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I'll Find You In the Music

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October 17, 1938 (Claire)

Claire hated this. She despised the never ending cycle of long nights and early mornings, of hotel rooms and limousines. Claire was tired of the crowds of well dressed, self important people who wanted to speak with her for ‘just a moment’. Claire felt so alone in those crowded rooms, she hated being there.

Frank said it was important to cultivate the rich and the powerful, they paid for everything. They paid the extravagant price for a ticket to her concerts.

The patrons paid the salaries of all the people that looked after Claire, that set up the piano she traveled with, that followed her everywhere and took care of everything so she could make music.

There was Mrs. Graham, her personal dresser, who took care of all her clothing and made sure she was dressed, coiffed and made up for her performance six nights a week. Mrs. Graham was a widow (her husband had died during The Great War) and treated Claire as though she was a beloved grandchild. She was also a wizard with a needle and very fashion savvy. Mrs. G. had been with Claire since birth, having been her parent’s housekeeper since their wedding.

There was Geillis Duncan her personal secretary. She made all the hotel reservations, confirmed all the tour dates and handled all of the logistical things touring required. Geillis was 20 which was terribly young, but it didn’t matter, she was charming, blunt and ruthlessly efficient. Uncle Lamb had hired Geillis in when she was 16 and Claire was 14. Geillis was the closest thing Claire had to a friend.

There was Hector Forrester, only a year or two older than Geillis, who was her chauffeur and took care of whatever else Claire needed. It was a little awkward the first time she needed personal items, but Hector was completely unruffled, which made it slightly less embarrassing. He ran errands, picked up last minute items and basically made everyone’s life run smoothly.

Hector also escorted Claire everywhere and Geillis jokingly referred to him as the bodyguard. Not that Claire needed a bodyguard, but at five feet even, she was very small and it did make her feel safer knowing Hector (who stood 6’) was there.

Lesley Mohr took care of the piano (a Steinway designed just for her), the small practice harp that had been her mother’s, and the harpsichord Uncle Lamb bought for her when she was six. Les and his wife Lizzie tuned them, packed and unpacked them, guarded them during transport as though they were their children. Lesley and Lizzie were also responsible for setting up the space wherever she played.

There were Joe and Gayle Abernathy, her sound people. Joe had been Claire’s sound man since her first solo concert. Gayle had been the personal secretary to a very temperamental soprano when she met Joe. When Joe proposed, Gayle quit and never looked back. From Joe, she learned all about how to make Claire sound her best in any venue and sometimes Gayle’s ideas produced better results than Joe’s did. They were a great team and quite sought after by venues, their race notwithstanding.

Not that they would ever leave Claire. Joe had grown up with Claire, his father Paul had been her first manager. His mother had been a Jazz singer and had died giving birth to Joe. Joe’s dark skin gave Paul some problems, but Paul didn’t care. He had loved Victoria, Joe’s mother. Julia, Claire’s mother hadn’t cared either; being Irish and Catholic, she knew all about prejudice. She was one of the few big names that hadn’t dropped him, and Paul never forgot it. Neither did Joe.

Last but certainly not least, there was Frank Randall. Frank was her manager now. He planned the tours, the fundraisers, the social events and did all the advertising. Frank had been her manager since Paul died when she was sixteen. He had been Paul’s assistant, so it made sense to Uncle Lamb to hire him.

The only thing Frank didn’t do, was handle the money. All of her finances were overseen by the lawyer that handled her trust fund and her parents’ estate. Ned had been her parents’ lawyer and had always handled her money too. She called him Uncle Ned, although he wasn’t a blood relative. He didn’t tour with them but she was just as responsible for his livelihood as she was for everyone else’s.

The other person that didn’t tour with them was Alec. He stayed home and looked after things while everyone else came on tour with Claire. Mrs. G. called him every day for a check in, and Claire talked to him on Sundays after church. Claire wasn’t sure how old he was, but it was older than Mrs. G. who was in her 50’s.

Eleven people. It didn’t sound like that many, but to Claire, who would turn 18 in three days, it was a heavy burden and a huge responsibility.

Sometimes, Claire wished she could just be normal, although she didn’t really know what normal was.


October 17, 1938 (Jamie)

How long do I have to be here before I can go back to the hotel’? Jamie wondered. He knew why he was here, they needed the patronage of the people who sponsored the concerts and paid their salaries. God in heaven, he hated these receptions. They always made him feel as though he was on display.

At 6’3” Jamie towered over everyone else in the room, although thankfully some of his kinsmen were at least 6’ so he wasn’t the only tall man, just the tallest. That and his red hair made him stick out. It probably didn’t help that he wore his hair longer than was fashionable. With his curls, if he wore it short he looked more like a poodle than a man. When he wore it long the weight pulled out a bit of the curl. Besides, with the kilts and such that they wore on stage, it looked fine tied back.

More than fine if the reaction of some of the reception’s guests were anything to go by. Most of the daughters and even a few of the wives of the wealthy men who patronized the concerts, vied for his attention. It disgusted Jamie if he was being honest. He had no interest in being the plaything of a neglected wife or a spoiled child. Jamie wanted a love like the one his parents had. Until then he’d bide his time. Mam said that when he found the woman of his heart, he would know. That her soul would speak to his and his would answer.

Jamie hoped so. He wasn’t the only single man in the Schola, but he did get tired of all the lasses trying to become his wife, or even just his lover. Not that he had a lover. It may not be what everyone expected, but Jamie intended to take one woman to bed...his wife. Jamie was of the opinion that if a woman was expected to be chaste until she married, twas only fair that a man should be expected to be chaste as well.

Uncle Dougal thought he was insane or stupid. He had told Jamie that someone should ken what the Bloody Hell they were doing on the wedding night. Jamie retorted that they could figure it out together. Not that he was completely ignorant. His Da had very thoroughly explained what should and should not happen in the marriage bed. Mostly, Da said, it was about listening and respect for the other person. The conversation had been embarrassing at times, but Jamie was thankful that his Da made him listen. He wouldn’t want to look like a fool, or worse; hurt the lass, when he found her.

He wasn’t likely to find his heart’s own choice this evening though. Not here anyway.

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Claire October 1920

Henry, Claire’s father was an Englishman, a surgeon, a brilliant violinist and a tenor. He had a large fortune inherited from his mother, a small estate just outside London inherited from his father, and homes in Paris and New York, so didn’t need to work. Given that he had the means and the desire, Henry chose to work with the poor, doing consulting work in New York at St. Vincent’s and in Paris at L’ Hôpital des Anges. In London he was occasionally called in to consult at St. John’s, but not very often, as most of the patients were already dying.

Of course the estate was in London and so was Ned. Most of Henry’s time in England was taken up with administering the estate. He had liked being a surgeon, but from the moment he saw Julia his focus changed. He adored Julia with everything in him. Until Claire was born. Then his focus split in two.

Julia, Claire’s mother, was a Lyric Soprano, harpist and composer. She wasn’t quite as famous as Jenny Lind had been in the 1800’s but she was pretty famous. She used to tour all year round, until she met Henry. For Julia love was instantaneous and total. They married almost immediately, in 1910. Julia took a sabbatical from touring after the wedding, to start a family.

It was supposed to be a short break, but ended up lasting a number of years. For over ten years, Julia did the odd sold out concert, but did not resume touring until Claire was a year old. Henry served as a surgeon in the Great War. It was a very traumatic separation for both of them, and when the war was over, Henry consulted less than before, preferring to spend most of his time with Julia.

Quentin Lambert, Henry’s younger brother, was an infrequent visitor. Lamb, as he was called, never married. Borrowing Julia and Claire from his brother was all he needed for women in his life, he said. Julia used to tell Claire that Uncle Lamb was married to his career.

Lamb was an archaeologist and preferred going out in the field to teaching, although he did some of that too. Being connected to Oxford University provided funding. Lamb came back to teach the odd class for a semester in between digs. They saw him more often when they were in Europe, he didn’t like New York. Although during the War, Uncle Lamb had stayed with Julia in New York, ‘for Henry’s peace of mind’ he always said.

Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp had been a much wanted child. Julia suffered seven heartbreaking miscarriages at twenty weeks, before finally, with the help of a French Physician, Claire made it into the world, arriving on October 20, 1920.

Julia had been on complete bed rest for the entire pregnancy and in the hospital for the last trimester. Finally holding a living child, Julia had wept tears of joy and relief, and called her Precious from the first.

Claire was born five weeks early and although healthy, was small. Hence her father’s pet name of Brownie. Partially for her dark brown hair, partially because she was such a tiny thing at birth and remained tiny. Lamb called her Fairy Princess, or Princess for short.

Once Claire was a year old, Paul Abernathy, Julia’s manager, began begging her to resume touring. Julia agreed with some conditions.

Having waited so long for Claire, Julia didn’t want to miss a moment. So when she did perform, it would be in London, New York, or Paris only, and never more than a limited engagement of six weeks, with a two month break after. Henry and Claire were to come along with her. She had to be done before midnight, even if there was a reception after. She wouldn’t perform on Sundays or on Holy Days.

Some of her conditions were unusual, but Julia was sought after enough that accommodations were made. They had homes in all three places, although the estate in England was by far the largest, and Claire was in her own bed every night.

When Claire turned four, Julia added Austria to her touring schedule. They added a small house in Austria to their collection of homes.

In Claire’s fifth year, a tutor was engaged for academic subjects. Partially because Julia didn’t want to send her away to school. Partially because of the music. Claire it seemed, was a child prodigy. When Claire began composing for harp at age four, Henry and Julia realized that she needed to begin academic studies as well to be a fully educated person; something both parents wanted for her.

The first tutor proved to be less than understanding of the creative mind. He was let go after a very unsatisfactory month and Henry took over as Claire’s primary tutor. Julia was her music tutor.

Claire learned violin, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, along with Geography and History from her father. She learned music theory harp, and composition from her mother. She also studied the harpsichord with a music teacher brought in for just that subject. Julia had heard Wanda Landowska in Germany and thought the instrument beautiful. They had a small antique instrument in the sitting room of the London house that Lamb had bought. Claire first started playing it at age four and by five needed a proper instructor for the instrument.

Claire already spoke English and French flawlessly, having grown up in a bilingual household. Although Henry had an English estate, he had been raised in France by his maternal grandparents, and was more comfortable with that language. He had of course studied Latin and Greek in university.

Julia spoke English, French, and some Irish Gaelic, although she wouldn’t call herself fluent in it. Both knew enough German and Italian to sing it, but not really enough to carry on a conversation. Henry planned to start Claire on Latin when she was older. She knew her church Latin already.

At the age of six Claire added piano lessons to her other music studies. Also when Claire was six, Henry began to appear with Julia. They sang beautiful duets together, and Henry performed a few pieces on the violin. Claire was always there, falling asleep in the dressing room while Mrs. G. kept watch.

Even surrounded by professional musicians, there was something special about Claire. She seemed to disappear into the sound, and watching her perform gave one the sense that the Angels had come down from heaven to listen. It was breathtaking and heartrending, every single time. But Claire didn’t perform in public. She was only six. The only people privileged enough to hear her play were her parents, Mrs. G. and the music teachers.

It was something of a gypsy lifestyle, but there was stability for Claire and they were together. A loving family, always together. Then as sometimes happens, life changed.

Chapter Text

Claire December 1928

It was a six performance engagement alongside an early music group from Scotland, called the Queen’s Singers. The group was made up of 16 vocalists singing music written for the Virgin Mary. Not strictly an A-Capella group they wanted a harpist to accompany some of their pieces, along with a string quartet and a harpsichordist.

Julia was invited to be the harpist. Not her usual type of tour, but it was local to the New York House. Claire had just turned eight that October, Henry was consulting on a case at St. Vincent’s and Julia wanted some time at home. Playing for the Queen’s Singers gave them all the way through the end of fall, and Julia deliberately didn’t let Paul schedule anything until after Christmas. They were celebrating an American Christmas this year.

Rehearsals had gone well, and it was two days before the opening…

“Mummy, why is Mr. Paul yelling?” Claire asked.

“I don’t know Precious, let’s find out shall we?”

Paul, also the manager for the Queen’s Singers was red faced and ranting at another man who was standing there with his arm in a cast and looking rather rumpled.

“Why in the HELL couldn’t you be more careful !!! We open in 2 Fuc”...the red faced man noticed Julia and Claire...2 ruddy days and where am I going to find a replacement for you!?”

Julia gave him a small smile. “What seems to be the difficulty Paul?”

Paul, took a deep breath, “Mike was in a small accident and broke his wrist. Which means he can’t play the harpsichord for awhile, and as I’m sure you know, harpsichord players aren’t all that common. Not decent ones anyway.

I asked the pianist we have opening, but she said the harpsichord was really a different instrument and she didn’t have enough experience to play it right. What the Blood...ruddy Hel...heck am I going to do?”

Julia did appreciate Paul’s attempt to moderate his language in front of Claire.

“Have you called Julliard? Perhaps one of their professors or more advanced students?”

“I did, the Professor is on sabbatical in Europe and they don’t have any harpsichord students currently. It’s not a commonly studied instrument.”

Julia paused.. “I have an idea but I need to check with some people first. Could we postpone the rehearsal by an hour or two?”

“You know of someone?!!! Who?”

“I MIGHT know of someone. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll go see what I can do.”

Taking Claire by the hand, Julia left the room and headed back towards the door.

“Mummy, why are we leaving?”

“I need to speak to your father dear, and to you.”

“Me! Mummy!!!” Claire came to a complete stop, a look of horrified realization coming over her face. She knew in that instant who Julia was thinking of.

Julia stopped also. “Precious, I promise this is not something I would ever force you to do, but I would like to go find Daddy and talk about it. Could we do that?”

Claire thought about that for a moment. Daddy would know how to talk Mummy out of this absurd idea.

“Alright, let’s go find Daddy.”

Locating Henry was relatively simple, he was at home. Once in his study, Julia came right to the point.

“Henry, something has come up and I wanted your input.” Then Julia turned to Claire.

“Precious, You heard Mr. Paul, and you understand the situation, but for Daddy’s sake, I’ll explain again.” Turning to Henry, Julia continued. “Mike, the harpsichord player has broken his wrist. Paul has called and cannot find another harpsichordist on such short notice, particularly not one that knows the music. Claire does know the music and has been to all of the rehearsals, so of course I thought of her.”

“However!” Julia looked at Claire. “If you or Daddy don’t think this is a good idea, I shall simply tell Mr. Paul that the person I had in mind is not available. I would never try and force you into something that you truly did not want to do.”

Daddy was thoughtful. “If you are asking me about her ability, of course I think Claire can do it. Particularly if they are in such a bind. The important question however is this...Brownie what do YOU think?”

From the beginning, Claire had been sure that Daddy would put a stop to this. But to have first her mother and then her father make the point that this was rather an emergency gave her pause. What did she think?

Of course she knew she could play the music. That wasn’t a question. She had been playing the harpsichord pieces flawlessly since the second rehearsal. They weren’t complicated after all, just a support for the singers. Mr. Mike had been very nice and given her a copy of the music that first day; when he learned during a break that harpsichord was one of the instruments she studied. He had even let her play a couple of times on his instrument, which wasn’t as nice as the one in the London house, but was a pretty decent instrument all things considered. It was very close to the one she had in the New York house.

This may have seemed arrogant, but it wasn’t really. Claire didn’t really see her extraordinary musical talents as something she DID. They were more something she had been given, and it was up to her to develop them to the best of her ability. Like the story of the Talents in the Bible. God had given her the gift of music. It was Claire’s responsibility to develop that gift and share it with people.

Her parents lived their lives by that philosophy and had raised Claire in that philosophy. Gratitude to God for the gifts she had received and service to others as an expression of that gratitude. So Claire really thought about it. She didn’t want to get up on stage in front of all those people, but they needed her help and she could give it. Didn’t she have a responsibility to do it?

Henry and Julia waited patiently for Claire to think things through. They would never force her, but privately Julia thought this would be a good opportunity for her daughter. Henry thought more in terms of his Brownie showing the world how incredible she was...not that he had a bias mind you.

It was Claire’s choice, and her parents let her make it.

After several minutes of silence, Claire took a deep breath. “Mummy, do you really think I CAN?”

“Yes Precious, I really do. I promise, Daddy and I will be there with you, just backstage when I’m not onstage.”



“okay.” Big breath. “I’ll try.”

Then Henry spoke up looking at Claire very solemnly. “I’m very proud of you Brownie.” Then Henry smiled. “Besides, it’s about time the world learned just how brilliant you are.”

“Daaaadddy” Claire giggled. Henry chuckled with his daughter, and then shared a look with his wife. He knew as did Julia, that this was the moment when their lives changed. The world was about to discover Claire. Whether or not the change was good...well that was another thing entirely.

A decision having been reached, Julia and Claire went back to the theatre. When presented with Julia’s idea, Paul had been skeptical.

“Jesus Christ Julia, I thought you had a real idea.” Julia gave him a disapproving look.

“Paul, it IS a real idea. I wouldn’t have suggested it if I thought Claire couldn’t do it.”

“Come ON, she’s what? eight? for Chris...cryin’ out loud.”

Shy she may have been, but Claire also had a bit of a temper. She hadn’t been sure of this, but Paul’s doubt in her ability stiffened her spine.

“I can do it.” Claire said quietly. Too quietly, since Paul completely ignored her and continued to rant at Julia.

With a determined set to her chin, Claire walked over to the Harpsichord and began to play. Mike having heard her, smiled to himself when Claire began to play. She wasn’t playing the music of the concert but the French overture by J.S. Bach. It wasn’t fast or flashy, but it was a fairly advanced piece of music and contemporary with most of the concert music. All the more brilliant when you considered that the bench was much too low for her and Claire was standing up to play.

By the time she had finished 30 minutes later, the concert hall had gone completely silent, and everyone was staring at the small child playing. Claire didn’t notice. Her father always said she left the room and disappeared into the music when she played, and this time was no exception. As she concluded playing, those listening came to the same understanding that Henry and Julia had. That this little girl brought Heaven to them as she made music. Two of the Singers were in tears.

Claire played the harpsichord every day, but she didn’t perform and was startled by the applause. Coming back into the room, she blushed and looked down at her hands. She didn’t mean to interrupt everyone, Mr. Paul just made her angry, and determined to prove she could play.

Julia smiled at Paul serenely. “You were saying?”

Paul didn’t say anything to Julia, just waved at Mike and asked him to get Claire set up. From there they rehearsed the music with the Queen’s Singers.

The choir members were all very nice and encouraging of Claire, patient while she and Mike went over the various cues and going over entrances and exits several times with her.

The only difficulty had been the bench. Mike was an average 5’10 tall. Claire on the other hand, was eight years old and small for her age standing at just 3’10”. After a bit of discussion, it was agreed that Julia would bring Claire’s bench from home, which was adjusted for her height and although a slightly darker wood than the harpsichord, would fit the instrument. In the meantime, they had borrowed some blocks of wood to raise the bench.

By the end of the rehearsal, Paul was looking much calmer, and Claire felt good that she was helping.

After the rehearsal, Claire didn’t really have much time to panic. She went home, had her dinner, stood quietly while Mrs. G. checked her one black dress (usually for funerals) to make sure it still fit and was in good repair, then went and got ready for bed. She came into the library for evening prayer, climbing into her father’s lap.

“Good evening Brownie, what’s on your mind?” Claire didn’t really climb into Henry’s lap anymore, at the advanced age of eight, unless she needed his reassurance about something. She preferred cuddling into his side while he read to her.

“Daddy, what if I make a mistake?”

“What if you do?”

“Daaadddy, that isn’t helpful.”

“Isn’t it? Claire my darling child, listen to me. People make mistakes all the time. It happens. All God asks is that you do your very best, every day and let Him handle the rest. If you do your best, that is something to be proud of. If you make a mistake or even isn’t the end of the world. It might be slightly embarrassing for a little while, but then life will continue and people will forget.”

“But I wouldn’t forget.”

“Probably not. But what would you do with the memory, hmmm?”

“What do you mean Daddy?”

“Well people generally do one of two things with embarrassing memories. They try and forget them, or they try and learn from them. I suggest you take the second option. If you DO make a mistake, then think about what caused it and learn from that so you don’t next time.”

“Daddy?” This last was a whisper.

“Yes pet”.

“I’m scared.”

“Of course you are darling, you wouldn’t be human if you weren’t. I’m scared every time I go into an operating theatre. Mummy is scared every time she goes out on stage. That’s normal. However, I also know that you are brave, and you can do this.”

“I don’t feel brave.”

“My darling, bravery is not the absence of fear, it is being afraid and doing what must be done in spite of the fear.”

Claire thought about that for a minute. “Thank you Daddy, I love you.”

“I love you too.”

And if she said a silent prayer for courage that night, it was between her and God.

Chapter Text

Jamie 1921-1928

Jamie was born third in his family on May 1, 1921. He had an older brother William (Willie) and an older sister, Janet (Jenny). His mother was a painter and concert pianist and his father was the Laird of Broch Turach. His ancestors had decided NOT to fight at Culloden and so they had managed to keep their estate when so many other’s hadn’t.

Jamie’s father ran the family distillery and the estate. Jamie’s mother raised Jamie and his siblings, oversaw the house, painted, and in the winter time, when the estate wasn’t so busy, gave concerts.

Ellen believed in making sure her children had a complete education and that included the arts. She herself taught them to draw as soon as they could hold a pencil. Willie had a gift, Janet was hopeless and Jamie was somewhere in between the two.

Each child joined the local children’s choir at age six. Janet and Willie sang in the soprano section, which made practicing at home slightly easier. Having a concert pianist for a mother, allowed them to progress rapidly, mainly because she practiced with her children daily. When Willie was eight, he sang for Mass on Christmas morning, his clear soprano sounding ethereal to the congregation. When Janet was eight she did the same. Jamie was six that year and was put into the same section as his siblings.

All the children received piano lessons of course, and Janet took up the cello at age nine. Willie was more interested in his drawing than taking up another instrument, so his parents left it at that. Jamie wasn’t sure what he wanted to play, or if he wanted to add something to piano lessons. He much preferred being outside and helping his Da with the horses.

Jamie’s Ma started taking Willie with her on tour when he turned eight and Jamie was two. Janet was allowed to go when she turned eight and Jamie was five. Jamie's siblings always came back from these tours with stories of the people they had met and the music they had heard. Ellen also took her children to the museums in whichever cities she performed, and sometimes to the performances of other musicians.

When Jamie was seven, his mother was invited to the United States as part of a tour of Scottish artists. She was to give six performances, opening for a vocal group also from Scotland. A third group gave the Sunday performances, which suited Ellen just fine. She would perform on Sunday, but preferred not to.

Willie and Janet were going with her, and Jamie was wildly jealous. It wasn’t fair that they both got to go to America and he didn’t. He was seven and a half. Surely that was close enough to eight. Jamie didn’t exactly throw a tantrum, but he did sulk about it quite a bit. Brian noticed and brought it up to Ellen.

“Mo ghràidh, I ken that ye’re tryin to be fair, but this isna an opportunity that’s likely to come again any time soon. How would ye feel about bending yer rule slightly to take Jamie to America as well? Mrs. Crook can go wit ye and help Murtagh look after the bairns while ye are rehearsin’ and performin’. He can take his lessons along with him the same as Janet and William.”

“I’m not opposed to the idea, but who would look after you if I take Mrs. Crook?”

Brian laughed. “I think I can look after myself for nine weeks, but if it twill make ye feel better I’ll have young Moira McTavish in to keep the house and cook for me. She’s just finished school and is’na engaged or wed yet.”

“That’s...a very good idea. It will give young Moira a way to earn a bit of money and I’ll feel better knowing that ye aren’t eating down to the pub every night.”

“Alright, I shall go and ask her tomorrow then. Would you like me to tell Jamie or shall you?”

“I will. I don’t want him to think that I’m against the idea.”

Brian bent down and kissed his wife. “I agree. Shall we go to bed then?”

“To bed? Or to sleep?”

Brian drew Ellen into his arms, and kissed her breathless. Then taking his wife’s hand, led her to the bed.

Jamie was beside himself with excitement. He had been miserably sick on the ship and spent most of the voyage in his cabin. The adults had taken turns sitting with him, and he had gone on deck every day, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. It was worth it to see America.

The crossing had taken a bit less than a week, and Jamie was glad he lived in the modern age. It had taken ships twice as long 50 years ago and Jamie had read that the Mayflower had taken over a month.

Now they were here, in New York, and Jamie could hardly wait to see the museums. His mother had decided that since they were here, they might as well stay a bit longer and go to a Jazz concert. Jazz was a totally American musical form, and Ellen was anxious to hear it performed by Americans.

They saw the Metropolitan Museum and the museum of Natural History among others. There was an exhibit of Modern art that they attended, which Jamie did not enjoy or understand. “Art should look like something.” He whispered to Jenny who nodded.

There were galleries and libraries and opera houses. Sometimes Mam went with them in the evenings, as long as she didn’t have an early rehearsal the following day. Mostly though it was Murtagh and Mrs. Crook that took them around to all the sights. They attended Mass at a different church each week, and wandered through the larger ones after, looking at the stained glass and the statues.

The children faithfully recorded everything they experienced in their travel diaries. Brian had given each a beautiful journal bound in leather. Willie’s was Black, Jamie’s was brown and Janet’s was a lovely red color. He told them to record everything, so he could read about it and share the experience with them, even if he couldn’t be there in person.

The afternoon of the day before the concert series began, the children all went with Ellen to hear the dress rehearsal. They had attended the first rehearsal, but none since. The concert itself lasted until 10:00pm which was far too late for them to be out, so Ellen had received permission for the children to attend the dress rehearsal. Murtagh and Mrs. Crook came as well of course.

They sat quietly in the back, so as not to disturb anyone. Mam was brilliant as always. There was a five minute intermission to rearrange the stage and Ellen joined them, sitting between Jenny and Jamie.

Ellen whispered to them, “what did you think my Darlings?”

“I liked the French piece Mam. Can I learn that one?” Jamie wanted to know

“I think so. It will be a challenge for ye, but ye can try.” Ellen cautioned.

“I want to try.” Jamie insisted.

“Alright my lad. We’ll begin when we return home.”

The lights dimmed and everyone sat back to listen to the group, The Queen’s Singers. They were also from Scotland and Jamie had heard them before, although the instrumentalists were local.

The first two pieces were nice, but he had heard them before. Then a little girl walked onto the stage and sat down at the Harpsichord. All three Fraser children sat up and looked at their mother.

Ellen didn’t say anything, so the children sat back. The little girl played the introduction and the song began. When the song ended, the little girl bowed with the singers and went back offstage. She came out for a total of three songs, and bowed at the end with the rest of the performers.

Jamie wondered who she was. At seven he wasn’t aware of her looks, but there was something about the little girl that drew his gaze. After the rehearsal was over, they returned to their hotel. Jamie held his mother’s hand walking through the streets and after a block or two he asked her. “Mam, why was there a little girl playing the harpsichord? What happened to the man from before?”

“Mike broke his wrist and they couldn’t find anyone to replace him. Julia, the harpist, suggested her daughter Claire. Evidently Claire has been studying harpsichord since she was five. She began playing the harpsichord before she began playing piano according to her mother.”

“oh. She was very good.” Jamie observed.

“Yes, she was. I wouldn’t be surprised if young Claire becomes more famous than her mother someday.” Ellen said thoughtfully.

“I think I would be scared to death to perform in a hall that big.” Said Jenny.

“She’s probably too young to be scared." Put in Willie.”

“How old is Claire, Mam?” Jamie wanted to know.

“She’s just turned eight in October I think.”

Jamie turned to Willie. “I’m almost eight. I would be scairt and I bet she is too.” He looked at Ellen.

“I’m going to say a prayer for her tonight. For courage.”

“Ye dinna even ken her ya numpty! Why would ye pray for her? She wilna ken anyway.” Willie and Jenny scoffed at him.

“I dinna care. God will ken and so will I.” Jamie stuck his chin out stubbornly.

Before the children could continue bickering, they reached the hotel and Ellen held up a hand. “That’s sufficient children. I do not want people to think you ruffians.”

All the children fell silent, although the argument wasn’t forgotten. During evening prayer, Jamie prayed for the little girl just as he said he would. Willie and Jenny both began to make sport of him.

“Have ye taken a fancy to the lass then Jamie?” Willie wanted to know.

Jenny scoffed. “He does’na even ken what that is Willie. He’s just a bairn still.”

Jamie looked hurt, but didn’t say anything, just went to his room to get ready for bed. Ellen gave her older children a look. “Personally I think it shows a kind heart to pray for a stranger. It was’na well done of ye to mock him for it.”

Willie and Jenny looked sheepish. Ellen went to find Jamie.

“Jamie. Jamie are you in here?”

The little boy came out of the bathroom. He wasn’t crying, but his eyes were red. Ellen held out her arms and Jamie went into them. She cuddled her youngest for a moment, and then said…

“T’was a lovely thing ye did, praying for little Claire. I’m sorry your siblings teased you.”

“I just dinna want her to be scairt Mam. She’s so little. Even littler than me.”

“Ach well. You’re verra big for seven ye ken, and Claire is verra little.” Ellen gave him one more hug.

“Climb inta the bed and I shall tuck ye up.” Jamie got under the covers and his mother made a ceremony of tucking him in.


“Aye Mam?”

“You have a kind heart, and that is no a common thing. As ye go through life, people will sometimes mock ye for it. Dinna let them take away from you the gift of sympathy for others. ‘Tis they that are lacking, no ye.” Jamie smiled at his mother.

“I wil’na let them change me Mam.”

“Good lad. Stand strong as yer Da does.” Giving him a kiss, Ellen stood to go. Jamie snuggled down into the covers. When she reached the door, Ellen turned off the light.


“Yes Jamie?”

“I love you.”

“I love you too. Now go to sleep!” Jamie giggled and rolled over.


The rest of their New York visit was much like before. They went to museums and did their schoolwork, attended Mass on Sunday. They went to the Jazz concert on a Sunday afternoon. It was interesting but Jamie wasn’t sure he whether he liked Jazz or not. Ellen was fascinated with the improvisation of the musicians and spent some time afterwards, speaking with them.

They didn’t go to their mother’s performances, and Jamie didn’t see the little girl again, except for once from a distance at Mass on the last Sunday they were in New York. He hadn’t forgotten about her exactly, but he hadn’t thought of her since the night he prayed for her.


“Yes Jamie.”

“How did the little girl do in the concerts? Was she scairt?” Jamie had forgotten her name, just remembered that she was littler than him.

“I dinna ken son. Claire may have been, but she didn’t give any evidence of it and her performance was nearly flawless.”

“Do ye think the prayer helped?”

“I’m sure it did son. Prayer always helps.”

That as they say was that. The Frasers returned home to Scotland. Jamie was seasick again. When they returned home, everyone shared the story of their trip with Brian and he read all their journals. The little girl was mentioned by Jamie and Jenny, but not by Willie. After a week or so, life returned to normal at Lallybroch and the adventure to America faded into the background of their collective memory.

Chapter Text

Claire: 1928

The superstition is that a horrible dress rehearsal makes for a great opening night and a great dress rehearsal means that something will go horribly wrong on opening night.

For Claire’s first opening night, thankfully, that superstition was not proven true.

The dress rehearsal, with the proper bench, had gone perfectly. All of the adults held their breath, but no one said anything to Claire as she was already quite nervous.

Claire’s name wasn’t in the program as she was a last minute substitution and Paul hadn’t made any announcement before the performance, mainly because he didn’t want people to get up and leave. There was some slight murmuring from the audience with Claire’s first entrance. She played three pieces in total, all baroque and all variations on Ave Maria by various composers.

After the first piece, Claire started to relax and enjoy herself. The music wasn’t terribly complicated, or lengthy, and she never had to come on or go off by herself. At the end of the concert she took a final bow with the other instrumental musicians and then the group bow with the choir, and that was the end of it. Julia said good night, they went home and Claire went to bed.

The concert series was running on six consecutive Saturdays. The Queen’s Singers did not perform on Sundays.

The other five performances were similar. Due to the eight o’clock start time, Julia and Claire agreed that adding an afternoon nap into the schedule was the best idea, and they both took one in Julia’s room on the ‘big bed’, as Claire had named it when she was a toddler.

Daddy and Uncle Lamb (who came to town special) came to the last performance. There was a party, but the Beauchamps and Uncle Lamb didn’t go. They went home and to bed.

The next morning Mrs. G. made a special celebration brunch after Mass. As they were finishing, the telephone rang, and Henry answered it. Claire heard him speaking quietly for a minute and then he hung up and came back into the dining room.

“who was that darling?”

“Paul.” Said Henry.

“Paul? Did we leave something at the theatre?”

“No. He wants to meet with us and discuss including Claire in the next concert series.” Henry looked at Julia and then at Claire. Julia didn’t look at all surprised. Claire did.

“What kind of concert series?” Claire wanted to know.

“Well, I don’t know exactly. I told Paul that I would talk to you and call him back. Brownie, if you want to come to the meeting with us I’m happy for you to do so, but not on a Sunday.”

“Mummy?” Claire wasn’t sure what she was even asking, but Julia understood.

“I think we should at least meet with Paul and see what his idea is. Then we can discuss it as a family.”


And that as they say, was that. A meeting was arranged for the following week and several conversations later, it was decided that The Beauchamps would do a limited concert series in Europe and New York, including Claire. Most would take place in a concert hall, but one performance would be in Central Park as part of an outdoor concert series. It would take place over the summer and begin in Europe, and end in New York in September.

July 1929 – France

Claire loved France. Her mother had ensured that she was fluent in the language, they were of French descent after all, and in Julia’s mind, every educated person should speak French and study Latin. Henry insisted on waiting to add Latin until Claire was ten, so the only Latin she knew were the prayers and responses for Mass.

The tour was taking place in four cities. London had been in June, four performances on consecutive Saturdays. Like the Queen’s Singers Julia did not perform on Sundays, which Paul still grumbled about. Henry told him that scarcity drives the prices up and to be glad they were touring at all. Paul got the point and stopped grumbling where Henry and Julia could hear him.

Paris was for July. In August They were playing three weeks in Italy and then two weeks in New York. One of the New York Concerts was in Lincoln Center, and one was in Central Park as part of a summer concert series.

On the days they weren’t performing, Julia and Claire played tourist. Henry was currently in England for his annual meeting with Ned, but would be joining them in Italy for the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th.

For Paris, it was just Julia and Claire. The duets shifted to mother and daughter, rather than the love songs Henry sang with Julia. Claire played a violin piece and added two piano pieces in place of Henry’s three violin works.

The best thing about France Claire decided, were the gardens. Julia had long been into herbal medicine, a hobby she had developed while trying to have a child. She had continued and Claire had grown up playing in the dirt with her mother. France was the premier country for herbal medicine having gotten organized about it in the middle ages. One afternoon about halfway through the month, Julia ran into an old friend.

“Raymond! How lovely to see you.”

“And you Ma Cher. And who is this?”

“This is my daughter, Claire.”

“Ahhh. Bonjour petit Madonna.”

“Bonjour Monsieur.” Claire didn’t know why, but she added a little curtsy.

“Ahh ma belle, what lovely manners.”

“Merci Monsieur.”

“Oh no, please call me Oncle Ray. I know your Oncle Lamb quite well, and remember you as un nouveau-né, although sadly I had to return to Paris shortly after you were born.”

“Precious, Dr. Raymond was my physician when I was carrying you. It is mostly due to his efforts that we have you with us.”

“Non Ma Cher, it is le bon Dieu we have to thank for that. I merely served as His instrument.”

“Be that as it may, we are very grateful to you.” They visited for a short while, until Julia noticed the time.

“Oh Heaven’s we need to get to rehearsal. Raymond, if you can, we are playing this Saturday, at the Philharmonic. I can leave tickets for you at the box office, and perhaps we can have a late supper after?”

“La petit Madonna aussi?”

“Oui. We play together and Claire has just learned a new duet for harp and voice that she will sing with me.”

“I would be delighted ma Cher, thank you.”

The rest of the Paris dates went well. Dinner with Raymond was pleasant. They had spent the evening talking about herbs and gardening. Claire mostly listened and learned, although she did ask the occasional question. Oncle Ray would only refer to Claire as Petit Madonna, although she didn’t know why. He was nice though and treated her like a grown lady, taking her questions seriously and even gifting her with a small book on herbs and their uses. Claire decided she liked Oncle Ray.

Before she knew it, they were in Italy.

August 1929 – Italy

Italy was beautiful Claire decided, even though it was different than France. She couldn’t quite articulate how it was different, but it just was. The first performance had gone well and they were to give the second performance that night.

“Claire, Precious, where are you?”

“In the music room Mummy.”

Concert tour or no, Claire still had to practice her music each day. It was a grueling schedule for a child, but Claire loved making music and didn’t see it as a burden or obligation. Harp and Harpsichord she practiced daily for an hour each. Violin and Piano were practiced every other day for an hour and theory studies for an hour.

Claire also worked with her mother on voice for 30 minutes a day, working mostly on breathing and diction. Julia did not believe in pushing children and most definitely believed in singing in a healthy way, being a student of the Bel Canto philosophy. Claire had a pure sweet voice as most children do, and Julia was determined to let her voice mature naturally.

Composing took as much time as it needed to, or rather as much time as she could carve out for it. Claire was working on her first full orchestral piece currently and the oboes were giving her trouble.

Normally Julia asked her about her progress, but not today.

“Precious you’ll never guess what’s happened.”

“What Mummy?”

“We’ve been invited to the Vatican. The Holy Father has heard of you and would like to meet you.”

Claire was speechless. Like many children, the Pope was an almost mythical figure to her. She knew he was the head of the church, and that seemed a very important job to her, he must be far too busy to see children.

After several moments, Claire finally found her voice.

“But why does he want to see ME? He’s so important. I’m just a child.”

“I don’t know my darling, but he does and so we shall go.”


“We shall go on August 14th. It is before the Assumption, but Daddy will be arriving on the 12th so he can come too. We leave for New York on the 16th. I’m going to try and reach Lamb so he can come. After all it’s not every day you get invited to meet the Holy Father.”

Julia left the room, calling for her lady’s maid Suzette. Claire went back to practicing, but her mind wasn’t on the music, it was on the Holy Father. Why did he want to meet Claire? She just didn’t understand. Not that it mattered. Mummy said they were going, so they were going.

August 14, 1929 The Vatican

Henry, Julia, Mrs. G. and Claire were met at the door to the audience chamber by a Cardinal. Julia had been unable to reach Lamb as he was on a dig in Egypt, so it was just the four of them. Mrs. G. was beside herself. So was Claire if one was being honest.

“Good morning, this way please. His Holiness would like to meet with you in the music room.”

“The Holy Father has a music room?” Henry wanted to know.

“Well, strictly speaking it doesn’t belong to him personally, but all of the musical instruments the church has been gifted over the years are in the salon and we invite musicians to come in and give concerts periodically.”

Claire started to panic. Did they expect her to play for the Pope?!

Her parents noticed, and exchanged a look.

“Precious, you remember, it’s your decision whether or not you play when you are asked to. No one commands you, not even the Holy Father.”

The Cardinal looked startled at Julia’s statement, and then looked at the child. She was pale and wringing her hands. Ahh, the Cardinal thought to himself. He paused and then said to the group of four;

“Wait here a moment please.”

The Cardinal (Blaise) went through the door to the salon and approached Pope Pius XI.

“Your Holiness, the Beauchamp family has arrived. However, I wanted to bring one thing to your attention. The little girl, Claire, is terribly nervous at the thought of playing for you. I believe it to be nerves, due to who you are, rather than anxiety about performing in general. She does tour with her mother after all.”

“Thank you Blaise, I shall be mindful of the child’s feelings.”

Cardinal Blaise went back to fetch the family. They entered the room and all were presented and made their obeisance to the Holy Father. The ladies were of course wearing black with black veils, as was the custom.

“Bonjour, merci beaucoup d'être venu à moi (Good morning, thank you so much for attending to me.)” The Holy Father spoke French, having been advised that the visitors were fluent in that language.

“Bonjour votre sainteté (Good morning your Holiness.)” This was Henry.

“Et c'est le petit ange dont j'ai tant entendu parler. Cela fait de la musique du ciel. Viens mon enfant, assieds-toi ici et parlons ensemble.(And this is the little angel I have heard so much of. That makes music from Heaven. Come my child, sit here and let us speak together.)”

Claire and her family sat and spoke with the Pope for about twenty minutes, before Claire began to get a little bored. Asking her if she wanted to take a short walk about the room, the Pope invited her to examine the instruments.

Claire thanked him prettily and began to look at all of the interesting items the room contained, while Henry and Julia continued to answer questions about their life and travels and touring.
There were beautiful paintings on the walls, done by Raphael her father had told her, but Claire was more interested in the instruments. The center of the room contained a beautiful grand piano, and Claire was drawn to it.

“Vous pouvez essayer si vous voulez ma cher (You may try it out if you wish my dear.)” The Cardinal said to her softly, as he had been next to Claire on her tour of the room.

She smiled at him and sat down. The bench was too low for her, but she was used to that on instruments not specially set up for her. It didn’t matter, she just wanted to get a feeling for the tone of the instrument. She started with something quiet, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. It was one of her favorites. The instrument was exquisite and the acoustics of the room were perfect. As usual when Claire played, she disappeared into the music.

After playing the sonata, she moved on to the livelier Fur Elise, also by Beethoven and her father’s favorite piece and then a piece by Chopin. As she finished, she felt a hand on her shoulder. Claire looked up at her father.

“Oh Daddy, I’m sorry. The Cardinal said I could try and I got lost. It’s such a beautiful instrument.”
“Non mon enfant. Ne t'excuse pas. Vous m'avez offert un beau cadeau tout à l'heure et m'a permis d'oublier un instant mes fardeaux. Je vous en remercie. (No my child. Do not apologize. You have given me a great gift just now and allowed me to forget my burdens for a moment. I thank you for it.)”

Pius had tears in his eyes but a smile on his face. He had heard famous musicians from all over the world perform for him, but none had moved him as had this small child. He could see why they called her la petit Madonna. He didn’t know where or when the nickname had originated, but now he understood it.

Claire for her part, was happy to have made the Pope happy. She curtsied politely and thanked him for letting her play. They ended her visit with a blessing from the Holy Father, and the gift of a rosary for each of them that was made of rose petals and blessed by the Pope. Claire’s was a beautiful deep red color that reminded her of her mother’s hair.

The visit to the Vatican was the last event they had in Italy. They attended Mass for the Feast of the Assumption at the Basilica of Saint Clement, and then spent some time exploring the 1st Century church. The following day they boarded a ship and headed to New York. Claire was an accomplished traveler by this point and fortunately did not suffer from sea-sickness.

There were six concerts in New York. Two in August and four in September, and then they were taking some time off. Claire would be nine in October, and they wanted to spend Christmas in England this year with Uncle Lamb.

They had concerts scheduled in Austria at the pace of two per month in January, February and March. In the meantime, Claire was hoping to spend time with her best friend Joe. He was Paul’s son, and the only non-adult she knew. Everyone else in her life was an adult, unlike Joe who went to a regular school and had lots of friends. He was fourteen which was ages older than Claire, but it didn’t seem to bother him. He always told Claire he liked her best.

Chapter Text

August 21, 1929 New York


Claire ran down the aisle to reach the stage. Normally she wouldn’t dream of calling out in the theatre. But at the moment, Joe was the only person visible. Arms wide, Joe caught her as she ran into him for a hug.

“Lady Jane, how are you? You look taller, are you taller?”

Joe had always called her Lady Jane, or LJ for short. He said she reminded him of the Lady Jane Austen, with her posh English accent and brilliant mind. The only thing Joe’s mother had left him, were her Jane Austen novels, which Paul had read to him from the time he was a baby. One of the reasons Joe liked Claire was that she never made fun of him for liking the stories. She always understood, even when his classmates didn’t.

“I don’t think I’m taller. Maybe you shrank.”

“I didn’t shrink. I think you are taller. Let’s go measure.”

Claire was always self conscious about her height. She knew that she was much shorter than average, and had to have benches adjusted for her whenever they played. Sometimes other musicians didn’t take her seriously, and sometimes the stage crews didn’t either.

She knew that a lot of people looked at her as a dancing bear. You didn’t expect the bear to dance well, but were amazed he could dance at all.

Mummy just smiled when that happened and told her not to worry, that her music would convince them. But Joe knew it bothered her, so he always told her she looked taller. Claire thought he probably fibbed when he measured her too.

Joe didn’t lie actually. He was an honest person, and truly liked Claire. He just liked to see her smile.

“LJ, I think you did grow. Not much, about ¼ of an inch. But still, you are taller than when you left. See?”

There was a spot on the wall backstage where Joe always marked her growth rate. The maintenance crew knew about it, but pretended they didn’t. The Beauchamps always played at Steinway Hall in New York and did much of their rehearsing here as well. It was smaller than Carnegie Hall, but that suited their music better.

Claire looked and she was a little bit taller. That made her smile, and Joe smiled back. They sat down in the front row of seats and Claire told him all about her concerts in Europe, the sights she had seen, and her visits to Oncle Raymond and the Pope.

Joe in turn told her about his summer, playing with his school chums and helping his father with concerts. Paul was still having difficulty in attracting bigger name clients, but he was managing to do well with several smaller groups and of course the Beauchamps.

“I got to help set the microphones for all the concerts this summer. It was really interesting and the sound man taught me a lot about how placing the microphones made a difference in the way that people heard the music.” Joe was enthusiastic about helping people hear the music. He wasn’t a musician himself, but he liked to listen to all kinds of music.

Eventually Joe wanted to go to medical school, but he knew that the likelihood of that happening was small. His father wasn’t rich, and he was half black. So if Joe couldn’t be a doctor and help people, at least he could bring beauty into their lives by helping them hear the music.

“That sounds wonderful. Are you going to keep helping when you go back to school?”

“I think so, for your concerts at least. You and your parents don’t get upset when I’m around.”

“Who gets upset with you?” Claire was indignant.

“Oh no one in particular, just some people don’t like extras hanging about.” This wasn’t entirely true. There were patrons and musicians that didn’t like working with Negros, or even a Mulatto like Joe. He tried not to let it bother him, he couldn’t help the color of his skin, but he knew it was hard for his father and didn’t want to make things worse if he could help it. Not that he would explain that to Claire.

Claire knew about bigotry, but only in the academic sense. Her parents had explained why it was wrong to judge an entire race instead of individuals, that all humanity came from the same two parents Adam and Eve, so at the end of the day we were all members of the same family. She’d never seen it acted out though. Not quite nine, Claire was incredibly sheltered by everyone who knew her. This was done out of love, but it would have consequences later on.

Claire lived with the expectation that everyone was basically honest and treated one another with dignity. It would leave her very vulnerable as a young adult.

October 1929 – New York

Claire turned Nine on October 20th, and the family was packing and closing up the New York House. They would be leaving for England on November 1st and spending the following two years in Europe.

As Julia got older, she was finding the travel to be more wearisome, and wanted to spend some time showing Claire more of the places she had loved as a child. They had concerts arranged of course, but they were spread more apart with longer breaks in between.

After much pleading on Claire’s part she had begun to study Latin and German. Henry had wanted to wait until she was ten, but as Claire pointed out, Latin was close to Italian and they performed in Austria where German was the language.

Claire already felt self conscious due to her size, and didn’t like having to rely on others to communicate. For such a tiny person, Claire had a very large sense of justice and wasn’t at all afraid of expressing herself. To do so through a translator made her very unhappy.

Julia also thought it had something to do with Claire not wanting to be ignored, which was a common occurrence when encountering new people. Being talked about as though she were not present infuriated the child.

Although she was too well-mannered to throw a tantrum about it, you could tell by the set of her chin and the storm clouds in her eyes how she felt about being dismissed. Julia always responded by pointedly asking Claire her opinions on how things were arranged, and listened attentively to her responses. Stage crews tended to take their cues from that and the only time it occurred now was when at a new venue.

Had Henry and Julia not also instilled a sense of self-discipline and thoughtfulness of others into her, Claire would have easily been spoiled rotten. As it was, Claire was an extremely self-possessed child, and behaved in a very adult manner when in public.

She still thought as a child, and processed information as a child, but to outsiders, her adult manners were a sort of armor that she would put on to force people to take her seriously and include her.

It gave outsiders the impression that she was a very serious, almost melancholy child. This was not reality, but she never laughed in public and only gave polite smiles that did not reach her eyes.

But at the moment, Claire wasn’t in public. She was at home with her family, and it was her birthday. Birthday’s were a big deal in the Beauchamp household. Beginning with breakfast, and then to daily Mass, continuing with whatever activity the birthday person wanted. In Claire’s case, she wanted to go riding, one last time before they left. Claire wouldn’t call herself a champion equestrienne, but she did enjoy Daisy her pony and spending time with her Daddy.

After her ride, it was back to the house for a nap, and then a party with all her friends in the evening. In Claire’s case this meant Paul and Joe, Mrs. G., Mummy, Daddy and Uncle Lamb. Normally Uncle Lamb would wait until they were in Europe, but he had come to America to work with the Smithsonian Institute on something, and had stayed for her birthday. He would be traveling with them back to Europe at the end of the month.

“I’m going to miss you LJ.”

“I’m going to miss you too Joe, are you coming over with your father in the summer?”

“I think so, I had hoped to apprentice with one of the sound men here, but Dad thinks I’ll do better in England. So he set up a summer internship with a man he knows in London. If it works out, I may go to school there next year too.”

“Are you staying with us?”

“Yep. Your folks offered, and it will save some money if I don’t have to board somewhere.”

“Good. You can help with our concerts in London. Maybe the ones in Paris too.”

Joe smiled at Claire. “I would love that. I love listening to you play.”

“What about Mummy and Daddy?”

“Them too. The way you find each other in the music is a beautiful experience to share Lady Jane.”

Just then Claire yawned. It was close to midnight and far past her usual bedtime, which even when touring was eleven. Henry noticed and wrapped up the evening. Claire gave hugs to everyone and obediently went up to bed. She would miss Joe, truly, but now she knew it would be a short separation. It would be nice to have him around in Europe.

December 10th 1929

“Joe!!!” Claire hurtled down the stairs and threw her arms around her friend.

“Are you alright? How was your trip? Can you stay until summer? What about school? Is your father with you?”

Laughing, Joe tried to answer all of Claire’s hurried questions.

“Yes I’m alright. The trip was ok, I had to settle for 2nd class, but at least it wasn’t steerage. I don’t know how long I’m staying, Dad said it would probably be awhile, so through the end of summer at least. I’m not sure about school yet. Dad didn’t have a lot of time to make arrangements for me, and was really glad to just get me out of town. Speaking of Dad, he is with me but can’t stay very long. He has to get back to New York and try and salvage what he can.”

“Let me show you to your room, it’s down the hall from mine.” Joe and Claire went up the stairs far more calmly than Claire had descended. As they disappeared, Henry and Paul entered the house.

“I can’t thank you enough for agreeing to host Joe. It’s a madhouse back home and getting worse. He’ll be much safer here right now.”

“Think nothing of it Paul, Joe’s a nice young man and a credit to you. He’s welcome to stay as long as necessary. How bad is it really? We’ve heard reports of course and the newspapers are screaming about the stock market crash and the financial disaster, but you’ve seen things first hand.”

Paul ran an irritated hand through his hair.

“Truly people are panicking and making things worse. It’s bad of course and a number of people have lost everything, but if people would simply calm down I think it would be alright. They aren’t though, Chicken Littles screaming about the sky falling is what most are doing. We’ve had fifteen patrons withdraw in just the last two weeks.

Our larger patrons are holding steady thank the Lord, but they are all old money and not heavily invested in the affected stocks to begin with. It’s the patrons that recently made their fortunes in the stock market and have now lost them, that are quitting.”

Henry shook his head. “I’ve lived in America off and on for over twenty years and I still don’t quite understand how Americans think. Our own stock market had a crash in September and I haven’t really seen much of a difference in the way people behave.”

“Yes well, you’re all about that ‘stiff upper lip’ you Brits. Good thing that The Beauchamps are scheduled in Europe for the next two years. I don’t think things will be as unsettled here. I hate to say this, but I have a bad feeling about what’s going to happen in the States.”

“Well, let’s hope you’re wrong then shall we? In the meantime, Joe is welcome for as long as he likes, and if you find things getting too uncomfortable over there, the door is always open for you here too.”

“Thanks Henry. I mean that. I know that I have sometimes pushed you and Julia to have Claire do more than she wants to, but I do appreciate your friendship and support.”

Paul stayed the night and then left to meet his ship at Plymouth. He had enjoyed breakfast with Henry and Julia and Joe, Claire waking up just in time to say goodbye. Paul wouldn’t see Henry or Julia again.

Chapter Text

December 31st 1932

They were on their way home from Mass. The local parish priest offered a Mass at Midnight on New Year’s Eve, thinking it would be a lovely way to ring in the New Year.

The roads were slippery and it was snowing. Henry, Julia and Claire were in the car, Henry and Julia in the front, Claire in the back. It was the smaller car since Simon their driver had a horrible head cold, as did Joe. Both were at home being fussed over by Mrs. G.

Claire was dozing in the back seat when her mother screamed and her father shouted. The car swerved, then slammed into something. The next thing Claire remembered was waking up in a hospital bed. Joe was in a chair next to her bed, sleeping.

“Joe?” Her throat hurt.

“Hi Lady Jane.”

“May I have some water?”

“Sure.” Joe got Claire a glass and helped her hold it while she drank. It tired Claire out. She sank back against the pillows and looked at Joe, trying to catch her breath. Then she looked again.

Joe tried to smile but his mouth wasn’t working right. It looked like he was trying not to cry. That wasn’t right. Joe was almost Eighteen. Eighteen year old boys didn’t cry. Ever.

“What’s wrong?”

“What do you remember LJ?”

Claire thought. “We were in the car. Mummy screamed really loud and Daddy shouted. Then there was a bang. I don’t remember anything after that. Where am I? Where are Mummy and Daddy?”

There was a long pause, then Joe drew a shaky breath. Where were the grown-ups? He did NOT want to be the one to tell her.

“They...they’ Hell.”

“Joe, don’t say things like that. Daddy doesn’t like bad language.”

Claire looked around the room.

“Where are Mummy and Daddy? Did they get hurt? Why aren’t we all in the same room? Are they in a room for adults?”

Joe didn’t say anything just pursed his lips.

Claire was getting frightened by Joe's continued silence. Where were her parents. Why wouldn’t Joe tell her? 

Claire brightened when Uncle Lamb and Paul entered the room.

“Uncle Lamb? Where are Mummy and Daddy? Mr. Paul? Why are you here. We didn’t expect you until summer. What’s happened!!!” Claire was beginning to get more frantic with her questions.

“Claire, Fairy Princess, you need to calm down. I’ll explain, but I need you to be calm now.” Uncle

Lamb’s eyes were red as if he had been crying. He took Claire’s hand.

“My darling girl, I need you to be very brave.” Then Claire knew exactly where her parents were.

She stilled.

“Mummy and Daddy are dead. Aren’t they?” It was said almost clinically. If it hadn’t been for the slight wobble of her chin, Claire would have appeared detached.

“Yes Dear, they are. I am so very sorry.” Lamb was more than sorry, he was destroyed.

Quentin had been in love with Julia since he had first laid eyes on her at her engagement party to Henry. Henry had known. They were brothers after all, and close. Lamb never told Julia, had taken great care to be affectionate but never improper. He thought Julia suspected though. She was careful around him too.

When Julia had such trouble with her pregnancies Quentin had found Ray, the best physician in Europe and convinced him to travel to America to treat her. When Claire was born Lamb had gone to New York, (although he hated the place) and spent several months there, fleeing once Claire was thriving and he couldn’t stand it anymore; to watch Julia and Henry look at each other and Claire the way they did.

Henry understood, had always welcomed him home and made excuses to Claire when Lamb would flee again. But now Henry was gone, Julia with him.

Henry had swerved to miss another car, lost control, and hit a tree. Julia’s neck had been broken. Henry had been flung into the steering wheel which crushed his chest. Claire had survived with cuts from broken glass and bruises from being flung about. Saved because she had been sleeping and was in the back seat.

All Lamb had left now, was Claire. Claire who was looking at him with devastated eyes and a wobbly chin.

“They would want us to go on, to be brave and”...Lamb couldn’t continue for the lump in his throat.

“To pray for them. For their souls I mean.” Said Claire very quietly.

“Yes.” But it was said on a sob.

A small hand patted his. “Then that is what we must do.”

As Lamb broke down crying, Claire did not; although her eyes had the bright sheen of tears. Daddy had always said she was strong. Daddy had also always said that Uncle Lamb needed looking after. Since Daddy was no longer there to look after Lamb, it was up to Claire.

Having decided; at the age of twelve Claire stuffed all her feelings into a box, clamped the lid on tight, and went on.

She didn’t cry during the week she spent in bed recovering from a concussion and various bumps and bruises. The doctors speculated that being asleep in the middle of the back seat had protected Claire from worse injury.

Claire didn’t cry during the funeral planning, simply stating what she wanted for the music and helping Uncle Lamb and Mr. Paul decide who should be notified personally and who could read about it in the papers.

She didn’t cry when receiving all the visitors that came. Public face securely on, Claire greeted everyone and thanked them for coming.

She didn’t cry during the Requiem Mass held for her parents, or during the cemetery service that followed.

Claire didn’t cry at the funeral luncheon, again thanking everyone for their condolences with a stoic face, polite but detached.

It wasn’t until the night of the funeral, after everyone had left except for those living in the house, that she showed any emotion at all.

It was after supper, and Claire was in the music room, playing the harpsichord. She hadn’t had much opportunity to practice since the accident and was a little rusty, but that was to be expected. Lamb and Paul and Joe were all sitting at the other end of the room talking quietly while Mrs. G. was in the kitchen cleaning up the dishes.

“No Paul, you’ll have to cancel them, surely you can see that. People will understand.”

“Yes Lamb, I know. I would have to cancel at any rate, until I can find someone to replace...” Paul stopped. He had been about to say replace Henry and Julia, but the look on Quentin’s face stopped him. Lamb wasn’t looking at him. It occurred to Paul rather belatedly, that the music had stopped.

“No.” Claire was quiet but firm.

“No what Princess?” That was Lamb.

“No, we will not be canceling, and we won’t be finding replacements.” They all stared at the child, not quite understanding what she meant.

“Claire you must understand that you need a partner for the duets.  It's such short notice.  Everyone worth having is already booked for this summer.”

“I shan’t be singing the duets any longer Mr. Abernathy.” Claire’s formal address was her attempt to sound professional. As Daddy always had when speaking of business. She continued.

“I realize we will need some time to rework the programme, but I am confident that I will be ready in time for the first concert in June.” Paul and Joe continued to stare at her mouths agape. Her uncle cleared his throat.

“Claire. You don’t have to do this.” Claire just looked at him. Lamb tried again.

“Princess, give yourself some time.”

“No. Time won’t help. Time won’t bring them back. I need to go to them. I can find them in the music. I need...I need...” Tears brimming in her eyes, Claire started to shake. Then she clenched her hands and took a breath.

“Mummy said that music helps people forget their troubles. That it was up to us to share the gifts God gave us with people, to bring beauty to them. I think...” another deep breath, “I think it will help me too.”

The two men and the teen boy looked at one another for a moment.

“Are you sure you want to do this Lady Jane? It’s a big responsibility.”

“I’m sure. I do have one request though. Will you come with me, as my sound man?”

“LJ, I’m not ready for that.”

“Yes you are. Mr. Williamston said that you did a great job on all our concerts last year. You even figured out a better set up for that concert in the Austrian Cathedral than he did. Please Joe. I’ll feel better with you there. I trust you.”

Paul was torn. On the one hand, he agreed with Claire that Joe was ready. Paul also knew that she could handle the concerts solo. Claire had done two with just Henry last year, when Julia came down with the flu. Substituting piano pieces for the duets that she and Julia normally did.  Performing the harp pieces Julia usually played. Henry had substituted tenor solos for his duets with Julia.

Without her parents, the program would have to be re-worked. That wasn’t Paul’s concern. Claire was capable of playing enough to fill a program. 

Paul wasn't sure this was fair to Claire. He saw Claire as a pseudo niece, having known her since she was just a couple of months old when she came home from the hospital. She was only twelve for crying out loud. This was a huge amount of responsibility to put on a child.

On the other hand, a number of people depended on this concert act for their livelihood, not the least of whom were him and Joe. Paul still managed other groups, but nothing on the level of Julia and Claire.

The others, the secretary, the chauffeur, the instrument caretaker; would also be thrown out of work. With the world in the throes of a depression, it was unlikely that they would find another job.

Claire addressing him as Mr. Abernathy indicated to Paul that she had some idea of the difficulties and was trying to rise to the occasion. Caught between these two thoughts, Paul truly did not know how to respond.

Lamb was also torn, but for another reason. Lamb understood Claire about finding her parents in the music. He understood that completely. Trouble was, Claire was only twelve. Lamb didn’t want to leave her alone. She couldn’t tour and go digging with him.

Then again, a twelve year old couldn’t very well go with him on his digs. Besides, the instruments wouldn’t stand up to the sand or the heat, and Claire wouldn’t want to give up her music. Lamb would have to give up his digs to stay with her. He was the adult. It was the right thing to do.

Joe didn’t say anything else while the men sat silently thinking things through. He did however, take Claire’s clenched hand into his.

“Lady Jane, let’s go for a talk while Dad and your Uncle think about this.”

Claire resisted for a minute, then followed him out into the hallway. Joe took her to the sitting room. They sat down on the sofa and Joe took her other hand.

“Lady Jane.”


“I want you to do something for me.”


“Let go. I’ve got you.”

Claire looked at Joe and saw the understanding in his eyes. Her chin started to tremble and the tears started to fall, finally. She cried silently. Joe lamented the fact that even in her grief she was so controlled.

Claire was afraid that if she was noisy, they wouldn’t let her go back on tour. So she sat there for fifteen minutes crying silently, holding Joe’s hand. Then she stopped, shoving her feelings back into the box. Joe handed her a handkerchief and she wiped her face.

“Thank you Joe. You’re my best friend you know.”

“I know. You’re mine you know.”

“I know. So will you? Come with me I mean? Be my sound man?”

“If you really want me to, yes.”

“I really want you to.”

“Alright. Why don’t you go up to bed. We can all talk tomorrow after we’ve slept on it.”

Claire agreed, and went upstairs.

Joe re-joined the men in the music room. They discussed things long into the night, trying to make the best decision for Claire. She would have been furious if she knew. Thankfully no one said anything.

Eventually, with Joe advocating heavily for Claire’s wishes, it was decided that they would attempt to rework the program and would spread out the concert dates to give her more recovery time in between.

Instead of every Friday and Saturday, it became just Saturday. Instead of eight concert dates and a month off, it became six concert dates and two weeks off. It was decided that a permanent tutor should be found and Mrs. G would have the additional task of duenna as well as dresser.

Suzette could stay on as Claire’s private secretary if she wished. Joe would do the sound, and Simon could stay on as chauffeur. Lamb intended to give up his digs, unless they could be fit around the concert schedule. He didn’t need the money after all, and Claire did need him.

Chapter Text

Jamie 1929

The next three years passed for Jamie as the previous seven had before them. He continued going to school, sang with the choir and studied piano at home. He also continued studying Latin and Greek with his Da. French, German and Italian he studied with his Mam. The Fraser children had each begun to study languages at age six, when they joined the children’s choir.

The Latin and Greek were so he could go to university when he was old enough. The French was because Mam wanted him to go to University in Paris. The Italian and the German were so he could sing in those languages without an accent. He already spoke English and Gàidhlig.

Jamie took to languages the way Willie had taken to drawing. At ten he could read and write Latin and Greek fluently, hold a conversation in German, Italian, and French, and was close to being able to read and write in French fluently. Jamie didn’t have to work very hard to achieve fluency, he just had the knack.

Janet was sometimes envious that languages were so easy for Jamie, and became occasionally frustrated at her own slow progress. Most of the time, it just pushed her to work harder. When she realized she couldn’t compete with Jamie in languages, Janet threw herself into her cello studies, determined to excel at something that was just hers.

Willie was content to learn what he could, doing the minimum required in all his academics and his music, so he could spend more time with his sketchbook.

Despite the difference in ages and the fact that they argued something fierce, the Fraser children were close to one another. They all played together, all had friends that came to Lallybroch. To run through the fields, ride the horses (with adult supervision), eat Mrs. Crook’s cookies and swim in the stream by the old mill house when it was warm enough.

Jamie’s best friend was a boy named Ian Murray. Ian was the same age as Jenny. Something in the two boy’s personalities were in such sympathy that they understood one another in a way the rest of the children didn’t.

The Fraser children had tempers, and would frequently start arguing over this or that when they played. Ian was one of the few that could successfully mediate their squabbles.

Willie’s voice changed when he was thirteen, and with some coaching from his voice teacher, Willie’s voice settled into a nice strong tenor. Uncle Murtagh and Uncle Dougal were ecstatic. They had formed a singing group called The White Rose and desperately needed a tenor to give two voices to each part. Ellen wouldn’t allow Willie to perform until he was sixteen, but she did give permission for him to rehearse with the group until they found an adult tenor, as he had aged out of the children’s choir when his voice changed.

Jamie 1932

The year Jamie turned eleven was a year of changes. His voice began to change and he couldn’t sing with the children anymore. It was early, but not unheard of. Since Jamie couldn’t sing, he spent more time in the stables and with his friends, particularly Ian Murray.

The two boys were almost inseparable. They studied together, rode horses together, wandered through the woods and fields together. They told each other all the secrets that a boy tells their best friend. So Jamie knew that Ian wanted to go to University, but didn’t think his Da could afford to send him.

Ian knew that Jamie missed singing terribly and was working with his voice teacher to learn even while his voice sounded odd.

In the meantime, Jamie began studying the Double Bass. All indications were that Jamie was going to be tall. The Double Bass was a good instrument for a tall person. Ian already played Viola, so they practiced together. It didn’t sound like much without a Violin to play the melody, but the boys didn’t care. They got enough practice with the youth orchestra in town. Janet belonged, but Willie didn’t.

Jamie also knew that Ian had discovered girls. One girl in particular, although no one else knew. The girl didn’t even know. Ian had told Jamie, but swore him to secrecy as he wasn’t yet ready for the girl to know; he didn’t think she liked him back.

“I dinna want to ruin our friendship. If Janet kens I fancy her, it will.”

“I dinna understand why.”

