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My Nightingale

Chapter Text

“Just one more bite, Dad. Then you’ve made it.”

Claire had helped her father consuming the warm meal she had cooked him for dinner. He was getting rather slow by himself, and she couldn’t bear watching him struggling to eat his meal and ease his hunger.

When her father finished, she stood up, taking both of their plates into the kitchen to clean them immediately. While cleaning, she got lost in her thoughts, which were interrupted by a simple ding of her phone lying next to her on the kitchen counter. She saw the name from the short distance, lighting up with the sound of a new message.

Jamie Fraser

A slight smile brushed over her face but faded just a second later when her father called her.

“Sweetheart. I’d like to go to bed. I’m very tired today.”

Claire reflexively looked down at him between his legs, as he had been having accidents.

Her father had been ill. His diagnosis was Glioblastoma, Brain Tumour. It is the most common high-grade brain tumour in adults. Doctors had not given him a very long time to survive, and Claire wanted to be with him as much as she could.

They got the message just a few months back. Claire remembered every single detail of that cold, rainy Friday afternoon.

She was laying on her bed, reading one of her favourite books, when all of the sudden the phone was ringing downstairs. She was waiting for that call, as her father had been in the hospital the last few days to get some check-ups done. He simply fell asleep almost every second of the day; it didn’t matter if he was sitting, laying down, driving or even on the toilet. She knew it wasn’t healthy any longer, and she wanted some clarity. But most of all she wanted to make sure her father was okay.

Getting off the phone with the doctor that day, she felt numb. She slowly put her phone down, taking the chair that was closest to her and she sat down, replaying the words of the Doctor. And all of the sudden the tears were just running down her face and they didn’t stop.

After cleaning her father’s accident, she dressed him for bed and carefully laid him down, tucking him in with cosy blankets. After kissing him goodnight with a forced smile, she left the room, whispering a short, “Goodnight Dad, I love you,” before turning off the light and leaving the room.

She closed the door and the tears were running down her face once again.

It got worse by the day, and there was no one else to help her anymore. Her mother had left them when she was just a baby. She had been raised by the man lying in that very room, dying in front of her. What would she do once that day arrived? The day he drew his last breath, she knew she would be lost.

Finally, after cleaning up the rest of the house, she had time to answer her message she received just about an hour ago from her boyfriend, Jamie.

Jamie Fraser was a beautiful young man, living about a twenty-minute drive away from her; red hair, the bluest eyes Claire had ever seen, and a heart of gold. Jamie was a smart guy: he had a great job and was very well educated. Claire had met him while visiting the National War Museum at the Castlehill.

After a few minutes of talking to each other, they felt an immediate connection, like fate had decided to bring them together.

She opened his text, smiling as she read it.

“Hi mo nighean donn, I miss you very much. I hope to see you soon. Love, Jamie.”

Claire never had been a woman that showed her feelings. This also meant that she had not told anybody about the illness of her father. Jamie knew that she lived with him, but she always made sure that Jamie never visited. She didn’t want to worry him with her situation, nor did she want to appear weak to a love that was just starting to grow.

She had to admit that it made her feel safe. Laying in the arms of her beautiful red-haired Scot, while her Father sleeps safe and sound at home. It had felt normal.

Normal. Claire didn’t know the meaning of this word anymore, as nothing had seemed normal in her life since those few months.

Looking back at her screen, she thought about her answer and typed it down.

“Hi Jamie, I miss you too and hope to see you soon. Love, Claire.”

Their relationship had been not longer than three weeks old. It was a fresh love and Claire needed her time to trust someone. She thought a lot about if it is the right thing she is doing with Jamie. She had asked herself a thousand times if she even has time and emotional space for something like this right now. On some days she was the happiest woman alive with him, but on days like today, she wished she had no responsibilities by answering texts like those. But as usual, she had blamed the illness of her father to feel that way; after all that was what made her suffer the most at the moment. Or was there more?

She sent a few more messages back and forth with Jamie then decided to go to sleep. She put her phone on “Do not disturb”, put on her favourite playlist and put her headphones on the maximal volume, closing her eyes.

”Daddy, Daddy look what I can do!” the little girl’s eyes were shining like bright diamonds in the sun. Her proud father smiled from one cheek to the other, picking her up, kissing her tiny beautiful face, while she released the cutest giggle he had ever heard.

”I’m so proud of you Sweetheart,” he said, knowing his words meant everything to this little girl showing him the sandcastle she just built, filling it with her little dolls he had bought her last weekend on their shopping spree. He had so much love for his daughter, and he knew he wanted to give her the live she deserved, full of joy, happiness, laughter and most importantly, love.

Claire woke up, her room dark, her face wet from the tears that had released themselves while dreaming of that certain moment. It was their holiday in Spain. She remembered every bit of it, even though she had been just six years old.

She turned off her music and saw that Jamie tried to call her just two hours ago. She decided to call him back. She wanted, no, she needed to hear his voice.

“Sassenach.” That’s what he called her.

“Hi Jamie. I saw you called me.”

She tried to make it sound like she only called because he called her first. Claire did not want him to know that she felt like this. He could not know that she was suffering so horribly.

“Yes. I needed to hear yer voice before going to sleep. Oh how I wish I would lay next to ye, holding you close, breathing in the smell of yer beautiful brown hair.”

Somehow Jamie always knew what to say. She felt better the moment she heard the sound of his voice.

All of the sudden sadness had overcome her, and she had to use the strength of her whole body to not burst into tears. The line had been quiet, and Jamie started to worry.
“Claire? Are ye still here?”

She was afraid that when she said something, he would hear the change in her voice. He could not worry about her. This was her battle to fight, not his.

“I’m alright.”

That is all she could say, not more. And to her luck Jamie had let out a sigh of relief hearing she didn’t hang up. He savoured every word she said.

“Talk to me, Jamie. Talk me to sleep.”

That was all she wanted. She wanted to hear his voice. It didn’t matter what he said, but the soothing sound of his deep voice, muttering in that Scottish accent, could make her sleep at any time, and sleep meant escaping pain, and escaping pain meant to finally feel okay.

