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We'll rise up

Chapter Text

Claire knew it. She could feel it, in her throbbing heart. The time had come.

After years of struggling to survive an uneven fight, it was time to rise up and fight back. To gain control and demand the rights every human being deserved. 

They wanted a chance to live. And this time they wouldn’t ask for it kindly.

It had been almost ten years since Claire decided to help and heal the people who were treated like animals by the aristocrats. During this time, she had faced poverty, famine, devaluation of life and loss of hope. Destined to heal, all her work could be diminished in a moment, just because an arrogant aristocrat believed that lives of commoners were of no value. Because he thought they didn’t matter – not as he did. Claire had seen people die, more and more people as the years went by, but none of these deaths made sense to her. 

Each death had left more angry and frustrated than she had been before. 

While the aristocracy was bathing in luxuries, common people were dying from cold and hunger. While the ones committing the crimes were free, strolling around in silken clothes, innocents were rotting in prisons. People were dying just because they had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Cause of dead: bad luck, your Honour. 

Claire had seen with her own eyes five-year-old Nicolas dying under the weight of a Monseigneur’s carriage, just because he was standing at the wrong spot of the alley. “He got in the way!” the driver had stated as if it was explanation enough. The lord inside the carriage hadn’t even bothered to move the little curtain and see what had happened. 

The rich never paid for their crimes. None of them felt the pain he caused, neither he cared to. The world was theirs and they behaved accordingly. 

That was an injustice too heavy for Claire to bear. But bear it she would.

It was during the last five years that she noticed the change in people’s manner. The way they whispered, their meaningful glances. It felt like a drop of hope in a desert of despair and Claire could do nothing but navigate towards it. She needed it to survive, desperate as a thirsty man dreaming of a glass of water. The moment she recognized hope, she reached for it to forget her empty stomach and even emptier heart.

Claire had been tending to little Marie who had developed a fever when she took the risk and asked the girl’s mother, Louise, about the talk she had heard. She knew Louise as an honest and kind woman. She was one of the few people Claire trusted to enlighten her about the stirrings in the Parisian alleys and the increasing number of men calling each other ‘Jacques’ and then murmuring imperceptibly. That was when Claire first heard of the upcoming revolution. They were biding their time, Louise had said, waiting for the right moment. 

Claire decided to become a part of the upcoming rebellion without a second thought. She had realized soon enough that justice would be won through blood and there was no other way around it. So she joined the rebels, giving to their purpose all the force of her existence. She participated in a women’s political club, distributed pamphlets and swore oaths of loyalty on her patriotic allegiance and responsibilities of citizenship. Being English-born didn’t help her being trusted at first, but she was determined and managed anyway. 

And on the morning of the 14th of July in 1789, Claire was there. Her heart was screaming: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. The world wouldn’t be ‘theirs’ anymore. Everyone would have a piece of sky for themselves after the revolution. And a piece of bread to feed their children.

The city of Paris was in a state of alarm. The rebels had invaded the Hôtel des Invalides and without facing great opposition had gathered a significant amount of muskets. The gunpowder, however, was stored in the Bastille and the decision had been taken immediately. They were going to storm in the Bastille, which at the moment stood with its standard garrison of 82 veteran soldiers, reinforced a week ago by 32 grenadiers. Nothing was going to stop them.

It was a matter of minutes. Weapons were distributed immediately; from pikes and knives to bayonets and muskets. And powder. All the powder they had. Every person left weaponless grabbed any object that would prove useful in a fight and fortified themselves with pure force. When ready, they headed towards the Bastille, forming a huge wave of bodies that left the streets empty behind. 

Claire ran to her room and collected her own weapon, her medicine box, already prepared from the night before. She then became one with the mass, hearing the drums playing from somewhere amidst the crowd, their beating in the tone of her heart. She turned her head around she smiled to Henri, Louise’s husband, who spotted her and smiled back. 

They were all in this fight together and that thought filled Claire with excitement and determination. The small fragments of fear that hid occasionally inside her heart had now disappeared, and the only thing she felt was purpose. She might die, yes. But her death would have meaning because she was part of something bigger than herself. She had risen together with others against tyranny, and for that, she felt proud and courageous. 

Claire noticed that the solemn faces in the crowd became fewer and fewer the closer they got to the Bastille. It seemed like everyone was going mad with revenge, indifferent for human life. Holding her box tightly, she tried to remain composed and resolved that she would save as many people as she could. 

It didn’t take them long to reach the Bastille. When they did, they gathered outside the fortress and demanded its surrender. Two representatives were accepted inside to negotiate, but the negotiations lasted way too long. In the early afternoon, the crowd invaded the undefended courtyard and broke the chains of the drawbridge. The moment Claire got in the courtyard she heard the soldiers of the garrison shouting something unintelligible in her ears. There were too much noise and confusion around her and she panicked, wondering how they would know what to do. Then, the men in the front decided to enter the prison.

It was at that moment that Claire heard the gunfire. The guns pointing from the castle towers towards the crowd had fired, indicating that no one was allowed to move inside. In merely a second, everything around her changed. Everybody changed. Every man and woman seemed to lose sanity like it had vaporized under July’s sun. Their inner beasts were free.

“They trapped us!” men were shouting.

“Kill them all!”

“We are going into the Bastille one way or another! Go!” cried a woman who stood behind Claire with a ferocious flash in her eyes.

Individuality was lost, and Claire could only see savage faces forming a mob around her. The picture scared her alright. But maybe that was the right thing to do. She didn’t know. They were supposed to fight to win. And the fighting had begun.

Holding her medical box, Claire tried to get herself to a relatively safe place where she would treat the wounded. She stood close to the stone wall and searched the mass for injuries. With the bloodshed that was unravelling in front of her eyes, she didn’t stay on that spot for long.

It was more than an hour later when two cannons and more men arrived to reinforce the attack, but Claire had lost track of the time. It could be mere minutes since the firing had started. She kept rushing to the fallen men and women, trying to remedy their injuries as best as she could. They were many, too many, far more wounded than she’d imagined. 

Almost two hours later the firing stopped and Claire took her first deep breath in as many hours. Governor de Launay finally realized that his men wouldn’t last much more defending the prison without any supplies inside. He offered his terms with a letter, and even though his demands were refused from the attackers, the prison gates were opened. 

In half an hour the fortress was theirs. Everyone was ecstatic. People were laughing and singing and shouting while dragging De Launay towards the Hôtel de Ville. Claire looked at them, and then looked around with a bittersweet feeling nestling inside her. She was elated about the outcome of the battle, of course she was. They had made it! This was the beginning of a great transformation for France! But looking at all those dead bodies and the wounded, she couldn’t but feel gloomy as well. How many more would they need to die, to gain the victory? She had been used to the sight of illness and blood and her eyes had seen much violence, but it wasn’t in her heart to consent with cruelty. She was certain that the ending of De Launay would be a vicious one, so instead of following the crowd, she stayed back in the courtyard of the Bastille and tried to help the wounded.

Claire was checking at the medical supplies left in her box when a Scottish burr started sounding louder than her thoughts. 

“Come here, lad. Ye need help.” 

Surprised, she rose, turned, and saw a gruff man with black hair and a beard that covered most of his face, leading a huge red-headed man towards her. She noticed the older man’s sad eyes and smiled to encourage him while moving towards the wounded one. It was when she reached him that he raised his head and looked at her. Their eyes locked for a moment too long and Claire lost herself into those deep blue eyes, forgetting where she was.

“I told ye, I’m fine,” the red-haired man replied without taking his eyes from her. His lips curled just a bit on their way to a smile.

Claire felt herself smiling back and lowered her head. This move allowed her to see the wound on his shoulder and she suddenly remembered the reason she was standing in front of him. ‘Get yourself together Beauchamp! Where is your mind?’ she silently chastised herself.

“Let me see your wound,” she heard herself saying and felt glad that her voice was louder than the whisper she thought it would be.

“Aye,” the man said smiling a bit more this time, although Claire was sure he must be in pain.

She looked around to find a place for him to sit and with the older man’s help, she moved him towards an empty barrel fallen nearby. He was tall, with broad shoulders and he seemed like a strong young man, but his face was pale and she needed to be fast in assessing the damage on his shoulder. With tender hands, she removed the outer layers of his sooted garments and reached to remove the cloth above the wound, finding that it was still oozing blood.

“Jesus Bloody Christ! You’re still bleeding!” she said, biting her lips.

“Seems so. Dinna fash lass, ‘tis no but a scratch.”

“Huh! A scratch he says! Well, it is much more than this, I can assure you my lad. You need to be still for me to stop the bleeding and dress the wound,” Claire said, belatedly realising the informality of her words. He nodded, with a little lopsided smile lingering on his face.

“Unfortunately I can’t cleanse it right now because I’ve run out of supplies. Would you mind coming with me to my place, where I have a stock kept? I could work much more properly there,” Claire asked, and it was when she felt her question hanging between them that she considered what these two strangers think of her. 

Really, Beauchamp? Inviting them to your place? 

She looked into the lad’s eyes again and saw concern, and something more, something she had a hard time defining. Challenge, perhaps?

“I don’t live far from here,” she added, looking towards the older man. She was a healer, after all, and she was trying to help. Nothing wrong with that.  

Claire continued with the dressing of the wound (with the occasional cursing when the cloths slipped from her hands, not all of them being the right size) and when she finished, she looked into the kind blue eyes again, raising an eyebrow in question.

“So, what do you say, Jacques?”

He looked the other man who responded with a plain, “Mmphm,” that was the exact opposite of the Gallic sounds Claire was used to. It could really mean anything.

“We’ll come with ye, Sassenach,” the redhead said, looking at her again. He stood up with a tiny wince of pain and held Claire’s hand so very lightly. “And it’s not Jacques, even though in France I suppose it is. It’s actually Jamie,” he added with a grin on his face and mischief in his eyes.

“Jamie it is, then. I’m Claire,” she returned, her fingers pressing against his for a moment before she left his hand to move a bit further away and gain a few precious moments to force her heart to remain inside her rib case.

“This way,” she said, collecting her box from the ground and nodding towards the street she had walked that same morning, or in a previous lifetime; she wasn't sure.

Turning her head to see if they followed, two blue eyes smiled at her whisky ones.

Chapter Text

The streets of Paris were empty, with everybody following a single route to see De Launay punished at Hôtel de Ville. The sun was still up in the sky, but the heat of the noon had subsided and Jamie started feeling cold. He noticed that Claire kept a relatively slow pace as they headed towards her place, and he was grateful for that. In truth, he wouldn’t be able to keep up with her if she was going any faster and he supposed she knew it.

Jamie had lost a lot of blood before they found Claire in the prison’s courtyard. The common colors of her clothing, with her white skirts and blue jacket, hadn’t really helped her stand out in the crowd, but Murtagh was earnestly searching for someone to help them. He knew that Jamie wasn’t as lightly wounded as he pretended to be. Once again, his godfather had been by his side to save his life, and a good thing that was.

Jamie had been in so much pain that it would be impossible to find Claire in time if he had been on his own. He had focused on his breath, trying to keep a regular pattern, unable to notice anything around him. Well, since the moment he’d raised his head and saw Claire, that is. After that, it wasn’t the pain that blocked everything else. It was her eyes. These beautiful, whisky eyes full of compassion and kindness. The moment she’d smiled at him, he could hardly feel the pain in his arm, and the blush that had followed her smile was enough to make his insides curl up. 

He did not just like the lass; he had felt that before, with others. What he was feeling now was new, vital and strong. He needed to be close to her to breathe, even though just looking at her took his breath away. Was she the one for him then, as his father had told him?

Jamie already knew that neither the French lasses that came by his cousin’s wine shop nor the Scottish lassie his sister tried to match him with was the one he could see himself with. What he didn’t know, at least until now, was that the woman he had dreamt of had the face of this English lass, found in the middle of all this stramash in Paris, tending his wound and cursing out loud. 

The third time Claire had said “bloody Christ” at Bastille, Jamie looked at Murtagh half-scowling and half-smiling with amusement in his eyes. Jamie couldn’t stop himself either and left the smile fixed on his face being disturbed only by the occasional wince from the pain. Her unruly hair fell all around her ivory skin and a frown was marking her brow. A frown because of him. It had taken all the strength he had not to caress her face to make the frown disappear and clean up the smudge of blood on her cheek. It also had taken uncountable repetitions of “Hail Mary” to restrain himself in general. Every time she had touched him or looked at him his heartbeat accelerated and he prayed to all the Saints she wouldn’t hear it.

They continued walking towards her place and every now and then Claire looked back at him to make sure he was alright. He vaguely noticed that they had left the Bastille but remained in the eastern part of the city, the radical part. They were in Saint Antoine, where the majority of the rebels resided. It was clear that Claire was part of the revolution, as were all people who stormed the Bastille that day, even with the lack of weapons on her. She didn’t seem blood-thirsty, and the fact that she had stayed behind and didn’t follow the others to witness De Launay capture was proof enough. Jamie wouldn’t follow them either, wounded or not. Justice was one thing, incredible violence was another. So, here he was, in Saint Antoine, with Murtagh’s worried face next to him. They shouldn’t be seen here and they were lucky that nobody was around.  

“We will be there in less than five minutes. Are you alright?” Claire interrupted his thoughts with her mouth pursed and concern in her eyes.

“Aye lass, dinna fash. I’ll do.”

“I will fash as much as I want until I treat you properly and be sure you are better!” she returned, determination set in her voice.

Jamie felt safe. It was odd after being shot, losing so much blood and walking at this particular neighbourhood, but he wasn’t worried. As long as she was around, he felt that she could mend everything, and that fed into his illusion that nothing could go wrong. He had found her, so bonny and strong, and he ached for her already. Doomed, he was, and he knew it well. And was overjoyed on top of that!

Lost as he was inside his own head, he didn’t notice that Claire’s steps had become slower. When she stopped in front of a door, hesitating, realization dawned on him. 

Of course ye clot-heid, ye canna go in her room!

“Are we here, then, Claire?” he asked as he came to a stop next to her.

“Um, yes,” she replied, still thinking about what she should do. Dhia, she had such a glass-face!

“Right then. We’ll wait for ye here, so ye can bring what ye need to mend my wound. Aye?”

“Yes, thank you, Jamie,” Claire smiled, letting out a breath. “I’ll come back instantly. You may sit on the bench there, by the wall. Don’t go anywhere!” She gathered her skirts with her hands, not to hinder her fast steps, and disappeared inside the building.

Jamie smiled to himself. As if I was going to leave, he thought. Then, he headed to the bench she’d indicated. Walking had become harder and harder, and it would take most of his strength to reach the bench if Murtagh didn’t help him.

“Well, Jamie lad, lucky we were to find the lass, aye?” Murtagh asked with mischief in his eyes as soon as Jamie was seated. “I didna think ye could go back to the wine shop wi’ a bullet in yer shoulder.”

“Aye, a goistidh, I didna think so myself. But we have to return, aye?”

“I’ll go back to tell yer cousin that ye’re alright, and find out what happened after the Bastille. Ye better stay here for the moment, but be careful not to be seen. I’ll come back to fetch ye later, aye?”

A wave of relief flooded Jamie’s heart at that suggestion. He would stay there, alone, with Claire. Even on the street, on this bench and with the passers-by, he had earned more time with her and that was enough. 

“Aye, Murtagh, ye do this,” he replied to his godfather, putting his inscrutable mask on his face and hoping the shadows would conceal the glint in his eyes. He was done with the man’s teasing.

Claire came back just after Murtagh disappeared at the end of the street. She looked around her, puzzled.

“Where is your friend?”

“Ah, Murtagh ye mean. He is my godfather. He went back to inform the rest about me and what happened.”

“Oh. Yes, I suppose you’ll have people worried about you.”

“Aye, this, I have.”

A shadow crossed her face. It was not the frown he had noticed while she was dressing his wound. It lucked her previous strength. 

Why was she sad all of a sudden? Had she talked to anyone in the house and changed her mind about him being there? Was it something he had said?

The moment passed and Jamie saw her face become rigid and her eyes distant. She was looking at her lap when she spoke again.

“Alright. I will try to be as fast as I can but I would like to be sure that you are really better before you leave. At least the haemorrhage has to be stopped and your condition stabilized. This way I can prevent something that might go wrong. I hate to keep you here while you have to go, but…”

“No, Sassenach,” he interrupted her. “Dinna hate keeping me here, cause I canna bear it.” 

Christ, was that as desperate as it sounded? Was he feverish?

Claire raised her head with a confused look on her face. “I’m sorry, you can’t bear…what?”

“All I’m saying is that I would like to stay as long as ye need me to, Claire,” Jamie rephrased and continued the thought inside his head: and even more than that. “Murtagh went to talk wi’ my cousin so I don’t have to hurry back.” 

“Well, that’s good. For your shoulder, I mean.” With a small smile, Claire started working.

She removed the dressings soaked in his blood and exposed the wound again. The bullet hadn’t gone through his shoulder and she announced that had to remove it. Jamie watched her concentrate, choosing the forceps from her small box and cleaning them thoroughly. She cleansed the wound again with something that smelled like vinegar and Jamie steadied himself for what was about to come. Claire saw his muscles tensing and tried to calm him, placing her hand on top of his and squeezing lightly. It was like a small miracle. He relaxed again, that feeling of safety returning as a response to her touch. While Jamie was wondering how she could have such an impact on his emotions, Claire started removing the bullet. Her hands were steady and capable and she managed to finish in almost no time, or so he thought. The pain was sharp, but Jamie was sure an eternity would feel like a minute under her capable hands.

“Already?” Jamie asked, surprised.

“We were lucky. The ball didn’t hit the bone and therefore it wasn’t shuttered. That made it easier for me to remove it since it was in one piece. A branch of your brachial artery was damaged – that’s why you lost all this blood – but it could have been much worse. I have placed a suture on it, so you won’t bleed anymore.”

“You sutured my artery?” Jamie asked incredulously.

Claire laughed and then continued, more sober and shy. “My uncle had a friend, Richard Lambert, and he was the one who first designed this procedure. We were talking about medicine a lot when he came to visit us in Paris and he had told me about this. I never thought one day I would actually try it. I hope all goes well.”

“I am sure it will, Claire. Thank ye.”

Jamie wanted to ask for more stories about her uncle and her life. He craved to learn more about her but once he looked at her again he decided against it. She seemed a little withdrawn, even after sharing this tidbit of information.

Claire asked for his hand and placed the bullet on it.

“A trinket to remember the day,” she said and Jamie heard the smile in her voice.

“I think I’m nae going to forget this day Sassenach, trinket or no.”

Claire didn’t reply. She carefully cleansed the wound and applied honey on it.

“Honey? Ye think my shoulder is an oatcake, lass?”

“Ha, bloody ha. Honey will decrease the possibility of festering,” Claire explained as she redressed the wound, now that the haemorrhage had stopped. She seemed satisfied.

“You have to be very careful the next few days,” she advised with a strict tone of authority in her voice. “You will not move your arm and you’ll keep it bandaged as I have it now. Do you know anyone that could take care of it for you? Change the dressings and check if it’s healing well?” she paused, frowning. “I hope it won’t bleed again or get infected, but in case it does and you develop a fever, someone has to –”

She stopped abruptly when Jamie placed his hand atop hers, but he noticed that she didn’t flinch or take her hand away. His slight trembling had vanished and his hand laid now stable on her smaller one.

“I’d verra much want this someone to be you, Sassenach,” he confessed calmly, with hope in his heart. He wanted Claire to be by his side, only her to check his wound, change his dressings, be beside his bed if he’d get a fever. He didn’t care for anything coming his way, as long as she would be with him.

“That’s very kind of you.” Claire looked him with her whisky eyes and gave him a wide smile. “That would be my pleasure, Jamie.”

Claire sat on the bench next to Jamie, looking tired but content. Jamie made sure to hide behind the shadows on the wall and didn’t move again. They were looking towards the street, where people had started coming back to their houses, elated with the events of the day. Hugging their children and one another, they gathered on the street and lighted fires to cook the little supper they had. Lack of food didn’t affect them so much that day. They were feeling freedom approaching, and freedom is always filling; even it is hearts that are full instead of stomachs.

Jamie saw the red and orange colors of the sky mirrored in Claire’s ivory face as the sun sank in the horizon and felt his heart full. It was different; everything that happened that day was so unusual that it felt like a dream. First going to the Bastille, fighting and being shot, and then meeting Claire… He was so carried away with the attack, it was only now that he realized he had never been so forward with a lass before, speaking his mind as though he knew her all his life. Every time he had courted a mademoiselle, he acted accordingly to the proper courtship rules. With Claire, his heart was too eager to let him use his brain. Did she mind? Had she even realized how she made him feel? Maybe for her he was just another patient who needed to be encouraged to endure his pain.

No, that wouldn’t be enough. Jamie intended to be more than that. So while Paris welcomed the darkness and they kept glancing at each other when they thought they wouldn’t be seen, Jamie’s hand never left Claire’s. 

And she never took hers away.

Chapter Text

Taking the Bastille had only been the beginning. It was plain the attack was the turning point in everybody’s life.

“It's not a revolt; it's a revolution," the Duke of La Rochefoucauld replied to King Louis XVI when the latter asked about the attack. 

The Commune de Paris, the new governmental structure, had been established in the Hôtel de Ville and refused taking orders from the central French government. The citizens expected retribution from the Versailles and built barricades made of stones to defend themselves, always keeping their weapons in hand. The counterattack, however, never took place. Instead, the king and his military commanders backed off.

The citizens, frenetic with their new power, invaded many a house of rich aristocrats known for their excruciating behavior towards the poor and after capturing them, they hung them on the streets’ lamp posts. The dreadful sight meant nothing to them. Their voices formed only one word: vengeance. All it took was a couple of shouts and a new aristocratic name for the drums to start playing and the weapons to be moved from belts to hands. The nobles, panicked, started fleeing the country.

 

Claire had slept for a maximum of three hours for days in a row. The pounding on her door seemed to never stop. She tried with all her might to help as many people as she could, not a life to be added in the ninety-eight people who had died in the courtyard of Bastille. Wounded men and women were taken to her after the fights; a lot of them injured by accident in the rushing mob. All those, added to her sick patients, made Claire’s monthly stock of ointments, dressings and herbs vanish in just two days.

Every knock on Claire’s door was a spark of hope in the darkness of her heart. 

Maybe, this time, it would be him. 

Before leaving with his godfather that night, he’d told her he’d come back. She was certain he’d meant it, she had seen the truth in his eyes. He wanted to see her again.

But Jamie never came back. It wasn’t his hand knocking on the door.

Claire started worrying about him. What if he was too weak to walk? What if the wound wasn’t healing? 

She resolved to keep herself busy, not to think of what might happen to him. She had done her best to save him, used every bit of information she knew on his advantage and there was nothing that she would change in her approach.

Was that enough, though? Was she enough?

Despite how much she tried, even with her hands constantly working, Jamie was always on her mind, making her be on pins and needles. 

Why didn’t he come? What if he wasn’t careful enough and opened the wound again? He could act like a bloody hero, judging from how he had depreciated his injury when she’d first assessed his injury. But even if he had been careful, even if he took her advice seriously, there was always a chance he would develop a fever. Oh God, let it be a small one if he is to have a fever at all.

Claire waited, feeling insufficient as long as she was away from him with her only option to pray. She didn’t know who he was and where he was living. She had never seen him before the attack.

 

The morning of the third day, Claire took a look at her empty medicine kit and started towards the central Paris, where her favourite apothecary and friend was. Central Paris was politically neutral, right between the rebellious east and the rich west of the city. Despite that, Claire was cautious and tried not to draw any attention on her way to Master Raymond’s. When she left Saint Antoine behind, she kept her head down and continued past the City Hall, towards the Louvre where Raymond’s shop was. Never halting on her way, she passed by carriages with closed curtains transferring their passengers safely -- at least for the moment -- and houses with closed shutters to keep their inhabitants protected. Some men were gathered here and there, talking, but she didn’t go close enough to listen to their discussions. Keeping a fast pace, she could feel her heart pounding in her chest when she reached Master Raymond’s apothecary.

“Hello, Delphine.” She smiled at the girl behind the counter.

“Good morning, Claire.” Delphine walked to her and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I will call Master Raymond immediately. He’s at the back.”

Claire saw Delphine disappear and started looking around for the supplies she needed. She heard Master Raymond coming to her before she could see him.

“Claire! It’s been a while. I was worried about you.”

“Well, yes. It’s been a hard few days to be sure. But as you can see, I am alright,” Claire said with a shy smile and span around herself to show that, indeed, she was fine.

“That’s good, my child. I know it’s the other side of this war that suffers the most right now but I couldn’t be but worried about you. I guess you went to the Bastille?”

Claire smiled again and nodded, letting Raymond continue.

“Of course you did.” He shook his head. “I suppose it was too challenging for you to stay behind. Just be careful, Claire. I know which side you support and with some of your former acquaintances, you should be extremely cautious. Even coming here today was not very wise, if I may say so.”

“I know, Raymond. But I’ve run out of almost everything and what good can I do if my kit is empty? I had to come, you surely understand. I can assure you that I made it as fast as I could and I was very careful on the way.”

“I am sure of that. Tell me then, what is it that you need?”

Claire removed a list from her pocket and handed it to him. Frowning and humming, he moved around the shop and gathered the supplies on the counter.

“I am afraid I don’t have any laudanum at the moment, Claire. If you are not in a hurry I can ask Master Christophe for some and you may come by in a day or two to retrieve it. I wouldn’t want to see you going to Champs-Élysées right now, and this is where his shop is,” he paused, thinking. “No,” he resumed. “Not in my worst nightmare. You better come here again, Madonna, than going there.”

Claire nodded, accepting his kindness. She wouldn’t dare to go to Champs-Élysées. “This is fine, thank you, Raymond.”

Raymond’s faint smile didn’t alter his troubled countenance.

“People have risen up, Claire, and you have to remember that sense is not their major drive right now. You are one of them, a dreamer and a rebel, but it may take just a moment for them to change their minds and consider you an enemy. A spy, that is.” He moved closer and took her hands in his. “Ah, mon chéri, if you have no familiar faces around to claim you a “Jacques” -- as you rebels call each other -- what will become of you? This is why I don’t want you to come here very often. As much as I miss your company, you have to stay safe in Saint Antoine.”

“You’re right Raymond, of course,” Claire replied, knowing the danger of her situation. “Thank you, I appreciate your concern.” Claire hugged her small round friend, the closest she had known to a father in the last 10 years since her uncle Lambert died. She gathered the medicines and placed them carefully in her box. “I will see you again in two days from now!” she said, took a deep breath and left the shop.

 

Out in the sun, with its rays almost blinding her eyes, Claire bent her head again and started towards the Hôpital des Anges, close to Notre Dame. It was more than a week since she last was there and she was sure that Mother Hildegard would need her help.

She had to see Claudel as well. Maybe he had met Jamie during one of his previous ‘adventures’ in the city.

Chapter Text

Claire headed south and continued by the Seine, walking fast towards the Hôpital des Anges with her eyes fixed on the white clouds as they danced on the water’s surface. Going to the hospital required her taking a different route than the one she had chosen that morning to Raymond’s. Considering this, maybe it was for the best since nobody would see her twice the same day, alone and away from Saint Antoine. She was more anxious now, her thoughts lingering in Raymond’s words. She had seen the violence in men’s eyes while they gathered their weapons to attack yet another manor-house and a new tyrant, and she had seen revenge routing deep in their hearts. She thought that she was safe, but what if Raymond was right?

She hadn’t been one of those born in the eastern, poorer part of Paris and living there in all of their lives. 