“I promise ye will when ye’re older and fancy a girl.”

Jamie shrugged. “Alright. D’ye want to go to the cave? Work on Latin?”


Ian had told Jamie a couple of years before about wanting to go to University. Jamie offered to help him learn Latin and Greek, so that if Ian did get to go, he would be ready.

There were a series of hidden caves in the woods near Lallybroch. Jamie and Ian studied there for two reasons. Ian didn’t want anyone to know he was learning from a lad three years younger than him. Jamie didn’t want to be bothered when he was studying. They spent most afternoons studying. Their other friends had faded away, not wanting to be bothered with school, except when in the classroom.

After about two hours of Latin, the boys took a break and dug into the basket Mrs. Crook had given Jamie before he left the house. It was an open secret among the adults at Lallybroch that Jamie was tutoring Ian and why. Brian and Ellen had already decided to sponsor Ian at University if he kept up with his languages, but didn’t tell the boys. Let them have a secret. It did no harm and bonded them as friends.

As the two boys ate, they chatted about a variety of things and people.

“Willie’s sixteen now. Mam said he could start singing with White Rose down to the Pub on Friday nights if Uncle Murtagh brings him straight home after.”

“Will he get to share the tips?” Ian wanted to know.

The White Rose didn’t get paid, but people could put money in the jar on the piano.

“I dinna ken. If he does Da will put it away for him, so it does’na really matter either way. I think Willie is happy to be singing in public again.”

They hadn’t found another tenor. The rest of the group had been singing without Willie. It sounded alright, but with only one tenor, the group had been limited to singing mostly simple pieces. Now The White Rose could sing more complicated songs which Dougal and Murtagh hoped would get them more notice.

For a small town in the Scottish Highlands, Broch Morda had a very well developed music community. Much of that was due to Lady Broch Tuarach’s fame as a pianist.

Brian had built a small concert hall in town. Famous artists (and their managers) came to perform regularly. It also drew musicians from all over to settle in Broch Morda. Most gave lessons and taught at the local schools. The school music program was heavily subsidized by Laird Broch Tuarach.

Jamie overheard Murtagh telling Brian that if Willie sang with them, they might be able to attract a manager that would send them on tour. Going on tour would help Willie earn money for his future.

Brian conceded that it might be a good experience for Willie, but that Ellen would probably have something to say about the plan.

Jamie hadn’t heard anymore, so he left before he was caught eavesdropping.

Jamie March 3rd, 1933

Jamie squirmed in his seat at the dinner table. Normally, he wouldn’t have been fidgeting. This was not a normal dinner. A friend of Mam’s had come to stay for a few days. Mr. Abernathy was trying to talk Mam into going on tour this summer. Jamie was relieved when the meal was finished and he could ask to be excused.

Cricket had just had a new foal and Jamie was anxious to go see him. Da had named him Donas and he was beautiful. Jenny wanted to see him and asked to be excused also. Willie stayed at the table with the grown-ups. Jamie wondered why, they were just talking. It was boring. He and Jenny dashed out of the room just as Mr. Abernathy tried again.

“Come on Ellen. The kids are older now. You can leave them for a summer, or… take them with you if you want. Claire is a kid too. She could stand to make a few friends her age.”

“No Paul. I don’t tour in summer. I tour in winter if I tour at all. Summer is our busy season, you know that.” Ellen gave him a sharp look. “Paul, we’ve been friends for a long time. What’s going on?”

“I need to find a complementary act for Claire. Her guardian doesn’t want her to do the whole three hours and I agree with him. She isn’t entirely recovered from the accident.”

Ellen made a sympathetic noise. “Poor child. To lose her parents on Hogmanay on the way home from church. Why didn’t you just cancel the concert series?”

“That was my first impulse. Henry and Julia were close friends. I see Claire as a niece and I thought she needed time. Claire talked me out of it.”

Ellen’s eyebrows rose. “Claire talked you out of it? Paul, she’s a child. Shouldn’t the decision be up to her guardian?”

“Yeah, it should. Claire’s different. Oldest twelve year old I’ve ever met. Besides, her argument was that performing would make her feel closer to her parents. They always took the stage together.

Lamb and I argued about it for a long time, but in the end we decided to try and make this work for her.

So now I’m talking to everyone I can think of that isn’t already booked, trying to find someone to take half the program. I thought since you are a pianist and she’s a pianist, we could make that work.”

Ellen was shaking her head. “I won’t do it Paul. Besides, you should have something different than another pianist. It will just draw comparisons. Quite frankly I’d probably be the one found lacking. I remember that little girl. She was brilliant at eight. I can’t imagine what she sounds like now.”

Willie spoke up. “Mam? What about The White Rose? We could do it. I’m done with school. Dougal was hoping we could set something up before I leave for University.”

“What’s The White Rose?” Paul wanted to know.

“It’s a men’s vocal group that my brother put together with some of the local men. William is one of the tenors. They sing Madrigals and Folk Songs mostly.” Ellen said.

“Are they any good?”

“I think so, but since I’m related to the entire group, I’m probably biased.” Ellen smiled.

“We’re singing tonight down at the pub if ye’d like to listen and find out for yourself Mr. Abernathy.” Willie encouraged.

Paul was getting desperate. “I might just do that son. Thanks for the suggestion.”

Paul had thoroughly enjoyed the performance. He had met with Dougal Mackenzie and Murtagh Fitzgibbons, the spokesmen for the group and hammered out a contract for the tour. The group was a little raw, but with some practice and polish they’d improve enough before June. Ellen had offered to work with them on concert etiquette, how to fit their performances to a stage rather than a pub.

Paul was appreciative. “Thanks for doing this Ellen. I have a lot of loose ends to take care of before June.” He turned to Dougal. “Thank you too Mr. Mackenzie. I know this is short notice. I’m asking you to change the informality of singing in a pub to the formality of the concert stage, but I really think this will be good. You have a different sound. I think we can capitalize on that.”

“I think so too. I am grateful for the opportunity Mr. Abernathy. All the lads are.”

“Call me Paul. I’m American. We tend to the more informal.”

“Paul it is then. Ye must call me Dougal.”

“Done.” The men shook hands. “Now I have to go or I’ll never get everything organized in time.

Chapter Text

June 1933 – Paris

The opening in June was for Paris. The new program consisted of Claire playing the piano, the harpsichord and the violin, but not for the full three hours. Paul and Lamb had put their collective foot down, and stated that a vocal group would do the second half of the performance.

They were a family group also, from Scotland. It was an all male group called The White Rose.  They sang mostly Madrigals with a few Jacobite ballads thrown in. The ballads were in the Scottish language, Gàidhlig.  The men wore Highlander dress onstage. This presented The White Rose as an exotic looking novelty to the aristocrats that made up the bulk of the audience. 

There were six of them, Dougal MacKenzie - bass who was the leader, Rupert MacKenzie - baritone, Angus Mohr - baritone, Lesley Mohr - tenor, William Fraser - tenor and Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser - bass. Claire thought they were all related to each other, but she didn’t know for sure.

Other than at rehearsals, Claire had no contact with them. Mrs. G. always hustled her right back to her dressing room and then home. (Mrs. G. spoke Gàidhlig, and didn’t want Claire exposed to the sometimes ribald humor, even if the child didn’t know what was being said.)

In reworking the program, Claire refused to play the harp on stage. She didn’t feel able to face using her mother’s instrument in public. She still played it every day at home and still composed for it, but would no longer share her compositions with anyone outside the house. Claire also refused to sing. That had more to do with her still healing body. Claire explained to Uncle Lamb; she couldn’t quite manage her breathing. It was decided that for this first tour, instruments alone would be enough.

The day before the first concert, Claire prevailed on Joe to take her to visit Dr. Raymond. She knew of Joe’s dream to be a doctor, and she wanted to see if Oncle Ray could help. He was very encouraging, telling Joe that if he could pass the entrance exams, The University of Glasgow in Scotland accepted students regardless of race.

In fact they were the first university to grant a black person a medical degree. The school had done so in the 1837, almost one hundred years before. Joe thanked Dr. Raymond, and left the visit very optimistic. He knew he could pass the classes, it was a matter of affording it. Claire of course had some ideas about that.

“Joe, you are eighteen. If you work as a sound technician for the next two years and go to Oxford for University, you can save enough money to go to medical school in Glasgow. Then you can come back and work during the summer concerts to make enough to continue.”

“That’s a lovely idea Lady Jane, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to earn quite enough. Even if I can save enough for tuition, I’m not sure about living expenses.”

“Oh. I forgot about that. If you were here you could just keep living at home. But Glasgow is in Scotland, I don’t think we have a house there.” Claire was deep in thought.

“Don’t worry about it L.J. I have to get through University first.”

The concert series was a massive success. People who came initially to see Claire due to the novelty of having a child as the main performer, were completely entranced. Those who attended her concerts tried to articulate the experience to their acquaintance and couldn’t. It was a combination of things really.

Claire seemed to be an adult in a child’s body; which at first was disconcerting. When she began to play, people forgot she was a child. Claire disappeared into the music. Although audience members could see her on the stage, it was as though they were watching a fairie or sprite, come out to entertain them. Due to her rise in popularity, the shows started to sell out. Paul and Lamb began to argue over whether or not to add additional dates to the tour.

The White Rose was benefiting from the situation as well. The music that they performed was quite different from Claire, which in this case meant that they didn’t suffer from the comparison. Rather, still remembering the beauty of Claire’s music, the audience was favorably disposed to The White Rose. The group wasn’t on her level, but they were quite good. The novelty of the songs in Gàidhlig made up the difference for most people.

Once the first series ended in August, (with no additional dates much to Paul’s dismay), Claire and Joe returned to the house in London and prepared to meet their new tutor. Joe had spoken to his father who had spoken with Lamb. It was decided that Joe and Claire would share an academic tutor, who would supplement Joe’s University classes to catch him up in Greek and Latin. The tutor would also help Claire with those subjects that were not music related. Claire continued to formally study all of her music subjects with the exception of harp.

Claire didn’t want to share the harp with anyone except her parents. So now, Claire played the harp from 4pm-5pm each day, always alone in her music room with the door shut. She would play for her parents, and play out her misery. Always ending with silent tears running down her face. Claire allowed herself fifteen minutes each day to cry for her parents. She would let her feelings out for those minutes then lock them back up in the box.

It was a terribly unhealthy way to cope. Claire hid everything so well, that those around her didn’t understand what was happening. Joe suspected that she wasn’t handling her grief well, but at eighteen as wonderful a young man as he was, Joe was mostly focused on himself and his future. Paul didn’t see anything different. Claire had always had a certain reserve in public, that was where Paul encountered her.

Mrs. Graham knew something was wrong, but she was a servant. After saying something to Lamb and being ignored, Mrs. G. didn’t feel as though she could do anything other than be there for Claire when she was ready.

Lamb was barely functioning and began to drink quite heavily to forget. He was never violent, just disconnected. Finally, just after Claire’s thirteenth birthday, Lamb fled again, this time to a dig in Cairo. Claire was left alone with Mrs. G., Joe and her tutors.

Joe started at Oxford in September of 1933. Lamb had pulled some strings and Joe was admitted as a day student so he could stay at the house with Claire while Lamb was off on a dig. Paul went back to the United States for the school year, to manage his clients there.

Claire did another concert series in Summer 1934. With Lamb away, it was up to Paul to make the arrangements. Slowly at first, he added additional concert dates once the originals sold out. Claire didn’t complain, but Joe got into a number of arguments with Paul about it. Paul prevailed and Claire played concerts every Saturday from June 1st through September 1st in 1934.

Joe did the sound for her again. The only reason Paul ended the tour was because Joe’s term was beginning and Claire flatly refused to perform without him. Generally speaking Claire was very compliant with Paul, unless it involved her interacting with new people. She didn’t attend any of the social receptions promoting the tour of course. Those ran late into the evening, far past her bedtime.

After Cairo, Lamb came home briefly for Easter 1934, then was off to Africa on another dig. Claire didn’t mind so much and enjoyed his letters, describing all the things he was seeing. To Claire this was more normal than Lamb being around all the time, it felt stable.

Joe and Mrs. G. didn’t think it was stable at all. Both tried to be there for Claire, they really did. Everyone protected her physically. The problem was that Joe and Mrs G. even Alec could see what she needed was a full time parent. No one was around to guide her emotionally.

Joe was nineteen, and a boy. There were things Claire didn’t discuss with him. Alec and Mrs. G. were servants. As she had been raised by her parents, Claire maintained a certain reserve with both due to their respective positions.

With no one to guide her, Claire took cues from those around her, not always interpreting those cues correctly. She began to behave more and more as an adult. An emotionally closed off adult.

October 1934 – London

Claire was finally taking some time off. She had just turned fourteen, and was now working with a voice teacher. Working on new repertoire of course, but not performing yet. Perhaps in a year or two she’d sing again. Her range was quite large, although the higher notes sounded breathy. The voice teacher told Claire she’d probably end up a Mezzo, or a Contralto.

Mr. Abernathy, (She hadn’t called him Mr. Paul since the funeral, wanting to be professional. Joe remained Joe.) wanted her to perform a short Holiday concert series. The discussions were difficult. Claire was reluctant, not wanting to be gone over the Christmas Holydays. Mr. Abernathy was angry about it.

“Claire, I just need you to understand! The potential is enormous. For all of us. More people go to concerts during this time of year. I’m not suggesting you perform on Christmas Day, I just want to book a few concerts during the holiday season.”

Claire stuck her chin out mulishly. Paul saw it and tried another tack before she could refuse him.

“Claire, A lot of people are hurting financially. If we book a few concerts, all the people that work at the venue will have a bit of extra income, to celebrate Christmas with their families.”

It was the right thing to say. Claire was easy to persuade if she thought it would help someone else.

Claire sighed heavily. “Alright. I’ll do eight concerts, two in November, three in December before Christmas and one in between Christmas and New Year’s. But that is it. I’m not doing more than that, period. I don’t want to fall behind in my studies, and I want to spend some time with Uncle Lamb when he comes home.”

Paul smiled. “Will you sing? Just one song? Please? Let it be your Christmas present to me.” He cajoled.

Claire was smiling though she rolled her eyes at him. “One song. Which Christmas song is your favorite?”

“O Holy Night.” Paul said immediately. “In French, then English.”

“Getting your money’s worth?” Claire teased.

“Of course!” Paul laughed with her. It was more than he thought he’d get, and he’d take it. The White Rose was already on board, having become Claire’s second act exclusively. They could use the extra money too.

December 1934 – London

When Lamb arrived home for the first Sunday of Advent, he noticed that Claire looked tired, but assumed that she had been excited about seeing him for the holiday season. When he found out about the concerts in November & December, Lamb was a little concerned. He asked Claire about it, who said it was a good idea. She presented the concert series as a gift for her to give people for Christmas.

Besides the series, they did the usual things. Went to church, decorated the house, spent time with the small circle of people Claire would socialize with. She still didn’t like strangers, they made her nervous and shy.

Lamb went to some parties with colleagues from Oxford, dragging Joe along to make connections.

It was a lovely holiday. When her Uncle talked about going out New Year’s Eve Claire became very upset and begged him not to go. Her parents had died then, and she wanted everyone at home. Claire rarely asked Lamb for anything. He couldn’t refuse her when she looked at him with Julia’s eyes and begged him to stay home, where it was safe.

So Lamb stayed home. Paul, Joe, Alec and Mrs. Graham were there as well. They listened to the radio and played Whist. Then chess.

At midnight they wished each other a Happy New Year, and set firecrackers off in the back yard. Lamb drank the entire time. When Claire went up to bed at about twelve thirty, Lamb was blind, stinking drunk.

It didn’t numb him enough. Lamb broke down sobbing in the sitting room. He passed out on the sofa a short time later. Paul and Joe found him when they came inside from the back yard. They called Alec and Mrs. Graham in from the kitchen, to help get Lamb up to the bed. It wouldn’t do for Claire to come down in the morning and see her uncle in such a state.

Chapter Text

January 1st 1935 – London

Uncle Lamb slept the entire day of January 1st. He was still asleep when Paul came home after an early morning meeting, for New Year’s Day brunch. For the past two years since Henry and Julia had died, Paul and Joe had brunch on New Year’s day with Lamb and Claire.

This year, Paul brought a guest. Frank Randall was smart, polished and ambitious. Paul Abernathy had hired him the previous summer on the recommendation of one of Frank’s professors. Claire knew him, but not very well.

At 26 Frank was finished with University having obtained a business degree at Oxford. He could have entered many professions. Frank chose to promote musical groups and soloists. He didn’t play an instrument or sing. Frank liked to listen to music, strictly classical of course. By managing musicians, he could be a part of the exclusive world of concert music, with access to the rich people that patronized the arts.

Paul had gone looking for an assistant after receiving the cancer diagnosis. None of the doctors knew exactly how long he had, but they were all agreed that two years was wildly optimistic.

Paul was a music manager. Wildly optimistic was his bread and butter. He needed two years. In two years he could make enough money to put Joe through medical school.

In two years he could train someone to manage Claire and The White Rose. He didn’t care as much about the other groups, they would all find someone to manage them if they didn’t like his replacement.

Claire… she was special. She was his legacy, just as much as Joe was.

Paul didn’t tell anyone about the cancer of course. His medical condition was no one’s business. Paul did make plans.

One of those plans was Frank. The young man was learning the ropes and making connections faster than Paul had expected he would. He was a natural for this business.

Frank was good looking, polite, attentive, intelligent. He could converse on a wide variety of subjects, and was at home in any social situation. He got along well with the men in The White Rose. Frank also treated Claire with consideration, but not condescension. He never flirted with her or behaved improperly in any way. Frank was a good choice, Paul thought. He was young enough to be Claire’s manager for a good long while, yet old enough that he would see her in a more paternal way.

Living in a bubble the way Claire did meant that no young man had ever paid her singular attention before. Frank did. He made her feel special. Lamb, sleeping off his drunk, didn’t notice.

Paul, worried about training Frank to take care of Claire in the business sense didn’t notice. Mrs. Graham was in the kitchen and she didn’t notice either.

At fourteen, Claire was ready for her first crush. Frank was safe. He was so much older than Claire, that she never seriously considered that he might be attracted to her. She smiled at Frank and tried to engage him in conversation. For Claire...that was being wildly flirtatious.

Joe noticed, but being one month shy of twenty, didn’t want to make assumptions about Frank’s intentions. To his credit Frank never did or said anything inappropriate. He was attentive to Claire, but didn’t flirt with her.

Joe understood that Claire was starting to notice boys. She was growing up, it was normal to test her wiles on a male. Joe just wanted her to be safe. It was one thing to practice flirting with someone he knew. Joe didn’t know Frank. He didn’t want Claire taken advantage of.  Joe decided to keep an eye on the situation and talk to Claire if necessary.

After brunch, the three men and the teenage girl went into the parlor to spend the afternoon talking. Well, Paul and Frank talked. Joe and Claire played Chess. After trouncing Claire several times, Joe excused himself citing homework. Claire joined the conversation with Paul and Frank for a little while. At precisely 4pm, Claire rose and excused herself as well.

Frank looked at Paul a little offended. It wasn’t the done thing for the hostess to get up and leave the room in the middle of a conversation. Paul gave him a casual look. “It’s alright. It’s four o'clock. Claire practices harp from 4-5 every day.” He gave a short laugh. “Doesn’t matter where we are or what the schedule is. four of the clock, she goes into a room, shuts the door and plays harp for an hour.”

“I wasn’t aware she performed on the harp.” As far as Frank knew it was piano, harpsichord and violin. Claire had sung the one song for the Holiday series, but Frank didn’t think that was typical.

“I didn’t say she performed on the harp. She doesn’t. Hasn’t since her parents died.” The one time he had brought up the harp, she hadn’t said a word. Just looked at him with those devastated eyes, got up and left the room. Paul hadn’t brought it up twice. That part he didn’t share, which gave Frank the impression that she wasn’t good enough to perform on the harp.

Frank admired her discipline. To practice daily on an instrument she didn’t perform with.

“She won’t sing as a regular part of her concerts either, for all she has the voice of an angel. She sang one song for this last limited engagement. I had to ask it as a Christmas present to get her to do it.” Paul wasn’t sorry either, he’d use whatever leverage he had to in order to get Claire singing in public again.

Frank nodded. He had heard her sing. Claire did have the voice of an angel.

Paul and Frank talked for a few minutes more then Paul left to use the washroom. Frank sat by himself, and heard the faint sounds of the harp coming from the next room. He couldn’t hear well though. Was Claire any good on the harp? Could she improve enough to perform with it? Frank was intrigued.

Curiosity getting the better of him, Frank followed the sound.

Claire was typically quite careful to close the door all the way. That day, for whatever reason, it hadn’t latched shut. She faced away from the door when playing, so she didn’t see Frank open the door. She didn’t hear him either. Claire had disappeared into the music to find her parents. Sometimes she still cried, now she also smiled at the good memories. The wound of loss was still there, but had scabbed over a bit.

As Frank watched Claire, a smile lit up her face reaching all the way to her eyes. He had never seen her smile like that before. In that moment, Claire was the most beautiful creature Frank ever beheld. Then, the music registered.

Claire played harp better than any of her other instruments. God. The music. He couldn’t even explain the beauty of it. Why she didn’t perform on harp exclusively dumbfounded him.

Frank stood in the door transfixed. He stood and listened to her play for he didn’t know how long.

Then the music changed.

Claire was playing a different piece now. It was haunting and sad. Tears ran down Claire’s face. She still didn’t make a sound, except what she played on the harp.

Without knowing why, Frank felt like crying too. Now he understood why Claire didn’t play harp in public. The public wasn’t ready for the raw emotion of her playing. Suddenly Frank felt like a voyeur. This was private, he was intruding.

Silently, with great effort of will, Frank closed the door and walked back to the parlor. Paul had returned, but had fallen asleep on the couch. Frank decided that he should leave. So he went to the hall, caught up his hat and left.

Joe studied quite late into the evening and didn’t see Claire before she went to bed. The next day was a Wednesday. Joe wasn’t due to start school again until the following Monday. He had some news, but wanted to tell Claire and Paul together. Paul wasn’t at breakfast. Lamb and Claire were, then Lamb left for the day.

Paul was present for lunch and Joe braced himself. “Dad, Claire, I want to talk to you about something.” Deep breath.

“I’m going to propose to Gayle.”

Claire squealed. She jumped up, rushing to hug Joe. “Finally! You’ve been dating her for two years.”

“I thought you planned to wait until you graduated son.” Paul liked Gayle. He did.

Joe looked nervous which was uncharacteristic. “I was, but if I don’t propose now, I don’t know when I’ll get the chance. Geneva Dunsany is going on tour in America and plans to be gone for the next year. If Gayle goes with her, I won’t see her for a year. If Gayle and I are married, she can quit working for Geneva.

Look Dad, I know this is earlier than I intended. Gayle has been working with me on Claire’s sound set-up. I can’t do it during school terms without my grades suffering. You want Claire to do concerts when I’m in school.” Joe turned to Claire.

“I just thought that you know Gayle. If she did your sound set up for a spring and fall concert series, you could do them and all the tour and venue people could be earning money. I trust Gayle, so I wouldn’t feel guilty for not doing your sound. Geneva Dunsany makes her miserable, but Gayle hasn’t been able to find another job. If she did sound for you, Gayle would still be earning money too and wouldn’t feel like she was taking advantage of me by quitting Geneva and getting married before I'm done with school.”

Claire nodded. She did know and trust Gayle. Claire didn’t like Geneva who was very spoiled and unpleasant to anyone she considered a social inferior. She wasn’t unpleasant to Claire, just treated her as though she were five instead of fourteen.

“I think that sounds wonderful. I like Gayle and I trust her almost as much as I trust you, Joe.” Claire looked at Paul and delivered the coup de grâce. “I’d be willing to tour during the year if Gayle took over for Joe.”

Paul chewed his lip thoughtfully for several minutes then nodded. “I can see that working. If we put Gayle on the payroll in your place Joe, you’ll still be able to make ends meet, but can concentrate on your studies. I give you my blessing, now you just have to ask the girl.”

Normally it would be Gayle’s father, but Gayle didn’t know her father, he had abandoned her mother before she was born. Gayle’s mother had died of a fever when Gayle was a baby and her Grandmother who had raised her, had died when Gayle was 16. Gayle had been making her way ever since.

Joe hugged his father and Claire. “I’m taking Gayle to dinner tonight. I’ll ask her then.”

“Do you want a big wedding?” Claire wanted to know.

“No. Can we just have a Mass then breakfast here afterwards? Gayle doesn’t really have family and only a few friends. You are all my family. I would like Lamb there if he can bear to leave his dig. Where is he anyway?”

“He’s at the college. I think he’s teaching this semester, so he’ll be here until June.”

“Great. If Gayle agrees, we can get married in May at the end of next term. It’s not so cold, but the bugs aren’t out yet, and you can finish your tour in April.”

Gayle said yes. She was greatly relieved to be quitting as Geneva Dunsany’s personal secretary.

Geneva was not so happy. She raged for days at anyone in close proximity, even storming into one of Claire’s rehearsals to yell at her for stealing Gayle.

Claire sat and let her rant. When Geneva wound down, Claire calmly said to her, “Gayle is an adult. She makes her own choices. She and Joe wanted to get married. As you are so fond of reminding me, I’m a child. They don’t need my permission. Besides, I didn’t make the decision to hire Gayle. Mr. Abernathy did. I suggest you go talk to him.”

So saying, Claire turned around and continued practicing. Geneva stared at her furiously for another minute and then stomped off the stage.

May 1935

The wedding was small but very beautiful. There was a breakfast afterwards just for the family. The house staff was there as well.

The following Monday Claire’s personal secretary Suzette came into the parlor.

“Miss Claire, may I speak with you?”

“Of course Suzette. Is there something that needs my attention?”

“I’m getting married.” Suzette said in a rush. She had been dating Murtagh Fraser from The White Rose for almost eighteen months.

“Oh Suzette, that’s wonderful.” Claire didn’t understand why Suzette looks nervous.

“Yes it is, but he lives in Scotland. I’ll be moving there after the wedding.”

Then Claire understood. Suzette was leaving her. That’s why she looked nervous. A small selfish part of Claire didn’t want her to go. Claire refused to give voice to it. She would not act like Geneva Dunsany. So Claire smiled and gave Suzette a hug.

“I’m so happy for you Suzette. When is the wedding?”

“Murtagh wants to get married as soon as the banns are called. So about a month. I’ve talked to him and he understands that I will not leave you without a secretary. So if you cannot find someone right away I will continue my duties until you do.”

“Oh Suzette. That is so sweet of you. Don’t worry. I’ll talk to Uncle Lamb at dinner and have him start looking. With all those students at the college, he’ll find someone.”

Suzette looked relieved. “That’s a wonderful idea Miss Claire. I can work with whoever he hires. To help them learn how you like things done, so it’s an easier transition. You’ll come to the wedding, won’t you?”

“Of course I will. I’d be honored.”

Suzette hugged her again. “I will still see you. Murtagh doesn’t plan to quit singing and I already told him I’ll not be left at home when he goes touring. I’ve seen the way the women just throw themselves at all the men in White Rose at those receptions.”

Claire laughed. “Well, I never go to those, so I haven’t seen that. Paul always says to leave the patrons to him, so I do. I’m usually tired by then anyway, so Mrs. G. and I go home after the performances.”

“I must say I’m glad of that. Mr. Abernathy is right. Those receptions are no place for a young lady.”

Suzette left and Claire went back to her school work. 

Chapter Text

Mid June 1935 Claire

Claire had never been to the Scottish Highlands before. It was a beautiful country, all green with rolling hills covered in heather. She was in Scotland for two whole weeks and had brought nothing but her small practice harp. It would be the first time Claire hadn’t practiced piano every day since the age of five. Her piano teacher assured her that it wouldn’t harm her technique.

As promised, Claire had been invited to Suzette’s wedding. Joe and Gayle hadn’t come, they were still on their wedding trip. Uncle Lamb had given them the gift of a trip to America to visit Joe’s extended family. They would be gone for the rest of June. Paul had gone to America also, to work with the groups he managed there.

Uncle Lamb had agreed to come with Claire, so he was in Scotland too. It was exciting to sight see with him. Uncle Lamb wanted to see all the lochs and the parks, so they spent a lot of time wandering through woods and across moors.

Culloden moor had made Claire very sad. All those men dying for nothing except Charles Stuart’s ego. The museum was interesting, but all Claire could focus on were all the children who’s fathers never came home.

Craigh na dun was a lot more fun. Uncle Lamb told Claire the story of the woman of Balnain. They giggled madly together as they placed their hands on the stone. Nothing happened and Claire confessed to being a little disappointed.

Suzette was getting married in the parish church in Broch Morda. Murtagh’s family all lived in the area, he had grown up there. Claire was surprised to see a concert hall in town, it seemed to be a rather remote area for such a thing. Uncle Lamb shrugged.

The White Rose is made up of men from Broch Morda. As I understand it, the local Lord or Laird as they say in Scotland, built the concert hall for his wife. Ellen Fraser is a concert pianist, and Murtagh’s distant cousin. William Fraser is her son.”

“Ellen Fraser. I think I’ve heard of her.” Claire didn’t really pay much attention to other performers, unless she personally worked with them. That name sounded familiar though. Maybe she’d ask Paul about it when they got home. She knew Murtagh and William of course. They were in The White Rose.

The wedding was beautiful. A children’s choir sang, which was a new experience for Claire. She was more used to men singing the Mass. The sound was amazing and Claire found herself thinking that maybe she should start singing more again.

The party afterwards was interesting. Claire had never seen Ceilidh dancing. Everyone except her seemed to know how to do it, even the children. Uncle Lamb had gone off to talk to some of the older men in the crowd, so Claire sat and watched. It was very entertaining.

“Are ye no going to join the dancing?” Claire looked up startled. A tall thin boy with red curly hair was looking down at her. He was wearing a kilt like most of the men, but for some reason it didn’t look odd on him the way it did on some of the others.

“I don’t know how. It’s very fun to watch though.” Now it was the boy’s turn to look startled.

“You’re a Sassenach!”

“I’m a what?”

The boy blushed a little. “Sassenach. It means English person or Outlander.”

“Oh. Yes. I am.” Claire wasn’t sure if she should be offended or not.

“I’m sorry.” The boy said. “I did'na mean to be rude. It just startled me. Suzette is French ye ken. I did’na realize that she had English relatives as well.”

Claire smiled at that. “I’m not really a relative. Suzette was my mother’s secretary. When my mother died, Suzette became my secretary. I’ve known her all my life. So I wanted to come support her today.”

“That’s verra kind of you.”

“Would you like to sit down? I don’t really know anyone except Suzette.”

“I would, thank ye.” The boy sat down at the table with her, and paused awkwardly. Then he said,

“I’m sorry about yer Mam.”

“Thank you. It happened years ago.” Claire did not want to dwell on that today.

“Are ye here with your Da then?”

“No. He died with my mother. I’m here with my Uncle.”

The boy blushed even darker red and fell silent. After several minutes of awkward silence, Claire took pity on him.

“I’m Claire Beauchamp by the way.”

Now the boy looked sheepish. “Pleased to meet you. I am James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser.

Claire laughed. “Well, I suppose you had to have a name to match your height.”

The boy, James, laughed with her, comfort restored. “I’ve some growing left to do Mam says.”

Claire cast about for another topic, to keep him talking. He was nice, and she was a little bored, sitting by herself.

“Do you live in Broch Morda?”

“Nay. I live at Lallybroch. I attend school in Broch Morda though.”

“Lallybroch, where’s that?”

“Tis the estate west o the town. My Da is Laird Broch Tuarach ye ken.”

“Oh. Oh! Is your mother Ellen Fraser?”

“Yes. Do ye ken my Mam?”

“Yes. Well, no not personally. I’ve heard of her though. She’s a concert pianist.”

“She is. Would ye care to meet her? I can introduce you if ye’d like.”

“Oh would you? I haven’t had anyone to talk to about piano in ages!” Claire stood up.

James offered her his arm, and led her over to a group of ladies sitting at another table.

“Mam. May I present, Miss Claire Beauchamp” James said with a flourish that made his mother laugh.

Claire blushed prettily and curtsied. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Ma’am.”

“Hello my dear. I’m Ellen Fraser. I haven’t seen you in a very long time. My how you’ve grown.”

Claire was confused.

“I’m so sorry Ma’am. I don’t remember...”

“No dear, you wouldn’t. You were just eight the last time I saw you and we didn’t formally meet at the time. I was the pianist for the concert series in which you made your public debut.”

Claire’s face cleared. “I thought your name sounded familiar. I just couldn’t remember where I had heard it before. You are a brilliant pianist Ma’am. I was just telling your son that I hadn’t had anyone to talk piano with except my tutor since...”

Ellen’s face softened. “Yes I heard about that. I’m sorry for your loss. I would be delighted to talk piano with you. What are you working on right now?”

Just like that, Claire and Ellen settled in to talk about music.

They spoke for the rest of the afternoon. When it was time for them to leave, Ellen gave Claire a hug. Claire was a little startled. She hadn’t been hugged like that since her mother died. Then she relaxed into it. It felt nice to be hugged by someone’s mother even if it wasn’t her own.

“It was lovely to finally meet you Claire. I wish you all success on your concert series this summer.”

“Thank you Lady Fraser.” Claire turned to James.

“It was nice to meet you James. Thank you very much for talking with me and introducing me to your mother.”

James turned red and bowed, but didn’t say anything. Claire wondered how old he was. She had thought he was her age or older. Now she wasn’t sure. James was so tongue tied and awkward in conversation. Maybe he was younger.

Uncle Lamb fetched her wrap from the table and they went back to the hotel.

After the wedding, Uncle Lamb and Claire stayed in Inverness for another week. The summer tour didn’t start until the first week in July, when Joe and Gayle came back. They did some more sightseeing, tried local restaurants and went to a beautiful little church called St. Mary’s for Mass on Sunday.

They took a closer look at the building after Mass. As they were walking towards the back, they saw a young woman in the back pew, sitting and crying.

Claire tapped her on the shoulder. “Miss, are you alright?”

The girl jumped and wiped at her face furiously. “Yes. Thank you.” She had hair that was a strawberry blond sort of color and a pale complexion. She was very pretty, even with a face that was tear stained and blotchy.

“Are you sure? Is there some way we can help you?” Uncle Lamb thought the girl was lost. She obviously wasn’t an adult and shouldn’t really be here by herself.

The girl grimaced. “Unless you can give me a job and a place to live then no. Thank you for your concern.”

“Why would you need a job at your age? You should be in school!” Lamb wanted to know. He was becoming quite concerned.

“The orphanage turns you out at sixteen. The matron had lined up a secretarial job for me, but he didn’t want a secretary, the old lecher wanted a...”

Lamb cleared his throat. “Yes. Quite. I see.” He looked meaningfully at Claire, who just looked confused.

The girl seemed to understand. “Yes. Well, the job included room and board. Since I ran away from the job, now I’m homeless too. I’ve tried to apply other places, but they keep telling me I’m too young and too pretty, that I should give up and look for a husband. I don’t WANT a husband. I want a job!”

The girl dissolved into tears again. Claire wasn’t sure if they were tears of sorrow or of rage. Given the muttering and the gritted teeth, she suspected rage as the cause.

Lamb’s thoughts went in a different direction. Claire had been nagging him to find her a personal secretary since Suzette announced her engagement. He kept forgetting to post for one.

“Miss. Please don’t take this question the wrong way. Are you qualified to be a secretary?”

“Yes. Yes I am. I took all the classes and got top marks. I knew I’d need a job when I turned sixteen and I’m not about to earn my living on my back. I have more self-respect than that. Besides, my Mam would come down from Heaven to box my ears if I sank that low.”

“I see.” Lamb paused. “I know this is going to sound extraordinary... I’m looking for a secretary, or rather my niece is.”

“Oh Uncle Lamb! That’s brilliant.” Claire turned to the young woman. “Uncle Lamb is right. I am looking for a secretary. Mine just got married you see. We came to Scotland for the wedding.”

The girl looked skeptical. “Really? I dinna mean to be rude, but you’re what, ten? What on earth would you need a secretary for?”

Claire didn’t take it personally. No one ever got her age right. Either they thought she was much younger than fourteen because she was so tiny, or they thought she was much older than fourteen because of the way she behaved. Claire held out a hand.

“How do you do? My name is Claire Beauchamp. I’m a concert musician. I promise I do need a secretary. I’m fourteen years old, and I go on tour in a week. If you’ll take a chance on me, I’ll take one on you. You’d have to live in my house so you can keep up with all the correspondence. You will work with all the staff, but mostly Paul Abernathy who’s my manager, and Ned Gowan my solicitor. I don’t know what the salary is, but I’m sure it can be negotiated.”

“Geillis Duncan.” The girl shook her hand, and looked at Uncle Lamb who nodded encouragingly. “If you’re serious, I’ll give it a try. If nothing else it will get me to England.”

“Wonderful. We’re leaving on Friday. Do you have a place to stay in the meantime?”

Geillis looked embarrassed. “Actually, no I don’t. I brought my suitcase with me when I ran from…” She looked at Claire. “Well anyway, I was planning to stay in the church tonight and figure something else out tomorrow.” She pointed to the rather battered looking case at her feet.

“Why don’t you come with us? You can stay in Claire’s room, it has two beds. Then you can show us the sights this week and Claire can fill you in on what your job duties will be.” Lamb was careful to emphasize that Claire had a separate room from his. He didn’t want the poor girl to think he had designs, after the situation she had just fled.

“Oh yes, please do. I love Uncle Lamb but I’d really love to see something other than museums and ancient ruins.” Claire thought this was just sensible.

The red head chewed her lip for a moment, thinking. “Alright. I guess we might as well make sure we’re compatible before ye take me on tour wit ye.” She stood up and picked up the suitcase.

“I can take that my dear.” Lamb ever the gentleman, wasn’t about to let a lady carry something when he could do it. So saying, he took the suitcase. Leaving the church he and Claire led the way to their hotel. Lamb stopped at the front desk to let them know they had added a member to their party. Claire led Geillis upstairs to her room. Lamb followed and dropped off the suitcase although he didn’t come in.

“Claire, why don’t you and Geillis stay in the room getting acquainted? I’ll go look at that ruin south of town and come back to fetch you both for supper. Does that sound alright?”

In reality, Lamb was going to go to the orphanage and make sure that Geillis was telling the truth. Claire wouldn’t leave the hotel without him so he felt relatively safe in leaving her with Geillis. The lass wasn’t likely to drag her anywhere.

“Alright Uncle Lamb. Please don’t forget the time and be late. I hate going into the dining room without you. People are always asking me if I’ve forgotten my room number. It’s embarrassing.”

“It’s only because you are so very small Fairy Princess. I shall watch the time carefully. I promise.”

“Alright then.”

Chapter Text

Summer 1933 Jamie

Things changed a bit once Willie went on tour with The White Rose. Jamie and Janet had more chores to do, things that Willie had once done. Da said that it was the way of things. Janet disagreed.

“What happens when I leave for university? Will Jamie have ta do everything by himself, or will ye hire someone to help? If ye’ll hire someone for Jamie, why won’t ye hire someone now? I dinna mean to be disrespectful Da, but I’ve already no got enough hours in the day to do lessons and languages and chores and still practice cello enough.”

Brian looked at Ellen. “The lass does have a point Ellen.” He turned a stern gaze to Janet. “Although ye could’ha been a little quieter in the askin’.”

Jenny had the grace to look abashed. “Sorry Da.”

Brian nodded. “Forgiven.”


“Yes Jamie?”

“Ye could hire Ian Murray. He’s looking for ways to earn money for university and if ye hire him… he could still help me wit my studies like he does now.”

Or you could continue to help him my lad’ Ellen thought.

“That’s a fine idea son. Young Ian already kens all the horses and the way things are done here Brian, you won’t even have to train him.”

Brian nodded to Ellen. “You’re right mo chride. I’ll speak to Ian and his father tomorrow.”

Ian was hired on at a respectable wage the next day. He moved into Jamie’s room, it was larger than Willie’s room and had two beds. Jamie was thrilled.

Ian worked hard and saved every penny he could. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to go to university right away, but if he worked hard he would make it. Ian wanted to study mechanical engineering, then return to Broch Morda to make things easier for the farmers like his Da who worked long hours and aged so prematurely.

Ian also watched Jenny. He still hadn’t told her how he felt. They were friends Ian thought. Having Jenny as a friend was better than nothing.

Jenny, satisfied that her precious practice time wouldn’t be curtailed, threw herself into her cello studies. She was already quite good, and had begun to play concerts with Ellen, when Ellen played.

1934 Jamie

Jamie had always been tall for his age. Shortly after he turned thirteen he had his first growth spurt of adolescence. Jamie gained six inches before Willie came home for Hogmanay that year.

Willie seemed happy to be home. He liked singing, and the money he earned, but would have rather been drawing in preparation for Art School.

Mam wasn’t happy that The White Rose had performances over the holidays. She let Uncle Dougal and Uncle Murtagh know it.

“What the hell were ye thinkin’? Even if ye dinna care about bein’ here, the younger lads will want to see their families and their sweethearts.”

“Ellen. Lesley and I are the only two wit a sweetheart and both are in London.” Murtagh retorted.

Dougal was a widower. He’d gotten married at 16 and become a father at 17. His wife had died of smallpox along with his younger daughter. His remaining daughter had gotten married right out of school and was expecting her first child. Dougal wasn’t seeing anyone presently, preferring to woo all the patron’s wives without tying himself down.

Neither Rupert nor Angus had a sweetheart and Willie was too busy drawing when he wasn’t singing to pay attention to the lasses.

“Hmmmph. Well, I’m glad yer home.” Ellen was still annoyed but at least they made it home for Hogmanay.

“We’ll be leaving again in March for the spring series.” Dougal said.

Ellen rolled her eyes. “I ken. Let me enjoy the time wit ye, however brief it is. Aye?”

Dougal smiled and gave his little sister a hug. “Aye.”

The party that year was loud and boisterous as Hogmanay tended to be. Brian was first foot as he usually was, being dark-haired and male. Ellen and Janet played and The White Rose sang a ballad or two, then the local fiddle group played and everyone danced until they were red-faced and sweaty.

At midnight the party spilled outside to enjoy the cold starry night. Jamie saw Ian watching Jenny as she danced under the stars. He nudged his friend.

“Ye should tell her.” Ian turned to look at Jamie, then shook his head.

“Nay. I’ll no risk it.”

“Ian, Janet watches you too ye ken.” Jamie was now looking earnestly at Ian.

“No she does’na. I’ll no lose her as a friend. I’d rather ne’er tell her than lose her.”

Unbeknownst to both of them, Jenny had gotten close enough to hear what they were saying. She was still dancing and pretending she couldn’t, but listened with all her heart.

“Ian. I’m tellin’ ye, she likes ye too. I’ve seen her watching ye. She smiles at you the way Mam smiles at Da.”

Jenny’s ears turned red, but the boys didn’t notice.

“Even if she did, I’m no good enough for her. If I can maybe go to university, I can...” whatever Ian had been about to say was lost when Jenny marched up to him, grabbed his face and kissed him square on the lips. Ian was completely shocked still for a moment, then began to kiss her back enthusiastically.

When she came up for air, Jenny shook Ian in exasperation. “Ye will go to university ya great numpty. Then when ye graduate, ye’ll come home and marry me. Aye?”

The most beautiful smile stole over Ian’s face. “Aye.”

“Good. Now let’s go tell Mam before Da finds out I kissed ye and comes after ye wit the shotgun.”

Ian paled.

“She’s havin’ ye on man.” Willie had seen the exchange and come over to find out what was happening. “Da will just be happy that someone is willing to take the wee foul harpy on ye ken.”

“WILLIAM BRIAN FRASER!” Janet’s voice wasn’t wee at all. Taking off after her brother at a run, she left Jamie and Ian laughing as she chased him across the yard.

Ellen and Brian had of course seen everything.

“Brian, go put the poor lad out of his misery.”

“Aye.” Brian looked at his wife and said thoughtfully…

“Willie’s no entirely wrong ye ken. Our Janet is a fierce wee thing. Young Ian loves her just as she is, temper and all. He’ll settle her wi’out tryin’ to change her. ‘Tis a rare thing, that.”

Now Brian looked at Ellen teasingly. “She takes after her Mam ye ken.”

Ellen laughed. “I ken. I love you.”

Brian kissed her palm. “I love you.”

Later that night, Ian lay in the bed.



“Are you ok wit this? Truly?”

Jamie leaned on an elbow. “Aye. Now ye really will be mac bhràthair.”

Ian smiled. Jamie smiled back. Then being boys, they rolled over and went to sleep.

1935 Jamie

Jamie had another growth spurt that spring. He was 14 years old and 5’11” in his stocking feet.

Thin and hollow chested as most boys that age are, Jamie turned the girls heads nonetheless. Jamie didn’t notice nor would he have cared if he did. He liked girls, he just wasn’t ready to marry one.

Having grown up with Brian and Ellen for parents, Jamie was willing to wait for that kind of love. He wouldn’t settle for a pale imitation of it. Let other boys his age kiss the girls then break their hearts. He was willing to wait until he was older and ready to marry.

Still he was kind, and that made him popular with the other students. Jamie had many friends and was comfortable talking to anyone.

His Uncle Murtagh got married in June. All the men wore kilts. Uncle Murtagh was old school and wore the great kilt rather than the wee kilt, so of course the rest of the men did too.

Jamie didn’t recognize the pretty girl sitting alone at the table. She was a tiny thing, with dark curly hair that cascaded down her back, almost to her waist. He wondered how old she was. Nine, or ten perhaps? ‘She must be bored just sitting by herself’ Jamie thought. “Are ye no going to join the dancing?”

The girl looked up at him. “I don’t know how. It’s very fun to watch though.”

Jamie was shocked. He blurted out, “You’re a Sassenach!”

“I’m a what?” She looked startled, maybe a little offended.

Jamie felt his ears turning red. “Sassenach. It means English person or Outlander.”

“Oh. Yes. I am.” Definitely offended.

He was embarrassed now. “I’m sorry. I did’na mean to be rude. It just surprised me. Suzette is French ye ken. I did’na realize that she had English relatives as well.”

The girl flashed a forgiving smile at him. “I’m not really a relative. Suzette was my mother’s secretary. When my mother died, Suzette became my secretary. I’ve known her all my life. So I wanted to come support her today.”

“That’s verra kind of you.” Jamie realized the girl must be older than she looked. She sounded like an adult.

“Would you like to sit down? I don’t really know anyone except Suzette.”

“I will, thank ye.” Jamie told himself he was being a good host. Really he just wanted to talk to the girl. There was something about her that drew his attention, although he couldn’t say what it was.

After seating himself, Jamie didn’t quite know how to continue the conversation.

“I’m sorry about yer Mam.”

“Thank you. It happened years ago.”

“Are ye here with your Da then?”

“No. He died with my mother. I’m here with my Uncle.”

Jamie blushed and mentally kicked himself.

After several minutes of awkward silence, the girl took pity on him.

“I’m Claire Beauchamp by the way.”

Now Jamie felt stupid. ‘Ye didna even introduce yerself ye numpty’

“Pleased to meet you. I am James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser.

The girl, Claire laughed. “Well, I suppose you had to have a name to match your height.”

Jamie laughed with her, comfort restored. “I’ve some growing left to do Mam says.”

“Do you live in Broch Morda?” Claire asked him.

“Nay. I live at Lallybroch. I attend school in Broch Morda though.”

“Lallybroch, where’s that?”

“Tis the estate west o the town. My Da is Laird Broch Tuarach ye ken.”

“Oh. Oh! Is your mother Ellen Fraser?”

“Yes. Do ye ken my Mam?”

“Yes. Well, no not personally. I’ve heard of her though. She’s a concert pianist.”

“She is.” Jamie was used to people wanting to meet his mother. “Would ye care to meet her? I can introduce you if ye’d like.”

“Oh would you? I haven’t had anyone to talk to about piano in ages!” Claire stood up.

Jamie nodded, standing up. ‘She must take piano lessons’ He offered Claire his arm, and led her over to Ellen Fraser who was talking to Mrs. Crook and Mrs. Fitz.

“Mam. May I present, Miss Claire Beauchamp” Jamie said with a flourish that made Ellen laugh.

Claire blushed prettily and curtsied. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Ma’am.”

“Hello my dear. My name is Ellen Fraser. I haven’t seen you in a very long time. My how you’ve grown.”

Jamie was confused. Claire said she’d never met his mother.

“I’m so sorry Ma’am. I don’t remember...” Claire said.

“No dear you wouldn’t. You were just eight the last time I saw you and we didn’t formally meet at the time. I was the pianist for the concert series in which you made your public debut.”

Claire’s face cleared. “I thought your name sounded familiar, I just couldn’t remember where I had heard it before. You are a brilliant pianist Ma’am. I was just telling your son that I hadn’t had anyone to talk piano with except my tutor since...”

Ellen’s face softened. “Yes I heard about that. I’m sorry for your loss.” Then not wanting to make the child feel awkward, “I would be delighted to talk piano with you. What are you working on right now?”

Just like that, Claire and Ellen were talking piano. Jamie sat and listened in awe. Having grown up with Ellen for a mother, he was very musically literate. Claire though, she could hold her own in a conversation with his mother, which was rare in Jamie’s experience.

He could have left, but Jamie didn’t want to. Sitting there and watching the brown haired girl talk to his mother made his wame feel odd. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.

Ellen and Claire talked for the rest of the afternoon. When it was time for Claire to leave, Ellen gave the girl a hug, not commenting when Claire stiffened before relaxing.

“It was lovely to finally meet you Claire. I wish you all success on your concert series this summer.”

“Thank you Lady Fraser.” Claire turned to Jamie.

“It was nice to meet you James. Thank you very much for talking with me and introducing me to your mother.”

Jamie was too flustered to do more than bow. By the time he figured out what to say, Claire and her uncle had already left.

“Do you remember her Jamie?”

“I dinna think so?”

“Claire is the little girl you prayed for when we went to America.”

“She was that Claire?” Jamie did remember her now, but hadn’t made the connection earlier. She seemed so much older than the little girl he remembered and occasionally thought about.

“Yes. She seems far too mature for a child her age. Claire is just fourteen after all.”

“She’s the same age as me?”

“A few months older I think, but yes.”

“At first I thought she was younger than me, nine or ten. She’s so tiny ye ken. Then when Claire started talking, I thought she was Willie’s age, or at least Jenny’s.”

“That is precisely my point. Claire acts far older than she is.”

Ellen wondered if losing her parents had something to do with it, then dismissed the thought from her mind. It’s not as if the girl had no family left, she had come with her uncle, who seemed to take good care of her. Perhaps the self-possession came from performing.

Jamie looked after her. Claire was the girl The White Rose toured with. Maybe he’d ask Willie about her.

Chapter Text

Summer tour 1935 Claire

Geillis was telling the truth. When Lamb went to the orphanage, the Matron was furious that one of her charges had been put into such a terrible situation. She promised to investigate the man in question. Then she started questioning Lamb about his intentions towards Geillis.

Lamb reassured her that he was legitimately looking for a secretary for his niece. He produced his identification papers, and invited the Matron to call Paul. She did exactly that. Paul wasn’t sure what was going on, but he was more than willing to vouch for Lamb. In the end the Matron seemed to accept that Lamb was being sincere.

They returned to England on Friday as planned, with Geillis. Lamb asked Ned to come to the house and go over things with Claire’s new secretary. That part went smoothly. Geillis was more than happy with the salary.

“As it includes room and board, I’ll be able to put away quite a bit. I dinna ken if I’ll ever get married, but it would be nice to bring something of my own to a marriage.”

Geillis had been given a room down the hall from Claire’s and they were currently in it. Claire sat in the chair with her legs tucked under her, while Geillis put her things away.

“I’ve never really thought about it. Ned handles all that sort of thing.”

“Ach. Well hen ye never have to worry about a dowry anyway. Yer parents left ye well provided for. Mam tried, but it was hard after me Da died. I think she died o tiredness, no the fever.”

Claire didn’t say anything, just nodded.

“There! No that I had much, but it’s nice to see it all tidied away. That was one o the things I hated about the orphanage. We did’na have much, but even the little we had was crammed into one drawer.” Geillis put her hands on her hips and nodded her head.

“So, I’m hungry. Shall we go down to dinner then?”

By the time Joe and Gayle and Paul returned, Geillis had learned the ropes. If Ned and Mrs. G. were anything to go by, Geillis knew she’d have to convince Paul that she could be trusted with Claire.

There wasn’t time before the tour began, to get to know everyone. Geillis was very busy during the tour of course. Working with Paul and Frank on all the administrative things. Keeping Claire’s personal correspondence sorted and sending all the reports to Ned. Making sure there was a practice room available with a locking door, that Mike the instrument caretaker, had what he needed.

Geillis also Arranged accommodations for everyone who needed them. Claire had a house everywhere she played. Paul, Joe, Gayle, Mrs. G. the driver, and now Geillis stayed with Claire. Everyone else stayed in a hotel. Geillis coordinated with Dougal Mackenzie so all the people involved with the tour stayed at the same place.

There were a million and one small things that needed tending to make the tour run smoothly. Suzette was there with Murtagh. To Geillis’ great relief and gratitude, Suzette was quite willing to answer questions. All in all, she had landed into a wonderful situation. Claire was lovely to work for and Geillis was growing very fond of the girl. Paul saw Geillis’ work and indicated his approval.

Geillis actually worked with Frank more often than Paul as the months went on. Frank was always professional, so Geillis assumed he didn’t have any issues with her. If he did, he never mentioned it and she wasn’t one to borrow trouble.

By halfway through the tour, Geillis could understand why everyone around Claire was so protective. There was an innocence about Claire that wakened that impulse in a person. What concerned Geillis was the lack of interaction Claire had with the world. As mature as Claire was, she was incredibly naive about certain things.

Claire lived in a bubble, spending her days and nights with a very small group of people. No one else got within ten feet of her.

It was shocking for Geillis to realize that The White Rose had been touring with Claire for almost three years and Claire didn’t know any of the men in the group beyond their names and faces.

Finally, Geillis couldn’t stand it anymore. It was dangerous to shelter Claire so much. She went and talked to Joe and Gayle.

Joe didn’t understand her concern at first.

“Look Geillis, Claire is a little sister to me. Protecting her is what I should be doing as her big brother.”

“I’m no sayin’ that ye should’na protect her Joe. I’m sayin’ that she’s isolated and that is’na healthy.”

“What? You think she should go to parties or something?”

“No. Joe, dinna put words in my mouth. That is’na what I mean at all.”

Joe was starting to get angry. “Well then explain what you do mean.”

Geillis took a breath, gathering her thoughts. “Claire is fourteen Joe. Who does she talk to that’s her age?”

Gayle’s face lit up with understanding. “She’s right Joe. Claire doesn’t have any friends her own age.”

Geillis shook her head. “No, that is’na exactly what I mean though that’s part of it. Claire does’na have any friends.”

“She does too!!!! I’m her friend. I’m her best friend.”

“No ye are’na.” Joe started to puff up in anger.

Geillis held up a hand. “I ken ye love her, and I ken ye’re close. But Joe, ye said it yerself. Ye look at her as a little sister. Paul sees her as a niece, she is Lamb’s niece. Mrs. G, and Ned and Simon and Auld Alec and even me, all see her as an employer. Frank Randall sees her as a concert act to manage.

Claire spends her days either practicing or doing schoolwork or performing, surrounded by adults. She does’na socialize with anyone her age. Most of the time she does’na talk to anyone except the people I’ve listed, and her tutors.

Ye’re all so busy trying to protect her from life that ye are’na letting her live it. So every time something happens to change her routine, Claire does’na handle it well. Oh she never complains and goes along with things, but if ye look at her eyes ye can see the panic."  Geillis took a deep breath.

"I used to live in an orphanage. We had no choice about anythin’ in our lives, and we complained about it all the time. Claire never complains about anythin. I’m no sayin’ I want her to become a diva like that Dunsany woman ye were telling me about Gayle, but she’s fourteen. A little more… expressing her opinion, would’na be a bad thing. Ye ken?”

Joe was pensive. “I see your point Geillis, but I don’t really know how we can change anything. Claire’s always been reserved, even more so since her parents died.”

“I ken that. I dinna want to force Claire into something she does’na want. I do think that we should be preparing her better to stand on her own feet. Everyone around her does all the hard things, to protect her. She needs to do for herself, in case someday, we aren’t here to do it. If we dinna, someone could take advantage of her verra badly and she would’na even ken it.”

Joe threw up his hands. “Fine! I see your point. What do you suggest we do then?”

Fer a start, it would’na be a bad thing for her to socialize a bit more with the other musicians. Especially the ones she works directly with.

I ken Rupert and Angus can be a bit...earthy. Claire’s going to have to learn to deal with men like that some day. At least with The White Rose Suzette and I will be there to… temper things a bit. Murtagh’s a good man and so is Dougal. They willna let the lads go too far, but it will expose Claire to a bit more of the world.”

“How do we go about doing that?”

“How about having her sing duets with them?” Gayle suggested.

Joe shook his head. “Dad can’t get her to sing.”

“I bet I could.” Geillis said.

“Oh really?”

“Sure. Dinna forget Joe I may act like I’m twenty five, but I’m only sixteen. I want to be Claire’s friend. Friends are honest with one another and that’s what I plan to be with Claire. She has a beautiful voice and it’s a crime that she does’na share it with people more.”

Joe and Gayle both started to laugh. “You have her number alright. That’s just the approach that will work.”

Geillis looked smug. Now to convince Claire.

Autumn 1935 Claire

In the end, it wasn’t difficult. Claire had been working with a voice teacher and was ready to sing again. Paul was ecstatic. They spent most of September and October re-working the program and adding in some duets between Claire and some of the men from The White Rose for the Holiday series.

There were no love songs. Claire may have turned fifteen, but no one was quite ready for that, least of all Claire.

The duets she sang were all holiday pieces.

O Holy Night, Claire sang with Lesley in English and then Willie in French.

She sang a two part arrangement of O Come O Come Emmanuel with Angus.

Rupert sang In Dulci Jubilo with Claire in the original alternating German and Latin text.

Claire sang Un Flambeau Jeanette Isabella with Murtagh. That always made Suzette cry.

The last piece was a 17th century version of Alma Redemptoris Mater in Latin that Claire sang with Dougal. His deeper bass supported her soprano and the Latin language quite well.

Originally, Claire had planned to sing at the end of her program, with the men continuing after the intermission. After they rehearsed it that way, everyone agreed that it made the program unbalanced. The duets were moved to the beginning of the program. Claire played the instrumental portion, followed by an intermission. The White Rose came out and sang again after the intermission to finish the program.

Now that Claire was working directly with them, she stayed and listened to The White Rose perform. Mrs. Graham and Mr. Randall always sat with her. Sitting next to Frank made Claire feel very grown up. She still had a crush on him, but never let on. She always called him Mr. Randall out loud, just as she called Uncle Paul Mr. Abernathy.

Staying to listen to The White Rose meant that Claire got home late and went to a later Mass on Sunday. She thought it was a good trade off.

January 1936

The series was short, only nine performances. Three in November, four in December and two in January. Claire found that she enjoyed singing in public again. After the series was over, Claire sat down with Paul and Dougal to talk about the Spring series which would be starting rehearsals the first week in February. Frank and Geillis sat in on the meeting as well, taking notes.

“This summer will be the last concert series Willie will be wit us ye ken. He’s off to Paris, to University in September. I have a replacement lined up for him already, a lad named Ian Murray. He wilna be able to sing duets for a bit. I need to get Ian integrated wit The White Rose first ye ken. He’ll most likely be able to sing the O Holy Night in French for the holiday series though.”

Paul nodded. “That’s understandable. Claire, did you have any preferences as to what you’d like to sing for the Spring concert?”

“Not really, although there are some folk songs I’d like to sing by myself.” She turned to Dougal.

“Does anyone sing in Italian? Also, do you know of any women that can sing mezzo soprano or contralto? I’ve been thinking that maybe we could add some polyphonic pieces, but we need more than just my soprano for that.”

Paul and Dougal both looked at Claire in surprise. “Are you thinking of moving to an all choral program Claire?” Paul wanted to know. “If so, this is the first I’ve heard of it.” ‘He looks so tired’ Claire thought to herself.

“No. Well, not entirely I mean. I just thought, you’re always wanting me to add performances. I know that it would help financially if we could perform two nights a week instead of just on Saturdays, but I’d get bored playing the same things two nights in a row and it would come out in my performance.

We could do a Polyphonic program on Fridays with The White Rose singing their madrigals and my usual Instrumental program. On Saturdays, The White Rose could sing their ballads for the first half, along with me singing solo pieces. Anyone that wants to can sing solo pieces actually. We could hire some instrumental musicians and do an orchestral work for the second half.”

Paul was nodding, his face lighting up. “That is a brilliant idea Claire. Are you up for that though? Two performances a week?”

“I think so. I’m fifteen. If we hire more musicians it will give more people a job too. Can we try? If it becomes too much for me, we can figure something else out.”

Dougal spoke up at this point. “I do ken some lasses back home that can sing. I can make inquiries once we decide how many and what voices.”

Dougal made some notes and then looked at Claire.

“For your orchestra...Some of the lads play an instrument, as do several of the lasses I’m thinkin’ of for the choral music. Would ye be willing to audition them for your orchestral pieces?”

“Of course. If I’m going to play two nights a week, anyone else who wants to should be given the chance.” Claire spoke up before Paul could say anything. “I can’t guarantee anything of course, it wouldn’t be fair to anyone including the musician, to hire someone who can’t perform the repertoire up to standard.”

“I can agree with that.” Paul found his voice finally. So it was decided. They would be adding a second performance and more musicians to their tours. Paul was privately relieved. It was getting more difficult for him to pretend all was well. He would need to tell Joe soon. And Claire.

Paul was turning more and more of the management responsibilities over to Frank. He gave the excuse of the groups in the U.S.

Truthfully, there were no groups in the U.S. anymore. Paul had turned them over to another manager when he went last summer. Claire and The White Rose were the only groups he had left. Paul hoped that it would be enough for Frank.

Frank was everything Paul had wanted for his honorary niece. Professional, efficient and completely focused on promoting Claire.

If they added a second performance every week, Frank wouldn’t have to take on any other clients. He could live quite comfortably just managing Claire and The White Rose. Paul would speak to Frank and the rest of the staff after speaking with Joe and Claire when Lamb came home for Easter.

Living with Claire had allowed Paul to save most of his income over the last several years for Joe’s schooling. He’d put it all into a trust that Ned was managing for him. Paul had made out his will and tied up all the loose ends. Now he just had to make it to June so Joe’s schooling wasn’t interrupted.

Chapter Text

February 1936

Claire hadn’t been had performance anxiety in years. Maybe it was just social anxiety. Claire wasn’t sure. She’d been nervous in social situations before. This wasn’t a social situation though. It was a music rehearsal. So why was she nervous?

Today was Claire’s first rehearsal with the new group for the polyphonic pieces. The group hadn’t come up with a name yet, although several possibilities had been discussed between Paul, Dougal, Murtagh and Claire. Claire’s favorite was Mystic Rose, after the Blessed Mother. Dougal thought it was too close to the The White Rose. He wanted to name the group The Schola, which was a reference to the schola cantorum or music schools in the church. They couldn’t agree so the debate continued.

The instrument auditions had gone quite well, with several members of The White Rose earning spots in the small orchestra which didn’t yet have a name either.

There were five women that would be singing, along with Claire. Moira Mohr was 18 and a Lyric Soprano. Angus was her brother and Lesley her cousin. Janet Fraser was 18 and a Mezzo Soprano.

Mary McKimmie was 23 and a contralto. Elizabeth Mackenzie was 21 and also a contralto. Both girls were nieces of Dougal’s. The last girl Laoghaire Mackenzie was a Lyric soprano and just 15. She was a distant cousin.

Laoghaire’s father had auditioned for the orchestra, he played Clarinet. Claire’s voice was currently classified as Mezzo Soprano, although her lower range was stronger.

All of the girls were in the Orchestra. Janet played cello. Mary and Elizabeth played the violin. Moira played the flute as did Laoghaire. Claire was hoping with spending so much time, she would have a chance to get to know them better, especially the ones nearer her age.

Not all of the men played in the orchestra.

Rupert played oboe and Ian played Viola. Murtagh played a variety of percussion instruments and Dougal played the viola. Angus played the trumpet, but wasn’t good enough to pass the audition. He was much better on the Bagpipes, which wasn’t really an orchestral instrument.

Claire felt bad though, he was the only one from the singing group that auditioned but didn’t get a place. Dougal told her not to worry about it. Claire couldn’t help it. She told Angus that if he practiced, she’d let him try out again for the fall series. Dougal and Paul both rolled their eyes, while Angus thanked her and said he would.

They hired other musicians to fill out the orchestra. It wasn’t a full orchestra, more of a chamber ensemble. Normally it would be hard to hire enough even for the smaller ensemble. Times were hard and a lot more people auditioned than they could hire.

Claire had been a little shocked at the response. Were things still that bad for people?

Entering the rehearsal hall, Claire hung back, until Geillis spotted her.

“Ah. There ye are hen. Come meet everyone.” Dragging her into the room, Geillis stopped when they reached the group of people near the piano.

“Hi Claire.” That was Ian. He smiled at her and Claire smiled back. Ian was always nice to her. He reminded Claire of Joe. Between school and his new marriage, Joe wasn’t around as much and she missed him.

“Hi Ian. Am I late?” She asked Dougal.

“No. We aren’t due to begin for five more minutes.”

“Oh good. I got caught up in a piece I’m working on and lost track of time.”

Dougal just nodded. Claire often got caught up in something. She was always working.

“Right. Since we’re all here, I’ll pass out the music and we can begin.”

For the polyphonic program it had been decided that they would sing through a Mass. It was a combination of chanted pieces, motets, and a polyphonic Ordinary.

Since they were singing through the Lenten season for this program, they had decided to sing The Introit Chant for Good Friday, Palestrina’s Missa In Te Domine Speravi, (without the Gloria and a chanted Credo instead of a polyphonic one) Pater Noster by Orlando di Lasso and Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere, for motets.

It was fairly complicated repertoire, but Claire hadn’t picked it, Dougal had. He knew all of the singers including Claire and was the leader of The White Rose. Claire trusted his judgment.

The sing through went fairly well. Everyone was professional even the girl Claire’s age, Laoghaire. She had a beautiful voice, clear and strong. Claire hoped they might become friends.