The next morning Claire woke up, Jamie hung up around half an hour after she asked him to talk to her. She must have fallen asleep just a few seconds after he used his voice to calm her.

She got ready for the day, entering her Father’s bedroom, opening the curtains next to his bed. She turned around to see him peacefully asleep. She walked to him.

“Dad, it’s time to wake up.”

Henry opened his eyes, smiling sweetly at his daughter. He loved her so much. She was his life, his pride, his everything. She was the reason he was fighting the battle against his illness. But he started to get tired of it, and he could not let her know.

“Good morning, Sweetheart.”

Claire helped him so he could sit up, eventually getting him to stand. She went to the bathroom with him, dressed him and made him breakfast, feeding him his first meal of the day. As Claire cleaned the dishes once again, Henry knew he had to talk with Claire about something very important. No matter how much they both wanted to avoid this talk, he needed to get it off his chest, as he felt his body growing weaker by the day.

“Claire, we need to talk.”

She stopped immediately, putting down the dishes, turning around and sitting beside him.

“What is it, Dad?”

“I know you don’t want me to talk about this, but I have to.”

He swallowed, thinking carefully about his next words. Henry took her hands in his and looked her in the eyes. He saw her eyes filling with tears, as she knew what he wanted to address.

“Claire, eventually I will be gone. We both know the time will come, and it will be sooner than later. Please know this house will be yours, and I have left a nice amount of money behind for you to build your own life, and to find the happiness you deserve. I am so sorry I have to leave you behind my beautiful, beautiful daughter. I wish I could see you getting married, see you raise my grandchildren, see you at your happiest. Because of me, you have suffered endlessly these past few months, and with your mother leaving so early, I was everything you had left, and now I am leaving you too. Oh Sweetheart, I am so sorry. I - ”

Henry could not continue as he was choking on his tears, seeing his daughter sobbing in front of him, taking in his every word.

“Dad, please, I can’t - ”

She couldn’t talk further, so she just hugged Henry, both of them sobbing, not knowing when it would be the last time they would hold each other in their arms.

Chapter Text

It was a beautiful and sunny morning in Edinburgh, and Claire decided to have breakfast with her Father outside. She smiled at the thought of a relaxing morning with him, breathing in the warm morning breeze.

She walked upstairs, knocked twice at her Father’s door, and entered the still, dark room.

“Good morning, Dad,” she said, walking towards the window. She pushed the curtains aside and opened the windows to let the breeze fill the room.

She looked at him, slowly opening his eyes and sat next to him on the bed, stroking one finger over his forehead.

“How did you sleep?”

While waiting for him to answer, she checked if there had been an accident over the night, and she was relieved that the sheets were found dry.

“Claire, my beautiful daughter. What a sight you are in the early morning.”

Even though her face showed a tiny smile, her heart was aching at her Father’s words. She cherished every single one of them, saving them in her brain like her body was some kind of memory card. But she knew. The first thing you forget about someone is their voice. This gave her an even bigger reason to let him talk.

“Come up Dad, we are eating breakfast outside. It is a beautiful day.”

She saw her Father’s face lighting up at her words, and she knew this had just made his whole day. He had always loved breakfast together with her.

After getting him out of bed and getting him ready for the day, she walked slowly downstairs with him, her grip steady under his arm to give him the support he needed. To keep reminding him not to go too fast, she kept saying Slowly.. Slowly Dad until they reached the last step which made her loosen her grip around his arm.

She walked outside and sat him on a chair next to a tiny garden table. He was now facing the beautiful garden Claire had created with all her love.

She went back inside to prepare breakfast and tea. Her mind was racing as she made the eggs and pancakes, and all she could see was herself preparing the first meal of the day with her Father when she was only a little girl. The echoes of her laughter still haunt her to this day. She didn’t know how it sounded anymore. Her laughter.

She got ripped out of her tiny trip down memory lane as her Father called out her name, waiting impatiently for his breakfast. Her Father ate a lot since he started taking so much medication. She knew there was a chance of him either losing a lot of weight from it or gaining it.

As his hunger never seemed to stop, for him it was weight gain. A side effect from his cravings combined with his illness was that he got angry at how long it took to serve him his meals. He sometimes even started yelling at her. She thought about a moment, just a week ago, when it happened, when she reached into his plate to take a french fry out of it.

”Give it back, Claire! Now!” Claire laughed as she first thought he was joking around.

She ate it.

”This was mine! And you just eat it! Are you out of your mind to disrespect me that way and to steal out of your Fathers plate?! I haven’t raised you this way Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp!

That memory was still so fresh, she didn’t realize that she had burned the last pancake that was still in the pan. She sighed and eventually threw it away. Her Father called out to her once again, his voice now raised.

“I’m coming!”

She walked out to him, served him his breakfast and he ate, slowly, reaching the second pancake when it was ice cold, and Claire had already finished about ten minutes ago.

“Come on, I’ll help you Dad.”

A light sigh came out of his mouth and she fed him.

“Oh Sweetheart, I’m so sorry. You shouldn’t have to do this.”

“It’s okay Dad, I want to. I want to help you as much as I can.”

She really did.

“I love you Sweetheart.”

“I love you too, Dad.”
She finished feeding him his breakfast, and he complimented her for it as he always did after a meal she had prepared. Claire put the dishes together and made an attempt to stand up, but she felt her Father’s hand reaching out to her, telling her not to stand up.

“What is it, Dad?”

“Don’t go just yet. Remember that one day, it was just as beautiful as this one is, when we went to that beautiful field? It was green and completely away from civilization. You had just turned eight a few days before, and I took you there because your interest in nature back then was already huge.”

He chuckled, being lost in his thoughts. Claire remembered.

“Yes. I found a bunch of Forget-Me-Not flowers.”

Claire was scared that the more she talked, the closer she got to burst out in tears. That day had been as clear as ice in her head. The echoes of laughter still filled her head as if it had been yesterday. She didn’t know if she should smile or simply cry.

