Claire is on the tail end of a twelve hour shift, more than ready to head home and put her feet up, when she receives an emergency page from Joe. After back to back surgeries and several less than amiable patients, she’s entirely drained. But there’s always another life to save; another life to lose if she’s not fast enough, and so she quickens her pace, heading to find him in the hopes that he only needs her for a quick consult.
She sees him standing by the nurses station when she rounds the corner, and the expression on his face has her skidding to a stop.
It’s one she’s worn herself countless times; one she practised in the mirror throughout her entire residency, preparing for the day where she would be required to deliver news to a patient about a loved one.
She tries not to overthink it, schools her own features as she closes the distance between them and allows her old friend to pull her to him, a comforting hand resting upon her back. Her body is trembling, shaking like a leaf, even as she takes slow and measured breaths, preparing herself for the worst.
Joe pulls away from her then, standing at an arm’s length away, resting his hands upon her shoulders and regarding her with what she hopes to be assurance.
“He’s fine, Lady Jane. Geillis saw to it herself.”
She thinks she could pass out from relief, if she allowed herself to do so. It’s not the first time she’s been here, and it certainly won’t be the last; but she swears it feels as though she loses twenty years of life each time it happens, every time she’s paged by a colleague and informed that her husband has been brought in.
If only the fool would have more regard for his own bloody life.
Joe gives her the details, taking her by the arm and walking with her down the hallway. They stop just outside an open doorway, and she stands there, trying to process the information that he’s feeding her, but only retaining bits and pieces. There honestly isn’t that much more she needs to know at this moment, other than the affirmation that Jamie is very much alive and not maimed beyond repair.
“I imagine he’ll be waking up from the anaesthesia soon. I’m quite certain the first face he wants to see will be yours.”
He leaves her then, with a gentle squeeze to the arm and promises that he’ll be back to check on them later. She takes a shuddering breath and steps inside, her fears melting away when she sees Jamie lying there, looking a little worse for wear but most definitely alive and whole. The nurse monitoring his vitals takes one look at her, and then hands his chart over, scurrying from the room.
Pulling a chair over from the side of the room, she sits for the first time in hours, and scans through all the details before setting the chart back in place at the end of the bed. She paces the room for a bit and then slumps right back down beside him, holding his hand and cursing at his unconscious body, wanting him to wake up already so he could feel her wrath.
It takes twenty minutes for his finger to twitch and another five before she sees his eyes moving beneath the lids.
"Jamie, can you hear me? It's all right, I'm right here."
She holds his hand, lacing their fingers together as she leans forward, whispering words of comfort and reassurance to him. He groans and she chokes back a sob, pressing a kiss to the edge of his jaw, brushing her cheek against his before pulling back slightly.
When his eyes open, it's not with a slow flutter of lashes, like the flapping of a butterfly's wings. It's sudden, as if he were suddenly jolted into consciousness, and she finds herself staring into an endless sea of blue.
An ocean, during a violent storm; clouded over and entirely unfocused.
She squeezes his hand, tries to convey to him that she's there for him, that she's by his side and that she'll never leave him.
"How do you feel?"
He tries to give her his full attention, but she can see how difficult it is for him to focus. It's like he's not quite sure where he is, or who she is.
“Like a pile of moldy tripe…”
Of course, he's managed to retain his sense of humour even now. She smiles weakly, shaking her head at him, and he continues to stare, trying so very hard to hold her gaze but failing at each and every attempt.
“Are ye a doctor?”
There's a mild panic building within her, that something has gone wrong. She doesn't know what she would do, how she could cope if this played out like one of those romantic drama films Jamie loves so much. If this is a retrograde amnesia situation, she'll clock him over the head herself in an effort to restore his memory.
She's pretty sure it won't come to that.
“Yes," she tells him, because she is a doctor after all, and there's no sense in panicking just yet.
He blinks madly, as if that little tidbit of information is the most fascinating news he's ever received.
“Are ye my doctor?”