 

When Claire’s uncle, Lambert, was alive, they were living in one of the big impressive houses in the centre of the city, by the Seine. Claire loved spending her quiet afternoons sitting on the window sill with a good book. Every time her eyes left the lines made of words, the river filled them with colors and sensations: serene, light blue under the sun and deep, agitated grey under the force of the rain. 

The property was courtesy of L'Université de Paris, where Lambert was teaching History and Archaeology. Even though Claire’s parents had passed away when she was in a devastatingly young age, her uncle kept her by his side and some of her best memories were made with him. Her life was full of adventures, completely different from what one would expect from a lady of her age. Before settling down in Paris they had travelled around the world, while Lambert studied lost civilizations of ancient times. Claire was raised up in the dirt, sleeping in tents or under the sky and she wouldn’t change it for the most luxurious house and extravagant dresses.

Lambert’s way of life had brought him close to different cultures and had given him a different mentality from their Parisian society. Despite his social status as a professor, he was never one for prodigality and was always generous towards people of fewer means. He treated everyone with respect and kindness and had taught Claire to do the same. 

Thinking of him and his moral principles, Claire was certain that he would be proud of her now that she was fighting for equality, using her skills to aid such an honorable cause.

Lambert believed in Claire more than anyone else in her life. He had recognized her calling and her brilliant mind and supported her dream to become a healer. He was the reason Claire knew so much about medicine. By introducing her to his physician friends to discuss with and providing her with access in all the medical books he could take home from the Université, Claire learned about all kinds of maladies and remedies. Of course, she wasn’t allowed to attend the courses at the Université -- even Lambert couldn’t change that. With his help though, she joined the volunteers in L’ Hospital de Agnes to practice and advance her skills. With time, Claire had become as close to a physician as she could ever be, even without the title to go with it.

Claire’s life in Paris was a happy one, with her books and her uncle’s company. She didn’t really fit in the society, and she was always reluctant to attend the social events they were -- too often -- invited to. Lambert sympathized with her, understanding her repulsion to arrogance and brutality. It was more than once or twice that he found himself being excused for his niece’s absence. He gave Claire freedom, not only to ease her wild spirit but also because he was never one to make decisions regarding other people’s lives. 

The event that proved Lambert’s peculiar raising of his niece was when Frank Randall, a colleague of his, visited him and proposed to marry Claire.

Lambert had simply replied, “You are a fine historian, Frank, and a good colleague of mine, but I really can’t help you with your proposal. If you want to marry Claire, it is she that will have to accept.”

Randall stood gaping at Lambert, dumbfounded, probably thinking that this was the oddest response a man requesting a marriage agreement had ever heard. Nonetheless, he stood up straight and, since there was no other way for him to get an answer, he agreed to talk to Claire. On his way to find her, his stride was certain and determined. He was positive no girl could ever decline such an offer.

Claire was seventeen years old at the time and couldn’t be less interested in marriage. Frank Randall was fifteen years older than her, a man of status and power, but certainly not one who would make her heart sing. Claire declined his proposal without a second thought; she was not one to compromise her dreams and if she was going to get married, she knew it would be only for love.

Lambert got sick soon after that unfortunate proposal and Claire forgot all about Randall and his intentions. Going through her uncle’s sickness unable to save him was excruciating. He was the only person she had left. Claire tried with all her might, as did most of the doctors that had examined him, but Lambert eventually died in his bed with her by his side, a Monday morning while the pelting rain advanced towards the large windows of his room.

“We will be all proud of you, Claire, no matter what.” These were the last words he’d said before his lips froze in a slight eternal smile.

Claire had been left alone and desolate.

Randall had visited Lambert once or twice while he was sick and then again when he passed out, to express his condolences to Claire. It was only a week after the funeral when he came again, stating that his intention to marry Claire hadn’t changed and that he was willing to “protect” her now that she was alone in the world. Claire’s answer remained the same, a bold no. Ever since, Randall had visited Claire twice every week trying to make her change her mind. He was persistent, always keeping his polite manner, but Claire was headstrong and unyielding.

Although she avoided him as much as possible, he kept finding a way to be around and started getting on her nerves. At last, forgetting his diplomatic ways, he tried to force her to agree on his proposal by pulling every string he had access to, to intimidate her. When he made the administration of the Université seize Lambert’s house, Claire decided that she would take no more from this excuse of a man.

Taking the money Lambert had left for her, she moved to Saint Antoine where Randall would never find her and started the healing people who needed her help and weren’t arrogant enough to dismiss her for being a woman. With time she made a reputation of herself and as the years passed by, everyone at Saint Antoine had stood on her doorstep at least once, asking for her help. It was nine years now and even though she didn’t have a lot, she felt needed and was pleased with herself and her life.

 

A high-pitched voice and a shrill laugh made Claire raise her watering eyes towards the opposite side of the street, where a tiny young woman was walking next to a huge man. A carriage was waiting for them a few steps down the road. 

Claire stood stone-still, as if she hadn’t seen the couple but Medusa’s eyes.

It was the red hair leading to a strong back and a bandaged shoulder that made her heart skip a few beats. His bandaged arm had still her dressings on it, but the other one was apparently clutched by the person in the voluminous silk pink dress that ended to a huge wig full of grey curls and an enormous hat with white feathers and blue flowers. In any other circumstance, Claire would have laughed. Now, she felt heartbroken and angry. 

Bloody hell, you’re such a fool Beauchamp! What exactly have you been thinking? You were staying at home, worrying and waiting for him to come to find you, and he... he...

Claire tried to move but could still hear her heartbeat loud in her ears. She felt her breath going out in small gasps, a perfect companion to her unstable feet. With a hand on the wall beside her to steady herself, she tried to regain control of her body. 

It’s alright, that’s alright. Don’t panic. He was nobody. Nobody. 

With her eyes were locked on them, she gazed at their backs until they reached the carriage. He helped the woman inside, then swiftly looked around and joined her. They disappeared behind the closed curtains and with them, hope vanished from Claire’s heart.

Who the hell was that woman, that aristocrat? What were they doing together?

At least he didn’t seem feverish and the bandages were in place.

Of course, he is fine Beauchamp, strolling by the river and laughing with her. Why did you even care? You don’t know him.

Moving forward, step by step, sense came back to her.

You don’t know him.

She really didn’t know him. They didn’t manage to talk a lot after she’d tended to his shoulder. How careless she was!

She felt so content on that bench, having him by her side as though he had always belonged there. She had let herself unguarded. She was sheltered by his warmth, his hand gentle on hers, a silent statement that his abnormal heartbeat was because of her presence and not of his wound. And then, it was the way she caught him looking at her, even through his pain, with his blue slanted eyes smiling.

How could she be so bloody wrong? Why didn’t she ask him more about himself? They had just met and yet she had let herself be with him in a way she would only if she’d known him forever. 

When his godfather came back to take Jamie away, he had kissed her hand and said, “It was a verra fine day, today, Sassenach, because I finally met you. I will come back in a few days to check my shoulder, aye?”

She felt so happy at that moment, with her hand still engulfed by his, thinking of his poetic words. Now she reconsidered. What had he meant when he said ‘to finally meet you’? Could he know who she really was? Could he know about her past?

She had been certain that he was one of the attackers in the Bastille, but seeing him today, so well dressed and with this mademoiselle hanging from his arm, contradicted all her previous conclusions. Claire could tell from the woman’s clothes that she was very close to the palace. Her bloody hat was like the ones Marie Antoinette was wearing and judging from her posture and the stupid noises that left her mouth she seemed very well acquainted with Jamie.

Why was this Scot in the prison’s courtyard if he was so rich anyway? And Claire had even called him “Jacques”! Bloody Christ! She had never heard of an aristocrat rebel. That couldn’t be. Although she could be considered as a rebel of the upper class, she didn’t belong to this class for nine years now. Apparently, he did.

Claire’s initial shock and unanswered questions resulted in a terrible headache and a feeling of nausea. Looking around, she realized that, left unattended, her feet had taken her to Saint Antoine instead of the Hôpital. Even better, she thought. She wasn’t in a fit state to tend to anyone right now. With a single glance at the bench they had sat, she hurried to her room. She proceeded with walking back and forth in the small space in an attempt to calm down and recall her conversation with Jamie, that night in front of her house.

 ***

“So you’re English, lass?” Jamie said looking towards the street.

“English parents and I was born in Oxfordshire. However, I don’t remember much of England. I left when I was still a little girl.”

“And you came to Paris?” He frowned and turned to look at her.

“Oh, no, not straight away, that is. I travelled the world with my uncle for some years. I have been in Paris the last 15 years, since he came to be a professor at the University here. It feels like home now. But enough about me. What about you? What is a Scottish lad doing in Paris?” she returned the question and smiled at him, curious about the stranger with the rolling “r”s that made her breathing laborious.

“I came to study in the Université, Philosophy and Literature. After finishing, I stayed here to work wi’ my cousin in his … business”. He had stopped just a moment before saying “business” and then continued, “So what is your uncle teaching? Maybe I know him from my classes.”

“No, you wouldn’t. He was teaching History and Archaeology.” Her voice broke a little, but enough for him to hear it.

“Ah, I am sorry, lass,” he said with a solemn face full of compassion and tightened his grip on her hand.

 ***

Alone in her room, Claire cursed her foolishness the moment she realized how much information she’d given away about her person. She was angry with herself and her recklessness. She hadn’t given him Lambert’s name, thank God, but with the rest trivial information she’d revealed, he had now a good starting point and could easily find out who she was.

Her restless pacing gradually stopped and left fear and desperation take the reins of her feelings. 

She curled up on her bed, tired and unsure, and cried herself to sleep.

 

Was that night nothing but a charade?

Could he just be a spy for them?

Chapter Text

A man was lying on the street.

Another was atop him, pinning him down and punching him in the face. Three more were standing at his sides, kicking him on the ribs with all their might while shouting their accusations out loud.

“You filthy dog!”

“Stop protecting him and tell us all you know.”

“You don’t deserve living in the Republic! You and your likes should vanish from France!”

Claire felt the adrenaline filling her veins and grabbed Claudel’s hand to keep him at her side and away from the skirmish. The wounded man turned his face to the side and then she saw him, contorting in pain.

Oh no.

“Stay here and don’t move,” she ordered Claudel.

“No, Milady, no no no!” Claire heard him saying in a tiny voice, while she turned and walked towards the mayhem.

Seeing again the fight -- one-sided as it was -- Claire tried to suppress her urge to run to the poor man. She knew him. It was almost ten years ago when she had seen him last, but she would always remember François’s kind face. The face that was now a weird mix of red and black, the combination of blood and street’s dirt. Without giving herself adequate time to think about her next move, she shouted, “Stop it! Stop it right now!”

Hearing her own voice over the commotion, she finally ran to François and almost fell over him in her struggle to protect him.

The men stopped their accusations momentarily and looked at her. Their initial surprise soon subsided as they composed themselves. Taking their attention of their victim, they now focused on Claire with their faces almost the same red that featured in their tricolour cockades, the symbol of the revolution.

“What are you doing, woman?” The man who was previously testing his fists on François’ face was now hovering over Claire.

“We don’t have all day. Move. Now,” one of the others ordered, impatience coloring his voice.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Claire stated plainly. “May I request the reason you’re attacking this man, Jacques?” she continued, emphasizing on her last remark. 

Better make clear that I’m on their side of the revolution.

“He knows why. Don’t mess with what doesn’t concern you.”

“Well, it’s just that he doesn’t look like a noble to me,” Claire insisted.

“This doesn’t signify.” The reply came from the calmest of the four, while the rest were growing restless.

“The man is keeping valuable information and he is going to speak, willing or no. Now go!” One of the men shot Claire a venomous glance. Don’t create more problems, it said.

“I don’t know where the Comte is,” François whispered with a great effort. “Truly. He left during the night, two days ago. Please, let me go.”

“Is this your valuable information?” Claire didn’t try to hide her irritation. “You charge on a poor servant, one of us, who suffered from the nobles for all these years for a message he doesn’t have?”

“He knows,” one of the men spat at her.

“He is one of us!” she insisted. “If he knew he would tell you!” Claire was determined to stop this assault.

“We don’t know the man. We don’t know if he is one of us, as you insist.” The most composed man spoke again and the other assented, ready to act again. “But what you say, Jacques,” he addressed Claire now, “May be the truth. And if no, we will give him some time to reconsider his answers, no, Jacques?” He turned to his comrades again.

They looked at him dumbfounded. He seemed to have some authority though, because when he said “Let’s go, Jacques,” the rest followed, leaving Claire alone with the wounded man.

Claudel ran to her the moment the men left. “Milady! That was so dangerous! And brave!” His eyes were glinting with excitement and Claire realized that she maybe wasn’t exactly the role model she wished to be for the boy. As far as his safety was concerned, at least.

Claire thought it would be safe to keep her protégée with her. They had gone together to Master Raymond’s that morning, to get the laudanum he’d promised her. Claudel had come to find her two days ago, when he was the last person she wanted to see her in such a state of distress.

***

Claire’s room was dark when she opened her puffed eyes trying to focus on the blurry figure hovering over her head. Claudel, with his brown curls half hiding his face, was whispering, “Milady?” His voice was concerned and his hands were unstable on her shoulders. “Milady? Are you alright?” He was afraid.

“Yes, I’m fine, mon chou,” Claire smiled and caressed the boy’s cheek with her hand to console him before raising herself in a sitting position.

Claudel smiled back, not totally reassured, and came to her for a big hug. She stroked his back with affection and felt her body relax for the first time since she saw Jamie by the Seine. It was a relief to have a beloved one with her and she felt lucky that Claudel was a part of her life.

Pulling him back from the shoulders to look at him, she asked, “Why are you here?”

“It’s been so many days waiting for you, Milady, and I was worried something terrible had happened. I asked Mother Hildegard’s permission to come see you since I’d helped her all these days with the sick people at L'Hôpital!” Claudel beamed at her with his last statement, confirming that he’d followed the instructions she’d given him before she left him at the hospital with Mother Hildegard. Then he added shyly, as if he considered himself too old for such a statement, “I missed you.”

“Oh, I missed you too Claudel! So much.” Claire squeezed him in her embrace, her heart a bit lighter now.

“That’s why you were crying, Milady?”

This time she actually laughed and petted his brown curly hair. He looked at her under his eyelashes and asked with a sheepish smile, “Can I stay with you now? It’s not the same at the hospital without you. Please?”

“Ok. I think it’s alright for you to stay,” she said and moved so the boy could lie on her bed beside her.

Claire thought she could protect him now that the attack at the Bastille was over. They had gone together to L'Hôpital des Anges the day before the attack and Claire, knowing that dangerous days were coming, decided to leave him there under the supervision of Mother Hildegard. Knowing Claudel as well as she did, she was sure it would be impossible to keep the ten-year-old boy at Saint Antoine’s during the attack. Staying back to wait for her wouldn’t be an option for him. However, coming with her to the attack wasn’t an option for Claire. In the Hôpital he would be safe and, depending on the outcome of the attack, she would visit and fetch him back once things died down a little. This was what she intended to do, before accidentally running into Jamie and his company.

Claudel was a good distraction from the painful thoughts that overwhelmed her after seeing Jamie with the noblewoman with that annoying high-pitched voice.
He was her protégée for the last four years, the two of them forming an unconventional yet lovely family. Claudel was smart and kindhearted and he’d filled Claire’s days with joy, with his humor and playfulness. Claire knew she was all the orphan boy had and she didn’t take that lightly. She wouldn’t let anything bad happen to him. He had suffered enough already in his childhood, raised in a brothel for six years until he accompanied a sick whore to the Hospital and Claire decided to take matters in her hands. He was safe now and she would strive for things to remain that way.

***

That had been the plan, at least. Now Claire realized that she forgot to protect him from herself and her own acts. Running to stop four men during an attack was a good deed but absolutely not what she wanted the ten-year-old boy try to do. Judging from Claudel’s excitement, he would definitely try to find a chance to prove to be a hero himself. Helping her with healing was an occupation he’d accepted, but boiling water and cutting the cloths for the dressings were always accompanied with a murmuring of “women’s work” and an unhappy face.

Well, what’s done is done, Claire thought and asked the boy to fetch her medicine box. Luckily François was still conscious. However, moving him away from the street was another thing altogether.

While considering how she would carry him away, to lay his back against the wall of one of the houses at the side of the street, two hands raised the man from the armpits and then a shoulder under François’ arm was supporting his weight. Claire, astonished, raised her face slowly to see her saviour. Her eyebrows couldn’t move higher when he saw his face, but the smile that started forming in her lips immediately vanished.

It was him.
Oh, God, not again.
And he was smiling at her. The unmitigated gall the man has!

With a frozen heart and a simple nod she directed him to one of the quiet corners of the street, in front of an abandoned house. Her stomach was a knot by the time they reached their destination. Claudel soon arrived at her side with the box in his hands. Claire took it from him and avoiding Jamie’s eyes as she bent on her knees to attend to François.

“Bonjour, monsieur,” she heard Claudel addressing Jamie. “Je vous remercie de votre aide.” Well, at least her boy had manners.

“Je vous en prie,” Jamie replied with a smile in his voice.

Claire cleaned François’s face from the blood and dirt and applied her chamomile ointment, considering simultaneously how to proceed with the complications of her current situation. Jamie hadn’t left; he was standing just behind her, talking with Claudel. François had been one of her uncle’s servants and after Claire’s escape, he must have gone to work for a nobleman. She had to find out more about the truth of the rebels’ accusations.

“Where do you work now? Do you know where the master of the house is gone?” she whispered, trying to keep their conversation private.

“I worked for Comte St. Germain.”

Claire grimaced. The man was well known for his cruelty. Poor François. She said nothing, letting him continue.

“I don’t know where he is. He left without telling anything to the servants and we don’t know if he’s coming back. What will I do, mademoiselle Claire? Suzette, the children, what will become of them?” François asked, clearly terrified.

“Hush, they left, it’s alright now.” Claire tried to comfort him, although she knew that nothing was alright.

While she was checking if François had any broken ribs, Jamie knelt next to her, his thighs barely grazing hers.

“How is he?” he asked, his interest seeming so honest that it enraged her.

That acting would make the actors at the Théâtre de l’Odeon feel ashamed of their performance!

“No broken ribs. It will be quite painful for a while but it’s nothing serious,” she replied, more to François than to Jamie.

“Thank you, mademoiselle Claire. You saved my life today and I will remember that, always.” François took her hands in his, full of gratitude.

“Aye, she tends to do that,” Jamie joined and she felt him looking at her, trying to make her look back.

“Think nothing about it.” Claire responded, looking only at François’s sincere eyes. She didn’t know what to do with the blue ones she felt locked on her, so she ignored them. Ignored him. “Can you walk, do you think?” she asked her patient.

“I will try, the house is not far.” François grimaced while raising himself.

“Let me help you,” Jamie added and Claire unconsciously turned and looked at him. The only thing she saw in his slanted blue eyes was confusion. And pain. No acting and no deceit.

“Thank you,” she said to him, and she meant it. His furrowed brow relaxed a bit and he smiled. Her eyes then trailed on his rich garments. Like those he’d worn when she last saw him. His eyes followed hers on his outfit.

He let a discouraged sigh and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he raised his head and looked at her pleadingly. “Claire,” he started in an uncertain, low voice. “I can explain.”

“There is no need to, sir,” she said and turned to the standing up and now bewildered François. “Be careful François. Kiss the family for me!”

With that, she collected her medicine box together with her courage, and placed a hand on Claudel’s back to urge him move. Together, they started their way back home.

“Glad to make your acquaintance, monsieur!” Claudel shouted, turning to face Jamie. “Next time please bring Sawny with you!”

Claire surmised that this was the toy she heard Jamie talking about while she was tending to François.

The joy she saw in Claudel’s eyes when he turned and smiled at her shattered her heart.

Chapter Text

Jamie felt François’ weight on his shoulder and the world’s weight on his back while he watched Claire move away.

His heart was crushed, a giant hand trying to squeeze it until there was nothing left.

Sir. She’d called him sir. Not Jamie, not even “my lad”, as she mocked him the first day they met. Could it possibly get any worse?

Five days passed without seeing her. Five days aching to hear her voice call his name, talk to him. All he did was thinking about her, desperate to figure out a plan to meet again – not an easy feat. With his noble façade to preserve and the everpresent duet of his uncle and godfather always keeping an eye on him, Saint Antoine could as well be in the North Pole; it seemed totally inaccessible.

Jamie was so focused on trying to find a way to go back to her place, it never occurred to him that they could meet elsewhere. No, not in his worst nightmare he would imagine such a reunion – she, needing help and he, despairingly unable to assist her.

Jamie watched the brawl from afar without moving towards it, well aware of the risk this move beheld. Annalise was trembling next to him, clinging hard on his arm. The threat before their eyes kept her irksome blubbering voice in her mouth and Jamie was thankful for it. He had started taking Annalise away to avoid any uninvited attention from the men when he saw Claire. She was there, running to the fight.

His heart stopped for longer than he ever considered possible for a heart to dismiss its one and only function. His breath hitched in his throat. He felt drawn to her, his body leaning eagerly towards her like a compass needle pulled to the north. Taking a deep breath, Jamie gnashed his teeth, swallowed his anguish and fought for the sensible part of himself to prevail. 

As much as he didn’t want to leave Claire alone when she needed his help, it was pointless to present himself on her side in his current attire. Furthermore, Annalise was still with him and he had first to remove her from the scene. Swiftly, he led Annalise to a carriage, directing the driver to go straight to her house without any stop. The young woman was frightened and asked him to accompany her to the house but Jamie had no mind for her at the moment. Well trained, he buried the turmoil of his feelings deep inside and bade the woman au revoir with a bow and a fake smile on his lips. The moment the carriage was out of sight he turned and almost ran to Claire.

She had stopped them on her own and was now protecting the man on the ground, kneeling above him, while talking to the rebels. He couldn’t imagine a more extraordinary woman in his wildest dreams. Jamie stood in the shadows, knowing that if he would join her everything could go far worse but always ready to interfere if the matter went south. One of the men was solemn but the rest were still enraged and talked harshly to her. He remained unseen and observed her, admiring her spirit and determination. When the men finally retreated he enjoyed her triumph more than she seemed to do and watched a boy run to Claire, the same revel on his face as the one on Jamie’s. Ecstatic and proud, he walked to her to offer any help that she might need.

While crossing the street, several thoughts sneaked into his mind.
Who was that boy and how did Claire know the wounded man? And more importantly, was he someone special for her?

Apart from the questions, he had some suggestions to make as well, on her choice of action and the way she valued her life. But most of all, he needed to see her eyes again and listen to her voice. He’d dreamed of this moment as he closed his eyes numerous times during the last days daydreaming about her, longing to come close to her again and smell the citrus and chamomile in her hair.

He rejoiced so much in the fact that Claire was safe in front of him and they met again that he couldn’t help the foolish grin forming on his lips while raising the stranger Claire was helping from the ground. Totally forgetting his outfit for a moment, he was certain that his feelings would be reciprocated.

Jamie’s reflection stopped the moment Claire looked at him. Something was terribly amiss. Her polite smile disappeared from her face when she realized who was the person that had rushed to their aid. After that, she was distant and avoided his eyes.

Jamie’s first thought was that Claire wanted to focus all her attention on the injured man. He left her some space and talked to the boy who was with her, but his eyes and mind never left Claire.

The cold gaze that had replaced the generous one he remembered shocked him. She didn’t address him and even when he later bent next to her, to satisfy his need to feel her closer, Claire ignored him.

Jamie’s worry kept increasing, when Fortuna -the goddess of luck- smiled at him. He’d volunteered to help the man back to his house and Claire finally raised her eyes on his again. She then really looked at him, as she did that night. He heard her sweet and sincere voice thanking him and felt his heart growing wings again.

It was just a moment before the ice crept back in. Her eyes trailed off on his clothes and then reality hit him, like a thunderbolt. Seeing the ominous sign, Jamie realized rain was coming hard on him and resolved to get as protected as he could be.

Gathering all the breath left in his chest he tried to explain himself. Claire was indifferent and didn’t even give him a chance. She addressed him as a stranger and left, taking the boy with her and wishing the man –whom she apparently knew– to have a quick recovery.

Jamie wasn’t a fool though. He saw her concealed anger in the wat her jaw was set and her hands fisted. She could pretend nonchalance but her hurt was clear to him in all her little moves.

Above all, she didn’t ask about his wound. Jamie had seen her mending himself and François and was sure that Claire cared deeply about her patients. 

However, she didn’t ask about his injury and how he was feeling.

That was good; Jamie smiled softly. She must have been furious. Her anger confirmed everything he thought laid between them. She cared for him and felt betrayed but there was still a chance to rectify what was done. He wouldn’t mess this up.

François groaned on his side and Jamie readjusted his position to help the man. He had to help him back home and then he would go immediately to find Claire.

“Where to?” he asked, eager to be done with the task.

“Merci, Monsieur for your help,” François politely replied and then answered Jamie’s question.

Their destination was not far but François kept a slow pace and Jamie had the impulse to take him in his arms and transfer him to the house as soon as possible.

“I believe you know mademoiselle Claire?” the man asked, making Jamie miserable. Talking would make him move even slower than he already did.

“Aye, ye can say we’re acquainted,” Jamie replied ruefully.

“She has a kind heart and a clever mind; always had. Her disposition can be that of great courage, as you can tell from today’s events. But she can be very headstrong. You must have patience.”

Jamie frowned. The man seemed to know Claire very well. How this servant knew so much of her character and why did he instruct Jamie on how to act concerning Claire? Now confused, he turned to see the man but the other just smiled to him and winked.

“I know love when I see it and you couldn’t take your eyes off her, monsieur.”
Taking this as an answer to all his silent questions, Jamie chuckled and they continued their way.

The house where François lived was in the opposite way Claire had gone, near the Royal Palace and not far from Jared’s. His cousin’s income allowed him to inhabit a house in one of the richest districts of Paris and Jamie knew the neighbourhood well. After leaving François and giving him his best wishes, Jamie hastened his step back to the central part of the city, straight to the warehouse they kept the wine stocks. He changed his clothes, choosing a plain, dark grey attire and walked towards Saint Antoine ready to face Claire’s rage.

The closer he was getting to Claire, the harder it was to command his heart. When he finally arrived at her house he had to pause and take a few deep breaths. He’d made up his mind on his way there; he would tell her the truth, as hard as this might be and he wished that she’d believe him. He prayed her feelings were as strong as his - even if they were expressed only as anger at the moment.

Could that be possible? After meeting only the one time?

Claire was nowhere to be seen but Jamie saw Claudel playing with three other boys in a short distance. Claudel! What a name for a boy! He brought Sawny with him; luckily he had left the toy in the warehouse. Claudel saw him and directly left his company, trotting to Jamie. He was smiling and his warm brown eyes were shining with mischief.

“Hallo again, monsieur,” the boy addressed Jamie first.

“Hello to you too, Claudel,” Jamie paused and presented the wooden snake to the boy. “I brought you my wee snake, as I promised.”

The boy’s face lightened up and with a grin, he took the toy from Jamie. “Oui! It’s very nice, monsieur. What does Sawny mean?”

“Sawny is how my brother called me when I was just a bairn. Even younger than you,” Jamie replied wistfully. “He made it himself and gave it to me as a gift. Will you take care of him for me?”

“I will! I will never let it out of my sight, be sure of that!” Claudel replied enthusiastically.

“Weel, thank ye Claudel,” Jamie paused, frowning. “Do you like your name? Claudel, I mean?”

The boy’s amiable face contorted momentarily in thought, as if considering his name for the first time in his life. “I don’t mind it but I can’t say I like it,” he finally replied. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, I was thinking… Maybe, between you and me… Fergus is a much stronger name. Much more appropriate name for a man with responsibilities, ye ken?”