No.

No, not now. Don’t show him how fragile you are.

She smiled. And she felt the two eyes of her Father staring at her, waiting for her to say more. When he saw that more wouldn’t come, he decided to dig further into the memory.

“Yes. A lot of them. When we arrived back home you wanted me to show you how to dry them in order to keep that one day with you forever. You were afraid the flower would fade away and you would have nothing to remember that day.”

Claire couldn’t keep talking about this. The pain was eating her alive, and before bursting into tears, she stood up and brought the dirty dishes into the kitchen. Both of her hands grabbed onto the sink as she swayed back and forth, holding it together. She knew her Father wasn’t to blame for bringing up this memory, but the fact he brought it up was what worried Claire the most.

He starts to bring up happy memories, to make his departure as less painful as possible. He feels he is going to die soon.

At that moment she realized she wouldn’t be strong enough to bear this. How could she? After all, her Father made her who she was.

Claire knew she had Jamie for support, but she just couldn’t tell him. She wasn’t ready.

The moment she thought about Jamie, her phone started to light up. His shift at the museum is starting.

She looked at the screen, which still was bright from the new incoming message, to see that he is telling her that he will drive to work, and he is very excited to see her tonight.

Shit. She completely forgot their date night.

Completely lost with the memories of the past, she didn’t remember that she would be spending the night with Jamie. A lump started to grow in her stomach while looking at the man who was sitting outside, lost in old memories that filled his heart with love and joy. What would she do? She was afraid to leave her Father after the conversation they had yesterday, and now she was concerned at the fact that he had talked to her about old times, where everything was normal.

But on the other hand, Claire missed Jamie. She needed the time with him to be as close as possible to being herself. She took her phone, staring for a few minutes at the blinking cursor on her phone screen, her fingers ready to type down the message she wanted to send to him. Something inside of her stopped her from typing down that she also was excited to see him. Instead of that, she typed down something that she knew she would regret the moment she hit the send button.

I’m sorry Jamie, something came up. We have to skip tonight. I need some time for myself before being in a serious relationship. I can’t explain it to you and I’m sorry, one day I will. Don’t worry about me at all. I’m okay.

Before she could think, her finger hit the send button, and Claire didn’t realize that the whole time, tears were running down her face.

-

Jamie had just finished his shift at the museum. It had been a very busy one, and he had no time to look at his phone. He said goodbye to his colleagues with a big grin, only thinking about Claire. She was everything to him. The whole day he had been thinking about her beautiful face, her brown curls falling out of place, him gently stroking them behind her ear while she looked up at him with those beautiful whisky eyes. He still couldn’t believe that she was his.

Jamie had fallen in love with her the moment he had laid eyes on her. And ever since, he couldn’t forget her; he didn’t want to.

He walked to his car, smiling at the thought of his plan for him and Claire tonight. He had organized a few movies, ordered food at her favourite place, and decorated his living room last night, building up a cute fort with blankets and fairy lights.

Sitting in his car, he finally took out his phone and read her message. His heart was racing, and all that joy he had felt the whole day crashed down the moment he read it, and he kept reading it, over and over. He couldn’t stop.

His eyes burned with tears as he typed a message back.

Claire. What is happening? It’s okay if you don’t have time today. Did I do something wrong? Please talk to me.

He pressed the send button, but instead of going on “Read” it stayed on “Delivered”. Jamie couldn’t stop staring at the “Delivered,” but it didn’t seem to change, and so he decided to drive home with tears running down his face while he whispered, “But I love you, mo nigheann donn.”

-

 

Claire stared at Jamie’s message after putting her father to bed. He had been exhausted from the day outside, talking about the past. She didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to answer at the moment, so she did not open it.

She knew if she kept meeting him, their relationship would get even more serious, which meant she had to show him where she lived, and eventually take him here, and he would see what she’d really been living like. The thought of this made her shudder.

She couldn’t, so she wouldn’t. But how would she tell him?

Claire decided to deal with Jamie’s message tomorrow. Or maybe the day after. All she wanted now was to be with her Father, and also to sleep.

Sleep. The only place where she doesn’t feel pain.

Chapter Text

A few days had passed, and Claire could not manage to respond to Jamie’s text yet. In her head she kept rephrasing the words she wanted to write to him, but somehow it never turned into something she could write out. He of course didn’t stop to calling or messaging her until the second day, perhaps assuming that she didn’t space. Claire only wondered how heartbroken he must be.

Eventually she decided to write something down in the notes of her phone to eventually send to the man that would do just about anything for her.

Dear Jamie, I’m sorry I have taken this long to reply and I can’t think of a way to express myself the right way. I’m sorry I can’t be the woman you deserve, I’m sorry that I can’t give you the love you need and I’m sorry for leaving you the way I did. I love you, I really do, but at this moment there’s not much love for me to give and eventually it wouldn’t be enough. I will not hurt you anymore and this will be the last thing you will hear from me. Please try to forget me, James Fraser. For the sake of your happiness, find someone that can give you what you deserve. Love, Claire.

She kept reading her words with tears covering her rosy cheeks. After several minutes had passed she copied the message, pasted it into the conversation with Jamie -- which included 32 unread messages -- and clicked the send button. The moment she clicked away she saw that he already had read it. She could only imagine how he stared at his phone, waiting for her name to pop up on his screen with the oh-so-familiar ding that indicated a new incoming message.

-

Jamie read the words slowly, his heart pounding in his chest. He swore he could hear the sound of it breaking while reading her words over and over again.

Find someone that can give you what you deserve? That someone is you, Sassenach.

He was glad that he took the day off, because eventually the tears streaming down his face changed into heavy, heartbreaking sobs. Time stood still, and he couldn’t say how long he had cried. When he looked up, he felt his swollen face and his throat burning, but mostly he felt a pinch in the one place he knew their love would always live: his heart.