There's something in the way he says it, so obsessively, that reassures her his confusion is purely due to the anaesthetic given to keep him under. She read it in his chart earlier, that they had administered a different drug than he was usually given, but the exact details are lost to her now, with him being the one thing she can focus on.
“Something of the sort," she tells him, deliberately vague. Now that she's mostly certain that he hasn't sustained any permanent damage, she allows her anger to flare, just a little. "What were you thinking, going out and getting yourself hurt like this?”
“I dinna ken what the hospitals are like in England, but ye really should work on yer bedside manner, Sassenach.”
The sound of his pet name for her makes her heart do a little dance, thumping erratically for just a moment.
“I beg your pardon?” she asks with mock annoyance, enjoying the playful banter between them.
“I dinna mean tae offend ye. 'Tis only the word fer an English person… Did ye ken yer eyes are like whisky?”
“So I’ve been told.”
“I could get drunk just staring at yer eyes, mo nighean donn. They're like pools of the finest whisky,” he’d said, one night after they’d both had a drink or two.
“Yer like a wee fairy. Yer hair, ‘tis like magic.”
He reaches for her then, or at the very least, makes a very good attempt of it. His hand almost smacks her in the face; she ducks just in time to avoid it, and sees the look of despair he gives her, probably thinking that she's shying away from his touch.
She moves then, carefully sitting on the edge of the bed and reaches for his hand, bringing it upwards to cup her face. His movements are clumsy, but she leans into his touch anyway, feels the heat of his skin against her own, savours it. He twirls a loose curl around his finger, something he's done a thousand times before, but it's so incredibly special to be able to see the look on his face now, as if he's discovering it for the first time.
“Aye, tis me. James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser. Did ye ken that?”
She remembers how he had laughed at her, mixing up his middle names as she practised her vows before their very impromptu wedding.
“Ye ne’er told me yer name, lass. Yer verra beautiful, ye ken. Did I say that already?”
“My name is Claire,” she tells him, very deliberately only offering up her first name.
"Claire? Sorcha. What about the rest o’ it?”
“I doubt you would remember even if I told you," she teases him, rubbing her thumb in small circles over the back of his hand.
“Aye… my mind, tis a wee bit clouded… ye have a lovely smile, Claire. It warms my heart. Can ye feel how fast it’s beating?”
He pulls her hand to hover above where his heart lies, weakly pressing her palm to his thundering heartbeat.
“I can see it on the monitors, commander.”
Jamie flushes then, the tips of his ears turning a very familiar shade of red. It is reassuring to her though, feeling the beat of his heart beneath her hand; the rhythm matches her own.
"It proves that we are meant tae be one, Sassenach, that ye were born for me as I was born for ye," he had told her then, what feels like a lifetime ago.
“Yer smart and beautiful. I dinna ken what I did tae land myself in here with ye, but I would do it again," he says now, and she lifts her hand and swats him gently on the chest for it.
“Don’t you dare! You scared me half to death today.”
“Ye were worrit about me?”
He seems so enthusiastic at the prospect that she doesn't quite want to burst his bubble.
“I’m never not worried about you.”
She loves him, and loves that he's found a career that showcases all of his best qualities, but there's a part of her that wishes he would have chosen something a little less dangerous. Bravery is very much a part of Jamie's being, and she would never seek to change that about him, or take him away from a job he so clearly loves, even if the constant fear over his life is giving her premature grey hairs.
“Yer so caring, even though we just met. And ye’ve mended my wounds. I think I should like tae marry ye.”
She coughs, poorly concealing a bark of laughter, and thinks she would have done a spit-take had she been drinking something. Only her husband would be so foolish as to propose to her while under the effects of anaesthesia. A tiny part of her wonders if she should be offended, that he's forgotten their vows to one another so easily; the other, larger part, finds this entire situation very endearing. If she could capture it on film to present to him later on, she thinks they would both have a good laugh at it.
She does wonder though, if he would have noticed, had she been wearing her wedding band on her finger instead of on a chain around her neck, where it always resided while she was working.