They rehearsed for two hours, then broke for supper. Claire and the men would come back after to rehearse the duets. Geillis would be there too of course, and Suzette.

For supper everyone went to a nearby pub. Claire had never been in a pub before. It was interesting. The food was good, beefsteak sandwiches and fried potatoes. Suzette ordered tea for herself and Claire. Most of the group including Geillis and Laoghaire had beer.

Geillis gave Claire a sip of hers. Claire made a face, and the men all laughed.

Claire blushed. Ian leaned over and said “dinna fash. My Jenny does’na care for it either. Pointing to Janet Fraser’s tea cup. Jenny smiled at Ian. “No I dinna. Tastes like a sour bread sponge.” Claire giggled.

“You said you were working on a piece earlier. Is it something for piano then?” Ian asked in a friendly way.

“No, it’s an orchestral work. I’ve been working on it for several years, but I don’t play all the instruments, so I sometimes write notes that an instrument can’t play. Then I have to give it to another instrument to preserve the melody.”

“You mean to say you’re composing an orchestral work?” Jenny asked.

“Yes.” Claire nodded. “I started it when I was nine as an exercise for music theory. I’ve just kept going. I might not ever finish it, but I’m learning so much.”

“That sounds amazing. Who’s your theory teacher? My mother is mine.” Jenny said.

“My mother was mine too. I don’t have one now.” Claire said quietly.

Jenny felt bad, but kept going to take attention from it. “So, which books are you using then? Would you mind if I studied with you sometimes? My Mam is back in Scotland and I want to keep learning.”

Claire was taken aback for a minute. Then she was intrigued by the idea. She’d never studied music with anyone not a teacher. “Yes, if you want to. I think I’d like that. Where do you stay while you’re in London?”

“Ian and I both stay with my Uncle Murtagh and Auntie Suzette. Mam would have had a fit if I stayed in the group home with the other girls. Besides, I’d never be able to practice properly there.”

The group home was a large house in London that Dougal rented for the entire group to live in together. The men were on one wing and the women on the other. Brian had a small house in London, and Murtagh stayed there with Jenny and Ian.

“You play cello, right?” Claire asked.

Jenny nodded. Ian had turned back to talk to Rupert about something. Jenny scooted closer to Claire so she could hear.

“Could I ask you some questions about the cello Jenny? I play violin, but I can’t always tell if I’m writing the cello part correctly.”

“Of course.”

“What days are best for you to come to my house? I have a practice room at home, which is where I compose. If you brought the cello, maybe you could...try some things out so I could hear them?” Claire was very nervous waiting for Jenny’s response.

“I would love that. Could Ian come? He plays viola.”

“Oh. Yes. I don’t mind Ian. He’s nice.”

Jenny smiled at that. “Yes, he is.”

“He reminds me of Joe.”

“Who’s Joe?”

“Oh. Well...he’s almost like my brother, or an older cousin, though we aren’t blood relatives. He’s Mr. Abernathy’s son. He’s in his last year at Oxford, and he just got married. He and his wife Gayle still live at the estate, but I don’t see him so often. Gayle sets up all the sound equipment while Joe is in school.”

Jenny blinked. That was a lot of information.

“You miss him, huh?”

“A lot. He’s been my best friend my whole life.”

That struck Jenny as odd. It was obvious that Joe was much older than Claire. Shouldn’t her best friend be someone closer to her in age? Jenny didn’t comment though. She didn’t have enough information yet.

“What day works best for you Claire?”

“Hmmm. Maybe Wednesday? We have choir rehearsals on Monday, Thursday and Friday. Orchestra rehearsal is on Tuesday and Saturday evenings. Once performances start we’ll have performances on Friday and Saturday and rehearsals the other days. My instrument teachers come Wednesday mornings, but I have the afternoon and evening to work on my own. Can you come then?”

“Whew! That’s a brutal schedule. Are ye sure ye want me to come on Wednesdays?” When did the lass have downtime? Jenny thought.

“Oh yes. That’s when I usually work on composing anyway.”

“I’ll have to talk to Uncle Murtagh, but I think I can.” Maybe composing was Claire’s downtime.

“That would be wonderful. Thank you Jenny.”

Geillis didn’t say anything, just listened to the exchange. She shared a smile with Suzette. This would be good for Claire.

It was good for Claire. Jenny and Ian went to Claire’s house nearly every Wednesday afternoon after that. They spent most of their time working on music of course.

Many weeks it was dinner time before they stopped, so Jenny and Ian stayed to eat. This gave them a chance to talk about things other than music. Claire loved the interaction with people closer to her in age. Geillis was there too, and got on with the couple as well.

Jenny and Ian quickly realized that Claire was incredibly naive about anything not music related. After discussing things with Geillis privately, Jenny decided to broaden Claire’s horizons a bit.

With this in mind, Jenny invited Claire to visit the shops with her and the other girls one Saturday afternoon before orchestra rehearsal. Claire was a little nervous, but not as much as she had been for that first rehearsal.

The girls were all welcoming and tried to include Claire in their conversations. Claire didn’t have a lot to contribute, she mostly listened to the other girls. They talked about friends back home, things they were studying and boys.

After shopping for a bit, they stopped into a tearoom for tea and scones. The conversation continued.

Jenny was engaged to Ian, she mostly talked about her plans for their wedding. Moira, Elizabeth and Mary Mckimmie all talked about their beaus. Elizabeth was dating Lesley Mohr. The other two were dating lads back home.

Geillis hinted about an older man that she had a crush on, but wouldn’t give his name. After some teasing, Geillis turned to Laoghaire. “What about you hen? Is there a lad back home waiting for ye?”

The girl turned a bright pink color. “No. I am no seein’ anyone.”

Geillis smelled blood in the water. “Ah...but there’s a lad ye’re sweet on. Come on tell us about him.”

“There is a boy, yes. He’s verra handsome and ever so tall. He’s nice to me. I think he likes me too, but I canna tell for sure.”

“Why do you think he likes ye?”

“He stopped mac bhràthair picking on me last year. Took a punch for it too. He must like me or he would’na done that.”

Jenny scoffed. “I’ve told ye before Laoghaire. Jamie does’na fancy ye. He sticks up for anyone that’s picked on. Ye’re no special.”

Claire perked up at that. “Jamie Fraser? Ellen Fraser’s son?”

“Yes. The clotheid is my youngest bhràthair. He’s always lookin’ out for the picked on. He does it for animals too. Kindest heart o anyone I ken. He does’na chase after the girls though. Says he’s no ready to look for a wife and he wil’na gie a lass a chance to misunderstand until he is ready. He won’t even be 15 until May ye ken.”

Jenny turned to Laoghaire. “If ye want to chase after the lads ’tis yer own concern. You leave mac bhràthair out o yer games though, ye ken?”

Laoghaire looked offended. “I’m no chasin’ after anyone no even yer bhràthair. I just said he was nice and I like him.”

“Alright then. See that ye don’t.” Jenny was determined to have the last word.

“Jenny? What does bhràthair mean exactly?” Claire thought it meant brother. She wasn’t sure.

“It means brother in the Gàidhlig.”

“So Jamie is your brother. Of course! I don’t know why I didn’t make the connection before.”

“What connection?”

“Ellen Fraser is your mother. She’s really nice. Jamie is too.” Claire turned to Laoghaire. “I can see why you would like him. He was very kind to me at Murtagh’s wedding last summer.”

“Oh, He was?” Claire didn’t recognize Laoghaire’s tone as a jealous one, though the others all did.

“Yes. He sat and talked with me for a few minutes because I was sitting alone. Then introduced me to Lady Fraser.” Claire looked at Jenny. “I had a wonderful discussion with her about piano until Uncle Lamb decided it was time to go.”

“Ye kept up in a discussion with my mother about music?” Jenny was amazed.

“It wasn’t really in depth or anything. I just hadn’t talked to anyone about music except my instructors since my mother died.” Claire didn’t see that it was a big deal. Everyone except Geillis knew Ellen Fraser. They did see the big deal.

“Wow. I’d have loved to have seen that.” Moira said.

Claire looked confused, so Jenny explained. “There aren’t many people who are willing to talk piano with my mother for hours. So I’m sure it was lovely for her as well.”

Geillis looked at her watch just then and yelped.

“We should be going to the rehearsal hall before we’re late.”

With a flurry of wiping faces and putting on coats, they went off to rehearsal.

There wasn’t anymore discussion on the way, except the music they were rehearsing.

At the back, Geillis and Jenny exchanged looks.

Jenny couldn’t stand Laoghaire. She was a shameless flirt that tossed her hair at all the boys to get attention. Jenny had heard the jealous tone when Claire talked about Jamie, and didn’t want the poor lass to become Laoghaire’s target. Particularly when Claire wouldn’t understand why.

It was just like her brother to look after someone sitting alone. Jenny didn’t think it had been more than that, if Claire’s reaction was anything to go by. Of course, Jamie could be head over heels in love and the lass would’na ken, as innocent as she was.

Geillis had heard Laoghaire’s tone too. Unlike Jenny, Geillis thought that Claire needed a boy her age to take an interest. She had seen the looks that Frank Randall gave Claire when he thought no one was watching. It creeped her out. It wasn’t the age difference per se. Frank was twelve years older than Claire.

Geillis had no room to talk. She had a massive crush on Dougal Mackenzie and he was almost twenty years older than she was. No it wasn’t the age difference. It was the way Frank looked at her. Geillis couldn’t put her finger on why it bothered her...there was just something wrong about it.

Geillis would have to talk to Jenny about getting her brother to come for a visit.

Chapter Text

March-May 1936

The Spring series was a resounding success. Almost every show sold out after the first week. Part of that was due to the smaller venues that Claire preferred. Paul had always agreed that the smaller concert halls were better suited to her music and to the vocal performances. They ended up doing 24 performances over the three months.

There were other benefits too. Claire had begun to spend more time with the other performers outside of rehearsal. Geillis had become a good friend, although there was still a certain reserve in their interactions since Geillis worked for her, that Claire couldn’t quite dispense with. She also considered Jenny a friend. Moira and Elizabeth were fun to spend time with too. The only person Claire hadn’t gotten to know well was Laoghaire.

She didn’t quite understand why Laoghaire rejected her overtures of friendship, but Claire didn’t lose sleep over it either. Julia had taught her very young that sometimes, you just didn’t click with someone else, and that was ok. Claire was polite to Laoghaire and Laoghaire was polite back. They had to work together, so that was the best way to handle it Claire thought.

The men were fun to spend time with too, even though most of them were older. They did a lot of things as a group, going to see museums and taking hikes, even going on a gondola ride in Italy.

Claire, accompanied by her driver Simon, stopped in to see Oncle Ray when she was in Paris. He was delighted to visit with her and went to that evening’s concert. Since Oncle Ray was there, Claire attended the Saturday reception after the performance. This marked the first time she attended one of the receptions. Everyone was there except Paul. He had gone home, saying something about having a headache. Frank was there, he talked to the patrons instead of Paul.

“You were lovely as always Madonna.”

“Merci Oncle Ray.”

They chatted for some time. Ray asked after Lamb who was on another dig, this time in South America. After about thirty minutes, Frank approached them.

“Claire, if you are willing, there are some patrons that would like to meet you.”

“Oh. Really?” Claire was surprised. Paul always handled the patrons.

Ray bowed over her hand as though she were the Queen. “I will take my leave then Madonna. Shall we have brunch aprés Mass tomorrow?”

“Oh yes, let’s. I’m going to Notre Dame with Geillis and Mrs. Graham. Could you come over at 2:00?”

“Of course. I shall most likely attend an earlier Mass, so I will see you at 2. Bonsoir ma petit.”

Ray left. For the rest of the evening, Frank introduced her to patrons attending the reception, who made much of her. Claire was a little embarrassed at the effusiveness of their praise, but flattered that so many people wanted to meet her. Maybe she should attend these receptions once in awhile. It would probably make Paul’s job easier. He looked tired all the time now.

Frank stayed with Claire the entire time. He was charming and attentive, filling in the silences when Claire didn’t know how to respond to someone. Claire pretended in her mind, that Frank was her beau.

Claire stayed far longer than she had intended, and it was very late when she got back to the house. They were going home on Monday and Joe would be there. It would be so nice to see him.

June 1936

Claire was getting used to the new driver. Simon had retired a week ago, when they got home from the tour. Claire had known about it and had met Hector when Simon started training him. The old driver training the new one wasn’t typical, but Hector was Simon’s grandson.

It was nice for Claire because Hector knew his duties from day one and never got lost. He was taller than Simon, and a lot stronger. Hector was also willing to talk to Claire more, although when anyone else was around he didn’t.

They were on their way home from the Market. Joe was coming home today and Claire had gone out to get him some fresh strawberries for dinner that night. Joe loved strawberries and they were just in season. Pulling up to the curb, Hector got out and opened the door for Claire. She stepped onto the curb and ran smack into someone. Looking up Claire saw it was Frank Randall.

He had put up his arms to steady her and Claire’s skin burned at the touch of his hands on her arms. 

“Mr. Randall? What are you doing here?” Claire wracked her brain trying to think if she had missed a meeting.

“Good afternoon Claire. I just stopped by to pick some paperwork up from Paul. I was on my way out in fact.” After a moment, Frank released her arms and took a step back.

“Oh. I see.” Claire blushed. “I’m sorry I crashed into you just now. I was thinking about seeing Joe and didn’t look where I was going.”

“I understand completely. Joe is a brother to you. Of course you missed him.”

Claire smiled her usual smile, the one that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Yes, I did.” After a moment…
“I should get the berries inside. It was nice to see you Mr. Randall.”

“You as well Claire.” Frank tipped his hat and walked away down the sidewalk.

Claire turned to Hector, taking the berries from him and making her way inside the house. She didn’t see Frank turn and watch her go in with a hungry gaze. Claire shut the door and Frank finally realized he was being stared at. Hector was looking at him with an eyebrow raised in challenge. Frank smiled at Hector noncommittally and turned away.

Hector shook his head and went to put the car away. He’d be telling Joe and Geillis about that little encounter.

Claire went into the house and heard voices coming from the sitting room. Joe was in there, talking to his Dad. Gayle must not be home yet, Claire thought.


“There you are. Come here Lady Jane!” Claire happily went to be hugged. Joe picked her up and twirled her around.

“It’s so good to see you!”

“I missed you too. Where’d you go this morning?”

Claire held up the package. “To get you a homecoming present. Strawberries for dinner.”

“mmmm. I love strawberries. Thanks LJ.”

“Of course. Let me take these to the kitchen. I’ll be right back.”

When Claire returned to the sitting room Gayle had joined them. She looked at Joe and nodded, smiling.

“Dad, LJ… Gayle and I have something to tell you.”

Paul knew instantly. He smiled from ear to ear.

“What?” Claire wasn’t quite as quick.

“We’re having a baby.” Claire squealed and hugged Gayle, then Joe, then Gayle again. Paul shook Joe’s hand and hugged Gayle.

“Congratulations. When is the blessed event?”

“Late October, or early November. Gayle timed it perfectly. The Fall concert series ends on October 15th. The Holiday series doesn’t begin until the third week in November.” Joe was only half kidding.

“You know we’d work it out anyway. How is this going to work with your schooling?”

“I only have a few classes left. I’ll do those in fall term and then take the spring off. I wasn’t going to start medical school until next fall anyway.”

Joe had been accepted into the university in Glasgow pending his final grades.

Paul nodded. That seemed sensible to him. He still hadn’t told Joe. It could wait a week or two.

The summer tour went well. There was less travel this year, they only went to Paris and Austria, skipping Italy this time. Paul was looking more and more tired as the tour progressed. Frank now attended all the receptions instead of Paul.

Claire attended one in Paris and one in Austria. She was usually too tired after performing, but Frank asked her to attend one in each country so people could meet her. Frank said that ticket sales had increased after she attended the reception in Paris, would she please help again? Claire didn’t really want to go, but felt as though she couldn’t refuse either. Mr. Randall had been so charming and acted like her presence made all the difference in the success of the tour. So Claire went.

The receptions were tedious. It was like a continuation of her stage performance.

All the members of The White Rose and Mystic Rose were there. Claire didn’t get to talk to any of them. Frank kept her occupied with meeting patrons the entire night.

Claire was able to observe what Suzette meant though. Women did throw themselves at all the men. Some of the men seemed to enjoy it. Some, especially Ian and Murtagh didn’t. Jenny and Suzette ran a lot of interference for their men it seemed to Claire. ‘How annoyed they must be’ she thought.

Claire was glad when the tour ended. Joe had two weeks before he started school again.

Late August 1936

Gayle was due in about nine weeks. Paul knew that he had to tell them. Joe suspected that something was going on, Paul couldn’t hide the pain and exhaustion anymore. He decided to tell them at dinner that night. Lamb was home, he was teaching the fall term before going on another South American dig.

All through dinner, Paul struggled to find the words. Geillis was at dinner also, talking with Claire and Lamb about the dig he had just come from. Gayle was listening too, but Joe was watching his father. After the meal, the six of them retired to the sitting room.

“What’s going on Dad?” Joe asked bluntly.

“I...”Paul couldn’t make himself say it.

“Would ye like me to leave Paul?” Geillis wanted to know.

“No. You should hear this too. Claire will need you.”


“I...” Paul took a deep breath.

He could do this.

“I have cancer.”

There was dead silence for several moments. The first question came from Lamb surprisingly enough.

“How long have you known?”

“Almost three years. I found out the summer of 1934.”

“How long do you have?” Gayle asked.

“Not long. The doctors told me I should have died six months ago. I’m hoping to see my grandchild before...”

Joe and Claire were both silent and still as statues. After another minute of silence...

“That’s why you’ve been having Frank do everything.” This came from Geillis.

Paul nodded. “Yes. I wanted the transition to be as smooth as possible for everyone.”

Joe got up kicking the chair as he did. He stormed out of the room slamming the door behind him. Gayle followed him, with an apologetic look at Paul.

Claire stood up much more quietly. She crossed to Paul and gave him a gentle hug. “I’m sorry Uncle Paul. Are you in pain at all?” She hadn’t called him Uncle Paul in years. Not since her parents died.

“No darling girl. The doctors gave me medicine for the pain.”

It didn’t do any good these days, but Paul would never tell Claire that. They held each other for awhile, then Claire asked...

“Is that why you kept pushing for me to perform more often?”

“Partially. I wanted to make sure you were firmly established. The more I could get your name out there, the more likely you could continue after I wasn’t there to...” Paul swallowed and continued. "Look after you."

Claire just nodded.

“My main reason was more selfish. I needed to make as much money as I could for Joe.”

Paul paused again, choosing his words carefully.

“I love you Claire, you know that. I wasn’t so worried about you, Henry and Julia left you well provided for.”

“But Joe. Joe is my son. He is all that will be left of me, ever. I had to make sure he could realize his dream of becoming a doctor. All the money I could save, I put into a trust for him. Ned manages it for me. There’s enough for Joe’s education. More than enough actually. I set up a trust for the baby too.”

Claire nodded again. She understood. Paul loved Joe. Claire loved Joe too. She didn’t blame Paul for wanting to make sure his son was taken care of.

“Why didn’t you tell us before?”

“Yeah Dad. Why didn’t you tell us before?” Joe had come back into the room in time to hear Paul’s explanation. He was still angry. Gayle put a hand on his arm and Joe visibly tried to calm himself.

“At first, I didn’t quite believe the doctors. Then, I was trying to secure your future. If I had told you two years ago, you would have dropped out of school. I didn’t want that for you.”

“Well what if I wanted to spend the time with you?” “Did you ever think of that?”

“I did actually. That’s why I handed off all the U.S. groups that summer you got married. I wanted to spend as much time with you as I could. What I didn’t want was for you to stop living your life, waiting for me to die.” Joe deflated a little bit at that.


“I know you’re angry with me son. Please remember that I made the decisions I did because I love you.”

Joe swallowed. “I can’t promise to remember that every day. But I’ll try. I love you too Dad.”

Paul stood and crossed the room. He hugged Joe, who hugged him back. “I know you need some time to come to terms with this and I need some rest anyway. We can talk tomorrow. Ok?”

“Can we?” Joe looked at his father searchingly.

Paul nodded again. “Yes. I meant it when I said that I want to meet my grandchild. I have a little time yet.”

Joe hugged him again. “Ok.”

Paul hugged him back and then excused himself. “I’m sorry, I need to go to bed. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Joe looked at him.

“I promise Joe. I have time yet. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Joe nodded. “Ok Dad. Sleep well.”

Paul left the room.

Geillis stood and excused herself to follow. She needed to make plans.

“Are you ok Joe?”

“I don’t know LJ.”

Lamb spoke up then. “Joe, you may not understand why your father didn’t tell you...but you have to realize he thought he was protecting you.”

“I know Lamb. That’s what makes this so hard. He’s not wrong. I would have quit school. I would have put my life and future on hold for him.”

“He knew that. He didn’t want you to and Joe, you need to respect his choice. I’m not saying you don’t have a right to your feelings, but Paul doesn’t have the time for you to get over this. He’s dying. Make sure you never have cause to regret how you spend the time you have left with him.”

Joe nodded. Lamb was right. They hadn’t gotten to say good bye to Henry and Julia. He had the time to say what he needed to say to Paul.

Gayle was sitting next to Claire. “How are you doing Claire?”

“I’m sad. I’m also grateful. I have time to make sure Uncle Paul knows I love him and that I appreciate everything he’s done for me.” Claire was teary, but not falling apart.


Chapter Text

The next two weeks were spent discussing plans for the fall concert series. Now that Joe and Claire had been told, Paul announced his condition to the rest of the staff, along Dougal and Murtagh.

It was decided that the Fall Series would be split with the first half of performances being in France and the second half in London. Frank continued going to all the receptions. Claire did not attend any, preferring to go home as soon as she was done performing. Gayle did the sound set ups, Joe stayed at the London house with his father.

Claire was relieved when the series ended and Paul was still with them. She took a break from her lessons and even from composing. Jenny and Ian understood, and still visited just to spend time with her. Geillis was relieved. She didn’t want Claire to isolate herself again and would have gone to Paul if necessary.

Whenever she was home, Claire spent part of every day with Paul. He lay on the sofa and listened to her practicing. She even allowed him in to listen to her practice harp. Claire sang all of Paul’s favorite songs. Privately she began praying a Novena to Saint Joseph for Paul to have a happy death.

Joe played chess with his Dad and had long conversations. Paul for his part, tried to pass on every bit of fatherly advice he could think of.

By the end of October, Paul had become very frail. The pain medication no longer worked at all, so he was in tremendous pain. He slept a lot, but refused to leave the sofa during the day. He wanted to spend his time with his loved ones. This suited the rest of the family just fine. The sitting room became the place to find Joe and Claire most days. Gayle and Geillis worked with the staff to keep the house running smoothly and Lamb spent all his evenings at home too.

As Paul weakened, he spent more time thinking about what happened after death. Joe never pushed him but they did have long conversations about eternity. For most of his life, Paul had been an indifferent Catholic. Oh, he made sure Joe was raised in the church, for Victoria’s sake, but Paul had never quite forgiven God for taking her when Joe was born.

Knowing that his life was ending, Paul asked Joe to request Fr. Anselm to come and hear Paul’s confession. Joe did so immediately. After explaining Paul’s situation to the priest, Fr. Said he’d be right over.

Fr. Anselm was in the room with Paul for quite some time. When the priest finally emerged, he let them know that he would be available for the last rites, at any time of the day they should need him. Joe thanked the priest and Geillis showed him out.

When they entered the sitting room Paul looked like he’d been crying, but he also looked more relaxed. As though a great weight had been lifted from him.

“Ok Dad?”

“I’m fine Joe. Thanks for asking Father to come.”

“You’re welcome.”


“Yes Uncle Paul.”

“Will you...sing for my Requiem?”

Claire swallowed. “Of course. What would you like me to sing?”

“Two things actually.”


The Ave Maria by Bach/Gounod at the church. I’d also like you to chant the In Paradisum at the cemetery. The White Rose has already agreed to sing the Requiem Mass for me.”

“I will.”

“Thank you darling girl.” Paul had taken to calling her that since he told them about the cancer.

“I love you Uncle Paul.”

Joe and Gayle’s first child entered the world on November 7th 1936. They named her Victoria Paulina. Everyone called her Lina. Weighing in at a robust 8 pounds even. Gayle had a fairly easy time and the baby had been born at home with a midwife in attendance. Joe spent the evening in the sitting room with Paul, who in between naps tried to distract his son from what was going on upstairs. Claire was in the room as well, although she went upstairs for progress reports to bring back down to the nervous father.

At Lina’s Christening on November 15th after the Sunday Mass, Paul held his granddaughter proudly. Claire stood as Godmother and Lamb stood as Godfather. Normally they would have waited several weeks for Gayle to fully recover, but Joe and Gayle wanted to make sure Paul could be present.

As a christening gift, Lamb had a photographer come to the house and make a photograph of the family with Paul. Both Joe and Paul insisted that Claire be in the picture.

The Holiday series started on November 20th. There was no traveling this year, all the performances were in London. They had the first two performances that week. Paul was still with them six days later, on Thanksgiving Day. He even sat at the table, though he didn’t eat much. It was a quiet afternoon. They sat in the sitting room watching Paul and Joe play chess. Later that evening, Paul asked Joe to call Father Anselm.

Father came to the house and administered the Last Rites. The next day, everyone was afraid to leave the house. Thankfully there wasn’t a performance that night, they weren’t due to begin again until the following week. Gayle sat in the room with Lina and Paul held her as much as he could, whispering in her little ear all the things he wanted to say.

He fell asleep on the couch right after dinner. Normally everyone would have gone to another room. Tonight they didn’t. At five minutes after nine Paul opened his eyes. “Tory” he said.

The most beatific smile lit up his face, then Paul closed his eyes for the last time.

The funeral was beautiful, and heartbreaking. The funeral Mass was held at Brompton Oratory in London. It was filled to capacity. Paul was well known in concert circles and well regarded by clients and patrons alike. Even those who weren’t Catholic came to the funeral.

Claire had helped Joe make the arrangements. She wanted things to be just perfect. Making arrangements took all her time and attention for the next week. She didn’t get much sleep and kept forgetting to eat, unless Gayle reminded her.

The performances for that week were of course canceled. Tickets were refunded or exchanged for other performances. An announcement went up at the concert venue about Paul’s death. Claire didn’t pay any attention to that part of it, Frank took care of everything.

Just as Paul had asked, Claire sang. Before the Mass started, she sang the Ave Maria while playing her mother’s harp, which had been brought to the church for the funeral.

The White Rose sang the Requiem. Claire sat with Joe and Gayle. Gayle cried, Joe and Lamb were red eyed. As at her parents funeral, Claire did not cry in public. She had done her crying at home.

Claire and Uncle Lamb rode in the car with Joe and Gayle, directly behind the hearse to the cemetery.  It was the newer cemetery outside town.  The one next to the church was full.

The crowd at the cemetery was smaller but still sizable. Claire chanted the In Paradisum at the proper moment during the committal service.

Geillis had made the arrangements for the reception after the funeral. Typically it would be held in the family home.  None of those living at the estate wanted such a large crowd of people invading their house, so the luncheon was held at one of the reception halls they used in London for concert receptions.

Gayle had gone home with Lina, and Lamb had gone with her. He didn’t really know most of Paul’s business acquaintances. Claire had promised Gayle that she would act as hostess for Joe. It was nice to see that Paul was so well thought of. People had come from everywhere in Europe. Many from the United States had sent telegrams. They wouldn’t have been able to reach London in time for the funeral. Jenny’s parents came, and her brothers.

All the members of The White Rose, Mystic Rose, and the orchestra were there. Frank Randall was there.

Throughout the reception, Claire acted as hostess. She stood next to Joe, greeting everyone and thanking them for coming. Once most people had arrived, she circulated through the crowd making small talk with people, although she really didn’t enjoy it. Finally the majordomo announced that luncheon was served and everyone found their seats.

Father Anselm offered the benediction over the meal.

Claire was seated at a table with Father Anselm, Jenny and Ian, Jenny’s parents and her brothers. Jenny had made sure to save her and Joe seats, so they could be with someone they knew. Claire appreciated the thoughtfulness in a distant sort of way, but she felt rather numb.

During the course of the meal Claire went through the motions, answering direct questions, but not really paying attention to the conversation at the table. She just wanted this day to end so she could go home to bed. A headache had started at the cemetery, it was getting worse as the day progressed.

At the end of the meal, Claire stood with Joe again and said goodbye to everyone, thanking them again for coming. Finally, finally, everyone was gone. Claire went to the coatroom to retrieve her coat.

After receiving it from the attendant, Claire turned to leave and ran into someone. She started to fall, until the person put out their hands and caught her.

Looking up, Claire saw Jenny’s younger brother, James.

“Thank you.” Claire almost whispered. Her head was really pounding.

“Are ye alright lass? You’re pale as a ghost.”

“Yes, I’m fine.” Claire said, just as her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she passed out.

When Claire opened her eyes, she was surrounded by people. Joe was there of course. Jenny, Ian and Jenny’s family were there too. Claire realized that she was still being held by young James Fraser.

“Claire? What happened?” Joe sounded almost frantic.

“I don’t really know. I accidentally ran into James and then...I don’t remember.”

“Your eyes rolled back into yer head and ye fainted. Scairt me to death. I thought I’d killed ye.”

“Oh. Is that why you’re holding me?”

“Well I couldn’t let ye fall to the floor.” James said.

“Thank you. You can put me down now.”

“No, I dinna think I will until the doctor gets here and says I can.”

James was sitting in a chair holding her. Claire was relieved to note that they were in a small room instead of the main hall, which was slightly more private. She was embarrassed enough as it was.


“Yes dear. Your secretary called for the house doctor to come.” Lady Fraser explained.

Most reception halls had a doctor on staff for this sort of thing.

“Oh, that’s not necessary. I just have a slight headache and I got dizzy for a moment. Really, I’m alright.”

“L.J. Just be still. This day has been hard enough.”

“Joe?” Joe was almost short with her. He had never talked to her like that before.

“Claire, you’ve been unconscious for almost fifteen minutes. That’s more than a little dizzy spell. Just still and let Jamie hold you until the doctor arrives. Alright?”

“Alright.” Claire closed her eyes again. Her head still hurt.

The doctor arrived shortly and after examining her declared that it was most likely the headache. He gave Claire some aspirin and told her to get a good night’s rest.

James gently stood up and lowered her to the floor. He held onto her arms until he was sure she could stand by herself. Claire was mortified and didn’t know where to look.

“Thank you James.” She finally said.

“I’m glad I was here to help you.” He bowed. Why did he always bow, Claire wondered?

Joe put an arm around her waist. “Come on L.J. let’s get you home like the doctor said.”

Joe took Claire home and put her to bed. She slept for two days. Gayle rang their family physician who paid a visit to make sure that Claire was recovered. He advised regular meal times and getting enough sleep.

“I’m very aware of your habits young lady. You need at least eight hours of sleep and three meals every day.”

“Of course Dr. Sheffield. I just got busy planning the funeral, and forgot.”

“You can’t forget. You must take care of your health first young lady, or you won’t be able to do all the things you want to in life. It’s no fun being an invalid.”

“Thank you for coming Dr. Let me walk you out.”

“Anytime Joe. So are you ready to start medical school?” Claire could hear their voices fading as the two men walked down the hall. Gayle was still in the room. She looked at Claire steadily.


“You know what. How’s the head?”

“It’s better, really. I just had a headache.”

“From lack of food and sleep. Come on Claire. You can’t do that to Joe. You’re all the family he has left. I don’t mean to make you feel bad, but he was scared to death he was going to lose you too. Please, think about that the next time you want to skip a meal. Ok?”

“Alright. I will.” Claire said in a very small voice. “I’m sorry.”

Gayle hugged her. “I know. You didn’t mean to scare anyone. We love you. You know?”

“I do. So, can I get out of bed now? I haven’t practiced in three days.”

Gayle laughed. “Sure. Just don’t be late for supper.”

Chapter Text

Jamie: 1935 - 1936

Jamie turned fifteen on May 1st, 1936. He was glad when school let out. He and Connor Mackenzie had gotten into a bit of a fight right before Christmas and suddenly a bunch of girls were chasing after him, trying to get him to kiss them.

Jamie didn’t understand. He had only gotten into it with the arsehole because Connor had been bullying his own sister Laoghaire. If there was one thing Jamie detested it was bullying. So he had told Connor to knock it off and the bastard had taken a swing at him.

After the science teacher Mrs. Fitzgibbons had pulled them apart, she had led them both by the ear to the headmaster’s office. Mr. McKimmie hadn’t been at all pleased. He’d called both their Da’s.

Brian had come and gotten Jamie. Being sent home for the day was downright embarrassing, but Jamie wasn’t sorry. Not a word had been said until they got home.

Leading Jamie into his office, Brian sat down behind the desk. Ellen was already in the room, working on a pair of socks.

“Well. Let’s have the story then.” Brian said.

So Jamie explained. How he had been walking down the hall to see Connor twisting Laoghaire’s arm. How she had been crying in pain. How he had just broken the hold and told Connor to knock it off. Connor taking a swing. Jamie defending himself. Mrs. Fitz coming out of her classroom and breaking it up.

“Honestly Da. I did’na hit him. I was just trying to grab his hands so he could’na hit me. I ken how ye feel about fightin’ at school. Maybe I should’na have interfered, but the lass was crying because he was hurting her.”

Brian looked at him steadily for a long moment. “If ye had’na been at school. What would ye hae done then?”

Jamie thought a moment. “I’d have thrashed him but good. Any man that would hurt a woman deserves to ken what it feels like.” He said in disgust.

Brian and Ellen started laughing.

Jamie was confused. He hadn’t meant to be funny.

“Do ye fancy the lass then?” Ellen asked.

“Fancy the lass? No. I barely even ken her.” Now Jamie was more confused. What did that have to do with anything?

Ellen nodded. “Alright. Why don’t you go do your homework in the dining room and I’ll check it before ye go back to school in the morning.”

“Yes Mam.” Jamie stood up and gave his mother a kiss. He grabbed his bookbag and left the room. As he reached the door, his Da called his name.

“Jamie.” He turned to look at Brian.

“Sometimes it’s no the easy thing to take a stand. Ye stood up for that lass because it was the right thing. I’m proud o ye mo mac.”

Jamie blushed. “Thanks Da.”

“Yer welcome. Now go do as yer mother said.”

“Aye Da.” Jamie left and closed the door behind him.

Brian shook his head. “I’d almost rather he fancied the lass. Puir lad won’t ken what hit him come Monday.”

Ellen was still chuckling. “I ken. The lasses will be chasing after him harder now that he’s proven such a hero.”

“Aye and the wee fool wil’na even ken why.”

“Oh hush you. He kens verra well what the lasses are about. He’s just no interested in the local lasses. He’s already found another lass to fancy.”

“Who? And how d’ye ken that? He has’na said a word to me.”

“Dinna fash. I dinna think the lad kens himself. Do you remember young Claire Beauchamp? She was at Murtagh’s wedding.”

“Aye the wee lass what tis a musical prodigy. What of her?”

“Jamie sat and listened to her talk about piano with me for over two hours. Then when she said goodbye he was so tongue-tied he could’na speak. Just bowed to her like some 18th century nobleman. ‘Twas the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“Why did ye no tell me this before?”

“Because he has’na said anything and it’s unlikely to come to anything anytime soon. He lives here and she lives in London. It’s possible he’ll go sing with The White Rose at some point and we’ll see what happens then. But the lad won’t even be 15 until May. Let it be until it is something. In the meantime, his infatuation with Claire will keep the lad from doing something foolish with a local girl.”

After returning to school the following day, Jamie was suddenly more popular with the girls. But they were all acting strange. Jamie wasn’t an idiot, but their flirting and simpering got on his nerves. He told Ian he preferred girls who were a bit more mature, and perhaps reserved in public. Then he told himself he was at school for an education not a romance. Besides 15 was too young to be worrying about romance.

Laoghaire was the worst. She didn’t even say anything to him, just followed him around like a puppy. Jamie was polite when he encountered her, but started to go out of his way to avoid being seen by the lass. Her staring and sighing made him very uncomfortable. Jenny had offered to talk to her, but Jamie said no. The less said the better he thought.

Jamie was glad when the Christmas holidays came. Hogmanay for 1935 was a quiet affair. Jenny had graduated early and gone to join Ian in London. He had graduated the previous May. Willie was in France with Da’s cousin. Jamie missed everyone, but appreciated having his parents to himself for once.

School was easier after Christmas. Laoghaire’s Da had pulled her out of school, and after a couple of weeks the other lasses seemed to get the message that he was’na interested in them.

Still, it was nice when school let out. Jamie spent the summer escaping to the stables as much as he could. He still practiced with his Mam faithfully every day, both voice and Bass. She said it was passing strange that he should be so tall and yet be such a high tenor.

School started again and Jamie applied himself to his studies. It was Jamie’s hope that he could graduate early and sing with his Uncles. He liked to sing, but wanted the travel just as much. Besides. He missed Ian. If he worked hard enough Da promised that he could take some tests and skip a year. Then he would graduate May 1937 instead of 38. He could sing for three years before going to university. That would allow him to save enough money to pay his own way. Da would, but Jamie wanted to do it for himself. Like Ian.

Two days after Thanksgiving, Jenny called Mam. She listened for a minute and then she looked sad. A minute more and she said “Of course we’ll be there for the funeral. When is it and at what church?”

She wrote down the information and said goodbye to Jenny.

“Mo ghràidh?” Brian asked.

“Paul Abernathy died. The funeral is in London next Thursday.”

“Do ye want to go?”


“Then we’ll go. Come here.” Brian held out his arms. Ellen went into them and cried a bit. Paul had been a friend. She hadn’t known he was ill. No one had known. Jenny said that he hadn’t told anyone until recently, not even his own son.

“Thank you love. It was cancer. Puir man.”

Brian shuddered. He wouldn’t wish that on anyone. “Will it be a Catholic funeral?” Ellen nodded.

“Yes. He received the last rites. He even planned his own Requiem Mass. Jenny told me that the men will be singing and so will Claire. Paul asked her to. She called him uncle ye ken.”

“Ach. The puir wee lass. To lose another so young.”

Ellen just nodded again.

The trip to London took two days. They took the train from Broch Morda to Glasgow which took about 6 hours, then the train from Glasgow to London which took 16 hours. They left on Monday morning since Da would’na travel on a Sunday except for emergencies. With the layover in Glasgow it was after midnight before they reached London. Murtagh was there to meet them and take them to the townhouse. Jamie had been there once when he was small, but it had been many years.

Jamie was so tired that he slept until after lunch the next day. Ian and Jenny were waiting for him downstairs. Ian grabbed Jamie and gave him a bear hug.

“a Dhia. It’s so good to see ye man.”

Jenny’s hug was a bit more restrained, but no less fierce.

“Come on, we’re takin’ ye out to lunch. We dinna have rehearsal until this evening.”

The three of them went to a local pub and had sandwiches. Then on a tour of the city to show Jamie the sights. They went back to the townhouse for supper. Uncle Murtagh asked Jamie and Ellen if they wanted to go to the rehearsal.

“We’re rehearsing the Requiem Mass o course, but also some of the pieces for the Holiday series.”

“Well Jamie? Do ye want to go?”

“Yes. Can we Mam?”

“You may. I’m going to stay home with Da. We decided to stay long enough to go to the first December performance. I’ll wait until then. But you go. You can see how they rehearse.”

“Thanks Mam.” Jamie gave his mother a kiss.

The rehearsal was interesting. Dougal ran a very professional rehearsal, even though he was related to most of the singers in some fashion. The Requiem Mass was beautiful, Jamie wished he was singing it.

The rest of the rehearsal was for the Holiday concerts and everyone sounded really good. Jamie was a little intimidated and silently vowed to work harder on his voice training.

The Mackenzie lass, Laoghaire was there. She didn’t say anything to him, just stared at him the whole night. It made Jamie uncomfortable, and he avoided catching her eye.

The next two days were quiet. Jamie didn’t go to anymore rehearsals, but he did take the opportunity to play bass with Jenny and Ian. Murtagh had borrowed one from a man in the orchestra for him to practice with. A bass was too large to bring for such a short trip.

Mary McKimmie came over with her violin Wednesday afternoon, and that was fun. Jenny said that usually they played with Claire Beauchamp, but of course she was busy with funeral things this week. Thursday Mam played the violin parts on the piano for them. It didn’t sound the same, but at least they could practice. Jenny and Ian needed it, and Jamie found it a good sight reading exercise.

The morning of the funeral, everyone got dressed. Black suits with white shirt for the men and Black dresses for the ladies. Mam and Jenny both brought a veil to wear in church instead of wearing hats, since there was a gathering with a meal after the funeral.

They arrived about half an hour before Mass, so they could pray for Paul’s soul and his family’s consolation. The whole Mass was a prayer for Paul, but it was nice to pray for the family too. Jamie sat back and looked at the church. It was bigger than the one back home, but in his opinion it wasn’t as pretty as the chapel at Lallybroch, or the church at Broch Morda.

About five minutes before the Mass was due to start, Jamie heard harp music coming from the choir loft. He recognized the piece as the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria. It was one of his mother’s favorites. He’d never heard it performed on the harp before. Then Jamie heard the singing. It was beautiful. Jenny was sitting next to him and whispered in his ear… “That’s Claire playing. Singing too. Doesn’t she have a lovely voice?”

Jamie nodded. She did. It was clear and strong, not breathy or affected the way some girls sang. The music filled the space of the church and echoed off the marble floors.

The rest of the Mass was just as beautiful. When it was over, most people went straight to the reception. Jenny wanted to go to the cemetery, to support Claire.

“She’s my friend. I want to be there.”

Murtagh offered to take Jenny if the rest of them wanted to go to the hall. Jamie asked if he could go to the cemetery too.

“I’d rather no be indoors for longer than I have to be.” was his excuse.

So Murtagh, Suzette, Jenny and Jamie all rode to the cemetery while Brian took Ellen to the reception.
Ian was still with The White Rose.

Jamie wasn’t expecting Claire to sing again, so when she chanted In Paradisum he was surprised. Her voice sounded just as strong outdoors, even without the acoustics of the church.

The committal service was brief and then everyone went on to the reception. Joe Abernathy greeted people as they came in and Claire was standing next to him. She said hello to Jamie, but he didn’t think she remembered him.

Jamie and Jenny found their parents and discovered that they were all seated at the same table. Claire’s name was at the table as well, next to Jenny’s. Jamie didn’t say anything, but he was excited. Maybe they could talk over the meal. Claire had been nice at Murtagh’s wedding and he wanted to tell her how much he enjoyed her music at the funeral.

Chapter Text

Father Anselm offered the benediction over the meal. Then the priest, Joe and Claire came and sat down at their table as the food was served. Everyone chatted, Claire too, but Jamie could tell she wasn’t really paying attention. He exchanged a look with Jenny, who looked worried for her friend.

At the end of the meal, Claire went and stood with Joe again, saying goodbye to people.

Jamie asked Jenny… “Is Claire alright?”

Jenny shook her head. “I dinna ken. She seemed…” Jenny couldn’t really put it into words, but something was wrong.

“We should be going. Jamie lad, can ye go fetch our coats?”

“Of course Da.”

Jamie had just reached the coat room when Claire ran smack into him. Her head was down so she probably hadn’t even seen him there. Jamie reached out to steady her. She looked up and Jamie saw she was very pale.

“Thank you.” Claire almost whispered.

“Are ye alright lass?” He asked. “You’re pale as a ghost.”

“Yes, I’m fine.” Claire said, just as her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she passed out.

“A dhia.” Though startled, Jamie had quick reflexes and caught Claire in his arms before she hit the floor.

The coat check girl came rushing over and Jamie asked her to fetch Joe. A moment later he heard quick steps.

“What happened?! Why are you holding Claire?” Joe exclaimed.

“I dinna ken what happened. The lass came out of the coat check looking pale. I asked her if she was alright, she said yes and then fainted. I did’na want her to hit her head, so I caught her.”

“Oh. Okay thanks for that, but why are you still holding her?”

“I did’na want to put her on the floor and there is’na a bench anywhere. ‘Tis alright, she’s a tiny wee thing, and no heavy at all.” Jamie also liked holding her, but he wasn’t going to admit it.

Joe nodded. That made sense to him.

Several more people came into the hall, Jamie’s family among them. The coat check girl directed them into a small room that was empty save a few chairs. Jamie sat in one, still holding Claire. Her head rested against his shoulder and his arms cradled the rest of her body.

“I asked one of the staff to send for the house doctor Joe.” Said Geillis.

Father Anselm asked. “Is the child ill?” He traced the sign of the cross on Claire’s head.

“We don’t know yet.” Joe replied. “Thanks Geillis. Can you go settle the bill for me?”

Geillis said “Yes of course” and left to do so.

At that moment, Claire opened her eyes. She seemed embarrassed when she realized that Jamie was holding her, but he didn’t put her down.

“Claire? What happened?” Joe asked. To Jamie he sounded scared.

“I don’t really know. I accidentally ran into James and then...I don’t remember.” Claire replied.

Jamie shared his knowledge. “Your eyes rolled back into yer head and ye fainted. Scairt me to death. I thought I’d killed ye.”

“Oh. Is that why you’re holding me?”

“Well I couldn’t let ye fall to the floor.” He said.

“Thank you. You can put me down now.”

“No I dinna think I will until the doctor gets here and says I can.” Claire still looked dazed to Jamie.


“Yes dear. Your secretary called for the house doctor to come.” Said Ellen

“Oh, that’s not necessary. I just have a slight headache and I got dizzy for a moment. Really, I’m alright.” Claire started to wiggle a bit and Jamie tightened his hold stubbornly. Before she could say anything Joe put a hand on her forehead.

“L.J. Just be still. This day has been hard enough.” Joe said sharply.

“Joe?” Claire sounded surprised at his tone.

“Claire, you’ve been unconscious for almost fifteen minutes. That’s more than a little dizzy spell. Just still and let Jamie hold you until the doctor arrives. Alright?”

Jamie thought he sounded worried. The man certainly looked worried. He vaguely remembered that Joe was in medical school. Maybe it was serious. Jamie hoped not.

“Alright.” Claire closed her eyes again. Jamie wanted to enjoy the moment, but with how worried her friend was, Jamie’s concern overshadowed his enjoyment.

The doctor arrived shortly and after examining her declared that it was most likely the headache. He gave Claire some aspirin and told her to get a good night’s rest.

James stood up and then gently lowered the young woman to the floor and held onto her arms until he was sure she could stand by herself. Claire seemed to be embarrassed, but gave him a tremulous smile.

“Thank you James.”

“I’m glad I was here to help you.” He bowed.

Joe put an arm around her waist. “Come on L.J. let’s get you home like the doctor said.”

The two of them left, and Jamie looked after them. After a minute, Brian took the claim slips from Jamie’s hand and got their coats.

“Jamie. Lad, here’s yer coat.”

He put his coat on, absentmindedly, still looking in the direction Claire had gone.

“Will she be alright d’ye think?”

Ellen shared a look with Brian that said ‘see what I mean?’ Brian nodded.

“I’m sure she will be a bhailach. Come now, we’d best be getting home ourselves.” Ellen took Jamie by the hand as though he were a wean and led him out to the car.

All the way home, Jamie didn’t participate in the conversation, just thought about Claire. Her beautiful voice, her whiskey colored eyes and the way she felt in his arms.

He thought about her for the rest of the afternoon and all through supper. He said goodnight directly after and went to his room to lie in the bed and think about her some more.

Eventually, Jamie realized that he needed to go to sleep. He could think about Claire some more tomorrow.

Jenny watched her brother go up the stairs. She turned to her mother and asked... “Is it my imagination or does Jamie fancy Claire?”

Ellen started to laugh and Brian smiled.

“No a leannan, I dinna think it’s your imagination. Yer Mam noticed it at Murtagh’s wedding.”

Ellen nodded still giggling. “Aye. Puir lad does’na ken it yet though.”

“Are ye sure about that?” Jenny asked skeptically.

“Oh Aye. He kens that she interests him, just no in what way.”

Jenny’s face lit up in understanding. “O course. The numpty.” She said affectionately.

“The question is...are we going to help it along or no.”

“No.” Brian said instantly.

“Oh but Da, it would be perfect. Claire needs someone to like her for herself and Jamie’s perfect. Also it will keep girls like that Laoghaire Mackenzie from sniffing around after him like a bitch in heat.”

“Janet!!” Ellen said severely.

Jenny wasn’t the least bit remorseful. “I’m sorry about ma language Mam, but truly, the lass still talks about him all the time. She’s been here for over a year and never even looks at another lad. Jamie’s become almost an obsession with her.”

“Well, Jamie might decide he likes her when he joins The White Rose.”

“Lord I hope not. He deserves much better than Laoghaire Mackenzie.” Jenny said in disgust.

Brian was surprised at her tone. It wasn’t like Jenny to take someone in such dislike. He and Ellen exchanged a look, but it was Ellen who asked.

“Jenny, why do you dislike the lass so? Has she done something to wrong you?”

Jenny thought for a moment, trying to choose her words carefully.

“Not me personally, but I’ve seen her with the others and especially Claire. Claire is nice to everyone even Laoghaire, but she does’na return the kindness. There’s a mean streak in that girl and sometimes she’ll look at Claire with...hatred it seems. Maybe it’s just jealousy, but either way ’tis no right.”

“Ah. So this is more about being protective of Claire, than anything Laoghaire has said or done.”

“Aye. I ken I should gie her the benefit of the doubt as she’s no done anything, but I canna help it. Something about her just makes me wary.” Jenny shrugged. “Either way, I dinna want Laoghaire anywhere near Jamie.”

“Even so Janet. No matchmaking. Jamie has’na even admitted to himself that he fancies the lass. As your mother said to me a few weeks ago... let it be until it is something.”

“Aye Da.” That did’na mean she could’na talk Jamie up to Claire if the opportunity presented itself, Jenny thought.

The Frasers attended the first two December performances of the Holiday series, which had been pushed back a week due to Paul’s funeral.

Jamie was astounded. Hearing Claire sing at the funeral was one thing. Watching her perform in concert was something else entirely. She was astonishingly good. Both nights Jamie sat and watched her, spellbound. It seemed to Jamie that when Claire was playing she forgot that the audience was there.

It was like seeing a faerie make music. The only thing missing was the forest. Further astounding him was that Claire was exceptional at so many different things. She played piano of course, but also violin. She sang well with the group, well with a partner and well by herself.

Jamie knew from experience that it was hard to do that, especially all in the same concert.

Singing with a group required the ability to blend with the other voices. Great vocal groups didn’t have any individual voices that stuck out.

Singing a duet required blending with one other voice and you had to change your volume and match pitch with one other person according to their talents. Claire sang duets with several different men, which meant that she constantly had to make those adjustments.

Comparatively speaking, singing solo was the easiest, you just had to maintain your pitch without assistance if singing unaccompanied. Finally you had to sing loud enough to be heard over the accompaniment if there was any. Claire did both types of solo brilliantly too.

No wonder they call her a prodigy, Jamie thought to himself as the audience applauded.

There was a reception after the Saturday performance and Jamie went along with Ian and Jenny. He stuck close to his sister, a bit unnerved by some of the looks he was getting from the women present.

Halfway through the evening, he was coming back from the men’s room when someone ran into him. He looked down and it was Claire. He reached out to steady her without being conscious of doing so.

Claire looked up at him turning a little pink.

“Hello James.”

“Sassenach.” Jamie wanted to tell her how he admired her, but didn’t want to gush. While he was formulating words, she spoke again.

“Why is it that I seem to run into you, quite literally; every time we are in the same room.”

He half smiled at her. “No every time. Just the last two.”

Claire laughed. “Well yes. But the question still stands.”

“I dinna ken. Perhaps ye are’na fully recovered from the last time?”

Claire shook her head and took a step back. Jamie realized he was still holding her arms and let go so she wouldn’t have to pull away.

“No, I am recovered.” She hesitated then said. “I never did properly thank you for catching me. So...Thank you. I probably would have hit my head or something if you hadn’t been there.”

Jamie felt his ears turning pink. “Dinna fash. Anyone would have done the same.”

“Perhaps. But it wasn’t anyone, it was you. So...thank you.”

He bowed. “You are most welcome my lady.”

Claire giggled at him.

James straightened up and grinned back at her.

“Did you enjoy the concert?” Claire asked.

Here was his chance to tell her, without being a numpty about it.

“Yes, verra much. Your performance particularly. You’re still verra good.”

“Still? You’ve seen me perform before?”

“Aye. I saw the dress rehearsal for your verra first performance in the United States, when ye were small.” He made a self-deprecating sound. “O course I was just a wean myself then.”

Jamie hesitated a minute and then confided, “I prayed for you, ye ken. Ye looked so wee surrounded by all the grown-ups and Mam said it might help to pray for courage for ye. I’d have been scairt to perform at that age.”

Claire didn’t respond and worried that he had offended her, Jamie said hurriedly, “No that ye looked scairt, mind ye. Ye looked verra professional.” He stopped talking and blushed beet red.

Nice going idiot, she probably thinks you’re a lunatic.

If she did, she didn’t let on. Instead Claire smiled at him politely. “Thank you. But I have a secret to tell you...I was, terribly frightened. In fact I was terrified of letting people down. I had never performed in public before then. So...I’m sure your prayers helped.”

“I’m glad.” Jamie said simply. Maybe no a lunatic then.

They stood for a moment, neither knowing what to say.

“Well, it was very nice to see you again James.”

“Jamie.” He wanted her to call him Jamie. James sounded so distant. Like she was talking to a stranger.

At Claire’s confused look he clarified. “My friends and family call me Jamie. I’d be honored if you called me the same.”

“Oh. Alright...Jamie.” She smiled at him and held out her hand to shake. He turned it over and placed a kiss above the back of it. Claire blushed a little, but her smile didn’t falter.

“Claire!” a red head came up to them. Jamie thought her name was Geillis.

“Frank just saw me and said you were looking for me.”

“I was, yes.” Claire looked up at him again. “Goodbye...Jamie.”

He released her hand and Claire turned to Geillis. Jamie couldn’t have told you what they said to each other as they walked away from him. He stood there grinning and watching Claire.

Chapter Text

There were six concerts left in the Holiday series. The Fraser’s came to the first weekend performances, both Friday and Saturday. There was a reception after the Saturday concert and Claire went with Joe. Many of those in attendance had known his father and Joe wanted to be there. Frank had asked Claire to please attend, it would reassure people that she would continue to perform.

For the most part, Claire found these gatherings tedious. As he had before, Frank stayed with her the entire evening, moving her from group to group and filling in the awkward silences with his witty repartee. Claire did the best she could, but small talk was not her forte, so it was good that Frank rescued her when she needed it.

While he charmed the patrons, Claire watched women throwing themselves at the men from The White Rose. By now it had become mostly entertaining. Suzette came to protect Murtagh, and Jenny stuck like glue to Ian. The other men seemed to enjoy it although Claire noticed that Dougal didn’t flirt as usual. He spent most of the evening talking with Geillis.

They must be talking about the next series’ Claire thought to herself. As she watched, Dougal laughed at something Geillis said. In response Geillis arched an eyebrow and said something else and Claire saw Dougal look surprised, then thoughtful. Geillis said something else, and Dougal smiled and nodded.

“Isn’t that right Claire.”


Claire was startled out of her reverie by Frank’s voice. “I’m sorry Mr. Randall, I was woolgathering. Could you repeat the question?”

“I said that we were investigating larger venues for the next concert series.”

Claire looked at him blankly. “We are?”

Frank looked annoyed for a minute and then laughed. “Well, yes. Paul and I have been looking at larger venues. With everything that happened, he may not have told you.”

At the mention of Paul, Claire’s breath caught. Something must have shown on her face because suddenly Frank looked apologetic.

“I’m sorry Claire. I didn’t mean to remind you of your loss.”

Claire smiled her professional smile. “Think nothing of it Mr. Randall. I understand business.”

Giving a curtsy to the men with him she said… “Please excuse me. I’ve just remembered something I wish to discuss with my secretary. Not looking at Frank she turned and walked away.

Of course Claire wasn’t watching where she was going and ran right into someone. She looked up. Of course. It would be James Fraser that she ran into. Claire blushed a little.

“Hello James.” He held onto her arms again. She thought it was to make sure she didn’t fall over.


“Why is it that I seem to run into you, quite literally; every time we are in the same room.”

He half smiled at her. “No every time. Just the last two.” Was he trying to be nice?

Claire laughed. “Well yes. But the question still stands.”

“I dinna ken. Perhaps ye are’na fully recovered from the last time?” Now he looked concerned.

Claire shook her head and took a step back. Jamie released her immediately.

“No, I am recovered.” She hesitated then said. “I never did properly thank you for catching me. So...Thank you. I probably would have hit my head or something if you hadn’t been there.”

James’ ears immediately turned pink. “Dinna fash. Anyone would have done the same.”

“Perhaps. But it wasn’t anyone, it was you. So...thank you.”

He bowed. “You are most welcome my lady.”

Claire giggled at him.

James straightened up and grinned back at her.

“Did you enjoy the concert?”

“Yes, verra much. Your performance particularly. You’re still verra good.”

“Still? You’ve seen me perform before?” Jenny never told her that.

“Aye. I saw the dress rehearsal for your verra first performance in the United States, when ye were small.” He made a self-deprecating sound. “O course I was just a wean myself then.”

He hesitated a minute and then said, “I prayed for you then ye ken. Ye looked so wee surrounded by all the grown-ups and Mam said it might help to pray for courage for ye. I’d have been scairt to perform at that age.”

Claire was extremely touched. That he would have thought to pray for her. But didn’t know how to respond without sounding condescending. She must have taken too much time to formulate a reply because after a minute Jamie said hurriedly, “No that ye looked scairt, mind ye. Ye looked verra professional.” He stopped talking and hunched his shoulders, blushing beet red.

Claire smiled. His embarrassment helped alleviate her own, and she could answer him. “Thank you. That was very thoughtful of you, and I’m sure they were heard.” She bit her lip and then confessed, “I have a secret to tell you...I was, terribly frightened. In fact I was terrified of letting people down. I had never performed in public before then.” That seemed to help James and he straightened a little.

“I’m glad it helped.” He said simply.

They stood for a moment, neither knowing what to say.

“Well, it was very nice to see you again James.”

“Jamie.” Claire looked at him, confused. “My friends and family call me Jamie. I’d be honored if you called me the same.”

He wanted her to call him Jamie like his friends did. Did that mean he saw her as a friend? The thought made her smile brightly.

“Oh. Alright...Jamie.” She held out her hand to shake. He turned it over and placed a kiss above the back of it. Claire blushed a little, but her smile didn’t falter.

“Claire!” Geillis came up to her, “Frank just saw me and said you were looking for me.”

Claire sighed. She hadn’t been but couldn’t very well explain this situation in front of James… Jamie. He might not understand why she had told Frank that fib. “I was, yes. Goodbye...Jamie.” Jamie released her hand and Claire turned to Geillis.

Jamie stayed where he was as they walked away. Claire couldn’t resist looking back at him over her shoulder. He was still looking at her, smiling.

“What did ye need me for hen?”

“I didn’t really, I just needed to get away from Mr. Randall for a minute. I know he didn’t mean to but he said something about Uncle Paul and I just wanted a break from meeting patrons.”

“Well, ye can use me for something like that anytime ye please. Did ye enjoy yer conversation wit the wee fox cub?”

“The who?”

“Jenny’s brother James. He’s younger than she is ye ken. So I call him the wee fox cub. On account o his red hair.”

Claire smiled at the idea of anyone calling Jamie, wee. “He must be at least six feet tall. I don’t think wee is a word I’d use to describe him.”

“Yer no answering my question either.” Geillis said wryly.

“Sorry. Yes I did enjoy it, very much. He asked me to call him Jamie. He said his friends and family call him that. So that must mean he thinks of me as a friend, yes?”

Inwardly Geillis squealed with joy. Outwardly she was far more sanguine. “I think it must. I’m glad. Ye dinna have enough friends as it is. Will ye write to him d’ye think?”

“Oh. Oh! Geillis, that’s a wonderful idea. Do you think he would mind?”

“Why don’t we find him and ask him?”

They looked, but the Frasers had already left the reception by then. Claire didn’t get a chance to see Jamie again before he went home with his parents, and this saddened her a bit.

Geillis solved the problem on the following Wednesday. Ian and Jenny had started coming over again and stayed to dinner. It was just the three of them and Geillis that evening. While at table, Geillis came right out and asked… “Jenny. Do you think yer brother would be willing to correspond with Claire? She meant to ask him when they were in town, but with everything going on she did’na get the chance to.”

Jenny’s face lit up and she turned to Claire. “Is that so? I wish you would and I think he’d like it too. Jamie is working very hard to graduate early so he can join The White Rose. Lesley Mohr wants to get marrit, but he can’t quit until Jamie’s ready to take his place. If you write to each other it will help Jamie feel more comfortable when he comes… if he already has a friend his age ye ken.”

Claire was distracted for a minute. “Why does Lesley need to quit to get married? Murtagh didn’t.”

“His fiancee is Elizabeth Menzies. Her Da wants to retire, but she canna take care of all the instruments by herself.”

“I knew that Mr. Menzies wanted to retire.” Claire said absently. “Well, if you’re sure Jamie won’t mind, I’d like to write to him.”

“I can write first and ask him.” Jenny said.

“Oh thank you. That would be so lovely.” Claire replied. The conversation moved onto other things, but Ian didn’t miss the satisfied look that Geillis and Jenny shared with one another.

When they reached home that evening, Ian wasted no time in confronting her about it.

“Yer Mam said no matchmaking Janet.”

“I’m no matchmaking Ian.” At his skeptical look Jenny elaborated.

“Truly Ian, I’m not. Claire needs more friends her own age. Geillis and I are the only ones she has and both of us are older than she more than years too and ye ken it. Jamie’s just as innocent as Claire is and he’ll be a good friend to her without trying to take advantage of her… or her fame.”

“That’s true enough, I just dinna want to see either of them hurt. If he does fancy her and she does’na return his regard...” Ian let the thought hang between them.

“He may be yer friend Ian Murray, but he’s mac bhràthair. I would’na do that to him. Come to that I would’na do it to her either.” Jenny said angrily, although she was more than a little hurt by Ian’s suspicion.

Ian saw this and sought to make amends. “Ach now mo chride. I did’na mean to sound suspicious. I just wanted to make sure ye’d considered everything...and I see ye have.” He said quickly, giving her a kiss.

Mollified, Jenny make a sound in the back of her throat. “Ach. Well then.” And she kissed him back.

They usually took several weeks off before the spring series. This year Claire was looking forward to the break. The six holiday performances after the funeral had been very difficult, as had the receptions. Although the one the Frasers attended hadn’t been as bad. It was nice talking to Jamie that night.

He was still a little awkward, but he had been so concerned for her. Maybe he was just shy and that’s why it took him awhile to talk normally when she saw him. Claire could understand that. She was shy too.

Jenny and Ian hadn’t gone home for Hogmanay that year. Dougal wanted to do some very complicated Choral music for the Spring program and so everyone from both vocal groups stayed in town, only taking the actual Holy Days off. Sometimes they rehearsed twice a day, morning and evening to learn the new music.

Due to her other obligations Claire couldn’t always attend every vocal rehearsal. Laoghaire grumbled about special treatment to the others when she thought her father and uncle couldn’t hear. The one time he had heard her complain, Dougal had told the girl that if she didn’t like the working conditions her father could take her home. This had made her father very angry as they needed the money she earned.

Two days after her conversation with Claire, Jenny did write to Jamie and ask if he would be willing to correspond with Claire.

Jamie wrote by return post that he would be honored. Jenny told Claire, and Claire wrote her first letter the following day.

Chapter Text

December 15th 1936

Dear Jamie,

Your sister showed me your letter. Thank you for agreeing to correspond. I have always enjoyed our conversations and I am looking forward to getting to know you better. Geillis says that you think of me as a friend. I think of you as a friend too. I don’t really have many friends, mostly I have people I work with or people who work for me. My best friend Joe is also like a brother to me and he’s five years older than I am. His wife Gayle is only four years older though.

You must remember Joe, Paul Abernathy was his father. I called him Uncle Paul.

Your sister says that you you are trying to graduate early so you can take Lesley’s place in The White Rose. So you must sing tenor? It’s unusual for a tenor to be so tall. I only know of two tenors that are tall, three now that I know you. I’m sure there must be more though, I don’t know every musician everywhere after all.

This is the last week of performances before the Christmas Holy Days. We have four more performances in January and then we’ll start rehearsals for the Spring series. I’m sure Jenny or Ian has explained those to you.

I must close this now so I can leave it for Geillis to take to the post when she goes in the morning.

If I don’t have a chance to write again before Christmas, may the blessings of the season be with you and your family.


Claire E. Beauchamp

December 29th 1936

Dear Claire,

I almost called you Sassenach, as that is how I think of you. I know that some people think the word is an insult, but I don’t, at least not in regards to you. I think of something exotic, out of the ordinary… special. You are the only English friend I have you know, and that does make you all of those things. At least to me.

I’m very glad Jenny asked me if you could write, I have always enjoyed our conversations too. Although truly I cannot always think of what to say when you’re standing in front of me. Or rather, there are so many things I want to say and not nearly enough time to get them all out of my mouth without sounding like a clotheid as Jenny would say.

I am trying to graduate early so that I can sing with The White Rose. Partly to help out Lesley, he’s a distant cousin (well almost everyone in both groups are related in some fashion), but mostly because I miss Ian and Jenny. With Willie at University it’s just me and Mam and Da. It’s very quiet here. I love home and I love my parents, but I don’t really talk to anyone except sometimes at school, and then it’s about lessons. Since I’ve started studying for early graduation I don’t even do that.

Not that I’m complaining. Many of the people I go to school with aren’t interested in the same things I am. Even in choir and orchestra only a few seem to take it as seriously as I do. Of course, my mother being who she is, I couldn’t take my music any other way. That’s alright though, it gives me more time to spend with the horses.

My Da raises horses, and I help train them. My favorite is a large black mixed breed called Donas. Da isn’t sure which breeds either, although one of them is surely one of the draft breeds. He’s the largest horse in the stable… and the most mean tempered with everyone except Da and me. Mam says that’s because he recognizes kin in the two of us and then she laughs.