“Fergus,” Claudel whispered the name in a French accent. “I like it! Will you call me Fergus? Can I tell Milady to call me that as well?”

“Milady?” Jamie asked incredulously and immediately regretted his tone. Why would the boy address Claire with a term saved for the noble?

“Oui, mademoiselle Claire,” Claudel rephrased cautiously. “Can I tell her?” he continued eagerly focusing on his new toy and name.

“Well, if things go well we can tell her together. Is she here?”

“Oh no monsieur, she’s away” Claudel was sceptical on how much information he should give away.

“Can ye tell me where to find her?”

“You could wait here for her to return, no?” he entreated.

“I could, but I dinna have much time.”

Jamie saw his opportunity to talk to Claire slipping from his hands. He had to return at the wineshop on time or he would have to answer to a hell lot of questions from Jared.

Claudel’s face was scrunched in thought. “You won’t hurt Milady, will you? I think you like her.”

“Aye, I do like her. A lot. And I need to find her.”

“Milady went to walk by the Seine. She does that when she is angry or sad,” Claudel said, looking at Jamie. “Is she angry at you?”

“Aye” Jamie said leaving a breath, “I think she is.”

“Maybe she is angry because you made her sad. I think she was sad and I couldn’t make her smile today.”

“Weel, wee Fergus,” Jamie winked at him. “Let’s hope I will,” he said with a rueful smile and left Fergus behind.

Seine was not far and he had to find Claire. He was more concerned now, knowing that she was not safe at her home. What possessed her to go walking around just by herself?

God, if something happened to her because of him and his damned double-life…

Jamie quickened his step wishing that he’d find Claire and she’d be willing to listen to him. 

Mary, Michael and Bride, that she would believe his truth and forgive him!

He needed her to forgive him.
What would he be otherwise?
How could he live without her, now that he knew she was within his grasp?

Chapter Text

Claire was furious.

She couldn’t decide if it was Jamie or herself and her naiveté that made her feel that way, but the feeling was too strong to neglect it in any case.

She left Claudel at the house and kept walking towards the river.

When she arrived at the riverbank, Claire found it impossible to still herself. She kept pacing up and down, all the while breathing deeply and trying to let the serenity of the Seine pass through her skin and reach her mind and heart.

Time passed, but every attempt to find calmness seemed to go in vain. The light breeze that caressed her face couldn’t alter the suffocating feeling that overwhelmed her. The sun didn’t warm her skin and the pain in her legs couldn’t stop her from moving. Withdrawn from the real world, nothing around Claire could actually reach her inside.

An abnormal amount of energy filled her tissues, preparing her body for a “fight or flight” reaction; a behavior to aid survival, used by animals for thousands of years.

This fight was different though; it was brain against heart. Claire knew she had to pick a side and her stamina didn’t aid towards a solution.

She just wanted to run – run until there was no more breath in her lungs. Run until her body’s weight felt as heavy as her heart’s. Run until the last speck of strength left her muscles.

And then fall. Find oblivion.

She knew that this impulse was meaningless. There was no choice for “flight” this time. So she kept pacing until she was ready to fight - and drown every last hope still shining in her heart.

Eventually, weariness crept in her body and she stood rigid, looking at the clear sky and desperately noticing how much she failed to clear her brain.

It was now evident that her denial to face the revelation about Jamie backfired on her. Her façade had broken the moment she saw him again and instead of keeping everything under control, her feelings flooded over her heart’s rim.

Claire knew she needed to be sensible now. Think things over, disentangle her feelings that currently formed a huge ball of yarn filling her brain and then move forward. This was what she always did. Analyze the situation – solve the problem – move forward.

Why was it so bloody difficult this time?

 

She hadn’t heard him approaching.

It was just a light touch on her arm, as if a leaf had found her on its descent towards the earth. Its warmth was what indicated that it was a human’s touch, together with the light, broken murmur of her name that followed.

“Claire…”

With her nerves on edge, Claire turned around on a swift move and almost fell on his chest. Taking immediately a step back while averting her eyes from him, his hand was on her arm again.

“Please, Claire…”

Come on Beauchamp. Hide this glass face of yours and deal with it. Better now than ever.

“How can I help you?” 

He withdrew his hand after hearing her tone.

Good. That was good – keep that stern voice.

She didn’t really look at him. Her eyes were raised to his face but she focused on his forehead to keep all feelings aside. Her feelings, his feelings. Pretending there was nothing under the surface was easier than taking account of the man in front of her.

“Oh, lass, please.”

She barely heard him. His voice was slightly louder than a whisper and she now saw his sagged shoulders, his hand midway in the air- hesitating to touch her again. Her heartbeat started increasing, immediately followed by her much potent anger.

Protect yourself. Don’t be a damn fool again.

“What is it that you want, Jamie?” Her eyes trailed down on his dark grey pantaloon before she continued. “I see you’ve changed your clothes.” She was unable to keep the ironic look from her face. Her eyebrow was raised and her lips formed the tiniest of sardonic smiles.

He dropped his hand at his side. “Aye, I did that,” Jamie said and continued with a breath. “Ye have to let me explain, Claire. Ye have to give me a chance.”

“To explain what? There is nothing you have to explain Jamie.”

“There is and ye know that. I owe ye an explanation, for what you saw.”

“No, Jamie. You don’t owe me anything. You barely know me.”

No reason to hear more lies anyway. I saw him with my own eyes. I saw both of them. Why couldn’t he leave all this as it was, to fade out with time? It would eventually disappear – this crazy heartbeat. All things decay with time.

He had to make it the hard way, so better end it now and be done with it Beauchamp.

 

“You better go back,” Claire stopped for a moment before adding, “where you belong.” She took her eyes off him before finishing her sentence and turned her back at him, looking again towards the Seine.

Keep breathing and he’ll be gone before you know it. All is well. All will be well.

He didn’t leave.

Claire still felt his warmth behind her as his breaths came more rushed and irregular.

“I need to tell ye, Claire. I need ye to listen to me. ’Tis the truth that we’ve met only twice, ‘tis true that ye still don’t ken enough about me but…” He touched her hand lightly, his fingers barely brushing hers. “Don’t ye feel it too Claire? What lies between us? For that alone, I owe ye the truth.”

Claire didn’t move to face him. She didn’t know what he might see in her eyes, she still wasn’t sure of her feelings herself.

He came at her side, seeing her now, and resumed talking. “When I saw ye today, Claire… Talking to the men, trying to stop the assault…”

This statement took her by surprise and she now turned to face him, unable to stop herself from doing so. “You’d seen me while I was trying to protect François? But decided to come and offer your help only after I was bloody done with them? That’s interesting at the very least!” Her wry tone replaced the surprised one and she huffed.

“Aye, I was… occupied at the moment. Couldn’t come earlier and I’m sorry for this.”

“Occupied. I see.”

“No, no you don’t,” he returned calmly with a tone of despair in his voice. “Claire, please. I would give the world to help you, but it wouldna be any better if I came to ye in my previous attire now, would it?”

Claire just looked at him sternly, fully aware that he was right about this.

“I felt my heart stop when I saw ye there. The moment I could finally approach, I came to ye. Being close to ye again, a nighean, I forgot everything – including the clothes I wore. I ken that was a surprise to you –“

“A surprise? I meet you after at the attack on Bastille, mend your shoulder, wait for you to come back as you told me, all the while thinking of you as a rebel and then I see you strolling like, like that,” she gestured vaguely towards the direction of the centre of Paris where they’d met earlier. “And, don’t you worry, Jamie. To bring you out of this awkward situation, I know very well what occupied you. Or, rather, who. No further clarifications are actually needed.”

At least now he looked flabbergasted. He kept staring at her, with wide blue eyes and his mouth slightly agape. After a while, he seemed to summon his ability to speak back. “What do ye mean by that Claire? Ye couldna possibly see me today.”

“Not today, but it doesn’t really matter, does it?”

“Aye, ‘tis,” he returned firmly.

His hands were on his hair, ruffling them before he sighed and grabbed her hand. He looked her in the eyes while speaking.

“Claire… Ye need to listen to me now. ‘Tis the truth that I can offer ye and this I’ll do and gladly. If ye canna forgive me, then…” he trailed off, as though the air was knocked out of his lungs. “What ye saw the day we met, what ye look at now – this is who I truly am. I didna deceive ye when we met, Sassenach, I was free to be myself that day. But this isna always the case.”

That gained her attention. Her guard was still up but she was watching him as he spoke and saw the man she first met a few days ago. His eyes were pleading her to believe him, his chest rising and falling with deep agonizing breaths.

“I support the revolution, Sassenach. How could I not? But my way isna the same as yours. I –“ he stopped, closed his eyes and bit his lips as if he was going to admit the most horrifying revelation in the world.

Claire fortified herself, anticipating the wave coming full force to hit her. Whatever it was, at least it seemed to be the truth. Maybe she could have that, at least. She instinctively nodded to him, even though he hadn’t opened his eyes.

“I am a spy, Claire. This is what I am,” he said in a heavy voice and opened his eyes again.

Claire’s heart stopped. Her mind froze, all sense leaving it at once.

A spy?

Blinking as though that would help her think, she connected the pieces of the puzzle. 

Did he say that he supports the revolution by being a spy? So that makes him a spy for the rebels? How could that be? Usually, it’s the nobles who send spies to Saint Antoine to collect information.

Jamie was silent, anxiously waiting for her response.

“Do you mean to tell me that you are a rebel and you spy on the nobles?” Claire gave voice in her thoughts, still unconvinced.

He snorted at that. “Not the easiest thing to believe, I ken that. But I told ye as I’d give ye the truth and ‘tis that I did.”

“I’m going to need more of this truth to believe you,” Claire raised an eyebrow.

“Aye, I figured that much Sassenach.” He smiled at her, breathing easier now. “I am not a noble, but I am acquainted with many of them, through my cousin’s business. He runs a wineshop in east Paris, dealing mainly with aristocrats and making a fortune for himself. He lives in Paris for many years now and his fortune made him accepted in their society. When I finished my studies I joined him and I work with him ever since. I have witnessed all the vanity of the nobles firsthand Sassenach, first in the University and then in the wineshop. The way they treat people is formidable,” he concluded, shaking his head. “When I heard about the revolution starting at Saint Antoine, I thought that I could help bring justice back to people. This is what I do now. I am trying to help.”

“Well, Jamie – if your name is real – you’re a very complicated man. Why do you tell me though? Isn’t it too dangerous for you?”

“It is real –my name. James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.” He paused in-between every name as if he gave a part of himself with each word. “Would ye betray me Sassenach?” he inquired smiling but the blue eyes were searching an honest answer in hers.

Claire recognized the gift he was giving her and accepted it. With a more benevolent tone in her voice, she challenged him. “If you manage to convince me, I don’t see why I would. If you are a spy, how did you explain your injury to your noble friends?”

“They are not my friends,” Jamie replied sternly.

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“Weel, I said as I came across some radicals on their way to Hôtel de Ville and they attacked me.”

“And did they believe you?”

“They did.”

“No suspicions? Are you so deep in their society then?”

“I dinna say I like it, Claire. Their narcissism and arrogance are insufferable. But it’s not that all of them are like this.”

“Certainly not all of them. I would say that you rather enjoyed the company of some,” Claire retorted dryly without taking time to thoroughly think her response.

“Ahh, this is what ye meant before, then. I dinna ken how it happened and ye saw me with the woman, Claire, but what ye have in your mind isna what truly happened. Annalise means nothing to me. ‘Tis something I have to do – visit her and spend time with her – as she knows important people that I have to approach. She is kindhearted but I have nothing to share with her, Sassenach.”

“This is not my business, Jamie.”

“Is it not then?”

“I don’t care who your close friends are. Seems tantalizing enough though, doesn’t it? Love above all politics. A Shakespeare-like romance, maybe?”

“A romance? Are ye not listening to me lass? I told ye Claire, ‘tis nothing of the sort.”

Jamie kept shaking his head to emphasize his point but he couldn’t erase Claire’s disbelieving eyebrow. She didn’t continue on the matter though.

“So, if you tell me the truth,” she resumed, “isn’t it too dangerous for you to come here dressed like this? What if someone who knows you sees you on your way here?”

“Aye, ‘tis not wise, to say the least. This is the reason I couldna come back to see ye earlier, Sassenach.”

“And now? What has changed now?”

“Ye really ask me that?” His blue eyes were wide as he looked at her, his eyebrows almost touching his hairline. “You, who wouldna raise yer eyes on me? Who called me sir like we’d never met before?” He stopped, inhaled deeply and placed his hand on Claire’s cheek, slightly tilting her head. “Look at me, mo nighean. I longed to see ye again. to hear her voice, from the moment you left my eyes that night. I couldna stand ye talking to me so harshly, seeing ye hurt and knowing this is all my fault. Seeing as I would lose ye, I couldna just wait for ye to go.”

“Lose me?”

“Claire, I would give everything for a chance to prove myself to ye. It’s all I ask.”

Claire looked at the genuine bright blue eyes looking back at her and knew that her mind had lost the fight. Against all odds, her heart had prevailed and she actually did believe him.

The pressure of all her hidden emotions suddenly erupted to the surface and leaved her body in hearty sobs. Jamie instantly engulfed her in his arms, holding her tight against his chest, one hand interweaved in her hair and the other rubbing her back to soothe her.

“Oh, Claire, mo nighean donn. Dinna fash, now. I’m here. I’m here now,” he whispered in her hair in a broken voice.

And there, between her ragged breaths and puffed eyes, safely locked in Jamie’s arms, Claire had finally found her much pursued serenity.

Chapter Text

Jamie always knew that time was relevant.

The dreadful or boring moments tended to lengthen dramatically whereas the happy ones were sucked from the present as though a greedy force residing in the past was fed from them.

He had learned that lesson from a young age; his adventures with his best friend Ian never lasted as long as they hoped to while waiting afterwards for his father to stripe him felt like an eternity. 

However, the malevolence of time never affected him as much as this time.

The last three days felt like a month. He had found all conversations irrelevant and endless, all people around him leaving but a small impact in his life in a monotonous manner. Nothing was enough, it was like living in a blurred background, waiting for her to come and light up the scene.

It was in the midst of the dark when her light came in. There, in his dreams, he found her again and again. He touched her beautiful face, felt the softness of her skin and traced her full lips with his thumb, ready to kiss them. Her hair was flowing around them on the light breeze while he leaned to her, ready to be lost in her light and heat.

And then, every damned time, he just woke up. Alone and with his heart roaring in his chest, his lips tingling in her profound absence. He squeezed his eyes shut to get one more picture of her, but his eyelids fell black, only hiding the outline of his room. He then stayed awake, thinking of their last time together.

***

(4 days before)

When Claire’s breath found a normal rhythm she turned her red, teary eyes to him, full of worry.

“Your wound,” she whispered.

“It’s alright, Sassenach. Dinna fash.” Jamie smiled reassuringly to her, without any effort to hide how happy he was that Claire cared for him.

“Let’s go back to change the dressings. Does it hurt? Were you feverish the previous days?” She frowned and her eyes fell to his wound, inspecting it.

“Aye, I was during the first two days but I am fine now. Hurts a bit, still, but I can manage.”

Claire’s smile was the brightest he’d ever seen. “That’s the advantage of being a young and strong lad, I suppose. I’m sorry I didn’t check on your shoulder earlier. I wasn’t…”

“Dinna be sorry, Claire. My wound is nay problem. My main problem was something else, but I can see we solved that, now.”

She nodded and took his hand between her own. “Thank you, Jamie,” she said, eyes full of gratitude.

“Let’s go Sassenach,” he entreated and nodded at the general direction of her house.

They couldn’t hold each other’s hand in case someone saw them but their fingers were brushing as if on their own in an attempt to maintain contact. Jamie felt his heart full when he realized that Claire was doing that on purpose.

When they arrived at her neighboorhood Claire looked around, searching, Jamie guessed, for Claudel. His friends were still playing whipping tops but Claudel wasn’t with them this time. Claire asked Jamie to wait on the bench they sat the first time he was there and entered the building where her room was. A few minutes later, Claudel was trotting down the stairs with his curls bouncing around and a wide smile on his face.

“Milady asked me to accompany you, Monsieur, while she gathers her medicines,” he said and after noticing that Jamie gazed at the building, he added, “You can’t see our room from here, Monsieur. It’s at the back, right behind that one, there.” He pointed at the window on the right side on the second floor. “But Milady will be back in a minute.”

“Aye, thank ye, lad. May I inquire if my snake is in safe hands, still?” He winked at Fergus.

“Oui, right here!” he exclaimed while carefully removing the snake from his little pocket.

“And what is this exactly?” Jamie heard Claire’s teasing from the building’s entrance. She patted Claudel on the head and took the snake from him.

“It is mine, Milady!” Claudel answered and after glancing at Jamie he shyly added, “for safekeeping.”

“Sawny,” Claire read at the back of the snake but before she had the time to ask, Jamie answered her question.

“Aye, ‘tis mine Sassenach. My brother used to call me that.”

Claire gave him a rueful smile and gently traced the letters carved on the wood. “So you bribed your way to find me?”

Jamie laughed. “What else could I do? Bribing seemed the only way to get some information!”

“It wasn’t Sawny that persuaded me to tell you where Milady was!” Claudel protested. “It was the things you said!”

“And what things would these be Claudel?” Claire asked with a mischievous smile.

Jamie eyed her through narrowed eyes and said in a stern tone, “That would be between us men. Right, Fergus?”

“Oui! I mean… yes right,” the boy hazarded, with a failed attempt to deepen his voice.

“Fergus?” Claire looked at both of them inquiringly, raising her eyebrows.

They both laughed and nodded but neither of them explained.

“Anyway,” Claire resumed with a shrug. “I guess I’ll find your secrets sooner or later.” She looked intently at Jamie, before adding, “I always do.” When he smiled warmly, if not a bit contritely, at her, she walked to him. “Now let’s see this wound of yours.”

Jamie sat on the bench and Claire examined his wound for a while. Then, with a satisfied smile, she cleaned, redressed it and informed Jamie that it was healing really well.

“You mended it Sassenach. I was sure that it would.” He wouldn’t trade the blushing that coloured her cheeks for the world. 

***

Four days, they’d agreed. Four days, to make sure that nobody had recognized Jamie on his way to Saint Antoine or saw them together by the river.

The image of Claire in his arms, safe, protected and cared for had become his strength to endure the torture of not seeing her. That he’d been there to support her when she fell undone in his arms that was the best gift Jamie could ever ask for. Now she was again alone and away and this thought filled him with dread.

Would she be all right?

He knew Claire was as strong as any person could ever be. She’d survived without him before, although he had no knowledge of other people in her life apart from wee Fergus. She was bold and spoke her mind, and even though these were some of the traits that drew him to her, he couldn’t deny that they meant trouble. Disappointed on how useless he was that far from her, he kept counting the hours until they would meet again.

A neutral place, where anyone could go without drawing attention. They arranged to meet at the small park behind Notre Dame. Claire could justify her presence there because of the proximity of L’ Hôpital des Anges, where she volunteered, and Jamie could very well pass from the Ile de la cite on his way to meet clients of the wine shop.

With his mind on the upcoming meeting with Claire, he’d hardly heard what Annalise was talking about in the last half hour. Walking with her in the Jardin des Tuileries, he kept a pleasant façade to hide his eagerness to see Claire but the unconscious smile at the thought of her wild curls and her beautiful smile couldn’t be avoided. The hours lingered too long and Annalise’s voice sounded even more irksome than before.

Realizing that he had to find any possible information regarding Comte’s Saint Germain whereabouts, he focused his attention back to Annalise just to hear her saying, “So, tell me your mind on this, dear James? Will you attend the promenade in the Luxemburg gardens the Monday next?”

Of course he would. Not that he wanted to go and mix with these people again, but the promenade would give him the perfect chance for some eavesdropping. Jamie already knew that on the 15th of July the King had withdrawn his army regiments from Paris and the following day he recalled Jacques Necker, his reformist finance minister whom he had dismissed from duty on July 11th, to the ministry. That was a great win for the third estate. Following that, the King himself returned to Paris on 17th of July and was welcomed by the new mayor of the city. He was given and wore the tricolor on his hat; red and blue, the colors of Paris, and white, the royal color. What a success!

But nothing had yet finished; this was just the beginning. The aristocrats fled the city like migratory birds, trying to find a warmer place to keep their valuable lives. Nobody knew how they would react when the common people demanded some of the power, but they were not expected to react to that magnanimously. Jamie had to gather more information about them, to keep them from hurting more people and prevent them from stopping the revolution. If he was going to find more about the Comte Saint Germain from Annalise, he might as well start trying more.

“It would be an honour to attend the promenade, Milady,” he responded to her inquiry. “May I accompany you?”

Yes, right, grand yourself some more tiresome hours, James Fraser.

“Oh, yes of course James!” Her smile was wide, and for a moment Jamie felt disgusted with himself.

He faced her, this time really looking at her. It wasn’t that she was a bad person. She was kind and conversational, at least with him. Her thin and short stature, combined with her sweet face, made her look like a child next to him. However, even before meeting Claire, he’d never considered advancing this friendly relationship to another level. He needed a woman, not a girl, and lucky he was that he’d finally met her. And now that he had indeed met her, he realised why he never saw something more in Annalise. Her company never spoke to his heart and he didn’t feel drawn to her. He could walk by her for hours – not that there was another option – but he never felt eager to extend their meetings. 

To think that Claire felt jealous of her! Ah Dhia, to be such an extraordinary woman and think of such nonsense!

Still, he gave hopes to the girl when he shouldn’t. He would never take advantage of her feelings if things were different. But now the world was on fire and this was not the real James Fraser, this was all a play – and a dangerous one to boot.

“So, my dear Annalise,” he said, swallowing his remorse. “Do we have any news of the kind gentlemen that had to leave Paris with their families?” he asked cautiously. “What a terrible thing to happen and how concerned I am for them!” he added in good measure.

Annalise responded with a monologue that lasted more than five minutes, informing him of two families that she knew about, but nothing of interest.

Finally, he called for a carriage and accompanied her back home.

On his way to the Ile de la cite his heart was pumping like crazy in his chest. He wanted to arrive first, to see Claire coming to him and savour every little move of her body. The few benches behind the church were empty now, and he sat on one in the far end of the park. He closed his eyes and listened to the river and the cheerful birdsongs from the trees above his head. The sun warmed his face and he thought of the countless hues the sunlight would create in her curls. It would be in mere minutes that he could touch her again. Jamie smiled at this thought and opened his eyes. Claire was standing still at the entrance of the small park, watching him. When he caught her, she blushed and lowered her face.

Jamie used all his will to stop himself from rushing to her. Claire checked the park with a subtle move of her head and then walked cautiously towards him. He abstractly counted her steps, each one bringing her closer. To his surprise, when she finally reached him she didn’t come to sit by him but opted for the bench right behind his. She turned slightly on her side to face him and almost whispered, “Hello”.

“Isn’t this bench of your liking, lass?” Jamie teased but felt the disappointment spreding in his chest. She hadn’t chosen to sit at his side. 

“Well, I suppose it is just as fine as this one,” she gestured to her own.

Jamie swallowed his pride and made to join her but her raised hand and the shaking of her head made him stay where he was.

“But why, Claire?” He didn’t even try to hide the sadness from his voice.

“We have been much too careless, Jamie. I… I’m afraid that if someone sees us talking we can’t very well explain why and how we know each other.”

“Aye, I ken that Sassenach but we are alone right now.” There was not a soul around. When would they be so lucky again? He wouldn’t give up so easily.

“Indeed we are. Now,” she emphasized the last word and locked eyes with him, trying to convey her message.

“Mmmphmm”

“What?”

“I hoped for something more than whispers without even seeing ye, Sassenach.”

“Well, this has to do for the moment,” Claire replied, raising her eyebrows and searching in her bag for something. She picked a book, opened it on a random page and turned her back to him.

“If ye say so,” Jamie finally complied with her request, albeit unenthusiastically, and turned his back to her as well.

“How were these past days for you?” Claire asked in a low voice.

“Waiting to see ye again made them hard, Sassenach. And here I have ye and ye turn your back to me.”

Jamie heard her chuckle and wished he could see her face. Her hair was tingling his nape and he inhaled the herbs and lemon scents reaching him.

“So, Claudel demands everybody to call him Fergus now. Who would expect that!” she faked her surprise.

“Does he then?” Jamie smiled, satisfied.

“I assure you he does. He claims that he is a man now and Fergus is a name better suited for men than Claudel is. You made my everyday life a bit more difficult, calling him again and again before I remember that I am saying the wrong name!” He could hear the laugh in her voice and bit a smile of his own. Then she asked in a more somber tone, “How were your walks?”

“The same Sassenach – hard. I’m attending the next promenade to find out more about the Comte Saint Germain. We are searching for him.”

She didn’t reply.

“Sassenach?”

“Yes, I’m here. Well, the Comte isn’t going to make it easy for you, I’m sure. As far as I know him, he is a man of sinister ways.”

“You know him? Did ye work for him?” Jamie inquired, perplexed. “This is how you knew François?”

“Well, no. I…” Claire trailed off and took a deep breath as though steadying herself. “I have a secret as well, Jamie. A secret I want to trust you with.”

She was tense behind him and he wished he could turn around and hold her, as he did by the Seine. He didn’t care about any secret of her, as long as she didn’t lie to him. “I’m here Claire,” he tried to encourage her. “I will never betray ye, you know that.” 

“Yes, I know. For a reason I can’t explain, I knew from the first time we met. This is why I told you part of my story that night. I felt… safe with you.”

Jamie could feel her ramrod straight behind him. “Give me yer hand, Sassenach. It will be easier if we touch.” He extended his hand behind him and felt her fingers graze it lightly, searching for him. He grabbed her hand and their fingers intertwined instantly. Claire sighed, more relaxed now.

“Do you remember what I told you about my uncle? The professor?”

“I do.”

“When he was alive we lived in the centre of Paris, in one of the beautiful houses looking at the Seine. François was one of our servants. He lived with his family in our house, given to us by the University. My acquaintances were different, back then. I never particularly liked the company of the nobles, so pretentious and shallow, but it was a peaceful life. My uncle was nothing like the rest of them, of course, he always treated everyone with love and respect. When he died, I was forced to –”

Jamie dropped her hand and felt her body jerk.

“Shhh,” he whispered and immediately said, “Bonsoir, monsieur,” to the dark man that was heading towards them. He looked familiar, but Jamie wasn’t quite sure where they had met before.

“Bonsoir, monsieur,” the man replied with a curt nod and sat on the bench next to Jamie’s.

The moment the man’s voice filled the air, Jamie heard Claire’s sharp inhale.

Chapter Text

Bloody Hell.

Merde. Merde. Merde. Merde.

 

Claire repeated the words, again and again, as though they were a prayer to the God of dematerialization and she would be helped out of this situation with a single pop! that would make her vanish.

So see kept cursing.

Seeing that her “prayer” had no effect, she tried the second easier path. Anger and denial.

Why out of all the parks and gardens in Paris, Randall had to appear just now in this one?

All sense had left her body since the moment she heard his voice.

With no answer on her legit question, she decided to curse some more. 

Finally, Claire gritted her teeth and accepted that she had to deal with the matter. After taking two deep breaths, she pondered the best way to react.

There were two options. She’d either sit there, pretending to read the book that – luckily – was still in her hands or she would leave as soundlessly as she could. Surely Frank wouldn’t remember her; he hadn’t seen her for almost nine years! She was just a girl back then and in a totally different attire to boot. If she managed Frank to see only her back while she walked away… But what about Jamie? He remained silent at the moment but what if she made to rise and leave? Would he then talk to her?