He decided to not answer the text; he couldn’t, not yet. Laying his phone away, Jamie stood up to get some water to ease the burn in his throat. That’s when he realized he felt numb. His brain replayed the last time he stared into those beautiful whisky eyes, the last time he touched her soft skin, or the last time he put the tiny curls behind her ear. The last time he had touched her and made love to her.

Jamie thought his numbness would ease later on, but found he was wrong. He forced himself to make dinner and decided to at least eat a soup as it was the easiest nourishment to swallow in his condition. With the biggest pain he’d ever felt, he sat there, alone, eating his dinner, which he tried to keep down. At least he succeeded in that.

-

A few days had passed since Claire had sent the message to Jamie. Her days being busier with the care of her father, she didn’t have much time to think about what was happening to her love life, at least she said she didn’t have time. Deep down Claire knew she suffered. She missed Jamie calling her beautiful, strong, and Sassenach.

She knew she couldn’t think too much of those things, as she had other things to worry about rather than crying about her lost love for Jamie.

After cleaning up her father’s recent accident, she went to take the dirty laundry to the washing-machine. She turned it on, when all of a sudden, she heard the sound of something heavy crashing to the floor.

Alarmed, she ran around the corner, where she found her Father lying on the floor, the little wooden couch table turned over next to him. She hurried to his side, using all her strength to get him up on the couch. Her eyes filled with tears and her breath quickened when she looked at her father’s tired face.

“Dad, what happened?”

This was the first time he had fallen like this.

“I heard the phone ring, Sweetheart, but you didn’t seem to be picking it up, so I thought to stand up.”

There was no phone call. Confused, she looked at him.

“Dad, there was no phone call.”

Her hand rested on his while she looked at him. He stared at her, his eyes filled with nothing but emptiness. He tried to register what she told him, but it took a while. A tiny “Oh” escaped his lips, and Claire knew this meant no good news.

The appointment in the hospital didn’t prove her wrong. All the doctor said was for her to enjoy the time with her Father as much as she could. When will this end?

She knew exactly when it would end, but for her this would mean the beginning. The beginning of her being completely lost and feeling completely empty. It meant the beginning of an infinite numbness that would never stop.

She would do anything to save her father, even if it meant she would have to care for him for the rest of her life, but she knew that wouldn’t happen, as every day in his life was another day on his deathbed.

While they were eating dinner, Claire helping her father of course before eating her own, Henry stopped all of a sudden, smiling contentedly.

“Oh Claire, do you hear those beautiful bells? It sounds so peaceful.”

She stopped moving the fork she held, trying to listen. Maybe her father had heard a sound outside. But there was nothing other than the motors of the cars passing their house. She looked at him and heard herself swallow hard, letting her father enjoy the muted sound of the music he heard. After a while she decided to interrupt him.

“No, I don’t hear anything Dad.”

He didn’t seem to realize what she said, as he had been feeling peaceful. To him it must have felt like the most beautiful melody he had heard in a while.

-

After Claire finished with the dishes and put her father to bed, she sat on the couch replaying the two new incidents that had happened today. She felt throbbing in her chest, and it turned into the most heartbreaking sobs. In that moment she regretted pushing Jamie away, as she needed him the most right now, but she knew she would only hurt him more. Her pain was hers, and no one else’s.

She took her phone, still crying, deciding to scroll through some selfies she took with Jamie. Her smile had never been as genuine as it was when she was around him. She didn’t know how long she spent staring at one particular picture, replaying the moment it had been taken. It had been the last time she saw him.

She received a message from him that day that he had booked a room in a hotel. He had decorated the entire room, taking off the day which he said he would have been at work. Jamie offered to pick her up, but as she didn’t want to tell him where she lived, she insisted on meeting him at the address he’d given her. Once she arrived at the hotel, he waited downstairs, smiling the moment she had stepped out of her car. He pulled her close and Claire felt he whole body vibrating beneath his touch.

”Good evening, Sassenach.”

”Hi Jamie.

Her voice was nothing more than a whisper and before she could prepare herself, he had kissed her and nothing else mattered anymore.

Claire didn’t realize that her screen went black while she got lost in her thoughts. Her mind was still racing with the images of the night in that hotel. They made love and it was beautiful. She realized just how much she missed him, but Claire knew she had to leave him in order to protect him from her pain. The thought of him being hurt from the words she had thrown on him via text made Claire lose a new torrent of tears.

She cried until she drifted away into a restless sleep.

I was alone. There was no one else. No Jamie. No Dad. I looked around and saw my breath leaving my lips as the cold wrapped around me. The only thing I saw was darkness. Cold and dark, just how I imagined my future to be. I wanted to stand up, but I couldn’t. I was trapped, trapped inside my own misery waiting for someone to save me.

All of a sudden Claire woke from her sobbing that was caused by her dream. Staring at her ceiling, she replayed every detail of her dream and decided to put on some music in order to make her fall

back asleep. She was utterly distraught from the images she had woken from, especially because she looked at sleep as an escape from all the pain of her reality.

While clicking the home button on her phone, she saw his name. She read it in her head with his beautiful Scottish accent and his low voice she could always feel in her chest.

”I will always love ye, Claire. But if my love means suffering for you, I will let ye go, and I hope you will find happiness in yer life, mo nighean donn. Always know that my heart will keep the love for ye. Goodbye, Sassenach.”

Her eyes were burning while reading the words of the man she loved. And then a sudden wave of nausea hit her, making her run to the toilet, emptying her stomach.

It must be the stress.

Chapter Text

It had been a few weeks since Claire last heard from Jamie. Her father’s condition had only worsened. Claire felt like the ceiling would crash over her head and she knew she had to get out. She had to get away, somewhere far away. She wanted to spend some time outside civilization with her father and enjoy some quiet.

She scrolled through some pictures of an Airbnb which was only an hour’s drive from where they lived. It was a little cottage in the Highlands, surrounded by nothing but beautiful nature. Her father’s birthday was coming up, and she thought, since she wanted to get away anyway, she would book it for the two of them.

Claire read through the confirmation of the place they would go. One week. Just one simple week away.