Are you finished with school yet? If I can pass four more tests I can graduate in May, a full year early. It will be hard, but I think I can do it.

We did have a lovely Christmas, although we put more store in Hogmanay (New Year’s) at least the public celebration of it. Christmas is more homely. Mass and a meal with family, singing and reading the Nativity story. We give gifts on Hogmanay and have a big party then.

What did you do for Christmas? Do you celebrate the New Year? I’m not sure what the tradition is in England.

I don’t think this will get to you in time, but I send my prayers for a prosperous and Happy New Year just the same.

Your friend,

James A.M.M. Fraser

January 1937

Lamb sat down with Claire and Joe over the Christmas holidays to plan out the next year, (1937). Joe and Gayle still lived in Claire’s house with little Lina, so Lamb wanted to go on another dig. Joe would be going to medical school in September. Even with his father dying, Joe had graduated almost at the top of his class at Oxford.

“Claire, you’re sixteen now. Even with Joe away at school, you’ll be alright. Gayle can take care of those things that require a legal adult. Ned still manages all of your finances, Frank and Geillis are making arrangements for the spring tour and Dougal is sorting the vocal music. There’s really nothing for me to do here except keep you company and yell at your academic tutor occasionally.”

Joe and Claire looked at one another. Claire took a breath and said...

“Uncle Lamb? I haven’t had an academic tutor since Joe went to Oxford.”

“What? Why?”

“I don’t intend to go to University. I’ve studied basic math including algebra and geometry. I can study my languages on my own at this point, I have separate tutors for music. I already run the house with Mrs. G.’s help and as you pointed out, Ned manages the money. I did ask Ned to start teaching me about the estate for when I reach my majority. I no longer needed a tutor for academics. Ned helped the tutor find another placement and Joe wrote a letter of recommendation.”

“Did Paul know?”

“Of course. Joe didn’t need a tutor anymore either.”

“That’s right Quentin. You were on that first South American dig when the decision was made. Or the last Egyptian one. I don’t always remember where you go.” Joe put in.

“I see. Well, that just illustrates my point. You don’t need me here Princess.”

“No, I suppose I don’t.” Claire said slowly. “You will come home for Easter though, right?”

“Of course.”

“Alright then. I have to speak with Mr. Mackenzie tomorrow. The vocal music for the Spring series is so complicated that I’m going to pick some easier things to do with the orchestra.”

“Why do you need to speak with Dougal then? That seems like the best solution.” Said Gayle.

“I think so too. What I want to speak about it the Fall series. I’ve decided to do Vivaldi’s seasons this year with the orchestra, and if I do that, I’d like Mr. Mackenzie to pick easier things to sing.” She turned to Joe.

“That reminds me. Can you or Gayle come with me tomorrow to meet with him and Mr. Randall? Mr. Randall has been talking about performing at some new venues and I don’t know anything about the acoustics of them.”

“Is Frank talking about changing venues or adding venues?”

“I’m not sure?”

“I’ll definitely be at that meeting then. Geillis too. I want back up.”

“Back up for what?” Claire asked in confusion.

“Hopefully nothing.” Joe got up and left the room.

Claire looked after him wonderingly. ‘That was odd.’ turning to her uncle... “When will you leave Uncle Lamb?”

“After Candlemas. As it is I’ll be late getting to the dig. Everyone else is going after Epiphany. I want to spend some time with you Fairy Princess. You’re growing up so fast.”

“Sixteen is hardly ancient Uncle Lamb.”

“That isn’t quite what I meant Princess. I just meant that the older I get, the faster the time goes for me. I want to make sure I don’t get to the end of my life and regret all that I’ve missed while digging in the dirt.”

Paul’s death had reminded Quentin just how short life could be. He’d stay until Candlemas. Surely he could stand it until then. Claire was still very petite, but her face looked more like Julia’s every day.

Lamb knew the difference between his niece and his lost love, his thoughts towards Claire weren’t incestuous in the slightest. He loved their relationship, mostly conducted through letters and reports from the various staff.

Lamb just couldn’t stand to be in Claire’s presence for a long period of time, before his memories of Julia drove him towards the whiskey. After that New Year’s two years ago, he didn’t want to ever crawl into a bottle like that again. So he came home three times a year, stayed for a while to check on her, then left again.

“I’m glad you’re staying Uncle Lamb. I’m on break and you aren’t teaching. We’ll have lots of time to spend together.”

Lost in his thoughts, Lamb just smiled at her.

Joe left the sitting room to hunt down Geillis. He found her in the kitchen talking to Mrs. G. and working on paperwork.

“Geillis, did you know that Frank is looking at new venues?”

“I did yes. He mentioned something about it during the Fall series last year. Frank thinks that some of the venues are too small.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Because your Da already shot down the idea. He told Frank last year that smaller halls and churches suit the style of music better. Why?”

“You know that, and I know that. I’m not sure Claire knows that. Are you going to her meeting with Dougal and Frank tomorrow?”

“There is’na a meeting tomorrow. Claire is on break and I’ll be telegramming the hotels for the Spring series, confirming that all the arrangements are made for everyone.” Geillis managed Claire’s schedule and knew it intimately. There wasn’t anything on the calendar for Claire until the following week.

So Geillis was shocked by what Joe said next.

“Claire just told me she’s meeting with Frank and Dougal tomorrow. She asked if I would attend because Frank wanted to discuss new venues and she didn’t know about the acoustics.”

Geillis’ face pinked up in anger. “Why that wee bastard.”

“Which one?”

“Frank. He’s going to try and talk her into moving to larger venues so he can sell more tickets. I told him last week that I’d be at the telegraph office tomorrow. He wanted to get Claire alone so he could convince her without me interfering.”

“You don’t know that for sure.” Joe said.

“I do ken that for sure.” Geillis retorted. “Why else would he meet with Claire and no have her secretary present to take notes? Or tell you about it? If Claire thought of the acoustics, I highly doubt Frank did’na think about them. He’s an arrogant arse, but he does ken his business.”

“Ok. Maybe he is a wee bastard. Do you think Dougal’s in on it?”

“I hope not.” Now Geillis was pink for a different reason. Joe decided not to pursue that line of questioning.

“Can you rearrange your plans for tomorrow?” Joe asked.

“I dinna think I should. We need to make sure everything is set. What time is the meeting?”

“Afternoon Claire said. I’m not sure what time.”

“Alright. I can go to the telegraph office first thing tomorrow and be back in time for the afternoon meeting. Do ye ken where it’s to be held?”

Joe shook his head. “No actually, I don’t.”

“Well, let’s go find out then.” Geillis got up and stomped out of the room, down the hall. Joe lingered a minute.

He looked at Mrs. Graham. “Mrs. G.? What’s your opinion of Frank Randall?”

The housekeeper spoke slowly, choosing her words with care. “I think Mr. Randall is good at his job...a mite too good at times. He has a great deal of ambition to make a name for himself ye ken.

Also...I dinna want to accuse him o anything’s just, sometimes he’ll look at Miss Claire, and...the look is hungry. Hector’s seen it too. He and Auld Alec are bothered by it. Both are always hanging about inside the house when Mr. Randall’s here for meetings and such.”

“Do you think Randall has designs on Claire? She’s only sixteen for God’s sake!”

Mrs. Graham shook her head. “I dinna think so. He’s ne’er once been improper that I’ve ever seen. I’m sorry to have given ye that impression. That is’na what I meant. It’s more that he see’s Claire as his ticket to fame and fortune.”

Joe’s head was reeling. “I had no idea. Thank you Mrs. G. for sharing that with me.”

“Joe, I hope ye ken that none of us would ever leave Claire without protection, whether ye’re home or no.”

Joe nodded absent mindly. “I know. Thanks again.” Joe left the room.

Mrs. G. shook her head and turned back to the supper she was preparing. ‘I hope I didn’t start a stramash’ she thought.

Chapter Text

The meeting had been scheduled for 2:00 and it was to be held at the London rehearsal hall.

It was ten minutes before two. Frank was pacing the room, going over his strategy. Dougal was already there and seated at the table, looking over various pieces of sheet music.

All I need to do is explain the benefits to Claire. It shouldn’t be that difficult. She may be a music prodigy, but she’s still only sixteen and has a crush on me.’

Frank was aware of Claire’s infatuation with him. He found her fascinating in return, but at sixteen, he didn’t even consider her as a romantic prospect. Frank had been very careful to behave professionally towards Claire. He didn’t want to give anyone the impression that he had designs on the child after all.

However, he was counting on her affection for him to make this meeting go smoothly. If Frank could get Claire’s consent to switch to a larger venue, then they could sell more tickets without adding more shows. The more people that attended a show, the more her name became known. That was good for Frank, it would hopefully catapult him into the circle of the truly big name managers. Frank’s goal was to become England’s version of P.T. Barnum but with legitimate musicians instead of circus acts. Barnum had tried it with Jenny Lind, but she hadn’t appreciated his marketing style.

Frank had been lost in thought. The sound of the door opening brought him back to awareness of his surroundings. Claire came in to the room, followed by Joe and Geillis. Inwardly Frank scowled. This hadn’t been his plan at all. Geillis was supposed to be at the telegraph office today. Joe wasn’t even supposed to know there was a meeting.

None of these thoughts showed on his face though. “Good afternoon Claire.”

Offering his hand, “Joe, it’s nice to see you. I wasn’t aware you were home.”

“I don’t have classes this semester. I’ll be home until August.”

“Ah. That is serendipitous, you can give us some idea of the acoustics of some venues.”

Frank deliberately ignored Geillis. She was just the secretary after all. Geillis didn’t have any power.

“Well, shall we begin?” Frank held Claire’s chair for her, not noticing that Joe did the same for Geillis or that Dougal and Joe had exchanged a look.

When everyone had been seated, Frank took out a notepad as did Geillis.

“The first thing to discuss is the program for the Spring and Autumn series. The vocal music for the Spring series is set, so Dougal, why don’t you lead off with the vocal pieces you’d like to do for Autumn?  Then we can discuss the instrumental portions.”

“Sure. I’ve had a number of requests from people to do solo numbers, which I’m not opposed to, but that would mean either cutting some pieces, changing the format or adding an additional performance.”

“What would adding an additional performance look like?” Frank asked.

“I can’t add another performance.” Claire put in.

“Do you mean you personally aren’t able to add another, or that we can’t add another performance at all?” Frank asked.

“I meant me personally. I certainly wouldn’t presume to tell someone they couldn’t perform, I just can’t add another one. I’m due to begin learning how to manage the estate in a week. That will take up what little free time I had available. That’s all I meant.”

“Alright, so if we did add another performance it could be entirely vocal.” Frank said.

“Well it could, but I dinna ken if it would be worth it. No enough people will come if Claire is’na performing.”

Dougal wasn’t naïve. Many people came to the performances to see Claire. She was a musician of the caliber that happened once in a hundred years. He and the others benefited from it to be sure, but Dougal wasn’t sure they could draw enough in ticket sales without her.

“I’m sure that isn’t true. The White Rose is a wonderful group. Mystic Rose is also a wonderful group. I’m sure we could hire another mezzo if you wanted to add a performance Mr. Mackenzie.” Claire said.

Dougal shook his head. “No, I dinna want to do that. The voices we have are a good blend and we’re used to one another. If we add a new voice it would affect our sound.” He turned to Frank. “I’m no willing to do an entirely vocal performance this year. Let’s table that until next year.”

There was silence at the table for a minute, except for the sound of Geillis’ pen as she made notes.

“What if we change the format a little?” Claire asked.

“Change in what way?” Dougal asked.

“I could do a bit less for the instrumental portion. For Spring I’ve picked a series of short pieces since the vocal music is more complex. We could simply not do some of them. For the Autumn series, I want to do Vivaldi’s Seasons, so we could just do that without adding anything else. We could also cut some of the duets in order to let people sing solo music.”

Frank frowned. “I’m not in favor of cutting the instrumental portion. It will throw the concert out of balance.” He asked Dougal, “How many people want to sing solo literature?”

“There are four people that want to sing something different. Ian and Jenny want to sing a duet together, Rupert wants to sing a solo piece and so does Laoghaire.”

Claire smiled in relief. “Oh, well that isn’t so many. We can cut one of the duets that I sing and replace it with Ian and Jenny. Then we could either cut another duet and one of my solo pieces or two of my solo pieces. I sing five solo pieces, and six duets so it doesn’t make a difference to me. I would like to keep the German piece and the French piece of my solos and I’d like to keep the Latin duet and the French duet. I’m perfectly happy to cut all of the pieces I sing in English if you’d like.”

“No Claire, you can’t cut all of your English pieces. You need to at least keep the ones from Messiah.” Frank put in.

“Yes well, that’s only one piece per season. We could cut the Italian and the other English solo piece and the German duet to make room.”

“That would work.” Dougal and Geillis both made a note. “Alright lass, let me rework the programs and I’ll get a copy to you in a couple of days.”

“Thank you Mr. Mackenzie. Also, would it be possible to do easier vocal music for the Autumn series? Vivaldi is challenging and a number of the string players are from one or both vocal groups.”

Dougal was nodding before Claire finished speaking. “Of course. It’s no sensible to overwhelm people and give a substandard performance. There are several easier pieces to choose from. I’ll look them over and see which ones would complement the Vivaldi.”

“That would be wonderful Mr. Mackenzie. Now Mr. Randall, you wanted to talk about some new venues?”

“Yes, I did. The venues that you currently perform in are too small. They sell out rapidly and since we can’t add performances, large numbers of people don’t get to hear the performances at all. If we used larger venues, more people would be able to.”

“I see.” Claire looked at Joe. “What about the acoustics Joe?”

“Until I know which venues Frank is talking about I can’t tell you L.J.” Everyone looked at Frank.

“I was mainly looking at Cathedrals. Those buildings were designed with acoustics in mind. Although there is the Olympia in Paris, it was designed as a concert hall.”

“Which cathedrals were you looking at?” Claire asked. “If there’s a choice between a modern venue and a cathedral, I’d prefer the cathedral even if the seating is slightly smaller. Some of those modern buildings are very ugly to look at.”

“Why does that matter? People won’t be coming to see the building, they will be coming to see you Claire.”

Claire was completely taken aback. ‘How could Mr. Randall not understand?’ She looked at Dougal.

“Mr. Mackenzie, surely you understand what I mean?”

“I do. Frank, if people come into an ugly building, it puts them in a certain frame of mind. Most of the music we perform is if not strictly religious, inspired by religion. Everyone in both The White Rose and Mystic Rose is Catholic. Claire is also Catholic. So when we perform, we always sing it as though we were in church, whether the venue is a church or not. The performance would if the surroundings didn’t match.”

“Well, that sounds very superstitious.” Frank scoffed. “You mean to tell me that the aesthetics of the building will negatively affect your performance?”

“Yes. That is precisely what I’m tellin’ ye. A building is more than just the acoustics. It is also the frame around the music. In a museum, ye never see a beautiful piece of art in an ugly frame, or ye should’na. It matters. To both the performer and the audience.”

“Claire. You cannot agree with that.”

“Why not? It’s true. I don’t mind performing in a concert hall, but I much prefer a church. I just feel better when I play in a church.”

Frank threw up his hands. “Fine. Let’s talk about Cathedrals then.”

Joe held up a hand. “Wait a minute. Why do we need to change the venues at all? The ones that we’ve used before are perfectly acceptable.”

Frank scowled. “No, they aren’t. More and more people are being turned away because the venues aren’t large enough to accommodate the number of people who want to hear Claire play… and The White Rose of course.” Frank added as an afterthought. “So our only options are to add more performances which Claire says she won’t, or play at larger venues.”

“Those aren’t our only options.” Joe responded.

“Oh really? And since when are you the expert?” Frank said dismissively. “You do the sound. The only concern you have is what the acoustics sound like.” Turning back to Claire, “Now Claire, be reasonable. You are missing out on a great opportunity.”

Claire stood up. She had always been very sensitive about Joe being treated badly and Frank had just made her angry.

“Mr. Randall. I will give your suggestions some thought. For the upcoming year we will continue with the venues we have always used and will not be adding performances. I am sorry that some people will be left out, but I will not be rushed into making a decision.”

She turned to Dougal. “Mr. Mackenzie, if you could get me the revised program as soon as possible, I would appreciate it. Since we are doing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for the Autumn series, I realize that some musicians will not be needed. Later perhaps we can discuss adding instrumental accompaniment to some of the duets instead.” Dougal nodded, hiding a smile.

“Now I have a lesson with my harpsichord instructor. Thank you for your time.” Claire walked out of the room as if she were the Queen of Sheba. Geillis gave Frank a smirk and followed, leaving the three men behind.

Joe turned to Frank. “Randall, I know you think Claire is a child and easily maneuvered. She isn’t.” He turned to the other man in the room.

“Dougal, you can drop the program off to Geillis whenever you finish it. She’ll be at the home office for the rest of the week. Thank you for all of your input today.” Joe also left the room.

The Scot stood and left as well. He didn’t bother saying anything to Frank.

As he returned to the group house, Dougal turned the meeting over in his mind. He had never seen Claire stand up for herself like that before. It remained to be seen whether or not that was a good thing for The White Rose. In the meantime, keeping Frank at arms length wouldn’t be a bad idea. Claire might decide to fire him and if she did, so would Dougal. He knew exactly to whom they should be hitching their wagon and it wasn’t Frank Randall.

Besides, the other man's dismissal of Geillis hadn't escaped him.  He wasn't sure what he felt for the young red head, but she didn't deserve to be treated as a piece of furniture.  

Frank was left alone, flabbergasted at what had just occurred. He’d never seen Claire give anyone a snub, least of all him. He couldn’t for the life of him understand what he had done to set her off like that. Well, teenagers were known to be irrational, particularly teenage girls. He’d give it a couple of weeks and then try again. One thing he had learned from this exchange was that he had to get her alone before trying to persuade her.

Dougal’s defection had been a surprise. Frank had thought he would jump at the chance for more exposure and greater profits. He snorted to himself. Musicians were romantics. No wonder most of them never amounted to anything. Arguing that the look of the building made a difference in the sound was a ridiculous notion.

Chapter Text

Claire was fuming as she walked to the car. Hector opened the door for her and closed it after Joe arrived and got in too. Geillis was still making notes and hadn’t said anything.

“You ok L.J.?”

“No. How dare he talk to you like that? I know Uncle Paul approved of him, but now I’m not so sure that Mr. Randall is the right person to manage me.”

“Woah now L.J., don’t be too hasty. Frank didn’t mean it the way you took it.” Joe didn’t care one way or the other, but he didn’t want Claire to do something impulsive and regret it later. Besides, despite his many faults Frank wasn’t a bigot and Joe didn’t want to make this something it wasn’t.

“How do you know that? And why aren’t you angry?”

“Because L.J. I know Frank well enough to know it didn’t have anything to do with me being colored.” Joe said in a matter of fact tone.

“Well, what did it have to do with then?”

“It had to do with me being a sound man and not in marketing. Frank takes a great deal of pride in doing his job well. I was questioning that.”

“Are you saying it was a man thing?” Claire said in astonishment.

Joe started laughing. “Yeah. I guess I am.”

“I don’t care. He didn’t have to be so rude.” Claire huffed.

“I think you pointed that out hen. I’ve ne’er seen Frank Randall look so shocked.” Geillis laughingly added her two cents.

“Shocked?” “Shocked about what?”

“I dinna think he’s ever seen yer wee claws before. Ye dinna bring them out verra often.”

“To be fair L.J., I don’t think Frank has ever seen you outside of a performance, other than at one of those receptions.”

“That’s true.” Claire was thoughtful. “I didn’t mean to shock him though. It just made me angry. Now I feel bad. Should I consider changing the venues?”

Geillis and Joe both shook their heads. “I dinna think so. Ye ken that Frank already brought this idea to Mr. Abernathy a year ago and was shot down. Mr. A. did’na think that changing venues would be helpful. In fact Mr. A. told Frank that he would’na consider adding performances or changing venues until next year when ye were finished wit the rest of your schooling and the estate training.”

“Lady Jane, you know my Dad had a plan for you. You’re only sixteen for cryin’ out loud. If it waits one more year before you add things, it won’t be the end of the world. You have a long time to perform yet.”

“Ok. I trusted Uncle Paul. If he told Frank no for another year, then that’s what we’ll do.”

After they arrived home, Claire went into her music room to spend some time playing the piano and work out her annoyance.

Joe went to the kitchen and Geillis followed him.

“Joe, d’ye have a minute?”

“Sure Geillis, what’s on your mind?”

“What did ye mean when ye said those were’na Claire’s only options?”

“Oh. Well, you know my Dad talked to me a lot in those last weeks. One of the things we talked about was Claire. Dad had planned to have her make a recording. To see how well it sold. If everything went well, he planned to do more of them so Claire cut back on touring so much if she wanted to.”

“That’s a brilliant idea.” Geillis exclaimed.

“Yeah, I think so too. But Dad wanted to wait until next year at least. Making a record is a different thing. Gayle’s been working with someone from Crown, to learn about studio recording before we bring the idea to Claire.” Joe paused here for a minute.

“Geillis, I don’t want to put you in an awkward position, but please don’t say anything until Gayle is ready to explain it to Claire. Specifically, don’t say anything to Frank. I don’t like the way he tried to push her this afternoon.”

Geillis snorted. “Dinna worry about that Joe. I would’na tell that man anythin’. He does’na speak to me anyway except to gie me things to do. He sees me as a servant. Invisible except when interaction is necessary.” Mrs. Graham nodded from where she was peeling potatoes for supper.

Joe was astounded. “Really? I guess I’ve never noticed, until today. Dougal and I both saw Frank ignore you at the meeting.”

Geillis shrugged. “’Tis alright. I dinna go out of my way to talk to him either. He’s no mean about it, mind ye. I just get the impression that he was raised to deal with underlings that way.”

“No wonder he set Claire off. Even if she hasn’t said anything I bet she’s noticed.”

Incidentally, Joe was right. Claire had noticed and it bothered her. Henry had once told her that she could judge a man’s character not by how he treated his social equals, but by how he treated those who were his social inferiors.

She just didn’t quite know how to address the situation without coming across as a diva, so until Geillis brought it up, Claire wouldn’t say anything.


January 15th 1937

Dear Jamie,

I’m sorry I didn’t write you last week, I really haven’t had time. I started estate lessons with Ned Gowan my solicitor, just after the New Year and there’s SO much to learn. It’s different than anything I’ve studied before and there are so many laws and things that govern estate management. I want to be a good steward though, and so am determined to learn what I need to. Uncle Ned says that I’m doing very well, especially since it’s all so new to me.

We also had to decide on the music and things for the Spring and Autumn series this year. It took some time, but Mr. Mackenzie was very helpful so that’s done now too.

I’m very excited that we are playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for the Autumn series. I’m playing the first violin part, which is so beautiful. We’re going to begin rehearsals earlier than usual, and I know you can’t come until after you finish school, which is in May I thought you said?

Don’t worry about it though, I can send you the Double Bass part and you can practice it at home until you are able to come to London.

You do still plan to join The White Rose after you graduate...right?

Please write me back soon, I want to know how your studies are progressing and also how is Donas?

Your friend,

P.S. I don’t mind if you call me Sassenach. All my family has a nickname for me. You would be the first friend who did...but I think I’d rather like that.


Orchestra auditions that year were more stressful than Claire was used to.

Deciding to do Vivaldi’s four seasons in the fall meant that only the string musicians were needed along with an organist and harpsichordist. Since Claire wanted to play the violin for this series it meant finding someone else for the harpsichord, and finding an organist. Neither keyboard part was difficult, but they did require professional musicians used to performing. The difficulty of the work overall meant that auditions needed to be held in the Spring and that rehearsals would begin before the performances of the Spring series were finished.

Call sheets were posted at all the usual music places. Hopefully people would be found. In the meantime, Claire had to break the news to the wind musicians that they wouldn’t be needed for the Fall series. She wasn’t looking forward to that at all and kept putting it off.

Finally, realizing her dilemma, it was Dougal that came up with a solution. Approaching Claire one day in late January after a vocal rehearsal, Dougal said…

“I had an idea about the Autumn series if you have a moment?”

“Sure Mr. Mackenzie, what is it?”

“Lass, I ken ye want to do Vivaldi’s seasons, which will throw the wind musicians out o work. How would ye feel about doing a shorter piece or two that calls for wind instruments for the other pieces in the instrumental section?

All four Seasons take about 45 minutes to perform. The wind instrument pieces could fill the other thirty minutes of the second half. We could even put those first and finish with the Vivaldi. It will’na be the full concert rate for the wind musicians, but it will still be something.”

Claire smiled brightly. “That’s a wonderful idea Mr. Mackenzie. There are some lovely pieces for wind instruments.”

Dougal smiled back at her. “There are at that. Do ye have time to choose or would ye like me to?”

“Oh could you Mr. Mackenzie? I want to make sure that Mystic Rose musicians have something to play and you know everyone’s instruments. I’m trying very hard to learn about managing the estate and I fear I wouldn’t have enough time to properly devote to the selection. If we keep it to duets and solo pieces, we may be able to pay our people close to full rate.”

“That’s a kind idea lass. I’ll be happy to choose some things. I can work wit Geillis if ye like, to make sure ye remain informed during the selection process ye ken.” Dougal offered.

“That’s…I’ll have to ask Geillis since it isn’t part of her normal duties but if she doesn’t mind I’d truly appreciate it Mr. Mackenzie.”

Dougal nodded. “Alright then. We’ll do it that way.”

Geillis agreed with alacrity. Claire gave a silent sigh of relief and put it out of her mind. With that settled, no one would be left out and she could concentrate on her estate lessons.

Dougal spent many long hours over the next three days with Geillis, selecting music for wind instruments. He had two flautists (Laoghaire and Moira), an oboist (Rupert) and a trumpet player (Angus). It took some time but eventually a flute duet by Beethoven, a Trumpet solo by Albinoni and an Oboe Sonata by Vivaldi were chosen. Dougal also chose a trio piece for flute, oboe and Bassoon. They would only need to hire a bassoonist.

Auditions were scheduled for the last weekday of January, so those playing in the Spring could rehearse for four weeks before their first performance. Rehearsals for Autumn would begin the week following the start of the Spring Series.

Normally auditions were held earlier in January, but Paul’s death had pushed everything back by a few weeks.

The Mozart piece called for a harpist, and Dougal was hoping he could convince Claire to play. He’d not said anything but everyone had been blown away by her playing at the funeral.

If Dougal could convince her, the end goal was to have her accompany some of the Scottish folk songs that The White Rose sang.

It would probably take a year or more, but Dougal was a patient man. Paul had talked with him about the idea of recording and Dougal knew that if he had enough time he could convince Claire to let them sing on the recording. That could only help his people.


January 24th 1937

Dear Sassenach,

So many questions. I was laughing by the end of your letter. Such a curious wee thing ye are, as Mam would say. Dinna fash (don’t worry) though, I’m glad you’re curious it tells me that you care.

I’ve been working harder than ever since I got home. I only have two tests left to take before I graduate. I am well on track to graduate in May. My last two tests are History and Mathematics. Both are fairly comprehensive and it will take me until May to be sure I can pass them.

Yes I still intend to come to London. More so now than before. Now I miss you as well as Ian and Jenny.

Yes please send me the music. I’ve spoken to Mam and my Bass teacher. Both are willing to help me work on it until I can come to London.

Donas is still a devil horse, but I think he might just miss me. I haven’t been able to spend as much time with him because of school. He’s still well-behaved for Da.

If all goes well, I plan to be in London by the third week in May. I would come the second week, but Mam asked for a week’s grace so she can come with me for a time.

Your estate lessons sound fascinating. I’ve learned a bit here and there from Da, but Willie will inherit Lallybroch and so I haven’t had formal lessons. I’m not sure what I want to do as a profession, maybe something with languages. I have a knack for them and already know several. Mam tells me that I have time yet, and to look into all the possiblities.

I need to finish this and send it with Mrs. Crook. I look forward to hearing from you again soon.

Your friend,


Chapter Text

In the end, auditions went well. Claire was shocked and pleasantly surprised to learn that Rupert played the organ.

“I used to play for Mass back home when the regular organist wanted a break. He started teaching me when my voice started changing ye ken. I did’na want to quit the children’s choir since it was safer there than at home.” Rupert stuttered to a stop and flushed. He hadn’t meant to tell her that.

Fortunately Dougal knew all about what Rupert’s Da was like, and quickly changed the subject.

Claire wondered, but didn’t ask when it became obvious that Rupert had shared more than he meant. A private person herself, she respected Rupert’s wish to let it go.

The other members of both vocal groups all passed auditions, including Angus, who had worked hard and improved tremendously. He was even able to play the trumpet adagio and they wouldn’t have to hire someone from the outside. Claire was very pleased for him and he looked proud.

Claire refused to play the harp in public. Dougal tried to persuade her but backed down when Geillis shook her head to warn him off.

“Truly Mr. Mackenzie, I understand that I should probably return to public performance on harp...but I...I’m not ready yet. Maybe next year once I’m finished with the estate lessons and can practice more.”

Dougal was disappointed, but he did understand. Grief was a funny thing as he had learned when his wife died. It hadn’t been a love for the ages, but he had cared for her and respected her. When she died, it had affected him far more than he was prepared for.

Ten harpists auditioned and Claire chose an older lady, a Mrs. Frances Brown to play. She had her own harp of course, and a grandson to transport it for her. Her husband had died some years before. She lived with her daughter and son-in-law, giving music lessons and playing for concerts to help supplement her small pension from her husband’s army service.

The only thing left was a harpsichordist, but it seemed that they were all engaged already. Claire was beginning to despair of finding someone.

At their Wednesday session, she mentioned it to Jenny and Ian. They had resumed coming over after Jamie and his parents went back to Scotland. After a minute of thinking, Jenny had an idea.

“Claire, how different is harpsichord from piano?”

“Well...there are some differences in technique since a piano is a percussion instrument and a harpsichord is a plectrum instrument, but it has more to do with how you strike the keys until you reach a certain level of performance. Why do you ask?”

“Weel, I dinna ken if you knew this, but Moira studied piano with me Mam for about ten years. She’s verra good and still practices every day along with her flute.”

“Really?” If she studied with Ellen, Claire knew Moira had to be good.

“mmmhmmm.” Jenny confirmed. “Could ye teach her how to play well enough for yer Vivaldi pieces? Ye said the harpsichord part was no difficult.”

“It isn’t really. Do you think Moira would want to though?”

“I do. She’s saving to get marrit. Her lad is at University which is why ye never see her wit anyone. He’s learnin mechanical engineering, same as Ian wants to study. Tammas and Ian want to help the local farmers ye ken.”

“No I didn’t. I mean I knew that Ian did, but not that he already had a partner.”

Ian blushed. “Well, Tammas has a sponsor so he did’na have to work first. He graduated top o the class ye ken. The Duke o Argyll sponsored his education wit the understanding that Tammas come back home and help Scottish farmers.”

Claire nodded. She did understand. “I see. Well, if I can help Moira save for her wedding then I’ll be happy to teach her. Thank you Jenny for thinking of it.”

So it was settled. When Jenny asked Moira she was thrilled. They brought her along the following Wednesday and for the next several weeks Claire worked with her on the harpsichord. Moira was a quick study and soon learned the basic technique of harpsichord. She couldn’t have played anything complicated, but the continuo part was achievable.

The other musicians were all professionals, so it didn’t take that long to prepare for the Spring series. It was Ian’s last series with them as he was going to University in the fall. Claire did extract a promise from Ian to come and sing a duet with her for one of the Holiday concerts, even if he couldn’t sing at all of them.

They were going to have to add a duet for the Autumn series since Jenny didn’t want to sing with any of the other men and she certainly couldn’t sing it with Jamie.

They talked about it over dinner one Wednesday. Gayle was already upstairs with Lina, but Ian, Geillis and Joe were at the table too.

“I canna sing a love song with my brother ye ken. E’en if the audience does’na ken he’s my brother...he and I will. It would just be too strange.”

“It would” Claire agreed. “But that leaves us with a space in the program. Would one of the others like to sing something do you think?” Jenny was already shaking her head before Claire finished.

“I have a better idea. You sing the duet with Jamie.”

“What? I can’t do that.” Claire said.

“Yes, ye can.” When Claire shook her head in denial Jenny continued…

“Ye ken Jamie is a tenor same as Ian. He already kens the duet, he used to practice it wit me at home when Ian could’na. You already ken the ladies part since ye sang it wit Ian when I had that sore throat a few months ago. We would’na e’en hae to change the program.”

“But Jenny...” Claire spluttered… “I…it’s a love song.”

“So, ye’ve sung it wit Ian and yer no in love wit him. Are ye?” Jenny asked archly.

“No of course not.” Claire looked at Ian sheepishly. He smiled at her and Claire turned back to look at Jenny. “Ian is a wonderful friend but I don’t look at him romantically.”

“Then I don’t see a problem wit ye singing wit Jamie. Ye’ve written to him have ye no? Ye’re friends aren’t ye?” Jenny said triumphantly. When Claire still looked unsure Jenny pulled out the big guns.

“Come on. It’ll be good for him. Make him feel more...part of the group. Jamie would never admit it, but he’s nervous ye ken. He’s already coming in late to the Vivaldi rehearsals, and is worrit people will think he’s getting special treatment because of me. He also wants to do well for Mam and Da. It would be a help if ye sang wit him. Then he would have a piece that he already kens and ye wilna throw yerself at his head the way Laoghaire would.”

“Alright.” Claire said slowly. “If you really think it will help him.”

“Oh trust me. It will.” Jenny said smugly. Ian, Geillis and Joe all silently applauded her behind Claire’s back.

Claire didn’t know why, but the idea of Laoghaire singing with Jamie bothered her. Jenny was right, they were friends. Jamie even had a nickname for her. It would be alright.


Jamie: January 1937

After coming home from London, the young man had thrown himself into his studies with single-minded focus. He even stopped working in the stables except on Saturdays when Ellen all but threw him out of the house.

“James Alexander” she said in exasperation, “If ye dinna put your books down and go outside for awhile, I’ll put a stop to the idea of graduating early. It’s not healthy for you to ignore everything else in your life except school.”

“Aye Mam. Although ye ken most mothers have to nag their sons to spend more time studying, no less.” Jamie said giving her a boyish grin and a kiss on the cheek.

“Ach go on wit ye. Go ride Donas and dinna let me see you again till supper.” Ellen said smacking him on the arm.

He went out as she shook her head after him. “That boy.”

Brian laughed at his wife. “Ye ken I was no different when I met ye. Suddenly I needed to make something of myself. To prove worthy of ye. Our son may no quite realize it, but he’s doing the same.”

“Hmmmph. Well, I just don’t want him to burn out before he finishes. He did verra well on all the tests he took before Christmas, without spending every waking minute with his books.”

“He’ll be fine. Just keep kicking him out on Saturdays and enforce the Sabbath rest.”

“I will.” Ellen looked determined. Brian laughed at her again.

Jamie took his Science exam in mid January. He had spent so much time studying that he felt prepared. His score was over 90%, which thrilled him. Now he only had History and Mathematics left. History was easier of course, but Jamie wanted to get 90% on all of his exams, and so applied himself with a will.

After the letter Claire sent him about the Vivaldi pieces, he split his time between studying and practicing Bass. As soon as the music had arrived by post, Jamie could be heard practicing Bass or voice whenever he wasn’t with his school books. He even sang in the stables when Ellen tossed him from the house on Saturdays.

Eventually Ellen gave up. The boy was very determined and just as stubborn as the rest of them.


February 18,1937

Dear Jamie,

How are your studies? I’m almost done with my estate lessons, at least as a formal class. Uncle Ned says that I’ll probably be learning things for a number of years, but that I should have all the basics learned by Easter. I’ll most likely start practicing for the Autumn series then.

Speaking of the Autumn series, I was wondering if you would be willing to sing a duet with me? It’s Io t'abbraccio by Handel the one that Jenny and Ian sing, and a beautiful piece, but she doesn’t want to sing it with her brother because it would be too odd. If you don’t want to that’s ok, we can pick another piece for the program. It is the transposed version, I’m a mezzo just like Jenny. She says that your range is similar to Ian’s? I know it’s only February, and this may seem very early to be worrying about this. I want to have the program for Autumn settled in order to make sure we have time to rehearse everything.

In your last letter you said you were coming in the third week of May so your mother can come with you? I thought she stayed in Scotland in the summers and toured in the winters. Would she want to perform with us during the holiday series? I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, with so many of her relatives here already, perhaps it would allow all of you to celebrate Christmas together. Although I remember that you put more emphasis on New Years. I don’t really celebrate New Years…

Claire scratched that last bit out. She was glad that she drafted all of her letters in pencil before writing the final copy out in pen, it allowed her to edit.

At any rate, please let me know what you think about singing together. It would be nice to sing with a friend, I’ve never really done that before, at least not one my age. Ian is a friend I suppose and Rupert and Angus, but they’re all so much older than I am, it’s difficult to relax. Singing with you would be more fun than work I think.



Chapter Text

Jamie: March 1937

“Mam! Mam!” Jamie tore through the house with a letter in his hand. He finally found his parents in the parlor.

“Mam, Claire wants to know if you’ll perform with us for the holiday series.” He stood in front of her panting.

“What?” Ellen said laughingly.

“Here, read it for yerself.” Jamie handed her the letter.

She took the letter and read it. Inwardly she smiled. If Jamie was simply handing over his correspondence, he hadn’t quite realized what he felt for Claire. Her wee lad was still a bit immature in that area of life, though he was wiser than his years in most others.

“What does it say mo chride?” Brian asked her.

“Just as Jamie told us. Although it was one of several questions the lass asked. Are all of her letters this inquisitive?”

“Aye. Since we live so far apart, ‘tis the only way we can learn about each other ye ken.” Jamie didn’t understand what the big deal was. He asked Claire just as many questions.

“I see.”

‘see what?’ Mam was being odd.

“Nevermind. I’ll have to discuss it wit yer Da, but that may work. It would be lovely to spend time wit ye and Jenny and Ian during more of the season. We’ll have to come home for Christmas and Hogmanay of course.”

Jamie and Brian both nodded.

“Here lad, take yer letter. Let me and Da talk it over and I’ll gie ye an answer at supper so ye can reply.”

“Thank you Mam.” Jamie bent down and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

March 12, 1937

Dear Sassenach,

Mam says she’d love to play with us during the holiday series. Da can’t leave Lallybroch for so long and we’ll have to come home for Christmas and Hogmanay of course.

I can sing the duet with you. Jenny is right, Ian and I do have a similar range, even though I’m so much taller. Mam says she doesn’t know why Willie and I are both tenors since Da is a bass. I told her that since she’s a coloratura Willie and I split the difference and are tenors. Since Jenny is a mezzo, that almost makes sense.

Donas is doing well, it’s very snowy here and I haven’t been able to exercise him as much outside. We make due with the indoor riding space, but neither of us like it much.

Yes. Third week in May. I take both my tests on May 5th.

How are things going with your manager? Jenny mentioned you were a bit vexed with him, was it a professional disagreement? You don’t have to tell me if that’s too personal a question.

I’m trying to learn a little about how the music world works before I come to London. Mam doesn’t have a manager, and Uncle Dougal never answers my questions, he thinks I’m too young to understand about the business side of things. I don’t think I am, I just don’t know enough to even know which questions to ask.

Oh! If you think of it, could you keep me in your prayers?

Some of the girls at school are really beginning to annoy me. The other boys not so much, I’m not really close to any of them. I’m not really close to the girls either, but that doesn’t keep them from stopping me in the halls and asking questions all the time about what I’m doing and where I’m going, and if I’ll be in town on Friday. I never go into town except to church on Sunday with Mam and Da. There are too many things to do at home when I’m done with schoolwork.

I’m trying very hard to keep my temper with them but I’m about to ask Mam to let me finish my studies with a tutor. I don’t want to do that, tutors are very expensive and with Willie in College I don’t want to put more on Da. Besides, it’s only another month and a half.

So if you could pray that a. I don’t lose my temper, and b. I finish my studies soon, I would be grateful.

Your friend,



“Did you know that some girls are bothering Jamie at school?”

“No, he did’na mention anything in his last letter. Why? Did he say something about it to you?”

“He did. He asked me to pray for him that he doesn’t lose his temper. You can read it yourself if you’d like.”

Claire handed Jenny the letter.

Jenny read it and pursed her lips. “I dinna think he’s told Mam or Da either. It sounds as though the besoms are throwing themselves at his head and the numpty does’na even ken it.” She laughed… “I’d gie anything to be a fly on the wall when he’s ignoring their flirting.”

“Do girls often flirt with him?” Claire asked curiously.

“Oh Aye. No that he ever notices. Our Jamie is a kindhearted lad and the lasses all sigh after him. They’ve been doing it ever since he was small.” Ian put in.

“He’s never mentioned that he has a girl.” Claire was trying for nonchalance. It wasn’t really her business, but she thought he would have told a friend, and her feelings were a bit hurt.

“He does’na have a girl. Truly Claire. Da trained he and Willie both from a young age to be careful wit how they spoke to a lass. He used to say, “a lass is more emotional than ye are and ye dinna want to say something that she’ll take as interest when it is’na.” O course he told all of us to be wary that someone was’na making up to us because of Da and Lallybroch.”

At Claire’s quizzical look Jenny elaborated. “Da is Laird Broch Tuaroch ye ken. Anyone attached to us might think it would gie them influence or prestige.”

Ian started laughing. “Well in your case, ye managed to scare off anyone like that fairly quickly. No sane man would take ye on, just on the chance of getting something from yer Da.”

Jenny looked offended. “So what does that make ye then?”

Ian kissed her soundly. “Crazy in love wit ye.” She looked mollified at that and he continued. “Besides. I already ken what I want to do wit me life. Hanging onto yer father’s coattails is’na it. I mean to make my own way.”

Claire watched all this fondly. “It’s so nice that you love each other so much. My parents loved each other like that.” After a pause she continued. “I hope someone loves me like that someday.”

Jenny smiled at her. “Someone will. I ken it.”

March 30th 1937

Dear Jamie,

I will pray for you. I also asked Jenny about your difficulties and she explained why the girls bother you so much. I don’t really have any advice to give except maybe try and avoid talking to them. Between my uncles and Joe, I’ve never been bothered by boys or anyone else trying to make up to me for what I could give them.

Yes I did work things out with Mr. Randall. He’s a very good manager and not a bad person either, we just have different ideas about what to do for the concerts. Sometimes I let my temper get ahead of me and that’s what happened with Mr. Randall. I thought he was insulting Joe. Joe explained that he thought Joe had insulted him. A man thing Joe says. So maybe you’ll understand it. I think it’s silly, but I’m a girl so what do I know?

I need to finish this letter so I can send it off to the post. Please write back soon.

Your friend,


April 24th 1937

Dear Sassenach,

I did as ye suggested and avoided the lasses as much as I could. Thank you for suggesting it, it did help a little. Some of them were quite persistent and I ended up having to be quite rude to two of them. They started to cry and I got sent to the Head's office. Once I explained to her what had happened, she let me go back to class. She must have told Da though, because he and I had a talk about it that night. Da told me that some girls won’t respond to politeness and that I shouldn’t feel bad that they forced me to be rude. I still do though. I don’t like seeing girls cry, even if I am exasperated with them.

After that day it’s been a bit easier, and usually one of the teachers is in the hall now when I’m walking from class to class. I think Da asked for that and sometimes I feel like a bairn that must be looked after, but then I remember what it was like trying to handle them on my own and I don’t mind so much. I’ll be glad when I’m done though. Two weeks and I take my tests. After that I plan to stay home and not talk to anyone but Donas for a week!

I’m glad you worked things out with Mr. Randall. I asked Mam about it and she says that’s why she doesn’t have one anymore. The ones she knew all had different goals for her than she did for herself. Of course it’s different for you, she says a lot of people depend on you.

Da just called me, I’ll write again soon.

Your Jamie.

The Spring series was quite successful. All the performances sold out very quickly, a fact that Frank made sure to emphasize to Claire.

After the last concert in the series, Frank tried again to talk about moving venues. Claire again shot down the idea. Not to be deterred, the manager tried another angle.

“Alright, fine. If you don’t want to move venues then please consider coming to more of the receptions. I know you don’t care for them, but it’s getting more and more difficult to attract patrons. Without doing the larger venues we need someone to underwrite the cost of these concerts. I realize that you are wealthy enough to be indifferent about it, however, please consider that most of the people we work with depend on their salary to support their families. It would be a shame if they were all thrown out of work. Not many people are hiring musicians full time anymore.”

Claire didn’t know whether to believe Frank or not, so she told him that she’d consider it. Jamie had said something similar in his last letter, but she needed an opinion from someone who was here. As soon as she could, the young woman sought out Dougal to ask his opinion. Surprisingly he agreed with Frank.

“As much as I hate to say it, he’s right lass. One of the reasons we have so many people audition is because not many people are hiring. I’ve had any number of people try and get me to put in a word wit ye. I never tell ye because I dinna want to influence yer choice like that. I’ve also had some of the venue managers come to me concerned that we will’na use them for the next series.”

“I’ve already told Mr. Randall again that I’m not interested in moving venues. I like the places we perform now. Honestly I’d rather add performances next year than move.”

“I agree with ye. Will ye be able to add performances though? I ken that two of our major patrons pulled their support, and a third patron reduced his.”

“They did? I didn’t know that.”

“Aye. I ken that Frank has been trying to replace them without much success.”

“Hmmm. Do you think it would help if I went to more receptions? Mr. Randall has asked that I consider it.”

“I think it might. People with money like to be seen in public as being part of the performer’s circle. Truly I find the receptions tedious, but I go to all of them. It helps the group get sponsors and I’m responsible for my people.”

Claire nodded thoughtfully. “I understand. I’m finished with the formal estate lessons now and I suppose I could change my schedule a bit to allow for sleeping in more often. Thank you Mr. Mackenzie, I appreciate you taking the time to explain everything.”

“Anytime lass.” Dougal made a mental note to let Geillis know about this conversation. He didn’t trust Randall not to push the girl, and while her being more involved with the promotion side of things was good, it wouldn’t be helpful to push her so hard she broke under the strain of it.

Chapter Text

May 1st, 1937

Dear Jamie,

Happy Birthday. You’re 16 today! So we’re the same age until October. Not that it matters to me, everyone I know is older than I am...except for you. That makes you special. Or maybe unique is a better word. I don’t know what I’m trying to say.

At any rate, good luck on your tests, I promise to pray for you on the day.

We’ve settled on venues and a schedule for the Autumn series, we’ll be going to more places than usual, but doing fewer concerts at each place. Dougal and I talked about it, and decided to do all of our concerts at Cathedrals this time. I can’t really explain it, but I like the atmosphere better when we perform in churches. When we announced it though, Laoghaire Mackenzie was upset. She had chosen a piece that wasn’t really appropriate for singing in a church even if the Blessed Sacrament is removed. I felt bad until Jenny told me that Dougal had warned her before not to choose that kind of song. He doesn’t like the image it gives the group.

We’re finalizing the arrangements now and should have a complete list before you and your mother arrive. Is she traveling with us at all this Autumn? Or is she just going to visit while we’re in London for the summer?

Oh! Geillis is calling me. I need to close this letter and send it off.


May 1st 1937 – Claire

“Claire! Claire where are ye?”

“I’m here Geillis. Whatever is the matter?”

Geillis grinned. “Frank’s here.”

“Mr. Randall? We aren’t scheduled to meet until next week. Oh! Did he finalize everything already?”

Geillis shook her head. “No. Come on. He needs to speak wit ye at once!”

Now Claire was very confused. Geillis didn’t really like Frank. Why was she so keen on Claire speaking with him?

They entered the parlor. Joe and Gayle were both in the room as was Dougal. Now Claire was concerned. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong L.J. in fact something is very right.” Joe beamed at her. “Go ahead Frank, tell her.”

Claire looked at Frank expectantly.

“This was hand delivered to me this morning. It’s an invitation to play at Buckingham Palace as part of the festivities surrounding the coronation.”

“For me?” Claire asked.

“Yes. Well, for everyone really. It’s to be a private dinner for family members and close friends. They would like us to give the same concert that we would normally give, after the dinner.”

“We aren’t expected to attend the meal are we?” Claire had of course attended formal dinners before, but never with that social class.

Frank was already shaking his head. “No. We’re just to give our normal concert program. Their majesties may want to meet everyone afterward though. I’m not sure.”

Claire looked at Dougal. It had already been requested that they form part of the choir for the coronation ceremony itself and rehearsals for that had been going on for three weeks already. This was something altogether different.


“May 28th. It’s a Friday.”

“So shall we give the normal Friday concert? It has more people performing than the Saturday one, and more of the solos and duets.”

“I prefer that idea. It will give more of our people a chance to shine ye ken.” Dougal offered his opinion.

Claire nodded. “I quite agree. I know that her Royal Highness the queen mother is a great patron of the Arts.”

Frank was beside himself with glee. The exposure from this would be priceless. Many of the very wealthy were patrons of the arts, and if Claire should manage to attract the attention of the Royal family there was no limit to how much money he might make off of her. Outwardly, he remained very calm, and merely offered, “this would be an opportunity to attract patrons for everyone, help everyone involved to gain some financial stability. What do you think Claire?”

Claire slowly nodded. “It would be a good opportunity.” She turned to Dougal. “What about Jamie?”

Dougal looked surprised. “What about him?”

“Well, he’ll be here then. I’d hate for him to miss performing for the Royal family, it’s a once in a lifetime chance. But do you think he’ll be able to learn everything in time?”

Dougal was already shaking his head. “No. I dinna think he’ll be able to learn everything that quickly.”

“What about the duet?” Geillis piped up. “Ye said he already kens that, so it would just be a matter of the two of you rehearsing together. I’m sure Ian and Jenny won’t mind, they’re already singing so many other things, and playing.”

“That might work L.J.; your friend will still get the chance to perform, but he won’t be pressured to learn so much.” Joe put in. He knew exactly what Geillis was doing and agreed wholeheartedly. Claire was almost 17. It was long past the time she should have a beau and anyone would be better than Frank.

Joe knew Claire had a crush on Randall, but he felt that it was of the schoolgirl infatuation variety. He’d much rather she turn her attention to someone closer to her in age, and there weren’t many options in their circle. Jenny’s brother was safe. Nice kid with a good family and sound morals. Joe wouldn’t push Claire of course, but he’d help Geillis play cupid a bit.

Dougal shrugged. “He could probably do the one piece alright. It would be a grand introduction for the lad.”

“That’s settled then. Alright Mr. Randall, please accept the invitation on behalf of all of us. We’ll do the Friday program from the Spring series. Will a meal be provided or should we eat before we leave for the performance?”

“I’m not sure of the protocol but I will inquire.”

Claire smiled. “If a meal isn’t provided, we can all have supper together here before we go. Our own small celebration of the coronation if you will.”

“That’s a lovely idea hen. I’ll speak to Mrs. G. about it.” Geillis left the room.

“Well, then. I’ll be off to accept. Coming Mackenzie?” Frank took his leave, Dougal going with him.

When it was just the three of them, Gayle let out a squeal. “Buckingham Palace! Oh my goodness Claire.”

Claire laughed. “You realize that you and Joe are coming too right?”

“I’m sure they have sound people already Claire.” Joe said.

“Most likely. But you are my sound people. I wouldn’t consider doing this without you checking things over.”

Joe smiled. “Alright.”

May 1st, 1937

Dear Jamie,

I know I already sent you a letter today, but I had to write this down immediately. We’ve been invited to perform at a private dinner at Buckingham Palace!!! As part of the coronation celebrations.

Is there anyway that you and your mother could come sooner to London? I talked to Dougal and then to Jenny and Ian, if you can come early we can practice the duet and you can sing at the palace with us that night. I know you won’t be ready to do all the group numbers, but this way you can at least be there and perform something!”

Please write back and let me know as soon as you receive this.


May 6th 1937 – Jamie

Finally. His testing was finished. Jamie was certain he had done well. With his tests taken he had a great deal of free time at present. Most was spent practicing of course. He was already mostly packed for the trip to London. He did spend several hours a day riding Donas, as the horse would be staying at Lallybroch. More and more the beast was considered Jamie’s more than anyone else’s.

“Jamie!” His mother called. “Letter for ye, from Claire.”

A letter? He’d just received one yesterday. He went into the parlor and took the letter from Ellen.

“Hmm. It’s dated May 1st same as the one from yesterday. I wonder why she sent me two letters in one day.”

“Well open it lad. I’m sure she’ll explain.” Brian chuckled. “Most likely she forgot some small piece of news and wanted to tell ye before she sees ye in two weeks.”

Jamie smiled opening the letter. Claire wasn’t like that. She was friendly but not chatty. He began to read the letter and the smile dropped off his face as if it had been wiped off with a cloth.

“Jamie? What is it?” His Mam asked.

Wordlessly he handed her the letter and sank into the nearest chair.

Ellen read the letter. “They’ve been invited to give a performance at Buckingham Palace on the 28th. Claire wants Jamie to come early so he can participate.”

“What? Even if you leave today he won’t have enough time to rehearse all that music.” Brian protested.

“Not everything, just a duet with Claire. Ye ken, the one that Ian and Jenny usually sing. She writes that it will allow Jamie to be there and sing before the Royal family without putting too much pressure on him to be ready with everything.” Ellen looked at Brian, then her son. “It’s very sweet of the lass to think of ye having this opportunity.”

“She’s my friend. Of course she’d think of it.” Jamie said distractedly. His first professional performance would be for the Royal Family and their intimates. Jamie wasn’t sure he was ready for that, but he wasn’t about to turn down the chance. He looked up.

“Mam. Could we? Go early I mean.” Ellen looked at Brian who nodded and said.

“Of course. This is a once in a lifetime chance for ye. I’ll cable Dougal and let him know to pick ye up at the train station. I’ll drive ye to Inverness after church on Sunday and ye can leave on the early train Monday morning.”

“So soon?” Jamie was surprised.

“Aye. It’s Thursday now. We can ask Mrs. Crook’s daughter to come and help her and I can finish my packing tomorrow or Saturday. I’ve already handed off all of my normal responsibilities to others in anticipation of leaving in two weeks. Whatever small things are left to do yer Da can handle.”

“Are ye all packed son?” Brian inquired.

“Almost. I could probably finish in an hour or so. I just have the things I use every day out still.”

“Alright then. Let’s be at it. Why don’t ye spend the afternoon with that devil horse of yours Jamie. We can have the head groom exercise him, but I won’t have much time to ride him and he’ll let no one else on his back. Give him a good run to last him until Christmas.”

Brian privately thought that a good run would be beneficial for Jamie as well. The lad’s barely repressed emotions had him almost jumping out of his skin. A combination of excitement and nerves if Brian had to guess.

“Aye Da.” Jamie left and made for the stables. He saddled Donas and spent the entire afternoon riding, while he turned over the thoughts raging through his mind.

Claire was the foremost thought. His family was mistaken. Jamie knew exactly what he felt for Claire. Had known since the funeral. He’d been intrigued when he met her at the wedding, but he’d loved her when she fainted dead away into his arms. The fact that it had been so embarrassing to her had just made him love her more. It hadn’t been a ploy to get his attention. Claire wasn’t like that. She was honest and sincere in her dealings with everyone around her.

Jamie was also keenly aware of what the girls at school were after. He’d mentioned it in his letters to make sure that Claire understood his complete lack of interest in them. He hadn’t wanted gossip to get to her about the silly things flinging themselves at him. A high possibility, given the number of his relatives that performed with her. So he’d mentioned it himself.

What Jamie wasn’t sure of was how Claire felt about him. She saw him as a friend he knew, but was that all she saw him as? He didn’t know and that kept him quiet about his own feelings. Until Jamie knew for sure, he wasn’t going to risk losing her friendship by making things awkward between them.

He knew she didn’t have a beau. Jenny wasn’t at all discreet about Claire and gossiped in her letters to Mam about how lonely she thought Claire was, and how much good it would do her to socialize more and perhaps meet a lad. It made Jamie crazy with jealousy, but he couldn’t voice it. He had no claim on Claire other than that of a pen friend. He could only hope that now he was going to London he could show her that he Jamie was worthy of her. He’d do his best at any rate.

Resolved, Jamie turned back towards home. The hard ride had been good for him and for Donas. He spent a good deal of time caring for the horse and with a last affectionate pat, Jamie went into the house to finish his packing. Soon. Claire called him friend. When he was in London he would see if he could figure out a way to win her heart.

Chapter Text

May 12th 1937 – Westminster Abbey

The Coronation was just what Claire had expected it to be. All solemn pageantry and majestic entertainment. The music was lovely and much of it Claire already knew. Not everyone was singing in the choir, in fact she, Ian and Dougal were the only three, and she was singing in the alto section. Murtagh, Jenny, Moira, Mary and Laoghaire were all playing in the orchestra. The others had auditioned but hadn’t been chosen. Claire wasn’t surprised. The competition had been fierce and she was rather amazed that she had been chosen to sing. (Claire had a clear strong voice and perfect pitch, but to her mind her voice skills were weaker than her instrumental skills.) Most of the group were at Rose House (They had named it that because group home sounded more like the name of an orphanage), listening to the coronation on the radio.

Speaking of the others, Jamie and his mother had arrived in London. Murtagh had fetched them from the train station late Monday evening. Claire hadn’t seen either of them yet, yesterday had been full of the dress rehearsal. Jenny had told her during the dinner break that Jamie sent greetings and that he would see her at the regular rehearsal on Thursday.

“Oh. Aren’t you and Ian coming to the house for supper on Wednesday after the coronation?”

“Aye, we are.”

“Your mother and brother are most welcome to join us for the meal. I know you haven’t seen them since Christmas… and well… it would be nice to see them again without everyone else vying for their attention.”

Ian hid a smile. Jenny didn’t bother. “Thank you Claire. I’ll tell them. I ken they’d both enjoy seeing you too.”

The coronation ceremony was long and although Claire was thrilled to be a participant, she was glad when it ended and they could go home. Jenny and Ian rode in her car (with Hector driving of course) and Dougal took all the others in his car. They stopped at Rose house to drop off Jenny’s cello and to pick up Ellen and Jamie. Claire sat with her head back and her eyes closed, mostly listening to the conversation around her. The car was a little crowded, even though Jamie sat up front with Hector.

She must have dozed during the short ride from the group home, as the next thing Claire was aware of was Jamie calling her.

“Sassenach? Are ye awake?”

“Yes. I was just resting my eyes. It was a long service.” Claire opened those eyes to find that Jamie was the only one still by the car. He was staring down at her with a mildly worried expression.

“Where’s Hector?”

“He’s seeing Mam into the house. I offered to escort you.” Jamie’s ears were pink.

“Oh. Thank you.” Claire took a moment to get her bearings and then taking Jamie’s offered hand, stepped out of the car and onto the sidewalk. He very properly offered his arm. “May I escort you inside my lady?” He said with a grin, offering his arm.

Claire giggled. “You may kind sir. Thank you.” Then she blushed to the roots of her hair. What on earth? I must be more tired than I thought. If it were possible her friend’s grin became wider. “Dinna be embarrassed Sassenach. Sometimes it’s a good thing to be a little silly. Or so Mam and Jenny say. Besides, we’re the only ones here. We can be as silly as we like.”

Suiting action to words he made a deep and courtly bow with a grand flourish. Claire laughed in earnest. Taking his arm, they began to walk toward the house. “I’m glad you’re here Jamie. I think I need more silliness in my life.”

“Well then. I shall be sure to provide ye with all the silliness I can.”

Supper was nice. Conversation was relaxed and everyone shared in it. Claire however was yawning by the time dessert was served.

“Oh goodness. I’m so sorry. I must be more tired than I thought.”

Ellen smiled. “Dinna fash Claire. I’m still a trifle travel weary myself. We’ll make an early night of it aye?”

Joe stepped into the kitchen and asked Hector to bring the car around while everyone else finished eating.

When dessert was finished, everyone rose from the table and walked towards the door. Joe retrieved Ellen and Jenny’s wraps for them. Neither of the men had worn an overcoat, just hats which were on the shelf in the hall.

Goodbyes were said and Ellen gave Claire a hug. “Thank you Claire, I had a lovely time.”

“I’m glad.” Claire said simply. “Will you be attending the rehearsals tomorrow?”

“No I don’t think so. I plan to do some shopping while I’m in town, and during rehearsals is as good a time as any.”

“Oh. Do you have anyone to drive you?”

“No, I had planned to walk or take the underground.”

Claire wrinkled her nose. “Oh but that’s so crowded and dirty.” She turned to Hector. “Could you drive Miss Ellen tomorrow? After you drop me off?”

“Of course Miss. I’d be delighted.”

Ellen went to protest and Hector spoke to her directly. “Truly Ma’am, I’d much rather be doing something. Normally I just sit and wait during the rehearsals and those take most of the day.”

Which was true as far as that went, but the larger truth was that it wasn’t really safe for Ellen to shop without an escort. With all the coronation festivities, the rowdies had come out as well. Hector didn’t say anything about that though.

Jenny piped up. “Mam, it’s better to let Hector drive ye. He’ll ken where the best shops are and as tall as he is, ye won’t get lost in the crowds here for the coronation.”

Ellen nodded slowly. “Alright. If you’re sure it’s no trouble.”

“Not at all Ma’am.”

“Good. Then it’s settled. If you want to come to the rehearsal hall with Jamie and Jenny, then Hector can take you on when he drops me off.” Claire said.

Goodbyes were exchanged and the Frasers left along with Ian. Joe turned to Claire. “That was nicely done L.J.”

“What was?” Claire yawned again.

“Offering Hector, without making Ellen feel beholden.”

“Oh. Well truly he does get so bored sitting around waiting for me all day. I don’t really know why he doesn’t just come back home.”

“Saves a phone call and you waiting around. Besides, Hector is paid for his time, you know that.”

“I suppose.”

Joe laughed. “Go to bed Claire. You’re almost falling asleep where you stand.”

“Night Joe. Night Gayle.”

“Goodnight Claire.” They both replied. Claire went up the stairs and Gayle turned to Joe.

“If Hector’s driving Ellen around who's going to be watching over Claire?”

Joe kissed his wife. “I have the week off because of the coronation. I’ll go to the rehearsal tomorrow. I generally do that when I’m not in school.”

“Alright, but what about next week?”

“I’ll have a word with Ian about it. Will that make you feel better?”

“Yes.” Gayle was firm.

Joe looked at his wife surprised. “Why are you concerned in the first place? Hector will be back before the rehearsal ends and none of the men would leave Claire unattended anyway.”

“I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on it, other than to say that Hector’s ONLY job is to look after Claire. It just makes me feel better if someone is deliberately keeping her safe. She’s so small, and honestly Joe, you and I both know Claire is a bit… sheltered.”

“She is, but she’s not brainless Gayle.” Joe still didn’t see the problem.

“That isn’t what I mean Joseph.” His spouse said a bit repressively. “Claire doesn’t always pay attention to her surroundings when she is making music. If she gets focused on something everyone else could leave for lunch thinking that Hector is around to escort her. That’s what they’re used to. With all the strangers in town and the crowds…” Joe nodded beginning to understand.

“Alright I see your point. I’ll make sure to say something to Ian then, maybe Dougal too.”

“Thank you darling.” Gayle kissed her husband and they went up the stairs to their room.

Rehearsal the following day was fun. Claire didn’t often use such a word to describe them, but with Jamie being new and Joe being there, it was.

Vocal rehearsals took place in the morning from 8 am until noon and instrumental pieces in the afternoon from 2pm to 4:30 pm, with a lunch break from noon until 2pm to divide them.

They worked on all the group pieces first and then at 10 am took turns working on their individual pieces while the rest of the group either stood by and waited their turn or went in to the next room to practice instrumental pieces. Claire had the largest number of individual pieces and so the others always sang first.

Laoghaire had picked a new song to sing, an Italian piece called Vergin, tutt’ amor. It was an ode to the Blessed Virgin, far more suitable than her previous choice about being a spurned lover. She had a lovely clear soprano and sang it well.

When she had finished, she came over to where Jamie was sitting next to Jenny and Claire. “Would ye like to go rehearse for the instrumental pieces Jamie?” She asked him, completely ignoring the two girls.

“Nah, I’m singing a duet and need to wait for my turn.” Jamie said with an apologetic smile.

“Oh? Are ye and Jenny singing something then? Since Ian’s leaving?”

“No. I’m singing their duet with Claire. It would be odd if I sang a love song with my sister.”

“Is Jenny no singing then?”

“Oh aye, she’s singing another duet with Claire.”

Laoghaire’s mouth tightened. “Claire’s singing an awful lot of the pieces.” Casting a sideways glance the girl continued, “I dinna see why other people can’t have more of a chance.”

Jenny didn’t wait for Jamie to respond. “That isn’t up to ye to decide. Besides, Claire’s actually singing fewer pieces than usual this year. She dropped her Italian solo to make room for yours, the German one to make room for Rupert and my duet with her will take the place of one o the English pieces.”

Laoghaire didn’t reply, just smiled again at Jamie. “Well if ye want to practice when yer done, I’ll be in the other room.” She left without saying anything to Claire or Jenny.

Jenny waited until she’d left the room and then huffed. “I dinna ken why Uncle Dougal keeps her in the group. She does nothing but complain about everything.”

Claire shrugged. “Her family needs the money. It’s not her father’s fault that she’s unhappy all the time. Truthfully I feel a little sorry for her.”

“Ye do? Why on earth do ye feel sorry for her?” Jenny wanted to know. Jamie was curious himself although he didn’t interrupt.

“Well, she’s beautiful and has a really lovely voice. Her flute skills are amazing and if she was more pleasant to be around, Laoghaire is more than good enough to become really well-known. I just don’t think she ever will because she makes people so uncomfortable all the time. I’ve seen more than one manager approach her and then not follow up after having a conversation with her.”

Jenny and Jamie both stared at Claire open-mouthed. “What?” She asked.

“Sometimes I forget just how business-savvy you are Claire.” Jenny finally said.

“It’s alright Jenny. I don’t often talk about the business side of things. That doesn’t mean I’m not aware of it though. I’ve been performing professionally since I was eight, and traveled with my parents before that. I won’t be so arrogant as to say I know everything about professional music, but I’ve seen this before with other performers. Unless they come from a wealthy family like Geneva Dunsany, managers won’t bother with someone who’s arrogant or difficult, no matter how talented they are.”

“Who’s Geneva Dunsany?” Jamie asked.

“She’s a Lyric soprano that gives concerts in a lot of the same places we do.” Claire said simply.

“And ye dinna like her?”