Having so much to risk, Claire decided to play safe. She would wait for the bloody man to finish reading the paper he held and leave.

Damn you, Frank Randall, you and your walks in the parks.

Claire looked through the dancing letters in her book and memories buried at the back of her mind. The devastating years after Lambert’s death; the loneliness, the despair and finally the decision to take what she wanted. She’d made it all by herself and wouldn’t let anybody take that away from her.

Her anger and fear were raising again, her lips pressed into a thin line.

No, she wouldn’t let Randall meddle with her life.

And something was different now. She was older and stronger, of course, surer of what she could accomplish – but it wasn’t just that. She wasn’t alone anymore. She had Jamie.

Said man was still sitting on the bench behind her. Claire knew that he wouldn’t abandon her and she focused on his presence to calm herself. When her breathing synchronized with his, she found that she could finally focus and read the letters on her book. 

On the small paper placed between the pages as a bookmark, she had scribbled a note some years ago. It was a quote from Mr. Edmund Burke: “Never despair; but if you do, work on in despair.”

Let’s see how this goes, Mr. Burke .

Claire waited as patiently as possible but she soon realized that both she and Jamie couldn’t linger there long. Frank seemed lost in his reading. Maybe she could now try to execute the alternative plan without raising suspicions.

She returned the book in her bag with steady moves and slowly rose from her seat. Jamie remained sat, feigning to study their surroundings, but she could see the set posture of his shoulders. When he heard her rising he made an awkward move, as if his shirt was too tight on his back. With her head down and her eyes fixed on the ground, Claire moved as quietly as possible. She walked between the benches where the fierce Scot and the lean Englishman were sitting praying her heartbeat was as loud to them as it was in her eyes. The moment she left them behind she resumed her breathing and felt her chest filling with hope. He hadn’t seen her, thank God. She could escape!

It was in the midst of her way to the little iron door when she heard Frank’s voice. “Claire?” he sounded uncertain and Claire resolved not to stop. She forced herself to keep the same pace as before and not to run, even if her body urged her to rush out of this place.

No, that would raise more suspicions in Randall.

“Claire?” he repeated, a little more positive now. Claire continued walking.

She heard footsteps and felt a hand grabbing her arm. Frank forced her to turn around and the moment he saw her, he started shaking his head.

“What is this, now, Claire? A kind of disguise? I have to inform you that it almost worked!” He was even smirking now. “The contrast of your beauty and value, Claire, with the rags that you wear…” He seemed disappointed. “Where have you been all these years?” The force on her arm increased with the question and his smirk was transformed into a stern and angry look.

“Mr. Randall, please let me go. My whereabouts don’t concern you,” she responded acerbically.

“That’s your opinion on the matter, darling,” he said lewdly without releasing her arm.

“You’re hurting me. Let me go!” Claire gnashed her teeth ready for a fight.

She didn’t need to do anything else, though. In two strides Jamie was between her and Frank, towering him and saying in a stern voice, “Take yer hands off the lady”

Frank seemed surprised. In his excitement to see Claire, he must have forgotten the other person in the park. “And who might you be, to order me?” he requested.

“The lady has been clear enough. Take yer hand off her. Now.” A red hue started creeping from Jamie’s neck towards his face.

Seeing the huge angry Scot and then Claire again, Frank finally let her go.

Claire made a run for it. While she was passing through the iron door she heard him saying, “This isn’t over, Claire, we need to talk.”

With her heart beating frantically, Claire ran to her house.

***

Someone was knocking on her door, in the dead of the night. It was so subtle that at the beginning that Claire thought she’d imagined it. The next knock was clear enough though.

He had found her.

How had he discovered her so quickly? Claire held her breath and checked on Fergus. Luckily, the boy was so exhausted of the day’s chores and play that only a cannonball would wake him. If she feigned that nobody was inside, maybe Frank would tire and leave.

The knocks didn’t stop. They hadn’t become louder, as she’d guessed – only more frequent. Maybe he was afraid of waking the rest of the residents. And well so, because if they’d see him dressed as he was in that afternoon in the middle of Saint Antoine, his future wouldn’t turn very prosperous – if he’d have a future at all.

The last knocks were accompanied by a voice. It was almost a whisper and Claire tiptoed to the door. She heard him more clearly now.

Only it wasn’t Frank’s voice.

In an abrupt move she opened her door and Jamie almost fell on her.

“Oh, Sassenach,” he said in a breath. He took her in his arms and she left his shoulders droop, as though all his strength left his body.

“Jamie, what are you doing here?” she whispered and took a step back to allow her eyes roam on his body and check for injuries.

“I needed to be sure that ye’re alright, mo nighean donn. After this afternoon…” he trailed off and took hold of her face with both his hands. “Are ye alright?”

Claire was so moved by his troubled expression that it took her a few moments before replying. “Yes. Yes, I’m alright. Thank you, Jamie.”

“I tried not to interfere, Claire – I really did. But when I saw him hurting you and forcing you to talk to him I…I just couldna bear it.”

“I was so lucky – well, I clearly wasn’t lucky to see him at first place – but I was so lucky you were there. I don’t want to think what would have happened if –”

“Dinna say it. Nothing happened and nothing will happen to ye, as long as I am with ye. I’m here, Claire, and I willna let anything hurt ye.”

Claire smiled ruefully at that. “I wish we could just do this.” A moment later, the realization hit her. “You shouldn’t be here Jamie. It’s way too dangerous.”

“Aye, now that I saw ye I can leave.”

“But wait, how did you know where my room is?” She frowned at him.

“A had some assistance from a wee friend, ye ken,” Jamie smiled and nodded towards the pallet where Fergus was sleeping.

“A wee fiend, you mean.” Claire smiled, shaking her head before she turned to face the boy that now, in his sleep, looked like an angel.

When she turned back to Jamie his face was somehow transformed. He looked at her with awe and care, as he had done before, but Claire could now see something more in the blue depths of his eyes. It was a feeling that awoke a pure force in her body; a force that pushed her soul out of it – ready to be handed to him. Her breath became shorter and she was suddenly highly aware of her inappropriate appearance. She stood in front of him, only in her shift.

She didn’t have time to react and reach for something to cover herself.

Jamie, with dark eyes, raised his hand and slowly caressed her jawline before weaving his fingers in her loose curls. At that moment Claire nearly forgot everything; her appearance, the danger of having Jamie there, the sleeping form of Fergus two feet behind her. Closing her eyes, she revelled in his warmth. His hand tilted her head lightly towards his direction; a suggestion, an inquiry for admittance. Opening her eyelids as from a deep sleep, Claire saw in his eyes exactly the same thing she thought he could see in hers. A thirst to drink from each other, to share, to give and to take and leave nothing between them to keep them apart.

She placed her hand on the nape of his neck and rose on her toes while Jamie’s free arm moved around her waist, drawing her flush to him. He took her lips gently in his gifting her with a sweet and smoky taste of whisky and Claire wondered how she had lived all these years without kissing him. He licked her lower lip and she instinctively opened her mouth to him, taking his tongue in and letting all her feelings sip into her kiss. Her body was burning and she knew her heart was beating the same beat as his, eager to leave their confinements and unite as one.

When they had to pause for breath, they reluctantly left some air to invade the space between their mouths. With their bodies glued to one another, his forehead leaning against hers, they breathed each other in until their heartbeat started slowing down. It took an awful lot time for that a slight decrease in their pulse to be achieved.

Jamie smiled at her, looking at her riot curls, now even worse because of their kiss. “Mo nighean donn,” he whispered.

“What does that mean? You’ve said this one before,” Claire asked, eager to know.

“Aye, it means my brown-haired lass. Claire…” he stopped, blushing. “I’m sorry I didna ask ye for permission before kissing ye – I… I wasna able to stop or to think properly wi ye glowing, like the moon in a dark sky, so beautiful in front of me,” He finished his sentence with his chest heaving and dropped his eyes as though the floor had suddenly become extremely interesting. 

Claire laughed at that and cupped his cheek with her palm, raising his head to look him in the eye. “If I didn’t want you to kiss me, Jamie, you’d know it – believe me.”

He grinned. “I s’posed that, Sassenach. Risked having a black eye tomorrow, did I?” he teased.

She shrugged, attempting a most innocent look.

Jamie grazed the back of his fingers on her cheek. “I have to leave now, Sassenach,” he announced ruefully.

Claire nodded, her eyes now on the floor to hide her disappointment. “Yes, you have to.”

“When will I see ye again? Tomorrow?” Impatience and hope fought for the reins of this tone making her smile again.

“Tomorrow?” Claire paused to think. “Yes. Tomorrow will be just fine. At four o’clock, at Master Raymond’s apothecary. It’s close to the Louvre,” she suggested, only now thinking that they would be much more protected in the apothecary than in any other place. She had to explain to Raymond, of course, but it was a far better option than any public place. Why didn’t she think about it before?

“No,” Jamie said resolutely, attracting Claire’s bewildered glance. “How will ye come there? No, Sassenach, ‘tis not safe” he explained.

“I’ve been there often and Master Raymond is a friend. It will be alright,” she assured.

“Are ye sure Claire?” he asked, still worried.

“Yes, it is safe Jamie. Trust me?”

He nodded. “Be careful, Sassenach. If anything happens and ye canna come, I’ll come back here tomorrow, aye?”

“No! It’s too risky, Jamie. I will be there. Now go!”

Jamie shook disapprovingly his head and whispered something in the Gaidhlig but leaned to her with a smile. Claire felt his fingers in her curls and his lips soft on hers and eagerly reciprocated the kiss. When they reluctantly stopped, Jamie took her in his arms and kissed her forehead. “I already miss ye, Sassenach and I haven’t even left ye yet,” he said in a husky voice.

He buried his head in her hair once more and was lost in the dark.

Chapter Text

Jamie heard the church bells spread their sweet heavy chimes thrice.

One more hour.

There would probably be no chimes in the air in the years to come. The corruption of the church and the higher clergy wealth were more than obvious and most obnoxious to the people. Jamie didn’t mind about the Catholicism in France. He was raised a Catholic but the ministry of the church in France was now far from being holy. The clergy were becoming the First Estate of the realm and this had nothing to do with the word of God. The church was the largest landowner of the country and making a tremendous income from the outrageous taxes given from its tenants – tenants that didn’t have enough to feed themselves and their families. Jamie had heard that it was a plan of the Revolution to abolish the privileges of the First and Second Estate. When done, the church would finally lose its power on people’s lives. They would be free of its rein and maybe the clergy found their way back to God.

But the pealing of the bells was a thing on its own. Jamie liked the bells. They provided stability and normality, a reference point during the day. Their sound filled the air as if it was solid, filling each and every empty space in the atmosphere with purity and hope. Hearing them was a gift of peace and he always had that strange feeling that they were ringing just for him. Following him around during the day, they were always there, invisible but strong and filled his heart with an inexplicable optimism.

That sound would soon to be no more and even though it would be a pity to lose their beautiful chimes, the joy of losing their master’s effect in human lives was making him anticipate that day with all his heart.

For now, the bells were aiding his counting of the hours passing; the hours separating him from Claire.

He’d been eager to leave the wineshop since morning and he’d already asked Murtagh – as nonchalantly as possible – if he knew where Master Raymond’s apothecary was. The man gave him one of his usual frowns but answered nonetheless. Before he could make inquiries of his own, Jamie engaged a client in conversation all the while planning his escape. If Murtagh was right, he would need less than fifteen minutes to reach the apothecary from the wineshop. He would start earlier than this, though. He didn’t want to be late and have Claire wait for him.

A little after half-past three he made to collect his coat and leave.

“Where d’ ye think ye go lad?” Murtagh asked, seeing Jamie from the corner of his eye. So much for avoiding him all day.

“I thought I could take a break, a goistidh. I’m working since dawn, aye?” Jamie replied with an innocent look.

“Ye’re working since two hours past down, lad. If ye recall I couldna wake ye up this morning. And from the moment ye’re on yer feet ye didna stop smiling and whistling, ye wee gomerel.”

“Aye, ‘tis that a crime then?” Jamie asked, grinning even now.

“’Tis no crime but I canna say ‘tis good and well either. Jamie lad. What d’ye have in mind?”

“Nothing.” Jamie shrugged and attempted to change the subject “Are we expecting another batch of red wine today?”

Murtagh replied with a nebulous “Mmmphmm”, totally ignoring Jamie’s attempt for a fresh conversation. “Ye met wi’ Annalise yesterday? Is she the reason for yer…” Murtagh gestured at his face with a frown.

“Annalise?” Jamie couldn’t hide his surprise. When he realized that he had actually seen Annalise the day before, he nodded. “Aye, we met.”.

“Ye’re in love wi’ the lass then?” Murtagh was frowning, his black eyebrows almost connected.

Jamie couldn’t but only laugh at that. “I dinna give a fig about the lass Murtagh – in a personal manner that is.” He looked Murtagh in the eye and continued somberly. “She’s alright, I s’pose. But ye know that I am seeing her as… a matter of business.”

“Aye, business ye say and business is what I knew. Till yesterday, that is. But now wi’ ye smiling like the cheetie that got the cream…”

“Well, her skin is like cream,” Jamie whispered too low for Murtagh to hear. “I have to go man, dinna fash, aye?” he said louder, facing a worried Murtagh. He was still grinning when he headed to the door.

“We’ll talk when ye come back, d’ ye hear me lad?” he heard Murtagh’s determined voice from the back of the shop.

“Aye, we’ll do!” he answered with a huge smile in his face.

 

Jamie ascended the numerous stairs leading to Master Raymond’s apothecary by two or even three at a time. His pulse was pounding in his temples and he had to stop and compose himself before entering the shop. He didn’t know who this Master Raymond was, but it seemed that Claire trusted him and Jamie wanted to make a good impression on the man.

The little bell above the carved wooden door rang and Jamie stopped in his tracks, trying to adjust in the apothecary’s darkness. Little bottles labeled with nice calligraphic letters were sitting on shelves all around him, clean and orderly, and a life-size crocodile was hanging from the ceiling.

Well, that was eccentric, at least.

A huge wooden counter divided the shop into two parts and Jamie saw a young woman behind it, watching him.

“Puis-je vous aider??” she asked with a kind voice.

“I’m looking for…” Jamie trailed off. Whom should he ask for? Claire? Raymond?

A small door opened at the back of the shop and a short, stout man walked towards him. He was well dressed and wore a wig, and smiled with friendly eyes while approaching. Jamie thought that he was as close to a frog as any human could ever look like, but tried to diminish such reflections from his mind.

“Bonjour monsieur,” the frog – no, not frog – the man greeted with a small nod of his head.

“Bonjour. Ye must be Master Raymond?” Jamie smiled back at him.

“Indeed I am. And judging from your accent you must be James, no?”

Jamie nodded grinning. Claire had talked to this man about him!

“So how may I help you James? Is there something specific that you need?”

Quite specific, Jamie thought. And what an exceptional choice of a verb.Need. That was true enough; he needed to see Claire as much as he needed water to sustain him alive.

A light cough brought his thoughts back to the apothecary. Master Raymond was smiling at him with a knowing look in his eyes that made Jamie blush. Shaking his head he whispered, “ah, l’amour,” and with a slight move of his eyebrows, he asked Jamie to follow him to the back of the shop.

Master Raymond opened the same door he’d used to enter the main apothecary space and a second room was revealed to Jamie. The door frame was a bit small and he had to duck as he came through it. The moment he entered the room his eyebrows shot so high, they almost touched his hairline. And Jamie had a big brow, to be sure.

Skulls and bones were all around him, placed in immaculate clean dark wooden shelves, looking at him with black holes instead of eyes. He instantly remembered the crocodile in the other room and decided that the amicable frog-like apothecary had a macabre side as well; or a queer sense of humour. The fossils belonged to various animals and the fact that – at least – none of them seemed human made Jamie feel a bit better. Tiny similar skulls were standing one next to the other while huge skulls from animals Jamie had only seen as pictures in books were in spots reserved to highlight their superiority. Everything was placed with such care, giving the sense that the owner valued each of the exhibits as a treasure. Absentmindedly, Jamie stood by the door and stared around the room.

A light touch on his palm made him turn his eyes, only to be captured from the most alluring panther-like eyes looking back at him. His heart missed a bit and then he sighed with relief.

Claire, safe, with him and her amber eyes looking into his.

Jamie smiled and instinctively raised his free hand to tuck a stray curl behind Claire’s ear.

“Hello,” he whispered and his fingers lingered a bit on her jawline, feeling her smooth creamy skin. How right Murtagh was, even without knowing a thing!

With her lips in a smile, she responded with the most beautiful “hello” he’d ever heard.

“I’m leaving you two now, but please behave!” Master Raymond said with a laugh while heading to the door.

Claire gave him a look and his smile grew bigger. “Just remember, mon chéri, you don’t have much time.”

“I know, Raymond.” Claire nodded gravely. “I know.”

With her hand still engulfed in Jamie’s she led him to a bench at the far side of the room.

“Interesting meeting point, Sassenach,” Jamie stated, looking around.

Claire laughed. “Master Raymond is not your common apothecary, to be sure.”

“What are all these, Claire? How come he possesses such things?”

“Oh, these are his pride and joy, or so he says. He will be delighted if you ask him about any of these fossils but he never talks about where and how he found them.”

“He’s a strange fellow. D’ ye know him well, lass?”

“Yes Jamie, he might be different but I can reassure you that he is never going to hurt us,”

Us. She couldn’t give him a greater gift. Every time Claire talked about them as one, the blood in his veins started dancing. With both his hands enveloping hers he accepted her reassurance. “How are you, Claire? Fergus? How are things in Saint Antoine?” he asked in one breath.

Claire laughed and squeezed his hand. “As you left them, yesternight.” Taking a stern look, she continued. “You shouldn’t come, Jamie. You should never come again.”

“I couldna but come, Claire, ye dinna understand? How could I sleep knowing ye might be in danger?”

“Coming in Saint Antoine puts yourself in danger Jamie,” she scolded.

“Not at night!”

“What if someone saw you αnd asked me about you today? What could I possibly say to explain things?”

“Ye could say I was sick,” he retorted with a smirk.

“Jamie! You surely understand this isn’t the point!” Claire said, rolling her eyes.

“Aye, I do. I had to see ye and I came and I don’t regret it a bit.” He stopped, feeling all his confidence leaving him in an instant. “Did ye regret it, Claire?”

Maybe that’s why she didn’t want him back again.

Claire ran her fingers on his cheekbones lightly before closing the distance between them. When her hand reached the nape of his neck she pulled him to her lips and kissed him, softly and tenderly,  to persuade him of her opinion.

Their kiss was long, but not enough. It seemed it was never enough.

With lips parted, hands tightly intertwined and chests heaving, they stared each other for some minutes without saying anything. Between them, it seemed that words weren’t enough either.

But they had to talk. To finish what they’d started in the park and find out what their next step was going to be.

“Who was the man in the park, Claire?” Jamie asked in a low voice.

“What did he tell you after I left?” Claire asked troubled.

“Nothing. He just looked at me, as if he sorted me in a category in his head, nodded and left with an ‘Excusez moi, monsieur’. Who is he?” Jamie insisted.

Claire took a breath and replied with tight lips while gazing at the floor. “Randall. Frank Randall. He’s a historian. He was a colleague of my uncle”.

“And?” Jamie encouraged her to continue.

“And he wanted to marry me,” she said, raising her head not to miss his reaction.

Jamie swallowed hard, trying to speak calmly and not show the pain that ran through his chest. “Are ye promised to him Sassenach?”

To his relief, her eyes became big as saucers. “No! Of course not! I’d never accepted him and he has no right on me!”

“Maybe ye didn’t, but yer uncle… Ye said they were colleagues.”

“Lamb would never do that. He told him to ask me and when he did, I refused. But he insisted. He couldn’t let it go. He would come again and again, trying to convince me of my grave mistake. I think he took it personally. It wasn’t about me anymore, it was about rejecting him. I had to leave everything behind and move to Saint Antoine for him to lose track of me completely. And it’d been nine years since I last saw him.”

Jamie said nothing but kept nodding, his brow furrowed in thought.

“Jamie, I thought he wouldn’t recognize me yesterday. We had to leave and he lingered there… I didn’t have a choice.”

“I ken that, Sassenach. We were unlucky yesterday. D’ ye think that he’ll search for ye, now that he knows ye’re in Paris, still?”

“I don’t know, Jamie. But he surely can’t come at Saint Antoine!”

“No, he canna. But he could send someone, no?”

“I guess so,” Claire said and Jamie felt the urge to take her in his arms and never let her be a step away from him. But that was still impossible.

Thinking how he could keep her safe, he came to his last resort, the least preferable but the only plausible option. “Ye have to be careful from now on, Sassenach. Be alert. If someone follows ye, ye have to stay close at home and always keep a company there around ye.”

Claire, with a sorrowful expression in her face, sighed. “Hiding again,” she murmured.  

“There is no other way,” Jamie replied stroking her hand reassuringly. “I wish I could just take ye with me, mo mighean donn,” he resumed with a rueful smile. “But this will make everything more complicated and maybe it’ll be easier for him to find ye that way.”

She nodded without a word.

“I’ll keep ye safe, Claire. I promise. We’ll find a way out of this.” With two fingers under her chin, Jamie tilting her face to bring her lips closer and kissed her, burying his desperation and putting all his encouragement in his kiss.

“And who will keep you safe?” she asked after the kiss, in higher spirits now.

“Your kiss, Sassenach.”

“Oh, a warrior and a poet! What am I to do with you, James Fraser?” Claire was smiling, lightening all the dark space around her.

Marry me.

He’d almost said it. There, amidst the skulls and the bones of long-dead animals, he’d almost asked her to marry him.

Not now ye clotheid. It’s not the time yet.

Instead, he opened his arms and engulfed her in a hug, with her cheek touching his chest and their hearts beating as one.

“Jamie?” she asked and raised her head to look at him again. “What have you done with the Comte? Did you manage to learn anything?”

“Nothing yet. I hope I’ll learn something in the promenade the day after tomorrow.”

“I was just thinking that if I remember correctly he had a châteaux in Maine. Maybe you could check if he went there.”

“Aye, that’s great information Sassenach. Thank ye, I’ll see to it. I dinna ken how long he’s going to last in Maine, though. People there took arms and support the revolution, ye ken,” he smiled, satisfied with the spreading of the revolution.

Claire smiled. “Glad I could help, Jamie.” She then added, with concern in her eyes, ”Are you going to the promenade alone?”

Now how d’ye answer this one?

“No,” Jamie replied feeling uncomfortable. “I will accompany Annalise, Claire, but –”

“It’s alright, Jamie, I know. I just wanted to know”. Her reply was firm and her lips pressed tightly together.

“I wish I didna have to do this,” he confessed, with slumped shoulders.

“I know,” Claire repeated, with a sad smile. With a sigh, she brushed her hair from her face. “We have to go. You stayed much too long in here for a wine salesman.”

Jamie snorted. “Are we meeting again tomorrow, here?”

“I don’t know Jamie. Maybe not tomorrow – if someone saw us today we’ll be making it way too easy for him. Maybe wait for a while?”

She’d better told him that he’d had to carry all the wine barrels from the warehouse to the shop for the rest of the year by himself. But she was right.

“Where is the wineshop?” she asked with a flash in her eyes.

Jamie looked at her, bewildered. “Claire, ye canna come to the wineshop, ye surely know that.”

“I can’t. But I know someone who can!” she winked at him and when his frown didn’t leave his brow, she explained. “Cl-“ she shook her head. “Fergus!”

Jamie smiled and took her in his arms again, telling her the location of the shop. “Tell him to ask for me or Murtagh, aye?”

“Aye,” she mocked him.

“Making fun of me, lass?” Jamie asked and with a hand on her waist pulled her closer to him.

“I most certainly am!”

“Well then, ye’ll have to pay for that!” He kissed her fiercely, first with mirth and then with passion, until they had no more breath.

“I’ll wait for Fergus, Sassenach. And I’ll think of ye.” Jamie took two steps backwards and bowed to her before turning to leave. 

He kept his eyes on her as long as possible, to commit her in his memory – with red lips and rosy cheeks, smiling at him.

Chapter Text

He wasn’t at the wineshop.

Claire had sent Fergus more than once to find him during the last five days. These, added to the two days that she’d waited to be sure they’d be safe made it a full week.

A full week of heartbreaking agony.

Around her, everyone continued their normal lives, as if nothing had changed; but nothing was the same.

The attacks on the aristocrats had a totally different meaning to her now. This thing was getting on her nerves.

What if Jamie was there, at the time of the attack?

She could barely breathe even at the thought.

Damned Scot! Where was he?

Louis Bénigne François Bertier de Sauvigny, the intendant of Paris, had been accused of the food shortages in the city and the starving of the Third Estate. An armed party brought him back from his estate in Compiegne to answer the charges. After being beaten, stoned and made to see his father’s-in-low battered head, they’d hanged him from a lamp post in front of the Hôtel de Ville.

Hanged him.

The words were echoing in her head.

Let Jamie be away from them. Let him be safe.

Claire felt her knees wobble at the thought of him, well dressed to stay undercover, around any of the armed parties and she reached for the closest piece of furniture to help her stay upright.

She’d tried to be calm, to continue thinking positively and believe in his promise. 

“We’ll find a way out of this,” he had said.

What this way would be? Where was the secret path bringing them safely together?

A light knock on her open door and Louise walked in to find Claire slumped on the bed.

“Are you alright, Claire?” she asked and came to sit by her, her face worried.

“Yes, just a headache. Thank you, Louise. What is the matter?”

“There is a servant, Claire, asking for you. Just outside.”

And she was thinking that things couldn’t get any worse. Her pulse drummed in her temples, her mouth dry, her hands shaking.

“A servant?” she asked in a whisper as though she had no strength to speak louder.

“Oui, he’s asking for you and I offered to call you.”

That was a nightmare, Claire decided. Just another nightmare and she would wake up any moment now.

You’re sleeping. Wake up. Wake up.

She didn’t wake up, though. The sun was still illuminating the room and Louise was in front of her, real as ever, with her kind green eyes looking intently in Claire’s.

With shaken breath, she tried to think.

He had found her. The ever bloody persistent Frank Randall. She was just a bet for him, that was sure, not that his reasoning mattered.  

“No, Louise, please.” Claire shook her head and continued, “Can you please tell him that I wasn’t here? That you didn’t find me?”

Louise nodded, her brow lowered. “Who is he Claire? Who is sending him?”

“I…I don’t know. But I don’t want anything to do with him – whoever he is.”

When Louise left the room Claire hid behind the curtain but didn’t dare look at the street. When she finally built up her courage to move the curtain just a tiny bit, she saw only his back as Louise talked to him. A minute later he was leaving.

Claire resumed breathing again.

 

***

 

Two more days without news from Jamie. The waiting was driving her crazy.

She almost wished he would come to find her at Saint Antoine. At night, when it wasn’t dangerous. Well, at least not that dangerous.

She hadn’t slept for the last three nights. She was sitting on her bed in the dark, Claudel’s calm breathing the only thing keeping her sane. She wanted to be sure she wouldn’t miss any knock on her door. His knock on her door, particularly.

Jamie hadn’t come though.

That was for the best, Claire kept saying to herself – it was safe.

 

***

 

The tenth day started with the sun bright in the sky and a dark pit in Claire’s heart.

She got dressed with shaking hands and started for Master Raymond’s. Maybe he knew something. People were talking when visiting his shop and he was good at extracting information. If he didn’t already have any news about Jamie, she could at least ask him to find out what had happened.

