She knew she shouldn’t be there.
No, not again. Not after evading the Comte for years, jumping from time to time and place to place. Not after managing to hide and build a new life for herself.
A life where nobody knew who she was. What she was. And nobody could track her down.
Despite all that, there she was.
Becoming a nurse during the war had been a natural choice for Claire. Hiding the blue light hadn’t always been easy, but she’d managed just fine, using the blood on her hands as a cover and trying to divert people’s attention when she had no other choice but to use her magic. And by doing so, she had healed many soldiers that made it back home to the open arms of their families and loved ones. She knew that Raymond would be proud of her.
She’d met Frank just before the war and she loved him because looking at him didn’t bring any of her memories back and she could keep the pain aside. Frank was sophisticated, elegant, different. He didn’t understand her completely but could embrace most parts of her. He loved her laughter, her wittiness, her spontaneity, even her bad cooking. He accepted that Claire needed a purpose in life and that staying at home and raising their children would never be good enough for her. He didn’t exactly love that, but he put up with her need to work. He didn’t know about her gift, of course. Burning witches might have fallen out of fashion, but there were plenty of madhouses ready to accept her. When Frank asked her to marry him on their way to the restaurant where his parents were waiting for them, he had a wide grin on his face and love in his eyes. Claire hadn’t given it much thought. Frank was a good man, and that was all she could ask for.
And now, with the World War behind them, they were supposed to recover from the despair they had lived in and come to Scotland to reconnect with each other. Scotland. Frank had insisted.
Her throat was tight even at the sight of the rolling hills and the heather at the sides of the road. No matter how many times she had jumped back and front in time, she had never come to Scotland again. Scotland meant Jenny and Jamie and Brian. It meant Lallybroch. It meant home. She wasn’t strong enough to be there without them.
And yet, here she was, biting her lip so hard she could taste blood. She blamed the wind for her tears and gave Frank a fake reassuring smile.
She was supposed to be here and focus on her relationship with Frank. To go sightseeing and listen to her husband talk about parts of history she had actually lived. She was supposed to dream of a quiet home in the suburbs of London that would soon be filled with children’s cries and laughter. She was supposed to find what to do with her life. She was supposed to be happy.
When her head hit the pillow the first night of their vacation, when Frank’s arms pulled her closer to his body, Claire stared at the white wall in front of her for what felt like hours. Tears were soaking the pillow, tears that she had kept locked inside for years. But the past was gone and she was here now, with a man who loved her and a life without danger waiting for her to live it. The life she’d managed to secure for herself after many sacrifices. She had to live it. She owed it to Raymond.
That was what Claire intended to do in the morning of Samhain, when Frank woke her up, talking excitedly about ancient rituals. She kept her heart closed to the rolling hills dusted with heather. She kept her heart closed to a past gone forever. She could go to watch these druids with him. She would hold his hand and focus on their future.
This was what she thought, at least until she realised that Frank was driving them to the hill. Her hill. The stones. Frank’s gaze was fixed on the road and he missed the terror in Claire’s eyes. Her heart was beating like a drum in her chest. In her panic, she couldn’t think of any good excuse to back away from the stones. She climbed up the hill and saw the druids dancing around the stones in the sunrise. Her breath left her body in a gasp.
The stones were buzzing a single word. Home.
Fate or coincidence, this was a twisted way to play with her resolution. She’d never imagined that she’d feel the stones’ buzzing running through her body ever again.
Claire left the hill with Frank, holding his hand tight, afraid that his long fingers were the only tether keeping her from running up the hill and disappearing into the past.
She kept herself occupied to distract her thoughts from the hill. She visited Reverend Wakefield with Frank. She let Mrs. Graham read the leaves and her hand for her, and felt her throat constricting when the old lady revealed her destiny. She left the house laughing with Frank at the lady’s antics and tried to focus on herbology.
No matter how hard she tried though, all she could see in front of her was the bright blue forget-me-nots next to the stones, challenging her.
Her heart was still beating for the past. She hadn’t forgotten them. None of them. Jenny’s hugs, Jamie’s lopsided smiles, Brian’s warm eyes.
Her family. Her people. The ones who knew everything about her and accepted her nonetheless. The ones who didn’t want to let her go.
After Raymond’s death, which she had sorely discovered a few years before, the Frasers were the only family she had and she needed to protect them, even if that meant sacrificing her own happiness. Claire reminded herself of this fact. If she’d go back, she’d never find the strength to leave again.
No more time jumps, she promised herself. Stay here, be safe, keep them safe.
But then she closed her eyes and thought of the last time she’d been at Lallybroch.
Jenny, next to the parlour’s fireplace, reading Don Quixote aloud. Brian resting in the armchair with Bran’s sleepy head on his lap. Jamie sitting on the couch next to her, his fingers barely brushing hers and electrocuting her whole body.
She had stolen a kiss from him that night. Her last night. Their first kiss. It had been everything she’d dreamed of. Hesitant and sweet at first, passionate and consuming when they couldn’t keep from each other anymore. His hands had trembled lightly before he cupped her face, securing her against him, as though entreating her to stay there with him. All air left had her body at once, leaving her dizzy. For a few wonderful minutes, her whole world focused on his strong hands, his soft lips, her desperate heart. The way her magic had danced in her veins.
It broke her that she would never feel her heart fluttering that way again.
She’d stayed awake that night, feeling her heart break piece by piece. She’d waited for dawn, standing next to the window of her room, craving to see the sunlight strolling down the Scottish hills one last time. With a last tear, she had closed her hand around the stone of her necklace and left everything behind.
There was a single, tear-stained note on her bed.
Thank you for giving me a family when I had none. You’ll always be my heart, and for that, I can’t risk you.
She didn’t know if Jenny had known of her departure. If she had seen it, she never said anything.
Up to the day she walked up the enchanted hill again, searching for those forget-me-nots with her heart beating at the same rhythm as the stones, Claire truly believed that she’d left the Frasers forever that dawn.
She just wanted to get the forget-me-nots, she said to herself. A connection to the past, a way to show that she still cared. She was holding the flowers in her hand when she looked back at the bottom of the hill, but her body remained rooted in place. The stones were buzzing. The breeze caressed her hair like an old friend. The flowers in her hands were not enough, would never be enough.
In a single moment, she threw every single resolution she had made during the past years in the wind. The decision, reckless as it was, made her feel terrified, elated, free. Alive. Claire raised both hands in front of her, ready to grasp her future. The past. Her sister, her father, her love.
When she came to, the ground was damp and the soil’s scent attacked her nostrils. The stones were still buzzing their magic song, calling to her, singing with her, and the one embedded in her necklace joined them as if elated to find its long-lost friends.
Claire looked around, wondering if the time was right.
When she saw the redcoats on the horses, she smiled to herself. When she heard the guns, she cursed.
Without losing another moment, she broke into a run, determined to find somewhere to hide. She had to go back home. She had to go to Lallybroch.
Little did she know, that she’d meet one of her beloved Frasers in less than an hour since the stones took her to the past.
Little did she know, that dislocated shoulder or not, Jamie Fraser’s eyes would twinkle when they’d meet hers again and the smile she’d loved would curl up his lips.
Little did she know, that pregnant belly or not, Jenny’s hug would be just as fierce when she would hold her in her arms again.