“I don’t really have enough contact with her to decide whether or not I like her. I don’t think she likes me though. She’s always rather… rude when we encounter one another. I’ve heard her sing and she has a glorious voice...the trouble is that she thinks she should get special privileges because of it.”

“Ah.” A diva then. Jamie committed the name to memory and silently vowed to steer clear of the lass.

Dougal called out to Jenny that it was her turn to practice along with Claire.

Chapter Text

Jenny and Claire had decided to sing the Cesar Franck Panis Angelicus arranged for duet. It was a lovely simple piece for equal voices. It didn’t take them very long to run through it, and then Dougal called Jamie over.

Since he and Claire hadn’t rehearsed together before, they were the last ones. Jenny was still in the room and Joe, but everyone else except Dougal who acted as accompanist, had gone into the other practice room.

First they did a sing through and then started to block the stage movement. Both had seen Jenny and Ian sing it, but Jenny and Ian were a couple. Claire didn’t want to do the same thing with Jamie as they were just friends.

“It doesn’t matter whether or no yer just friends in real life Claire. Part o the performance is to pretend yer in love wit one another.” Dougal said exasperated with her.

“It’s alright Sassenach. I promise no to lose my head.” Jamie smiled down at her softly.

Claire sighed. It wasn’t Jamie losing his head that worried her. She had forgotten how tall he was, and it may be her imagination, but Jamie grew more handsome every time she saw him. It wouldn’t do to admit that out loud though, so she simply nodded. “Alright. Let’s try it again.”

They sang the piece again and this time, it was different. Jamie looked at her with his heart in his eyes, and she looked back at him the same way. The others in the room were spellbound. At the end of the song, Claire lifted one hand to his cheek and they sang the last notes, frozen in that position.

A crash of applause startled them, and Claire dropped her hand. When they had started singing there were only three other people in the room. Now the room was crowded as everyone else had come back from next door to hear them.

Claire blushed a bright red and Jamie’s ear pinked up although he kept a noncommittal look on his face. She smiled shyly at him and turned to Dougal. “Was that better?”

Dougal nodded. He was a professional and knew better than to make a big deal out of what he’d just seen and heard. The man knew if he drew attention to it, they’d become self-conscious and never perform it like that again. “That’ll do.” Deliberately looking at his watch he called out. “It’s noon. That’s lunch, be back at 2pm for instrumental rehearsals.”

Everyone started to clear the room and the couple walked over to Jenny and Joe.

“That was lovely L.J. the two of you have a really nice blend.” Joe said, deliberately focusing on the sound.

“Thanks Joe. It’s harder to tell when I’m the one singing. What about you Jenny? Did we sound alright?”

“Aye.” Jenny said shortly. Then she shook herself and smiled. “I hate to say it but ye sounded better than Ian and I do. I agree with Joe. Yer voices sound as though they were made to sing together. I’m hungry. Let’s go get some lunch.”

Claire nodded and turned away to talk to Joe. Jenny leveled her brother with a look. Ye canna fool me it said. Jamie shook his head. He didn’t want to talk about it. His sister huffed and let it go. For the moment.

May 28th 1937

They continued to rehearse for the next 15 days. Jamie and Claire hadn’t rehearsed the blocking of their duet again, just the music. Dougal said he didn’t want it to look stale and artificial. “Just be yerselves and sing. Ye’ll do fine.”

They didn’t end up having a meal at Claire’s home, supper was being provided for them at the palace after the performance.

Some of the performers were extremely nervous. Claire was not. Oh she was honored to be sure, but Claire had performed before royalty many times before. This wasn’t really that different. Jenny wasn’t nervous either. Being Scottish, she wasn’t really all that impressed by the English Royal family.

“They eat sleep and piss just the same as we do.” She’d said tartly when Claire had asked. It had made Claire giggle and Ellen frown.


“Sorry Mam” Jenny had said completely unrepentant.

Jamie hadn’t laughed, but he’d smiled at Claire over his mother’s head. He thought it was funny too.

Ellen was coming with them. She wasn’t performing, but Claire had asked her to come and help with the instruments so that she could see her children perform.

The concert was to be held in the music room of the palace and they would be setting up their instruments while the family and their guests were at dinner. There was a smaller room next to the music room that people who weren’t performing could wait in, or they could stand in the back of the room behind the audience to see the performances they weren’t participating in. Joe, Gayle, Geillis, Frank, and Ellen would be in the back for the entire performance. Afterward, the group would be escorted to a small dining room and be served a late supper. The entire company was being paid of course, the meal was thanks for coming to the audience rather than having the audience come to them.

Dougal had requested that they reverse the order of performance and give the instrumental portion first with the vocal portion after. His argument to Frank was that the slight difference would set this performance apart, suitable for a royal audience. In reality, he wanted Jamie and Claire’s duet to be the final piece.

The leader of The White Rose was a very smart businessman. If Jamie and Claire repeated their first performance in rehearsal, that would be the last image the audience had of the group. The room would be filled with old money and even older titles. A good image would mean more gigs like this, which would be lucrative for everyone concerned.
Frank hadn’t seen the rehearsal and didn’t care about the order. Either way Claire would be last off the stage and advancing her career and therefore his own, was all Frank cared about. He gave the ok and printed up the programs that way.

The performance went well. Nerves aside, everyone was at the top of their game that night. When the time came for the smaller vocal numbers, the rest of the group filed quietly to the back of the room. Laoghaire, Rupert and Jenny sang their pieces interspersed with solos from Claire. When their duet had finished, and Rupert went on, Jenny whispered to Claire…

“I’m going to stand in the back. I want to see ye and Jamie sing. Do it just like ye did in rehearsal, and then we can go eat.” Claire smiled at her. “I’ll try.”

Dragging a quietly protesting Laoghaire by the hand, Jenny left the room. It was just Claire and Jamie, waiting to go on.

“Ready?” He asked.

“Yes. Are you?”

“Aye. Come on now dear friend. Let’s go sing for our supper.” Jamie grabbed her hand and kissed it. Holding hands they walked out to sing.

Just as they had blocked it, they sang facing each other. Jamie let the room disappear and he sang to Claire. Knowing that she would think it a performance, he didn’t bother to hide his feelings for her.

As was usual for Claire, she disappeared into the music, but this time she wasn’t trying to find her parents. Giving herself up to the longing in her soul, Claire sang to her faceless nameless love. Although he wasn’t really faceless. He looked an awful lot like Jamie in her mind.

Just as in rehearsal, the audience was spellbound. Claire once again raised a hand to Jamie’s cheek at the end and held it there. This time however, Jamie turned his head slightly after singing the last note and kissed her palm.

Ellen watched her son’s face. Oh mo mac. She thought. Ye’re well and truly caught, and ye ken it. Then she looked at Claire. Ye are too lass, but I dinna think ye realize it just yet. Ellen turned and shared a smile with Jenny. They silently conspired right then to do their best to help the young couple realize their feelings.

For a moment there was silence. Then applause broke over them like a thunderclap. Claire was too professional to jump, but Jamie could see in her eyes that it shocked her back into awareness. He smiled at her and they turned to take their bow.

The applause went on for some minutes, far longer than for anything else that night. Claire and Jamie had left the performance area after taking their bow, but the audience kept applauding.

Princess Margaret leaned over to her sister. “When I grow up, I want someone to look at me like that.” Princess Elizabeth nodded. “I do too.” She said. She turned around and asked her mother. “Mummy, can we meet them? The performers I mean?”

The queen shook her head. “They are to have supper after this. It wouldn’t be right to intrude on their meal.” Elizabeth nodded and Margaret huffed. “You know Margaret, we can always ask Papa to invite them to come again. Then we can meet them.” Margaret smiled again mollified. “Oh yes! Let’s.”

Everyone there that night knew that what they had seen was beautiful and rare and precious. Two members of the audience however, were not happy for the couple.

Laoghaire Mackenzie didn’t say anything and tried not to let it show on her face, but she couldn’t keep the fury entirely out of her eyes. Inwardly she was seething. It’s no fair. That wee bitch gets everything. The most money, the most applause and now Jamie. He’s supposed to be MINE. He loves ME. I ken he does. The girl continued to rant silently. He’s just being nice because they’re singing together. It’s no real, the way he looks at her. It’s just performing.

Somewhere deep inside, Laoghaire knew that wasn’t true. She crushed that small voice immediately. Her jealousy of Claire was a living breathing thing, and she allowed it to take over. I’ll just have to explain things to her the girl decided.

The other unhappy person in the room was Frank Randall. Oh he understood now exactly why Dougal had flipped the program. In fact, he’d make a push to keep it that way for the next concert series. Frank wasn’t stupid. What made him unhappy was the fact that if Claire was looking at young Jamie Fraser that way, then she wasn’t still infatuated with him and Frank couldn’t coax her into doing things the way he felt was best for her and incidentally his career. He’d have to give this some serious thought.

Claire enjoyed the supper. The room was set up with a series of round tables set for eight. She sat with Jenny, Ian, Geillis, Ellen, Murtagh, Dougal, and Jamie. Frank had wanted to sit with them but Ellen had asked him to allow her to visit with Claire and her children before going home. He’d graciously acquiesced and gone to sit at another table.

The food was wonderful and she probably ate too much, but Claire didn’t care. She was sleepy when the cars were brought around and by the time they reached her house had fallen fast asleep with her head resting on Jamie’s broad shoulder. Geillis stepped out of the car and looked at Claire, then at Jamie.

“Can ye carry her in mo mac?” Ellen asked quietly.

“Aye. If Hector will open the doors for me.” Jamie eased Claire into his arms and then stepped down out of the car. His height made that an easier task than it would normally be. He carried her into the house and at Geillis’ direction up the stairs to her room.

Geillis turned down the blankets and he gently laid her on the bed. He stood up and stepped back, allowing the secretary to remove Claire’s shoes and cover her with the blankets. They left the room together and Geillis walked him down the stairs and back to the front door.

“Thank you Mr. Fraser.”

“Ach. Call me Jamie. Yer Claire’s friend and she’s mine. So that makes us friends too.”

“Alright. Jamie. I’m Geillis then.”

“Goodnight Geillis.”

“Night Jamie.”

Chapter Text

When Jamie got back to the car, Hector held the door for him and then resumed the driver’s seat to drive them back to the group home.

Ellen looked at her son steadily. “Now it’s just there something ye’d like to share son?”

Jamie looked at his mother. Ian and Jenny had caught a ride with Murtagh so it was just the two of them. He sighed.

“Mam, she does’na feel the same and I’ll no risk the friendship.” He didn’t bother to deny how he felt about Claire. His mother had always been able to tell what he was thinking, though most people couldn’t.

“I think you’d be surprised son. I saw the way she looked at you tonight.”

Jamie scoffed. “It was just performing Mam. Claire’s a professional.”

“So are you. Are you telling me that you were just performing?” Ellen arched a brow.

“No, but it’s no the same Mam. I’m no sayin’ I’ll never win her heart, but I ken that right now she sees me as a friend. I dinna intend to push her for more than she wants.”

“But you do intend to try and win her heart.” Ellen clarified.

A slow shy smile stole over the young man’s face. “Aye.”

“Alright then. I won’t tease ye. She’s a lovely girl and I’d be happy for ye.”

“I love you Mam.”

“I love you too Jamie.”

Ellen went home the following day. She wasn’t fond of traveling on the weekend as the train was so crowded, but she wanted to spend Sunday with Brian.

Rehearsals for the Autumn series continued and the days fell into a pattern. Ian and Jenny continued to come on Wednesdays to play with Claire. Now more often than not, Jamie joined them. He played piano passably and could take over the keyboard part while Jenny and Claire rehearsed with violin and cello. They frequently stayed to supper, and Wednesdays became the high point of Claire’s week.

Frank had started coming around more often too, although Claire was adamant that meetings with him were not to be scheduled for Wednesday. Every meeting was him trying to persuade Claire to book larger venues or more performances. Claire had to admit that his arguments were sound. People did rely on their income more so than she. Still she hesitated.

“I’m just not sure that adding more performances is a good idea, or for that matter performing in larger venues. I can read the receipts just as well as you can Mr. Randall, and we aren’t selling enough tickets to fill some of the smaller venues as it is. Performing in a larger one will just make that more apparent and it might worry people even more.”

Frank threw up his hands. “Fine then. I’ll concede that, if you’ll concede that you must come to more of the receptions. We need to replace three patrons and if we don’t we’ll have to let some people go. We cannot continue to sustain the number of performers on the current income.”

Claire sighed. She hated the receptions. But Frank was correct, they did need to replace the patrons. Slowly she nodded. “Alright. I’ll come to more of the receptions.”

Frank sat back satisfied for the moment. He’d won this round.

October 20th 1937

She was seventeen today. They were having a small party to celebrate and all the musicians she worked with had come. It was held at their main rehearsal hall, as that was the only place large enough to hold everyone. Mr. Randall had insisted on having it catered in order to give Mrs. G. the day off.

Everyone Claire knew was there, including Uncle Lamb. Someone had brought records and people were laughing and dancing and having a good time. The only person missing was Ian as he had gone away to university in August. Jenny seemed to be having fun anyway, dancing with Geillis and Gayle. The three of them had become close over Wednesday night dinners.

Claire was seated at a table by herself, watching the crowd. They had already sung to her and cut an enormous cake. Everyone seemed to be happy, and she was glad. There was a lot of depressing news lately, more economic troubles around the world and although she had attended all the receptions Frank asked her to, they had only managed to replace two of the patrons. Claire knew that if they couldn’t replace the third one by the end of this series, they were going to have to hire fewer people for the next one, or add more performances to make up the difference in revenue.

“May I sit here?” Claire looked up to see Laoghaire standing next to the table.

“Of course.” The other girl sat down and asked… “why are ye sittin’ by yerself moping on yer birthday instead of enjoying the party?”

Claire looked surprised. “I am enjoying the party. Sometimes it’s just nice to sit and take pleasure in the enjoyment of those around you.”

“Ach, ye dinna have to pretend. I can tell yer sad.” Laoghaire said earnestly.

“Well, maybe a little. I always miss my parents on days like today.”

The other girl nodded. “’tis hard when ye have no one special to share the day with.”

That isn’t what I said Claire thought and went to answer when Laoghaire went on. “That’s why I’m so glad I have Jamie.” She smiled and waved at Jamie Fraser who raised a hand in acknowledgement.

Claire didn’t say anything. She hadn’t been aware that Jamie and Laoghaire were an item, but it wasn’t any of her business either, and gossip didn’t interest her. That didn’t seem to stop the other girl from continuing. “He’s talkin’ to me Da now, and I expect we’ll make the announcement when we go home for Christmas.”

“Congratulations.” Claire said sincerely. She knew exactly what Laoghaire was talking about and although Jenny hadn’t said anything to her, Claire didn’t intend to challenge the girl’s assertion. She was a bit hurt that Jamie hadn’t told her, but thought perhaps he was waiting until he’d talked to Mr. Mackenzie.

“Thank you.” Laoghaire said smugly. “Dinna fash though, we plan to sing for at least another two years. Jamie has to save up for university and I’d like to put something away for a house. I dinna want to start a family living in a flat ye ken.”

“Wouldn’t you live at Lallybroch?” Claire couldn’t help but inquire.

“Oh sure if Jamie wanted to. It does’na matter to me where we live, just as long as we’re together.”

Claire nodded, but didn’t say anything more.

Laoghaire stood. “Well, I’ve rested enough. I’ll go see if I can get my man to dance with me.” She crossed the room to Jamie and said something to him. He shook his head and she grabbed his hand. Laughing, she dragged him onto the dance floor. He followed her with a resigned look.

Suddenly all the fun had gone out of Claire’s evening. She left the room in search of her uncle and asked to be taken home. A sudden headache was her excuse.

The final two weeks of the fall series went well, and Claire was glad when they were over. Due to rehearsals that were happening concurrently for the holiday series, Jenny and Jamie hadn’t come over on Wednesdays, they were all at rehearsals all day instead.

This would be the last holiday series that Lesley would sing with them, he was getting married to Lizzie (not to be confused with Elizabeth Mackenzie the contralto, who he had dated briefly some years earlier) over Christmas and would take over the care of Claire’s instruments in January. Lizzie’s father would retire then.

Claire had decided to do fewer solo pieces and schedule more duets for the holiday series this year. Currently the program had her singing with all the men once and Jamie twice. She decided to ask him if he’d rather sing a duet with Laoghaire.

Claire didn’t get the opportunity to do so until the week before Thanksgiving. They had gone back to their normal rehearsal schedule that week, with Wednesdays off and so Jenny had come over with Jamie for the afternoon. They stayed to supper and Claire thought this would be the perfect time.

“Jamie, I was wondering, would you like to sing one of the duets with Laoghaire?”

He choked on the food in his mouth. “Laoghaire? God no. Why on earth do ye ask that?”

Claire frowned. “Well, when she told me about your relationship I just naturally assumed you’d want to sing with her.”

Jenny interrupted. “What relationship? Claire, what did Laoghaire say to you and when did she say it? Tell me word for word what she said to you.”

Now Claire was confused. Why did Jenny sound angry?

“Laoghaire sat with me for a few minutes at my birthday party. She said I seemed sad. I told her I was a little, just missing my parents. I always miss my parents on days like that. Then she said something about not having anyone special to share the day with, and that she was glad she had Jamie.”

Jamie’s face had started to darken.

Claire thought for a minute. “I didn’t mean it the way she took it and started to tell her that I have lots of people to share my days with. Before I could say anything though, she talked about how you Jamie, were talking to her father and that you would probably make the announcement when you went home for Christmas. Then she told me that you would sing for another two years because she wanted to save for a house.”

Now Jamie looked like a thundercloud.

“I assumed she must mean that you were engaged, and I just thought you’d want to sing with her for the holiday series.” Claire ended in a very small voice. “I’m sorry. Was I not supposed to mention it?”

Jamie’s face abruptly softened. “Tis no you I’m angry with leannan. Tis Laoghaire.”

“Why? I’m sure Laoghaire assumed I knew because we’re friends. I promise Jamie I haven’t said anything to anyone. I thought you must want to keep it private when you didn’t say anything to me.”

Jenny snorted. “There isn’t anythin’ for ye to be sorry over.” Then she turned to her brother.

“Now do ye believe me ye numpty? I warned ye she was scheming to trap ye into something when she kept trying to get into yer room at night, when we stayed the week at Rose House while Uncle Murtagh was on that trip to see Willie.”

Her brother nodded. “I believe ye Jenny. Claire. I’m no keeping company with Laoghaire and I’ve NO intention of proposing to her. She’s made that up out of whole cloth. I’ve not spoken more than a dozen words to the girl since I came here.”

“Oh, but I saw you dancing at the party.” Claire said in confusion.

Jamie groaned. “What ye saw was her dragging me onto the dance floor for thirty seconds and me walking back off it as soon as she let go my hand. I didn’t want to hurt her and she has a tight grip when she wants one.”

“She’s a flautist. They have surprisingly strong hands.” Claire said absently. “So, you aren’t getting married?”

“No. I’m no even courting anyone.”

“Do you like anyone? Sorry. That was rude. It’s none of my business.”

“Yes Jamie? Do you like anyone?” Jenny asked archly.

“Janet.” Jamie said warningly. His sister started laughing. “Oh, the look on yer face. Yer too easy to tease.”

“I’m more interested in spending time with my friends at the moment.” Jamie said with grave dignity.

He looked at Claire. “However, should I decide to declare my interest in a lass Sassenach, I promise ye’ll be the first person I tell.”

Jenny’s brows rose at that as did Geillis’ but both wiped their faces blank before Claire turned to look at them.

“Truly?” Claire asked.

“Truly. Yer my best friend ye ken.” Jamie smiled at her.

“Well, except for Ian.” Claire corrected.

Jamie shook his head. “Nah. Ian is the brother of my heart tis true. But you are my best friend.”

“Oh.” Claire said in a small voice with a blush. “You’re my best friend too you know. And I’m not just saying that because you did.” She finished a bit more forcefully.

They stared at each other for a minute and then Geillis spoke up before it could get awkward.

“So now the only question is, what are ye goin’ to do about Laoghaire and her false tales?”

Chapter Text

They talked it over with Ellen at a Wednesday dinner, when she came to London for the holiday series. It was decided that Jamie would confront Laoghaire when they all went home for Christmas.

“I dinna want to humiliate the lass, and although I’m angry with her for deceiving ye, she did’na outright say that we were engaged, just more hinted at things so you’d make the assumptions ye did.”

“I don’t want to see Laoghaire humiliated either. It’s possible I misunderstood her.” Claire said.

Geillis and Jenny both snorted. “No ye did’na. She meant for you to think she and Jamie were together. She’s always been jealous of ye hen and she’s even more jealous now.”

“Why now? I’m not doing anything differently than I always have.” Claire protested.

Ellen explained. “Laoghaire has been infatuated with my son for a few years now, ever since he stopped her brother from hurting her in school one time. She took Jamie’s natural dislike of bullies as a sign that he was interested in her romantically.”

Jenny put in, “Aye. Ye must remember me taking her to task over it when she first arrived.”

“I do.”

“Well, she’s still sweet on him although Jamie’s never given her any encouragement. Now he’s here, but he spends his time wit you.”

“And you. You’re his sister, of course he’s going to want to spend time with you.” Claire didn’t have any siblings, but she assumed that sibling relationships were like the one she had with Joe.

“I love Janet, but I come here on Wednesdays to spend time with you Sassenach.”

“Well,"  Claire said a little flustered and not sure how to respond, "I’m simply saying that’s not a reason for Laoghaire to be jealous. She’s so beautiful, she could have boys flock around her like bees around a rose. Why would she be upset because my friend is spending one day a week with me?”

Geillis shook her head. “Dinna try to understand a girl like Laoghaire. Ye’ll just gie yerself a headache.”

“Aye. And to my way of thinking she’s no as beautiful as ye are. I dinna mean to embarrass ye Claire, but Laoghaire may be pretty on the outside, but she’s an ugly spirit. Yer beautiful all the way through.” Jamie added his thoughts.

Claire blushed scarlet. “Thank you Jamie.”

The lass didn’t believe him, Jamie could tell. He went to reassure her and Ellen shook her head. Let it go. She mouthed. The young man nodded.

“Well. So hen does that answer yer original question?” Claire looked at Geillis blankly. “About the duet.”

Everyone started laughing. “I guess it does.”

The first four concerts of the holiday series went well. Everyone went home for Christmas and Claire spent the holidays quietly with Joe and Gayle. Geillis had gone to Scotland with everyone else. She had a beau, and wanted to spend the break with him. Claire knew that it was Dougal Mackenzie, but Geillis had sworn her to secrecy.

“I ken that he’s much older than I am, but I dinna care. He loves me and I love him.”

Claire was skeptical. “If he loves you then why is it a secret?”

“It’s only a secret for a few more weeks. He wants to tell his brother in person. That’s why I’m going to Scotland with everyone.”

“Does Jenny know?”

“Yes. I’m traveling with her and I’ll stay at Lallybroch. Dougal does’na want my reputation to suffer.”

“Ellen knows, right?”

“Aye.” Geillis would never confess it but she was scared that Dougal’s brother wouldn’t approve of her.

“Oh, then you have nothing to worry about. She’s a lovely person and you know she likes you. His brother will too.”

“His brother may approve of me as yer secretary, and perhaps a fling for his brother. As Dougal’s wife I dinna ken that he will.”

“Don’t be silly Geillis. I’m sure he’ll just want his brother to be happy. Besides. He didn’t approve of Ellen marrying Mr. Fraser. It didn’t stop her and it wouldn’t stop Dougal marrying you either.”

“Do ye truly think so?”

“I do.” Claire said firmly.

Thus fortified, Geillis left for the holidays.

December 1937 – Lallybroch

“Oh God Jenny. What if Colum does’na approve?”

“Geillis. Calm down. Claire already told you it won’t make a difference. Besides. My mother loves you and she’s thrilled that you make Uncle Dougal so happy.”

Jenny made a face.

“What? Why are ye makin’ that face?”

“I just realized. You’ll be my aunt.”

Geillis stared at her for a minute and then burst out laughing. Jenny joined her and they laughed until their stomachs were sore.

In the end she needn’t have worried. Like Ellen, Colum was happy for the couple. Even Dougal’s daughter was welcoming although she was older than Geillis.

“All I care about is Da’s happiness ye ken. I dinna think I’ve seen him smile this much ever.” Maggie paused. “There’s just the one thing. Seein’ as yer younger than I am, do ye mind if I dinna call ye Mam?”

Geillis sighed in relief. “No I dinna mind. Geillis is just fine.”

Dougal proposed at midnight on Hogmanay, taking her into Ellen’s walled garden to do the asking. He even got down on one knee for her, which he hadn’t done with his first wife. The ring was small, but beautiful in an antique setting. It had been his mother’s he said. Gellis cried a little, and so did Dougal. He hadn’t loved his first wife, but he did love Geillis. No one would ever believe the stoic, gruff businessman could be a romantic. But with Geillis, in private… he could be.


Jamie had talked it over with his parents and decided to wait until the day after Hogmanay to confront Laoghaire. Geillis offered to be there and Jenny had a better idea.

“I think we should tell Uncle Dougal and Laoghaire’s Da. If we do this right we can talk to her somewhere that they can listen without being seen.”

“I’m no sure about that Jenny. I dinna want to cause trouble for the girl, I just want her to stop chasin’ me.”

“So yer no angry that she lied to Claire to try and stop her being friends wit ye?”

Jamie rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, aye, I am a bit mad about that, but still...”

“Fine. Let’s just tell Uncle Dougal and her Da together and let them decide what to do from there.”


The three went to Dougal who then went with them to talk to Joseph, Laoghaire’s father.

They laid out the entire story beginning with Jamie’s intervention at school, Jenny’s conversation with her at the pub and their conversation with Claire.

“I’m sorry Mr. Mackenzie, I dinna wish to upset yer daughter, but I’m no interested in her romantically and I really resent her spreading tales to my friends about me.”

“Dinna fash lad, ‘tis nothin’ ye said or did.” Joseph stroked his chin. “How to deal wit it is the question. I could just keep her home, no let her go back to London.”

Dougal and Jamie both shook their heads.

“Ye canna do that Mr. Mackenzie. The money she brings in helps yer family.”

“True.” The man looked torn. On the one hand they did need the money. On the other hand, if she kept up it would make working conditions unpleasant for everyone.

“Alright. Jamie lad, I’d appreciate it if ye’d confront her on yer own. Come to the house and do it. Ye can talk in the kitchen and I’ll stand in the hall and listen so she canna twist yer words. Dougal, Geillis, if ye’d like ye can listen in wit me.”

Joseph turned to Jenny. “It’s no that I mind ye hearing as well lass, but Geillis is Claire’s secretary and Dougal is Laoghaire’s employer. Ye dinna really have a compelling interest. What I do plan to do however is ask Himself to listen in. Jamie is his son after all.”

Jenny trusted Geillis to look after Jamie’s best interests, and so didn’t put up a fuss. She did have one suggestion though. “Ye’d be better off askin’ me Mam. Da’s likely to lose his temper over it. He canna stand female melodrama.”

Dougal and Joseph both nodded. “Aye.”

The day after Hogmanay Jamie knocked on the Mackenzie’s front door. Mary, Laoghaire’s mother answered it. Ellen, Geillis and Dougal had already gone around to the back door and been let in by Joseph.

“Ah, good morning Mrs. Mackenzie. Is Laoghaire at home?”

“Good morning young Jamie. Aye, she’s home. In the kitchen in fact, doing the washing up from breakfast. Go ahead on in. I’ll be upstairs.”

Mary didn’t have any idea that something was going on. She was ambitious for her daughter and was beyond thrilled that the son of Himself was coming to call. Taking herself upstairs would give the young people plenty of space. She could only hope that something came of it.

Jamie went into the kitchen and announced his presence. Laoghaire turned away from the dishes she was drying and went towards him with a smile.

“Jamie. I did’na ken ye planned to call today.”

He held his arms out to prevent her from touching him. “This isn’t a social call Laoghaire. I’ve something I’d like to discuss with ye about a conversation ye had with a friend of mine in London.”

“I have’na...” the girl started to say. Jamie cut her off.

“Answer me truly Laoghaire. Did ye tell Claire Beauchamp that ye expected me to propose to ye?”

Laoghaire hemmed and hawed. “I dinna ken what yer talkin’ about.”

“Fine. Did you have a conversation with Claire Beauchamp at her birthday party?”

“A…aye.” She stuttered.

“What did ye talk about?”

“I… she said she was sad and missed her parents.”

“Aye, then what?”

“I… told her it must be hard no having someone special to share the day wit.”

“And then? What did ye say then?”

Laoghaire scrambled trying to think of what to tell him. She never expected in a million years that Claire would have shared their conversation with Jamie.

Jamie stepped closer and hissed at her… “dinna lie to me Laoghaire Mackenzie. What. Did. You. Say?”

Suddenly Laoghaire’s temper snapped. “I told her that I was glad I had you and that we were going to make an announcement over the holidays.”

Jamie nodded at the confirmation. “And why did you lie to her like that? Ye ken there is nothing between us. I stopped yer brother from hurting ye and I’m glad to have done so, but that’s all there ever was. I dinna like ye that way Laoghaire.”

“Because I’m sick of Claire Beauchamp getting everything and everyone. I wanted just once to have something she didn’t. And you did like me. You did! Until that Sassenach whore turned yer head.”

“DINNA CALL HER THAT!” Jamie roared.

“Oh shite!” Geillis hissed looking at Dougal. Jamie’s temper was a legend. She’d heard about it from Jenny but never witnessed it first hand. “Should we go out there?”

“Nah. He may yell, but Jamie will never strike a woman.” Dougal replied putting his arm around her waist. Joseph was shaking his head and Ellen had covered her face with her hand.

“I’ll call her whatever I like. She struts around like she’s some special gift to mankind and we’re all supposed to be sooo grateful that she allows us to perform with her. If it wasn’t for her manager, she’d be nothing and nobody. Paul Abernathy made her what she is. It’s all about promotion and she was lucky enough to be born to famous parents.”

Jamie was so angry he was literally seeing red. He couldn’t even speak for fear of what he would say.

Laoghaire rushed on, completely unaware of how much danger she was in.

“You dinna ken Jamie, ye just came to London. She flirts wit all the lads, and monopolizes their time. They all pant after her like they’re dogs and she’s in heat. It’s disgusting. I’m no like that. I dinna flirt wit anyone. I’ve been waiting for ye.”

Geillis started forward in anger and Ellen looked at Joseph. “I’ve heard enough.” Putting action to words she stepped in front of Geillis and pushed open the door into the kitchen. The rest of them followed, and stood by the doorway while Ellen went to her son. Dougal was holding an enraged Geillis back.

Jamie was standing there snorting like a bull, clenching and unclenching his fists. He’d never EVER struck a woman or even thought about it, but right now it was taking all of his self control not to.

“Come on mo mac. Let’s go outside.” Ellen took his elbow and gently steered him out of the room.

Chapter Text

With Ellen and Jamie out of the room, Laoghaire turned to the other three.

“Da? Why are Mrs. Fraser and Mr. Mackenzie here?"  She saw Geillis too. "Miss Duncan? Did ye need something?”

Ignoring her for the moment, Joseph turned to Dougal. “I dinna care what I said before. I’ll no be bringing her back. Her younger sister just turned sixteen, and if ye need the voice, we can work around the rest of Glenna’s schooling. She is’na quite as advanced on the flute but she does play. ‘Twas easier for them both to learn the same thing ye ken.”

Dougal nodded. “I’m sure we can work something out Joseph. Let’s meet down to the pub this evening and talk about it.” Geillis started to say something when Dougal stopped her. “Let Joseph handle this mo chride.”

Geillis took a deep breath and nodded.

“I promise ye Miss Duncan, I will take care o this. Dougal… I’ll see ye at the pub later… and thank ye.” Shaking hands, Dougal escorted Geillis out the door, leaving Laoghaire with her father.

“Da, what did ye mean about Glenna? Surely ye are’na thinking of bringing her to London. Mam wanted her to finish school.” Laoghaire didn’t want her little sister telling tales on her either.

Joseph looked at his oldest daughter in disgust. “I’ll gie ye house room until ye get marrit, but you’ll get a job and ye’ll pay rent, seein’ as yer 18.”

“Da, what are ye talkin’ about. I have a job. In London.”

“Not anymore ye dinna. Ye’ll no be goin back.”

“You can’t do that Da. ‘Tis no you who’re in charge anyway, and as ye say, I’m 18.”

“Dougal heard every word ye said about young Claire, and I’ll no put him in the position of having to fire both of us because of yer dislike of Miss Beauchamp. Nor will I risk losing the income this family needs.”

“I have’na said anythin’ to Claire. I have’na done anythin’ to her. I’ve been professional.” Laoghaire protested.

“You lied to her you stupid girl. She kens it. Jamie kens it and so does Dougal, Ellen, Geillis, Jenny and Laird Broch Tuarach. What, did you think she would’na ask him about yer so called announcement? They’re friends. They’ve been writing to each other once a week for over two years. According to Dougal young Jamie and Jenny eat supper with Claire every Wednesday.”

Joseph paused and took a deep breath, then continued at a lower volume. “If you insist on Dougal firing you in person, I’ll call him. He thought to spare you the embarrassment of him being the one to tell ye, but I dinna care. You’ll no drag this family down because ye lust after a boy that is’na interested.”

So saying the irate father left the room. Running in to his wife in the hall, he filled her in on the morning’s events. His wife’s first concern was the loss of income. It was getting more and more difficult to make ends meet, even with two members of the family working in London.

“I offered to have Glenna take Laoghaire’s place in London. Dougal said we could work it out. Where is she anyway?”

“Glenna’s at the library studying. She’s on track to get near perfect marks for the year. She’s hoping to get a scholarship and go to university. She wants to train as a physician. Ye ken that the Duke of Arghyll sponsors the Valedictorian of each graduating class, and we need a physician in Broch Morda. Dr. Beeton is getting on in years and wants to retire. He’s been letting her help him at his office on weekends and teaching her as he can already.”

Joseph shook head. “It canna be helped. I ken she wanted to go to university, but we canna afford the loss of income.” He was heartsick about Glenna losing her chance at an education, but that was the way of the world.

Glenna for her part was heartbroken when she came home and her Da told her what had to happen. However, the girl loved her family and especially her three young brothers and one young sister who were all far too young to be leaving school. Her oldest brother had run off shortly after graduation and no one knew where he was.

“I’ll do it Da. I ken that I’m no at the level Laoghaire is on the flute, but I’ll try my hardest to advance as quickly as I can.”

“Yer a good girl Glenna. I’m that sorry about ye having to leave school, but I dinna ken what else to do. We need the money to keep the younger children in school.”

“I ken it.”

He put his hands on her shoulders. “I swear to ye Glenna, as soon as we can manage it, I’ll find some way to get ye to university.”

The girl shook her head. “Dinna make a promise ye ken ye canna keep Da. “Tis no your fault this happened, tis Laoghaire’s. She’s the only one I’m angry wit.”

“I’m angry with her too, make no mistake. I need to get down to the pub and talk things over with Dougal. Tell yer Mam I’ll be home in a couple of hours and to please save me some supper.”

“Aye Da.”

It was no secret that Glenna Mackenzie was being groomed to become Broch Morda’s next physician when Tom Beeton retired. The girl was wicked smart and had an instinctive understanding of the healing arts.

So when Joseph told Dougal his plan, Dougal knew what the cost would be, not just to Glenna, but to the community. He resolved that there had to be another way to solve the problem that Laoghaire had become. He just couldn’t think of a solution. Thankfully, he had a good idea of who could. He drove Geillis back to Lallybroch and sought out his brother-in-law. Ellen was still out with Jamie somewhere calming him down.

Dougal shook his head. The lad had it bad for young Claire. Well, she was a good girl and his nephew would treat her right. Damn Laoghaire Mackenzie and her stupidity anyway.

Geillis gave him a kiss goodbye and went off to find Jenny, while he went to Brian’s study and knocked on the door.

“Come in.” Brian called out.

Dougal pushed open the door. “Can I speak with ye about something Brian?”

“Of course. What’s on yer mind?”

Dougal laid out the situation, knowing that Jamie had told Brian about Laoghaire’s behavior, but filling him in on the end result of this morning’s confrontation.

“I dinna ken what to do. I know they need the income to keep the younger children in school, but if Glenna does’na stay in school and get her medical degree, we wil’na have a physician when old Tom retires. Besides, it sticks in my craw that young Glenna will pay for her sister’s bad behavior. Tis no just.”

“No, it isn’t.” Brian sat there for a minute and then looked up as Ellen came into the room.

“Where’s Jamie?” He asked.

“Out riding. He’s calmer now, but still verra upset. I sent him off on Donas to get rid of some of that energy.” She raised a brow at Dougal. “What happened after we left?”

“Laoghaire is’na returning to London. Joseph was verra embarrassed by her behavior, though I did’na get the impression that the girl herself was.”

“How will that affect performances?”

“That’s the thing. Joseph suggested Glenna take her sister’s place.”

“Oh but she canna. She needs to finish school!” Ellen protested.

“I ken. Twill impact the whole area if she does’na become a doctor. On the other hand, Joseph’s family needs the income Laoghaire brought in. They still have four younger children at home.”

The three sat and turned the problem over in their minds.

“The difficulty will be helping them without Joseph seeing it as charity. He’s a proud are all Mackenzies”, Brian said dryly.

“Fraser’s have a healthy dose of pride as well.” Ellen retorted.

“Aye. So I sympathize with the man.” Brian replied.

“Is Glenna still on track to be Valedictorian?” He finally asked.

“She is. Young Glenna has the highest grade point average in the entire school. She also volunteers at the church clinic three days a week and helps out Doctor Beeton on Saturday mornings. She sings in the school choir and the church choir, and plays in the orchestra. So between her academics and her after-school activities, the young lady is well rounded, and an excellent candidate for the Arghyll sponsorship. She is set to graduate in the spring.”

Dougal swore. “I canna stomach the thought of the lass being so close and having to leave school.”

“I think we can work it out so she does’na have to. Excuse me a moment, I need to make a phone call.”

Telephones weren’t in every home, but Brian had one installed at Lallybroch, and he knew the Duke of Arghyll had one as well. He placed a call to Richard and explained the situation to him. Both men knew that training the girl as a physician was a priority for the area, and after some discussion, they came to a consensus. Brian hung up the phone and returned to the study.

“I’ve spoke to Richard and he agrees that if she keeps her grades up for the final term he’ll sponsor her. Tis no really a gamble on his part, but now he’s aware of it.”

“That’s fine for young Glenna, but what about the rest of the family?” Ellen wanted to know.

“That’s where we come in my dear. Dougal, with your permission, I’ll come with ye to the pub tonight. I plan to sponsor Glenna, on the understanding that once she’s finished her studies, she’s obligated to come back and take over for Tom.”

Dougal looked confused. “But she plans to do that anyway.”

“I ken. But this way, it will seem as though she’s no receiving charity, which hopefully will allow Joseph to swallow his pride enough to accept the help.”

“Alright, what will this sponsorship look like?”

“Glenna will move to Lallybroch. She’ll attend school, continue with her other activities and also help Mrs. Crook and Ellen. In return, I’ll pay her a stipend and also her family to compensate them for the loss of her help at home.”

Ellen smiled. “Practically, it will also remove her from the house so Laoghaire canna try to sabotage her prospects.” Brian nodded.

“Do you think Joseph will accept the offer?” He asked Dougal.

Dougal shrugged. “If ye explain that yer motives are selfish… to provide help for Ellen and also ensure a physician for the area… he might. I ken that Joseph loves his daughter and he’s that proud of her. Always shares her marks with everyone, and speaks of her kindness.”

“Alright then, I’ll approach it from that angle. See if I can convince him.”

Joseph was a bit taken aback when he arrived at the pub to see Brian Fraser with Dougal. Sliding into the bench opposite them, he greeted both men and then began… “Laird Broch Tuarach, I’m sorry…”

He didn’t get any further. Brian held up a hand and said… “let me stop you before you start. Joseph tis no your fault the lass let her infatuation run away with her. It’s been handled and I’ve no concerns or complaints about that. I’m actually here to discuss Glenna’s future wit ye.”

Brian laid out his plan to keep Glenna in school and still allow Joseph’s family to make ends meet.

Joseph wasn’t a fool, he knew that this was, to a certain degree, charity. On the other hand, Brian Fraser made some very good points about the impact it would have on the area if there was no physician. Of course, they could always advertise for one, which he pointed out. Dougal replied with the fact that Glenna was already known to everyone, and that she would have an easier time gaining the trust of the locals, who were not very welcoming to outsiders. Dougal also shared his unease at the thought of Glenna paying for her sister’s mistakes.

Joseph didn’t like that idea either. He sat back and thought about the proposal while sipping his ale.

“The details of this do no have to be common knowledge ye ken. Since Glenna will be living at Lallybroch, and ye will be in London, ‘tis just as easy to raise the amount ye send home to Mary.” Brian offered.

Joseph nodded. “That might be best. I love my wife but she’s a terrible gossip and I dinna want people to think I’m takin’ charity.”

“As to that Joseph, I dinna mind telling ye, that there are any number of additional tasks I can have ye be doing in London to justify the increase in pay. Paperwork and phone calls...things of that nature. Ye could also start attending receptions with me, yer a handsome bloke, the patron’s wives will love cooing over ye.”

Brian started to laugh. “Putting up with that nonsense is worth double the pay all by itself.”

Joseph slowly nodded. “Alright. we’ll do it that way. Thank you. Thank you both. When I told Glenna this afternoon that she’d have to quit school… she agreed right away but I could see her heart breaking. She’s always been such a good girl and I hated...” his voice cracked and Joseph cleared his throat.

“Think nothing of it man. Her becoming a doctor benefits us all. I’m glad we were able to work it out.” Brian said.

The men all stood and shook hands. Joseph left the pub to return home and tell Glenna. Brian and Dougal sat back down to finish their drinks.

“That was satisfying.” Dougal remarked.

“Aye. That it was.” Brian responded.

Chapter Text

Jamie thundered over the land on Donas, his mind in an uproar. He’d never in his life been tempted to strike a woman before today. Truly, if his Mam hadn’t come in, the young man wasn’t sure if he could have prevented himself from slapping Laoghaire right across the face.

Part of him was ashamed at his lack of self control. Part of him wondered what it was that caused such a strong reaction. He might be in love with Claire, but as far as she was concerned, they were just friends. He had no claim on her whatsoever. She was not his to protect.

But protective he was, just the same. When Laoghaire had accused her of being a whore, an anger that he’d never felt before had risen to the surface. He’d heard the phrase ‘seeing red’ but before this morning, he’d never experienced it. It was a little unsettling to be honest.

He still couldn’t think clearly. His Mam had hustled him into the family car and driven him back to Lallybroch. She hadn’t spoken, and neither had he. When they’d pulled into the courtyard, she’d turned to him and said… “Go. Saddle up that devil horse of yers and take him for a run. It will do the both of you some good. We’ll talk when ye return.”

So he did. Jamie mostly let Donas have his head, there wasn’t much trouble they could get into on Fraser land. They alternately ran and walked for almost four hours. It was well into the afternoon when Jamie felt calm enough to turn back towards the house.

He gave Donas a good rub down and brushing, then made sure his feed box and water trough were full. Making his way into the house, Jamie realized that he was ravenous. He headed for the kitchen.

Mrs. Crook was there, making supper. “Is there anythin’ left from lunch Mrs. C.?” he asked, with a pleading look. The housekeeper laughed. “Of course lad. There’s a plate for you being kept warm and if that is no enough, I’ve some fresh bannocks with butter and jam that can fill up the rest of the crannies… or at least tide you over until supper.”

“Thank ye.” Giving her a kiss on the cheek, he accepted the plate and sat down at the sturdy table in the kitchen. Once he had cleared the plate (and eaten half a dozen of the fresh bannocks), Jamie went looking for his parents.

He found them in his Da’s study with his Uncle Dougal.

“Better?” His Mam asked.

“A bit. I dinna think I’m ready to talk about it though. I’m still angry.”

The three adults nodded. “Dinna fash lad, we’ll get it sorted. I can tell ye that Laoghaire will no be coming back to London. I’ll no take the chance of her causing a problem between our group and young Claire.”

Jamie was surprised. “What about her family? Do they no need the money she brings home?” Like most small towns, everyone in Broch Morda knew everyone else’s business to a certain extent, and Mrs. Mackenzie wasn’t the most discreet person.

“Yer Da and I are leaving to go work that out with Joseph in a few minutes. We’ve hit upon a plan that will replace the income without young Glenna having to leave school.”

Jamie hadn’t thought about Glenna. “Why would Glenna...?” His brain caught up with his mouth. “Oh.” He felt bad. Then his Mam spoke.

“I see that look on yer face mo mac, dinna take this onto yourself. Laoghaire made her choices, and this situation is her fault alone. Ye’ve never given the girl any indication ye were interested in her. Besides, I think we’ve managed to work something out so her family will’na suffer for her choices either.”

“Alright.” Jamie bent down and kissed his mother. “Do ye ken where Jenny and Ian are?”

“I think they’re in the parlor. Jenny said she wanted to layabout and read this afternoon.”

Jamie said goodbye to his father and uncle, then left in search of them. The couple were in the parlor. Jenny was laying with her head in Ian’s lap, reading a book. Ian was reading a different book and playing with her hair. Gellis was also in the room, reading a magazine.

“Can I talk to ye about something?” Jamie asked coming into the room.

“Of course, as long as it does’na require me to move.” His sister said. She closed her book and placed it on the floor. Geillis nodded, and closed her magazine. Ian closed his book and put it on the side table. He smiled at Jamie.

“What’s got you out of sorts then?”

Jamie filled them in on what had happened with Laoghaire. Jenny made a noise of disgust.

“Stupid girl. It’s probably better I was’na there. I’d have slapped her silly for calling Claire that. You have more self control than I do Jamie.”

Geillis concurred. “Dougal had to hold me back from going in and smacking her. I dinna ken how you kept yer composure lad.”

He shook his head. “I was this close to striking her. I’ve never been so angry in my life.” Jamie paused. “Jenny, does Claire...have a beau?”

The subject change wasn’t random and Jenny knew it. “No. She does’na. In fact, Claire’s never had a beau. I’ve never seen her flirt with anyone either.”

The next question took a bit longer. The others waited patiently.

“Do ye… what does…” Jamie stood up abruptly. “Nevermind.” He hastily left the room.

Geillis rose to her feet. “Puir lad. He’s got it bad. I’m going to find Dougal.” She left the room.

Jenny had also started laughing softly and Ian kissed her nose. “Dinna laugh at him lass. I ken just how he feels.”

“Do ye now?”

“Aye. He finally kens his own heart and is afraid that the lass does’na feel for him what he feels for her. Tis a terrifying situation to be in. And unlike you mo chride, Claire is no likely to march up to the lad and propose.”

Jenny’s laughed louder. “No, yer likely right there. Well. We’ll just have to be supportive and let them find their own way to each other.”

Ian was surprised. “Ye dinna intend to meddle then?”

“I intend to meddle plenty. I just dinna intend for them to ken I’m meddling.”

“ careful.” Ian warned.

His beloved scoffed. “Of course I’ll be careful. I love the both of them. I dinna want to see either get hurt. But surely you agree that they are a good match?”

“Oh aye. I think everyone who kens the both of them can see that. Well, except perhaps Laoghaire Mackenzie, but she’s never been burdened with an abundance of sense.”

Jenny started giggling again and picked up her book. “I’m no going to push them at one another, I just plan to make sure that they dinna have the usual misunderstandings while they find their way. Claire is so reserved Jamie might mistake it for indifference, and Jamie is so used to hiding his feelings for her that Claire might no realize he’s even looking at her.”

“Except for when he sings with her. Then everyone can see exactly what he feels.” Ian said

“Everyone but Claire. She’s remarkably unaware of male attention for someone her age.” Jenny replied.

“Are ye sure she does’na see it?”

“Oh she sees it...but she does’na see it.”

They went back to reading, but the conversation was uppermost in their thoughts for the rest of the afternoon.

When Joseph Mackenzie returned home, his wife and two oldest daughters were waiting for him.

“I sent the younger children upstairs.” Mary said.

Her husband nodded. “Let’s go into the parlor, and I’ll tell ye what’s been decided.”

Mary led the way with the girls following. Laoghaire seemed subdued, Joseph wondered if the reality of the situation was finally sinking in. (It wasn’t, she was just sulking.) They all sat down, except for Joseph who went to the window and looked out for a moment. Sighing, he turned to face his wife and girls.

“First allow me to say, Laoghaire, I’m terribly disappointed in yer behavior. Ye put this entire family at risk to throw yerself at a boy who’s never shown the slightest interest in ye. I’ll no bring it up again, but that’s the truth of it.”

He turned to Glenna. “Let me set your mind at ease. Dougal Mackenzie went and talked to Brian Fraser. They both agree that it’s too important to the entire community that you become a doctor for you to have to leave school. So they worked it out with the Duke of Arghyll.”

Turning to Mary he said, “Glenna will be moving to Lallybroch after Mass on Sunday. She’ll stay there until she leaves for university. She’ll help Ellen and the housekeeper. The Frasers will pay her bed and board through university and medical school. In return, Glenna will need to sign a contract that she’ll come back and take over for Tom Beeton when he retires.

Dougal is going to increase my responsibilities in London enough to justify a pay raise that will make up what of Laoghaire’s salary, the rent she pays does’na. So your household funds will’na change.”

Looking at his oldest daughter he reminded her, “In addition, you’ll help yer Mam with the younger children and attend Mass with the family on Sunday. I’ll find out if ye don’t. There are’na many places hiring, but I spoke with McNabb at the pub. His daughter’s getting marrit and that leaves him short handed. He said he’d take ye on waiting tables to start.”

“But I want to work as a musician.” Laoghaire protested.

“Ye should have thought o that before ye ran yer mouth. If ye dinna want the job, yer welcome to try and find another.” Joseph said shortly.

“I’ll take the job.” The girl said sullenly. She already knew that jobs were scarce, and rationalized to herself that she could always quit when she found something better.

“Good.” Looking at Glenna again, he smiled softly. She was trying very hard to keep her composure, but the relief she felt was quite plain on her face.

“Thank ye Da, for working it out.”

He shook his head. “Twasn’t me though I am glad for ye. Yer a good girl Glenna and the Frasers ken it. Arghyll told Brian that he’d pay yer tuition to university regardless, but that if yer Valedictorian he’d pay ye a stipend to live on as well. We all ken old Beeton is just waiting for you to be trained up so he can retire. I dinna think I have to tell ye to keep doing yer best in school. It’s generous of both the Duke and the Fraser’s to sponsor you, but Mackenzies dinna take charity and I want you to work to deserve this chance they’re giving ye. Aye?”

“Yes Da.” Glenna said earnestly. “I promise.”

Glenna Mackenzie’s move to Lallybroch was accomplished quietly. She quickly integrated into life there and found that her chores were actually fewer than she’d had at home. Ellen did insist that she spend at least an hour a day on flute practice, and they spent Saturday mornings discussing music theory. Saturday afternoons were spent in Ellen’s massive herb garden, with Ellen taking the time to teach Glenna about the herbs she grew, their care, harvesting and medicinal properties. Most times, they sang as they gardened.

Truthfully, Glenna felt that her time at Lallybroch was more akin to her internship at the clinic. She was learning a great many things that would help in her future career, and given plenty of time to concentrate on school. In addition, she had more time to practice her flute and her singing, which were both relaxing to her and reduced the amount of pressure she felt to succeed in her studies.

Laoghaire wasn’t finding her changed circumstances to be nearly as pleasant. Her mother, relieved that her household budget wasn’t changing, was less than sympathetic to her complaints. “Yer Da’s right. Tis yer own fault yer in this situation, and I’m just grateful that it didn’t hurt the rest of the family.”

The blond was sure that her Mam was giving her more to do than Glenna had done, when did she have time to do all this housework? She was at school all day and the library most evenings.

That was true, but unlike Laoghaire, Glenna had long mastered the art of doing her household chores efficiently. Deciding early on that if she had to do them, it was much less time consuming to do them thoroughly the first time. To do things like the dishes right away, before the food dried and became more difficult to clean off. Laoghaire on the other hand, procrastinated as much as she dared, and found the job more difficult as a result. It was the same with scrubbing the floors and doing the laundry. Mopping once a day took fifteen minutes. Scrubbing once a week took over three hours because of all the dirt that had been ground into the floor. Folding clothes right off the line made fewer wrinkles than just dropping them in the basket, which in turn meant less ironing.

Laoghaire didn’t bother asking anyone though, just continued to make more work for herself and lament her plight.

Chapter Text

January 1938

Claire was a little surprised that Laoghaire didn’t return after the holidays. No one really shared the details with her, but Geillis did tell her that Dougal had fired the girl for unprofessional behavior.

Fortunately, the holiday series didn’t require two flutes and Claire was able to put one of her solo pieces back into the vocal program to replace Laoghaire.

It put a bit of pressure on Moira, she was now the only Lyric soprano as well as the only flautist, but they didn’t have many pieces that required a three part soprano split, so it would be alright until they could audition and hire another soprano. Dougal hoped it would be in time for the Spring series, he didn’t like uneven numbers.

Frank pushed for larger venues again in the January meeting and again Claire shot him down with Dougal and Joe backing her up. It was really beginning to frustrate the manager. He also wanted to know why Joseph Mackenzie and young James Fraser were at the meeting. Geillis he could understand and Joe too.

“This isn’t a general meeting. You shouldn’t be here.” Frank said directly to Jamie, hoping to embarrass him into leaving without a fuss. To his shock, the young man didn’t even acknowledge him, just looked at Dougal.

“He’s here to learn the business side of things. It’s long past time I took on an assistant, and with his Mam being who she is, Jamie’s a good choice. Just the Fraser name will open doors I canna.”

Dougal had been quite up front with Jamie about that aspect of teaching him to manage groups and while Jamie wanted to make it on his own merits, he was smart enough to realize that connections could help get a foot in the door.

“Alright, fine. What about him?” Pointing to Joseph. “He’s my personal secretary. We’re getting big enough that I need more help with administrative tasks. Besides, when Geillis and I get marrit, it will be helpful to have someone already trained to take notes and such.” Dougal explained.

“Married? You’re marrying Claire’s secretary?” Frank was so shocked it didn’t occur to him that anyone would be offended. Dougal’s face darkened. His fianceé shook her head. Geillis was already aware of Frank’s opinion of her, and it wasn’t worth the bother of confronting him.

“Aye.” Dougal said abruptly. “Which is not relevant to this meeting. Let’s get started.”

The meeting in question went over auditions for the Spring series and their needs based on the music they chose. Claire said she wanted to focus mainly on Bach this year. Even some of the choral pieces were composed by a Bach. Frank protested.

“Aren’t you worried that everything will start to sound the same to the audience?”

Claire shook her head. Dougal and Jamie started laughing. “Ye canna be serious?” Jamie blurted out.

Frank didn’t like being laughed at, and he certainly wasn’t going to tolerate being laughed at by a boy. He opened his mouth to put young Fraser in his place and Claire spoke.

“Mr. Randall, I’m sure you realize that there were over a dozen composers with the last name of Bach, who lived over the span of at least two hundred years. Some were instrumental composers and some were choral composers and some, such as Johann Sebastian Bach were both. I promise I wasn’t planning to pick all the works from J.S. Bach’s repertoire.” While she was trying to save him embarrassment, Claire thought it rather sad that a music manager wasn’t more knowledgeable about the music itself.

Frank did realize that. However. Most of the music of that two hundred years sounded the same to him. Personally, he preferred the more modern composers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Frank was smart enough not to mention that, as it would just give him the appearance of being a musical plebian. He visibly relaxed although inwardly he was seething. “Ah. Well. I confess that was my concern. If you plan to use several of the different Bach composers then it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Jamie and Dougal exchanged a look, but let it go. Then Frank moved on to concert venues.

“Have you given any thought to which venues we should schedule? I’ve been in contact with several of the larger...”

Claire sighed. “Mr. Randall. I told you I didn’t want to change the venues. You agreed that if I went to more of the receptions, you’d stop arguing about it. I still don’t want to change venues.”

Frank let it go more graciously than anyone in the room expected him to, but that was only because he had another trick up his sleeve. “That’s fine, we’ll need to talk about scheduling additional performances then. We cannot pay the musicians their current salaries with ticket revenues from only two shows per week. Now, I know that you refuse to play on Sunday...” He trailed off, only slightly annoyed when Claire merely nodded. Well, you didn’t really expect her to budge…

“So that leaves weekday performances.”

“What would be the point of that? People work during the week.” Joe protested.

“That’s true, but I was thinking of offering a discounted rate to schools in the areas that we’re playing. They could pay a set price to bring as many or as few students to a performance during the afternoon.”

The other people in the room looked at one another. It was… practically speaking, a brilliant idea. It would give them additional revenue, it would be in the afternoon rather than evening, so there still wouldn’t be late nights, finally, it would expose school children to professionally played classical music. Even the poor ones.

“That’s a wonderful idea Mr. Randall. Would schools be interested do you think?”

“I do. In fact, what gave me the idea is a similar program in the United States.”

“Oh? Is it in New York?” Claire missed the house in New York sometimes.

Frank shook his head. “No actually. It’s in a tiny town in the northernmost part of Michigan called Calumet. The winters there are particularly harsh, and the local mill owners bring famous actors and musicians in to entertain the workers and their families. They have a thriving music school there, similar to the one in Broch Morda. I thought of inviting schools, mainly because no one else is.”

“It really is an inspired idea Frank.” Joe knew that Frank’s motivation was money, but there were a lot of other positives to exposing schoolchildren to the quality of music Claire was able to perform.

“Mr. Mackenzie? What do you think?” Claire asked. She really loved the idea.

“Would it be just a performance? Or would we be teaching the children things too?”

“I… well… the thought of teaching didn’t really occur to me.” Frank stumbled.

Claire could see where Dougal’s thoughts were going.

“Oh… Mr. Mackenzie. What a lovely idea.” Claire thought for a minute. “Mr. Randall, if we gave a slightly shorter program than what we give in the evenings, we could rotate things so the musicians don’t become bored with the music, and use the rest of the time to answer the children’s questions about music.”

“Who would stay to answer the questions?” Frank asked.

“I would.” Came four separate voices.

Claire added. “The question part of it could be voluntary for the musicians. I know that not everyone likes talking to children or is comfortable answering questions in public. Or we could take turns if too many people wanted to stay for that part.”

Dougal nodded. “It would take some planning, but that would work quite well.”

“Mr. Mackenzie and I can work out a program for schools after we talk to everyone else. We could have something for you to propose to the schools in maybe… two weeks?” She looked at Dougal and he nodded.

“Aye. If we talk to the musicians at tomorrow’s rehearsal, we can meet on Wednesday. I ken ye have yer time with Jenny and Jamie in the afternoon, but Geillis invited me to the house for dinner. We could talk about it after… or even begin sharing ideas during the meal.”

“Alright, let’s do that.” Rising she said, “I’ll continue to go to the receptions, but I can’t go to every single one as I did last series. I’ll go to the Friday night receptions, but not the Saturday ones. I don’t like being so tired I can’t pay attention at Mass.”

Geillis hid a smile. Claire was getting very good at standing up for herself, and by the look on Frank’s face he was getting increasingly frustrated by it.

“Oh now Claire...” he said patronizingly. “You really need to go to both. We have different patrons each night and...”

Claire was shaking her head. “No. Especially if I’m going to be adding afternoon performances during the week. And I won’t perform on Wednesdays. That’s the only day I have to compose or work on things with Jamie and Jenny. So don’t schedule anything for that day.”

Frank made a frustrated sound, but nodded in acquiescence. The meeting ended with a few administrative details being discussed, and everyone got up to leave. Rehearsal had been canceled for the morning to make way for the meeting. Frank excused himself to go back to his office, and everyone else went to Claire’s for lunch before coming back to afternoon rehearsal.

She’s getting more and more difficult to handle, he thought. It also wasn’t lost on Frank that while Dougal was now invited to dine on Wednesdays, he never had been. Of course, Frank rationalized… that was only because of Dougal’s relationship with Geillis.

It still boggled his mind that Mackenzie had lowered his standards to marry a secretary. Geillis Duncan of all people. Frank couldn’t stand the woman. In his mind she was an overbearing obstructionist harpy. He couldn’t begin to count the number of times he told her to do something and she either ignored him completely, or reminded him that she worked for Claire not him. She wasn’t even pretty. Too pale and that hair! Not blond, not red, neither and both. Frank was convinced that she must dye it, and nice girls didn’t color their hair. (Or at least in his mind.) He wished he could fire the witch, but Claire was attached.

In reality, he couldn’t have fired Geillis no matter what excuse he made. Frank tended to conveniently forget that he worked for Claire, not the other way around. In his mind, Claire worked for him, so did all of her employees. It was that kind of casual arrogance that made Claire instinctively keep her distance, although neither she or Frank realized it.

He also didn’t realize that she was well over her infatuation with him. She remained polite at all times, which wasn’t any different than her behavior before. This gave Frank the impression that Claire still had a crush on him. As he walked along, the manager contemplated different strategies to get her the exposure he needed her to have in order to raise Claire to the level of Paganini. That kind of international fame that would last long after she had ceased performing.

Frank suspected that Claire was more inclined to stop performing at some point, most likely when she married. He knew that her mother had done so, as had Ellen Fraser. Claire was turning eighteen this year and although she didn’t have a beau at the moment, Frank knew it was just a matter of time. So he needed to get his name out there before she quit, in order to build his client base.

What Frank failed to understand, was that he needed to seek out clients. He had just signed on half a dozen groups in the United States, all of them former clients of Paul Abernathy. Paul had built his client base by seeking out new acts to manage and then promoting them. Frank Randall’s method had been to focus all his attention on Claire in the misguided notion that his star would rise with hers and that acts would seek him out. A point of view that unfortunately had been reinforced by these six groups and Geneva Dunsany.

Geneva was a lyric soprano with a solo act. Her sister Isobel, was an excellent flautist and pianist, who usually served as Geneva’s accompanist, and played a solo or two on the flute and piano in between Geneva’s sets. The Dunsany’s were unhappy with their current manager who hadn’t promoted her properly in America, according to her father. William Dunsany had contacted Frank and asked him to take both Geneva and Isobel as clients. Frank was flattered and since Geneva was already a big name on the concert circuit, he didn’t have to work to establish her, and could just reap the rewards of the manager that had quit.

So Frank had agreed. He had his first meeting with the Dunsanys later that month.

Chapter Text

Geneva Dunsany had a beautiful singing voice to match her beautiful face. Unfortunately for most people, her personality didn’t always match her appearance.

A child of wealthy and indulgent parents, Geneva had started singing lessons at the age of eight, along with piano. Her sister Isobel was two years younger, but started piano at the same time, and progressed much faster than Geneva did.

Instead of motivating her to practice more, the competition had led the elder sister to give up the piano entirely, and declare that she would concentrate on singing.

“Isobel can be my accompanist.” She had stated imperiously to her doting parents.

This suited the younger sister just fine. She was very shy and preferred to stay in her flamboyant sister’s shadow. At the age of eight Isobel had added flute lessons, when a physician had suggested that it might help with her mild asthma. It had. Flute lessons had also boosted her confidence as she was quite talented on the instrument.

By the time Geneva reached thirteen, she was already performing small concerts for her parent’s friends and one of them suggested to her mother that she should look into getting Geneva a manager.

“After all my dear, I’m sure you’ve heard of Claire Beauchamp. She’s been performing to sold out audiences since she was eight.

Geneva had overheard this and didn’t like the comparison. Of course she knew who Claire was, everyone who moved in society did. It had been quite newsworthy the previous Christmas when her parents were killed in a car accident. There had even been speculation that Claire would stop performing.

But she hadn’t. Her manager had found a singing group to take half the concert and Claire had performed the other half. She was incredibly sought after and her shows tended to sell out.

Geneva decided that she wanted Claire’s manager and had informed her parents.

She had been shocked and angry when Paul Abernathy had refused to take her on. Her reaction when she found out hadn’t been pleasant.

“What do you mean he said no!?” She had yelled at her father. “You make him say YES!”

William Dunsany sighed. It didn’t happen often, but when he had to disappoint Geneva she became rather tiresome. “I can’t make him say yes darling. Mr. Abernathy thanked me very much for thinking of him, but he said that right now he’s focusing on Claire and that Scottish group that tours with her. I did some checking and his assistant is handling most of his other clients right now. He did recommend three other managers that work with vocalists.”

“But I wanted HIM. He’s the best one!” Geneva pouted.

“I know darling, but really… it’s not the manager that’s important. All they do is schedule things. It’s the performer than matters, and you are the better vocalist.”

Geneva preened, then sighed. “Fine, I suppose we can use one of the others.” She conceded.

William had contacted one of the men that Abernathy had recommended and the man had come to hear Geneva. Isobel (who was eleven) had accompanied her and Mr. Parker had agreed to take them both on as clients. “You understand that a mixed program is more likely to sell more tickets.” He had explained when Geneva had complained that Isobel was just her accompanist.

Well. Geneva did want sold out concerts, just like Claire Beauchamp had. “Oh alright. Isobel can play, I suppose.”

That first tour in 1933 went well. Geneva didn’t need sponsors like most groups did. Whatever the tickets didn’t cover, her father did. But Mr. Parker held receptions anyway, and Geneva went to all of them. She was quite charming to all the people who came to these events, they were praising her after all. Isobel, sensible of her sister’s temperament, did not go.

As Geneva became more successful, Mr. Parker suggested that she hire a personal secretary. Her father had found someone, a woman named Gayle. Geneva had treated her the way she treated all the servants. She didn’t even bother to learn the woman’s last name.

By the following year (1934), Geneva was performing all over the world. The more successful she became, the more demanding she became. Three days before her fourteenth birthday both Mr. Parker and Gayle quit. Geneva was livid. How dare they quit? When she discovered that Gayle has quit to go work for Claire Beauchamp of all people, her rage had become incandescent.

They were in London, preparing for another concert tour. Claire and her group used the same rehearsal hall.

When Geneva found out that Claire was in the building, she had stormed into the practice room the brat was using, and gave Claire a piece of her mind. Instead of apologizing as she should have, the girl calmly denied responsibility and turned back to her practice.

Part of Geneva was impressed. There weren’t too many people (not any) in her world that didn’t cower when she got angry. Still, it wouldn’t do for other people to know that Claire wasn’t cowed. So Geneva hadn’t told anyone about the encounter. Not even Isobel.