Her steps were fast and reckless. She couldn’t pay attention to who was on the streets anymore, who might see her. Her cheeks were flushed, her steps hardly restrained not to end up in a run, her surroundings blurred and insignificant.

With her heart in her mouth, she opened the door and heard the familiar bell ringing above her head.

“Claire, mon chéri!!” Master Raymond’s smile quickly disappeared when he saw her face. “What’s happened, Madonna?” His hands were on her shoulders trying to steady and comfort her.

Claire removed herself before he had time to hug her. She knew that with just a little bit of warmth and soothing she would crumble on the floor. Gnashing her teeth, she took a deep breath to prevent the tears well up in her eyes.

“Have you heard from Jamie?” She got straight to the point, not bothering with an introduction.

Raymond’s worried eyes crinkled just a bit before a tiny smile appeared on his mouth. “Come, Claire”

He walked behind the wooden counter and emerged with an envelope in his small hand. Smiling, he handed it to Claire.

Claire took the envelope with her name written on it by an unknown hand. But she knew this hand all too well, even if she’d never encountered the letters it created. Sitting on the small chaise Raymond had in the shop she opened the white envelope.

For a moment, she didn’t dare unfold the paper that was now in her hands. So many days of angst, worry and heartbreak had now condensed, forming a lump in her throat and blocking her breath.

She closed her eyes and drew his image in her head. His broad shoulders, his strong hands, his red curls, the immense blue eyes, the smile that filled her heart with joy.

When she felt her heart more stable she unfolded the letter. It was laconic and her eyes hoped from one word the other, consoling and frightening her all at once.

 

My Sassenach,

She breathed the letters in, as if it was the oxygen she kept missing all the previous days. His Sassenach. His.

I won’t be in Paris for the next few days.

Forgive me, Claire – I have to.

I will come back to you, I promise.

Think of me.

J

 

Claire read the small note again and again, until her tears threatened to blur the black ink letters and she couldn’t make out the words anymore.

“When?” she whispered, looking frantically towards Raymond, but the sound that left her mouth was too faint for him to hear.

With all the strength left in her, she asked again. “When?”

Raymond looked at her and came to sit beside her.

“Let me think,” he said crinkling his brow. “I think it was five days ago.”

“Five days,” Claire murmured, letting the information sink in.

“Do you want to talk Claire?” he asked her, trying to ease the pain in her face.

Claire shook her head and gave him a wavering smile, feeling that she needed all her fortitude to alter the pressed form of her lips.

After the first comfort that enveloped her with the knowledge that Jamie was alive, a bigger terror settled in her mind. Five days.

Where was he and why did he leave?

Had to leave, as he, himself, wrote?

There was no safe place in Paris, not anymore, but knowing that he was in the city, relatively close to her, was a thought that gave her courage.

Now he was away, somewhere she didn’t know, with people she knew nothing of.

Was he on a trip with the aristocrats? With his fancy Annalise?

No. Not his. Claire swallowed the bile in her throat. Just Annalise. She would never be his.

She raised the letter, reading again the reassuring part of it, to fortify herself.

I will come back to you, I promise.

With her hands in fists and her eyes closed, Claire pleaded. 

Don’t break your promise, James Fraser. Come back to me. Please.

Biting her lips, she lowered her eyes on the paper.

Think of me.

Silly man. Like he didn’t occupy every nook of her existence already. Every minute. Every day.

Rising from the couch, Claire ran her fingers on his letters.

Oh, God. Let him be safe.

Chapter Text

Days were coming and going, the sun rising and dropping in a red sky, leaving the night to envelop the city of Paris in its darkness. Wounds were mended and other wounds were opened but the wound in Claire’s heart remained there, exposed and painful.

A part of her was missing.

People in Saint Antoine were happy, were angry, were fierce and revengeful; were winners. What they were not, was sated. Their thirst for blood was far from quenched.

The first and second estates were on the losing side. The National Constituent Assembly abolished the tax paid to the Church and the nobility’s privileges bringing the end of feudalism. And this end was far from quiet. The aristocratic society was destroyed. On the 26th of August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was published.

On the 26th of August, more than a month had passed since Claire first met Jamie. And almost three weeks since she last saw him.

Three weeks were far too many. Many more than what Claire could endure. She stayed at home, keeping Claudel – Fergus – close. With Jamie missing and Frank searching for her, Claire knew she was far from safe. After her visit at Raymond’s, Fergus had gone twice more to the wineshop to search for Jamie but both attempts were fruitless.

Claire’s nerves were on the edge. She kept silent most of the days, screaming inside her head with despair. She couldn’t show that though, she couldn’t leave her emotions free because she knew that they would devour her.

Only at night, in her sleep, she heard her voice screaming, waking her up. Screaming her fears. With her guard down, dread always found her.

He might be dead.

One thought, tearing her into a million pieces.

Fergus always came to her bed after these incidents, hugging her with all his might, with his tiny arms around her waist and his head cuddled under her chin.

“He will come back Milady,” he would say. “I have his snake. He will come to take it back.”

And the saddest smile was reaching Claire’s lips.

 

***

 

The servant who was trying to find Claire came to Saint Antoine three more times after than morning. She was now sure that he was sent from Frank. He wouldn’t leave her alone, even though she didn’t belong to his world anymore.

He was seeking retribution. He needed to punish her for not accepting him.

But how did he know where to find her? Had the servant searched the whole Saint Antoine, looking for her?

Fergus had memorized his face during his second visit and was always alert to warn Claire in case the man was around again. Protecting her, her little man.

Lucky as she might be, Clare knew that she couldn’t avoid him forever. Sooner or later he would see her. She started wearing a cap to hide her riotous curls from sight, and that meant a lot for Claire.

She hated caps. She had declared at the age of sixteen that she would never wear them, her uncle laughing at her antics. But he let her do as she liked. She had never worn a cap before their arrival in France, and she didn’t change that because of the French noblemen.

Years later, Clare changed her resolution the second time the servant asked after her. She needed a disguise and if wearing a cap could save her, it was a must-do compromise.

 

***

 

When Fergus came in their room that noon, stopping at the door to catch his breath, Claire was certain that Frank’s servant was around again.

“What is it, Fergus?” she asked with her heart in her mouth.

“Mtgh was… was… here,” Fergus said gasping between breaths, with his curls moving frenziedly as he bobbed his head. Claire couldn’t understand for whom he was talking about and that scared her even more.

“Who is here?” she inquired, as she approached the rose-cheeked boy.

“Murtagh, Milady. The man from the wineshop. The one with the beard.”

“Murtagh is here?” Claire exclaimed with huge eyes and raised eyebrows, all her fear vanishing. “Where? Where is he?”

“He left Milady.” Seeing Claire’s face clouding again, he rushed to continue. “He said that everything is alright. He said he will come back. At night, at one o'clock. You must be ready. He will knock your door twice, he said.”

“Did he say anything about Jamie, Fergus?” Claire asked when the boy passed on all the information he had.

“No, milady. Just this. Je suis désolé.” Fergus replied, with a forlorn look on his face.

“Thank you, mon chou.” Claire smiled and planted a kiss on the top of his head. Her little man wrapped his arms around her and she held him tight until his boyishness decided that their embrace had lasted too long. 

Thirteen hours until she could find out what had happened. Thirteen more hours of agony.

What did Murtagh’s visit mean? He’d said that everything was alright, but if it was so, why hadn’t Jamie come? Why he had to send Murtagh instead?

Something was amiss and doubts crawled around in Claire’s mind, like snails leaving wet trails behind and making her twitch with grim thoughts.

If Jamie was dead would Murtagh come at night to let her know? Wouldn’t he just call her at that moment? Did he need time and less commotion so he could console her?

No, Jamie couldn’t be dead. He had promised.

What if he wasn’t dead just yet but he was mortally wounded?

Claire resolved that she would do everything she could to keep him with her. But she had to be by his side.

A lighter thought came then to her, that Jamie was fine, sending Murtagh as a precaution not to be caught.

Wouldn’t in this case Murtagh set an appointment for them? They could still meet at master Raymond’s as they had initially planned.

Claire’s mind was racing, thinking and rejecting all possible explanations.

She had no patience, not anymore, but she had no choice other than waiting, either.

 

***

 

At midnight Claire was ready. Fergus was sleeping on his pallet and the room was submerged in the dark. A tiny slice of the moon was visible in the night sky, in the company of millions of stars; each one standing for a painful beat of Claire’s heart during all those days away from Jamie.

She heard the clock chiming at half-past twelve. Just half an hour now. Just half an hour away from the truth, whatever this truth would be.

Claire heard three light knocks on her door. The sound was feathery in contrast with the bold hand behind the wood, producing it. Wrapping herself in her shawl she opened the door to see the grump man. Murtagh’s face was adorned with shadows and scratches and Claire felt her chest tightening.

He nodded at her and said, in a low voice, “Mistress. Follow me. Stay right behind me and hide in the shadows. Don’t talk or make any other noise.” Taciturn as ever.

Claire could only say one thing in return and this came out only as a whisper. “Jamie?”

“Aye the lad is well – considering. Ye’ll meet him promptly.” He then started towards the stairs, ascending them like a ghost, without releasing a single sound.

Claire followed him out at the street and then towards the centre of Paris. In all their way her thoughts were focusing on the Murtagh’s reassurance, as if on a prayer.

Ye’ll meet him promptly. Ye’ll meet him promptly.

They were deep in the western part of the city, way further than the Louvre and very close to the Royal Palace, when Claire noticed how far they had gone. She should never come here, but Murtagh was walking fast and she followed him without great effort, her adrenaline reaching extremely high levels.

Ye’ll meet him promptly.

She didn’t care if she wasn’t safe anymore. All her being was focused on Jamie. Walking for him. Breathing for him. Living for him.

Murtagh took a turn and stopped in front of the second house in the dark street. It was as huge and luxurious as the rest in the neighbourhood. It was ironic to think of such huge differences in lodgings within thirty minutes walking distance, but this was how things were. This was why people saw no other way but to fight.

Rounding the house, Murtagh led Claire to a door that she surmised was purposed for the servants. The door opened without a crackling noise and their feet sank in the soft deep pile carpet. It was almost ten years since the last time Claire had felt a carpet subsiding beneath her steps. She revelled in the wonderful feeling. 

They went up the stairs and through a long corridor full of portraits. She tried to see if some of the faces reminded her of Jamie, but most of the men and women were dark-haired. The light was too little to see any other of their characteristics.

At the end of the corridor, Murtagh stopped and opened a door. Instead of entering, he pushed Claire lightly on the back to lead her in front of him.

Claire had taken two steps inside the room when she heard the door softly closing behind her, leaving Murtagh outside in the corridor.

The room was simple, a single candle on a bedside table spreading more shadows than light around it. Claire’s eyes trailed from the table to the double bed next to it, its metal frame drawing eerie shapes on the wall. In the middle of the bed just opposite her, Claire saw what would rip her heart away.

A trembling breath escaped her body, leaving her unsteady – but she didn’t give in her weakness.

After a whispered, “Oh, Jamie,” she ran to him.


Claire runs to Jamie, by the wonderful @cantrixgrisea (here)

image

Chapter Text

Every day the sun goes up and falls in the horizon, alluring us in a circle of life that promises stability. We believe that everything important remains the same, even if it’s not quite there to catch it, like the sunbeams that creep in a dark alley, their heat enough to dry the wet cobblestones. In life’s misleading assurance, we take things for granted. Like seeing the color in someone’s irises. Listening to a quiet, unlabored breath. Holding a hand and feeling the fingers tighten against our own.

Claire’s heart sank in the pit of her stomach when Jamie didn’t respond to her whisper, his hand lifeless under her fingertips. It tightened when she saw the wounds on his shoulders, trailing down to his chest until they disappeared under the plaid blanket that covered his body. It cracked when she saw his other hand, laid carefully on his stomach, wrapped in blood-stained cloths.

But the coarse, whistling sound that left his body with each breath kept her heart whole. He was still breathing. He was still there.

A sliver of hope brushed Claire’s heart, and she held tight on it, securing it in place. 

Claire moved a few auburn locks away from his damp forehead, placing a tender kiss between his furrowed eyebrows. He was burning up in fever but her lips made the wrinkle disappear and she smiled to herself.

I’m here. I won’t let anything happen to you now.

Slowly, ever so lightly, she brought her lips to his feverish forehead, his straight nose, his cracked lips.

“Damn you, Jamie Fraser. You scared me half to death,” Claire whispered when she parted her lips from his, leaving only an inch of air between them, to share his breath with her eyes shut.    

“I’m sorry, Sassenach.” It was a croaked voice, one that faintly reminded her of the sweet, deep voice she knew but it was his voice, nonetheless, and sounded like the most beautiful sound to her ears.

“Jamie! Oh, Jamie!” Claire felt her breath knocked out of her body as she whispered his name, lost in the unfathomable blue of his eyes that looked back at her hooded from fever. Falling on her knees next to the bed, her hand searched his, only to stop and hover above it, unable to touch it.

“How do you feel?” she asked in a shaking voice.

“I’ll bide,” he answered, wincing as he tried to move.

“What…? What happened?” Claire heard her voice quiver as she rose to her feet to examine Jamie’s hand.

“I had to, Sassenach.” Jamie’s tone was apologetic and he closed his eyes briefly, gathering strength to continue. “There was a wee lad, Claire, alone. I couldna leave him there.” Tears ran down his cheekbones moistening the soft white pillow, and Claire’s attention moved from the cloths around his hand to his pale face.

“Where? Where were you? Where did you find this lad?” she asked as she brushed away his tears that kept falling. Jamie didn’t move, the only mark of his distress his tears and hoarse voice.

“We attacked Comte St Germain’s estate in Maine. We’d never find it if it wasn’t for your information, Claire, and I canna thank you enough for that.” His voice was a broken whisper but he opened his eyes and Claire clasped his healthy hand hard, to help him continue. “We broke the gate and entered the house. I went myself in search for him but he… he’d disappeared, somehow. He was nowhere to be found. Maybe he had seen our torches as we approached, I dinna ken. But now he has nothing left to him, nowhere to come back. He has no power anymore and he willna terrorize anybody ever again.” The soft smile that tugged his lips up while narrating their victory was soon lost again. “The Comte wasna in the estate but the wee lad was there, all alone, Claire, hiding behind an armchair. I dinna ken who he was but they would kill him if they’d find him, just because he was an aristocrat. I knew he was, from the clothes he wore… He was less than five years old, Sassenach, rosy-cheeked and young. So young… ” He trailed off, his chaffed lips bloody from use.

Claire gulped. “So, you helped the boy,” she concluded, getting a nod from him. “And why are you injured? Who attacked you?”

“Five men. Our men. For I wanted to protect the boy.” Jamie snorted and tried for a rueful smile, only to be stopped by the painful stretch of his lips. He winced. “When they put the estate on fire I ran out with the lad in my arms, but he was terrified. He started crying and they heard him, facing us at the front entrance. Five, and me alone… I wanted to save him, Sassenach, I tried, but –”

“What did they do to your hand?”

“They aimed for the lad, ye ken. My eyes started watering from the fire’s smoke and I tried to catch the pitchfork before it reached the wee one. I missed it, and it found my hand in an… distasteful way,” he finished lamely.

Found your hand? You mean it crushed your hand,” Claire corrected him incredulously and turned her attention on the hand again. Revealing the skin underneath the cloths, her breath hitched.

Sobs started raking Jamie’s body and Claire’s heart snapped in two.

He didn’t manage to save the lad.

“They took him, Claire. Ran the pitchfork through his little body in front of my own eyes.” Painful gasps hurt his battered body but he continued through gnashed teeth as if he had to. He felt that he had to acknowledge what had happened that night, to say it aloud and face the monstrosity. “I wanted to vomit and at the same time, I wanted to kill them and take revenge. Murtagh took me away before I did either and we returned to Paris on our own.” His breath was coming short and fast, and Claire cupped his face with both hands, trying to bring him back to her – away of the madness of that night.

“You did your best, Jamie Fraser. Do you hear me?” she asked in a commanding voice. “Your best,” she repeated. “You put yourself in danger, without even thinking about it, to save the lad you’d never set eyes on before.”

Jamie just shook his head, and Claire knew he wouldn’t let her words reach his heart. He didn’t leave anything to reach it, in case he’d forgive himself.

“Listen to me, you stubborn Scot. There was nothing you could do. Sometimes we must accept what we can’t change. The violence and the death in this rising… we can’t always change that.” His glassy eyes found hers and her voice softened. “I’m proud of you, Jamie Fraser. And I need you to come back to me. Please, come back to me.”

Claire kissed his lips, wishing she could suck the despair out of him and heal him with her love. “I’m proud of you,” She whispered again and saw his head moving slightly. Not a nod, but a tiny acceptance. A beginning. He believed her and through her, he would come to believe in himself again.

“Just… Sassenach, dinna tell me ye’re proud, please. I canna take it,” he asked in a small voice.

Claire accepted his request. She didn’t want to look away from the pain in his eyes, but her mind was racing, trying to settle on the best way to treat Jamie’s mangled hand. She wouldn’t let him be a cripple. “How many days ago?” she asked, and with a kiss on his forehead her attention was on the crashed hand again.

“Yesternight,” Jamie answered and a long, shattered sigh escaped his mouth.

“Hush. Rest now.” Her voice was low, and she ran two fingers along the stubble on his jawline, kissing one tear-stricken cheekbone.

Innumerable scratches were scattered on his chest and arms, a few blisters and a hand with two fractured phalanges and a broken metacarpal. Plus the fever, which was burning him alive.

“Claire…” His voice brought her out of her reverie and she turned her head to find his eyes looking intently at her.

“Yes?” she replied promptly, while frantically searching around for a glass of water. He was clearly dehydrated and there nothing in the room for him to drink. Claire needed to ask Murtagh for supplies.

“I missed ye, Sassenach,” Jamie whispered, a faint smile making more blood ooze from his lips.

Claire’s lips mirrored his smile and she bent to kiss him, sharing the metal taste of his blood, wishing she could share his pain as well – a burden for two to carry.

“You’re one of a kind, Jamie Fraser,” she mumbled, sharing his smile and shaking her head.

“It crossed my mind… that I’d might never see ye again.” His hand searched hers and their fingers intertwined instantly.

“Shhhh. I’m here. I’m not leaving you, alright?”

“Aye… Dinna leave me, my Sassenach.” Jamie’s was barely audible and his eyes closed slowly, taking the image of her with them.

Claire examined him more closely, running the candle’s light across his body.

Someone had stopped the bleeding from his hand. Good. She would need many clean cloths to clean the wound, and then, God help her, she would need to set the bones.

She wasn’t sure she could handle the pain in Jamie’s face as she would reposition the bones.

She would need brandy, a lot of brandy. Or even better, laudanum. The less he could feel, the better.

If Murtagh had told her more about Jamie’s condition, she would have her medicine kit with her and that would make everything much easier. As it was, if the supplies she needed were not accessible in the house, Murtagh would need to go back to her place to take her kit.

Jamie’s face was still scrunched up in his light sleep, the emotions too close to the face. With a kiss on his forehead, Claire walked quickly to the door in search for Murtagh. The moment Claire set her foot in the corridor, someone opened the door next to Jamie’s.

“What d’ye need, lass?” Murtagh asked in a low voice. His room was dark and Claire could hardly see him in the faint light that escaped Jamie’s room.

“First, a glass of water, a basin with cold water and a cloth. He’s running a fever and he should drink a lot of liquids. There is not a single glass of water in there!” Her anxiety had caught up with her and her tone went from strict to exasperated. She didn’t want to unleash the panic in her heart, but she realized that she couldn’t rein it completely either.

“Alright, lass, calm down. I’ll bring the damn water!” Murtagh raised his hands in defeat. 

Of course, Claire was right, but she stopped herself before she would reprimand him further. She suspected that after they’d come back, Murtagh would have a lot explaining to do. In the madness of their return, he forgot to renew the glass of water in Jamie’s room. It wasn’t that detrimental since he had to do everything on his own and walked to Saint Antoine twice for her. In his attempt to keep his godson safe, he forgot to pay attention to the basics. Claire saw the effect of her words, in the way his eyebrows sank just above his eyes, in his empty stare,  lost somewhere in the dark corridor’s carpet.

She reached for his hand and squeezed, offering hope. “It’s alright. I can help him now.” 

Murtagh smiled and informed her that even though he insisted on nobody learning about Jamie’s condition, Jamie kept demanding that Murtagh should go find Claire. The stubborn lad was repeating her name for so many hours, that in the end, it sounded like a prayer in his lips. Having no other choice, Murtagh went to Saint Antoine to fetch her. Now that she was here, he could see the reason Jamie needed the lass. She was his lass, and her heart was as kind as his. She’d mended him before and she might as well help his battered godson now again.

“Murtagh, do you have any medicine here?” Claire asked at last.

“Ahh, I dinna think that we’ll have what ye’ll need to tend to Jamie. Where –”

Murtagh didn’t get to finish his question. “Can you go back to St. Antoine to bring my kit? Fergus is there, he will give it to you.”

“Aye,” Murtagh said and turned to leave.

“Murtagh!” Claire stopped him. “The basin and the water?”

“Aye, ye’ll have them in a minute, lass. Go in the room again and make sure no one sees ye.”

Claire nodded and walked back to Jamie’s room. He wasn’t asleep anymore, his eyes squeezed shut from pain – his heart’s pain or his body’s Claire couldn’t know.

“I’m back,” she whispered, her fingers brushing the sweat off his forehead. Jamie’s face relaxed and his lips curled in a small smile. Her presence was enough to soothe him and confidence flooded in Claire’s heart.

Jamie Fraser was a man of the heart, and his immense force always aimed to aid all those in need. He was destined to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves. And Claire was made to protect him. And the ones who needed her, of course.

When Murtagh came back with the basin and the water, Claire’s thoughts were fixed on her goal. She would heal him. She would see his smile again, his slanted eyes narrowing from joy. She would hear him laugh, this deep sound springing from his heart.

And that was a silent promise, to him and to herself.

She would do whatever it’d take, but she would bring this man back, whole and hers.

Chapter Text

Paris was quietly immersed in the night’s darkness, its stillness disrupted only by the ticking and tocking of the heavy clocks hanging above lavish fireplaces in the houses around the Royal Palace. At moments like these, Paris could fool any ignorant person that it was just another city in the world, sleeping under the moonlight. A cool breeze was sweeping away the sun’s heat from the streets’ cobblestones and the dirt had finally found some peace lying serenely on the earth, undisturbed by feet, hoofs and carriages. The city’s people though, were another matter altogether. The people were breathing in the same air from two different sides and that made peace nothing but a wishful thought.

Claire knew that this calmness was a delusion, like the silent seconds when breaths are held in people’s chests before the deafening war cries lurking behind push free again. Still, she found herself calming down as she brought the cloth from the cold water to Jamie’s forehead again and again, trying to fight his fever with the meagre means she had.

With Jamie’s heavy breathing as the only sound in the room, Claire silently praised God for the transient reprieve he found. His respite didn’t last long though, before his sleep became restless and he woke up gasping, hands furiously gripping the sheets.

Nightmares took him by the hand and lead him back to reality. Back to the terror, back to helplessness and self-condemnation. A boy’s face, stricken with tears, moments before the last of his voice was heard among men’s shouts.

Swallowing, Claire tenderly held Jamie’s mangled hand between hers to protect it from his own instincts and ran her fingers through his sweaty locks. She wanted to bring him back to her, even though she knew that a present where the fire had already eaten everything and the boy was dead was not a welcome thought. But she was there and he was alive. There were things that couldn’t be changed, no matter how hard one tried to relieve the world of pain. 

When Jamie’s breathing became even and his eyelids closed from fatigue, she focused her attention on the street outside, trying to listen for the steps bringing Murtagh back. It took her only a moment to realize that in fact, she didn’t want to listen to anything. If she could hear Murtagh other people would too and it was never a good thing to find a man walking alone after midnight, no matter if he carried a medicine kit or three kittens with him.

It was more than an hour later when Murtagh came back from St. Antoine with Claire’s medicine kit and a wee stubborn curly-haired with sleepy eyes behind him.

Claire’s bulged eyes were answered by a taciturn “Mmphm,” from Murtagh.

“Fergus!” The surprise was evident in her whisper. “Why aren’t you at home?” Her eyes moved from the boy to Murtagh and back as she bent to her knees to hold Fergus tight from his upper arms.

“The lad didna take no for an answer. I told him ye’d go back tomorrow morning but the wee gomerel followed me and I didna have time to go back and lock him in.”

Claire shook her head in dismay and tilted the boy’s head with a finger under his chin so she could look into his eyes. “What you did was very dangerous, you surely know that. You should stay at home.” Her tone was strict but she knew that Murtagh, who had spent many hours raising another stubborn lad, could listen to the concern woven in it. 

“I go where you go, Milady. I have to protect you!” Fergus exclaimed, and Claire hushed him before he could continue.

“We have to be quiet. We’re not supposed to be here.”

Fergus’s repeated nods, together with his tightly pressed lips made Claire smile, and she petted the boy’s head. 

“And I brought this!” Fergus gave the louder most excited whisper possible, with glinting eyes and a huge smile as he presented Jamie’s snake. “I took care of Sawny, but I thought Milord might want him back.”

“Milord?” Claire questioned but couldn’t hide her smile at the boy’s conclusions.

“Oui, Milady.” Fergus’ cheeks adopted an adorable rosy hue and his eyes focused on his worn shoes. “Is he sick?” he asked glancing at Jamie lying on the bed.

“He’ll be alright, don’t worry, mon chou,” Claire reassured him, fervently wishing that she wasn’t lying.

“Oh, I don’t Milady. I know you’ll heal him!” the boy said with a broad smile, sure of her capability.

Fergus’s positivity brought some light in Claire’s heart. “Alright, then. Keep Sawny so you can give it to Jamie later. Are you tired?”

“Oui. It was a long way Milady.” Fergus stretched his limbs, as he always did before falling on his palette. 

“Dinna fash, lass. The laddie can sleep in my room. Aye?” Murtagh intervened and nodded towards his room.

“Aaaaaye,” Fergus agreed with a yawn and followed Murtagh to his room. Just as Claire turned to retrieve her medicine kit from the floor, Fergus ran and trapped her in his little arms, hugging her as tight as he could.

With a kiss on his forehead, Claire bade her little rascal goodnight and walked to Jamie’s side.

She replaced the cloth on his forehead with a colder one and extended his arm to the side, taking his hand tenderly in hers. Murtagh came in with a basin of boiled water and more candles.

“I’ll be next door for everything else ye might need, lass,” he said and squeezed Claire’s hand.

Claire turned abruptly to look at him, surprised by his gesture. Seeing the concern in his eyes, she knew. Jamie meant a lot to this grumpy man, and he had all his hopes in her for mending him. 

Thanking him, she turned her attention to Jamie and took the bottle of laudanum from her kit.

It would be a long night.

 

***

 

It wasn’t easy to work on Jamie’s smashed hand. It wasn’t only the difficulty of setting each bone correctly. It was his pain that troubled Claire the most because she could feel it as her own. She couldn’t compartmentalize as she usually did while working. No matter how much focused she was, with her hands stable and every move deliberate, she could still sense him. The laudanum was helping, but Claire couldn’t miss the fine line of his white, pressed lips, almost disappearing from his face. Every time Jamie flinched from the pain, her heart sank a little deeper in her chest.

She was soaked in her own sweat when she was done, Jamie’s hand nicely splinted and dressed in clean boiled cloths. The darkness had subsided, giving its place to a light grey before the sun would burn the sky red. A new day, a new beginning. If she was to return to St. Antoine she should wake Fergus up and leave. With the day’s light it would be far too dangerous to move across the city.

