’d misunderstood and the mistakes she’d made, always with kindness. Claire envied it. He rolled his eyes fondly at her antics, but very rarely put her down. There were times where it seemed like all Frank ever did was criticize her. And just like that she was thinking about Frank again.
“What’s wrong?” Jenny asked her. Dammit. It seemed like Jenny’s intuition hadn’t dimmed in the 4 years since they’d seen each other.
“My boyfriend and I broke up,” she confessed, “He said if I took this internship, it was over. And here I am.”
“Fuck him,” Jenny replied simply. She signaled the bartender for another shot. The night was fuzzy after that.
Claire often wondered how in the fuck she was back here again. Almost the exact same position three years later.
This time was worse. Frank hadn’t broken up with her. Instead, he’d begged her to make a different choice. He told her he loved her, the engagement ring on her finger proved that, and that he knew she was pushing him away because she was scared. That was fair enough, but the job in Edinburgh was too good to not even go to the interview.
“I will be back in 2 weeks,” Claire promised as she kissed him gently. “There’s no point in fighting over a job I don’t even have yet.”
“Dammit, Claire, that isn’t the point,” he retorted. And he was right. But this was different. She wasn’t doing this to get away. She was a different woman than she’d been three years ago. She had no one now save for Frank. Her uncle was dead, dead like her parents. Her only family was gone, and Claire wouldn’t stay in London for just one man, even one she was in love with. Getting this job could mean her entire career. She loved her job as a trauma surgeon in London, but her career would never advance there. Any hospital worth its reputation ran on tradition and nepotism. All Claire had was being a damn good doctor.
She was running on three years of being a damn good doctor and her career going nowhere despite it. Then Geillis Duncan called her. There were 2 administrative openings at the hospital she’d interned at (albeit briefly. She shuddered at the memory of what cut her internship short), and would Claire interview?
It worked out almost too perfectly from there. She’d be interviewing as assistant head of the trauma department. Her partner and best friend, Joe Abernathy, was independently applying there for the assistant chief of surgery. If one of them got their jobs, it could open opportunity for the other. If both of them got the jobs… Edinburgh wasn’t ready for them.
So here she was with Joe on the train for Edinburgh and her fiancé hadn’t called her once. The interview was in 2 days and if all went well, the second and third would be next week and she’d be offered the job. Claire had been optimistic, she’d booked her hotel stay for the full two weeks.
And if she got offered the job… Claire didn’t know where she’d stand with Frank. But she was damn sure she wouldn’t let him stand in her way.
“I am starving, Lady Jane,” Joe complained as they got their luggage and left the train, “Please tell me we have nothing to do for the rest of the day.”
“I suppose we could prep for our interviews over some food and a pint,” she allowed. In truth, she was starving too, though she feared her nerves wouldn’t allow her to eat. It was a problem she faced before big decisions, like where she would go to med school or should she accept Frank’s proposal. Don’t fucking think about Frank Randall, she snapped at herself. They walked into the first pub they found that was on the way to their hotel: Broch Turach Tavern. The name sounded vaguely familiar but she couldn’t place it. The scent of shepherd’s pie and chips was overwhelmingly good as they seated themselves. She was deciding whether she wanted a simple pint or a cocktail after her journey when she heard an identical voice from 3 years ago.
“Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp, is that you?” Once again, Claire turned around to gape at Jenny Fraser. Or she should say Murray now. She’d gotten the wedding invitation from Geillis but it had been too soon after… everything and Claire had been too much of a mess to reply. She’d been hit with guilt every so often about it. As well she should, it seemed. Jenny Murray looked pissed. Claire would have taken that any day to the expression on the man behind her. He seemed confused and angry too, and hurt more than anything.
Standing behind Jenny was her brother, Jamie Fraser. Even after three years of steadfastly refusing to think about him, he was still the most beautiful man she had ever seen.
“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.”