She went to the living room, where her father laid comfortably on the couch, watching his favorite tv-series. Claire sat next to him, smiling slightly.

“Sweetheart, are you alright?” he hadn’t seen his daughter smile for a while now. He felt touched by the sight of her lips curling upwards, and his heart fluttered, making his lips curl automatically up as well.

“Yes Dad, I have a surprise for you.” She looked excitedly at him, feeling again like the eight year old little girl that went on trips with her then healthy father.

“A surprise?” he didn’t manage to say more but was listening now, even more than before.

“I booked a little cottage in the Highlands for us Dad. Next week your birthday is coming up and I thought we could enjoy it as much as possible, just the two of us completely away from civilization. We will leave Sunday and stay for a week.”

She talked fast, savoring every bit of his facial expression that had changed while she talked. He looked happy and calm, and just the thought of him and her alone like the old days made him look like he was the happiest and luckiest man walking on this planet.

-

Henry looked at his daughter packing their bags on Saturday evening. He wanted to help her, but she insisted that he rest as they had a one hour drive ahead of them.

A one hour drive didn’t sound long, but he knew that his daughter was right. For someone in his condition a minute could feel like forever.

He looked at her as she kept asking what clothes he wanted to take; he either nodded nor shook his head. Henry started to get sleepy very quickly and his daughter realized. He only felt her soft grip around his shoulders, laying him down into bed. He heard his daughter whispering “Good night, Dad. I love you.” And he drifted into a deep sleep.

-
Claire had finished packing last night and put all the luggage into her car. She couldn’t contain her excitement, and was surprised that that emotion still existed within her.

Her alarm rang at six in the morning. She got herself ready and then prepared snacks for the hour she had to travel with her father. Claire put his medication into a container, which was divided by days of the week. After having prepared everything, she decided to wake her sleeping father.

She woke him softly, careful to not be overly excited so he could start the day as calm as possible. Claire got him dressed, helped him to the bathroom and sat him onto the kitchen table.

“What will it be for breakfast today, Dad?”

“Nothing, my beautiful Sweetheart. I’m not very hungry.”

Her smile faded, but she tried to contain her facial expression as much as possible to not show him that she worried. But she accepted, as she didn’t want to argue with him on this day.

“Then we are all set.” Claire forced her smile once again and helped her father into the car.

-

While driving, Claire put on her father’s favorite CD, and she saw him swaying from left to right when his favorite number came on. She was glad she wore sunglasses as her eyes started to tear up. What will she be without him? She shook her head slightly to get the thought out of her mind and kept driving until they reached the beautiful little cottage in the green. She stepped out, took a deep breath, and knew that this had been the right choice.

After helping her father out of the passenger seat, she supported him, helping him walk inside onto the big couch that was placed in the center of the cottage. It looked even more beautiful than the pictures Claire looked at last week. The cottage was decorated with candles that filled the whole cottage with their smell. The tiny kitchen fit perfectly into the corner it was placed in, and the stairs led up to the two bedrooms which filled the whole second floor. She looked at her father and knew that he loved it just as much as she did.

-

Jamie had escaped his pain with work. He started to work double shifts at the museum to not go crazy by staring at his phone most of the time. Those last weeks had been the worst in his life and his heart ached more by the day.

He tried to remember a certain time he could’ve done something wrong. Was it his mistake? Did she leave him because he had said or done something she didn’t like? His mind was racing and didn’t seem to stop anytime soon. Tonight Jamie would go out with his godfather, Murtagh. He was coming to see Jamie because he couldn’t bear to see his godson suffer like this.

After Jamie finished his shift, he went home, prepared dinner for the two of them, and sighed with relief when he heard the doorbell ring.

“Ghoistidh.” was the only thing he managed to whisper after breaking down in his godfather’s arms. And Jamie just sobbed, until there were no tears left anymore.

A while later, the both of them were sitting on the couch. Jamie had updated Murtagh with everything. His godfather was as puzzled as Jamie of Claire’s behavior.

“Ye have to forget her lad. Come live wi’ me for a while. Ye ken I am always here for ye, and ye dinna have to worry about money or anything. I just canna bear the sight of you suffering like that.”

Jamie looked at him, not minding this idea at all. Going away from here, the memories he had with Claire in his apartment, sounded like the best idea that occurred to him in the past weeks, but he knew he couldn’t.

“I would love to, but I canna just leave my work, I love it too much. I love this place. I thank ye, truly, ye ken I’m grateful for ye.”

“I understand, Jamie. But know ye always have a home wi’ me.”

Jamie nodded and thanked him again. As much as he would love to go with his godfather, he was just not quite ready yet.

-

Claire and her father had settled a bit; she’s hidden the bag with birthday decorations, as she wanted to decorate it for his birthday in two days. He was turning forty-five years old. She swallowed, as she knew this was the age he would die. Her heart was aching and she felt a sudden sting in her stomach as the wave of nausea hit her once again. Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, not again. She ran to the bathroom where she emptied her stomach once again. This had been the third day in a row. What was wrong with her?

She blamed the stress for her morning nausea, and said to herself that her body must feel punished with all those emotions going through her. After freshening up, she went to sit on the couch, next to her tired father.

“Sleep a bit, Dad.” She stood up and wanted to touch his shoulder but he stopped her.

“Sleep? But Sweetheart, we wanted to go for a hike.” He wanted to stand up, but with a sudden realization that hit him like a ton of bricks, he leaned back. She saw that her father realized that he didn’t have any strength left for the hikes they used to go on together. She saw that for a moment he had been trapped in the past, where she was a little girl and his body still contained the strength to hold her on his shoulders.

Claire put him to sleep into the bed upstairs, after getting him out of the clothes he travelled in. She went back downstairs and took a pillow and she cried. The tears were streaming down her face and the sobs struck the fabric of the pillow she held and she couldn’t stop. Claire felt panic creeping up on her body, her cries didn’t intend to stop and she felt like this was it. Those would be days she had to live with for the rest of her life. She remembered the dream she had, alone in the corner, having no one, crying out Jamie’s name and her father’s but no one answering. Just like she was now, she was alone.