But how could she go? How could she leave Jamie, still in fever and pain?

With a final look at his supine form on the bed, Claire set her jaw and made a decision.

She wouldn’t leave, she would find a way to stay hidden in Jamie’s room throughout the day. Going back to St. Antoine was not safe anyway. The moment she’d run out of lack, Frank’s servant would find her.

Frank and his persistence were a lose around her neck, getting tighter with each passing day. She needed to breathe and she couldn’t breathe away from Jamie. At least not anymore.

It was almost an hour later that Jamie moved, slowly opening his eyes.

“I’m here,” she whispered and ran her fingers against his high cheekbones.

“Ye’re here.” He let out a breath and a tiny smile tugged his lips up as his eyes shut again, reassured that she was by his side. A moment later he opened them again, terrified, and almost popped out of the bed. “Why are ye still here, Sassenach? ‘Tis morning!”

“Yes, thank you, Jamie. I noticed.” Her eyes moved to the sunbeams entering from the cleft between the heavy curtains bringing their magic in, a trail of dust flying in the room like golden flakes.

“Ye should have left, Claire!” Jamie brought her out from her reverie. “If someone sees ye here…” She placed a hand on his chest easing him back on the mattress. “Tis no safe, Claire,” he insisted with his back was on the bed once more.

“Nothing is safe anymore, Jamie,” Claire stated with a rueful smile.

“Aye, but here – ”

Her lips were on his before he could finish. “I’m not leaving you. You’re still feverish and I’m sure this hand is making you suffer.”

Jamie huffed a resigned sigh. “I canna convince ye otherwise, can I?” At her negation, his eyebrows almost touched the spot above his straight nose. “And it’s already late. Dinna leave this room, mo chridhe. Please?”

“I won’t.” Claire smiled and placed a cold, wet cloth on his forehead. “I wonder how we can get some broth in here, though,” she murmured.

When she looked at him again, his gaze was fixed on her lips. Smiling, she bent above him on the bed and kissed his good morning.

 

“Milord! Milord!” A happy voice filled the room and a hoping Fergus got in, his smile so broad it almost reached his ears.  

The question in Jamie’s eyes was obvious, but all Claire did was to shrug apologetically.

“I brought Sawny!” Fergus explained, coming next to Jamie’s bed with the wooden snake in hand.

“Aye, ye’re a bonnie lad Fergus. Thank ye for taking care of him.” His smile was warm, lightening the pain in his face. “Seeing as I am a wee bit injured at the moment, d’ye see fit to keep him a little more?”

“Aye!” The boy mimicked Jamie. “But you feel better, right?” he asked eagerly. “Milady healed you?!” he half-declared, half-asked.

“Aye, lad. She did.” Jamie’s eyes trailed back to Claire, carrying along with his admiration and a thousand silent thanks.

Fergus turned to Claire, his big eyes full of hope. “Will we stay here, Milady?”

“Yes we are, Fergus. For today.” The disappointment her words brought to the boy was clear, but she didn’t want him to think that they could live with Jamie forever.

“So we will go back?” Fergus asked, his face scrunched up at the thought.

“Of course we will.” Claire swallowed hard. She knew exactly what Fergus was thinking. Living at St. Antoine meant they were risking their lives every day, especially if someone found they would be missing today. But it wasn’t as if they had another choice.

“And the man?” the boy asked, his deep frown making him look much older than he really was.

Claire glared at Fergus hoping that he wouldn’t divulge any more information, but it was already too late.

“What man?” Jamie’s eyes, red from fever but alert, sought Claire’s.

“No one. Fergus, where is Murtagh?” Claire tried to change the subject.

“He left. He said since we didn’t leave at night you decided that we’d stay. He then told me not to leave the room and left,” Fergus informed Claire. “He had business to attend to,” he added, like a proper gentleman.

“Yet, you left the room,” Claire scorned.

“Just to come here! I’m going back right now, Milady!” Fergus announced and before Claire could utter a word, he ran to the door. He opened it slightly, checking out at the corridor, and left the room leaving Jamie and Claire alone.

“What man?” Jamie asked again, with a frown on his face similar to the one that Fergus carried.

“Jamie, this can wait. You really need to rest.” Claire moved to the bed, gingerly sitting on Jamie’s side.

“No, it can’t,” Jamie stated with bloodshot eyes.

“You’re hurt. You need sleep,” Claire repeated, determined to stop the conversation. 

“I willna have my rest until ye tell me, Sassenach.” His eyes were burning in hers.

“Stubborn – ”

“Scot,” he finished for her. “Aye. Tell me.” The tiny smile on his lips made his demand softer, but not weaker.

Claire swallowed the lump that rose in her throat and told him about Frank’s servant and how he found where she lived and pursued her, day after day.

Jamie’s face darkened, a shadow hiding the blue of his eyes, making them almost black. His stare was glued on the tapestry on the wall.

“Jamie? What is it? Do you feel unwell?” The inside of her wrist was already on his forehead, her other hand reaching for a wet cloth. When she moved the cloth to his forehead, he jerked away from her, creating a distance between them.

“Jamie?” 

Jamie lowered his eyes on his mangled hand. “First the lad and now this. I canna believe what a fool I am.”

“What?” Claire asked in her thick English accent, unsure how the lad was related to Frank’s servant.

“I left ye here, alone, even though I knew. I knew ye were in danger, I’ve seen the man wi’ my own eyes and yet, I left ye alone. I went to Comte’s estate risking yer life here and even there, I couldn’t save the boy. I did nothing, nothing.” It was a torrent of whispers, tumbling out of his chapped lips while his eyes never rose to find her. “And now I came back and ye take care of me instead of the other way around.”

“Jamie.” Claire cupped his face with her hands, bringing his eyes level with hers. “You did right to go and you did everything you could to help the boy. Don’t cross yourself thinking of something that couldn’t change. As for me, I’ve been alone for quite a while, you know. I can fend for myself. I’ve done this before.” Her voice was sure and strong, even though she knew that no one was safe in the madness they were living.

“But that was before…” Jamie trailed off.

“Before?”

“Before I met ye.” Jamie looked deep in her eyes, so much that Claire thought he could see her soul. “I wanta take care of ye, Claire,” he whispered. “And now…” His eyes left hers and he stared on his hand. “I canna.”

“Of course you can! And you know what, you stubborn Scot?” Claire said with half a smile. “I want to take care of you, too!”

That brought a smile on his coarse lips. “And ye do, Sassenach.”

“And I intend to continue, if that’s alright with you.” Claire kissed his burning forehead. “We’ll find a way. I’m staying here, for now, under your protection, until you decide you’re stronger than this fever and get better!”

“For now? Ye canna possibly wanta go back to St. Antoine!” Jamie exclaimed, his eyes almost glinting with rage.

Claire had never thought that a man in so much pain could feel enraged, but apparently, she was wrong. “I don’t want to, Jamie. But that’s my house. I’m not abandoning my house again for Frank Randall! I won’t run away from him my whole life.”

“So ye’ll wait there, till he finds ye?” Jamie was furious at her decision.

“He… He won’t find me,” Claire tried for her most affirmative tone.

“Sassenach,” he started but winced as he moved his hand. “Claire, dinna go back there.”

“I can’t stay here either. I’m not supposed to be here!”

“Claire,” Jamie gulped. “If ye go back, and he takes ye… What am I supposed to do, Sassenach? I canna leave ye wi’ him! I canna leave ye at all!”

“Oh, you won’t leave me. He won’t find me. Fergus and I have a plan.  I don’t leave my room when Frank’s servant is around. He never saw me.”

“Aye, that’s verra wise Sassenach.” The irony in his voice stung Claire deep in her heart. She withdrew, her turn now to create some distance between them. 

 

Jamie felt her cold stare and uneven breath, the temperature in the room falling with every second. He raised his hand in an attempt to reach her, but she stood up and walked to the window. “Mo nighean donn,” he whispered regretfully, as her brown curls got lit by the sun, a million hues of brown filling the room that reminded him of the brown highland cliffs under a grey sky; they reminded him of home. “This plan doesna guarantee that he’ll not find you, eventually,” he said in a much softer tone.

“I know.” Claire’s jaw was still set, but the frown on her face softened. “It’s the best I can do.”

“Sassenach…” Jamie didn’t continue, his thoughts about his incompetence too loud in his head. He should protect her but they only thing he could do now was lie in bed, helpless.

“Get some sleep, Jamie.” Claire didn’t move from the window and her tone was more professional than he was used to. Cold.

“Claire…” he tried again, wishing that she’d come back to sit next to him.

She didn’t.

He rose, then, the pain running through his body like fire, burning him to the core and causing a grunt to leave his lips. That drew her attention.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“I need ye to see me, lass. I need to show ye. I didna mean to offend ye before. I’m sorry for what I said. I didna mean it that way. Ye just scared me, is all.”

Claire’s eyes softened and she moved towards him, slowly lowering him back to bed. When his back touched the sheets again, Jamie wrapped an arm around her, holding her in place.

“Forgive me?”

A touch of a smile came to settle on her face. “Forgiven. I’m just tired of men telling me what to do. I knew you didn’t say it that way, I just…” She shook her head, dismissing her thoughts. “Forgive me, too?”

“Ah, lass. There is nothing to forgive.” Jamie gave her a warm smile before adding, “Come here?”

It was a few inches that kept them apart and Claire lowered her face, taking his lips in hers. She kissed him softly, trying not to hurt him, but he was reckless and deepened the kiss, welcoming the pain it brought.

He’d welcome any pain coming from her.

He ached for her to lie next to him, tangle her feet with his in bed and feel his heartbeat under her fingertips. 

But she could do none of these yet.

Instead, she sat on the bed next to him and leaned in to kiss his broken hand. His forehead. His cheekbones. His jaw. And finally, his hungry lips that ached for her. 

 

As Claire felt his tongue grazing her bottom lip and her heart beating erratically in her chest, she wished they’d met in another era, where people would be less blood-thirsty. 

If that time would ever come.

Chapter Text

Jamie pressed his lips to a tight line, his gaze lingering on Claire as she prepared her medicine box – or what was left of it. The light leather box was now almost empty; Jamie had depleted her stock of salves, gauzes and herbs. She was due to visit Master Raymond’s, and Jamie knew he couldn’t accompany her to protect her. He wouldn’t be anywhere near her from the moment she left the house to go back to St Antoine.

Claire paused for a moment, checking the medicine kit one last time before securing the box closed. The candlelight drew trembling shadows on her face obscuring her characteristics, sucking the golden hues of her eyes and making them shine dark the moment they met his. 

He saw that she was ready to leave in the set of her mouth. Full lips slightly pressed, no smile lurking at their corners. He heard the almost silent breath she let loose before wrapping herself in a black cloak to be effectively concealed in the city’s shadows and return to St Antoine safe. He saw, and heard, and sensed her, and he hated every minute of her preparation. He hated that he had agreed to let her go.

His fever had dropped the day before and the pain in his hand was now a silent, constant throb. Claire hadn’t left his side for five days, sleeping on the big armchair Murtagh had moved into the room for her, and Jamie wished his recovery was slower, if only to wake up once more and see the way the sunlight turned her unruly curls into twisted beams of brown and gold. 

“Will ye give us a moment, man?” he asked his godfather in a strained voice that didn’t sound like his. Murtagh’s gaze travelled from him to Claire before he cleared his throat and walked out of the room to wait for Claire in the corridor. 

Once the door was closed, Jamie took Claire’s hand in his as though he could anchor her there, in the middle of his room. It wasn’t enough. The next moment he was pulling her closer, breathing her in. He cupped her face with both hands and planted a tender kiss on her forehead. 

“Promise me ye’ll be careful a nighean,” he said, his lips still against her skin.

“Jamie…” Her eyes locked with his and she sighed, resigned. “I promise. You know I’m always careful,” she added with a pointed look. “Don’t worry about me. Murtagh will take us back home and tomorrow I’ll talk to Louise before doing anything else. If my absence has raised questions she’ll let me know. I won’t stay there if it’s not safe. I’ll come back here tomorrow after dusk, just as we planned.”

“You trust her, right?”

Claire narrowed her eyes at him. “For the hundredth time, yes. I do. Stop worrying, Jamie.”

“I’ll try to find more about Randall,” he vowed. 

Claire nodded. “I hate that you have to do this.”

“And I hate letting you go.” He took a curl between his fingers, then tucked it behind her ear. “The more we know, the safer we can keep you.” 

“I know. I still hate it.” Her fingers brushed against his neck and he felt a familiar burn running through his body, enticing him to hold her closer.

His lips found hers and Jamie kissed her until he could think of nothing else but the scent of her curls and the taste of her mouth. When they parted, he whispered against her lips the words that pumped out with every beating of his heart. 

“What does that mean? Tha gaol…” she tried to repeat it and his breath hitched in his throat. 

“I’ll tell ye next time, Sassenach,” he promised and took a painful step back from her. “If ye need anything, sent a message with Fergus.”

“I will. And Jamie?” She paused, to make sure she held his full attention. “Stay away from St Antoine. After the attack in Maine, they won’t be kind to you. What they did to François…” she trailed off. “Just let Murtagh find the man you used to pass the information on and explain everything to him. Don’t go to him and don’t try anything heroic.”

“Your will is my command, Sassenach.” He gave her a crooked smile and watched her eyes narrow in response.

“I’m serious.”

“Aye, me too. Stay safe. Meet me at Raymond’s in three days if ye can. If not, send the lad and I will come for ye.”

“Murtagh,” she corrected. “Murtagh will come for me.”

“Aye, Murtagh.” Jamie sighed. “I’ll miss ye.”

“I’ll miss you too, Jamie.” Her smile warmed his soul as she leaned closer to kiss him again. She never did though, and Jamie felt her startle in his arms when he heard the door crack open. 

“Come on, lovebirds. We really need to go and if I stay with this wee gomerel one more minute I swear I will throttle him.”

“I don’t want to stay with you either! Your room stinks!” the boy complained and rushed into the room to stand next to Jamie and Claire.

“That’s the divine smell of whisky, lad,” Murtagh chuckled. “One day we’ll make a man out of ye.”

“I am a man!” Fergus declared and looked at Jamie, seeking confirmation. 

“Aye, ye are. And ye’ll take care of our damsel here in case she founds herself in distress.” His eyes travelled from Fergus to Claire, and he gave her a cheeky grin. 

“I’m not a damsel in distress and I never will be.” Claire took a step back, crossing her hands in front of her chest and raising an eyebrow at him. 

“I’ll save you, Milady!” Fergus reassured her with a smile, blatantly ignoring her statement. Jamie bit his lips to stop himself from laughing, but Murtagh was already snickering next to the door. 

“You’ll pay for that, Jamie Fraser,” Claire threatened, now pushing a finger against his chest. 

Instead of replying, Jamie took her in his arms and kissed her until he felt her body relaxing against his. A strange noise left Fergus’s mouth and a huff was heard from the door.

“We’re leaving,” Murtagh announced a moment later, interrupting their kiss. 

“We are,” Claire agreed.

“Come back to me,” Jamie whispered, as though in prayer.

“Always,” she promised, and with a last quick peck on his lips, she took Fergus’s hand and joined Murtagh at the door. 

Jamie saw them to the end of the hallway before returning to his now empty room. He would give everything to keep her with him, but the time hadn’t come. Not yet.

***

Annalise’s elbow felt wrong and heavy in his elbow. Jamie kept nodding at her words, listening only to half of them – half, at best. 

“I was worried that something serious had happened to you,” she was saying, her big eyes darting from his face to his hand. “Papa said the attacks increased and the insurgents are brutal and provocative…” she trailed off, gracefully shaking her head as her noble mother taught her to. Her eyes fell on his bandage again. “I am truly happy it was just an accident at the warehouse and nothing worse. You have surely heard what happened to Comte St Germain,” she said, fear and disgust mingling in her face.

Jamie nodded once more, willing the thoughts away from his head. That night, the fire, the boy… He couldn’t let himself tumble down into that rabbit hole again. This wasn’t the time nor the place to think of how he’d failed that day. 

“Terrible,” she murmured. “Dreadful. They say they burned him in his own house.”

A wry smile curled up a corner of Jamie’s mouth. The Comte was a smart man, that much he had to admit. He’d vanished and wherever he’d gone, he told no one and let everybody believe he had perished in the flames. A convenient death, that was.

Jamie didn’t need to do much to keep the conversation going; Annalise was capable enough to talk for both of them. Keeping her voice in the background as they walked in the gardens, he focused on the noblemen and noblewomen around him with the hope he’d spot Randall among them.

He identified Jacques Necker instead, standing next to his wife and gazing at the roses. He stood with his back straight, his gaze on the flowers his wife was showing to him. Jamie wondered how the man felt, whether he still had a mind for such trivial things. Within a month Necker had been asked by the King to leave the country and then recalled by both the King and the Assembly. He’d come back as the finance minister after his successor, the 74-years-old Joseph Foullon de Doué, was hanged from a lamppost. But Necker didn’t need to fear such a fate. With his proposals for more fair taxation, he was one of the popular ones. He’d attempted to divide the peasant’s land tax and the capitation tax more equally and to abolish the value-added tax amongst other reforms. He had even succeeded in doubling the representation of the Third Estate to satisfy the nation and advised the King to make the necessary concessions before it was too late. The King, of course, hadn’t taken his advice.

“Madame, Monsieur,” Jamie bowed as Annalise curtsied next to him. 

The couple greeted them in response, but before Jamie had time to talk again, a nobleman joined them and invited Monsieur and Madame Necker inside. A moment later they excused themselves and Jamie was left alone with Annalise again.

“Maman told me that Madame Necker had been engaged to an English historian who broke her heart before meeting her husband. And he was in love with a widow! Would you imagine? Quite the scandal!”

“People canna always rule their hearts,” Jamie replied acerbically, having no interest to feed or be a part of her gossip. Annalise smiled warmly at him, happy with his comment. Jamie didn’t care to correct her assumptions. 

They continued their stroll in silence. Jamie had lost himself in thoughts of Claire when Annalise mentioned that the uniforms of the British army officers were dazzling.

“What a beautiful red,” she said. 

Jamie looked at her puzzled, then followed her gaze to find the subject of her observation. 

A man was standing a few feet away from them in a bright red uniform, talking to two ladies. Jamie swallowed his disgust. 

English Bastards.

It was only for a second that Jamie’s eyes fell on the officer’s dry and serious face, but it was enough. The similarity was unmistakable. The dark hair, the set of his jaw, the slender build. The man looked exactly like Claire’s pursuer. 

Bile rose in Jamie’s throat and he guided Annalise towards a path that would take them away from the man. He did glance back, though. He needed to be sure. 

How was that possible? Claire had told him that Frank Randall was a historian, her uncle’s colleague. 

“Would you happen to know that man, Annalise?” he inquired as they walked towards the Orangerie. 

“Who, dear James? The officer?” she asked, glancing back at the man with a frown so light that didn’t distort her face. Claire always frowned with all her features, ending up to have deep lines between her eyebrows and he loved it. “I think I have seen him before, but I can’t be sure. I can ask maman, though.”

“No, there’s no need to. Merci, Annalise.”

The idea of going back to talk to the man crossed his mind, but Jamie quickly turned it down. He would ask Claire when he would see her again. It was safer this way, curiosity be damned.

In two days, he thought, and a genuine smile lit up his face. Claire had sent word with Fergus. For the time being, she was safe at St Antoine. People had inquired regarding her absence and she said the truth; an invalid needed her to tend to him and she needed to stay at his house for a few days. Fortunately, nobody asked questions about the person in need of her aid. 

Louise had welcomed Claire back with a big smile and news. The servant who was looking for her had visited twice, the last time carrying a note. It wasn’t sealed, and Louise handed it to Claire with the confession that she’d read it. 

“What is this about, Claire? Are you in trouble?” she inquired when Claire opened the note. 

Be careful. 

Claire had truthfully replied that she was as confused as Louise had been. Jamie thought of the note again. In her letter, Claire had said that it was carefully scripted but it wasn’t signed. The two words burned a flame in Jamie’s heart. 

His first thought was that the message was a threat from Randall. The man had to know something and planned to reveal it the moment he reckoned was detrimental for Claire. But in her letter, Claire had insisted that this was just a warning. For what, she wasn’t sure. Neither she was sure of Frank’s motives, but the servant didn’t visit St Antoine again after that. 

That was one of the many reasons Jamie craved for any information concerning Randall. Any clue that would help him understand what the man wanted from Claire. Anything would be helpful, and yet he had nothing.

He felt useless. Annalise didn’t know Frank Randall and neither did his uncle. On top of that, he hadn’t found any information that would help him regain his credibility with the rebels. Murtagh had met with Jamie’s connection and fed him a fake story that would hopefully excuse his behaviour during the attack. Something about losing his older brother in a fire and losing his mind when he saw the child in the manor. Murtagh had said that the man thought about it, nodded, but didn’t seem very convinced. 

And now Annalise was telling him that her father was considering leaving the city. She invited him to join them in Provence, but Jamie politely declined, claiming that he couldn’t leave his business in Paris. 

“Oh, oui,” Annalise chuckled. “They may try to burn the whole of France, but wine is wine.”

“Wine is wine,” Jamie repeated, not sure of how to respond to this. Had Annalise been sarcastic? Had she realized that wine would never be enough to keep him away if he really wanted to be with her?

At last, he accompanied her to her house and returned to the wineshop. The day was still bright, and he walked along the Seine with his thoughts darting from Claire to Randall and back. A man with a familiar face passed by him. A customer of the shop, maybe. Or someone frequenting the same gardens and balls he did. He was plain, with common features, forgettable for the majority of people but Jamie never forgot a face. 

He reached the shop when the sun hung low above the horizon, painting the sky orange and purple. His uncle was alone in the office, surrounded by orders and receipts. 

“Will ye need me, uncle?” he asked as he entered. “Murtagh isna here and I can help with the orders if ye want me to.”

“No, lad. I’ll finish them by myself. Murtagh left because I told him what I’ll tell you now. Go back home and rest. We’re expecting a large delivery from Portugal tomorrow, and I will need all the help you can offer then.”

With a last goodbye, Jamie left the wineshop intending to do exactly what his uncle had asked from him. 

He was whistling a song his mother used to sing at the end of the day, when they were all in the parlour, sitting close to the fireplace. He hadn’t written to Jenny in a while. 

Tonight, after dinner, he thought.

Distracted as he was, he didn’t notice the two men creeping up to him from behind. And when he reached the next crossroad two more joined them. Together, they could knock down any man, even a tall, broad-shouldered, strong lad as Jamie. 

Chapter Text

Claire glanced at the door, then back at Raymond.

“Don’t worry, Madonna, I’m sure he’s as eager in being here as you are. Something must have kept him behind.” 

She didn’t doubt Jamie wanted to meet her and that made the fact that he wasn’t sitting next to her in the dark apothecary all the more disturbing. Claire’s gaze was fixed on the big wooden clock hanging on the wall behind Raymond’s counter and she kept worrying her bottom lip in a failed attempt to distract her mind from worrying. 

“I will wait for half an hour,” he resolved, murmuring more to herself than to inform Raymond. “If he hasn’t arrived till then, I will send Fergus to find Murtagh at the wineshop.”

The minutes came and passed by, like indolent strollers by the Seine on a spring day. The front door opened and closed, and every time a customer got inside Claire’s heart leapt inside her chest. But none of them was Jamie. 

It was an hour later when Claire started for St Antoine, her quick pace barely matching the volley of thoughts firing inside her head. She found Fergus first thing, and he bolted down the street as soon as he knew where he needed to go. 

He wasn’t away for more than an hour, but to Claire, it seemed like an eternity. Maybe two.

“Milady, milady,” he gasped for breath when he returned home. “Milord…” He placed a hand at his side to relieve the stabbing of a stitch. “He wasn’t… Murtagh wasn’t… A man…”

“Fergus, mon chou, stop.” Claire gave him a smile despite her worry. He kept referring to Jamie as Milord, and it was really sweet, if not a hasty deduction. “Take a breath, collect your thoughts.”

The boy opened his mouth as though to deny the offer, but thought better of it and closed it again. A minute later, with the air in his lungs guaranteeing a normal breathing rate, he spoke again. “Milady, I didn’t find Milord or Murtagh. There was another man there, and I know I shouldn’t talk to him but I was curious and you were waiting for an answer and I thought… I thought it wouldn’t matter if I spoke to somebody else if it was only this one time.”

“And what did this man say?” Claire asked, her concern enough to make her overlook Fergus’s disobedience.

“He said Milord and Murtagh weren’t there, and I better don’t go searching for them.”

Claire didn’t know what to make of this. For some strange reason, she expected that Murtagh would be at the shop and she could get her answers. Now she remained in the dark, with both Jamie and Murtagh missing, and she didn’t know what to do. 

“Fergus, I’m afraid I have to ask for another favour,” she said, still unsure if it was wise to ask such a thing from the boy.

“Anything Milady!” Fergus almost jumped with the need to be useful.

“I want you to go to Jamie’s home tomorrow, early in the morning, before Murtagh leaves for work. If Jamie is there, tell him to write to me and wait for his letter. If he’s not but you find Murtagh, ask him if Jamie is alright, and where has he been. Can you do that for me?”

“Oui, oui, Milady! I can go now, I remember the way!”

Claire smiled and ruffled the boy’s curly hair with affection. “I doubt you’ll find him now. We have to wait until tomorrow. Maybe Murtagh and Jamie had to tend to certain issues…” Claire trailed off, thinking of Jamie’s insistence on procuring information regarding Frank Randall.

What if somebody found out and let Frank know? The Scot was a man with a purpose, and a stubborn one to boot. If only he gave up on that. Frank’s servant hadn’t shown up at St Antoine after Claire’s return, as though the single note he’d left was everything he meant to say. 

Be careful.

She hadn’t expected a message like that and she didn’t know what to make of it, but she was sure it wasn’t the threat Jamie read into it. Claire had pondered multiple times on the message and replayed the incident at the park close to Notre Dame in her mind. This was the last time she’d met Randall and he wanted to talk to her. What did he want to say? And why had he insisted so much?

Jamie had defended her back then but Randall couldn’t possibly know about her relationship with him. Thoughts were feeding on her hope like moths in old furniture. What if Frank was behind Jamie’s absence?   

She surveyed her replenished medicine supplies, as though a full kit would somehow heal the dull ache in her heart. With Fergus out to play with his friends, Claire started brewing a chamomile and peppermint tea for Louise’s sore throat. It had been days with her cough not improving a bit, and she often complained of headaches. 

Claire had already boiled the water when three heavy knocks on her wooden door reverberated in the silent room. She patted her dress absentmindedly and prepared herself for the worst.

What that worst could be, she didn’t know. The world was giving her so many options to choose from, these days. Wounds from fights, from accidents, festered ones that nobody had tended to for days, fresh ones still oozing blood.

What she hadn’t expected was to see Murtagh outside her door, alive and well albeit with dishevelled hair and a sheen of sweat covering his brow.

“What happened?” The words were out of her mouth before she could control herself. “Come in,” she invited hastily, stepping at the side to free the way. 

The man gave an indiscernible sound and joined her inside the room. “Claire,” he started, the ‘r’ of her name rolling on his tongue in an achingly familiar way. “I need ye to be calm and not overreact about what ye’re going to hear.” 

“Well, this introduction surely doesn’t help,” she commented with a frown.

The corner of Murtagh’s mouth curled up at her retort, but his face soon became sombre again. 

“Jamie didn’t come at the apothecary today. We had a rendezvous and he missed it,” Claire prompted him.

“Aye, I ken. And a good reason he had,” Murtagh murmured. “Look, Claire. Jamie never showed at the wineshop yesterday morning, as he was supposed to. He hadn’t come back home the night before, either.”