William Dunsany had found another manager, and another personal secretary. The secretary had lasted less than six months. So he’d found another. And another. Paul Abernathy had died in 1936 and Geneva was on her second manager, and her seventh secretary. Even in the middle of a depression, Geneva couldn’t seem to keep a secretary longer than a few months. The manager, a man named Charles Tryon, avoided coming into contact with her whenever possible. He had a family and needed the job.

He wasn’t as good as Mr. Parker had been though. He didn’t have the same connections, or pull. Venues started declining to book Geneva. She blamed it on Tryon, but in truth it was her behavior that caused venues to reject her. She verbally abused their employees and made outrageous demands.

At nineteen, Geneva knew that eventually she’d need to get married and stop touring. She wanted to go out on a high note. Sold out audiences in all the countries she could sing in. Mr. Tryon wouldn’t help her reach that goal. He was holding her back. She went to her father and complained. “I need a better manager. I know you think it’s the performer, but three more venues canceled for the next tour in America. I need someone who’s better known.”

“Princess, I don’t know about replacing Charles. I don’t really know anyone in that world to even ask for a recommendation.” Truthfully, William knew his daughter had a reputation and wasn’t sure anyone other than Tryon would represent her.

“Well...” Geneva said thoughtfully, “What about Claire Beauchamp’s manager?”

“Frank Randall?”

“Yes. Him.”

“I don’t know if he’s even taking new clients.”

“Well surely Papa you can at least ask him.”

William had dutifully called Frank Randall and to his surprise, Frank had agreed to a meeting.

Frank knew Geneva Dunsany’s reputation. It didn’t bother him. As far as he was concerned, all musicians were melodramatic and difficult. Even Claire who was arguably his least demanding client, was a challenge simply because she stubbornly wouldn’t let him guide her career. At least with Geneva she didn’t have an army of people interfering the way Claire did.

He arrived at the Dunsany’s London townhouse at three o’clock sharp and was shown into William’s study by the butler. Geneva was not present for the initial meeting. William explained that Geneva had been unhappy for some time about the declining venues and smaller audiences.

“She doesn’t believe that Charles Tryon is doing enough to promote her. Geneva would like to sing to larger audiences, and in more countries. The last three tours she’s done have been England, France and America. My daughter wants a wider audience to hear her sing.”

Frank nodded. Being ambitious himself, he could certainly understand ambition in others. “Are there any countries you don’t want her to perform in?”

William looked at him, startled. “Oh, I don’t make any decisions about that. Geneva is nineteen. She knows what she wants.”

Frank frowned. “I understood that her younger sister traveled with her.” Neither girl was of age and he didn’t intend to be a babysitter.

William nodded. “She does, but I never worry about Isobel. She’s a good girl. Stays with the chaperone or in her hotel room.”

“I see.” Frank thought for a moment. “I can take them on, but Geneva will have to understand that I cannot travel with them. Not this year. My primary client is used to me being there. It will take time to accustom Miss Beauchamp to my absence.”

“I understand.” 'Let’s hope Geneva does.'

“Well then. Perhaps I should meet my clients.”

“It will most likely just be Geneva. Isobel doesn’t really give any input into things like this. She does whatever she’s told.” William said.

“I still want to meet her. In fact, I think I want to meet the ladies separately. As a manager I need to take the needs of each client into account.” Frank insisted.

“Geneva first though eh? If she doesn’t think you’ll suit, you won’t need to waste your time meeting with Isobel.”

What a curious way to phrase it. Frank thought. He wasn’t a parent himself, but surely it couldn’t be right to so blatantly favor one child and completely dismiss the other. He didn’t voice the thought though. “Geneva first.” He agreed.

His first thought when Geneva sailed through the door was that she was quite pretty. His second that she was quite spoiled, but then every rich man’s daughter he knew was spoiled. Especially the pretty ones.

She laid out her wishes for concerts in the future and Frank discovered that they fit quite well with his plans. Large venues (the larger the better) three concerts a week (Friday, Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons) and only two performers, herself and her sister. The prospect of only having to deal with two performers was incredibly pleasant to Frank. Added to that was the knowledge that while Geneva may have an enormous ego, Isobel did not and therefore he was unlikely to be called upon to mediate any squabbles.

“Are there any countries you want to avoid?” Frank put the question to her since William hadn’t answered it.

“Well, I don’t want to go anywhere uncivilized.” Geneva frowned.

Frank had no idea what she meant by that and asked her to clarify. “Well, I think anywhere in Europe would be alright, the United States, Canada, even the larger cities in Australia.”

“What about South America or the Jamaican Islands? Spain, Africa, India? The Asian countries?”

Geneva wrinkled her nose. “I suppose Spain would be acceptable. Aren’t the others awfully backward though? Do they even have decent hotels?”

“Some do. I take it then you’d like to limit your concerts to places that you can get a decent cup of tea and a fashionable hotel.”

“Yes.” Geneva beamed at him. He was better than Tryon already.

“Alright.” Frank made another note on his notepad. “Do you have any preferences as to the type of venue I should engage for you?”

Geneva looked puzzled. “As long as there’s a stage and adequate lighting, I don’t think it matters.”

The meeting with Isobel was quite brief.  She shook Frank's hand timidly and agreed to all of his proposals. Frank smiled. Oh yes. The Dunsanys would be excellent clients to further his career. He needed to give serious thought to hiring an assistant of his own.

William Dunsany called Charles Tryon in to tell him that they were letting him go. He felt bad, so he gave the man a very handsome severance of six months wages and a general letter of reference. Tryon didn’t seem bitter, in fact he seemed rather happy for a man who’d just been fired. He thanked William and left.

As Charles drove away, he felt an enormous sense of relief. He had a number of smaller acts that he managed, and perhaps he should feel more upset about losing his big client. His wife had already found them a house with lower rent in the country. He’d have to drive in once a week to meet with people, but most of the bookings could be handled by phone or telegraph. None of his other clients required the amount of babysitting that Geneva did.

The new house had a couple of acres and the landlord said they could put in a garden and have some animals. The children were excited at the prospect of chickens and his Mary wanted a couple of goats for the milk. They would manage… and his blood pressure would be a lot lower.

Chapter Text

March 1838

The Spring series went well. Frank had hired an assistant in mid-February, named Harold Grey. He asked everyone to call him Hal.

Frank had explained that he was taking on other clients and that Hal would fill in for him if tours overlapped. “I can’t be in two countries at once, though Claire remains my priority… and The Roses,” he’d added at the last minute. They’d taken to referring to the two vocal groups as the roses, when speaking of them collectively.

Dougal didn’t buy that for a minute, but it didn’t matter to him. He was prepared for the inevitable day when Frank cut them loose. Or Claire cut Frank loose. It was anyone’s guess which it would be, but then again, it might be a combination of the two. Claire was extremely loyal to those few people in her circle, and Dougal knew that Jenny and Jamie were both firmly in Claire’s circle. In the event that Frank dropped The Roses, Dougal was fairly certain the Claire would drop him.

So Dougal was making every connection he could, going to all of the receptions that Frank set up. Geillis was feeding him names and learning everything she could about contracts and all the administrative details that Frank usually handled. Young Jamie went to the receptions as well, and although he knew the lad hated it, Dougal introduced him to all the wives, daughters and girl friends of potential patrons.

If Claire dropped Frank as her manager, Dougal was hoping she’d take a chance on hiring him to fill the role.

May 1938

Claire was tired. Despite her resolve to attend fewer receptions, she had attended almost half of the Saturday gatherings. Frank always asked her to attend just this one, there is a potential patron and he wants so much to meet you. Claire knew that they really needed at least one more patron to subsidize the series and so, she sighed and went. There were so many people directly dependent on her for their livelihood. Mr. Mackenzie always went too, she supposed that being a leader meant doing the boring parts with a smile.

It was a bit of consolation that Jamie and Jenny were usually there. Although she didn’t talk to Jamie all that much at receptions. Mr. Mackenzie was always dragging him off to meet the patrons. He didn’t really like that part either, they spent Wednesdays complaining to one another about it. Jenny and Geillis commiserated, but Geillis was also quick to remind them that the bills didn’t pay themselves.

“Unless ye have a rich father to make up the difference, ye have to court the patrons.”

Jenny had laughed and said, “The way some of the lasses throw themselves at Jamie’s head, I think they’d like another type of courting altogether.”

Jamie had scowled and thrown his napkin at her. “Tis not funny Janet. I feel like a horse being auctioned off. The brazen things are’na the least bit subtle and they dinna care a whit that I’m no interested in their charms” he said rolling his eyes.

“I’m glad no one flirts with me like that.” Claire said, although she also wondered what she lacked that they didn’t.

Geillis and Jenny both gaped at her. “What do ye mean no one flirts with ye?” Jenny finally said.

Claire looked confused. “Well, they don’t. People are nice of course, but… the men don’t talk to me the way I’ve heard women talk to Jamie.”

Geillis smiled at her gently. “That does’na mean they’re no flirting with ye Claire. They just are’na as brazen about it. I’ve heard more than one make an offer to ye.”

“Oh, but that’s… those are just compliments. They aren’t being serious, they just want to stand in my reflected glory or something.”

Now Joe laughed. “Your reflected glory? Where on earth did you hear that phrase?”

“Oh, Mr. Randall told me that when I asked why it was so important that I go to the receptions so often. Besides, Mr. Randall never compliments me like that. And he’s always asking me to do things.”

“What things?” Joe said sharply.

“Well you know, change venues, go to more receptions, do more performances, he’s even begun nagging me about giving Sunday performances, no matter how many times I tell him no. He doesn’t talk to me like the reception people though. You really think they’re flirting with me?”

Everyone at the table exchanged looks. “I think they must be.” Jenny finally said.

“Hmmm” Joe replied, although he didn’t miss the look Geillis was giving him.

“Maybe you’re right. After all, Mr. Mackenzie said it too, and the girls all flirt with Jamie.”

“My Dougal said that to ye? About the reflected glory?” Geillis sounded a bit annoyed, Claire thought. She shook her head. “No, I heard him say something like it to Jamie once.”

Everyone looked at Jamie who nodded. “He did. Although it was more that the ladies all want to be seen standing next to the ‘red haired viking with the curls and the pretty face’.”

He made such an expression of disgust that they all laughed and the subject was dropped.

Later that evening, Joe and Geillis talked about it with Gayle. “Is he pushing her too hard?” Joe wanted to know. He was finishing his second year of medical school and barely had time to see Gayle and Lina. Wednesday supper and Sundays were the only times he wasn’t studying, and he naturally focused more on his wife and child at those times.

“Not really. Ye ken that when she goes, Jenny and I both go with her.” Geillis reassured him. “Frank is right that we need at least one more patron. The school performances covered the gap this series, but we have no cushion. If another patron stops funding us, we’ll have to cut the number of musicians. I know it worries Claire, so it’s easy for Frank to talk her into going.”

“Alright. Well, thank you for looking out for her. Keep me posted if something changes.”

Joe decided to write to Lamb as well. He needed to be home more. Claire was growing up and Joe was concerned. Gayle decided to keep an eye out as well. After all, she was ostensibly Claire’s guardian when Lamb wasn’t there.

Lamb came home briefly at the end of the school term, but only stayed for three weeks. Claire enjoyed having him home, but other than Wednesdays and Sundays, didn’t see much of him. She was rehearsing for the autumn series.

They hadn’t been able to secure another patron and one had reduced the amount he gave. Frank had been very concerned, and had talked Claire into expanding the fall series. Instead of twelve weeks, it would be fifteen weeks, beginning in July instead of August. There was also more traveling this time.

Claire didn’t mind the traveling so much. What she did mind were the hotels. She still owned the houses in America, England and France of course, but the homes in Germany and Austria had been sold and her parents had never owned a home in any of the other countries. They weren’t going to Germany anyway, The church had been having some troubles with the government and Mr. Randall didn’t think it was safe for her. They almost didn’t go to Austria, but he’d decided it wasn’t as bad there.

Jamie was really excited, he’d never traveled much before. He spent his free time studying the languages of the different countries they were visiting.

Frank had arranged for them to perform in fifteen cities over the course of the fifteen weeks. All in Cathedrals, but large cathedrals. Other than Paris, she’d have to stay in a hotel. There were also the school performances. Well, not all were schools. The July and August dates were actually for orphanages. Claire flat out refused to travel on Sunday, so Frank had arranged that they would travel on Mondays, perform during the day on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday… then have evening performances on Friday and Saturday. Frank’s hope was that he could use this as a springboard to convince Claire to change to larger venues for all her concerts.

Except for Claire and Dougal, the musicians took turns performing for the children, so they would get a break. Claire and Dougal wouldn’t, Claire because she was such a large part of any performance, and Dougal because he insisted on performing if Claire was.

“Tis only fair. I lead my group as you lead well… all of us.” Claire had smiled and thanked him.

They began in France. The first orphan performance was lovely and Claire met the Sister in charge of the children, a Mother Hildegarde. The children were lively and interested, asking many questions. Afterward, the sister had asked to speak to the musicians.

She thanked them for the gift of their time and asked that they keep the children in their prayers. “Many of the children would like to make music, but alas, we have not the funds to purchase instruments. I teach them bits of piano when I have the time for it, which is not often with so many to care for.”

They had promised to pray, and Claire had thought about Mother Hildegarde and her orphans long after they left France.

She was sad because she hadn’t seen Oncle Ray. He was in Africa somewhere, visiting the missions.

From there they went to Lisbon in Portugal and then Madrid in Spain. Claire could see the influence of the ottoman occupation in the architecture, and thought the churches there exotic and beautiful. The little bit of time they had to sight-see on Sunday was wonderful. Everyone went for a bit of a walking tour after Mass. Even Mr. Randall joined them after going to his church.

From Spain they went to Bern in Switzerland and Mr. Randall left for awhile. Hal came with them instead, to help Geillis during the day and accompany Claire to the receptions at night. One of Mr. Randall’s other clients was having a problem in America and he had to go fix it.

“I’m terribly sorry Claire, but this isn’t something I can hand off to Mr. Grey. He doesn’t have the experience yet. Besides, you have everyone else with you. You’ll do fine. Hal will accompany you to all the receptions and Dougal will be there as well. Just be your charming self.”

Claire hadn’t been overjoyed, but she understood. Mr. Randall had other clients now. She wasn’t going to be a diva about it, Claire just wasn’t used to attending the receptions without him.

Mr. Grey stayed with them in Bern, Rome, Athens, Belgrade and Budapest. Mr. Randall met them in Poland, but Hal stayed with them too, in case Mr. Randall had to leave again. After Warsaw, they went to Tallinn in Estonia, then Helsinki in Finland. Mr. Randall left again when they got to Stockholm but said he would return before the end of the week.

He didn’t. They went to Copenhagen, and Claire attended all the performances and receptions. Without Mr. Randall there, she did most of the talking to patrons and potential patrons. Hal did his best, but no one knew who he was. They all wanted to talk to Claire. By the time they got on the train to Vienna, Claire was exhausted. Fortunately Mr. Randall met them at the station.

“As your birthday is coming up, I’ve arranged for a surprise. The director of Vienna boys choir has agreed to let you and a guest to sit in on a dress rehearsal on Saturday morning.”

“Oh.” Claire tried to smile. It was a lovely thought and a wonderful opportunity. She was just so tired. “What a lovely surprise. Thank you Mr. Randall.”

Frank preened completely missing her lack of enthusiasm. “Yes, well a girl only turns eighteen once.”

“I think I’ll ask Jamie to go with me.” Claire said, catching him off guard.

“Go with you?”

“To the dress rehearsal. You said I could take a guest. Jamie is my best friend, so I think I’ll ask him to go with me.”

“oh. Yes of course.” Frank said. He had assumed he’d be the guest, but having just said it was for her birthday, he couldn’t very well tell Claire that.

He saw them all to the hotel and settled in. Claire went directly to bed and asked for a tray to be brought to her room. Frank met with Hal.

“How did it go in Copenhagen? Did anyone agree to sign on as patron?”

Hal shook his head. “Three people made out checks after speaking with Claire, but no one agreed to be a permanent patron.”

Frank sighed. That was becoming more and more common. It just made the receptions more important. A single donation wasn’t as stable an income, but with enough of them, they could manage.

Frank would like a bit more of a cushion. Particularly since he wouldn’t be touring with Claire in the future. Geneva was bringing in far more revenue, but also required far more attention than Claire did. Come to think of it, he had several groups in America now, they needed his time as well.

Thankfully her tour had ended the week before. She would be at home for the next few weeks before leaving for a holiday tour in Canada. Claire preferred to stay close to London for the holidays, so Frank wouldn’t have to tell her that Hal would be touring with them in the future until the January meeting.

Chapter Text

The Vienna Boys choir was lovely. Jamie had gone with her, and they had both listened as much to what the director had to say as to the boys themselves. They discussed it afterward as they walked back to the hotel. Well, Jamie discussed it.

“I ken now why they’re so famous. The director never raised his voice, but all the boys were doing everything in their power to give him the sound he wanted. I’d say they were afraid, but it was’na fear, just a strong desire to please. At least that I saw. What d’ye think? Claire?”

Claire looked up, startled. “I’m sorry Jamie, my mind drifted for a minute. What were you saying?”

He looked at the young woman for a minute. “Are you alright?”

Claire shook her head. “No. I really don’t think I am. I was up very late last night, there was a patron that insisted on keeping Mr. Randall and I talking until almost midnight. Then I had to get up early to attend the Boy’s choir rehearsal. I have a bit of a headache. I’m probably not very good company.” she added apologetically.

“Dinna fash Sassenach. Let’s get back to the hotel so ye can have a bit of a lie down before this evening.”

“Oh but I can’t. I have to rehearse and warm up and…”

“Yes, ye can." He said earnestly. We already performed in the space yesterday. There’s no reason ye can’t take a break. I ken that Mr. Randall was doing something nice for ye, but ye could have stayed in bed this morning. I would’na have blamed ye for it.” Jamie drew her arm through his and started walking to the hotel again.

Claire shook her head. “I wanted to go. I wanted hear the choir. Besides, I wanted to spend the morning with you. We’ve hardly had any time to talk and just spend time together on this whole tour. It was nice and I did enjoy the rehearsal. The director was very good to coax the sound he does out of all those little boys. I’m just…”

“A little tired.” Jamie finished smiling down at her. “You can still have a lie down, Sassenach. The concert will’na fall apart if ye take a nap. Ye can also skip the reception tonight without losing all yer patrons.”

“What are you talking about? I can’t do that.” Claire protested.

“Why no? Both Frank and Hal are here. As is Dougal. Between the three of them, they can stroke egos for one night. Ye look exhausted.”

“I’m perfectly capable of fulfilling my responsibilities.” Claire said a bit annoyed. Jamie stopped short and turned to face her.

“I never said ye weren’t. I just said that if ye took one night off the world would continue to turn.”

Now Claire was angry. “I know that! I’m not some spoiled diva who thinks the world revolves around me.” She didn’t stamp her foot, but it was a close thing.

Jamie was startled. “I did’na say ye were.”

“Yes you did!”

“No… I did not.” Claire began to walk away from him, anger in every step. She called back… “Yes, you did!”

Now a bit angry himself, Jamie decided that he wasn’t going to keep this game up. It was apparent that her lack of sleep had addled her wits. He let Claire stride along and although he kept pace with her he didn’t say another word. This went on for the remaining seven blocks it took them to reach the hotel.

Just outside the door, Claire looked at him and said quietly… “I’m sorry. You’re right, I am tired. I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”

Jamie’s anger dissolved. “Forgiven.” He gave her a brief hug. “Claire, I did’na mean to nag at ye. Yer my dearest friend and I’m worrit about how tired ye look.”

“I know Jamie. You’re my dearest friend too. Thank you for being concerned, even if I did snap at you for it.”

He paused for a breath and took Claire’s hand in his, wanting her to rest, but not wanting to anger her. Jamie took his time, choosing his words with care. “Sassenach, I ken ye can make yer own decisions, but please will ye at least consider skipping the reception this evening? Yer wearing yerself out, and I dinna want you to come down sick over it.”

Claire looked at her friend. “I’ll… think about it.”

“That’s all I ask.”

Claire had taken a nap, and felt better for it. Although she was still tired, the headache was gone. She had a light meal in her room, and prepared for the concert.

Upon reflection, she realized that her reaction to Jamie had nothing to do with him and everything to do with how Mr. Randall was pressuring her to do what he wanted, while at the same time being condescending. This was further illustrated when Geillis asked,

“Hen, are ye going to the reception tonight?”

“Yes, why do you ask?” Claire hadn’t said anything about not attending.

“Ah, well…” Geillis stumbled. Claire looked at her with narrowed eyes.

“Did Jamie say something to you?” She accused.

“No exactly.” Claire leveled a disbelieving look at Geillis. “Alright… He looked worried about something at supper. I asked him what the problem was. He said that you were complaining of a headache and being tired.”

“And that’s all he said?” Claire demanded.

“Yeesss…” Geillis looked confused.

“Then why did you ask about the reception?”

The secretary’s face cleared. “Oh. Well if yer tired with a headache, ye should probably come back and go to bed instead of attending the reception. I ken ye hate to be tired for Mass and it’s a bit earlier than you’re used to back home.”

Claire sighed. (He’s really not acting like Mr. Randall does...Jamie’s just concerned about you as a person and his friend. The fact that he didn’t tell Geilis about your argument this morning means he really does trust you to make your own decisions.) Claire knew she should skip this reception. The nap had helped, but she was still very tired.

“I think I will skip this one. I’m still tired. I hope I’m not catching a cold.” Then she groaned. “Mr. Randall is going to be very upset. He specifically came to Vienna for the receptions.”

“Would ye like me to tell him yer not goin’ tonight?” Geillis offered.

Claire shook her head. “No, I can do it.”

The performance went well, but Claire could honestly say it wasn’t one of her better evenings. She hadn’t made any mistakes, but by the time she played the last piece, her headache was back. Frank came to the bride room that they had used as a dressing room, as she was putting on her coat.

“Claire, the patrons are waiting… why are you wearing a coat? The reception is in the hall downstairs.”

“I’m going back to the hotel Mr. Randall. I’m very tired.”

“What!? Claire, you can’t. There is a Baroness Schraeder that has agreed to become a patron, a very generous patron I might add. She wants to meet you personally.”

“Couldn’t I meet her tomorrow?” Claire asked. She wouldn’t offer that normally, but she really wanted to go to bed.

Frank shook his head. “No. She’s leaving in the morning on vacation.”

Claire hesitated and Frank became cajoling. “Just for a short while Claire. If the Baroness sponsors you then it will completely make up the gap. We won’t have to let anyone go.”

Those were the magic words. Claire bit her lip, then said, “I’ll go. But only to meet the Baroness. After that, I’m going to the hotel. I really am very tired Mr. Randall.”

Having gotten his way, Frank hustled to help her off with her coat. “Of course, of course.” He didn’t really hear what Claire was saying, he’d stopped listening after ‘I’ll go’.

Jamie had spoken to Geillis during the intermission, and had been told that Claire was skipping tonight’s reception. Jenny was too, in fact all the girls were going back to the hotel except for Geillis, who was attending with Dougal and Suzette who was attending with Murtagh.

Most of the men were returning to the hotel also, but Dougal told Jamie he had to go to the reception. “I ken ye dinna like being trotted out like a prize horse for the ladies to coo over, but ye must ken my sweet lad, those red curls of yours have gotten us more sponsors this season than we’ve ever had. No patrons yet, but...” At Jamie’s scowl Dougal added, “and ye ken, the more sponsors we gain the more burden we can take off young Claire’s shoulders.” Jamie sighed and nodded.

“Aye. I’ll go.”

Murtagh had found him just after his last song to tell him that he was taking Suzette back to the hotel. “She’s no feeling well. Complaining of a headache and being tired.”

“Claire was complaining of that as well. I wonder if they’re sickening with something.” Jamie told his godfather worriedly. Murtagh had clapped him on the shoulder. “Well, I can guarantee ye that Claire does’na have what ails Suzette.”

He left before Jamie could ask about it. ‘I’m not looking forward to this evening.’ Jamie thought. With all the women gone except Geillis, there was no one to rescue him from the brazen women that attended these things. Geillis didn’t have eyes for anyone but Dougal these days unless Claire was present. But Claire wouldn’t be, so Jamie was most likely on his own, fending off the unwanted attentions of many of the women present.

Claire hated this. She despised the never ending cycle of long nights and early mornings, of hotel rooms and limousines. Claire was tired of the crowds of well dressed, self important people who wanted to speak with her for ‘just a moment’.

Claire felt so alone in these crowded rooms, she hated being there. Even when everyone else was also at the reception, she never saw or spoke to anyone except the potential patrons. ‘I’m never agreeing to a tour like this again.’ she thought.

She was supposed to have met the Baroness then gone back to the hotel. She had in fact met the Baroness, who was a charming if rather shallow woman. She was delighted to sponsor Claire and had raved over her performance.

After the Baroness left, Claire had tried to leave. But Frank had brought several other people over to be introduced to her. Short of being rude, Claire couldn’t refuse the introductions. Her headache kept getting worse and worse, but no one noticed or rescued her. Everyone except Frank was on the other side of the room and couldn't see her through the crowd of people. Suddenly her vision started to grey.

“Excuse me, please.” She cut off the society matron that was currently gushing over her performance. “I need to visit the powder room.”

“Oh, of course my dear.” The Matron was stuttering. Claire turned and walked quickly away. She was almost to the door, when she ran into a solid chest.

Jamie's POV

‘How long do I have to be here before I can go back to the hotel’? Jamie wondered. God in heaven, he hated these receptions. They always made him feel as though he was on display.

At 6’3” Jamie towered over everyone else in the room, although thankfully Dougal was at least 6’ so he wasn’t the only tall man, just the tallest. That and his red hair made him stick out. It probably didn’t help that he wore his hair longer than was fashionable. With his curls, if he wore it short he looked more like a poodle than a man. When he wore it long the weight pulled out a bit of the curl.

Besides, with the kilts and such that they wore on stage, it looked fine tied back. He was still wearing his, this reception was just another performance as far as Jamie was concerned.

More than fine if the reaction of some of the reception’s guests were anything to go by. Most of the daughters and even a few of the wives of the wealthy men who patronized the concerts, vied for his attention. It disgusted Jamie if he was being honest. He had no interest in being the plaything of a neglected wife or a spoiled child.

Mam had said that when he found the woman of his heart, he would know. That her soul would speak to his and his would answer.

His Mam had been right. He’d found his heart’s choice, but he didn’t know how she felt.

He wasn’t sure of how to ask her, but he hoped he figured it out soon. He did get tired of all the lasses trying to become his wife, or even just his lover. He didn’t want a lover. Jamie wanted a wife.

He wasn’t likely to find his heart’s own choice this evening though. Not here anyway. He hoped that Claire was asleep.

After fending off the inappropriate advances of yet another bored society wife, Jamie put his glass down and went to find Dougal to let him know that he had made the rounds, and was going back to the hotel. (I’m glad Claire’s no here to see these ridiculous women throwing themselves at me.)

Mission accomplished, Jamie made his way toward the door. He’d almost reached it when someone collided with him.

“Jamie.” a desperate sounding voice said. Looking down, he realized that it was Claire that had run into him. (What is she doing here? Claire was supposed to be back at the hotel already.) Then her tone of voice registered. He looked down and Claire was white-faced and trembling.

“Claire, what’s wrong?” He asked quietly, but no less urgently. Something was very wrong.

“Please...please get me out of here. I’m going to be sick.” She begged, clutching at him for balance.
Jamie didn’t ask anything more, just put an arm about her waist and led Claire from the room.

Chapter Text

The instant they were out of sight of the reception hall, he picked her up in a bridal carry, and continued to walk toward the bride room. It said a lot to Jamie about her state of health that Claire made no protest, which just worried him more.

“Claire, what’s wrong?” He asked her. She winced at his voice. “My headache is back and it’s much worse. Please Jamie, can you help me back to the hotel?”

“Of course mo chride.” He said, in a much quieter voice. “Let’s just fetch yer coat and I’ll see ye there myself.”

“Thank you.” Claire whispered, closing her eyes and resting her head on his shoulder.

They had almost reached the bride room when a voice called out behind them.

“Claire!” Frank Randall came rushing up to them. “Claire, where are you going? That was very rude just now to cut Mrs. Finchley off mid word and simply leave. What on earth were you thinking?”

As usual, Frank completely ignored Jamie as if he were invisible.

“She’s ill man. Can ye no see that?” Jamie tried to back away so that Frank’s loud voice didn’t hurt Claire.

Frank continued to follow and berate Claire as if he hadn’t heard what Jamie said. Suddenly Claire turned green and leaning away from Jamie’s arm, began to vomit. Because she was facing Frank...she vomited on his trousers and shoes as she bent over and retched.

Frank jumped back and made a sound of disgust. Jamie didn’t say a word, just held Claire as she continued to vomit all over the floor. His worry for the young woman in his arms prevented Jamie from smirking as the manager was covered in sick.

“My God man, at least get her to the bathroom.” Frank snarled at him.

Jamie shook his head, standing stock still. “No. The floor is already covered in it. Moving Claire right now will make it worse. Better to just let her finish. Although, perhaps ye should call someone? To clean up the mess if nothing else.”

Frank gaped at him, as if he couldn’t make sense of what Jamie was saying. Fortunately, Dougal and Geillis were coming down the hall. They had seen Jamie and Claire leave and then Frank rush after.

Reaching the others, Geillis took in the scene and went into secretary mode. “Dougal, can ye call the hotel and have Hector bring the car? I ken that Claire walked over this evening, but I dinna think she should walk back. Frank, why don’t ye get cleaned up? I’ll let Hal know what happened and alert the sacristan about the mess.”

“But… the patrons…” Frank stuttered. Geillis ignored him as Jamie had. Dougal was the one that replied. “The wee lass is obviously in no condition to meet anyone else. Now let’s get you cleaned up aye?” He made eye contact with his fiancée reassuring her that he’d call Hector.

Dougal got Frank to a bathroom and ran into the sacristan on the way to find a phone. He alerted the man to the mess outside the bride room. The sacristan rushed off. Dougal called Hector who said he’d be there in fifteen minutes.

Making his way back to the hallway, he met Geillis and Hal coming from downstairs. “I thanked everyone for coming and explained that Claire had taken ill. The pastor was very helpful, he came in and led a prayer for her recovery and then began to move people toward the door.” Frank’s assistant told her.

Geillis nodded. “I saw Father when I was looking for the sacristan. He said that the man had alerted him when he came into the rectory for a mop.”

“Aye, I told the sacristan when I was leading Frank to the bathroom.” Dougal commented. “I called Hector, he said it would be fifteen minutes...closer to ten now.”

“Alright. Let’s go back to Claire. Puir thing.”

Geillis was furious with Frank Randall. Claire had said she wasn’t attending the reception, so Frank must have said something to manipulate her into changing her mind. Then to yell at her for leaving… he’d better stay out of my way or I’ll no be responsible for my actions the red haired woman thought.

When they returned, Claire was no longer vomiting. She was sitting in a chair in the bride room, leaning against Jamie’s shoulder. He was kneeling next to her and had an arm around her shoulders. Jamie looked up when the others entered, but Claire didn’t. Her eyes were closed and she was still extremely pale.

Geillis was gratified to see the rage she felt reflected in Jamie’s eyes, along with his worry for Claire. She hoped that anger was directed at Frank bloody Randall. Out loud she said, “Hector’s bringing the car hen. Can ye walk to it?”

“I’ll carry her.” Jamie said shortly. Suiting action to words, he stood and again, gently lifted Claire into his arms. “Can you fetch her coat? If ye could drape it over her like a blanket please? The lass is shaking so hard it’s making my teeth rattle.”

Geillis did so and then Dougal opened the door for them. Claire whispered something to Jamie from where her head rested on his shoulder.

“What does she need?” The secretary asked quietly.

Jamie gave her a lopsided smile. “She asked if ye’d apologize to the sacristan for the mess.” He said wryly. Even in her current state, Claire was thoughtful of those around her.

The sacristan was still cleaning and heard the exchange. “Ach my dear, do not trouble yourself. You cannot help being ill, and it is my joy to aid the sick. Even if it be only cleaning up after them.” The man said softly in fairly decent English, albeit with an Austrian accent.

“Thank you.” Claire almost whispered the words and then relaxed against Jamie. She hadn’t even opened her eyes.

The group was silent as they walked to the front door. Five minutes later, Hector pulled up. Geillis didn’t wait for him to get out, she rushed to open the door for Jamie, who came out and carefully got into the car still holding Claire.

“Take them back to the hotel please Hector.”

The driver nodded and told them, “Mrs. G. called for the hotel doctor. He’s in Claire’s suite waiting.”

Dougal told Geillis to go with them, that he and Hal would finish things up and then walk over. She kissed her fiancé and got in the front seat next to Hector. The car smoothly pulled away and Dougal turned to look at Hal. “Thank you for your help tonight. Ye can go back to the hotel once ye’ve made sure all the guests are gone. I need to have a word with Randall.  I dinna want you getting caught in the middle.” The two men began to walk downstairs.

Hal shook his head. “No, although thank you for the consideration. I may be Frank’s assistant, but that doesn’t mean I agree with the way he does things. I’ll stay with you to add my concerns. I heard Claire ask to be taken home several times and Frank just ignored her and introduced her to another potential patron.” He sighed. “I understand that we’re having some problems keeping permanent patrons, but I don’t think pushing Claire into the hospital is the way to go about getting more.”

Dougal nodded grimly. “Aye. That’s part of what we’ll be talking about. The lass is seventeen years old and he’s putting far too much pressure on her.”

They had reached the hall by this time and the priest was there, pushing a broom. All the guests had left. Dougal went up and held out his hand. “Thank ye so much Father for yer help this evening. Ye dinna have to do the sweeping up, we can see to it.”

The priest shook Dougal’s hand but waved him off when the other man went to take the broom. “I normally sweep up after events. It helps remind me that I’m here to serve, not to be served. How is the child?”

Hal answered, “they’ve taken her back. Claire’s chaperone has the hotel doctor waiting for her arrival.”

Father nodded. “Very good. Please let the young lady know that I will pray for her recovery. Now if you will excuse me, I’ll finish this up.”

Thus dismissed, both men said “goodnight Father” and left the hall, going back upstairs. They met Frank coming out of the bathroom. He had cleaned off his shoes and trousers, but they were still stained and smelled of vomit. When he saw the two men, Frank said without preamble, “I’m going back to the hotel. Do any of the patrons know what happened?”

“Yes, I made an announcement that Claire had taken ill. I didn’t give any details of course.” Hal said.

Frank acknowledged that with a nod and told Hal, “I need you to finish the reception. I know I’m rather throwing you in the deep end, but I’m sure you can handle it.” Dougal was shocked speechless. Hal just nodded. “Of course Frank. I’ll take care of everything.”

The other man nodded and putting his hat on his head, went out the doors.

Hal waited until he was sure Frank wouldn’t overhear and then told Dougal, “I didn’t lie to him. I said I’d take care of everything… and I did.”

Dougal just stood for a moment, and calmed down. He said to Hal, “It’s verra fortunate I was too shocked to speak just now, I dinna think Randall would care for what I had to say, and I dinna want Father to overhear either. I’d rather not have to go to confession over the likes of Frank Randall.”

The assistant looked troubled for a minute then said, “Believe me it took a great deal of self-control to answer him calmly just now. Frank didn’t even ask after Claire. Just the patrons. I know he’s her manager Mr. Mackenzie, and that it’s his job to worry about the patrons… but to not even inquire if she was alright…”

“Call me Dougal.” He paused… “If ye dinna mind some free advice, Frank is no the kind of manager ye should model yerself after. I wish ye could have met Paul Abernathy. He was just as driven to promote Claire as Frank is, but he never did it without taking the lass into consideration. Paul was more… protective of her. Randall on the other hand sees her as a doll or a trophy that he can trot out and show off for the wealthy, in hopes they’ll gie him money. He claims it’s for her, but Frank is better at promoting himself than anything.”

Dougal shook his head. “Managers like that don’t last. No in classical music and no with performers of Claire’s caliber. The only reason he has’na been fired yet is because she’s so young and her guardian is gone most of the year.”

“Her uncle?” Hal asked, not sure if that was correct.

“Aye. Quentin Lambert Beauchamp. Claire calls him uncle Lamb. He’s an archaeologist. Away on digs most o the time. Dinna mistake me, Claire is well looked after, but since her parents died… there has’na really been anyone to be a true parent in her life. Paul did to some extent and his son Joe tries, but… they’ve mostly let Claire direct her own career. My Geillis worries that she’s no really had a childhood because of it.”

Dougal was thoughtful for the rest of the walk back to the hotel. It took most of the walk for Dougal to truly calm down. He was glad that Frank had left so abruptly. I should probably sleep on it before I talk to him. He thought.

When they reached the hotel and Dougal paused. “Hal, I’m going to talk to Frank in the morning about canceling the performances in Brussels. We need to get Claire home and I need to tell Joe about what happened. If Frank keeps putting this kind of pressure on the lass, she’ll break, which would ruin all our livelihoods. I ken this may be putting you in a bad spot, but I’d appreciate it if ye did’na share what I’ve told ye with anyone. Especially Randall. I dinna want him to have time to try and manipulate Claire anymore. I just need to speak with Gayle Abernathy before I talk to him.”

Hal smiled. “I quite agree. I will support you in canceling the remaining performances though. This tour has been grueling for everyone. I think calling an end to it makes the most sense.”

“Aye. The real trick will be getting Claire to agree. Among her other virtues is an outsized sense of responsibility and a fear of letting people down.”

“Perhaps that’s something you should discuss with Joe as well.” Hal offered. “It wouldn’t be so easy for Frank to push her if there was someone present to make sure there’s a balance between responsibility and overwork.”

“Aye, perhaps. Thank you Hal. Goodnight.”

The two men shook hands and went inside. Dougal went off to find Geillis and Hal went to his room. He had some things to think over.

Frank meanwhile, had returned to the hotel. The first thing he did was shower and change his clothes. He rang Claire’s room but received no answer. Realizing that she was most likely asleep, the manager decided he could talk to her in the morning.

He was livid and embarrassed. She couldn’t help being ill Frank supposed, but there had to have been a better way to handle it. Then to vomit on him. The girl couldn’t have paid attention to where she was aiming? He’d been standing right in front of her.

Then there was that damn boy. Frank had always been mildly uncomfortable about Claire’s friendship with young Fraser. Tonight had just reinforced it. He was sure that he’d seen the tall red head smirk at him as Claire sicked up all over his shoes. Frank wouldn’t be surprised if it had been young Fraser that made sure the vomit had baptized him.

Well. He’d have to talk to Dougal in the morning. The lad was clearly not yet mature enough to be a part of a professional music group. If talking to Dougal didn’t work, he’d talk to Claire. Surely she would see that young Fraser was responsible for her getting so worn out. If he wasn’t constantly taking her sightseeing at every stop… or forcing her to join everyone for brunch after Mass on Sunday, when she should be resting in her room… Yes. Frank would settle it in the morning. He went to bed, and slept the sleep of the just.

Chapter Text

The doctor was waiting in Claire’s room when Jamie carried her from the car to the hotel. After examining her, the physician pronounced that her illness was a migraine headache.

“She needs to rest in a darkened room in silence. Sometimes these things pass with a good night’s sleep, sometimes it takes several days of rest. There is no way to tell which this will be.” He explained to Geillis and Jamie who were waiting in her sitting room. Mrs. G. was in the room with Claire helping clean her up and getting her into the bed.

“Has she had headaches like this before?” The doctor inquired. Geillis shook her head. “No. I mean… she’s had the occasional headache but nothing so bad that she sicked up or couldn’t tolerate light.”

“Has she been overly worried about anything? Sometimes extreme anxiety can bring on headaches of this nature.”

Geillis and Jamie exchanged a look. “I ken she’s been worrit about the patrons lately. Claire is concerned that if we dinna find enough then she’ll have to let some of the musicians go and she does’na want that to happen.” Geillis said.

The doctor raised an eyebrow. “She’s just a child. That should be a worry for the adults on the tour.”

Geillis hesitated. “Claire is no of age yet, but she’s no exactly a child. She’ll be eighteen next week, and is very mature for her age. That said, her manager… he’s no… exactly in the habit of remembering how young she is. Since Claire is the primary musician, Frank tends to remind the lass that the employees all depend on her for their livlihood.”

“I see.” The doctor did see. Working in a hotel the way he did, many professional groups of all sorts came through and in his experience, the promoters of such groups tended to focus much more on the money to be made than the well being of their clients. “Well, I’m not sure what the rest of your itinerary is, but I can tell you that my medical recommendation is that she spend the next two or three days resting. No performing, and if possible, no travel either.”

Jamie let out a sigh of relief. Geillis smiled and shook the physician’s hand. “Thank you doctor. Would you mind putting that in writing? It would help convince her manager if it came from a doctor rather than her secretary.”

“Of course.” He sat at the small table in the room and did just that. Handing it off, the physician bid them to call if he was needed again and quietly left the suite.

Dougal appeared at the door as he left and came into the room. “How is the lass?” He asked, keeping his voice down.


“How are you mo chride?” He put his arms around Geillis and kissed her briefly, as she leaned into him and sighed.

“Still angry enough to strangle Frank Randall with my bare hands.”

“I ken. What did the doctor say?”

“That she has a migraine headache brought on by anxiety and needs to rest. He was very surprised that the adults were putting so much pressure on her about the patrons. I ken he does’na quite understand the dynamic, but he’s right. It’s too much.” Worry for her friend caused Geillis to tear up a bit.

“Aye.” Dougal hugged her a bit tighter. “Hal and I spoke about it on the way back from the church. I’ll be having a talk with Randall in the morning. I think we should cancel the remaining performances and get her home. I’ll also be speaking with Joe about contacting Lamb. She needs someone here all the time, that can keep Randall from manipulating her the way he has been. I did’na ken how bad it was until this tour, but now that I do, I canna let it stand.”

Dougal felt guilty for not realizing sooner how much pressure the young woman had been under. Kissing the top of his fianceé’s head again, he looked over at his nephew. “Ye alright lad?”

Jamie shook his head, but didn’t say anything. He kept clenching and unclenching his fists, in a similar fashion to the way he’d behaved when confronting Laoghaire. Dougal raised a brow. “Well… out with it then before it swallows ye whole.”

“That bastard.” Jamie took a breath. “That bastard Randall stood there and yelled at her for getting sick.”

“What!?” Geillis whisper-shouted. “What do ye mean he yelled at her?”

“Just what I said. She asked me to help her back to get her coat, and we had almost reached the room. I could tell she was going to be sick, but Randall started yelling at her for being rude and leaving the patrons. She told him she was ill and he did’na even acknowledge it. Just kept fussing at her. Then she turned green and sicked up all over him. I thought for a moment he was going to strike her for it.”

“He did’na though?” Dougal asked.

“No, he did’na. Trust me, if he had tried I’d have laid him flat before he could touch her.”

“Alright… let’s just calm down. Jamie lad, I ken yer worrit about yer friend, but dinna let yer anger run away with ye or cause ye to imagine more than happened.” Frank Randall was a right bastard, but Dougal didn’t think he was the kind to strike a woman.

Jamie breathed heavily for a minute then nodded. He worked at calming himself down and when that had been accomplished, he said, “Yer right. I think he was more shocked than anything. Geillis… Will ye be able to cancel the Brussels performances?”

“I dinna ken. We may no be able to cancel the concerts, but perhaps the school groups earlier in the week. The doctor says she needs rest. We were to spend tomorrow sightseeing after Mass, then travel to Belgium first thing Monday morning. If we cancel the school groups she can rest here until Wednesday, and only have the dress rehearsal on Thursday.”

Dougal thought a moment and then said… “We could travel ahead and still do the school performances without her. I dinna want to cancel them outright. It’s good for the children and I ken that Claire is particularly keen to do more of the school performances. If we can convince her that it wil’na cause a problem for her to rest, the lass is more inclined to do so.”

“Aye, that’s true. She is a stubborn wee thing. Can ye make up a whole performance without her though?” Geillis asked.

“If we combine bits from both the Friday and the Saturday, we should be able to give an hour long performance at least… perhaps a bit longer if anyone has a solo piece they can play that they already ken well.”

“Ye should have everything organized before ye speak to Frank in the morning. He’ll be less likely to kick up a major fuss that way.”

Dougal nodded. It wasn’t a guarantee, but if there was an alternative ready to go, it might be easier to convince the Manager. Regardless, the three were determined that he wouldn’t be allowed to see Claire at all.

“I’m sleeping here tonight.” Jamie stated.

“What? Where?”

“Here in the front room. I will’na leave Claire unprotected, and ye ken that if it’s just Mrs. Graham in the room, Randall’s just as likely to push past her as not.” Jamie explained his reasoning.

“But…the sofa is’na big enough for ye.” Geillis protested.

“I ken. I’ll be fine on the floor.”

The secretary looked at the young man for a moment and saw the resolve in his face. Rather than trying to talk him out of it, (a futile endeavor if ever she’d seen one) Geillis picked up the house phone and called housekeeping to request extra blankets and pillows for Claire’s room.

“Who are ye rooming with Jamie?”

“Dougal as it happens. Rupert and Angus are rooming together and ye ken that Lesley and Murtagh are both with their wives.”

“Alright then. I’ll just let Mrs. Graham ken ye’ll be out here.” Geillis softly knocked on the bedroom door and had a whispered conversation with the housekeeper, who looked surprised and then smiled, looking past the secretary to beam her approval at Jamie. She said something to Geillis, nodded once more and then closed the door.

“Well, that’s taken care of. Mrs. Graham said to say thank you for looking out for Claire. I think it eases her mind that Frank will’na be able to barge in tomorrow.”

A hotel maid knocked on the outer door and brought in several blankets and two pillows which she laid on the sofa, then departed. Geillis and Dougal left on her heels, the latter admonishing Jamie to get some sleep. “We’ll plan on going to a later Mass in the morning if ye wish to accompany us lad.”

“It will depend on how Claire feels. I’m no leaving her alone no matter what.” Jamie rationalized that if necessary he would stay home from Mass and ask the priest about it in his next confession. He wasn’t sure if it was a sin or not in this circumstance. His Mam always stayed home with them when they were sick. Surely this was a similar situation.

The door closed and Jamie made himself a bed on the floor. Geillis had been right about one thing, he thought as he lay on the floor with his arms behind his head. The sofa was far too small for him. He said his night prayers and then closed his eyes, he would need to be well rested in the morning. Besides. Claire was safe and she’d be alright.

The following morning, Geillis, Dougal and Hal all met early in the lobby. The plan was to have everything in order before speaking to Frank. Geillis sent a telegram to Joe in London, informing him of what had happened and asking him to contact Lamb. Gayle would be informed when they met up to attend church.

Dougal also planned to speak to the other musicians.

“Alright. I went over the program and without adding anything we can come up with a thirty minute performance. I never realized before just how many of the pieces Claire is in, either playing or singing.” Dougal began.

“We need at least an hour and a half, that’s what the schools were told.” Hal reminded him.

“I ken. I plan to talk to everyone after Mass and see what we can come up with. Moira plays piano along with flute and I ken that Jenny has some solo pieces she plays on her cello. We’ll make up the difference in some way.”

“Which will still give us instrumental pieces and vocal ones.” Hal nodded in approval.

“I ken this isn’t the time to worry about it, but we should really think about having more people do pieces at these school programs. I ken they want to see Claire, but she doesn’t have to play the majority of the program.” Geillis thought it would be good for everyone including the students, if the program for the schools was a little more varied.

The two men nodded. “That’s a good idea, and it will give us a back-up plan if Claire ever gets sick for any length of time during a tour.” Hal added.

“Yes, it will, but some of the part time musicians may expect a raise in salary if we do this long term.” Dougal warned.

“We can talk about it later, after we return home. Plan it into the next series along with compensation adjustments if needed.” Geillis said. “Let’s just get through this week first.”

“Agreed.” Said Dougal and Hal together. By that time everyone else came downstairs and they began to walk to the church for Mass. Hal excused himself to go with Frank to the Anglican church.

“Where’s Jamie?” Jenny asked.

“Claire was taken ill last night and he stayed back to help Mrs. Graham with errands and such.” Dougal said.

“Oh. That was nice of him.” Was Jenny’s only comment, although she looked at Geillis inquiringly.

‘I’ll tell you later.’ Geillis mouthed to her.

When the three had met with Gayle early that morning, they had agreed to wait until returning to London to confront Frank. It would be safer for Claire if she was home with Quentin and Joe present when the manager was called out on his behavior. Until then, the four of them decided to keep most of the details between themselves.

Almost everyone in the group was Catholic. Hal and Frank were the only two who weren’t. While everyone else was at the cathedral attending Mass, the two men went to Christ Church, the church established for the English ambassador two centuries earlier. It was still a very small congregation, made up almost entirely of the diplomatic staff from the United Kingdom along with visiting tourists such as themselves.

They walked over from the hotel, and Frank asked about the previous evening. “How did it go after I left?”

Chapter Text

“Everything went fine. The priest made an announcement and led a prayer for Claire, then Dougal and I thanked them all for coming. Most people left immediately, although one or two asked us to pass on their good wishes to Claire.”

“Everyone left?” Frank asked a little annoyed. “Were there any additional sponsors? Did anyone ask you about becoming a permanent patron?”

“No.” Hal said shortly. “Most were more concerned about Claire than talking about money just then.” His disgust with Frank must have shone through a bit, because Frank changed tack immediately.

“Oh, yes of course. Well, thank you for handling all that. I was in no fit shape to be seen.”

“Certainly.” Hal said noncommittally. He was still disgusted with Frank, but didn’t think it productive to express it.

Frank for his part, let the matter drop. Hal was his assistant, but he was also the eldest son of the Duke of Pardloe. He had the courtesy title of Lord though Hal rarely used it outside of social events with his parents. Frank knew that he had to be careful to retain Hal’s good opinion of him, if he wished to maintain a lucrative career in England. Almost all of their current patrons traveled in the same social circles as Hal, and at least one of them had agreed to sign on because of Hal.

Frank’s plan was to eventually turn Claire over to Hal and focus more on his American clients, along with Geneva. If Hal quit in disgust, that wouldn’t happen.

“How is Claire this morning?” Hal suddenly inquired.

“I haven’t spoken with her yet. I know the doctor visited her last night and that Mrs. Graham is with her. I’ll check on her after we return from church.” Frank replied. “She’s most likely still sleeping, the rest will do her good.” He added when Hal didn’t respond.

“Most likely.” Hal said after a minute.

They reached the small Christ church and went in. Nothing more was said either then or on the way back to the hotel.

The rest of the group was returning from the Cathedral as they entered, they all entered the hotel dining room for breakfast at the same time. It was Sunday and a Champagne brunch was laid out. Frank filled his plate from the offerings on the buffet tables and accepted a cup of tea from a waiter.

Dougal sat down at his table a few minutes later, his own plate piled high. Geillis, Gayle and Hal joined them shortly thereafter.

“We need to talk about Brussels.” Dougal began.

“What about Brussels? The first school performance isn’t until Tuesday. I already made arrangements to leave tomorrow afternoon instead of first thing in the morning. I had to pay a penalty to exchange the train tickets, but I think the extra rest will do Claire some good.”

“I dinna disagree about that, but the lass will need more than just the morning.”

“If you’re about to suggest we cancel the Brussels concerts, then don’t. According to the doctor it was just a sick headache. Another good night’s sleep and she’ll be fine.” Frank said forcefully.

The others at the table all looked at him in a combination of astonishment and anger. Geillis’ face began to redden. Gayle opened her mouth to say something, when Dougal beat them both to it.

“I was’na going to suggest we cancel anythin’. However, I do think that young Claire is going to need a bit more than just a good night’s sleep. The doctor was most concerned when we spoke with him last night. He thinks the lass is under too much pressure.”

“You spoke with the doctor?” Frank asked, surprised.

“Aye. Geillis was still in Claire’s room when I came back last night, the doctor was there too. In fact he left instructions with Geillis for the lass’s care.”

“Give them to me.” Frank demanded.

“I gave them to Gayle. She is Claire’s guardian for this trip after all.” Geillis retorted.

Frank looked at Gayle. Something in her expression made him a bit more polite. “May I see the doctor’s instructions? I need to know what he recommended so I can make plans for the rest of the tour.”

Gayle nodded and pulled them out, handing the written diagnosis and instructions to the manager.

Frank read them over and made a sound of disgust. “He makes it sound far more serious than it is. She just had a headache.”

“Be that as it may Frank, we cannot afford to ignore the instructions. Just in case it is more serious.” Hal cautioned.

“Besides Frank, I’ve already notified Joe, and he’s notifying Mr. Beauchamp. If we don’t follow the instructions, this will be the last time he allows Claire go on a tour like this.” Geillis said.

“You had no right to go behind my back and notify anyone.” Frank said angrily.

“If she hadn’t, I would have. I don’t need your permission to tell my husband anything.” Gayle retorted just as angrily. “How dare you! Claire is not your property nor is she your employee. You seem to forget Frank Randall, that you work for her!”

Frank wasn’t used to this from Gayle. She was usually so quiet, staying in the background setting up the sound equipment while Mrs. Graham kept her child in the dressing room, then retreating there herself for the performances after the checks had been done. Gayle never stayed for receptions, taking her daughter back to the hotel as soon as the performance had ended. The truth of the matter though, was that she was more family member to Claire than employee and as such had considerably more authority than Frank did in this situation.

When Lambert was gone on one of his digs, it was Gayle that had the authority to make decisions for Claire in his absence. Including all medical decisions if Claire became ill.

No one would ever call Frank Randall stupid. He backed down immediately. “I’m sorry Mrs. Abernathy. You are quite correct. I just know how Claire enjoys working with the school groups and...” Frank tried another tack, but Gayle wasn’t having it.

“That’s true, she does. But Claire is not yet of age and the final decision rests with me in Quentin’s absence. So Dougal. I assume you’ve thought about this?” Gayle cut Frank off and he looked a bit put out by that. She ignored him to focus on the man she’d addressed.

Geillis had already spoken of their plan with Gayle and she was very aware of what they had worked out. But she wanted to rub Frank’s nose in it a little. She didn’t lose her temper very often… but when Gayle did, Joe had told her that it was a frightening and powerful thing.

Dougal smiled at the other woman and nodded. “Aye. I’ve yet to speak with everyone, but I believe we can come up with enough material to do the school programs without Claire. It will allow her to rest until the Thursday dress rehearsal, without us having to cancel anything. She can stay here with you, Hector and Mrs. Graham, then take the train on Wednesday to Belgium.”

Frank looked at him completely nonplussed. They had already come up with a plan to work around Claire’s illness? Without talking it over with him either. His eyes narrowed. Was Dougal trying to cut him out and take his place as Claire’s manager?

“I asked Dougal last night, to come up with a back up plan in case the doctor said Claire couldn’t perform.” Hal interjected. “You told me that having contingency plans is the hallmark of a successful manager, and you were dealing with other things Frank. I just thought it was what you would have done, so I asked Dougal to come up with something for you. Just in case.”

Hal looked earnest, and questioning, as though he were a student, seeking Frank’s approval for his actions. Clever, clever man. Geillis thought.

Frank for his part was mollified. “Ah. Very good. I’m glad to see you’ve been paying attention Hal.” He stroked his chin thoughtfully. “I suppose that could work. I’ll need to speak to the doctor, and to Claire.”

“You’re welcome to come with me to speak to the doctor Frank.” Gayle said, making it very clear that she was the one that would be speaking to him. Gayle felt horrible. She had been so used to just doing her job and staying in the background, that she hadn’t been paying attention to how much of a burden this had become for Claire. She silently vowed to never make that mistake again, as well as to ensure Claire wasn’t forced to perform before she was fully recovered.

They finished their meal in almost complete silence, until Gayle rose to go find the physician. Frank accompanied her. The rest of those at the table waited until they were sure that Frank couldn’t hear them, then almost simultaneously burst into laughter.

“I’m sorry.” Geillis gasped, giggling. “I ken I should’na be laughing, and it’s no funny that Claire is ill… but the look on his face!

“Aye. He’s no used to being put in his place like that, especially no by a woman.” Dougal was chuckling and trying to stop.

“Well. If he’s not used to it, he’d better get used to it as quickly as possible.” Hal said. “He’s taken Geneva Dunsany on as a client and I guarantee you that she’ll not let him forget that he’s the employee.”

“Geneva Dunsany? Oh God. I almost feel sorry for him… no, actually I don’t.” Geillis said beginning to calm down.

Hal nodded. “I know. One of the reasons I’m working as Frank’s assistant is because I need to know how to take care of the business end of things when my brother’s old enough for a manager. John is friends with Geneva’s younger sister Isobel and hates how she’s constantly ignored by Geneva and her managers.”

“How old is your brother then and what does he do?” Dougal asked.

“John is seventeen. He sings tenor and plays the viola, piano and harp. He sometimes does concerts in the summer with Geneva and Isobel, although nothing during the school term yet. He graduates in the spring and wants to tour more regularly afterward. I’m hopeful that I can take on Isobel then too… if only to get her away from Geneva. Belle is a lovely girl and her sister takes terrible advantage of her.”

“Hmmm. So you dinna plan to stay on as Frank’s assistant next year then?”

Hal shook his head. “No. I only signed a one year agreement with Frank. I don’t need the social contacts or training you understand, I just needed to educate myself on the administrative aspects of managing someone. How to arrange for venues and such.”

“That’s a shame. I’d rather Claire work with you than Frank.” Geillis said.

Hal smiled and shook his head. “I’m not the right manager for her. Honestly, I don’t think Frank is either.”

“Why do you say that?” Dougal asked.

“I don’t share your religion and neither does Frank.”

He held up a hand when Dougal went to protest. “Normally it doesn’t make a difference, and for most music groups it wouldn’t. But for Claire and quite frankly for The Roses, it does. You sing mostly in Catholic churches and mostly Catholic music. Even the love songs you sing and the ballads all have to be appropriate for the venues you sing at. I’ve heard Claire argue with Frank more than once about where you’ll be singing. Where she performs is very important to her.”

Hal thought for a moment and chose his words. “I’ve also heard them argue about the number of musicians and their wages. One of the reasons Claire feels such pressure is that Frank is always saying that some of the musicians need to work for lower wages or be let go. Claire won’t allow him to do that, and I think it’s tied up in what your church teaches about employees. I’ve heard her use the term just wage more than once.”

Hal finished his argument, “I just think it would be easier for someone who is also Catholic to understand the way she thinks. Paul Abernathy was Catholic, wasn’t he?”

“Aye, he was.” Dougal said thoughtfully.

“Did he ever argue with Claire over venues, or how many musicians to hire or for what wages?”

“No, now that ye say it, he did’na.”

Hal spread his hands. “There you go. I think that Claire might not feel so pressured if she had a manager who understood why such things mattered to her. For Frank, it’s just business. I don’t think Claire feels that way. Although to be fair to Frank, part of that may be the fact that Claire doesn’t have to perform for the money. She can afford to have the scruples she does, because she doesn’t need an income. I still think it’s mostly the differences in their worldview and beliefs though.” He concluded.

Chapter Text

“You make some verra good points Hal.” Geillis said.

“Yes well. From things that Frank has said, I think he plans to turn Claire over to me while he concentrates on other clients. You do realize that he’s signed on over half a dozen groups in addition to Geneva in the last nine months?” Hal told them.

They shook their heads. No they hadn’t.

“He has. With the exception of Geneva, they’re all in the United States. It’s possible that Frank intends to move to the States, I’m not sure. I told Frank this morning that I don’t intend to stay past the holiday series. John will be graduating in May and I’ll need to be setting things up for him for the summer and beyond. Isobel too if I can manage it. The holiday series ends in January which gives me about three months to get something organized. He wasn’t very happy, but I was very up front from the start that I only planned to work for a year under him.” Hal paused, then added…

“I’m sorry Frank hasn’t been more transparent with you about his intentions. He just told me about his plans for me a couple of weeks ago, when he had to leave in the middle of the tour to take care of Geneva’s latest tantrum.”

Hal stood to go. “I should probably go check on the arrangements for the train. I don’t think Frank notified the others that we’re staying until tomorrow afternoon and at the moment, I am still his assistant.”

“Thank you Hal. For telling us.” Dougal said.

The other man nodded his head and left the table.

Geillis looked at the man she loved. “Now what?”

“The first thing we need to do is get through this next week in Belgium. When we get back to London though, I think you and Joe, Quentin, Gayle, Hal, and I should all meet and talk about this. Once we’re all on the same page, I think we should try and convince Claire to fire Frank and find another manager. The Roses can sign on with whoever that ends up being. I dinna want to split from Claire.”

“I dinna want you to either. Come on. Let’s go check on her. I dinna ken if Frank caught it, but Gayle does’na want him talking to her right now.”

Dougal and Geillis went around to the other musicians and told them that there would be a meeting in Dougal’s room in one hour. Then the couple went upstairs to check on Claire.

Jamie opened the door when they knocked.

“Claire is still asleep. Mrs. Graham said she’s been sleeping since the doctor left last night.”

“Have you eaten anything lad?” Dougal asked.

“Aye. Mrs. Graham ordered a tray for all three of us, though I ended up eating Claire’s as well as mine.” He looked a little embarrassed.

“Dinna fash. If she’s sleeping it would have just gone to waste otherwise.” Geillis said practically.

Jamie smiled at her gratefully. “Are ye going to be here for a bit?”


“I’d like to go get cleaned up, but I dinna want to leave her and Mrs. Graham alone. Randall has’na been here yet...”

“Ah. He and Gayle went to speak with the doctor. You go along. We’ll bide until ye return.”

Dougal understood Jamie’s protective instincts as he possessed the same.

Jamie nodded his thanks and left. Dougal and Geillis made themselves comfortable and waited for Gayle to arrive.

Jamie returned to Claire’s room about thirty minutes after he had left. He was wearing clean clothing and his hair was still damp.

“Gayle is’na back yet and Claire is still asleep.” Geillis reported. “There’s a meeting in your room in a half hour. We need volunteers to do additional pieces so that Claire does’na have to do the school performances.”

“I thought you were going to cancel the Brussels concerts?” Jamie was a bit confused.

“We can’t really without causing ourselves a great deal of money and reputation troubles. But if we can put together a program for the schools, that’s an hour and thirty minutes without Claire having to perform, she can rest here until Wednesday, then rest again in Belgium until the Thursday rehearsal.” Dougal explained.

“Jamie.” Geillis put a hand on his arm. “I dinna think Claire is truly ill. I think she’s just worn out. If she is able to rest for several days…”

“She’ll be able to perform in Brussels and no feel guilty that the concerts were canceled.” Jamie finished for Geillis.

“Aye. Ye ken as well as I that she’ll blame herself if we have to cancel.”

“Aye, stubborn wee thing that she is.” Jamie rubbed a hand over his face. “Who will stay with her?”

“Mrs. G. and Hector of course, and probably Gayle. She’s Claire’s guardian when Lamb is’na here.”

Jamie desperately wanted to stay also, but he knew he couldn’t. Beside his regular obligations to the Roses, he would have to help make up the difference if Claire couldn’t perform. He compromised by saying, “I’ll stay here just now, but there are two duets that I can do with Jenny, for piano and cello. I’ve also a few solo piano pieces I could play. I’m no as good as Mam, but I can play fairly advanced repertoire. If ye need them in the program. I will’na sing the duets with anyone save Claire though. I can sing solo pieces to make up the space. I’ve kept practicing most of the repertoire I’ve learnt. Mam always says ye never ken when ye’ll need to make a last minute substitution.”

“Yer Mam is an intelligent woman. I’m glad ye listened to her. I dinna ken what we’ll need, but I’ll let ye know as soon as I meet with the others.”


Dougal and Geillis stood and left for the meeting. Jamie opened a book that he had brought from his room. It was a book of quotes from the ancient philosophers, in Latin. As he settled down to read, he offered a small prayer for Claire’s recovery.

Gayle had found the hotel doctor in his small office. Her discussion with him had been reassuring. Frank had been in the room also.

“I understand your concern Mrs. Abernathy, but I really see no cause for alarm. From what the secretary told me last night, the child has been under a great deal of pressure. If she is allowed to rest and the pressure removed, her recovery will be swift and complete. The young are very resilient.”

“How lengthy of a rest do you recommend?” Frank asked.

“I would imagine that two or three days of complete rest will set the young lady to rights.”

Frank sat back with a smug look on his face, which the doctor noticed. “However,” the physician continued, “if you do not wish her to suffer a recurrence of these headaches, then you will stop putting the amount of pressure on her that you have been. By all accounts, Miss Beauchamp is remarkably mature for her age. That does not negate the fact that she is still underage and processes information differently than an adult would.”

The doctor now looked at Frank directly. “I spoke with several other members of your group last night and this morning. I have to tell you Mr. Randall, I find the way you’ve treated that young lady to be unconscionable.”

“What?!” Frank was genuinely shocked.

“I’m a hotel physician. I’ve seen all sorts of professional groups and the way they interact. I’ve also treated a number of children in my practice as well as raising three of my own. You don’t have any children do you Mr. Randall?”

“No, I’m not married. But I fail to see...” The doctor held up a hand.

“Precisely. You do not understand the way that young people think or process information. According to several members of your group, you’ve been telling the young lady that she is responsible for the livelihoods of the members of the group.”

“Well, she is.” Frank said.

“No, she is not.” The doctor countered.

“Now see here. You don’t have any idea of how...”

“It doesn’t matter if I know how your profession operates. I’m telling you that it is not the responsibility of that young lady upstairs to keep everyone employed. The fact that you’ve convinced her it is her responsibility is appalling. Adults are responsible. Underage teens are not.”

Turning to Gayle who had become more and more upset as the doctor talked, he added, “I understand that Miss Beauchamp’s legal guardian has granted her a great deal of autonomy. That is all well and good up to a point. I’m sure it’s made her very mature and independent. On the other hand, she’s never learned to put her own needs before the needs of others. You will need to help her find a balance, and I warn you now, it will most likely be very difficult at her age which is not quite eighteen, I’ve been told. This should have been addressed when she was much younger. Does the young lady have a regular physician at home?”

“Yes, she does.” Gayle said, a little shaken by what she had just learned. Her own feelings of guilt were growing stronger too.

“If you’ll give me his contact information, I shall send him my findings. I would highly recommend that you make an appointment with him when you return to London.”