The sound of her page interrupts her thoughts, and she moves her hands from where they are joined with his, in order to silence the incessant beeping before it has a chance to drive her mad.
“Please, dinna leave me.”
The look of heartbreak on his face is one she's had the displeasure of seeing before. Back in the early days, before Jamie and Claire had become Jamie and Claire, she had turned down his advances, not wanting to get involved with someone she might have to see on a regular basis in case things went south. She had regretted it immediately, cursing at herself for not taking a chance and slipped him her number the next time they saw one another. Hurting him is very much not a fond memory for her, so she pushes it away, and focuses on diverting the conversation back to where they had been before.
Flirting as strangers.
“You’re being awfully presumptuous since we only just met.”
“My Da told me I would ken the perfect woman fer me the moment I met her," he informs her in all seriousness, clutching her hand tightly in his own.
“So you’ve told me," she responds, fighting a smile. He had told her, almost exactly the same statement, when he had dropped down on one knee, just six weeks after their first encounter, professing his undying love for her, as if they had known each other a lifetime.
“Will ye marry me then?”
She had said yes without deliberation, that first time when he asked her, but now she shakes her head, trying not to break at the crestfallen look on his face.
“I’ll have you know, my husband is as jealous as he is handsome," she informs him, brushing her knuckles over the line of his jaw. He perks up a little at that, tilts his head towards her, and responds with confidence.
“I would fight an army for ye, Sassenach.”
“And how would your wife feel about that?”
Perhaps it's a little cruel of her to tease him so, but he's so adorably awkward about the entire situation and she finds that she cannot help herself.
“Wife? I’m married?”
He looks both horrified and excited at the prospect, the two emotions doing battle within his mind, causing the most peculiar facial expressions. She wants to laugh at him, at the adorable confusion spreading across his features as he tries to remember.
“Yes. I don’t think she’s the type that would appreciate her husband not being able to remember her,” she teases, brushing her thumb over his cheek.
“Oh. What’s she like? My wife? Is she as smart and beautiful as ye are?”
Claire ducks her head then, knowing that Jamie will be able to see right through her, as drugged up as he is. The compliments are nothing new; she’s never known someone with so much capacity for love, affection and devotion as her husband, and it warms her heart to see that things are still the same, even if he can’t quite get his memories in line.
“She loves you more than anything.”
“I guess I’m a verra lucky man then.”
The resignation in his tone makes her ache a little;
She kisses him then, leans in close and presses their mouths together, wondering if that might help jog his memory. His tongue prods at the seam of her lips, and she moves to cup his face with both hands now, breathing him in as they kiss. When she pulls back, slowly opening her eyes, she finds him staring at her, looking very much in bliss. He’s always liked watching her when they kiss; told her before that it was the only way he could be sure she was really there, that the incredible feeling was not a dream.
“Sassenach, I dinna think I’ve e’er tasted anythin’ sae sweet. But what about yer husband?”
She's about to respond with something witty when the door opens and Geillis pops her head in, smirking suggestively at the sight of them, all reddened lips and heavy breathing.
“Doctor Fraser, how’s yer husband doing?”
Claire doesn't look at Jamie then, but can only assume he doesn't quite have the mental capacity to piece things together quite yet.
“He’s still a little out of it, but I’m sure that will go away once the anaesthesia wears off.”
Geillis nods then, before raising her eyebrows very suggestively at them. "I havena cleared him fer any strenuous physical activity just yet, so ye might want tae keep it in yer pants," she says, before swanning off, closing the door behind her with a loud click.
“Sassenach, yer a Fraser? But how?”
“I’m married to one, you fool.”
She taps him on the nose then, laughing when the realisation dawns upon his face. His jaw goes slack, his mouth falling open so widely it’s comical; he blinks, wildly, as if that would somehow clear things up for him.
“Me? I’m yer husband? And yer my wife?”
He looks shocked more than anything, but she can see the delight too, the pure unadulterated joy at the thought of them being man and wife.
"That's usually how it works, you bloody Scot."