“Why? Where is he?” she interrupted again but her voice was no more than a whisper. 

“As I said, we lost track of him two days ago. He passed by the wineshop but Jared didna need him to stay. He looked fine, Jared said, and was supposed to come home, but he never did. I found out the morning after, foul that I am. He’d just gone to meet Annalise and it never occurred to me to checked that he’d returned.

“Murtagh, you couldn’t possibly know…”

“But I should, shouldna I? In any case, I did few things the past two days apart from searching for him, lass. I found him a few hours ago. They,” he hesitated, running a hand over his brow to wipe off a nervous drop of sweat. “They got him, Claire. He’s been held at La Force Prison.”

Claire was pretty sure that the earth kept spinning around itself and continued its well-timed rotation around the sun, that people kept going on with their everyday chores, that children kept laughing, and babes kept crying as they searched for their mothers’ breasts. Still, the world seemed to stop for her; a pause in life, an interminable empty moment that gradually got filled with the echo of Murtagh’s announcement and a stabbing pain in her chest. 

She knew what being imprisoned meant. There was no court, no order or procedure ensuring a hearing for the captives. There was no chance for them to prove their innocence, to claim a truth as their own or fake a lie and hope their deliverance was masterful enough to secure them a chance in life. 

Revolution demanded heads with no form or ceremonies. It craved for flesh like a vulture circling the dead. Cruel and forceful, justice was tainted blood-red and had a metallic taste that seemed to linger in your nostrils no matter how hard you breathed in clean air after leaving the scene.

Captives got executed. As simple as it was unrelenting. Sometimes it was a straightforward decapitation. Others, a disgraceful hanging. But at the worst of times, a public execution asked for the breaking wheel, and with the breaking of the bones came the most inhumane cheers from the crowd that turned into a mob ignorant of the fact that it could be them instead of the condemned ones – that it could still be them, the next day or the day after that.

No one was safe. Jamie hadn’t come at the apothecary because he was held in prison.

His public walks with Annalise. His house close to Champs-Élysées. Working in a prosperous wineshop. His refusal to kill the little boy at the Comte’s manor house.  

Jamie was going to die. 

They would kill him without batting an eyelash because Jamie was not a person anymore. He represented everything they hated and they would make an example out of him. 

Jamie wouldn’t look at her with that lopsided smile of his again. He wouldn’t laugh again, or kiss her, or hold her in his arms. No one would whisper in her curls or call her Sassenach with such tenderness and love. She would lose him because this was the Revolution and it was as unfair as just. Because this was men’s excuse for cruelty. 

“Lass? Lass?” Claire’s unfocused eyes found Murtagh’s again and she regretfully realized that he was as lost as she. 

“What are we going to do?” she asked, wishing the man to give her a plan, to help her out of that deadlock and force her to act. “We need to do something, quick. I can’t lose him, I can’t.”

“I tried to see him, but they didna let me. Maybe if you go…”

She grabbed his hand and walked to the door but Murtagh planted his heels on the floor, jolting her back. 

“What?” she demanded, impatient and irritated.

“If they see you there, wanting to visit him, you risk being tracked down here as a collaborator.”

“People trust me here,” Claire replied, setting her jaw. 

“And we thought they trusted Jamie, but look where he is now. I won’t risk ye getting hurt, lass. He wouldna forgive me that.”

“Won’t,” she corrected him, and when she noticed his confused face, explained herself. “He won’t forgive you. He’s not dead and he’s not going to die as long as it’s in my power.”

“I dinna ken what’s in our power, but ye’re not coming back here if you visit the lad at La Force.” 

Claire thought about it for a long moment. “No, I’m coming back,” she said at last. “If I won’t, it will be like signing off my own sentence, admitting I’m guilty. I’ll come back and I’ll find a way to get him out.”

Murtagh didn’t seem to agree but had apparently decided not to insist on his objection for the moment. They left the room less than a minute later. Fergus was playing around the corner and ran to Claire the moment he spotted her and Murtagh.

“Milady! Murtagh told me that Milord is fine!”

A quick glance at Murtagh, and Claire tried to seem as unaffected by the news as she could be. “Right,” she said and coughed to clear her throat. “I’m going to meet him now, seeing as he missed our rendezvous.”

“Can I come with you?” the boy pleaded. “Please? I want to see him too.” 

“Next time, mon chou. I need you to… to…”

“Keep an eye open for anything out of place around here,” Murtagh supplied and Claire silently thanked him for his quick thinking. There wasn’t much to keep the boy away apart from his sense of duty.

“If the sun sets and I’m not back, come to Murtagh’s house,” she directed. “Carefully.”

“Oui,” Fergus nodded seriously. “Like a shadow.” He grinned, proud of his skill. “Will you tell Milord I took good care of you?”

Murtagh chuckled despite the graveness of their situation. Claire promised Fergus that she would and ruffled the boy’s riotous curls, so much like her own. With a last stifling hug that would embarrass any boy if it came from a parent but left Fergus only squeezing back, Claire whispered, “À Bientôt, love,” and left the neighbourhood following Murtagh’s steps.

Chapter Text

Claire tried to swallow past the lump in her throat. 

La Force Prison. 

If life was a fairytale, this story would start thus: Once upon a time, Henri-Jacques Nompar de Caumont, Duc de la Force, built a wonderful complex as his private residence in Paris. 

But this was no bedtime story. After passing several hands, the war ministry had acquired the buildings before thirty-five years and the Hôtel de la Force got a brand new name and purpose. The past nine years, the proud La Grande Force, was keeping behind its walls all debtors and people charged with civil offences.

“Which building? Do you know where they keep Jamie?” Claire asked Murtagh, frowning at La Grande Force as though the stone buildings had personally offended her.

“Hopefully he’s in the one at the centre,” Murtagh returned, eyes fixed on the airiest building, situated between two yards planted with trees. 

Claire maintained her frown without much effort. “Will they let us in?” she asked, chin pointing at the entrance. 

Her gaze focused on the stocky men who guarded the entrance at Rue du Roi de Sicile and she searched her mind for the most effective arguments that might grant them entrance to the prison.

It took more than half an hour of waiting, followed by a quarter of an hour of being blatantly ignored but, finally, Claire and Murtagh were challenged into bringing forth their skill in eloquent persuasion. 

A tall, lean man had joined the other two. None of them was polite, neither they smiled. They looked at Claire and Murtagh with suspicion, but at last, they granted them thirty minutes to see Jamie.

It was a strange mix of satisfaction and dread that filled Claire’s chest as she followed the wiry man into the prison. Murtagh’s wishful thinking regarding his godson’s prison cell remained an unrealised hope – Jamie was held in one of the buildings stuck at the back, far from the entrance. When they left the main path lined with trees behind, a shiver ran down Claire’s spine with the impossibility of getting Jamie out.

There was no warmth inside the building where the guard led them, the stones indifferent and unforgiving around them. They climbed up the dark, damp stairs following the trembling light of the lantern, the sounds of their steps mingling with murmurs from cells they couldn’t see. Men and women, guilty and innocent alike. They walked down a corridor and then another until Claire started to think that it might be a trap and for the sake of the Revolution visitors would become prisoners in the blink of an eye. 

“His name?” the man asked when he suddenly came to a stop and Claire felt Murtagh halt at a hair’s breadth behind her back.

Claire looked up at the guard, aghast for a moment before she realised that the name that meant everything to her was so insignificant to him that he’d already forgotten it. 

“Fraser,” she replied, voice slightly shaking. “James Fraser.”

He turned his face to a heavy door with a narrow barred window at its centre and shouted the name loud and clear, in a voice as authoritative as demanding. The sound bounced off the walls and filled the dirty corridor, thick and heavy. Claire wiggled her fingers and clenched them against her palm as though she could grab the name that reverberated around her and protect it from getting lost in thin air. 

Maybe if she started with the name, she’d save the person too. 

She had no plan to follow, no strategy carefully thought. From the moment Murtagh had found her at St Antoine her need to see Jamie, to touch him and feel his pulse throbbing under her fingers overwhelmed her. She needed to make sure he was alive. Now that this was about to happen, with her heart loud enough to echo in the corridor, an uneasy feeling turned and twisted in her stomach. She had to get Jamie out and fast.

But how?

Jamie must have heard his name because a moment later he was behind the door with an impassive mask fixed on his face. He looked ragged, but his eyes glinted for a tiny moment when he saw Claire outside his cell. It lasted only an instant; the only reason Claire hadn’t missed it was because her eyes were fixed on him, paying attention to every little change on his face. She expected Jamie to smile at her next but saw his eyes narrow instead, and a pinch twisted the skin between his eyebrows.

“Are ye out of yer mind, Sassenach?” he hissed, grabbing the iron bars that kept them apart. “What are ye doing here?”

“Hello to you, too,” Claire deadpanned but a second later she had gone to him, covering his hands with hers. His face softened with her touch, and he shook his head. “The question is,” she said, now trying for a smile, “What are you doing here?”

Jamie sighed.

“You have fifteen minutes,” the guard announced and stepped back.

“Tou said thirty,” Claire objected, Murtagh grunting behind her. 

“Fifteen minutes,” the man repeated before he turned his back to them.

“Won’t you at least open the door?” Claire asked again, bewildered.

“No.” The merciless guard moved to sit on a chair a few feet away, left outside the cell next to Jamie’s.

“You shouldna have brought her here, man,” Jamie whispered angrily, now glaring at his godfather. “And she not even covering her face, her hair. They’ll know her everywhere now.”

“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Claire interjected. “You’ve done nothing wrong. You shouldn’t be here.” She lowered her voice to what might be mistaken for a lover’s whisper. “We need to get you out, Jamie.”

Jamie shook his head. “There’s nothing to be done, Claire.” His gaze was unfocused, lost. “I… I’m sorry, Sassenach. This is all my fault. I was careless and distracted and…” His words turned into an empty breath. “I’m sorry.”

“Stop saying that,” Claire pleaded and squeezed his hands on the bars.

“We’re getting ye out o’ here, lad,” Murtagh said as though stating a fact.

Jamie’s eyes left Claire’s for a moment to find his scowling godfather. “Ye ken that’s no’ an option, man.” 

“Jamie, don’t give up,” Claire entreated again. Then in a more stable, and forceful voice, she added, “Don’t you dare give up on me.”

“I never meant to leave ye, mo chridhe.”

“Then don’t.” 

“I canna see as I have much choice. The execution will be public, in two days time.”

“Two days?” Claire mumbled. Despair had the tangy and bitter taste of blood in her mouth. 

“I’m a traitor now. I raised suspicions when I defied them during the attack at Comte’s manor. Not a proper Jacques, I wasn’t. They followed me after that, saw me at the wineshop and with Annalise…  They think I am a spy, a merchant who pretends to be one of them to pass on information about the attacks to the noblemen and help them escape. They think I’m behind the Comte’s disappearance.” Jamie’s voice was quiet, that of a sentenced man accepting his fate. 

“But you’re not. If we make them see the truth, if we convince them that you were always fighting on their side –”

“Convince whom, Claire? Which court? Which jury? And who will talk for me? My uncle canna go in public and claim that his nephew was spying for the rebels. Murtagh, they won’t believe. And you, mo ghraidh, you had money once, moved in the same circles as the nobility. I’ll not risk yer safety for a lost cause.”

Claire was shaking her head vehemently. Jamie passed his hand between the bars of the window, reaching for her face. He hesitated for a moment, but the next his calloused hand was soft on her skin. 

“And even if ye tried, Sassenach, ye wouldna change anything. Only the men I talked to could help, the ones that got my information all these past months. And neither of them will be willing to risk their neck to help a man they think might be a turncoat twice over. They’ve seen me with Annalise, and they ken I didna kill anyone in the attacks.”

A silence fell between them, heavy as iron manacles and prison bars. Jamie traced her cheekbones with a finger, then ran his hand through her curls. 

“Promise me ye’ll not try to save me. Promise me.”

She didn’t speak. 

“Claire,” he tried again. His eyes were almost black in the dim light and he fixed them on hers, as though his gaze could burn conviction into her. “I ask that of ye, as a favour. If I mean something to ye, a shade of what ye mean to me, please dinna risk yerself doing anything foolish. Dinna try to change their minds. Stay safe, at St Antoine. Say ye came here because yer father knew mine back in England if anyone asks.” He seemed not to be convinced by the way she was looking at him. “I ken ye’re stubborn as an ox,” she paused and smiled, brushing away the tears that rolled down her cheeks uninhibited. “But some things we canna change no matter how much we wish them different. I wish we had more time, Claire, but the little time we had will be the last thing I’ll think of before leaving this place. And I need to know that ye won’t be in danger. Stay safe for me, aye?”

She didn’t speak. There were no words she could find to reply to this appeal. No solace to offer, no way to challenge his sensible arguments. But she couldn’t promise what he asked, either. 

Jamie leaned forward and cupped her head to bring her to him. Her cheeks touched the cold, filthy iron bars and she winced at the feeling, but a moment later his mouth was on hers, warm, tender, passionate, and alive, so alive that she couldn’t fathom ever kissing these lips cold and lifeless. 

When Jamie pulled away, tears were running free on his cheeks, too. “Last time I kissed ye, Sassenach,” he whispered, “I promised to tell ye what ‘tha gaol agam ort’ means. It means ‘I love ye’, and I do love ye, Claire, wi’ all my heart.”

“I love you too,” she mumbled between silent sobs. 

Jamie kissed her again, first on her mouth, then on her forehead. “Remember that. Always remember that, Claire. I will never stop loving ye. Alive or dead, my soul is yers.”

She felt like choking. 

“Will ye give me one moment wi’ Murtagh, mo ghraidh?”

With a last kiss, one that couldn’t possibly be the last, Claire stepped back. Murtagh and Jamie spoke so softly she couldn’t make out the words they were saying but she kept staring at the way Jamie’s wide lips moved, the way his slanted eyes focused on his godfather, the way the auburn locks of his hair fell on the high, flat forehead. The way his hands clenched the iron bars. 

The guard sat up from his chair and dragged it on the floor. “Time’s up,” he said, moving to stand in front of Jamie’s door. Murtagh stepped back, nodding twice at Jamie’s words. Claire wanted to go to him again, but the guard blocked the way, ordering Jamie to go back into the darkness of the cell. With a last glance at her, full of so much love that it forced all the air from her lungs, he was gone.

She stood still, looking at the door and trying to remember how to breathe. Murtagh’s arm came around her shoulders, pushing her forward, and she wondered how she could still walk, how she could go down the stairs now that she had seen Jamie, now that she knew what the future held for them.

Hope, precious shining hope, had no place in that building. So, prompted by Murtagh, she followed the lantern’s artificial light until she was out under the sun again. The sun that didn’t reach the recesses of Jamie’s cell, and he couldn’t feel against his face. The sun that made his auburn hair bright red, the sun that promised a future that would never come. 

Chapter Text

Claire walked into the little park and sat in the exact same bench he’d found her the last time she’d seen him. She could hardly believe she was there, that her plan had worked. Worked thus far, at least.

Claudel – she was still thinking of him as Claudel at times – had proved to be her little miracle. He was the one who tracked Frank down at the university, the one who passed the little note with her message to him.

Meet me at the park near Notre Dame.

Almost as acerbic as he had been. 

Despair had eaten her up when she left the prison and Jamie behind. Her freedom felt wrong. Walking under the sun when he was locked up in a small room with who knew how many other people felt wrong. Life felt wrong, death too. 

She couldn’t stop seeing his eyes every time she closed her. She could stop licking her lips wishing his taste never to leave her. 

“You need to tell me, you know,” she said at last, disrupting the long silence between her and Murtagh. “What did Jamie tell you? I won’t stop asking until I have an answer.”

The man didn’t answer, so she did. She asked again and again, and in the end, she threatened him with every preposterous thing she could think of. 

At last, he sighed and looked deep into her eyes. “Find a way to send Claire to England, this isna her fight and she’s risked way to much already for me,” he recited.

Well, who was stubborn as an ox now? 

It was Jamie’s will to send her away and Murtagh’s inability to think of a solution that had made Claire’s dejection transform into steel determination, like a larva going through a metamorphosis. She gnashed her teeth, fisted her hands and vowed to try her best to get him back. 

Nothing could be worse than losing him.

She’d told Murtagh as much and resisted his pressing arguments to stay at Jared’s house before he could secure her a safe passage to England. He’d said that Jared and he would find a way to get Jamie out of prison, but when she pressed him on she got no reply regarding how exactly they would manage that. 

A plan started getting formed in her mind. A desperate one, but as Hippocrates wrote in his Aphorisms, ‘for extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure are most suitable’. And since there was no option of a fair trial, no possible scenario in which she could vouch for Jamie and keep him safe, she had to be daring and cunny. She needed to be efficient. She needed to be enough.

Jamie wouldn’t like her plan. Actually, if she wanted to be honest with herself, Jamie would absolutely hate it.

“Claire.” His smooth voice made her head jerk in his direction, like an alarmed deer noticing the wolf for the first time. There he was, Frank Randall, immaculately dressed and with a slight smile curling his thin lips up.

“Dr Randall,” she greeted somberly and nodded at the empty space next to her on the bench. 

Her response curled up the corners of his mouth a little more. “So mannerly, now. Your note, however, seemed a bit curt. It felt more like an order.”

Claire shrugged, refraining from replying.

“And yet here I am,” Frank murmured, more to herself than to her it seemed and sat by her. “I suppose you want to talk to me?”

“Yes. And if I remember correctly from the last time I saw you in this very place, you wanted to talk to me as well.”

“I did, but if I remember correctly, you ran away. But this is in the past. As are poor Ambroise’s attempts to find you even though he repeatedly visited the neighbourhood you now reside in.”

“I am very busy, so I’m afraid I missed his calls.”

“I’m sure you are, darling.” 

His voice was teasing, and Claire didn’t know what to make of it. She decided to ignore it and get straight into the point. “So what did you want to talk about?”

“Ladies first,” he replied, gesturing at her with on open palm. “You avoided me for quite a while, so you can imagine my surprise when I got your note. And since it wasn’t signed, I was lucky enough to remember your penmanship to know that the person behind the elegant script was you.”

Claire closed her eyes to collect her thoughts. There was a reason she was there, a reason she needed Frank Randall’s help and she had to find the right words, the right way to convince him to help her. 

“Dr Randall,” she started but he raised a hand to stop her.

“Call me Frank, Claire. You used to call me Frank, once.” 

He was serious and collected but there was a hint for pleading in his voice, something that made him seem vulnerable. Claire swallowed with difficulty and started again. 

“Frank, you were my uncle’s college and friend. Our own relationship was friendly too, before everything changed.”

“Before I asked you to marry me,” he specified.

“Yes. Before that. I have to confess that I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t received your last note. This was the note of a friend, and that’s why I decided to talk to you today.”

Frank sighed. “Before you say more, Claire, since we’re talking about the past, I think it would be better if I was to speak first. I need to explain some things to you, some of the things that changed your life ten years ago.”

Claire looked at him for a long moment, wondering which of the despicable things he had done he would try to justify.

“I was in love with you, Claire. I wanted to make you my wife, I wanted to make you happy. That’s the truth of it. I would give you the opportunity to continue your studies and educate yourself at home, pursue that dream of yours to become a doctor even though I couldn’t understand why you wanted that. You would never become a certified doctor. In any case, I dreamed of a future with you, a life back in England, with children and a house with a library big enough for both of us.”

“You wanted an English wife who would be happy to leave Paris for you,” Claire said, even though she knew that her nationality wasn’t the reason Frank wanted to marry her. Frank Randall was interested in her as a person and was one of the few men who would encourage their wives to educate themselves. She had considered everything back then, but her answer still hadn’t changed.

“I loved you, Claire. I thought we’d be a good match. But I overstepped and I can see it now. I could see it back then too, but I didn’t want to admit it to myself. I thought that maybe if you gave me a chance you’d see that we would be happy together.”

“No matter what you thought, Frank, you needed to respect my decision.”

“I know,” he said, lowering his head. “I learned that the hard way.”

“And it would be nice not to get my uncle’s house from me.”

Frank let out something between a sigh and a chuckle. “That is why I needed to talk to you. To explain, even after all these years. You disappeared in a night and I couldn’t find you for years. And when I did,” he smiled wistfully, “it was just luck. I overheard a servant’s conversation with his wife. But this is not what I wanted to say. I need you to know that I made a lot of mistakes, Claire, but I never wanted to take your house away, leave you homeless. That wasn’t the reason I did it.”

She shot an inquiring eyebrow and waited for him to continue. His explanations didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore. She just wanted to go through this and ask him to help her.

Frank ran a hand on his breeches, as though a swipe a sweaty palm. “When I asked you to marry me, I was… very happy with my decision. You were young, beautiful, clever. An English woman with a man I truly respected as her only family.”

Claire’s mind travelled back to those days. The days Frank Randall was one of the most frequent guests at their house, one of her uncle’s favourites. They shut themselves in the library and had long discussions that more often than not ended in researching and late dinners. 

She didn’t think Frank was lying about his decision to marry her, or his admiration of his uncle. But then, the man he had been before the proposal was like a totally different person from the one he became afterwards. The one who ended up taking away her house in vengeance.

As if she had spoken those words aloud, Frank continued. “Let me finish, please. The moment I found the courage to ask your uncle for your hand, I shared the news with my first cousin, an officer in the English army. I did that even before getting to know your answer. I told him about you and my plans, and he saw how content I’d been. He also was the one who saw me afterwards. I didn’t take your refusal well and my cousin thought it humiliating for our family name for a Randall to get rejected by an orphan with no property and a dying uncle. He believed that our name should be respected and feared, and he didn’t want you to start rumours after rejecting my proposal. He was partially the reason I kept proposing. He thought you were one of those haughty, conceited girls that make a man miserable on purpose, to prove their worth. He was sure you’d cave in, at last. And when you didn’t, he set his mind on making you regret it. At first, he wanted to make you pay for dishonouring our family by denying me, but then…” he hesitated. 

“Then, what?” Claire hoped her voice would be forceful but it was only a whisper. Those days, Frank insisting on the proposal… Uncle Lamb dying… They were black, burned, and made her lungs constrict as though she’d inhaled too much smoke.

Frank shook his head and took a deep breath before proceeding. “My cousin, he craves power. He’s protected by an English duke and came to France to gain insight and influence over the nobility. I belatedly realised that even I was a pawn in his game. You see, Lamb was close with Jean-Baptiste Cochet, the rector of the University, and Jonathan thought that if I had married you I would get under his wing, too, and have more power. When you denied me he spoke of things I don’t want to remember. He got obsessed with you and your uncle, as though you were the obstacle on his only way to success. He followed you around, Claire, until he knew your daily routine, your habits, your likes and dislikes. It was terrifying. When he was sure I couldn’t convince you to change your mind, he told me that we could just blackmail you. It would do the trick, he’d said.”

“So he got my house from me to blackmail me? That doesn’t make any sense.”

“No, he didn’t.” Frank paused, hesitating. “I did.”

Claire’s sharp inhalation did nothing to help her clear her mind. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know all this. She had left those years behind and was a different person now. 

“I didn’t want to do this, Claire,” Frank talked without giving her the chance to gather her thoughts. “I was hurt, but I would never do that. Not if I had another choice. You have to believe me.” His voice was imploring, his eyes wide and honest as he looked at her. 

“Why did you do it, then?” the question was out of her mouth before she realised it.

“I needed to somehow take you out of the picture. Jonathan didn’t know anything about it and he can never find out what I did. Not if I value my life. When he realized you were gone, he got mad. Cold, furious, unrelenting. He searched for you everywhere but he never thought that you would deny the company of nobles for that of peasants. No,” Frank shook his head with a bitter smile. “For all the hours that he followed you, he didn’t know you that well.”

“But you did.”

“I did,” he nodded and his eyes found hers. “Your altruism was one of the things I admired in you. And that you didn’t care about money,” he continued. 

“I don’t know what to say,” Claire mumbled, taking in the information. She had heard him mentioning a cousin once or twice in their dinners, but never paid much attention to him or their relationship.

“Do you believe me?” he asked. He moved to take her hand, but she withdrew before he had a chance to.

“Why did you let him?” she queried. “If this wasn’t what you wanted for me, from me, why did you let him do it?”

Frank shook his head repeatedly before admitting, “I didn’t. I didn’t know about it until after it was too late. He came home bragging that all would be over soon and I had to get ready to welcome my wife home. He told me what he had done as though he was the mastermind of a brilliant plan. It was in that moment I realised the twisted way he saw everything.” Frank’s hazel eyes were fixed on hers. “I’m sorry I was the reason you ended up living at St. Antoine.”

“You weren’t,” Claire whispered.

“Excuse me?”

“That wasn’t you or your cousin,” Claire corrected him. “That was my doing. I could seek refuge in a rich house, protected by a Compte, or even a Marquis. But I didn’t. It was my choice to leave that life behind.”

“I see. If I may ask, did this life make you happy?” 

Claire thought of all the pain after losing her uncle, the first hard years at St Antoine, establishing herself as a healer, taking Claudel in, being a part of the revolution, meeting Jamie, falling in love with him. Seeing him in a prison cell.

“I lived. I lived through things you can’t imagine, and I made it on my own. I am my own woman, Frank.”

A small smile curled up his lips. “I always thought you were too stubborn to be anything else.”

She snorted, not the most elegant thing to do for a girl of her age. “Our past is troublesome, Frank, but you may still hold a part of my happiness in your hands.”

“Of your happiness?” he repeated, bewildered. The spark in his eyes made her taste acid at the back of her throat. She didn’t want to mislead him. He might have been cruel once, but she wasn’t.

“Not as you may think. Not as you once thought, either. But I need your help and if you really feel remorse for everything that happened those ten years ago, this is your chance to redeem yourself.”

Frank’s dry face was motionless but his eyes were still focused on her, sincere and straightforward. It was always his eyes that Claire liked best.

“What do you need?” he asked, voice passive as though unaffected by any feelings he might have at that moment.

“A friend of mine got captured. He’s held in La Force Prison and the execution is in two days time.”

“I thought you were with the Revolution,” he stated.

“I am.”

“And he’s not?”

“He is. But they are convinced he’s a spy and there is nothing we can do change that now. And it doesn’t really matter, Frank. There will be no trial. He’s an innocent who doesn’t deserve to die.”

“A lot of people do not deserve to die and yet are killed every day in the name of the Revolution, Claire. Liberté, égalité, fraternité ou la morte.” 

“Then help me save one.”

“One that counts?” he asked, his gaze searching her hand for a wedding ring she wasn’t wearing. 

She thought of explaining, adding more information, making him want to save Jamie for his own sake but at last she just nodded. “One who’s important to me.”

Frank stayed silent for a while and the chirping of birds suddenly got too loud in Claire’s ears. She wondered if counting the seconds would make them pass by faster. Her gaze flickered between her clasped hands and Frank, trying to guess if the hurt pursuer or the honest gentleman would win this internal fight. 

Her mind ran back to Jamie, ragged and tired in that cell ten minutes away from her and yet unreachable. If Frank denied to help her and there was an alternative plan on Murtagh and Jared’s front, Jamie would walk straight into a public execution. 

What would she do then? Would she have the courage to fight for equality, for a better future, when her own comrades got mad with rage and revenge and killed one who fought for them?

Wrapped in those ominous thoughts, she didn’t know how much time had passed when Frank cleared his throat. His eyes found hers. 

“Some people are born to make history,” he said. “I’ve always prefered studying it. Books are safe, most of the times. And yet I find myself in this place and time that will make it into history books one day and I know I can’t always remain the bystander, the unbiased observer.” He fidgeted with his hat. “What I’m trying to say is that sometimes even the ones who aren’t brave need to do their best and hope it’s right.”

