Crash Course Love

magnoliasinbloom:

Infinite thanks to @lcbeauchampoftarth​ and @anna-swims​ for being awesome betas. 

AO3 :: Previously

4: Explain [Jamie]

I owed Claire enormously for saving the last scraps of my dignity when faced with Annalise. Once I’d recovered from the shock of seeing her and Claire’s quick words (not to mention the kissing and cuddling in front of my ex-girlfriend), I rather enjoyed remembering the stunned-as-shit look on Annie’s face. I snorted to myself, knowing how much she truly hated being called that.

Who knows what could have happened if it had been just me in front of Annalise? I shuddered to think. I glanced at Claire as she made a left turn. I remembered the spiraling tattoo on her shoulder, now hidden beneath layers of clothing. I had the urge to ask more about her, her life, to know her as a friend. My gaze must have lingered on her for too long because she turned to me, a self-conscious blush spreading on her cheeks.

“What?” she asked, with a flick of her curls.

“Nothing. I was just thinkin’, I’m so grateful for what ye did. I was wondering if perhaps there was something I could do fer ye, make it up to ye?”

“Do for me? Like what? Jamie, you don’t owe me anything. I was simply helping out a friend in need.” Claire flicked on the wipers as a light Scottish rain began to fall.

“Friends? Aye, is that what we are?”

“Well, of course. Anyone who drinks that much whisky with me and wakes up in my bed can be considered more than a mere acquaintance,” she said with a nervous laugh.

“So, friends. I like it.” I cleared my throat. “Nothing to help ye with, then? Is there anything else of Frank’s you’d like me to help burn?”

“I think we got most of it. He packed up and left a while ago.”

“Do ye ken where he lives now? I could get my brother and trash his car with lead pipes,” I offered, half-joking.

“Lead pipes? Who are you?” Claire asked, giggling. It was a beautiful sound. It echoed in the empty van, light and free.

“Weel, my family runs a distillery, but my brother William’s a contractor. He knows some tough Glaswegians who could rough Frank up a bit. Ian—that’s my sister Jenny’s husband—and I could help too. Free of charge.” I tried to wink but as always, wound up blinking owlishly.

Claire laughed even more at that, coming to a full stop at a red light. “I’ll think about it and get back to you. So, William and Jenny?”

“Aye, that’s the three of us, and my parents, Brian and Ellen. They live up by Broch Mordha, family farm. And the whisky business too, of course. What about ye, any family about, Sassenach?”

She tilted her head, curls brushing her shoulder. I felt the sudden urge to push them behind her ear, touch her silky skin. I pressed my hands beneath my legs, willing them to be still. “I grew up with my Uncle Lamb. My parents died when I was five, in a car accident.”

“Och, lass, I’m so sorry.” I did feel bad for her, not really knowing her own parents while I was so close to my own.

“Thank you. It was a really long time ago, though, and I was so young. I remember bits and pieces, with my uncle’s help; he’s my family.”

We grew silent once more until the restaurant loomed up in front of us. Claire parked and set her hands in her lap. The rain still pattered steadily on the windshield, the sound contrasting with the squeaky wipers. The silence became charged all of a sudden.

“Alright then.” She bit her lip and drummed her fingers on her thigh, anxious-like.

I reached over and held them still. “Thanks again, Claire,” I said, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.

“You’re welcome,” she said simply, returning a squeeze of her own. I pushed open the heavy door and hopped out. I tugged my coat around my shoulders. I was about to walk away when a thought occurred to me.

I raced around the front of the van and tapped on the glass. “Oi, Claire?”

She glanced up, slightly startled. She rolled down the window. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. I just think, uh, it might be a good idea to exchange numbers,” I said, pulling my mobile from my pocket. I tried to shield it as much as I could from the rain. “Ye ken, in case of emergencies, flat tires, designated driver rides—”

“Encounters with exes?” Claire smirked. She rooted in her wee bag and gave me her phone. I programmed my number while she did the same on mine.

“I’m not getting the number to the local curry place, am I?” I joked, wondering if she might do just that.

“Nope. Just me. After all, you know where I live anyway,” Claire grinned.

“Dinna worry. I’m no a stalker or anything.” I peered through the restaurant window and noticed Janet already seated, looking straight at me and gesturing with her finger to get my arse in there.

“Thanks for the ride and all, Sassenach,” I parroted once more. I gave a halfhearted wave, dripping water.

“Anytime. See you around, Jamie.” Claire started rolling up the window. Before I lost my nerve, I leaned in quickly and pecked her on the cheek. I mean, she’d already kissed my slightly open mouth before anyway, right? She flushed red and her mouth quirked up at the corners.

“Bye, Claire.” I loped to the restaurant door and resisted the temptation to look back as she drove away.

And now, to face the Inquisition.

I shook water from my hair and made my way to my sister’s table.

“I just received the most interesting phone call, Jamie,” Jenny began. I gave her a brief hug, just to hear her protest at my sopping clothes. She had already ordered me a pint. I tasted it slowly, in case my hangover wouldn’t allow such a treat. It went down easy though, and I took a bigger swallow.

“Who called?” I grabbed a menu and perused my options.

“Annalise.”

“Wha’ the fuck?” I slammed the menu on the table and nearly knocked my pint glass over. A few of the other patrons turned to us, and I ducked as much as I was able.

“I was just as surprised as ye seem,” Jenny said coolly, signaling the server. “Minus the foul mouth, of course.”

“What did she say? What did she want?” I seethed, gripping the table for dear life.

“Hold yer wheesht.” She turned to the server. “I’ll have the halloumi fries, sticky chicken bites, and the mac bites. For him…” she trailed off pointedly.

“Burger. Cheeseburger. Whatever.” I took Jenny’s hand and wouldn’t let go until she looked at me. “Janet Flora Murray, so help me God—”

She laughed, enjoying her torture. “Jamie, relax. Ye ken I hate that hoor almost as much as ye do. It was just strange to hear from her after… ye ken…”

“After she broke my heart and left me standing there, a complete arse with a ring and a lease on a house? Aye, I’d say I hate her more.” I breathed in deeply, attempting to calm myself. I gulped down my pint, and gestured for another.

“Alright, I’ll tell ye word-for-word what Annalise said on the phone, but first, would ye answer a question fer me?”

“Aye, go on then.”

Jenny cocked her head curiously. “Who’s Claire?”

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