Gayle nodded and wrote the information down for him. Then she stood and held out her hand. “Thank you very much for your honesty sir. I will share this information with Claire’s guardian and with my husband who is also studying to be a physician.”

The doctor shook her hand and then said, “Don’t be too hard on yourself Mrs. Abernathy. It’s very easy to miss something like this when the child doesn’t act out. I presume that Miss Beauchamp hasn’t complained?”

Gayle shook her head. “No. Claire very rarely complains about anything. On the other hand, she’s so strong about some things, I believe I assumed she was strong about everything.”

“I suspected as much. That just makes it more important for the adults around her to pay attention. If you can commit to doing that, the young lady will be alright.”

Gayle nodded and thanked him again before leaving the office. Frank followed her without a word to the doctor.

As she walked down the hall toward the stairs to Claire’s floor, the manager called out to her.

“Mrs. Abernathy, Gayle...” She turned to him. “Yes Frank?”

“You don’t seriously believe all that hogwash just now?”

She gave him an incredulous look. “What hogwash?”

“About Claire not being able to handle the pressure. I’m sure he means well, but Claire is not like other young women. She never has been as long as I’ve known her.”

Gayle turned away and began walking again. “I’m not having this discussion with you right now Frank.”


She whirled around. “NO! This isn’t any of your business Frank. It’s a private family matter and doesn’t concern you.”

“The hell it doesn’t!” Frank was getting angry now. “Claire’s health is very much my concern and the concern of everyone who depends on her.”

“That’s exactly what the doctor was talking about. Claire is seventeen years old Frank! We shouldn’t be depending on her, she should be depending on us.”

“Oh come off it Gayle. Claire will be eighteen in less than a week and quite frankly, she’s carried this load for years. So why is it suddenly too much for her? Because some hotel quack says so?”

They had continued walking while arguing and were now just outside Claire’s room. Gayle stopped walking and lowered her voice.

“Mr. Randall. I understand your position and I welcome you to share your opinions with Joe and Lamb when we return to London. In the meantime, I am Claire’s guardian for this trip. I will make the decisions I feel are in her best interests at this time. Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to check on her. You are not invited.”

Gayle opened the door to Claire’s room and closed it behind her. The lock engaged with a definite sound.

Frank remained where he was for a full five minutes, seething over his dismissal by someone who he had always considered as being inconsequential. This was getting ridiculous. God save me from the hysteria of women he snorted silently to himself. When they returned to London, he’d have to talk to Quentin about changing Claire’s guardian for future tours. She would need one until the age of twenty-one unless she married, in which case her husband would be responsible for her.

Whatever happened, Frank would insist that a man be given charge of her rather than a woman. Men were far more rational.

Chapter Text

Gayle leaned against the door after she locked it. Frank Randall is going to be a problem, she thought.

Jamie Fraser was seated on the sofa reading a book. “I take it she’s still sleeping?”

He nodded. “Mrs. Graham says she has’na woken up but once to visit the necessary.”

Gayle nodded. “Why are you still here? Not that I mind, I just thought Dougal wanted everyone to meet and discuss the school performances.”

“He did. I told him what I have ready and he said he’d let me know. I did’na want to leave Mrs. Graham and Claire alone in case Randall came by.”

“I don’t think he’d hurt Claire.” Gayle said in surprise.

“Not physically laying hands on her, no. But with her head paining her the way it is, him yelling at her again could.” Jamie responded.

“Frank yelled at Claire?” This was the first Gayle had heard of it.

“Aye. Last night. He was angry that she left the reception. Kept on yelling until she sicked up all over him.”

Gayle started to snicker. “She did?”

Jamie nodded, his face lighting up with a grin. “Aye. All down his trousers and shoes.”

Unable to hold it back, Gayle burst into peals of laughter. The bedroom door opened and Mrs. Graham came out.

“Shhh. Laugh if ye must but no so loud if ye please.”

Gayle quieted down, and after a minute asked if Claire was awake.

“No. She’s asleep still. I was just comin’ out to ask young Jamie to ring for a tray for her. Broth and toast if ye please. She’s no eaten anything since before the concert last night and what she did eat…”

“Came back up.” Gayle finished. “Alright. I need to get back to Lina, Lizzie Mohr has been sitting with her since we got back from church, so I could make arrangements for Claire. You and Hector and Lina and I will stay with Claire here until Wednesday, then take the afternoon train to Brussels. Claire won’t have any performances until the Thursday dress rehearsal. Members of both Rose groups are making up the difference in pieces for the school performances.”

Mrs. G. nodded. “That’s a great relief to me. What about Mr. Randall?”

“What about him? Frank doesn’t have any say over Claire’s person. Lamb appointed me her guardian for this trip not him.” Gayle said tartly.

Mrs. Graham raised a brow, nodded, and said nothing more. She excused herself to go back into the bedroom to watch over Claire. Gayle looked at Jamie.

“Do you plan to stay here for the rest of the day?”

“Aye. Unless Hector comes to watch.”

“Good. I’ll talk to Hector, but he most likely won’t be able to come until tomorrow just before you all leave. How much time do you need to pack your things?”

“If he can come two hours before we leave for the train, that will give me time to clean up and pack.” Jamie replied.

“I’ll make sure of that then. Thank you Jamie. For looking after her… and Mrs. G.”

Everyone but Claire and those staying with her left the following day, arriving at the hotel in Belgium in the late afternoon. They checked in and dropped their baggage in their rooms, before immediately going to the venue to rehearse for the school performance the following morning.

All the performers had added at least one additional piece. Jenny and Jamie had each added a solo piece and an instrumental duet that they performed together. Jamie didn’t end up playing piano other than his duet with Jenny. He sang instead.

The school performances went well, and a number of the female students tried to flirt with Jamie during the question and answer sessions afterward. That had never happened before. It reminded him uncomfortably of Laoghaire. Jenny laughed at him when he mentioned it.

“It’s because they did’na see you sing the duet with Claire.”


“At the other school performances, ye always sing the duet with Claire. The lasses see the way ye look at each other and dinna bother. But ye are’na singing with her this time, so the silly things dinna ken yer heart is taken.”

“Shhhh! Janet!” Jamie hushed her frantically.

“Fine.” She sighed.

Jamie conceded that his sister had a point. It doesn’t matter. I don’t flirt back and it’s giving Claire time to rest. Being a little uncomfortable is worth it for that.

Claire didn’t wake up and stay up for any length of time until mid-morning on Tuesday. Gayle had given up her room to share with Mrs. Graham. The housekeeper had the room connected to Claire’s suite. The hotel had been most accommodating, and given Hector the room on the other side of Claire’s. He spent his days in the front room on the sofa reading, as did Gayle and Lina.

On Tuesday morning, Claire woke up feeling much better. Mrs. Graham was dozing in a chair next to the bed, her ever present knitting in her lap. Mrs. G. hated being idle and whenever they were on tour she brought a large bag of knitting with her.

“Mrs. G.” Claire called out.

“Ah lamb, yer awake.” The housekeeper stood up and came over to check on Claire. “Ye look better. No so pale. How do ye feel this morning?”

“Better. Morning? What time is it? Oh goodness. Did I miss the train?”

Mrs. Graham laughed. “Let me fetch Mrs. Abernathy for ye dear. She’ll explain everything.”

Suiting action to words, the older woman went to the door and opened it announcing, “She’s awake and alert.”

Gayle rushed into the room handing Lina off to Hector as she did. “Oh Claire. I’m so glad. You gave me quite a scare. All of us a scare really.”

“Gayle? It was just a headache. Did I oversleep? Have I missed the train?”

“It’s Tuesday Claire.” Gayle said. “Before you get upset, don’t worry about the school performances. The other musicians added pieces to make up the time, so you could rest.”

“Is there something wrong with me?” Claire asked. “Am I ill? I don’t feel ill. I feel much better.”

“No honey, you aren’t ill. Just overtired. The doctor said it was a migraine headache brought on by anxiety.”

“Anxiety?” Claire was a little offended. Anxiety was a term some doctors used when they thought the illness was hysterical in nature.

“He didn’t mean it like that Claire. In fact he gave both Frank and I quite the dressing down.”

“Gayle, you aren’t making any sense. What on earth is going on?” Claire said, very confused.

“Honey, can you answer a question for me?”

“Of course.”

“Why did you go to the reception on Saturday night? Geillis told me that you said you were tired and planned to go back to the hotel and to bed immediately following the performance. But you didn’t. Why did you stay?”

“Mr. Randall said that there was a patron that really wanted to meet me. A baroness, who was prepared to be most generous. So I agreed to meet with her.” Claire said simply.

“Alright. Then why didn’t you leave after that?”

“I asked Mr. Randall to take me back and he kept bringing more people for me to meet. I tried to be polite, but then I felt as though I were going to be sick. I excused myself and left. I was trying to get away before I did something embarrassing.”

“Hmm.” Gayle thought for a moment and then said carefully. “You asked Frank to take you back and he refused?”

“He didn’t refuse exactly. He just… acted as though he didn’t hear me.”

“I see.” Gayle stared at her for a long minute. “Alright then. Do you feel up to taking a bath?”

“I would love a bath. I feel very grubby at the moment.”

“Let’s get you into a tub then. I’ll have Mrs. G. order you some breakfast too.”

The hotel maids came in and changed the linens on the bed while Claire was having her breakfast. Gayle insisted she stay in her nightgown and robe, as the doctor was coming to check on her after she ate.

“Good morning Miss Beauchamp. How are you feeling this morning?”

“Much better doctor, thank you.”

The physician examined her and declared that she was recovered. “I would recommend the additional day of rest, particularly since you have performances this weekend young lady. I also recommend not pushing yourself quite so hard in future. The human body is a wondrous thing, but there are limits to what the body can withstand, both physically and mentally. You seem to have reached yours.”

“What do you mean?”

“Miss Beauchamp. A migraine headache such as the one you experienced is brought on by one of two things. Excessive anxiety or exhaustion. Yours was brought on by both.”

“I beg your pardon. I am not a person prone to hysteria.” Claire said sharply.

“I did not imply that you were.” The doctor returned calmly. “Anxiety and hysteria are not the same thing.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Hysteria is when a person is anxious without cause. Imagining one is ill. That was not the case here. You had true anxiety. After speaking with several members of your group it became clear to me that your manager was placing enormous pressure and responsibility on you, to the extent that your body simply could not withstand it and shut down. The headache was the body’s mechanism to force you into resting.”

“Oh.” Claire said in a very small voice.

The doctor smiled gently at her. “It does not mean that you are in any way weak my dear. Simply that you were being asked to do more than a person reasonably should be.”

He stood and took his bag. “As far as I can tell you have recovered and provided you are sensible with yourself, you should have no recurrence of the headache. Now I understand from Mrs. Abernathy that you are taking the train to Brussels tomorrow afternoon. I recommend that you spend all of today resting. Perhaps a short walk after luncheon for some air, but other than that, rest.”

He shook Gayle’s hand and left the suite.


“Yes Honey.”

“Is Mr. Randall very angry?”

“I don’t think so, but even if he was it wouldn’t matter. Honey, you do remember that he works for you, not the other way round… don’t you?”

Claire nodded. “I do. I just… don’t like it when people are upset with me.”

“Well if Frank is upset with you, I promise he’s the only one. I know for a fact that both Dougal and Geillis let him have it. Hal wasn’t impressed with him either.”

“What about Jamie and Jenny?”

“Jamie sat in this room until they had to leave for Belgium. He even slept on the floor to make sure Frank couldn’t get in here to bother you. Murtagh told me that he had to lock Jenny in her room until she calmed down, to keep her from going after Frank. I promise Claire. None of the people that care about you, are upset at you for getting sick.”

Gayle hugged her and Claire hugged her sort of sister-in-law back. “Thanks for looking after me.”

“Of course. I’ve been kicking myself for not noticing that you were getting so run down. We’ll both have to be more careful in the future.”

“I don’t know if I want to do another tour like this. I started feeling tired about halfway through. I tried to get more rest, but Mr. Randall was so adamant about me attending the receptions. It just kept getting worse.”

“Why didn’t you say anything honey? You know your uncle made me your guardian for this tour.”

“I know. You were busy with Lina and… I… I didn’t want to let everyone down. I just kept telling myself that I would rest when we got home.”

“Oh Claire.” Gayle hugged her again. “Well, you only have two more performances, then we’ll go home. I agree with you that maybe in the future you should either be gone for shorter periods of time or take longer breaks between cities. I also think we should sit down with Joe and Lamb, and discuss whether or not we should let Frank go.”

Chapter Text

Let him go? Do you mean fire him? Oh, but...” Claire began to protest.

Gayle held up a hand. “We don’t have to decide right now. Hal made some very interesting observations on Sunday about the differences between your priorities and Frank’s. I think it merits discussing when we get home.”

“Did Hal suggest he take over?” Claire had not thought Hal to be so mercenary.

“Actually no. He’s leaving after the holiday series. He only signed a year contract with Frank and already has plans to manage his brother next year. Hal doesn’t want to be a full time manager anyway. He’s the eldest. Eventually Hal will inherit his father’s title and estates. You know how much time your small property consumes. Imagine the size of the Duke of Pardloe’s holdings.”

“So Hal really just thinks Frank isn’t the right person for me?”

“He really does.”

Claire thought about that. If Hal truly wasn’t trying to take Frank’s place then she should at least consider his perspective.

“Alright let’s talk about it with Joe and Uncle Lamb.”

“Agreed. Let’s talk about something else. What would you like to wear for our walk later?”

The rest of the morning Claire spent lying on the couch. Mrs. Graham read to her for awhile, and she took another nap. Luncheon was brought to her room, and she took a walk afterward. Gayle and Hector went with her. Mrs. Graham stayed back with Lina. They paused at the cathedral so Claire could thank the pastor and the sacristan for their prayers and cleaning up after her. Both men were very pleased to see her recovered and wished her continued health.

After a light supper, Claire made sure everything was packed for the train and that her clothing for the next day was laid out. She washed up and went to bed early.


The train ride was uneventful. The others had just left for the school performance when Claire and her party arrived at the hotel. Hal was waiting for them though.

“Oh, could I go see the performance? I think it would be nice to watch once.” She asked Gayle.

“I don’t see why not. Mrs. G. and I will get us checked in if Hal and Hector are willing to escort you.”

“Certainly.” “Of course.” Said both men together.

“Is it far?”

“About five minutes by motorcar.” Hal said. If we leave now, we should get there before the performances actually begin.”

They did arrive before the beginning, and everyone was delighted to see her. Jamie and Jenny both rushed over to hug her.

“Oh I’m so glad yer alright. Dinna ever do that again ye numpty.” Jenny scolded, before hugging her a second time.

Claire laughed. “I promise, I’ll try not to.”

“Alright then.”

Jenny stepped back and Jamie carefully enfolded her in his long arms. “I’m verra glad to see you looking better.” He said, smiling down at her.

“I’m alright Jamie. Truly. Thank you for looking after me while I was ill though. Gayle told me you guarded my door.” She looked up at him and smiled back shyly.

“I will always look after you. If ye let me.” He said softly.

Claire blushed and looked away. She wasn’t quite sure what that look on his face meant, but… it was almost as if…

“What are you doing here?” A cold voice shattered the moment.

“Good afternoon Mr. Randall.” Claire said formally. “I asked Hector to bring me over. Since I’m not performing, I thought this would be a rare chance to watch the others as a member of the audience.”

“I see. Well stay out of the way, will you? I wouldn’t want the musicians that are working today instead of vacationing to be distracted.”

Jamie’s face immediately darkened. Hal’s eyebrows disappeared into his hairline and even Hector looked shocked which was unusual for the stoic driver.

Frank didn’t give anyone a chance to respond, but walked over to the other musicians.

“Bastard.” Jenny muttered.

“Janet Ellen Fraser!” Claire said, trying to sound like Jenny’s mother. It must have worked because Jamie snorted and Jenny giggled a bit.

“I’m fine. Go on. I want to see what I’ve been missing.”

They went and Claire settled down to watch. She was outwardly very calm although inside she was furious.

'If Mr. Randall thought his behavior would get me to see things his way, he was terribly mistaken. Unfortunately for him, it had rather the opposite effect. Gayle had been correct. They needed to talk to Uncle Lamb about letting Mr. Randall go and finding a new manager.'

Her enforced rest had given Claire a great deal of time to think about what led to her exhaustion. She was only seventeen, but had been performing for most of her life. His attitude just now only reinforced her resolve. The current situation was not right and she wasn’t about to let it continue.

The performances were wonderful. Claire had always known that the people she sang with were very talented, but until this afternoon, she’d never been able to simply sit and watch a performance.

'We’ve been under utilizing so many people. I had no idea that Jamie could play piano that well nor that Angus had progressed so much on his trumpet. I need to talk to Mr. Mackenzie about re-working the program. Not that I mind playing, but other people should have the opportunity to shine too.’

The program concluded. Now was the question and answer period and some of the questions were very insightful. A number of the girls however, were behaving quite oddly toward Jamie. It took Claire a little time to understand that they were attempting to flirt with him. Not being a flirt herself, she didn't immediately recognize the behavior. She’d seen ladies do this at receptions before, but more overtly. Claire knew it irritated him when women did this. At one point, he looked directly at Claire and rolled his eyes. She covered her mouth to silence the giggle that erupted.

She waited around for them to pack their instruments, then asked Jamie and Jenny if they wanted to ride back with her.

“Oh yes!” Jenny said. “I’ve missed you.”

“I’d love to Sassenach.”

“Well that’s quite rude.” Frank’s voice cut in.

“Jamie doesn’t mean it like that. It’s a nickname. I like it when he calls me Sassenach.” Claire said coolly.

Frank gave her a look of disbelief. Then waving his hand dismissively he said, “I fail to understand how you can enjoy being insulted, but that’s none of my concern. Claire, I’d like to speak with you in the car.”

“I’m sorry Mr. Randall. I’m not available just now.” Claire said in that same cool voice. “Ready Jamie?”

“What do you mean you aren’t available? You’ve done nothing but laze around for the past three days. I need to discuss...”

Claire turned to face her manager with Jamie standing next to her glowering and Hector on her other side. “Mr. Randall. If you have anything to discuss concerning the tour, I’ve been instructed to refer you to Mrs. Abernathy as she is my legal guardian at present. Excuse me.”

She turned her back and linked arms with Jenny, walking away. Jamie and Hector fell into step behind the girls, leaving Frank standing there with a shocked look on his face, rapidly replaced with an angry expression.

Claire managed to keep her composure until the car pulled away, then collapsed into Jenny’s shoulder laughing until tears were streaming down her face and she was gasping for breath. Hector was laughing too, although with less abandon. Jenny and Jamie didn’t quite get the joke, but both were smiling at Claire’s mirth.

“Oh. Oh! I wish Gayle had been there. The look on his face was priceless.”

“It was that Miss Claire. Mrs. Abernathy’s plan worked a treat.”

“What plan?” Jamie asked at a complete loss.

“Gayle was afraid that Mr. Randall was going to try and make me feel bad for not being here, so she told me to tell him to direct any questions to her. She’ll be at the dress rehearsal too. Gayle has to go early to place the microphones and instruments anyway, but Mrs. Graham is going to watch Lina so she can stay for the whole thing and the performances.”

“Are ye afraid of Frank?” Jenny asked.

Claire shook her head. “No, I’m not afraid of Mr. Randall. But I’m not fully recovered. Gayle and I both agreed that I shouldn’t give him the opportunity to try and bully me. That’s what led to me getting overtired in the first place. I need to get better at saying no to him.”

“So Gayle’s going to run interference until Claire does get better at it.” Hector put in. Or until Mr. Randall is no longer my manager Claire added silently.

Jamie smiled at her. “Good.”

Claire smiled back. Jamie had that look again, but Claire was afraid that she was imagining it was romantic. So she carefully kept her own feelings locked away. (He’s just a friend. He doesn’t see you that way.) Still, Claire would have Jamie in her life however she could, and tried to be grateful for the friendship.

They drove back to the hotel, chatting about what Claire had missed and enjoying each other’s company.

Thursday… (October 20, 1938)

Frank Randall was getting more and more frustrated as the day went on. He’d been completely unable to talk to Claire yesterday. By the time he’d arrived at the hotel, she had gone with Gayle to inspect the venue and attend daily Mass. She took dinner in her room with the two Frasers. When Frank knocked on her door two hours later, Mrs. Graham informed him that Claire had already retired for the night.

“She’s still a wee bit tired Mr. Randall. I shall tell her you stopped by though.” The housekeeper said before shutting the door.

Thursday was no better. Claire wasn’t at breakfast. Frank didn’t bother going to her room again, deciding that it would be better to wait and talk to her at the dress rehearsal. He waited until the rehearsal was finished, then caught Claire’s arm as she made to walk out of the church.

“Claire, I really need to speak with you.”

“About what Frank?” He hadn’t seen Gayle, who came up behind him. “Claire has already informed you that anything concerning the performance you can ask me.” Looking beyond him to Claire, she asked, “Are you going to supper with everyone honey?”

“Yes. Jenny said there’s a marvelous restaurant just down the street from the hotel. Everyone is going. You should come too.”

“Thanks Honey, I need to get Lina, then I will. You go on ahead.”

“I will, as soon as Mr. Randall lets go of my arm.” Claire said pointedly.

"Frank, let go of Claire's arm."  Gayle demanded.

Frank decided that enough was enough. “I’ll escort you. We can talk on the way.” He didn’t let go of her arm and ignored what Gayle had just told him.

“Mr. Randall please let go of my arm.” Claire was beginning to become unnerved by his persistence. 

“So you can run off again, I think not.” Frank said firmly.

Gayle opened her mouth to speak.  Claire beat her to it.

Please let go of my arm Mr. Randall!” Claire said more loudly, now truly upset. Every head in the room turned in their direction. Hector, Jamie and Dougal all started toward them.

“Claire, stop this ridiculous nonsense. You’re acting like a child. We need to have a discussion about the receptions for this weekend.” Frank raised his voice as well.

The three men had reached them and Claire took courage in having Jamie there. He put a hand on her shoulder in silent support.

“I’ve already told you Frank, Claire is not attending the receptions this weekend. Speaking to her directly won’t change that fact.” Gayle said angrily.

“I’m still going to discuss it with Claire. She’s old enough to make her own decisions.”

Claire decided she had had enough of Frank's bullying tactics.

“So I’m acting like a child, but I’m old enough to make my own decisions. Which is it Mr. Randall? You can’t have both.” she retorted.

“This is ridiculous. I will not have this discussion standing in the vestibule of a church with a crowd listening in.” Frank blustered instead of answering her directly.

“Fine. Then we won’t. I agree with Gayle, so a discussion isn’t necessary anyway.” Claire said through gritted teeth and a fake smile, at the now enraged manager. “Now, for the third time… please let go of my arm. I’m hungry and would like to go to supper.”

Frank’s anger and frustration caused him to do something very, very stupid. Taking a hold of her other arm, the manager gave Claire a good shake and yelled, “Stop this. Stop it right now!”

What he wanted her to stop, Claire wasn’t sure. His manner was becoming frightening. Before Claire could react, there was a loud roar. Suddenly she’d been released and was standing behind Jamie.

In the next few seconds, Geillis and Jenny linked arms with Claire and led her toward the door.

As quickly as things had escalated, they calmed right back down. Geillis and Jenny escorted Claire out to the car. When Claire risked a look back, Jamie was following close behind them. Hector seemed to be pushing Jamie along slightly and whispering into his ear. They got into the car and Claire noticed that Jamie was shaking.

“Are you alright Jamie?” she asked, taking his hand.

“Are you?” He asked in return. Claire noticed that she was shaking too.

“I don’t know.” She answered honestly.

“Me neither.” He said.

Geillis chuckled. “Yer both alright, just a bit shaken I think. I ken ye dinna like confrontations Claire, but ye handled that one well. Now. I’m starving. Gayle and Dougal will handle Frank. Let’s get some supper, aye?” She gave Jamie a look that Claire didn’t quite understand, and he made a visible effort to calm down.

The car drove toward the restaurant while Claire tried to regain her sense of calm. She kept hold of Jamie’s hand and used that to ground herself, without really being aware of it. He gently squeezed her hand, and his breathing began to slow as well.

Chapter Text

Jamie’s POV

“Please let go of my arm Mr. Randall!” Jamie heard Claire say loudly. He looked over and Frank Randall had a hold of Claire. Jamie started toward them.

“Claire, stop this ridiculous nonsense. You’re acting like a child. Now we need to have a discussion about the receptions for this weekend.” Frank said just as loudly.

Jamie came up behind Claire. He put a hand on her shoulder in silent support.

“I’ve already told you Frank, Claire is not attending the receptions this weekend. Speaking to her directly won’t change that fact.” Mrs. Abernathy sounded irritated.

“I’m still going to discuss it with Claire. She’s old enough to make her own decisions.”

“So I’m acting like a child, but I’m old enough to make my own decisions. Which is it Mr. Randall? You can’t have both.” Claire spoke up. Jamie was proud of her for standing her ground.

“This is ridiculous. I will not have this discussion standing in the vestibule of a church with a crowd listening in.” Jamie thought Frank sounded flustered.

“Fine. Then we won’t. I agree with Gayle, so a discussion isn’t necessary anyway.” Claire said smiling sweetly. “Now, for the third time… please let go of my arm. I’m hungry and would like to go to supper.”

To Jamie’s complete shock and outrage, Frank grabbed Claire’s other arm, gave her a good shake and yelled, “Stop this. Stop it right now!”

He didn’t remember moving, but within seconds Frank had let go of her, stumbling back a little. Claire was now standing behind Jamie. Beyond conscious thought, all he could think of was beating Frank senseless for daring to manhandle Claire.

Before Jamie could act on the impulse, Hector stepped between him and a shocked Frank. Taking the enraged young man by the arm, he turned him around. Then he put a hand to Jamie’s back and urged him to follow Claire.

The next thing Jamie was conscious of was Hector pushing him along slightly and whispering into his ear. “Let your uncle handle it. It’s her birthday. Don’t get into a fight today.” They reached the car and Jamie climbed in. He noticed Claire was shaking.

“Are you alright Jamie?” She was asking about him?

“Are you?” He asked in return. Then Jamie realized he was shaking too.

“I don’t know.” She answered honestly.

“Me neither.” He said.

Geillis chuckled. “Yer both alright, just a bit shaken I think. I ken ye dinna like confrontations Claire, but ye handled that one well. Now. I’m starving. Gayle and Dougal will handle Frank. Let’s get some supper, aye?” She gave Jamie a look, and he took a deep breath, trying to calm down.

The car drove toward the restaurant. Claire took Jamie’s hand and squeezed it gently. “Thank you.” She said softly. Just as gently, he squeezed back, his breathing beginning to slow down. “Always.” He replied.

Back at the church, Dougal and Hal were trying to de-escalate the situation. Frank was now ranting at Gayle who was yelling right back.

“What in the bloody hell is going on? I can’t even talk to my client now?” Frank hissed at her.

“No. You can’t. I’ve had a telegram from Lamb that I am to make all decisions from now until we get home. You are not to be alone in a room with Claire, since we can’t trust you not to manipulate her.” Gayle waved the telegram in his face.

“What? Why? I haven’t manipulated her. I’m just trying to keep things afloat.” Frank stuttered, then became angry anew. “What on earth did you say to Quentin? I am not responsible for Claire’s hysteria induced headache!” He said more loudly.

Before Gayle could respond to that, Hal intervened. “Frank, we really should discuss this in a more private place.”

Frank looked around. All the other musicians were staring at him and Gayle, along with the organist of the church and the sacristan who was waiting to lock up. Swallowing his next comment, Frank nodded.

“Fine.” He said shortly. “Let’s continue this at the hotel.” Jamming his hat onto his head, he walked out the door.

Dougal and Hal both looked at Gayle. “I’m… I’ll be fine.” She said somewhat shakily. Gayle was also not a confrontational person. I wish Joe was here. She thought.

“Come on lass. I’ll go with ye to speak to Frank. I think it would be better if you and Claire kept someone wit ye until we get back to London.”

“I hate to say it, but I agree with Dougal. Frank isn’t likely to become violent, but…”

“It’s better to be careful.” Gayle finished.

“Aye. I’ll have a word with Jamie and see if he’d be willing to help Hector keep an eye on Claire. Murtagh and I can stick close to you.”

“I’ll stick close to Frank.” Hal offered.

“This situation is rapidly becoming ridiculous. I’ve never seen Frank act this way before. I mean, he’s always been ambitious and determined, but… I’ve never seen him this… angry.” Gayle said, a bit confused.

“Frank likes to be in control. As long as he was, there was no need for him to get angry. You changed that when you contacted Mr. Beauchamp. Frank is not in charge at the moment which is not acceptable to him.” Hal explained.

“How on earth do you know that?” Gayle asked.

“My father has a very similar personality. I struggle with it sometimes myself. Believe me, it’s not a character trait I appreciate or nurture.” Hal said dryly. “My brother calls me out on it, whenever I begin to act the way my father always has. John doesn’t like it either.”

“Oh. Well thank you both. I don’t think Frank would have lost himself so far as to hurt me, but I don’t like being yelled at.”

“I’m no acquainted with anyone who does.” Dougal commented. To the rest of the musicians standing around he said, “Alright you lot. Show’s over. Go get yer supper.”

The church cleared out and after a quick word with the sacristan, Dougal and Hal escorted Gayle back to the hotel.

They entered the lobby and Mrs. Graham was waiting for them with Lina. “Is Hector coming to pick us up or are we riding with Mr. Mackenzie?” The housekeeper asked.

Dammit. I forgot Claire’s birthday supper.” Gayle said. Dougal started laughing. “I’ve never heard ye use such language Gayle.”

“I don’t normally. Frank just inspires that sort of vocabulary.” Gayle replied with a wry grin.

“I don’t actually see Frank. If we slip out now, we can talk to him after the party. I don’t think he knows where the restaurant is, so…” Hal let his voice trail off.

Gayle nodded decisively. “Let’s do that.”

The four adults and small child left the hotel. Frank came out of the men’s room a short time later and looked around before going up the stairs with a disgruntled look.

Claire’s face lit up when they arrived at the restaurant. “I thought you weren’t coming to supper Gayle, I’m glad you’re here.” She took Lina for a moment and cooed at her before handing her to Mrs. Graham as Gayle moved to hug her.

Gayle kissed her on the cheek. “In all the excitement I completely forgot that today is your birthday. I wanted to come and celebrate the day with you. Since it’s already supper time, I thought we could order a special dessert.”

Claire blushed, she hated having a fuss made over her. Of course everyone else heard what Gayle said, including the wait staff who made it a point to be very attentive to their table from that point forward.

After receiving well wishes from the rest of the group, the matter wasn’t mentioned again to Claire’s great relief. It was a lovely dinner and the chef sent out a chocolate soufflé for dessert. He’d heard it was her birthday too.

Any mention of Frank was studiously avoided. The group sat at the table for a good two hours. Eventually though, it was time to return to the hotel.

“Is it too far to walk back?” Claire asked. “I feel the need for some air.”

“Not really, it’s about a twenty minute walk. You can’t go alone though and Lina can’t walk that far.” Gayle said.

“I’ll escort ye Claire. I’d like to stretch my legs anyway. I’m no used to being indoors all day.” Jamie offered.

“Oh would you? Gayle, would that be alright? If Jamie comes with me? I’ll ask Jenny too.”

“That would be fine. Just make sure you stay together alright?”

Claire nodded. “I will. Thank you. We’ll see you at the hotel.”

“You’re welcome.” Gayle shooed her away and finished helping Lina with her coat.

“I just need to visit the powder room Jamie. I’ll be right back.” Claire said. He nodded. “I’ll get Jenny and wait by the door with yer coat then.”

Claire was only gone a few minutes, but by the time she returned, everyone except Jamie had gone.

“Where’s Jenny?”

“She’s riding back with Dougal. I asked her to come with us, but she said she was too tired.”

Claire shrugged. “Alright. Thank you for offering to walk with me. I’ve been resting so much I’m starting to get cabin fever. Gayle’s been hovering a lot. So has Mrs. G.”

Jamie finished helping her on with her coat and pulled her hair free of the collar while she buttoned it up.

“They’re just worrit about ye. It gave everyone a mighty scare. Ye dinna get sick often, so I think when you do it causes more alarm.”

“I know. I wasn’t really complaining.”

“I ken. Ye hardly ever complain even when maybe ye should.”

“Gayle said the same thing. I am going to try and stick up for myself more.”

“Good. Ye did a fine job earlier.”

Claire smiled up at him and put her arm through his.

“It was easier with you there to support me.” She smiled at him.

“Always.” He smiled back.

They began the walk back to the hotel, arm in arm.

Jenny’s refusal to accompany them had been quite deliberate.

Earlier that day she’d had a conversation with her brother.

“She’s eighteen today. What will ye gie her as a gift?”

“Janet! ‘Tis no funny.”

“I ken ye fancy her mac bhràthair. Why do ye no tell her? She fancies you too.”

“Ye canna ken that for sure, and I dinna simply fancy her.”

“Oh aye, I ken. As for how I know about Claire’s feelings, I’ve seen the way she looks at ye when she does’na think anyone’s watching.”

“Janet.” Jamie warned her. “Dinna meddle.”

“I’m no meddling. I have’na said a word to Claire, and I will’na. I’m just tellin’ you that she looks at ye the way Mam looks at Da.”

“Then why have I never seen it?” Jamie demanded.

“Because ye numpty. She does’na want to lose her friend.”

Jamie scoffed at that and Jenny became serious. “Ye need to understand something Jamie. Before ye called her yer best friend, Claire did’na think she had any friends at all. Oh, she likes me and Geillis, but we’re so much older than she is. In Claire’s mind, we’re in the same category as Joe. More older sisters than friends. She does’na say it, but she was verra hurt when Laoghaire rejected her attempts at friendship. Claire thought there was something wrong with her no Laoghaire.”

Jenny thought for a moment. “She’s eighteen years old Jamie. She’s never had a beau, she’s never had a friend her own age except for you. Claire is also verra cautious. She’s lost so many people that she loved. Suppose she were to tell ye how she felt and ye did’na feel the same? You’ve known her for a long time. Would she take that risk? Of losing the friend if she was’na sure?”

Jamie slowly shook his head. “No, she would’na. But how can she not ken how I feel?”

“Because ye numpty, unless yer singing that duet, ye dinna show her how ye feel.”

“So yer saying I’ll have to tell her and hope she feels the same.”

“Aye. Someone has to take the first step. We both ken well that it won’t be Claire. She isn’t forward, for one thing. For another, she rarely asks for anything for herself. She gives to everyone else, but is probably one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met. Take the chance at happiness Jamie. Tell her how ye feel. I promise she feels the same.”

Nothing more was said, but when the opportunity to give them some time alone appeared, Jenny wasn’t about to let anything ruin it. She hung around with Dougal and Geillis until Hector had driven off with the others. Then she asked if she could ride with the two of them.

“Oh sure. But I thought ye were walking back with Jamie and Claire?” Geillis said.

Jenny smiled conspiringly. “No tonight. Jamie hasn’t given Claire a birthday gift.” She said softly.

Geillis gave her a matching smile. “Well then. Let’s be off, shall we?” Taking Dougal by the hand she strode out of the restaurant, Jenny following.

The air was crisp and clean, which was rather unusual in a city the size of Brussels. Claire appreciated it nonetheless. London was a dirty city by comparison, as was Paris.

She walked along beside Jamie. Neither of them said much, simply enjoying one another’s company. About halfway back there was a lovely park with a small pond. There weren’t any animals about, and the pond looked like a mirror, reflecting the moonlight. Claire stopped for a moment to take in the sight.

“Oh that’s lovely.” She said, looking at the scene.

“Aye. It is.” Jamie replied. Something in his voice made her look at him. He wasn’t looking at the pond. He was looking at her.

Chapter Text

Claire stared at him, mesmerized. Jamie was looking at her the way he did when they sang.

“Jamie?” She wasn’t sure what she was even asking.

“Claire.” He breathed.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Like what?” He kept looking at her.

“The way you do when we sing together. Like you love me.”

He raised a hand and brought it to her cheek, running a finger along her jaw. “I do love you.”

For a minute Claire felt as though her heart would burst with joy. But then her natural caution took over. “I know you love me as a friend. I mean the way a husband loves a wife.” She clarified. He didn’t love her that way.

“Aye.” Was all he said.

“What?” Claire said stupidly.

Jamie smiled at her. Softly. Still looking at her. “Claire, how can you be so verra smart and observant but no ken the way I feel? I do love you and no just as a friend.”

“You do? Why?” She didn’t understand.

Jamie started laughing. “Why?”

“Yes. Why? You are so handsome Jamie. All the girls flirt with you. Why on earth would you love me?” Claire asked almost plaintively.

He stopped laughing. “Yer serious aren’t you?”

“Well, yes.” she shrugged.

Sighing he muttered something under his breath. Taking Claire by the hand he led her over to a bench and settled her on it, taking a seat next to her.

He wrapped his hands around both of hers and said. “Claire. I’ve loved you for a long time. Before you began writing to me I think. Yer honest and smart and kind and the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. A better question would be how can a man not love you?”

“Really?” Claire asked in a tiny voice.

“Oh Sassenach.” He put an arm around her and hugged her into his side. They sat there for several minutes.



“Why didn’t you tell me before now?”

“I didn’t think you wanted more than friendship. So I kept it to myself. I’d rather no tell you than lose you as a friend. But, Jenny told me this morning to take a chance. So I did.”

“I’m glad you did.” Claire said simply. Then she looked out at the pond once more.

They sat for a few more minutes. Jamie didn’t want to rush her, or force her to say something she wasn’t sure of. He knew that she was taking the time to process his declaration and think about her response.

Then Claire asked, “Could you…?” She looked up at him, and promptly lost her nerve. “Never mind.”

She tucked her head into his chest and listened to his heart beat.

He looked down at her bent head. She was hiding her face from him, so whatever it was that she wanted to know, it was embarrassing to her.

“Ye ken that ye can still ask me anythin’ Sassenach. I love ye, aye. But that does’na make me any less yer best friend.”

“I know. I’m… it’s…” She blushed harder. Take a chance Jenny had told him. Now Claire needed to do the same. Take a chance...take a chance…


She said in a rush, then hid her face in his chest again.

Jamie almost started laughing again, but he didn’t. Knowing Claire as well as he did, Jamie understood how much courage it took for her to ask. Instead he smiled and whispered in her ear.

“Claire, I’d verra much like to kiss you.” She looked up, her expression conveying both shock and hope.

He leaned forward and then stopped. She looked nervous, so he made sure. “May I?” He whispered.

“Yes.” She whispered back.

He leaned over and pressed his lips to Claire’s.

Now Jamie was a virgin, but he wasn’t an idiot. After the conversation in which Dougal had called him insane for waiting to get married, Jamie had realized that if he ever did successfully woo Claire, she would be just as innocent as he was. 

That was a recipe for disaster.

So, he’d asked both Ian and his Da for advice. After those conversations, he’d practiced kissing with a girl in the choir. Her name was Margaret Fitzgibbons and she was Mrs. Fitz’s brother’s daughter.

Maggie was several years older than he was, having graduated before he started high school. Jamie wasn’t concerned that she fancied him, she had a boyfriend who was away at university. Besides, she always acted more like a tutor than anything, giving him instruction on his technique and then making him practice. It was a little strange, but at least he learned how to kiss properly. He hadn’t asked about anything else, and Maggie hadn’t offered.

His first kiss with Claire was nothing like practicing with Maggie had been. It felt different for one thing. He hadn’t fancied Maggie, but he was in love with Claire. Maggie had been experienced, Claire was most definitely not.

He lifted his head and breathed heavily. It had been the gentlest and briefest of kisses, but Jamie felt as though he’d been running for several miles.

Claire stared at him for a moment. “Jamie?”

He looked at her questioningly.

“I love you too.” She stretched up and kissed him again.

This time the kiss was longer and Jamie traced her closed lips with the tip of his tongue before ending it. Then he leaned back against the bench, breathing hard.

“I… we have to stop. Ye dinna have a chaperone and I dinna want to…”

Claire was panting slightly and her face was flushed. “Yes. I…”

“Don’t you DARE apologize. I’ve wanted to kiss ye for years Claire Beauchamp. I’m simply trying to be a gentleman and right now it’s verra difficult for me not to kiss ye senseless.”

Claire started to giggle. She didn’t know if it was nerves or relief. Jamie smiled at her ruefully and laughed with her. It took a few minutes for them to regain their composure, but it helped Jamie calm the raging storm of his desires.

He took a few more deep breaths, then stood. “We need to get back to the hotel.”

Claire nodded and stood also. After tucking her hand in his arm, Jamie reached over and covered her small hand with his much larger one.



“Who should I speak to?”

“About what?”

“Permission to court you.”

“Oh.” She sounded a little startled. Then with a shy smile she said, “I suppose it should be Uncle Lamb, but I don’t know when he’ll be home… and I don’t want to wait until he returns… unless you do?” Claire looked unsure.

Jamie shook his head energetically. “No. I dinna want to wait.”

Her smiled widened. “Joe then. If he approves so will Uncle Lamb. Though… can we talk to Gayle tonight? I don’t want to wait, however, I don’t want to sneak around until we get home.”

“Nor do I. Let’s find Gayle when we get back then.” Jamie said and brought the hand he was holding to his lips.

Finding Gayle wasn’t difficult. She was waiting in the hotel lobby for them. Along with Dougal, Geillis, and Jenny.

All four of them stood when Jamie and Claire came in the door. After taking in the couple, everyone smiled widely. Even Dougal.

“Well. Tis about time.” Was all he said.

“Mrs. Abernathy, may I speak wit ye?” Jamie asked formally, completely ignoring his uncle.

“Of course.”

“In private if ye please.”

Gayle smiled. “Jenny, why don’t you and Geillis take Claire upstairs. I’ll be along in a few minutes.”

“Oh, but...” Claire started to protest. Dougal took her hand and drew her forward. “Come along lass. Let Jamie talk to yer guardian.” Jenny took her arm and dragged her away with Dougal and Geillis following.

Gayle led Jamie over to the seating area and sat down on a chaise. The young man sat next to her and got straight to the point.

“I ken I’ll have to talk to Joe and to Mr. Beauchamp, but I dinna want to keep secrets from her family. I’ve asked Claire if I could seek permission to court her and she said I could. I love her.”

“I know. I think everyone but Claire and possibly Frank Randall has known for quite awhile. I’m glad you finally told her. She returns your regard, obviously.”

“Aye.” He said wonderingly. “Jenny said she did, but I did’na quite believe her.”

Gayle smiled at that. The two of them were so adorable.

“I’ll let Joe and Lamb ask you all the dreary questions about how you plan to provide for her and such. All I want to know is… will you love her and help her to be herself?”

“I will. I promise.” Jamie said solemnly.

“Will you listen to her and talk to her? Treat her as your equal?”

“I already do that.”

Gayle nodded. “Yes, you do. But you can’t stop. You have to keep on treating her that way forever. I’ve seen too many men woo a girl with soft words and promises of devotion, then treat her like a child after the vows were spoken. I tell you now, Claire won’t tolerate that.”

Jamie chuckled. “I ken. My Mam and my sister are both strong women who speak their minds. I expect the same from Claire. I would never disrespect her by treating her as anything less than my equal.”

“Good. Although, Claire is very different from your sister in at least one way. Jenny has no problem asking for what she wants. That’s a little more difficult for Claire. She doesn’t complain much. Even when she puts her foot down with Frank about venues and things, it’s about what serves the music best. Not about Claire’s personal desires.”

Jamie nodded. “I ken.”

“Then knowing that, you must also be prepared to defend her...even from herself if necessary.”

“I will always protect Claire, from whatever or whoever might seek to harm her.”

Gayle gave the younger man a hug. “I’m happy for you both. I’ve been praying for this for over a year. For what it’s worth, you have my blessing.” She stood up. “I do want you to be very careful.”

“Careful of what?”

“No more unchaperoned walks. If I had known Jenny wasn’t walking too, I’d have sent someone else with you or asked Claire to ride back. I know you wouldn’t take advantage of the situation, however, Claire’s reputation is my responsibility and if you’re courting her… it’s even more important that the proprieties be observed. Lamb gives her far more freedom than most young ladies her age, but you know as well as I do... people watch.”

“I ken. I’ll be most careful. I did ask Jenny to walk with us, she said she was too tired and everyone else had already left.”

“I understand and I’m not scolding you Jamie. Just telling you to be careful going forward. Now come on. Let’s go find Claire.” Gayle led the way upstairs, Jamie following.

Claire felt as though she were floating. Her cheeks were starting to hurt, but she couldn’t seem to stop smiling. Over her head, Jenny and Geillis grinned.

“So… how was the walk?” Jenny asked.

“Jamie loves me.” Claire said.

“Of course he does hen. We’ve kent that for years.” Geillis stated.

“I love him too.”

“We’ve also kent that for awhile. Maybe no years, but…”

“He kissed me. For my birthday.”

The other two women started giggling and Dougal rolled his eyes. “That’s enough. I dinna need to hear this. If ye wish fer a gossip, please wait until yer in her room and I’ve gone back to mine.” Muttering under his breath about the silliness of females, Dougal was still smiling at them. Truthfully he was happy for the lass, and his nephew.

They reached Claire’s room and after ushering them in, Dougal kissed Geillis goodnight, then left.

Claire took her coat off and hung it up in the closet. Then she sat down on the sofa and leaned her head back, closing her eyes.

“So. How did ye like yer first kiss hen?” Geillis wanted to know.

“I’ve never felt that way… ever. It was like… there were butterflies in my stomach, and I couldn’t breath, but I didn’t care because Jamie loves me. He wants to court me.”

Claire sat up abruptly. “You don’t mind Jenny? Do you?” She asked in a sudden panic.

“Of course not ye numpty. I’ve been praying the wee fool would man up and tell ye. I can think of nothing I’d like better than to call you sister and have it be for real.”

“Truly?” Claire said a little glassy eyed.

“Truly.” Jenny said emphatically, leaning forward to hug the girl.

“Is that what he’s talking to Gayle about?” Geillis asked to lighten things up a bit.

Jenny released her and they both sat back. “Mmmhmm. He asked me who he should talk to and really it should be uncle Lamb, but I don’t want to have to wait until we get home and he gets back from where ever he is right now. I also don’t want to sneak around and neither does Jamie.”

“Sensible. Ye ken of course that you’ll need a chaperone when yer with him.”

“Of course. I trust Jamie, but there’s no sense in tempting ourselves to do something foolish.” Claire said practically.

“Or damaging your reputation. Once it becomes known that he’s courting ye, people will watch.”

“I know. And it affects everyone we work with too. It’s far too easy for rumors to start. Better to take care and not give anyone something to whisper about.”


There was a knock on the door and Gayle came in with Jamie.

“Say goodnight ladies, I’d like to speak to Claire. Jamie, you say goodnight too. If you’d like to join us tomorrow for breakfast we’ll see you at eight.”

“Could we go to Mass before breakfast tomorrow?” Claire asked. “I’d like to… say thank you for something.” She said blushing again.

“Alright. Daily Mass is at 7:00. So you can either meet us in the lobby Jamie, and come with us, or meet us back here at 8:30.”

“I’d like to come to Mass if ye please. I have something to say thank you for too.” Jamie didn’t blush but his ears turned pink.

“Alright then we’ll see you in the lobby at 6:30. I’ll be right back I’m going to check on Lina.” She went into the other room. Jamie took Claire’s hand and placed a gentle kiss on her knuckles.

“Goodnight mo Chride.”

“What does that mean? You called me that the night I was ill too.”

“It means my heart. For so you are.” He let go and allowed his sister to drag him from the room, Geillis closing the door as she went out behind them.

Chapter Text

Claire leaned against the door and closed her eyes savoring the moment. Jamie loved her. Mo Chride. He’d told her she was his heart.

Gayle came back into the room and sat down, patting the sofa in invitation.

Claire joined her. “Is Lina asleep?” She asked, more for something to say.

“She is. Claire, Jamie told me he wants to court you.”

Claire smiled. “Yes.”

Gayle smiled back. “I was going to ask how you felt about that, but I can see you approve.”

“I love him Gayle. He says he loves me too.”

“You don’t think this is sudden? You’re sure of your feelings?”

“I am. I’ve loved him for a very long time, I just…I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want to lose my only friend.”

“Claire honey, you have other friends. I know Geillis and Jenny are older, but they are friends to you.”

“It isn’t the same. They know so much more than I do about people… the world. Like you and Joe.”

“Honey, that doesn’t mean you aren’t friends.” The older woman took Claire’s face in her hands and looked at her searchingly. “You also realize that there are many subjects you know more about than they do?”

“Well, yes, but that’s just information. It’s got nothing to do with living.” Claire said.

“That’s not true. I will admit we’ve sheltered you, but we haven’t isolated you. You may not like the receptions and interacting with people, but you’re very good at it. The difficulty I think has more to do with your profession than anything. You don’t really come into contact with people not engaged with the music world in some fashion.”

“I know. That’s one reason I really like the school performances. Some of the questions students ask are really basic, others are well… from such a different perspective, they would never occur to me.”

"What sort of questions?”

“A student in Lisbon asked why we spent so much time on music, when there were much more important things to do. I didn’t have an answer for her. It did make me think about it though.”

“Have you figured it out yet?”

“I’m still thinking about it. I asked Father Matthias, he said that each person has a purpose. That mine was to create beauty for others, to give them consolation and encouragement. I’m not exactly sure what he means, but Father told me that I would understand some day.”

“I think he meant that without beauty, life would be pretty miserable.” Gayle offered.

“Maybe.” Claire said noncommittally.

“Now, I know that Jamie plans to talk to Joe and your uncle as soon as possible. In the meantime I’ve given my blessing. So he can court you, subject to their approval when we get home.”

“Thank you!” Claire hugged Gayle happily.

“You’re welcome. I also told him in no uncertain terms that the two of you need to be chaperoned at ALL times.”

“I know. We talked about it on the walk home. I talked about it with Jenny and Geillis too.”

“You understand that I trust him, and you?”

“I know. But I don’t think we should test our ability to resist temptation. Or do anything that would cause scandal. People take any opportunity to whisper. Better not to take the chance.”

“Exactly. There is a reason the act of Contrition contains the phrase ‘avoid the near occasion of sin.’ That not only means not putting yourself in a situation that could lead to behavior you regret, it also means not putting yourself in a situation that causes others to assume you’ve engaged in such behavior.”

Claire made a face. “I don’t understand why people leap to such conclusions.”

Gayle laughed. “Because people judge everyone else based on their own self-control or lack of. It’s been my experience that those who criticize the loudest are those who lack the most discipline themselves.”

“But that’s just…”

“Hypocritical? Yes. It is. However, we can’t do anything about how other people behave. Only how we behave. On the other hand, can you look me in the eye and tell me that you and Jamie would never be tempted if you were alone?”

Claire shook her head. “No. When Jamie kissed me… I didn’t want him to stop.”

Gayle nodded. “Exactly. And that isn’t a bad thing. It just isn’t… the right time yet. So until it is, better not to put yourselves in the position to be tempted. Alright?”

“Alright.” Claire said.

Gayle smiled mischievously. “I promise, it’s worth the wait.”

Claire blushed a very bright red. “Gayle!!!”

The other woman laughed. “I won’t tease you. And honey, I’m very happy for you both.” She hugged Claire. “Now, go on to bed. I’m sure you don’t want to be tired tomorrow.”

Jamie was waiting in the lobby next to Hector when they came down at 6:30 the following morning. He offered his arm to Claire, and Hector took Lina from Gayle, offering his arm as well. Mrs. G. had offered to keep the child, but Gayle said no.

“The more often I can take her, the earlier she’ll learn how to behave during Mass. Fewer people attend daily Mass, so it’s a better opportunity to teach her without disturbing others.”

They had to drive to the Cathedral, it was further away from the hotel. Claire spent most of the Mass saying prayers of Thanksgiving and asking for guidance. Jamie did the same. They both found something soothing about kneeling next to one another in prayer.

They had breakfast in Claire’s room after Mass, with Gayle, Lina and Mrs. G. There was nothing in the schedule until the evening performance, and the entire group planned to go sightseeing. They were all to meet in the lobby at 11:00.

With everything that had happened, Gayle completely forgot about Frank Randall, so it was something of a surprise when he knocked forcefully on the door of Claire’s suite at about 10:00.

They had finished breakfast and were in the sitting area, talking about nothing in particular, when the knock sounded. Mrs. G. went to the door and opened it. Frank came into the room, not quite pushing past her, but that was only because the housekeeper moved quickly to the side.

Gayle stood, and motioned to Jamie and Claire that they remain seated. If Frank was surprised at Jamie’s presence he didn’t indicate it. In fact, he ignored the other man entirely.

“Good morning Gayle, I’d like to speak to my client please.” Frank said in a very calm voice.

“Certainly. Have a seat.” Gayle sat down on the sofa, leaving the chair for the manager.

“This is a private conversation Gayle.” Frank’s voice was a little tense sounding.

“No Frank, it isn’t. Whatever you think you need to say, can be said now.”

There was a moment in which Claire thought Mr. Randall was going to start yelling again. But he didn’t. Instead he sat down and looked directly at her, as though he were blocking out everyone else.

“Claire. I understand that you feel as though you’ve been under a great deal of pressure and I’m sorry for that. I’m also sorry for losing my temper yesterday. I’m worried and let my concern get the better of me.”

Claire considered for a moment then said, “I forgive you Mr. Randall.” (I don’t trust you, but I do forgive you.) She added silently.

Frank nodded. “Thank you. Please understand that my concern is for all those associated with this concert tour. It’s terribly important to everyone that we earn enough money during these tours to keep all the people depending on us employed. It is a fact that when you attend the receptions, the checks are bigger, and more people write them. We’re so close to breaking even and perhaps having just a bit of a cushion. Please consider coming tonight.”

Despite herself, Gayle was quite impressed. Frank hadn’t ordered Claire, although he had tried to make her feel slightly guilty. For the most part though, he had simply laid out the reasons her attendance was important. The manager had requested that she consider attending, and even said please.

Claire was impressed too, slightly mollified that Frank wasn’t acting as overbearing as he had the night before. She looked at Gayle, who nodded then stood.

“If you’ll excuse us for a moment Frank, I’ll discuss this with Claire.”

“Of course.” Frank said, standing. Gayle escorted him out to the hall. It wasn’t until she had closed the door and locked it that he realized that Fraser hadn’t followed them.

In the room, Claire turned immediately to Jamie.

“Are you going tonight?” She asked.

“Aye. Dougal says it helps bring in money ye ken.” Jamie smiled at her, understanding why she asked.

Claire turned to Gayle. “I really am feeling better. Mr. Randall is right the more people give money when I attend. If Jamie is there as my escort, I’d like to go tonight. I don’t want to go on Saturday though, I truly am trying to be careful as the doctor told me to be.”

“If Jamie escorts you, I’m alright with you attending.” Gayle leveled a stern look at Jamie. “Just make sure young man that you keep her safe and bring her home if she gets tired.”

Jamie returned her look with a solemn one of his own. “I swear on the Cross of our Lord Jesus.”

Gayle smiled inwardly at his earnestness. Outwardly, she nodded and went to usher Frank back into the room. He was very annoyed that Fraser had been allowed to stay, but didn’t say anything as he wanted Claire to attend the reception.

Without any preamble Claire announced, “I’ll go to the reception tonight Mr. Randall. Jamie will be my escort though.”

“Fraser?” Frank gave Jamie a sidelong glance.

“Yes. Gayle has given him permission to begin courting me.” Claire said simply.

“I see.” Was all Frank said. He sat there for several minutes without saying anything. The others in the room sat silently as well, waiting for his reaction.

Outwardly Frank appeared calm if deep in thought. Inwardly he was re-working his plans furiously.

Now he understood why the boy hadn’t been ushered out with him. As Claire’s beau, he would have been included in any discussion about her social activities. This could upset all Frank’s plans if he wasn’t careful.

Given that Fraser was courting Claire, Dougal wouldn’t send the boy back to Scotland, no matter what Frank suggested about his lack of maturity. It would also mean that Fraser would be protective and if his previous behavior was anything to judge by, possessive. Frank couldn’t present either one of them as available now. Claire and Fraser as a couple would mean a great many disappointed ladies... and men for that matter.

On the other hand, the husbands, those who controlled the money, would be delighted that their sons and daughters (and wives in some cases) were unlikely to get involved with performers even if they were of the classical and more serious type.

The prejudice against theatre people was still present in the minds of those belonging to the upper classes of society. If Frank could spin this love story the correct way… there might be greater profit in it than in Claire or Fraser as separate commodities.

He might as well make the best of it Frank decided. The manager smiled at the pair and stood. “Well. Congratulations.” He held out a hand to Jamie. Somewhat bemused, Jamie shook it. “Thank you Claire, for agreeing to attend the reception. I’ll let you get on with your day, shall I?” He strode from the room and closed the door quietly behind him, leaving both Jamie and Claire looking confused.

“What just happened?” Claire asked Gayle.

“I’m… not sure.” Gayle said, just as confused.

“Well, whatever caused Mr. Randall to calm down, I’m glad. He was behaving most out of character yesterday. It was a little frightening.”

“Claire, ye needn’t be scared. So long as I am with ye, no harm will come to ye. From Frank Randall or anyone else.” Jamie said, still looking bewildered, but resolute too.

“I know that Jamie. You’ve always made me feel safe. It’s just… odd. I always thought I understood Mr. Randall, but now… I’m not sure what he’s thinking.”

“It doesn’t matter really. For the moment, we have enough people around us to counter his machinations if that becomes necessary.” Gayle reminded her. “How about we put this aside for the moment and get ready for the sightseeing tour hmmm?”

They came back from seeing Brussels in plenty of time to prepare for the evening concert. It had been a relaxing afternoon. Everyone caught on immediately that Jamie and Claire were now a couple, but the teasing had been kept to a minimum, for which Claire was grateful. Their courtship was still brand new. She just wanted to enjoy the day with Jamie, not answer a bunch of questions.

They were in public, so other than Claire taking his arm, or Jamie placing his hand on the small of her back when they entered a building, the new couple didn’t touch. By the time they returned to the hotel both were a bundle of nervous tension.

Separating to change into their concert clothing didn’t lessen their yearning for one another.

The entire company seemed to be affected. The performance that night was spectacular. Claire in particular poured all of her emotion into her playing and the audience was spellbound whenever she was onstage.

The program had remained in the inverted position with Jamie and Claire’s duet the last piece performed. It had always been very popular and well received. Since their performance at the palace, however, Claire hadn’t raised a hand to his cheek. Instead she put out a hand toward him, but didn’t quite touch Jamie. Tonight though, she couldn’t help herself. She knew how he felt now, and he knew how she felt.

Tonight… neither of them held back. Claire and Jamie sang to one another as though they were alone in the room. More than one audience member squirmed seeing the raw emotion on their faces, and a few were moved to tears. It was intimate and erotic, without being in any way vulgar or inappropriate. As they sang the last notes, Claire raised her hand to Jamie’s cheek. He turned his face, kissing her palm.

The song ended, and there was total silence for several seconds. Then the applause crashed over them like a tsunami. Jamie reached for Claire’s hand and kissed her knuckles before they turned to take their bows.

Chapter Text

The young couple was constantly surrounded at the reception that evening. If Claire hadn’t kept tight hold of Jamie’s hand, they would have assuredly been separated by the tide of people wanting to greet them. She intertwined her fingers with his, squeezing whenever she felt nervous. Every time she did, Jamie drew her closer.

No announcement had been made, it couldn’t be until Lamb gave his approval. Nevertheless, every audience member that spoke to them offered well wishes or congratulations. The couple smiled and answered everyone with a simple thank you.

Still all the attention was overwhelming, even a little bit frightening to Claire. People seemed… almost hungry in their attentions. It was unnerving. Having Jamie right next to her helped. She knew he’d keep her safe no matter what.

For once, Frank wasn’t in the thick of things. He stood off to the side observing the proceedings. Not quite ignored, but not the center of attention either.

She looks… happy. Frank decided. At first he hadn’t been able to decipher her expression. It took over an hour for him to realize that her smile reached her eyes whenever she looked at Fraser. Frank had never seen her smile that way at anyone before. Throughout the evening, whenever people crowded around them too closely, Claire expression would betray tension. Then she’d look at Fraser, smile at him, and relax again.

It was unsettling to Frank. For much of the reception, he couldn’t figure out what was bothering him about the scene. Eventually, the manager realized that what he was feeling, was jealousy coupled with a sense of loss.

Jealousy of Fraser, along with regret that Frank had never encouraged her infatuation. If he had, with Claire on his arm, Frank would be admired, envied, respected by other men. She was beautiful and talented. If Frank had kept her regard, then others would want to earn his. The wealthy, the nobility, would want to speak with him instead of vying for Fraser’s attention.

Which at the moment, those at the reception were. No one wanted to speak to Frank tonight. They all flocked to Claire and Fraser. Several people came and handed Frank money or bank drafts, to sponsor Claire… and Fraser. However, people only sought him out when directed to by the young couple.

Dougal didn’t seem to be doing too badly either. Frank would have to check in with him later.

The regret was fleeting however. She was too young. His first train of thought made Frank quite uncomfortable. He decided that his envy had more to do with the desire for a companion than with Claire in particular.

Unknown even to Frank however, was the real source of his envy. Which was the fact that the ability to truly know Claire, was something he would never attain. What had always intrigued him, even as it frustrated him, was the knowledge that she consistently held some part of her in reserve. She had refused his requests more often than she had agreed to them.

Furthermore, Claire had never…. Never, smiled at him the way she was currently smiling at James Fraser. Subconsciously he knew that Fraser had always and now would always, have more intimacy with Claire than Frank ever had or would. This made Frank feel as though he was lacking some quality Fraser possessed, and he hated it. Fraser had beat him in a competition Frank hadn’t been aware of until this evening.

Consummate professional that he was, Frank didn’t voice any of his thoughts, nor did he dwell on them. Claire was no longer available. Besides, he scoffed to himself, I would never look at her the way Fraser does, or feel that way for any woman. As though she were an angel and I didn’t deserve her. Look at him, mooning over her like some love struck puppy. The manager thought with disdain.

It never once occurred to Frank that Jamie was looking at Claire with love. Frank’s selfish nature found it perfectly acceptable for a woman to look at him that way, but to return the feeling, to give a woman that kind of power over him would be unthinkable.

It didn’t matter. He was still her manager and this situation would be useful in furthering Frank’s career.

Gayle had told Frank that Claire could stay no later than midnight. At precisely 12:00, Jamie escorted her out of the reception hall. Dougal and Geillis both stepped in and began talking to the people who tried to follow the couple.

Frank came into the hallway as Fraser was helping her on with her coat. He could see Hector standing next to the car, through the windows by the entrance.

Fraser leaned down and said something softly to Claire, that made her smile. The younger man offered his arm and escorted her from the building.

A sigh from behind him made the manager turn. It was one of the society matrons, the Grand Duchess of something or other, Frank couldn’t remember her precise title at the moment.

“Did you wish to speak with me your grace?” Frank asked.

“Yes. The young lady is in need of a permanent patron is she not?” The elderly woman said autocratically.

“She is your grace.” Truthfully, the Baroness Schraeder’s patronage had put them into the black, but Frank wasn’t about to turn away an offer of permanent patronage. It would give them breathing room going into the next series.

“Very well. I shall have my steward contact you to make the necessary arrangements. I have only one requirement.”

“A requirement your grace?” Frank said in surprise. That wasn’t how it worked. A patron signed on or didn’t, but they couldn’t make demands a condition of patronage. Never mind her guardians… Claire would never allow it.

“Yes. Let the young couple know they should perform together more. Tonight’s viewing of their connection was far too brief.”

“Of course. I shall certainly inform them.” Frank would too. He wouldn’t make it a requirement but then again, he probably wouldn’t have to.

The Grand Duchess inclined her head and turned back into the reception room. Frank waited until she had entered and went in himself.

When the reception ended, Dougal didn’t wait for Frank to come to him. He went to the Englishman instead. They had just bid goodnight to the last few guests. Geillis came with him of course. She’d been by his side all night. They caught up to Randall just inside the entrance. Harold Grey was with him and they were discussing the evening.

“Frank, we need to talk about tomorrow’s performance.”

“What about tomorrow’s performance?”

“Jamie and Claire need to sing that duet again. I’ve received more bank drafts and promises of sponsorship this evening than I have at any other reception. Or any two combined for that matter.”

“I’m not surprised. I had an offer from the Grand Duchess Alexandra of permanent patronage, with the request that Claire and Fraser perform more together.”

Dougal grunted. “I dinna disagree with that, but I think ‘tis the song that captured the audience.”

Geillis shook her head. “No. It does’na matter whether they’re singing or playing. As a woman I can assure ye, twas the way they looked at one another that did it. In fact, if ye have them sing too many things, it will backfire. Let them play an instrumental duet. Just make sure ye place them so they can play to one another and ye’ll get the same reaction from the audience that ye got tonight.”

Frank dismissed her words, but Hal nodded. “Geillis is right Frank. If you have them sing too much, it will dull the effect. By all means have them sing a duet at the end tomorrow night, but don’t add more vocal duets.”

“Well, I don’t suppose it will lengthen the program to have them sing the one additional duet, and I’m not about to change the program otherwise. Tomorrow is the last performance of the tour. We can talk about this for the next series. It’s late. I’m going back to the hotel. Do you need a ride Hal?”

“I’ll catch a ride with Dougal if he doesn’t mind. I wanted to ask him a couple of questions about the ballads. A gentleman inquired about their origins and I couldn’t give him the correct information. Don’t want to be caught out if that happens again. Felt a very fool.”

Frank shrugged. “I’ll see you in the morning then.” Placing his hat on his head, the manager left the building.

The other three said goodnight to the sacristan who was waiting to lock up. When they reached the car, Hal got in the back, leaving the front seat for Geillis.

“What did ye want to ken about the ballads Hal?”

“Nothing really, although if you could write down their origins and basic stories that would be helpful if Frank asks me.”

Geillis raised an eyebrow. “I’ve already got a pamphlet on them, we use it for the school presentations. I can gie ye a copy in the morning if ye like.”

“Thank you Geillis, that would be appreciated.”

“So if ye did’na really have questions, then why did ye no want to ride with Frank?” She pressed.