Claire’s breath hitched in her throat.

“I’ll help you, Claire. For the sake of my friendship with your uncle and the future I once dreamed with you, I’ll help you.”

Claire had never imagined that tears of gratitude would meet a relieved smile planted on her face by Frank Randall.

And yet here they were. Humans, a huge spectrum of grey that was never quite black or white.

She left the park after a long discussion about the specifics and headed straight to L'Hôpital des Anges to meet yet another grey man. 

Monsieur Forez was one of the volunteers and the best bonesetter at the hospital and happened to also serve as the official hangman for the Fourth Arrondissement.

Chapter Text

Darkness, the susurration of heavy breaths, and the stench of fear emanating from unwashed bodies greeted Jamie as he opened his eyes.

Every bone in his body hurt. It was impossible not to, the way he’d folded himself in the corner next to the door, trying to sleep with his back on the cold stone and his head propped on folded arms supported by his knees. 

He was the biggest man in the room and there was not much space, to begin with. It must have been a servant’s room, back when La Force was a house and not a prison. More people had unceremoniously thrown in the cell the previous day, and now they all huddled into the small room apprehending the massive public execution. Anticipating the end with frightened faces and heavy hearts. 

In the silence, he heard Madam Desmond sniffing. Her shrieks had been the loudest when the tall guard pushed the young blonde woman into the cell the day before. She was asking for mercy, begging the guards to let her go back to her children. Her cries fell on deaf ears. The guard didn’t seem to care that her husband was dead and the little ones would die of famine. The woman’s sobs had now morphed into quiet tears that never stopped rolling down her cheeks, intermittent with whispers of, “My little boys, my babes.” Every time she fell asleep she woke up with a startle and looked around in panic. The realisation that the cell was her real life and not a nightmare made her tears fall anew. 

It pained Jamie to see the woman as helpless as he was, and yet, there was nothing he could do to protect her or her children. They were all bound to the same fate and on his own part, he had prayed it would come sooner than later. The Lord had heard him – a few more hours and everything would be over.

For a moment he wished he had children as well, if only to leave something of him behind when he’d be gone. But then he thought of the terror in the eyes of the little lad in Comte St. Germain’s manor and decided he wouldn’t want to bring another soul to live the cruelty of his world.

War was man’s most inhumane creation.

Jamie had considered dying for the revolution but he never thought it would be like this. He imagined a death honouring his beliefs and ideals, not one with the stain of the spy and betrayer to taint his name. He’d fall on swords and pikes if need be but he’d never fathomed the touch of the rope to be the last one he’d feel. He had imagined a bullet, ripping through his body. Blood running from the open wound, his hands on it, a red badge for the revolution. An honourable death. 

But honour in the revolution was like a shining gem in moving sand – no matter how much you reached for it, there was always the chance to see it slipping between your fingers. One wrong move, one step in the wrong direction and you were painted as the coward. The betrayer, the spy. 

The thought left a bitter taste in Jamie’s mouth. He tried to swallow it, tried to remember every single piece of information he’d provided the past months but the image of his body hanging limb in front of everyone to see was so strong that it consumed every encouraging thought. That was the revolution, he tried to convince himself. Purpose and valour mingled with atrocities.

He brushed his greasy hair off his forehead and fixed his eyes at the little window, the only opening to the world outside. He wished it would rain during the hanging. He wanted to feel the drops against his face, to close his eyes and pretend he was still a wee lad, racing with Jenny and Ian from the fields to the house at Lallybroch, the hills soft and green beneath his heels.

But Jamie knew that he wouldn’t close his eyes that final moment, not even for the image of Scotland. Not even for the image of a beloved face. He’d try to find Murtagh in the crowd and he’d look him in the eye, be the man his father taught him to be. 

He wished Claire would grant him the favour he’d asked. He couldn’t imagine her being there, seeing him die. He wondered whether his last breath would sound like her name.

It was only the day before that she came to visit with Murtagh, but the hours lingered in that cell, making each day longer, endless. 

He was glad she’d come. To see her face, to touch her and taste her lips was freedom enough. He’d made his godfather promise that he’d take care of Claire as though she was Jamie’s lawfully wedded wife. And when he’d told him that Claire was family, the old man nodded in agreement. With a few words to send his love to Jenny, Ian and the children, he clasped his godfather’s hand between his own and took his leave of him in silence.

That had been all. Nothing else to settle.

Thoughts of Claire came unbidden and he closed his eyes again, imagining that he could feel her beneath his fingers, could see the countless hues of brown, auburn and gold her hair took under the sun. He fell asleep again. 

A hissed whisper woke him up. Someone calling his name, his first name. Alerted, he almost jumped up before a hand on his chest stopped him. The rest of the prisoners stirred, too. 

“It’s me,” he heard her say. “Claire.” And felt the happier and most miserable man on earth. He wanted to kiss her and he wanted to fight with her for coming back.

“You shouldna be here,” he said, but gripped the hand on his chest and pushed it against his body as though to imprint her touch on his skin. To keep something of her once she would be gone. A moment later, horror gripped his innards, overwhelming him.

Why was she in the cell?

“Why,” he croaked. “Why are ye in here, Claire? What did ye do?” He sounded more angry than afraid and her free hand moved to his mouth to silence him.

“Not now. We’re lucky you were sleeping here, so close to the door. Follow me.”

She took his hand and led him out the door as though he was a visitor in her house. Jamie barely had time to glance back, his eyes finding the pale face near the window, illuminated by the moon. Madam Desmond looked at him with wide eyes and mouth open, as though she couldn’t decide whether to speak her mind or not.

She didn’t get much of a chance. The next moment Claire closed the cell door behind them with a heavy sigh. They were now standing in the gloomy corridor, the guard and his lantern nowhere to be found. 

“What have you done?” he whispered, half in distress and half in awe. 

Claire fished a bunch of keys out of her skirts and locked the door. “This isn’t a one-man show,” she breathed, gaze fixed on the lock. “We need to rush.” 

She grabbed Jamie’s hand, the other one following suit, courtesy of the iron manacles he was wearing. Claire didn’t seem to mind. “I’ll explain once we’re out of here.” 

“Claire.” He pulled back. “Open that door, let me go back in there, and ran away from this place as fast as you can.” 

“What?” he asked in that English accent that he’d never expected to love.

“Let me go back in there. Lass…” He sighed and tried to find the words that would make her understand. “There is no way out of here, ken? We’ll get caught. You’ll get caught and they will kill ye for that, mo nighean donn.”

She was silent for a long moment and then said, “Do you trust me?”

“Of course I trust you, Claire, you just need to understand –”

“Do you trust me with your heart?” She sounded determined and furious in equal amounts. But there was pain there, too. Hurt. “Do you trust me with your life?”

Jamie pulled her to him, the need to feel her moving his manacled hands. “I do. You know I do. I trust you with everything I am.”

“Good. Then we’re going. The other option, in case you’re interested, is opening this door again so both of us can walk in.”

He didn’t have a chance to reply. With one hand feeling the wall and the other clasping Jamie’s so hard he thought it’d go numb, Claire led him away. Less than ten steps down the corridor, she stopped. 

“What –” Jamie started asking, but she hushed him. He pushed his back against the wall, face turned to her, straining to see what she was doing. He heard her fumbling with something until she opened a door he didn’t even know was there, and pushed him inside.

“Wait here.”

Instead of joining him in the room, Claire walked back to his cell. Light steps were heard in the corridor and a soft whisper followed them. Jamie narrowed his eyes but all he could see was pitched black darkness.

Claire scurried back to him as though she had counted every step it would take to reach him again. She closed the door of the room behind her and leaned against the stone wall. Her breaths came fast and when he reached for her hand he found it turned into a fist. 

“Who was there?” he asked with a frown, even though she couldn’t see him. “Where are we?”

“A passage for servants,” she replied, deliberately avoiding his first question. “Good thing this prison was once a rich man’s house, isn’t it?” she added, and even though there was the hint of a smile in her voice he could still feel her unease. There was a moment of silence. “Now we need to get out.”She huffed. “Simple as that.” She started moving away from the door, feeling the wall with a hand.

“Ah, I didna ken it was that simple, Sassenach,” he found the courage to joke. “Otherwise I would have found my way home sooner.”

“Say that again?” she asked. 

“I would come home sooner.”

“Not that. Sassenach. You know, when I left this place last time, I thought I’d never hear you call me that.”

“Sassenach, Sassenach, Sassenach,” he repeated. Jamie ran his hands up her arms, traced the soft skin of her long neck and finally cupped her face. He kissed her then, a kiss as soft as it was desperate. “I thought I’d never get the chance to do that again,” he said, sounding as breathless as he was.

Claire kissed him back but before he could get lost in her again, she pulled out of his arms. “We need to go. There is no time.”

This corridor was narrower than the main one. Claire lit a candle she carried with her and started a brisk walk, with Jamie trailing behind her. Their shadows danced primitive dances on the walls. 

They winded their way to the first flight of stairs keeping their steps light, untraceable. Thoughts of freedom and the possibility of getting caught and returning to that cell with Claire fought in Jamie’s mind, making his heart race in his chest. 

He had no other option but to follow her now, and he knew if they ended up safe and sound he’d follow her anywhere, always. This lass with the riot of curls, feelings and opinions. This brave, brilliant lass who shone her way through the darkness.

They didn’t encounter anyone in their way to the ground floor but stopped more than once for Claire to refer to the piece of paper she kept in her pocket. To Jamie’s surprise, less than ten minutes later they found themselves in what must have once been the laundry room. He smiled at the realization – open access to the yard.

They had made it. No locked doors, no keys, no guards. Well, almost no guards. They would still have to somehow tackle the ones at the front entrance. 

“And now the hard part,” Claire whispered, making an eyebrow rise high on Jamie’s forehead. 

Now comes the hard part?” he inquired incredulously, hidden behind the wall next to her. 

“We have to reach that wall there,” she gestured. “And climb it without being seen.” She started to unfurl a rope that was twisted around her waist. He hadn’t noticed it before.

“Christ, woman,” Jamie breathed and was rewarded with her smile shining under the silver moonlight. 

“Murtagh is waiting on the other side. We just need to wait a bit more.” Her gaze darted around the yard. She narrowed her eyes trying to spot anything close to the building’s walls. 

“Why?” he asked, following her gaze.

He didn’t have the chance to get a response when something crashed forcefully into his legs. “Milord!”

Not something – someone. Jamie searched for Claire in the dark, his eyes wider than ever. 

“I know,” she said, remorsefully. “I didn’t want him here more than you do, but we needed the little rascal to get you out.”

Fergus was now hugging Claire, who had dropped on her knees to take him into her arms. “Mon chou,” she whispered, patting his head. “Are you alright?”

“Oui!” Fergus said with a wide grin. “Returned the keys, too, and the guard didn’t even realise they were gone.”

Jamie’s eyes darted between the two people smiling at each other. The keys. The light steps in the corridor. He wanted to ask how but Claire bet him to it, already replying to his question. 

“Did I ever tell you that Fergus used to take advantage of his light hands and feet before I met him? To… lighten people from the heavy burdens in their pockets?”

“I was the best pickpocket,” Fergus bragged, beaming. “But Milady didn’t like it and she made me swear never to do that again. Until today.”

“Right. And no more of that ever again,” Claire said, wagging a finger at the boy. 

“Oui,” he agreed, without much enthusiasm. 

“We need to go. Monsieur Forez can only distract the guard with studying the prisoners’ list so much.”

Jamie had no idea who this man was and why he had helped Claire but he thanked him in silence and prayed to give them a bit more time.

“Any guards in the way, Fergus?”

“Oui, Milady. One on our left.”

Claire’s voice was tight when she spoke again. “Jamie, can you…”

“Make sure he won’t raise an alarm? Aye. Give me two minutes, Sassenach.”

The man was standing a few feet away with his back to them. He was short and thin and had his eyes fixed at the front gate. Jamie moved silently in the shadows until he came behind him. With an efficient blow on the guard’s head, he drove him senseless before the man could shout his surprise.

“Well, that was efficient,” Claire murmured once he was back and they moved to the prison walls.

Fergus went up first. They didn’t even use the rope. Jamie grabbed the boy from his waist and hoisted him up until his hands gripped the top of the stone wall. He climbed up and the muffled grunt heard a moment later signalled that his feet found the ground on the other side. 

“You first,” Claire instructed, not looking at him. 

“Not a chance, lass. I’ll see ye out of here before I even try climbing this wall." 

Claire fixed her eyes on him ready to argue her point but she must have seen his determination painted on his features because she quickly signed in defeat. 

They threw the rope and waited until someone tugged at it from the other side. 

"Go now.” She didn’t. “Claire,” he urged. “I’ll follow the moment your feet touch the ground.”

They didn’t kiss. A kiss would mean goodbye. Claire reached for the rope and started climbing up the wall. Once on the top, she turned around and slowly climbed down while Jamie held the rope from his side. 

He was alone again, with heightened senses and his pulse beating so hard he could hear it in his ears. He turned around, searching for guards, for an alarm, for people rushing in his direction.

Two tugs at the rope brought him out of his panicked state. He grabbed the rope and climbed up the wall in mere seconds. Not even thinking of trying to descend slowly, he jumped as soon as he saw that nobody was standing on the ground beneath him.

“That was so foolish,” Claire said when she came next to him. “You could have strained your ankle.”

Jamie broke into a smile and pulled her into him, claiming her lips. He felt her smile merging with his. Twin smiles – wide, bright, joyful.

A heavy hand rested on his shoulder and he turned around only to be engulfed in another set of arms, this of his grandfather. Jamie realised that he was crying but didn’t bother brushing his tears away. 

They walked briskly into the night, heading neither to St Antoine nor at his uncle’s home. 

He thought of asking where they were going but soon realised that he didn’t care. He was free again, with Claire, and Fergus, and Murtagh, and there was nothing more in the world he might need.

They had gotten him out and he trusted them to take him wherever they planned to.

There was no talking or slowing down until they reached an old neighbourhood along the Seine, the houses lavish and beautiful but less sumptuous than those close to Champs-Élysées. 

Jamie froze midstep.

There was no one else waiting for them in front of the carriage, but Frank Randall himself.

Chapter Text

“What is he doing here.” 

If anybody had the skill to mask his surprise and make a whisper sound like a demand, that was Jamie Fraser. His voice was even and betrayed nothing but an eerie calmness that upset Claire even more than his anger would.

Before she had a chance to reply, Frank’s cold voice echoed in the dark. “I should expect it would be you.” 

That much for greetings. Frank’s level gaze was fixed on Jamie, causing Claire’s breath to get caught in her throat. She hoped his foolish male possessiveness wouldn’t overwhelm him once more and make him go back on his promise. As helpful as the La Force prison map Frank had procured for her to find their way out had been, they still needed the forged papers for Jamie to leave the city.

Jamie didn’t respond but Claire could see the challenging way he raised his chin and how he stood with every muscle of his body rigid, tense. Instinctively, she stepped in front of him, using her own body as a shield to protect one man from the other. This proprietorial behaviour was getting under her skin, an itch she wanted to scratch until she’d get rid of it. Instead of starting a speech regarding fighting cocks though, she kept her calm demeanour and let them continue their silent confrontation above her head. Moments passed and none of them moved or spoke again. At last, Frank’s hazel eyes found hers.

“I’m glad this madness of a plan worked,” he said and his face softened as he took a step closer. Claire felt Jamie move too, his chest almost flush with her back. 

“For now,” she replied. “We’re not safe yet.”

Frank nodded somberly, his jaw tight. “I’ve got everything you asked for, right here.” 

The soft yellow envelope he was holding was their claim to life.

Claire moved towards Frank, hope filling her chest with each breath she was taking. She heard the iron of Jamie’s manacles whispering behind her a moment before his fingers skimmed against her back in a plead not to increase the distance between them, but she decided to ignore the gesture. They would have all the time in the world later. Her gaze darted from the envelope held between Frank’s long, delicate fingers to his eyes. She felt her vision blurring and blinked back tears of gratitude. 

“I’m not the bigger man, Claire. I’m not,” Frank said, seeing the way her eyes glimmered. “I hope I was…”

“You are,” she replied giving him a smile and used both hands to gently hold his own.

He shook his head. “I hope things were different. I wish you’d have more love for me than for him. I wish you wouldn’t risk your life for that man. But wishes and hopes don’t come to be true, I’m afraid.” 

Frank let out a heavy sigh and lowered his gaze as though to gather his thoughts. Claire opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again, uncertain of what she should say. 

“You need to leave. Now,” Frank said once his eyes found hers again. “Get him and run away.” He tossed the soft envelope in her hand and took a step back. “This will get you out of the city. Don’t stay in France, it’s too big a risk. Go back home.”

Claire took the envelope and held it with both hands. It was true that Frank was giving her the opportunity to a home again, even though this home wasn’t a place but a person. 

“Frank, I don’t know if I will ever get the chance to pay you back for this.” 

Her tears ran free now, hope mingling with their salt, tasting like life. She kept her eyes on his blurred form, on this man she once looked at with so much disdain and fear and who had now came to her aid, came to stand by her side. And in that moment, she wondered whether she could really love him, in another life, if the circumstances were different, if she had never found Jamie. 

“Just, don’t hate me, Claire. Remember this of me and not the man who ruined your life.”

He hadn’t ruined her life. He was just a part of it, a fundamental part who brought her where she was now standing. “I will,” she said simply. “Thank you, Frank. Thank you.”

Frank took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Mr Malcolm,” he addressed Jamie, poised and cold. “I hope I never see you again.”

Jamie seemed to be confused at the name but spoke in a clear, fearless voice. “The feeling is mutual, sir.”

Claire turned around and looked for Murtagh in the shadows. He was looking at her. She nodded once and the man gave her his tacit agreement to proceed with the plan. “Let’s get in the carriage,” she instructed and saw Murtagh urging Fergus forward. “Let’s go,” she repeated to Jamie who was standing still and took his hand. As she did so, she turned back and looked at the lean, tall man who had changed her life twice already. “Take care, Frank,” she said and saw him raising a hand in goodbye. 

A moment later, she had followed Jamie into the carriage and the horses were cantering down the empty street. 

“Care to explain, Sassenach?”

“Explain what, Mr Malcolm?” she smiled and opened the envelope. There was a candle in the carriage and Murtagh hastened to lit it. 

“Is everything as expected?” the man asked with a frown.

“Will anybody explain what you have done to get me out of that hellish place?” Jamie’s words came fast, betraying that he started losing his patience.

“Everything looks fine,” Claire replied to Murtagh after quickly scanning the papers. 

Frank had given Jamie a new identity, one that wouldn’t hold him captured in the city. He’d given him a life back, even though it wouldn’t be the same as before. 

Alexander Malcolm, printer, Edinburgh. 

She knew that Edinburgh wasn’t the same as Jamie’s beloved Highlands and they still needed to find a place to start the printshop, but it was a way out. Away from the lampposts that served as apparatus for hanging people, away from the mayhem of the revolution.

A revolution Claire had waited for years. She’d fought for it to come and then fought when it started. She’d never imagine those people who schemed, and planned and got organized would turn into an inhuman, cruel, and dangerous mob. Lately, Claire felt that they all were tightrope walkers – one wrong step and the eminent fall would follow. Nobody was safe, and nobody could rely on their connections to prove what they’d offered to fight for the third estate. 

She wished Jamie was never caught as a spy but if protecting an innocent boy who found himself at the wrong place, at the wrong time meant to be a crime, she’d face death by his side. Even if she had to leave behind Louise and all those who might need her help as the revolution got crueller and bloodier. She still wanted the people to win the fight for what was rightfully theirs, she just knew now that war was chaos and pain and she had to protect her own. 

Claire folded the papers and Murtagh blew the candle out. He ruffled Fergus’s curls and the boy gave a small protest but didn’t move away from the man’s side. 

She smiled and turned to look at Jamie. “There are a lot of things to explain,” she said. “But you’re here now and we have time enough for me to tell you everything.”

He still looked worried but wrapped an arm around her shoulders to pull her closer. “A few hours ago I thought that this morn I’d see the sun for the last time.”

And then, she asked him what she didn’t have the luxury to ask before and the question burned her throat like a long-held breath. “Are you alright?”

Jamie shrugged, as though his shirt was tight on his shoulders. “I am now. If you exclude these.” The iron manacles rattled as he raised his hands.

“I can take care of that, Milord!” Fergus offered excitedly and jumped from his place to sit between Jamie and Claire. 

It took a few minutes of tinkering with the lock before the boy starting muttering to himself. He sighed, paused in his attempt to get Jamie out of his fetters, and blinked. 

“Maybe if we light the candle again…”

“We can find a way to get these out later,” Claire said in a soothing voice.

“But I know how to open locks,” Fergus grouched. 

“Mon chou,” Claire said, capturing his hands between hers to stop him. “You’ve done more than enough today. Without you we could have never taken the keys from the prison guard and get Jamie out!”

The boy flashed her a proud, mischievous smile. “The man had no idea, Milord!” Fergus said, grinning at Jamie. “Monsieur Forez was talking to him and I sneaked from behind, took the keys from the hook on his belt, and ran to Milady as fast as I could.” 

Jamie smiled in response and looked at the boy while he explained exactly how he had stolen the keys to his prison cell. That seemed to make Fergus forget his failed attempt with the manacles. 

“Who is Monsieur Forez, Sassenach?” 

“A… friend,” she said after a moment’s hesitation. “Who happens to also be the man who would see to your execution. He’s an official hangman.”

She saw him frown as he took the information in. His fingers started drumming against the dirty fabric of his breeches. “Why would the official hangman risk his life to get me out?” he asked at last.

“Well,” Claire started explaining, “He didn’t risk that much. He had every right to be at the prison and he was with the guard all the time so no one will suspect him. I know the man ten years, and we worked together at l’ Hopital.”

“I see,” Jamie said, eyes fixed on the carriage door next to Claire. “And Frank?”

Claire squared her shoulders. “It seems he’s not the man I thought him to be.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I confronted him –”

“You,” Jamie emphasized, and even though his voice sounded almost normal, Claire could feel him gnashing his jaw so hard his teeth might break. “You went to him?”

“I needed the paperwork and –”

“Have ye gone out of your mind, woman?” he interrupted again.

Claire started to lose her patience. “Jamie, I don’t think you realise the seriousness of the situation. There was nothing Murtagh or your uncle could do and we needed to get you out before the execution. I did the best I could and that included talking to Frank again.”

“Ye should have stayed at St. Antoine!” He lost his temper. “Ye should have stayed away, somewhere safe, with wee Fergus. I asked ye not to risk yer life, not to try to save me! It was the only thing I asked for, Claire.”

Claire looked at him through narrowed eyes. “So that’s what you would do if it was me behind the bars,” she hissed.

Jamie huffed indignantly. “‘Tis not the same.”

“Excuse me but I fail to see the difference.”

“Ye’re insufferable! Ye could have get killed, ye ken that?” 

Claire had opened her mouth, ready for a retort, when Murtagh coughed. “‘Tis not the time now. We’re close to the city checkpoint.”

They both fell silent, the air in the carriage crackling from the tension between them. 

Murtagh tossed a dark red jacket with richly embroidered ends at Jamie and Claire arranged it so it would cover his torso and manacled hands. 

“Lower your face and pretend that you’re sleeping,” she said. Jamie didn’t respond.

The carriage came to a stop and Claire collected all the documents from the empty seat next to her. “Let me take care of this,” she whispered, and then added as an afterthought, “Please.”

They all nodded in response. Claire gathered herself, pushed back her annoyance and the urge to shout at Jamie, and replayed the story they had agreed with Frank in her head. A light knock on the wooden carcass of the wagon and a deep breath later, she was smiling at a long-faced grim man who was asking for their papers.

She spoke quickly, a damsel in distress like the ones Jamie might save in another life. 

Just not in this one, she thought and tried to restrain the grin that almost bloomed on her face with the thought. In this one, he found a woman who was his equal.

She was an Englishwoman, she said, with her widowed uncle, her cousin and her fiance. They needed to go back to England immediately, because her mother, “My uncle’s favourite sister, you know”, she added, gesturing at Murtagh, was ill and “how terrible it will be for Mama to be in bed without me by her side”.

She put a hand on her chest in a display of distress but the quick, shallow breaths she was heaving were very much real. 

The man, tired by her babbling and the late hour, stuck his head into the carriage and looked at the two men and the boy for a few moments. Claire’s heart was beating as though determined to escape the restraints of her chest. 

The man stood back again, eyes darting from the papers to Claire. “Give me a moment, Mademoiselle,” he said, and retreated to the gatehouse. 

It took him more than a moment to cross-check their documents, during which Claire felt her knees tremble and could hear her pulse loud in her ears. 

Frank told her that the city guards had lists of the people who were not allowed to leave the city. But what if they had other lists too, and Alexander Malcolm was in none of them? What if the documents weren’t enough? What if something was wrong with them?

Murtagh had also been concerned about Jamie being just Claire’s fiance, but they didn’t have enough time to forge a marriage contract and prepare new documents for her as Madame Malcolm. Claire Beauchamp would have to suffice. 

She tried to discern what the next moments held from the guard’s face as he walked towards her with the grey-blue sky of dawn behind him. He looked tired, Claire thought for a moment. Everyone looked tired lately. 

“You can go, Mademoiselle Beauchamp,” he said, handing her the documents.

Claire swallowed a wide smile and replied somberly, thanking him and wishing him a good day.

She went back in the carriage and before the horses started again she felt Jamie’s big hand engulfing hers and squeezing reassuringly. 

Murtagh didn’t speak either, only fixed his gaze on her. When she didn’t say anything, he asked. “So, lass?”

“We’re free to go.” 

Jamie ran his thumb across her knuckles but Claire didn’t trust her voice to elaborate on details. She didn’t know if she would laugh or cry and was afraid to feel relief before France was behind them for good. 

The sun painted the sky a bright orange and she refused to take her eyes from the puffy clouds that seemed to stroll on ether, soaking in the sun’s warmth. Murtagh had dozed off with an arm around Fergus’s shoulders and the boy had leaned against him, his small mouth open, his face calm and his long lashes brushing against his aristocratic cheekbones in his sleep. Maybe in England she could give her boy a new beginning, another life. Even if Jamie decided that she was too rebellious for his tastes, she would work as a healer and provide for Fergus as she had done in Paris.

“We had to claim you as my fiance to get you out.” It was the first thing she told him after the long silence in the ride away from Paris and his execution. She kept thinking how she’d announced that he was her fiance without even letting him know first. He had never asked and she had never accepted a proposal to become his wife. “That doesn’t mean–”

“I’ll marry you the moment our feet touch Scottish soil, my Sassenach,” he interrupted. 

“What I mean to say is that you don’t need to. You can go on with your life and you can go on with yours. You’ll be safe now.”

Jamie didn’t speak.

“I think you’ve noticed by now that I’m not the meek and obedient type. I understand that you may want a wife who’ll be better in following instructions. One who will stay put.” 

“Aye,” he huffed a smile and she averted her gaze and set her jaw, preparing herself for his rejection. “That would make everything so much easier, dinna ye think so?” She refrained from replying that if that was the case, he would still be in a prison cell and he would die in a few hours. Jamie leaned in, his mouth close to her ear. “But all I want is ye, Sassenach. All stubborn, clever and brave.” He cupped her face and forced her to look at him. “Will ye have me, Claire?”

She felt drank in the love and adoration she found in his blue eyes. “Yes,” she breathed. “Yes, I’ll have you.”

He kissed her then, and his lips tasted like home and hope. And this was everything Claire had ever wanted in her life.

The End