Her sobs stopped when it started to get dark outside. Claire thought once they arrived here she could at least escape her pain a little, as sleep wasn’t her safe space anymore. She took her phone and opened her contacts. She saw his name immediately Jamie Fraser

Claire didn’t know what to do with him. She didn’t want to fall more in love with him than she already had. She couldn’t do this to someone as caring as Jamie. She scrolled down until she saw the words Delete contact then pressed once on it waiting for her phone to ask for her confirmation if she was sure, and she clicked yes. Her nightmare became true, she would be alone. But at least she wouldn’t hurt anyone else with it. Or so she thought.

Chapter Text

Two days went by quickly, and Claire woke up extremely tired, not realizing at first what day it was. She sat up, rubbing her tired eyes, remembering the amount of times she had woken up from her nightmares. They are getting worse. She stood up, opened up the curtains in her little temporary bedroom, and got dressed. For the special occasion she chose a beautiful blue dress. Her father had gotten her this dress a few years ago. After looking at herself in the mirror, she felt guilt for not wearing it more.

After getting ready, Claire prepared the living room with the decorations she brought. The room was filled with balloons which had the number 45 on them. Above the tiny fireplace she put a slinger which said “Happy Birthday.”. Finished with the decorating, she placed herself into the corner of the room and looked at her own work, quite pleased with it.

By eight o’clock she was standing in the kitchen, preparing her father’s favourite breakfast. While eggs and pancakes were frying in the pan, she quickly set the table before returning to the food. Before she could place the last pancake onto her father’s plate, she could hear him calling for her, in panic.

Dropping everything almost immediately, she rushed upstairs, only to find him sitting up in his bed being covered in his own urine.

“I wanted to get up Sweetheart, I swear.” She saw he was full of shame, which tore her heart into pieces, but she couldn’t show him that it had affected her that badly.

“It’s alright Dad, this can happen to all of us.” She wanted to wait with his Birthday wishes, as she knew this wasn’t the right time to do so. She helped her father up, walked with him to the bathroom in order to get him out of his clothes, showered and into fresh, washed and most importantly, dry clothes.

“There you go Dad. Happy Birthday.” She kissed his cheek, looking up at him. When Claire saw how he first had to think, she knew immediately that he had forgotten. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tight, his grip tighter around her while whispering a simple “Thank you, Sweetheart” into her ear. Claire felt shudders going through her body as her father held her this tight. This was the last time she would wish him a Happy Birthday. Now it dawned on her. He didn’t want to let her go because he knew it too. He knew it was the last time he heard those words out of his daughter’s mouth. Claire tried her hardest not to burst out in tears, as she had promised herself to not cry on this day. But on the inside, she died just a bit.

After Claire had changed the bedsheets in her Dad’s room, she joined him for breakfast: cold eggs with cold pancakes. At least her father could still enjoy them.

“Thank you, Claire.” She looked up at him in surprise as he barely called her out by her name. She put her hand on his and stroked it with her thumb, smiling at him.

“Don’t thank me, Dad. I hope you can enjoy today.”

After eating, talking and playing some card games, Claire put her father into bed at around seven, and went back downstairs to clean up after the new memories they had made. She put down the slinger, cleaned up the kitchen and put the cards back into the drawer she had taken them from. When she let out the air of every single balloon she had inflated, silent tears were running down her face. She couldn’t stop thinking about Jamie.

Her thoughts were crossing around him the whole day already. Everything she had prepared and done alone, she imagined him being there with her.

Jamie threw a balloon in her way, making her laugh when it hit the centre of her face.

”Jamie!” she squeaked loudly followed by laughter. He went to her and kissed her while the both of them were still laughing. Silence grew while they both got lost in each other, savouring their intense kiss, longing for more. When Jamie slightly pulled back, his breath anything but regular, he looked at her. God, she is the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

Claire opened her eyes, her face covered with the saltiness of her tears. She kept cleaning up the balloons, then she laid herself onto the couch, staring at the ceiling. All of a sudden, she sat herself up, not feeling well. Not again. She made her way to the bathroom, kneeling down in front of the toilet, waiting for it to get worse. Maybe she should think about going to the doctor once they are back. Claire started to get scared, as she had thrown up now a few days in a row, mostly in the mornings.

After emptying herself once again, she flushed, freshened herself up and decided to go to bed. After her bedtime routine, she turned off the lights, thinking about calling her doctor tomorrow, to make an appointment for a check-up. Just to be sure.

-

Jamie spent the days with his godfather. They went on some hikes in the Highlands together, had some Whisky at the Pub, and mostly just talked. Jamie felt good talking to someone that would just listen and give their honest opinion about the situation. His godfather’s words still rang in his ears every time he thought about them.

“Ye have to forget her, Jamie.”

And he knew his godfather was right, even though for Jamie it simply felt impossible to ever forget her.

His heart ached a bit more every day. It started when he first woke in the mornings, and lasted until he fell asleep in the night, wondering how long he would still have to suffer through this.

The evening of the day his godfather left, Jamie laid in bed, scrolling through old messages he had with Claire, when everything was still okay. Why would this be the right thing to do?!

After laying his phone away, he stared at the ceiling, thinking about the next steps of his life. Will he ever forget her? No. Will he have to live without her? Maybe. Will he try to fight for the woman that seemed to be the only one for him? Yes.

Jamie knew that he couldn’t let Claire go without a fight. The spark was still there. Their love was still there, and he knew that Claire’s last message didn’t mean that she doesn’t want him anymore. He knew Claire Beauchamp had secrets, and he had to get to the bottom of them.

-

Claire woke up from another nightmare, her bed sheets soaked in her own sweat. She turned the little lamp on her night table on, breathing fast from the aftermath of her dream. She brushed her hand through her wild curls and put her pillow behind her back so she could lean on to it.