"That's not verra nice of ye to say."
"Coming from the man who's called me Sassenach since the day we met."
He doesn't even have the sense to look embarrassed about it all, just smiles at her like she's the sun and he hasn't seen light in years.
“How did we meet? Will ye tell me?”
The story is so often shared, by him, by her, but so rarely told to one another.
“Well, it was right here in this hospital actually.”
“I was still a resident then, and I got paged to the ER to tend to, ‘some bloody hero firefighter’. You had gotten hurt on the job, popped your arm right out of its socket.”
The memory of their first encounter brings a smile to her face, and she places a hand on his shoulder, recalling the sensation of touching him for the first time. It hadn't been a bolt of lightning or a sudden shock, some incredible display from the universe to make her aware of their connection. She had run her fingers over his skin, felt warmth and heat and strength; her fingers had hovered for a moment over his pulse point, felt his erratic heartbeat and then moved to heal him. Her touch had lingered afterwards, waiting as his breathing evened out, and his heart rate returned to normal.
“And ye mended me?”
She sees it, the memories slowly returning to him, the glazed over look fading from his eyes.
She feels it in the way his hands grip hers tighter.
She hears it in his voice.
“Ye took the pain away wi’ yer gentle touch mo ghraidh,” he tells her, one hand reaching up to brush away a stray curl. She knows that he sees her now, and the life they’ve shared together, clear as day.
“I told you to be careful,” she admonishes anyway, needing to say it, but already knowing that this man, her wonderful and brilliant and very frustrating man, always puts the well-being of others before himself.
“Aye ye did.”
“And somehow, not even a week later, you showed up again, needing stitches.”
They bask in the memories together, smiling as they both think back to that night, when she had given him a dozen stitches, sewing up a laceration on his shoulder, all while fuming at his carelessness.
“I had tae find some excuse tae come back and see ye.”
Claire shakes her head then, once again overwhelmed with love and adoration for him. He looks up at her, almost expectantly, pouting a little, and she makes a show of rolling her eyes to the ceiling, before leaning in and pressing their lips together. She gets lost in it, the familiarity of his touch, basking in the love they have for one another, and thinks she would have climbed into his lap within the next thirty seconds, if the door to the room had not opened. That combined with an exaggerated cough, alerts her to the fact that they are no longer alone.
Turning towards the doorway, she sees her brother-in-law first, a sleeping baby strapped to his chest, another on his back, a toddler clinging to his leg and -
Claire moves from the bed then, crouching down just in time for her little girl to barrel into her, a pair of tiny arms wrapping around her neck. She stands, with more than a little effort, wondering as she does each and every day, how quickly time is passing for her baby to be so grown up already. A very bony knee digs into her back as she adjusts her daughter’s positioning, carefully smoothing over the white shirt and plaid skirt she was wearing for kindergarten.
While she's not sure who had contacted Ian or Jenny for her (she'll wager it was either Joe or Geillis), she's grateful they had the foresight to anticipate that her focus would be entirely on her husband; that she would space out and forget everything else in the world until she had confirmation that he was all right.
"Thank you for dropping her off Ian. We really appreciate it."
"Och it's nae bother. What else is family fer?" he tells her, waving his one free arm in a dismissive manner. She smiles, watching as he turns to young Kitty, who has secured herself to his leg. "We'll come back and visit yer Uncle Jamie another time, aye. Say goodbye to yer cousin and yer Auntie Claire."
Claire watches with some amusement as her niece turns in their direction, waving with little coordination, and nudges her daughter to do the same, wincing when she's thwacked in the head by an overeager arm.
Like father, like daughter.
When the door closes once again, she turns back to Jamie, and sees the tears streaming down his face. His memory may have returned, but it's clear he still lacks all inhibition. He sobs, reaching out towards them and she cannot bring herself to make fun of him for it, feeling tender inside and out.
“Faith, my wee lassie.”
Their daughter perks up at the sound of her name being called, turning and reaching out towards her father.
