James Fraser had always been a man who could hold his liquor, but tonight between the beer and the drams of whisky, it seemed to be flowing endlessly. He was surrounded by clans and servants, friends and family - both new and old.
He took a sip of his beer as his eyes flashed across the crowd to his wife. She smiled at him wistfully, flashing her eyes down looking at her cup, her cheeks blushing a deep red as she turned back to the group of women, drowning back into the conversation at hand.
Draining his mug, he reached for a glass of whisky as a familiar touch on his shoulder gathered his attention.
“What can I do for ye, Mackenzie?”
“I have somethings I wanted to tell ye…. I figured now while both our ladies are otherwise entertained, it would be a good time for this particular discussion.” Roger said as he stood a bit straighter, squaring his shoulders.
“And what might that be?” Jamie asked, inquisitively.
Roger slung Jem into his other arm, placing his glass of whisky on the ground. “I dinna know how exactly to say this….”
Jamie chuckled slightly as he could feel the uneasiness radiating from Roger. “Out wi’ it.”
Roger smiled contemplatively, but Jamie could see his son-in-law’s cheeks in the light of the fire-Roger’s face turned a slow, steady, red glow. “I wanted to say…. Thank you.”
“I would say yer welcome, but I dinna ken exactly what ye are thankin’ me fer.”
He watched as Roger took another deep breath, wiping Jem’s head gingerly with his empty hand. “I wanted to particularly say thank ye, for Brianna.”
That caught Jamie’s attention, and he nodded, sitting down on an empty log by the fire. “What do ye mean by that?”
“I mean…. I dinna ken, what it was like for you and Claire. I dinna mean to even try and fathom what it was like for the both of ye, but what ye did…. “
He felt the knots in his stomach as he recalled the memory of that dreaded day nearly twenty five years ago- longing, heartache, turmoil, the tearing of his soul in half, forcing himself to live a life he hadn’t wanted to live.
“Culloden.” Jamie whispered, barely audible. So quiet, he wasn’t even sure Roger had heard him.
“Aye.” Roger breathed. “That day.”
“Why?” Jamie breathed.
Jem squawked in Roger’s arm, causing Bree’s attention to turn towards them. Roger cradled him in both his arms, turning him upright so he was resting on his chest. Bree started to walk over, but Jamie put his hand up stopping her. She cocked her head at her father and husband, but turned her attention back to her mother and other group of women around her.
“For Claire. For what you did – what you made her do. She told me, she had wanted to die with you on that field that day, but that ye wouldn’t let her. She said ye knew she was with child, that ye made her go back. Go back to Frank, so that he would raise yer child.”
Jamie grasped his knees with his hands as he stared into the fire. Roger stood, swaying back and forth as Jem started to nod off. He was silent for a few minutes, starting into the fire, recalling every decision and heartache they had been through in the last three decades. Wondering just how this gentleman could be thankful for such things.
Once Jem was asleep, Roger grabbed a blanket, swaddling him close to his chest, sitting down next to Jamie on the log.
“Yer probably wondering, how it is I can say such a thing… That I’m thankful for all the pain that it caused ye.”
Jamie stopped him, placing a hand on Roger’s knee. “I have a question… About Frank.”
“Aye, I expect ye might.”
“Was…. Was he good to them?”
Roger took a breath, and reached for his glass of whisky from the ground and taking a sip.
“I met him when I was about 7 or 8. It was the first time I had met Claire, too. Then, he visited a few times, during the time Claire was….Gone. When she came back, they moved to Boston, where Brianna was raised. I didn’t see him again. The next time Claire and Bree had shown up, it was for my father’s funeral, and Frank had passed away sometime before.”
Jamie reached his arm out, taking his grandson, as Roger continued on.
“I dinna remember him, all that well. Well dressed, tall, slender, dark hair, always wearing a hat. The Reverend was very fond of him, even had a few of his books. But to answer your question… When Claire and Bree came to Scotland, Bree missed him. She held very fond memories of him. In the tales I know of, they are always told with love.”
“That….” Jamie started, “is verra good to hear.”
“It’s funny… Seeing Claire here. She makes so much more sense, she’s alive again.”