She decided to listen to some music, in order to calm herself and to get the memory of her nightmare away. Her left hand rested on her stomach while she set up her playlist called “Sleep” with her right one. After clicking on the shuffle button, she laid her phone beside her and put her other hand also onto her stomach. Her thoughts drifted away as she was stroking her belly. What if it is something bad? The diagnosis of her father hit deep; what if she was facing an illness? Then it hit her all of a sudden like a rock. She felt her eyes widen in shock, asking herself how she could’ve forgotten such a thing.

She should’ve gotten her courses about a week ago.

Chapter Text

After waking up and dealing once again with morning sickness, she decided to prepare a last breakfast as they both had to leave the cottage today. Setting the table, she could think of nothing else but of purchasing a pregnancy test once they got back. She couldn’t be pregnant, not now. Claire decided to erase that one thought for now, and just enjoy the breakfast with her father.

Once they finished, Claire cleaned up the rest of the cottage, leaving it neatly for the owners. After leaving the key in the tiny key box on the porch, she put their bags in the trunk and sat herself in the driver’s seat after helping her father on the seat next to her.

The drive home was quiet, as Claire’s mind was racing around the thought that crossed her mind almost every second. What if she is pregnant? Her father noticed the silence and she felt his worried look on her as she signaled to take the highway exit.

“Sweetheart, are you alright?” She moved her body, ripped out of her thoughts, and tried to put on a reassuring smile to calm her worried father.

“Yes, Dad, don’t worry. I will just miss spending the time with you up there.” Glancing at him from the side, she saw that her father’s expression was relieved, and knew he wouldn’t ask further.

If she was indeed pregnant, she wouldn’t tell him. How could she? Another little person he would have to leave behind.

Claire felt her eyes burning with tears but blinked them away in an instant. She couldn’t break out in tears any longer in front of her father. The only time she could release her pain in the form of crying was when she was alone, not bothering anyone with her sobbing.

When Claire reached their home and parked her car in front of their house, she first helped her father safely inside and placed him on the couch. With a short, “I’ll be right back” she strolled outside to get their bags and was back just a few seconds later. She saw how exhausted her father was from the ride back home and decided to put him to bed so he could rest.

She realized that he had gotten more tired the last few days, and that he had slept even more often than he did just two weeks ago.

She walked downstairs after making sure that her father was fast asleep. She decided to go to the pharmacy that was just two minutes away from their house to get a pregnancy test.

When she arrived, she entered and nervously greeted the ladies that worked there with a pressed smile. She felt a wave of shame hitting her body and making her cheeks flush. She walked to the aisle with the tests and chose one that didn’t cost too much, and paid. She left as fast as she entered and walked a tiny bit faster home.

Once she arrived home, she didn’t hesitate and went to the bathroom. She sat next to the toilet seat, staring at the little box she now held in her hands. Tears were rolling down her cheeks and didn’t intend to stop any time soon. Oh God…

Her gaze went down to her stomach and up to the box once again. Her pain rushed through her blood making her body tremble. What would happen if that test came out positive? Truth is, she didn’t know. She would have to face Jamie again. How would she do that? Would she tell him? Of course she would.

Claire decided to open the little box that had rested in her hands far too long. She removed the stick that had been wrapped in plastic on the inside, and the description that came with it. She threw the description into the bin next to the toilet, as the stick had her main attention now. Claire removed the plastic smoothly as if one wrong movement could make too much sound. Then it happened fast.

She sat on the toilet, peed on the tiny stick, put back the plastic cap which she had first removed and laid it onto the sink. Alright, now the waiting.

It felt like hours had passed just in those few minutes and when her alarm ripped her out of her thoughts, she jumped just a tiny bit too much. In a panicked second she turned her alarm off, afraid her father had heard it.

Claire took a few deep breaths and then took the little stick into her hands, holding it underneath her chin so she wouldn’t see the result in an instant. She closed her eyes which led to more tears releasing from her eyes.

Please be negative.

Opening her eyes after the thought escaped in her mind, she bent her head to stare at the two clear stripes which only confirmed her fear.

She let the stick fall onto the ground. The sound of plastic hitting the floor echoed in her ears, and her body went into shock.

No.

Claire knew those tests could sometimes be off, but her body had changed in the past few weeks and the test was only a tiny confirmation, if not her last hope to prove her wrong.

How was she to raise a baby when she couldn’t even bear her own pain? Her hand had been on her mouth to suppress the sound of her sobs. She cried, and cried, and didn’t stop.

After a few hours passed, Claire woke up on the bathroom floor, realizing that she had fallen asleep. Was it a dream? But the plastic stick next to her confirmed that it had been reality. Her tears were now dried on her cheek, her curls wildly in her face. She stood up, looking at herself in the mirror. She saw her whisky-eyes reflecting back pain, and her expression showed a big question mark. She didn’t know what to do.

After cleaning up everything, including herself, she turned the lock and went downstairs into the living room. Before sitting down, her hand stopped at her stomach. What are we going to do?

Her thumb was stroking over the place that would soon grow her little bean. Her mind made up a tiny fantasy that answered that question.,

She woke up to a stroke over her cheek, her whisky-eyes meeting the ocean blue gaze.

”Good morning, Sassenach."

His lips touched hers and the feeling went through her whole body. She felt Jamie’s hand moving to her stomach and his lips releasing from hers as his face went downwards.

”Good morning, leannan. Did ye give Mam a good night sleep? I canna wait to hold ye in my arms and see ye making your Mam laugh. You will make me the happiest Da alive, mo graidh.

Claire’s hands played with the red curls as she listened to his words, and her lips curled up to a genuine smile. She was happy.

Ripped out of her imagination, she felt tears dripping down. Jamie needs to know.

She went upstairs to her bedroom, making up her mind how to go about telling Jamie. She didn’t know if she should just text him that she has something to tell him or if she should call him. Claire didn’t know if she was ready to hear his voice, but at the same time her heart was aching longing to hear his Scottish burr.