With great care, Claire settles down on the edge of the bed once more, settling Faith in her lap, and pressing a kiss to her curls, a shade that is very much the perfect mix of red and brown. Jamie's tears continue, and Faith leans forward, ever curious and in tune with the emotions of those around her, patting at his damp cheek with one tiny hand.
"Dinna weep, Da," she tells him, her voice like the soft chime of bells.
He turns his head, kissing her palm, continuing to weep. Faith spins around, turning to Claire with a little frown on her face, seeking an explanation to this very strange situation.
“Why’s Da being all funny Mama?”
“Auntie Geillis had to give him some medicine so he would feel better, darling.”
Her mouth falls open, lips forming a small 'O' as she tries to process the information in a way most five year olds would not yet have developed the emotional maturity to.
"Did Da get another ouchie at work?" she asks, bottom lip jutting out in a pout, clearly upset at the thought of her father being injured.
"Dinna fash a leannan. It doesna hurt anymore, not when yer here wi' me."
Jamie reaches his arms out and Claire raises a hand to her heart, seeing the care Faith is taking with her father, not wanting to cause him any further pain.
"Were ye saving another wee cheetie?"
A year earlier, Jamie had taken an unfortunate tumble while performing a rescue that was very much stereotypical for firemen. He had wound up battered and bruised, but with no fractures or broken bones, and they had ended up with a new addition in the family.
Adso was possibly the most spoiled cat in all of Scotland.
"Nay, a chuisle. 'Twas not verra exciting. Why don't ye tell me about yer day at school? Did ye have fun wi' all yer friends?"
Faith curls up beside Jamie, resting half her body on his chest, whispering into his ear as if she were sharing the biggest secrets, and Claire watches the expression of delight on Jamie's face, reaching across to wipe away the last of his tears. He leans into her touch, seeking comfort from her, and while she hates to leave him here, she really does need to nip upstairs for just a moment.
"I'll be right back darling," she says, kissing Jamie on the lips and then Faith on the cheek, pointedly ignoring the twin expressions of abandonment on their faces and slipping quietly from the room.
It takes only three minutes to make the very familiar journey, nodding politely to her colleagues as she passes them in the hallways. They all wish Jamie a speedy recovery, because gossip spreads faster than any disease she's ever encountered, and she’s not even surprised when she arrives at her destination and finds Louise already standing there, a sleeping Brianna on her hip.
“I can’t thank you enough, Louise,” she says as she takes custody of her daughter, smile wavering as Brianna presses her face into the crook of her neck, fisting one tiny hand in the front of her scrubs. “I’ll probably drop her and Faith off in an hour, and come back for them when daycare closes for the night. Geillis didn’t mention whether they had decided to keep Jamie here for overnight observation, but I’d rather he stays, just in case.”
Claire thinks she might be rambling but her friend simply nods, and gives her shoulder a brief squeeze of encouragement. With that, she makes her way back downstairs to Jamie’s room; the journey takes twice as long with Bree in her arms, because she’s being stopped by every second person to compliment her daughter’s appearance. When she re-enters the room, she locks the door behind her, wanting just a little time alone with her family.
She’s not sure who is more excited to see Brianna, who is still too sleep drunk to register the change of location.
“My favourite lassies all together. What did I do tae deserve so much happiness?”
She moves over to the bed, kisses him before he can start bawling again, and sets Brianna down on the other side of Jamie, smiling as she curls up against her father even while unconscious. Faith reaches for her sister, placing her small hand over Bree’s tiny fist, and Claire feels tears stinging her own eyes.
“You’re still you, even when you’re high as a kite and flirting with a strange doctor.”
He laughs then, softly, so as to not jostle their girls, who have both entered the realm of dreams by now.
“I kent I loved ye, even if I couldna quite remember who ye were.”
She takes his hand as he reaches for her, running her thumbs over his knuckles, tracing every hill and valley, every rise and fall.
“Yer ne’er going tae let me live this down are ye, Sassenach? Even if I won’t remember it by tomorrow?”
“Never, my love.”