Jem coughed as Jamie switched his positions in his arms. “Now, what do ye mean by that?”
Roger laughed, taking the last sip of his whisky and placing the glass on the floor again. “I was there… When Claire told Bree the story. When she said your name for the first time, in twenty years. I’d never seen her like that- nor had Bree. Something, just clicked.”
“I had seen Claire Randall a few times, but,” Roger contemplated, “How do I say this? Claire Randall… Claire was always good at the facade. It was always for Bree’s sake, I know that now, but when she said yer name out loud for the first time. Said that Jamie Fraser was Bree’s real father, her eyes light up. A spark was lit.”
Jamie held his breath, closing his eyes. The weight of the words resonating in his mind. The empty pit of a man he had become coming to the forefront of his mind once more, the lost years, the heartache. Never again, no, he’d never be like that again.
“There was something ignited in her that had been put out for a long time…. She was alive again, even if it was one fleeting moment. Bree saw it too, that flicker in her mother for just that moment. At that point we hadna found ye, didna ken if ye had survived….We knew nothing.”
“Mmmm.” Jamie grumbled as Jem nuzzled his head into the burrows of his grandsire’s elbow.
“I knew, when I saw that spark in Claire’s eyes. I had to find out the truth, whatever it was. Even say just Bree’s sake.”
“So, ye believed Claire’s tale, when she first told ye?”
“More or less… It was far fetched, but I had no real reason to not believe her. Brianna on the other hand, she took some work.”
That caused Jamie to laugh as Roger laughed as well, almost in unison.
“Anyway,” Roger sighed, shifting his weight, “I have taken enough of your time, but… I just wanted to say thank you. I can see how much you love Claire, how integral she is to your being…. And, well, thank you. If it werena for what the two of ye did, Brianna… She wouldna be mine, Jem wouldna be here. I canna say I would change things, for because of all of it, it gave me Bree. That I will always be thankful for.”
Jamie smiled as he handed his grandchild back to Roger Mac. He crossed his arms and looked at his newest family members.
“I could be thanking ye, too. For helping them find me— for taking care of Bree while Claire came back. If they hadna had met ye in Scotland, they might never have found me.” Jamie stopped gathering his thoughts.
“I ken I missed a lot, but I wouldna change a single thing. They were both safe and well loved, if all the time I get with them is what I’ve already been given, it is enough. It will always be worth it.” Jamie finished as he nodded, turning to look for Claire, his heart yearning to feel her skin and breath in his orbit.
“I wouldna change it, not a single thing.” Jamie said, as he turned back to his face roger bowing before him and walking over to Claire.
They were worth it all.
She had left the small crowd of women she had been talking to, and was standing in front of a small table of desserts.
“The two of you seemed to be having, an intense discussion.” Claire whispered as Jamie wrapped his arms around her waist.
“Mo nighean donn, you truly are a dream…. Worth everything in this life and more.” He spoke softly as he trailed kisses down her neck.
“And just how much have you had to drink, Jamie?” Claire said, as she tilted her neck giving him more access.
“Enough, Sassenach,” He started—but was stopped as she turned round hastily in his arms, her mouth covering his.
“I know.” She whispered between kisses, resting her forehead on his.
He knew that she understood—the unsaid words between them, an understanding between them they had always shared. Of course she knew, for she had loved him, chosen him, and given him this life—and all that had come with it.
He took the scent of his wife in – the small traces of lavender in her hair, the hints of garlic and cloves on her hands, and traces of smoke and the crisp air. He kissed her once more, taking in the traces of whisky from her lips as she quietly hummed into his mouth, wrapping her arms around his waist, and resting her head on his chest.
He tucked her head under his chin, as he looked up and saw his daughter holding her child, wrapped in her husband’s embrace. Jamie felt Claire’s tears on his shirt as she took one hand and wiped them off her face.
“Do you see that over there, Jamie?” She mumbled into this shirt.
“It was worth it, every second, every decision. It was worth it.”
He didn’t respond but rather, he pulled his wife closer, feeling her steady heart beat on his skin, saying a silent prayer to above.
Lord, that she and the child might be safe.
For it was worth it, and he’d do it all again.
Thank you, Roger, for returning her to me.