-

Henry woke up from his sleep, feeling like he had just walked a marathon. Laying in his own sweat he looked around in his room. He felt like he just woke up from a bad nightmare and he decided to stand up. Sitting up, a wave of dizziness overcame him and a second later he realized something. He was ill. Henry knew it had gotten worse, he started to forget the face of his daughter, her voice, and what he had done the day before. His mind played tricks on him, hearing sounds that weren’t there. His body didn’t allow him to do things he wanted to. He felt ashamed.

After this sleep he felt like never before. He felt bad, but he did not want to make Claire worry, so he laid back, closing his eyes once again, drifting into a calm sleep, dreaming about when everything had still been alright.

Chapter Text

A few weeks later, Jamie had slowly started to get his life back together. He went back to work normally, without working constant overtime. Of course he couldn’t forget Claire, but he could manage. While finishing his shift, he took his belongings out of the little locker that held his name on a tiny plate, and closed down the museum, being the last one there. Jamie walked to his car, suddenly seeing his phone lighten up. He had to admit that every time his phone lit up, he still wished to see her name. Her phone number was still saved as he couldn’t bring himself to delete her contact.

As he sat in his car, he couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw her name on the screen.

Missed call

He couldn’t remember the last time he had been this nervous but couldn’t click faster on the notification. After three times ringing he heard her picking up.

“Hi, Jamie.”

Only hearing his name said by her gave Jamie a feeling he couldn’t describe. It felt so good but at the same time it ripped his heart in two pieces.

“Hi, Sassenach. How are ye?”

He heard her breath getting shaky after calling her Sassenach and he knew she was crying.

“Dinna cry, Claire. It is alright.” How much he wished he could hold her, tell her that no matter what he would be there for her.

“I am parked close to you Jamie, I... I needed to see you, I-“ she started sobbing so hard his heart had now shattered into a million pieces. Jamie looked around only now seeing her car parked just a few parking spots further away from him. He left his car immediately after hanging up the ongoing call, rushed to her, opening her door as quickly as possible only to get her out of the car to pull her against his chest.

He rocked her gently, whispering calming words in Gaelic into her ear.

-

That was all Claire needed. She needed him to hold her as close as possible. She just sobbed, and her body was trembling. Claire didn’t know how long she wept in his arms but she didn’t mind, and he did not intend to let her go any time soon. She felt how his shirt was soaked in her tears and her snot, and then she looked up at him.

“I’m sorry...I...” she didn’t seem to be able to talk in sentences. Jamie’s hands now held her face, wiping away her tears.

“It is alright, mo nighean donn.” He whispered, still holding his ocean blue gaze on her. Claire was speechless as all emotions she had carried with her had now come up all at once with this man standing in front of her, holding her close. It felt like they had never been separated, but seeing the pain in his eyes because of her reminded her why she left him in the first place. She hurt him with her actions. Every sob that escaped her lungs broke his heart anew. Claire took a few steps back, and didn’t stop apologizing until Jamie took her hands in his, once again.

“Claire, hush. It is alright. I am right here with ye. I willna let go of ye.”

Those words made her even cry more. And she knew this time she couldn’t get out of the situation without opening up to him just a little bit. She also knew that she needed to tell him something else, even though she wasn’t so sure anymore if she was ready to tell him. With a stuffy nose and a sore throat she looked up at him with her swollen eyes, thinking carefully about what she will tell him.

“Jamie, I came here to tell you something very important. I can’t really express what I am going through and the reason I broke up with you so quickly, but please know I did it to protect you. I didn’t want you to feel the pain I do, and seeing you only shudder at the view of me crying just confirms me that I did the right thing by letting you go. Trust me, my plan was to never see you again and it worked out quite well, until...”

Claire took a deep breath, the tears still streaming down her face. Her eyes were now closed and she tried to collect herself as much as possible to speak out the next words.

“Until I found out I was pregnant with your child, Jamie.”

Her body relaxed a tiny bit, and she dared to open her eyes to meet his gaze. There was a silence in the air that made Claire even more nervous than she had already been. She waited for a reaction, but only found him staring at her. After a few seconds he stepped closer to her, their faces now only a few centimeters apart.

“I want…I would verra much like to kiss ye, may I?

Claire nodded slightly after hearing Jamie whisper those words. She wanted nothing more than to feel him close, to feel his lips on hers, and just a second later he kissed her. Her body reacted immensely every single bit of her body was tense and she felt herself heat up. She wrapped her hands around his neck, pressing him only closer to her. She needed him, more than anything.

After Claire released herself hesitantly from his lips, she looked up to meet the brightest blue eyes which she saw so many times in her dreams. She knew that Jamie wouldn’t leave her and he would be there during the pregnancy, but still she could not tell him about her father, and she won’t.

“Sassenach, I missed ye.”

His words were like music to Claire’s ears and she could listen to his voice as long as possible, but she knew she couldn’t leave her father alone that long.

“I missed you too, Jamie, but I have to go. I came by to tell you this news, and I will meet you again soon. Please give me some time, alright?”

She knew Jamie would do anything she asked and this was confirmed when he nodded genuinely at her question. She shortly kissed him goodbye and went into her car, driving home.

She replayed the scenario all over again on her way back home, but instead of happiness there had been a slight feeling of regret creeping up on her. Did she do the right thing by telling him? Claire told herself that it was indeed the right thing, and that Jamie had a right to know she was carrying his child.

When Claire arrived home, she saw the light in the living room burning. A feeling of panic ran through her body and she left her car almost immediately. The lump in her throat grew the closer she got to the front door of their house. After turning the key in the lock she entered.

“Dad?” she walked fast into the living room, gasping when she saw her father laying on the floor, crying while he tried to get up. The carpet was wet from an accident, and she had no idea when it would have happened. She rushed next to him, helping him up.

“Daddy, it’s alright. I am here, shh.” She swallowed all her tears, she had to be strong. The man that raised her needed her now more than ever; she couldn’t be weak now, as he had been strong in moments she needed him.

“I’m sorry sweetheart, I was worried. I woke up and you weren’t answering.” He was sobbing in her arms and all Claire felt was guilt.

Maybe this was a sign that she shouldn’t have told Jamie.