“I wanted to discuss this evening with you and future receptions. I think Claire and James are going to generate a great deal of attention going forward. I could tell it was a little frightening for Claire, to be constantly surrounded like that. I kept expecting Frank to step in and draw off some of the crowd, but he never did. Fortunately, James seemed to be able to keep Claire calm when she became distressed. I’m sure it was still a very stressful experience for the young lady.”

“And with her just getting over a sick headache...” Dougal started.

“Ye dinna think she should be subjected to that tomorrow.” Geillis finished.

“Yes.” Hal said, glad they recognized his concern.

“Why did ye no mention it to Frank?”

“I did. That’s what we were discussing when you joined us just now.”

“He does’na think it will be a problem.” Geillis stated more than asked.

“He doesn’t.” Hal affirmed. “Frank seems to think that having Fraser next to her will be enough to keep Claire from being overwhelmed.”

“I dinna ken if Claire is even going to the reception tomorrow. Gayle said she was’na. Claire does’na like to be out late on Saturday. It makes her sleepy at Mass on Sunday morning.”

“I know that was the result of the meeting this morning, however given the response tonight, I don’t think Frank is going to be willing to let her skip it. Especially if they sing again. Dougal isn’t the only one that had more money given to him than ever before.”

Dougal thought about that. On the one hand, it was the last performance. It was already sold out, but word would spread of what happened onstage tonight. He expected that all those who had purchased tickets would use them. Many times the wealthy would purchase tickets but then not attend the performance. Dougal didn’t think that would be the case tomorrow.

He agreed with Frank that they should take advantage of the opportunity, but he didn’t want Claire to be frightened away. She’d never agree to go to receptions for future series if that happened.

“I’ll talk to Murtagh and the other lads. If more of us attend the reception tomorrow, we can try and draw a bit of the attention from them, or if we can’t do that, at least force people to give Jamie and Claire a breather once in awhile.”

“I can also talk to Gayle. Perhaps giving Claire an earlier leave time?” Geillis thought out loud.

“I dinna ken if that will work. The concert is’na over until 10:30. Even if she leaves at midnight again, that’s still only an hour and a half.”

The Friday concert was two hours and mostly vocal music with a few instrumental pieces, with a ten minute intermission after the first hour.

The Saturday concert was three hours. An hour of vocal music and two hours of instrumental. The format varied depending on the length of the orchestral work, but usually there were short instrumental pieces, followed by a ten minute intermission, then vocal pieces, another ten minute intermission and then the orchestral work. The orchestral work finished the concert.

“By the way, how will it work to have Jamie and Claire sing at the end tomorrow? The orchestral work finishes the Saturday program.”

“We could have them sing it as an encore?” Hal suggested.

“We never do encores. Or have’na in the past.” Dougal shook his head. “Most likely Frank will flip the order as we did for the Friday program.”

“Do the orchestral work first?” Geillis inquired.

“Hmmm. Especially if word does get out. It’s what I would do. I’d make a short announcement explaining why at the beginning of the concert too.” Dougal explained.

Hal nodded. “I would too.”

Chapter Text

Jamie and Claire after the reception.

Claire settled into the seat as Jamie slid in next to her. Leaning her head on his arm, she sighed.

“That was extremely uncomfortable.” The young woman said.

“It was.” Jamie agreed, taking her hand.

Hector looked at them through the rear view mirror. “Are you two alright?”

The couple looked very tense, though they seemed to be relaxing the further away from the church he drove.

“’Twas just a bit excessive tonight, the attention.” Jamie said.

“Oh really? Don’t people pay attention to you at every reception?”

“They do. But tonight was different. It was…” Claire stopped. She couldn’t really describe it, but the crowds had bothered her.

“It was obvious that you and Jamie are a couple tonight. Perhaps that’s why the attention was different. Everyone loves a good love story. People in the audience very touched by your performance. I could tell. Even standing in the back as I do.” Hector said.

“I suppose so. It was still a bit much. I didn’t like it when they got so close. I think if Jamie hadn’t been holding my hand I would have bolted for the door.” Claire elaborated, shivering a little. “I’m most likely overreacting.” She lifted her head and looked at Jamie.

“Yer not overreacting. I felt it too. If I were as tiny as you are, I’d have been frightened as well.” Jamie said smiling down at her.

“I wasn’t frightened.” Claire hastened to reassure him, “Even if I did get overwhelmed once or twice. You were there. I knew I was safe.” She smiled up at Jamie.

“Ye were.” He said smiling down at her.

Claire put her head back on Jamie’s arm and they stayed like that for the rest of the drive.

When they reached the hotel, Jamie escorted her to her room. He kissed her hand when he said goodnight. Claire shut her door, then leaned against it. She knew that he wouldn’t kiss her on the mouth again until after he talked to Lamb… but she was still a bit disappointed. With a sigh, the young woman went to bed.

Dougal had been correct. Frank flipped the program. He asked Claire and Jamie about it Saturday morning at breakfast, explaining how much income they had made the night before. He’d also informed them of the Grand Duchess signing on as a patron and her request.

The young couple had hesitantly agreed to attend, but when they asked Gayle, she put her foot down. “Claire is not attending the reception tonight. They can sing at the end, but then she’s coming back to the hotel and going to bed. We have Mass tomorrow morning and it will already be close to eleven before she is back.”

Frank had tried to argue, but Claire looked relieved. Everyone saw it but the manager, so Gayle didn’t back down.

Finally, Dougal intervened.

“It’ll be fine Randall. We already received enough to cover all the expenses for this tour and have a cushion for the next. Claire’s just recovered from her sick headache. I’m sure none of us want to push her into another one.” The manager heard the unspoken warning and backed off, though he wasn’t terribly happy about it.

All of the musicians spent the afternoon in one of the hotel drawing rooms, talking and relaxing in one another’s company. Jamie and Claire were next to each other all day of course, though they participated in the general conversation. It was nice, Claire thought. For the first time, she felt as though she were part of the group instead of just an extra.

No one had ever felt that way about Claire, but her shyness and reserve caused the young woman to hesitate, which then left her out of the conversation as often as not. She hadn’t really sat with everyone for long, either. She was always excusing herself after a brief time to practice or go to her room. In fact Claire would have been in her room today if Jamie hadn’t simply taken her hand and led her into the drawing room.

The rest of the musicians for their part were thrilled that Claire was finally socializing with them. Other than Jamie, she was the youngest of them, and every one of them knew she was painfully shy in company. They liked Claire and had tried to include her previously, but she hadn’t really understood their overtures to be genuine. That being the case, now that Claire had joined them, they were all careful not to tease her. Rupert had to rein in Angus once or twice, but he liked the lass too, so tried not to step over the line.

Geillis and Dougal were in another corner talking to Murtagh and Suzette who looked ill. Claire hoped she was alright. Gayle and Lina and Mrs. Graham were there for awhile too, until they went upstairs for Lina (and Mrs. G) to take a nap. Hal was even there.

The only person missing was Mr. Randall, but Claire assumed he was making sure things were set up for the reception.

At supper time, they all went together into the dining room. A man was standing by the door, and Claire rushed to greet him, calling out in delight, “Oncle Ray!!!!” When she reached the older man he hugged her and even spun her around a bit.

“Madonna! How beautiful you are. And so grown up. I almost didn’t recognize you ma petite.”

“I’m so glad to see you! I thought you were in Africa? Can you stay and eat supper with us?” Claire said, tucking her arm through his and bringing him along into the dining room. Jamie and the others followed. Reaching back, Claire grabbed Jamie’s hand without looking at him. The young man smiled at her joy and squeezed her fingers gently.

“I can stay to supper. I also have a ticket for the performance later. I have not yet returned home, I wanted to see you first. I have missed our conversation. It has been some time since I received a letter from you chérie.”

Quentin had cabled and asked him to look in on Claire when he had received the telegram about her being ill. The ticket was one that Quentin had arranged. Gayle always kept a ticket for Quentin just in case he showed up for a performance unexpectedly. Which had happened many times during previous tours.  If Lamb was in the area, he came to the concert.  He didn't always remember to give anyone advance notice, so a ticket was always kept for him.

“I know Oncle Ray. When Uncle Lamb told me you went to Africa, he forgot to give me your address. I have over two dozen letters at home that I didn’t know where to send.” Claire explained.

The Frenchman laughed. Quentin was scatterbrained at the best of times. It did not surprise Raymond in the slightest that he hadn’t given the address to Claire.

“Well then. Send them to my home in Paris when you return to London. I am returning home myself on Monday. I look forward to reading all of them.”

They reached the table and Jamie pulled out her chair. He seated her and then took the chair next to Claire before re-taking her hand. Raymond noticed all this as she chattered on, and raised a brow.

“Who is your young man petite?” Claire’s uncle hadn’t mentioned anything about Claire having a beau.

The young lady in question blushed a beautiful shade of pink. “I’m sorry, I forgot you hadn’t been introduced. Raymond Masters, I’d like you to meet my best friend, James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser.”

“Friend?” The Frenchman’s eyebrow went higher, and Claire’s pink cheeks darkened a bit more.

“Yes, friend… He’s… he… Jamie is going to ask uncle Lamb for permission to court me.” Claire stuttered a bit, searching for the right words.

Jamie’s ears pinked a little too, although he maintained his composure under the older man’s sudden scrutiny and met his gaze without apology. “I am. Until then, I have received tentative permission from Mrs. Abernathy to be in company with Claire.”

After a long moment of staring at Jamie; Raymond seemed to decide something, and smiled widely. “Bien. I think he will be good to you petite.”

So saying, he dropped the subject and began to tell Claire all about his trip to Africa.

Raymond did attend the concert that night and the reception afterward, even though Claire did not. The performance was just as amazing as Friday’s had been. Once again, the audience was spellbound by Jamie and Claire’s duet. As Frank had requested, it was the last piece of the evening.

Gayle stayed for the performance, then went with Claire back to the hotel. Claire knew that Raymond was planning to attend Mass then breakfast with her, so she went without complaint.

Dougal had all but begged Jamie to attend the reception, at least for a short time. “Even without Claire there, people will want to meet you and that will help us all.”

Jamie agreed, but only if Dougal and Geillis stayed with him. “I dinna ken how the lasses are going to behave without Claire present, and I’m no in the mood to fend off their advances tonight. Especially since Claire’s Oncle Ray plans to attend.”

Dougal had reassured him that he wouldn’t be left alone. None of them however, could have predicted the attention that Jamie received.

Once it was apparent that Claire wasn’t at the reception, every woman in the room set her sights on talking to Jamie alone for just a moment. He refused to leave the hall of course. Even that didn’t deter some of them from flirting outrageously. It was irritating, although not nearly as infuriating as the comments about Claire.

“It must be difficult acting like that with such a young girl.”

“How on earth could such a tiny thing handle a man like you?”

“How boring to have to sing the same thing to the same girl every night. Even for a professional such as yourself.”

“I’m sure you must be ready to have a real relationship.”

“Surely it was an act. After all, you’re a man and Miss Beauchamp is obviously still a child.”

On and on it went. Invitations, innuendos, subtle slurs against Claire. At first, Jamie tried to explain the truth, but none of the women listened. Some even laughed and told him the concert was over, he could stop pretending. Eventually, in order not to start yelling at them, Jamie deliberately stopped listening… and talking. He completely shut down and stood next to Dougal. From then on Jamie refused to respond to anyone. Just stared blankly at the wall, waiting for the reception to be over.

Dougal was annoyed, but he understood what the lad was doing. If someone had said those things about Geillis he’d have lost his temper a long time ago. Jamie shutting down was better than having him start a fight with someone.

Raymond observed all this from a corner of the room. He smiled to himself. 'Yes, he will be good to her.'

Eventually, the reception ended. Jamie rode home with Dougal and Geillis, waiting until they were alone in the car to say, “I’ll not do another reception unless Claire is there. I ken we need the sponsors but I’m not going to put myself through that again. I’m only grateful she wasn’t there to hear what those...females were saying all night.”

“The stupid cows would’na have said it if she were there Jamie. Well, perhaps one or two would have, but most women are’na that stupid to challenge a lass when she’s right in front of them holding yer hand.” Geillis observed.

“It does’na matter. I’m no doing that ever again!” Jamie said emphatically.

“I ken lad. I’m sorry I asked ye to go tonight. I swear, I did’na ken that would happen.” Truth be told, Dougal was more than a little shocked, and he thought he’d seen just about everything.

“I ken Uncle Dougal. It is’na yer fault. Gah! I feel as though I need a bath.” Jamie exclaimed.

They reached the hotel. As they neared the entrance, Geillis put a hand on Jamie’s arm. “I’m going to tell Claire what happened tonight, so she’ll probably ask ye about it in the morning.”

“Why? I dinna want her to ken what they were saying!” Jamie protested.

“I will’na give her the details, just that a bunch of silly lasses made fools of themselves over ye. I’d rather she hear it from me than from Frank or one of the lads. Unless you want to tell her?” Geillis arched a brow.

“No. You can tell her. I’m likely to lose my temper in the telling of it.” Jamie conceded.

“Alright then.”

The two men went to their room and Geillis went to knock on Claire’s door. Gayle answered it. She was sharing the suite with Claire this time. Mrs. G. had graciously agreed to take Lina in with her.

“Geillis? It’s after midnight. Is something wrong?”

“No, and I ken that Claire’s probably asleep.”

Claire came to the door. “I’m not asleep. Come in Geillis.”

The secretary entered the room and sat down. “What happened? Is Jamie alright?”

“He’s fine. Annoyed, but fine.” Geillis related everything that had happened at the reception and Jamie’s reaction to it, leaving the details of what the women said out of her narrative.

“He told Dougal he’s never going to another reception without ye.” She finished.

“Is he truly alright though?” Claire asked.

“Oh aye. I think he just didn’t expect to be flirted with so much.”

“But why? The women always flirt with him at receptions.”

“They do. Jamie thought that since he’d all but declared his love for you onstage that they would understand his heart is spoken for and leave him alone for a change.”

Gayle laughed at that. “Poor man. He doesn’t understand that some women just see it as a challenge.”

“They do?!” Claire was astonished.

The other two women nodded together. “Of course. To a certain type of female there’s nothing so attractive as a man in love with another woman.”

Claire wrinkled her nose. “That’s…”

“Horrible. I know.”

“Poor Jamie. Should I say anything in the morning?”

“No unless he does. Yer wee fox cub kens that I’m telling ye about what happened, but he’s embarrassed and angry about it. Offended on your behalf more than anything I think, and a bit on his own that anyone would think he’d play ye false. Better to just leave it alone if he’d rather no talk about it.” Geillis advised.

“Alright. Thank you for telling me… so Jamie didn’t have to.” Claire said.

“Yer welcome. I should go on to bed then. Mass is early tomorrow.”

The ladies said their goodnights and went off to their respective rooms.

Chapter Text

Claire didn’t ask for details, but she did ask Jamie if he was alright. He said he was. Jamie was extremely attentive to her all morning, and although Claire reveled in his attention, it felt a little bit… as though he were trying to reassure her of his affection. Finally she couldn’t take it anymore.

“Jamie, are you sure you’re alright? Geillis told me what happened at the reception last night.”

“I’m… more angry than anythin’. T’was insulting to both of us. I love you. I couldn’t have made it any plainer unless I shouted the words onstage. That any woman would say the things those lasses said, just because ye were’na in the room…”

“Well, I suppose that means we’ll have to go together to keep them from accosting you.” Then Claire smiled at him impishly… “dinna fash Jamie. I’ll protect you.”

Jamie started laughing uproariously and Claire giggled along with him. When they had calmed Claire said, “I’m sorry the women made you feel bad.”

“More uncomfortable than anything. I hope you ken I did’na encourage them in the slightest.” Jamie said seriously.

“Of course I know that. I trust you Jamie. You can’t control what those women did, but I know you. You’re honest.”

“Thank you mo chride. For your trust.”

“Always.” Claire smiled at him.

They spend Sunday quietly with rest of the musicians and Oncle Ray. Monday morning, she hugged the Frenchman goodbye and they boarded the train back to London. Claire was thrilled to be going home. She wasn’t the only one.

Claire was a bit surprised to see her Uncle at the train station with Joe. Jamie helped her off the train and she all but dragged him over to give Lamb a hug.

“I didn’t know you were back Uncle Lamb! You weren’t supposed to come home until Christmas.”

“I received a telegram from Joe, and came home as soon as I could.” He looked at Jamie directly. “I understand you’d like to speak with me on a matter?” Lamb was of the opinion that the conversation should take place as quickly as possible.

“Yes sir.” Jamie looked nervous, but certain.

“Well then, suppose you come back to the house with us? We can talk in my study.”

“Uncle Lamb! Let Jamie go home and unpack at least.” Claire protested.

“It’s alright mo chride. If your uncle has the time, I’d truly rather speak with him now.” Jamie reassured her.

“I do. As does Joe. He has today and tomorrow before he needs to return to school.”

Claire still looked a bit upset, however, after biting her lip and sharing a look with Jamie, she nodded.

“If you’re sure you’re ready?”

“I’ve been ready for quite some time.” The young man replied smiling at her.

It took some time to gather their luggage and explain everything to Jenny, who was quite protective of her brother.

“Can they no wait until ye’ve had a decent night’s rest in yer own bed?” The small woman wanted to know.

“Perhaps they could, but I canna. I’ll be fine Janet. Joe and Mr. Lambert both ken me well. They are’na going to put me in front of a firing squad.” Jamie reassured her with some humor.

“Well then,” Jenny huffed. “I suppose ye’ll sleep better if it’s settled anyway.”

“I will.” Her brother said decisively.

Joe had brought the car. Hector offered to drive home, but Joe said he would do it, to give the man a break.

“After all, you spent all day riding the train, you must be tired. I didn’t do anything except read a bit and take a nap.”

In the end, there wasn’t enough room for everyone, so Joe hired a cab to bring the rest of the party home. Gayle and Lina rode with Joe, Lamb, Jamie and Claire. Everyone else rode in the other car, with the exception of Geillis who went with Dougal. Jamie’s trunk went with Dougal also. A large bus had been hired along with a driver, to transport everyone back to Rose House.

Upon reaching home, Gayle took Lina upstairs and Mrs. Graham went directly to the kitchens to make tea. Hector carried Claire’s trunk upstairs, then went off to his room to unpack. Another servant carried Mrs. Graham’s things and Gayle’s in. Claire was shooed upstairs.  She went reluctantly with a last look at Jamie.

Joe and Quentin ushered Jamie into the study. The older men sat down and Lamb invited Jamie to do the same.

“If ye dinna mind I think I’d rather stand a bit. It was a long train ride.” Jamie took a moment to gather his thoughts and began to speak.

“Mr. Lambert, Mr. Abernathy. I am requesting yer permission to court Claire. I ken we are both young, so I dinna mind if it’s a long courtship. I plan to wed but once and I’m willing to wait for Claire to be sure.”

“And for you to be sure.” Joe said.

Jamie shook his head. “I’ve been sure for quite some time sir.”

Lamb spoke up then. “How long have you been in love with my niece?”

“I dinna ken for certain. I knew that I admired her when I first saw her perform in America. She was eight then. My admiration only grew when we met again at my uncle Murtagh’s wedding. When we began to write to one another, a friendship grew. My mother says she suspected then that I had lost my heart to Claire.”

“Yes, but when did you know how you felt?” Joe pressed him.

“I think it must have been at the funeral when she fainted in my arms. I knew then that I would do anything to keep her safe and well.”

Lamb looked at Joe and smiled. He was satisfied. Quentin had already quietly investigated the lad and his prospects. He knew of Brian and Ellen of course. Although Jamie wasn’t the oldest son, he was to receive a university education and assistance in getting started in life.  He also had some land already, that he had inherited from his grandfather.

Joe wasn’t ready to let Jamie off the hook yet. “Why did it take you so long to declare your intentions then?” He demanded.

Jamie shrugged. “I did’na ken that she felt the same as I. She is my friend and I was’na willing to risk losing that friendship if she did’na care for me in that way.”

“Alright, I can understand that. So. Moving on to practical matters. How do you plan to provide for her?” Joe asked.

“That is why I’m prepared for a long courtship. I’m to sing with the Roses for another two years then go to university in Paris. After that, I shall either raise horses or find work in government as a translator. Or perhaps continue singing. It will truly depend on Claire.”

“On Claire?”

“Of course. If she is willing to live in Scotland with me, we’ll go home and settle on the land my grandfather set aside for me. If she would rather live in London, I’ll find work here. If she wants to continue touring, we’ll do that. It does’na matter to me. As long as I can be with Claire and build a home and family with her, where we do so is’na important.”

Quentin smiled at that. “Well. I know my niece and she’ll want to take your desires into consideration too you know. I’ve heard enough to understand that you truly love Claire. You have my formal permission to court her. I’ve already spoken with both of your parents through letters and they invited us to Lallybroch for the holidays this year. I told them we would come. Joe can’t get away from school for that long, so I withdrew from the dig I was on and will accompany you.” He stood and shook Jamie’s hand.

Jamie smiled brightly.  If Mr. Lambert had already contacted his parents, then he was sure Jamie was acceptable.  They wouldn't have to wait to announce their courtship.

“Thank you verra much sir. I hope I never give you cause to regret giving me permission.”

“I doubt you will my lad. And call me uncle Lamb. It’s what Claire calls me after all.”

“Alright. Thank you… uncle Lamb.” After another handshake, Lamb left the room. Joe sat back down and motioned to Jamie.

“This might take some time, so you may as well sit down Jamie.”

Jamie sat, a bit confused. He knew Joe liked him... so this couldn't be about courting Claire.

“For what it’s worth, I’m happy for you both. It’s been clear to many of us for some time how you feel about one another. I do want to discuss some things though. Lamb knows, but he’s not here enough to really have a feel for the challenges you are going to face with Claire.”

“What challenges do you mean?” Jamie bristled a bit. 'Was Joe saying Claire had another beau?'  Jamie knew Claire's character and wasn't at all pleased at the implication.

“Calm down man, I don’t mean that we will be placing any obstacles in your path. I simply want to point out some things about the adjustments that Claire is going to be making. She doesn’t handle change well and your relationship is going to provoke any number of changes in the way she lives and does things.”

Joe paused to gather his thoughts.  Jamie relaxed, understanding now what Joe meant.

“Please recognize that I don’t think she’s even aware of how resistant she is to altering her schedule. For any number of years, we’ve all tried to encourage Claire to be more flexible about certain things, but she isn’t really. You need to know that. I think it has a great deal to do with the losses she suffered at such a young age. Her parent’s death, my father’s… even Lamb leaving like he does. It’s left Claire feeling very out of control. Her response has been to try and control her own schedule. Almost to the point of it being unhealthy.”

Jamie went to speak and Joe held up a hand. “Let me finish, then you can ask all the questions you want.”

“Claire is very composed and seems quite sure of herself, but in reality she is painfully shy and terribly insecure. As incredibly talented as she is, Claire doesn’t think she has real value to anyone outside her performances bringing in money." 

At Jamie's confused look Joe continued, "She doesn't think anyone puts her first, and really there is some reason for her to believe that. We try, but all of us have other responsibilities.  She doesn't have a single person in her life who's primary consideration is her welfare. That's fine for an adult, but looking back on it, I think it wasn't fine for her as a child.  Such things leave a mark.”

Joe paused again then continued… “It’s one of the reasons that Frank Randall has been so successful in manipulating her.”

At Jamie’s inquiring look, Joe nodded. “Oh yes. Gayle let me know everything that happened on the tour. I’m only sorry we didn’t realize how bad it had gotten, that Claire had to get sick for us to become aware of how hard she was pushing herself.”

Joe had done a considerable amount of thinking after receiving Gayle's telegram and their subsequent letters back and forth.  Everyone had let Claire down as a child.  Not on purpose, but she had been given far more responsibility at a young age than was fair to her.  Perhaps it wasn't right to now put some of that responsibility on Jamie, but Joe wanted the boy to at least be aware of what he was walking into.

“We knew something was’na right, Jenny and I. Even Dougal I think, though we did’na discuss it with him. Claire spent so much time practicing by herself, even though we all invited her to join us in the evenings. Do ye think that was Frank?”

“I doubt it. He’s never worried about her practice schedule before. No, I think that was Claire being afraid to join you. That’s the sort of thing I mean. I don’t want to put pressure on you or make you responsible for it, but Claire is like a sister to me and it worries me that she doesn’t socialize more. Geillis and Jenny have both been trying to draw her out, but she doesn’t see them as peers.”

Now Joe leveled a look at Jamie. “Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”

Jamie nodded. “I do. Perhaps it will ease your mind when I tell you that she did join the larger group for the last days of the tour. I will’na force her to make large changes to the way she does things, however, I do intend to coax her into spending more time with people outside of practice and performance. I agree ‘tis isolating for her. I still plan to attend university and I want Claire to be comfortable with everyone before that happens. I don’t like the idea of her being alone while I’m gone.”

“Good. I’m glad you don’t think I’m being interfering.”

Jamie shook his head. “Nah. I’ve an older brother and an older sister. Ye care for Claire. Ye just want to see her safe and happy.”

“Precisely.” Joe sat back for a minute, then said. “Now that’s settled, I’d like your opinion on something.”

“Opinion on what?”

“Frank Randall.”

Chapter Text

“Frank? What about him?” Jamie asked cautiously. “I’m no sure I’m the best person to ask about Randall. He and I have never gotten on and I’m still fairly angry with him over his treatment of Claire on the tour.”

Joe shook his head. “That’s why you are precisely the person to ask. Gayle told me everything she heard and saw. I plan to ask Dougal and Hal about it as well. I’ll ask Claire too, but I don’t expect her to have a clear picture of the situation. You on the other hand are uniquely qualified to speak about it.”

“How so?”

“Frank isn’t your boss so you don’t have to worry about him impacting your singing career. On the other hand, you just finished telling Lamb that your first priority in life is Claire’s happiness. Part of that happiness is her success as a musician. So. If Frank is necessary to that goal, then I trust you’ll be honest about it, despite your opinion of him personally.”

“I… see.” Jamie said slowly. “I dinna ken if you’re giving me too much credit, but I will try to be honest. What would you like to know?”

Joe sat back, relaxing into the chair. “Several things actually. Let’s begin with the most impersonal. Is Frank Randall in your opinion, helping or hurting Claire’s progress as a professional musician?”

“I dinna ken for sure, it would depend on your definition of progress. If you mean is he helping her become more well-known, then I would say… yes he is. Mr. Randall is verra talented at the promotion side of things. Every stop on the last tour had more schools wanting a presentation than we had time for. The places we performed were generally sold out and most of those that purchased tickets actually came to the performances.” Jamie paused thoughtfully. “I heard Randall say several times that he wished Claire was’na so stubborn about performing in churches, that some o the concert halls were bigger and he could have sold more tickets.”

Joe smirked. “He says that every time there’s a meeting about anything. Sometimes more aggressively than other times, but it’s a continuous refrain with Frank.” Joe contemplated Jamie for a moment then asked, “Do you have an opinion about the size of the performance venue or the type? I already know Claire’s views and Dougal’s. I’ve never really thought about asking the rest of you.”

Jamie gave it serious consideration. Joe sat patiently. Eventually Jamie offered, “I’m no morally opposed to singing in a concert hall, but… it feels better to sing in a church. Part of it is acoustics I think. Our music just sounds better bouncing off all the marble and glass that make up most churches. Concert halls are generally made of mostly wood and plaster. The sound echoes differently. It’s no… bad ye ken, just… different, and… I like the sound in churches better.” Jamie shrugged.

Joe nodded in agreement. “It does sound different. I do wonder though if it’s that or the size of the larger concert halls that cause Claire to remain so opposed.”

Jamie shrugged again. “I dinna ken. We’ve never really talked about it.”

Joe waved a hand in dismissal. “I can ask her directly. Moving on, what did you mean by ‘it depends on your definition?’ Clearly you think there is more than one way to determine professional progress.”

“There is. Commercial success is one way to look at progress, but the musical development of a person is another way and in that respect I think Frank Randall does far more harm than good.” Jamie said decisively.

Joe raised an eyebrow. “Wow. That was blunt.” He observed.

Jamie grimaced. “I’m sorry if it seemed rude. ‘Tis just… Frank is so concerned about selling tickets that he does’na ever encourage Claire to try anything new.”

“New meaning?” …

“There is a vast repertoire of both instrumental and choral music out there. But every concert we play similar things and sing similar things. Orchestral works are wonderful, but there are any number of smaller chamber pieces or even more modern things from America that we could play. We never do. I think if we added more small pieces, Claire might be comfortable playing her harp in public again. I’ve only ever heard her at yer Da’s funeral. It’s a shame that. The harp is a beautiful instrument and Claire is verra good. I ken she used to play with her Mam… I think it would honor her memory if Claire were to play again… in public that is.”

Jamie paused to think about how he wanted to say the next part. Joe in the meantime was turning over what the young man had said already. It was true about Claire and harp. I wonder if that’s become a block for her getting past the grief over her parents. She never talks about them, not even to mention the happy times. Joe thought to himself. He tuned back in as Jamie continued.

“The same holds true for the things we sing. Folk songs and Sacred music. We never sing Madrigals or Opera or anything modern.” Jamie explained, then chuckled. “Everything we sing was written between 1600 and 1800. Dinna mistake me, I like that sort of music. But it isn’t the only thing out there. Early Madrigals have such a different sound, and no one ever sings them in concert. Or we could import some of the music from the States. Me Mam took me to a jazz concert one time and it was different to anything I’d ever heard.”

When Jamie ran out of steam, Joe was looking at him in surprise. Then he became thoughtful.

“Hmmm. You’re right. I’m not sure it’s even occurred to Claire to explore other types of music. Of course I don’t think it’s occurred to Dougal either.”

“I’ve asked about it before. The other lads used to sing them before the ladies joined in, but Dougal does’na program them anymore. Dougal says he does’na want to mess with success.”

“There’s something to be said for taking that stance. I take it you disagree?”

“No exactly disagree. I dinna think we should completely replace our entire program, but… perhaps trying a new piece or two each series would help us to grow as musicians, and give audiences something different to listen to. Make the program more varied.” Jamie said cautiously.

“Fair enough. Now why do you think Frank is preventing that?”

“I dinna think he’s preventing it exactly. It’s more… he puts so much pressure on Claire about the money and the patrons, I think she’s afraid to try anything new.”

“There is that. Which really, Claire doesn’t need to worry about money. She can afford to experiment a bit, even if it causes us to make less money on a given concert series.” Joe sighed. “Although from what Gayle tells me, Frank has Claire convinced that it’s her responsibility to make sure everyone involved remains employed.”

“He did say something like that to Claire a number of times on the tour. She ended up going to a reception after saying no, because of it.” Jamie pointed out. “That kind of pressure is what caused her to get sick.” He hesitated, then continued. “He also became verra angry with Claire on her birthday. It took several people intervening for him to back down.”

Joe had already heard the entire story from Gayle. He found it interesting and an illustration of Jamie’s character that he didn’t give the details, knowing what a bad light it would cast Frank in. He didn’t voice those observations. Instead he replied,

“I know. We have to make changes.” What kind of changes remained to be seen, and Joe wasn’t quite ready to share his thoughts on the subject with Claire’s beau. He continued… “Which we’ve already discussed are difficult for Claire.” Joe stood and put out his hand. “I’m going to be relying on you to help Claire get through this. I have a feeling that the next bit is going to be rough for her.”

Jamie stood also and shook the other man’s hand. “Of course. If ye dinna mind an observation, making a change like this is probably good for Claire. She’s eighteen now and it’s long past time she started making choices with a supportive manager. I dinna think Frank is supportive of her as a person.”

“Hmmm.” Joe said noncommittally. Jamie blushed a little thinking that maybe he had said too much, and excused himself. He wasn’t sorry for his comments, but neither did he want to push his luck. Joe remained in the study, sitting back down as Jamie left.

Claire as waiting for him in the hall. “Well?” She asked breathlessly.

Jamie smiled broadly. “Yer uncle and Joe both gave me permission to court ye.” He said, drawing her into a hug.

“Oh Jamie! That’s wonderful. Of course I didn’t really think they’d say no, but sometimes Uncle Lamb gets the strangest ideas into his head. Will you stay to supper? Or do you have to go back to Fraser House? You’re probably tired. Maybe you could come back later?” Claire was talking very quickly, the questions and comments almost tumbling out of her. Jamie quickly realized that she was nervous. So he did the only thing guaranteed to stop the flow of words. He kissed her.

It was little more than a peck on the lips, but it did have the desired effect. Claire stopped talking, put her arms around his waist and kissed him back, closing her eyes.

Perfectly aware that they were standing in the hall of her home, Jamie kept it brief. It wouldn’t be good to get carried away. He pulled back a little and looked at Claire. She didn’t open her eyes immediately and he reveled in the happy, contented expression on her face. When Claire did finally look at him, her cheeks turned pink in embarrassment.

Noting the change of expression, Jamie asked her… “does it embarrass ye when I kiss ye?”

Her cheeks darkened, but Claire shook her head. “No. It’s… I’m sorry. I was talking a mile a minute just now. I don’t know why, I never do that.”

“Dinna fash Sassenach. This is all new to you. To me too. I’ve never asked permission to court someone before. But dinna be afraid. There’s the two of us now. We’ll figure it out together.”

Claire relaxed and smiled again. “Will you stay to supper?”

“I’d like that. I’ll need to return to Fraser House after though. I have to stop at Rose House first, make sure that my Bass made it back in one piece.”


Supper was friendly and relaxed, Geillis was still with Dougal so it was just Lamb, Joe, Gayle, Claire and Jamie. Lina was upstairs asleep already, after having a bath and a meal in the nursery.

As he had promised, Jamie said his goodbyes, (kissing Claire’s hand since her uncle was present) and walked to Rose House. He checked on his instrument, which was in the music room and fine. He then left and went on to Fraser House which was only a block or two away from Rose House. Jenny was waiting for him at the door.

“Well?” His sister asked the minute he came in.

Jamie smiled broadly. “Claire’s uncle gave his permission. He contacted Mam and Da even. Da invited Claire to come to Lallybroch for the holidays and Uncle Lamb is coming with her.”

Jenny squealed and threw her arms around her brother’s waist. “Oh mac bhràthair I’m so happy for ye.”

Jamie laughed and hugged her back. “I’m verra happy too.” Then he sobered a bit. “Joe talked to me after. Asked me about Frank Randall.

Jenny made a face. “What about Frank Randall?”

“Joe wanted to know if I thought he was helping Claire progress as a musician or no.” Jamie explained.

“And what did ye say?” Jenny asked curiously.

“I told him it depended on what ye meant by progress.”

“I dinna see that Frank Randall is doing anything but causing Claire grief.” Jenny retorted.

Jamie shook his head. “That is’na fair Jenny. He is verra good at his job and we all benefit from the tours he’s able to arrange. Randall is also the one that came up with the idea of performing for the schools and orphanages. Ye ken how wonderful that’s been for all of us and for Claire too.”

“I suppose yer right.” Jenny said grudgingly. “I just dinna think it makes up for all the other things he does. Claire would never have gotten sick if he had’na been pushing her so hard.”

“That may be true, or maybe no. Claire’s fairly good at putting pressure on herself without any help.”

“Aye, perhaps. But you and I both ken that we’d have an easier time pulling her away from practicing all the time if Frank Randall was’na whispering in her ear that people would starve if she does’na just go to one more reception or book just one more concert. Jenny said sarcastically mimicking Frank.

“That’ll be enough Janet. Lower yer voice aye? Suzette just finally fell asleep.” Murtagh came into the room from the kitchen, carrying a pitcher of water.

“Sorry uncle.” Jenny said more quietly.

“Glad to see you home mac peathar. Did the lass’s uncle gie ye permission to court her?” Murtagh wanted to know.

“Aye.” Jamie said smiling again.

“I’m verra happy for ye a bhailach. I ken yer parents will be too.”

“Claire’s uncle already contacted them. Da invited Claire to Lallybroch for the holidays. Her uncle too of course.” Jamie explained.

Murtagh nodded. “Good. Now I’m for bed. Dinna stay up too late. We dinna begin rehearsals for the holiday series until next week, however Dougal wants a meeting tomorrow to talk over the program. I assume ye’ll want to be there lad as Claire will be.”

“I would. Goodnight uncle.”

“Goodnight Jamie. Janet.” Murtagh turned and went upstairs.

“I should go up too. Goodnight Jenny. We can talk more over breakfast tomorrow.”

“Goodnight Jamie.” With one last hug, Jenny went to her room and Jamie went to his.

Chapter Text

Tuesday October 25th 1938 Planning the Holiday series

Jamie didn’t see Claire again until the following afternoon. Everyone slept in and spent the morning unpacking. They had agreed on the train to meet at Claire’s house for tea, and a planning meeting at 3:00. Jamie was so fidgety by lunchtime that Jenny began to laugh at him.

“Ye spent all day yesterday with Claire and ye’ll see her again in two hours. Why are ye so jumpy? She’s no likely to have changed her mind already.” His sister teased him.

Jamie scowled at her. “I’m no worried about that. I just miss her is all.”

Murtagh put in his thoughts. “Well, I’d like to leave a bit early anyway. I need to discuss a few things with Joe and Dougal before Randall arrives. What say we go at quarter to two?”

Jamie’s face lit up. “That sounds like a fine idea A ghoistidh.”

Jenny smiled but didn’t laugh this time. “Yer going along then Jamie?”

“Of course. I go to all the meetings now. Uncle Dougal wants me to learn how to manage ye ken.” Jamie said with great dignity.

“Of course.” Jenny repeated with a grin. Jamie huffed at her but smiled back.

“Janet, can ye look in on Suzette while I’m gone? She’s still not feeling well and I told her to spend the day in bed if she wanted.” Murtagh asked.

“Of course uncle. Does she ken what ails her? Is it catching?”

Murtagh gave his niece a small smile. “Aye, she kens, and no ‘tisn’t catching.”

“Alright then.”

When Jamie and Murtagh arrived at approximately 2:00, Claire was in her music room practicing. She knew about the meeting at 3:00, and wasn’t sure how long it would go. Since Jamie would be coming and Claire was hoping to spend some time with him after the meeting, she decided to practice harp from 1:30-2:30.

Normally this would be her reading time, but Claire would happily give that up to spend time with Jamie. Harp practice on the other hand she was not willing to forgo. She asked Joe to send Jamie into the music room when he arrived.

Joe was surprised, but very happy. The fact that Claire was willing to rearrange her practice times and let Jamie into the room with no fuss, illustrated the positive effect her new courtship was already having. If wanting to spend time with Jamie led to Claire being more flexible about her schedule, Joe was glad.

After answering the door and ushering the two men in, Joe said to Jamie, “Claire is practicing right now, in the music room. If you’d like to join her.”

“Ye dinna think she’ll mind?” Jamie asked.

“Not at all. She asked me to send you in when you arrived.” Joe replied, pointing to the door. “Knock first if you worry about interrupting her.” Then he led Murtagh toward the study.

Jamie hesitated for several moments outside the music room. He could hear the harp coming through and didn’t want to break Claire’s concentration. Eventually he decided not to knock, instead easing the door open. Claire had her back to him, which suited Jamie just fine. He quietly entered the room and stood there listening to her play. He left the door ajar to maintain propriety.

Claire was good. More than good. If Jamie had to choose, he would say that Claire was better on the harp than on the piano and considering her skill level on the piano, that was saying something.

Jamie had never heard the piece she was playing, but he liked it. Claire played for several more minutes not realizing that he was in the room. When she finally stopped, Jamie applauded softly.

Claire whirled around to see Jamie standing in the doorway with a loving smile, which immediately turned into a worried frown as he saw the tears streaming down her face.

As was always the case, Claire mourned her parents when playing. Today was especially poignant. She wished more than anything she could share her joy with them.

Jamie quickly crossed the room to kneel down beside her and ask, “Why do ye weep so a leannan?”

Claire brushed at her cheeks and gave him a tremulous smile. “I’m alright Jamie. I just… I wish my parents had been able to meet you.” Her eyes welled up with fresh tears.

“Oh mo ghràidh,” Jamie said folding her into his arms. “Ye ken that they are surely sharing your joy even if ye canna see them?”

Claire nodded into his shoulder, but didn’t respond. Jamie didn’t push her, just held her until Claire was able to regain her composure. She sat up and he loosened his hold to hand her his handkerchief.

“Thank you.” While she wiped her eyes and blew her nose, Jamie stood and drew a chair up next to her. She turned on the harp stool and looked at the handkerchief, then at Jamie. He chuckled and took it from her, folding the soiled linen before placing it into his pocket.

Jamie took her hand. “Feeling better?” Claire nodded. Wanting to cheer her up, Jamie said…

“The music was beautiful Sassenach.” He hesitated, then remembering his conversation with Joe the previous day, said “Tis a shame that no one ever hears ye play. I knew ye were accomplished at it, when I heard ye at Mr. Abernathy’s funeral. Why do ye never play the harp in concert?”

“I…” Claire paused. “It’s… I want to...” she stuttered and blushed. Then looked at him searchingly for a moment, before coming to a decision. “Jamie. If I tell you something, will you promise not to tell anyone else? Not even uncle Lamb or Joe?”

“As long as ‘tis nothing harmful to ye, yes I promise.” The young woman thought about that and decided to accept her beau’s caveat.

Claire took a deep breath. “I do want to play the harp in concert again. I’ve been writing pieces to play and practicing them. It’s just… I can’t…” Deep breath. “I’ve been trying to play without thinking of my parents and crying. I haven’t been able to manage it yet.”

“I dinna understand. What about at Mr. Abernathy’s funeral? Ye played then.”

“I did. I also cried while I played. That was alright at Uncle Paul’s funeral because everyone expected me to be sad. I can’t do that in a regular concert though. People wouldn’t understand and it…it would be embarrassing.”

“Perhaps if ye got used to playing in front of people again, ye’d be able to play without grieving them so?”

“Maybe. But what if I can’t? And I don’t want to try in front of strangers. I play for Gayle and Lina sometimes and I still cry. Although,” Claire said thoughtfully, “I don’t cry as much when they’re in the room.”

“So that’s yer answer then. Play for people ye ken first. People who ye won’t be embarrassed to cry in front of.”

“That isn’t a very long list. You, Joe, Jenny, Gayle and Lina are really the only ones. And Geillis. But not Dougal.”

“I’m sure he won’t feel left out if ye’d like Geillis there. But what about yer uncle? Ye didn’t mention him.” Claire shook her head.

“No, if Uncle Lamb knew I was crying over my parents, he’d think about them too. I know he misses them just as much as I do. That’s why he runs away all the time.”

Jamie raised an eyebrow. “Runs away?”

“Of course. Uncle Lamb loves me very much, but I look an awful lot like my mother… although she was taller than I am. He knew her longer than my father did. I think he loved her though he’s never told me so. Being in this house and seeing me for too long makes it hard. Uncle Lamb stays for as long as he can bear it then runs away to dig. He hasn’t been to the house in America since Mummy died. I haven’t either, but I don’t think it would bother me as much.”

Claire said all of this in a matter of fact kind of tone. She had overheard Mrs. Graham explaining it to Geillis one time. Claire known this about Lamb for several years now, and didn’t blame him for it.

Jamie on the other hand was a bit angry at the man. To his way of thinking it was another example of how everyone expected Claire to shoulder burdens that weren’t hers to bear. He didn’t mention this to Claire of course. She wouldn’t see it that way at all.

Returning to the subject at hand, Jamie said, “alright then, play for the six of us. Or any combination of people yer comfortable with having in the room. Perhaps just having one other person in the room will help.”

“Maybe that will help. I can try at any rate. Would you be willing to sit with me until the meeting? I still have some pieces to run through. That way I can get an hour’s practice today, and we can test your theory.”

“Of course. I’d be honored to sit and listen for as long as you’ll play for me.” Jamie smiled at her and put the chair back at the desk, crossing to sit on the sofa. So as not to make her nervous he leaned his head back, closing his eyes.

Claire smiled at his thoughtfulness, re-seating herself to play. Claire worked for the next half an hour on various exercises and etudes. Finally, she played through the piece she’d been working on when Jamie came in one more time. When she’d finished, Jamie opened his eyes and sat up. Her eyes were a little glassy, but Claire hadn’t truly started crying again. To distract her, Jamie asked, “Who composed that? I’ve never heard it before.”

“I did. I just finished it this morning.”

“’Tis beautiful. Do you have a name for it yet?”

Claire turned pink. “No, not yet.”

“What was the inspiration for it then? Yer parents?”

Her blush deepened. “I… ummmm. No… it was…”

“It’s alright if it’s private Sassenach. Ye dinna have to tell me if ye dinna wish to.” Jamie reassured her. He didn’t want to embarrass her and it was obviously something she wasn’t ready to talk about.

Claire shook her head. “No, I want to be nothing but truthful with you.”

“I want that too mo chride. But there is a difference ye ken between a secret and a lie. Ye can be truthful with me and still have secrets ye keep to yerself. If ye are’na ready to share something then don’t.”

Claire thought about that a bit before nodding. “Alright. I do want to tell you, I’m just not quite ready. Is that… alright? Can I tell you in a little while?”

Jamie stood and walked to her side. “Of course. I’ve no done much composing, but me Mam has done a fair bit and she always keeps things to herself until she’s sure she’s ready to share them. It only makes sense ye’d do the same.” He reached for Claire’s hands and drew her to her feet. “Now tis five minutes before three and ye should go and wash yer face before the meeting.”

Drawing close he whispered. “I think yer beautiful all the time, but I dinna want yer uncle to think I’ve brought ye to tears already.” Then he kissed her forehead.

“No, I don’t want that either. Thank you Jamie. You go ahead to the study. I’ll be along in a minute.”

He nodded, opening the door wider so Claire could go through. He watched her go up the stairs before proceeding down the hall and into the study.

The others were already there. Dougal, Geillis, Murtagh next to Joe, Frank and Hal. Joseph wasn’t there, Dougal had told him to stay at Rose House to finish recovering from the cold he’d caught in Belgium. Lamb was in the room. Jamie nodded respectfully to him before taking his seat next to Murtagh.

“Where’s Claire?” Joe inquired.

“Visiting the powder room.”

“Ah. That’s right, she was practicing harp.” Joe commented. Jamie looked at him sharply and Joe nodded. He knew about the crying. So did everyone else in the house. Even Lamb. They never discussed it with Claire or each other, but no one was ignorant of what happened when she played the harp.

“Where were you then?” Frank asked abruptly.

“In the music room watching Claire practice.” Jamie was just as abrupt.

“What?! I thought she never let anyone in there when she plays harp.” Frank was shocked and a bit annoyed.

“That isn’t entirely true. Gayle and Lina sit and listen to her sometimes. Claire is simply rather selective about her audience when she’s practicing.” Joe told Frank. If he smirked inwardly, well that was kept between Joe and his conscience.

Claire entered the room just then.

Chapter Text

Frank was the first to start.

“Before you begin discussing the holiday series, I have a few announcements.”

Claire inclined her head gesturing the manager to continue.

“Hal will be staying through the middle of December. He is going home to his father’s estate in time for Christmas, and doesn’t plan to return. I had hoped he’d be with us longer, however I am glad for the time he did give us.”

Everyone politely applauded and Claire made a point of thanking Hal.

“So will ye be hiring another assistant then?” Dougal asked. Frank shook his head.

“No, which brings me to the second announcement. I’ve begun taking on other clients. In the future, I will not able to be here all the time. In fact I’ll be leaving for the States next week and won’t be returning until the end of January.”

Everyone was silent. Frank interpreted the silence as concern over the immediate future and continued…

“Now don’t worry, I’ve already confirmed the bookings for the holidays series. We’ve used all the venues before. As Claire requested, everything is local to London. There shouldn’t be any difficulties, particularly since Hal will still be here for the first half. Dougal, you and young Jamie will be able to handle anything that comes up during the second half. This would be excellent training for the boy.” Frank was condescending, but Jamie didn’t let it bother him. Randall treated most everyone that way.

Frank for his part expected people to protest. So it was a bit of a shock when Joe smiled and said, “I think that’s an excellent plan. After all, if Frank is taking on American clients, we’ll need to learn to get along without him. The holiday series is an easier time to begin than on a tour with traveling.” Dougal and Jamie both nodded in agreement.

“Aye, yer right Randall. It will be a good opportunity for young Jamie to get some additional experience.”

“I can work directly with Jamie on the holiday series Frank, at least until I leave. That will ensure he has someone to go to if he has any questions.” Hal offered.

Gayle and Geillis both hid smiles. Frank couldn’t very well backtrack but it was clear to both women that he’d expected someone to beg him to stay. The manager cleared his throat. “Well then, once I return in January if Jamie is willing he could continue as my assistant. He’s already very familiar with the groups and most of the venues. More importantly, everyone is already familiar with him. I hesitate to keep bringing in new people, even though Hal worked out quite well.” Frank’s real concern was that he didn’t want to be upstaged by a hungry young assistant.

“May I think on it over the holidays and let ye know when ye return?” Jamie asked.

“Of course.” Frank said magnanimously, thinking the lad was overwhelmed by the prospect of learning from a seasoned professional such as himself. In reality, Jamie wanted to discuss it with Claire, Dougal and his mother. He also wasn’t entirely sure he could keep from punching Randall in the face.

Administrative matters settled, the group discussed music. Duets were chosen and a few instrumental pieces as well, making this a slightly more varied program than in years past. Claire was also keenly interested in performing for schools and orphanages in the greater London area.

“It’s the holiday season Claire, most of the schools will be on recess.” Frank told her.

“Not until the latter part of December and they return in mid January.” Geillis responded to him. “Besides, the orphanages are always open.” Then she had a thought and continued. “What about the soldiers homes or the houses for the destitute? Surely they would appreciate a bit of holiday cheer.”

“Oh Geillis what a splendid idea.” Claire exclaimed.

“I’m not sure I’ll have sufficient time to make arrangements before I leave. I haven’t any contacts.” Frank said dismissively.

“I might.” Hal said. “My father is a veteran you know. I can make some calls.”

“Thank you Hal. I understand your time is somewhat limited right now Frank, so we’ll see what Hal can come up with and go from there.” Joe ended that part of the conversation.

Geillis had to look down to prevent Frank from seeing her grin. She got the distinct impression that he didn’t like being sidelined, but that was precisely what was occurring. He couldn’t complain about it either, he was the one who had said he was leaving for two months.

The meeting ended with the program being set. Other than the additional instrumental pieces together, it wasn’t very different from the previous year and the evening venues were all the same.

Frank and Hal left immediately as did Murtagh. Jamie and Dougal both stayed to supper. Dougal had been invited previously by Geillis and Lamb invited Jamie.

“After all son, I’d like to get to know you as well as the others have.”

Jamie sat next to Lamb at supper and spent most of the meal in conversation with him. Claire sat on his other side, and while she didn’t contribute much, he was keenly aware that she was paying rapt attention to his discussion with Lamb.

They discussed Jamie's hopes for university, his plan to settle on the land at Lallybroch, his love of horses.  It wasn't quite a grilling about his prospects, but Lamb was reassured that Jamie had a plan to provide for Claire by the end of the meal.

After supper, the party retired to the parlor. Jamie sat next to Claire on the settle. Dougal and Geillis sat on one end of the long couch, while Gayle and Joe sat on the other. Lamb relaxed into the chair.

Once everyone had seated themselves, Geillis turned to Claire and asked the question on everyone’s mind.

“Are you alright hen? I dinna think I’ve heard ye speak two words together since the meeting ended.”

Claire took a breath. “I’m alright, I’m just thinking through some things.”

“What things?” Lamb wanted to know.

“About Mr. Randall and going forward without him.”

“You’ll be fine Princess. Frank said he’s only going to be gone for two months.”

“I’m not worried about that Uncle Lamb.”

“Well then what is bothering you?”

Claire hesitated for another moment, choosing her words very carefully.

“I don’t think I want Mr. Randall to come back at all.”

Joe looked surprised for a brief moment and then understanding. “Can you tell us all your reasons?”

Claire nodded and took Jamie’s hand. “You all know about what happened on the tour. I don’t blame Mr. Randall for my headache, I could have told him no at any time.”

Jamie and Geillis both opened their mouths to dispute her and Claire preempted them. “I know. Mr. Randall did manipulate me. He did use my concern for everyone to persuade me into going to all those receptions. I however allowed him to manipulate me. As both Gayle and Geillis like to remind me, Mr. Randall works for me, I don’t work for him.”

“Alright then lass, what do ye need to say then?” Dougal cut off the others.

Claire continued slowly voicing her thoughts. “It’s been clear for some time that Mr. Randall has a different way of looking at things. Than I do I mean. He sees success in how much money we can make, how many tickets we can sell, how large the audiences are.”

“Aye, he does.”

“I’m of the opinion that as long as everyone I employ is able to provide for themselves and their families that is enough. I feel that for the past two years I’ve been working myself to the bone all the time and it’s never enough to make Mr. Randall happy.”

Claire had never voiced any of this before, and it was a shock to the entire room. Not that they disagreed, they hadn’t expected Claire to be aware of it.

“This last tour just reinforced my feelings. No matter how many patrons we signed on, he wanted me to meet with ‘just one more’ person. At first it was that we didn’t have enough patrons. Then when we did, his argument changed to having more than enough so we could stand to lose someone without letting musicians go. Then what happened at the last two performances… It was disturbing. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to be with Jamie, happy to sing with him. At the reception though, Mr. Randall just stood there and let all those people… accost us. Jamie said it was worse the second night, even with Mr. Mackenzie and Geillis trying to protect him.”

Claire was getting upset and Jamie squeezed her hand. “It’s alright mo chride. We’re alright.” He soothed.

She took a deep breath and squeezed back.

“At any rate, I don’t ever want to experience something like that again. I’m not suggesting that I won’t go to receptions, I would just rather it not be a free-for-all like that. If Mr. Randall continues as my manager that is exactly the sort of thing he’ll try and orchestrate.”

“The lass is right, he will.” Dougal agreed with her.

“So, what are you saying Lady Jane? Do you want to fire Frank?”

“Yes. Or at least come to a mutual agreement that we should part ways.”

“If you’re unhappy with him Claire then we will certainly let him go.” Uncle Lamb said sincerely.

“My only concern is who do we get as a replacement? I don’t know anyone in the music world.” Turning to Joe he asked, “do you have any suggestions?”

Claire shook her head. “We don’t need to find a replacement Uncle Lamb. I’ve already decided who I want to take over Mr. Randall’s responsibilities.”



“Me!?” The young woman in question was flattered but immediately began to argue against the idea. “I’m just your secretary. I can’t be your manager!”

“I think you can. You already know all the same people Mr. Randall does. You already confirm all the contracts, make most of the phone calls, and arrange everything for the receptions. The only thing you don’t do is make the initial contact with the venues.” Claire argued back.

“And for very good reasons. Most of the venues won’t even talk to a woman. There’s a reason all the managers are men ye ken.”

There was silence for a moment while they contemplated this statement.

“How about if you and Dougal worked together?” Gayle suggested. “Geillis is right, most of the venues won’t talk to a woman if they think she’s in charge. If they think she’s calling for a man though… secretarial type things…” Gayle trailed off as everyone turned to look at her. “You know I’m right. Most of the time if I mention I’m calling for Joe, I don’t get a hard time about setting up a time to come in and place the sound equipment, even if I’m setting it by myself. It’s just… easier.”

“Oh, but… I…” Claire stuttered for a minute. “It’s not that I don’t trust you Mr. Mackenzie, I do. I just… if Geillis is going to do all the work, I think she should also get the credit as my manager.”

Dougal meanwhile was thinking. If he and Geillis worked as a team, it would mean they could stay together with Claire. Jamie could easily help carry the load and now that he was courting the lass…

Looking up at Claire, Dougal said… “I think it’s a fine idea lass. Ye ken I wouldn’a steal Geillis’ thunder, but if I’m there to support her, as well as the lad, it would be easier for her to establish herself.” Turning to Geillis he added, “I think if we do this though, we should move up the wedding date. It would give ye the protection of my name as well. What do ye say to a Christmas wedding at the church in Broch Morda? We planned to go home for the break, and Mr. Beauchamp and Claire will be there to visit the Frasers.”

Geillis was stunned for a minute, but just one. Then she smiled widely. “I’m all for moving up the date.” She looked at Claire. “Are ye sure about this though hen? Do ye really want me to be yer manager?”

“Yes. I really do. Besides, if you and Mr. Mackenzie are working together, I won’t lose you when you get married.” Which wasn’t the only reason, but was a major reason Claire had thought of this.

“Ye wil’na lose me Claire. No matter what happens, I’ll always be yer friend.” Geillis leaned over to pat her hand.

“I know… I just meant that if we’re all working together it would be better. Mr. Randall is a decent manager but he isn’t…part of the… group the way you are.” Claire had almost said ‘family’ but didn’t, feeling shy about phrasing it in such a way. They weren’t family, not really.

“No that’s true he is’na. Of course you realize that most managers are like that. More business and less familiar with the group because they have to make all the arrangements.”

“But that isn’t true for you or for Mr. Mackenzie. I know he lets Mr. Randall arrange for the venues, but he has to go over everything and make sure that everything is right for the singers. Yet he still has time to socialize with everyone and even to go to church with us.”

Claire couldn’t quite admit it, but she was warming to the idea of everyone growing closer and maybe being more like a family, even if they weren’t really related to one another. Geillis read it on her face, and added…

“Dinna forget the wee fox cub. He’ll be learning how to manage too. So eventually he can help Dougal or even take over when the bairns come.” Dougal and Geillis wanted children, Geillis because she had none, and Dougal because he loved his adult children but had always wanted more than his first wife had given him.

“Hopefully no for many a year. I’ve a lot to learn.” Jamie demurred.

“Ye do at that. No time like the present though.” Dougal reassured him.

“Well. That seems settled then. Now it just remains to decide who should tell Frank.” Joe couldn’t be happier. Frank was on his way out and Claire had come to the decision by herself.

Chapter Text

“Well. That seems settled then. Now it just remains to decide who should tell Frank.”

The sentence hung in the air briefly before Lamb responded.

“I’m Claire’s guardian, it really falls to me to tell him.” Not that Lamb was looking forward to it. Still feeling guilty over leaving his niece to deal with the man, he felt he should be the one to have this very difficult conversation.

“I think I should be in the room though Uncle Lamb. Joe and Gayle too.”

“Why do you think that Princess? I can handle Frank Randall.”

“Of course you can Uncle Lamb. I just thought we should present a united front.” Claire explained.

Lamb and Joe both shook their heads. “No. Trust me Lady Jane it would be better all around if it were just Quentin and I. This will bruise Randall’s ego and having ladies present would make it more humiliating for him.”

“Oh. I didn’t think of that.” Claire certainly didn’t want to embarrass the man. He had been a good manager after all.

“When will you tell him?” Gayle asked.

“The sooner the better I think. Before he leaves for certain. That will give him time to take on other clients while he’s in America.”

The others nodded. That seemed reasonable. No one wanted to part on bad terms, after all Frank may have different goals, but he wasn’t a bad person.

The conversation moved on to other things, and the evening ended pleasantly. Jamie very properly kissed Claire’s hand when taking his leave, much to her disappointment. It must have shown on her face because Jamie whispered to her, “I wish it were yer lips I was kissing, but there will be time for that when yer uncle and Joe aren’t glaring at me. Aye?”

She smiled and nodded, then boldly stretched up and kissed his cheek. “Sleep sweet Jamie.” She whispered back.

The young man turned a bright red, but he smiled. “I will now, with that to dream on.”

Lamb cleared his throat and Jamie quickly bid the rest of them goodnight before following Dougal out the door. As soon as it closed, Claire whirled on her Uncle and Joe.

“Would you please stop trying to make Jamie feel bad? He’s not going to take liberties with me, but you keep acting as though he’s about to ravish me in front of you all.”

Claire’s cheeks were red with anger and for a moment there was silence in the hall. Then Lamb began to laugh. Joe followed, then Gayle and Geillis started to giggle.

“It’s NOT funny!” Claire stomped her foot. “I don’t want Jamie to feel he can’t visit me here, and if you keep behaving that way he will.”

Joe stopped chuckling, realizing that Claire was slightly insecure and truly felt they were pushing Jamie away.

“No Lady Jane, he won’t. Trust me when I say this is a time honored tradition among men.”

“What is? Intimidating any man who courts me? Making him feel unworthy?”

“No Princess. It’s more that Joe and I are challenging your young man to prove himself worthy. After all if young James can’t stand up to us in order to win your hand, how will he ever protect you from the outside world?” Lamb explained.

“But… but… no one did that when you were courting Gayle. Or when Dougal was courting Geillis.” Claire was confused.

“That isn’t precisely true hen. Jamie’s uncle Murtagh was a right arse to Dougal when he found out we were keeping company, until he realized that Dougal was courting me seriously. For awhile he would’na let us alone in the same room. It made me angry until Murtagh explained that since I did’na have a Da to look out for me, he was stepping in.” Geillis got a little misty eyed at that. “It’s why I asked him to escort me to the church ye ken.”

Geillis had been truly touched that Murtagh had thought highly enough of her to take on the role of pseudo father during the courting process.

“And Paul did the same with Joe. Even though Paul was Joe’s father and not mine, he made sure that I was protected, that Joe wasn’t taking advantage of me.” Gayle added.

“Oh.” Claire said in a small voice. “But surely you don’t think Jamie is taking advantage of me?”

They all shook their heads no. “Of course not Lady Jane. Trust me, Jamie expects us to give him a hard time. He’d probably worry if we didn’t.” At Claire’s questioning look he elaborated. “It would mean that we didn’t consider him a serious suitor.”

“Come on Claire, let’s go upstairs. I’ll be in later Joe.” Gayle took charge and signaling Geillis with a look, led the way up to Claire’s private sitting room on the second floor. When the door had closed, Claire burst out, “Men are so odd! I don’t understand why everything has to be a… a… FIGHT.”

Geillis snorted. “Well, I could say that’s the Scots in them, but it is’na. It’s more the man in them. It’s the way God designed them ye ken. To protect and provide. They may no have to do so with sword and shield these days, but the instinct is still there.”

“What does that have to do with courting?”

Gayle took up the narrative. “Everything. You know Joe sees you as a sister. Quentin is your guardian. They both feel responsible to protect you until that job can be safely handed over to your husband. But since neither one is your actual father, I think it will be worse. Even though Joe knows what a wonderful young man Jamie is, he’s going to make absolutely sure that you will always be kept safe and that Jamie will always cherish you.”

“I’m not a baby, I can take care of myself you know.” Claire grumbled.

“Of course you can hen. Joe knows that too. Jamie certainly does, he’s seen you do it. It doesn’t stop them from wanting to protect you. Dougal knows I can look out for myself, but he still feels that same protective urge.”

“So does Joe.” Gayle commented.

“And you just let them?” Both women nodded. “Of course. It makes them feel needed and fulfilled. Just like I feel needed and fulfilled when Dougal comes to me for advice, or let’s me see his romantic side.”

Dougal has a romantic side?” Claire giggled a bit at the thought of the stoic and dour man being romantic.

“Of course he does. Most men do, well the good ones anyway. The fact that I let him be the strong one in public allows him to be tender in private without feeling diminished as a man.” Geillis said.

“This is all very complicated.”

“What is dear?”

“Courting. Marriage.”

“It is. All relationships are complicated. The ones worth the effort anyway. A successful marriage is both of you trying to be the best person you can be, and supporting the other person so they can be their best too. That’s why courtships take time. You need to learn how to do that for one another, and learn if you can.”

“What do you mean?”

“For instance, some men are overbearing. They don’t respect women and so they don’t admit to anyone, even themselves that women are strong and competent. They take protecting and providing to the extreme. That’s where all the rhetoric about ‘a woman’s place’ comes from. Such a man feels threatened by a woman who isn’t subservient. They condescend to or try to diminish any woman but most especially their wives or daughters.” Men such as Frank Randall. Geillis thought but didn’t voice.

“Aye. Such a man would never do for you. Ye’re no the meek and obedient type hen.” She said aloud.

“But Jamie isn’t like that.” Claire protested.

“Of course not. Some men are though. You’ve not seen many examples of that sort of man because we don’t associate with men like that. At least not in a social setting. You personally don’t interact with many people outside the group. Geillis and I both have encountered men like that though. When I took over from Joe, it was very difficult to get the crews to see me as competent. I had to work twice as hard and know all the answers just to be seen as capable of doing the job.”

“That isn’t fair. Besides, it makes no sense. Most of the women in our group have a better ear than the men do. You’re the sound technician for heaven’s sake. Even Joe says you’re better at it than he is.”

“He does. Eventually, the crews learned to accept my ability and not question me so much. But if Joe and Paul hadn’t run interference for me when I first started it would have been a lot harder. I could have done it myself, it was just easier to let them back me up at first.”

“It’s true. That’s why I did’na think I could do the manager job until you talked about Dougal and I doing it together. It may no be just, but that’s the way it is and until Christ returns t’will be that way. There will always be men who automatically think that women are less competent outside the home.”

“Doesn’t that bother you?”

“No really. It’s their ignorance no mine. I ken my worth. Dougal kens it too and loves me for it. I dinna need some random stranger to validate me.”

“I suppose.” Claire said skeptically.

“Claire, some men will always feel threatened by a strong woman. You can’t do anything about that. You just need to make sure that you marry a man who respects you, and that you raise your sons to respect woman and your daughters to demand respect of their husbands.”

Claire’s head was a riot of thought. They had strayed far from the original topic she thought. Nevertheless, it was good information to have.

“I think I should go to bed. I need to think about everything you’ve told me.”

“Alright dear.” Gayle stood and went to the door. “I should go check on Lina before I retire anyway.”

She left the room. Geillis sat for a minute then asked. “Are you alright?”

“I’m… I think so? I just never thought about men and women and relationships before. At least not like this. Geillis. How did you know Dougal was the right sort of man?”

“I did’na at first. He’s quite brusque ye ken. I just thought he was a verra handsome man.” Geillis blushed a little. “Then one day I had just come from talking with a caterer and the man was awful. Would’na give me any of the particulars, saying that he needed to talk to Frank. I went to Frank and explained the situation to him, and he was exasperated with me for no getting what he wanted.”

“Well that was hardly your fault.” Claire said.

“Hmmm. Weel, Frank did’na see it that way and told me to go back and get the particulars. I became verra angry and told him that I was tired of dealing with men who thought that no having a penis meant I did’na have a brain either, and he could do it himself.”

Claire blushed and Geillis laughed. “Oh I ken, it was’na verra ladylike but I was tired o men and their stupidity.”

“What did Mr. Randall do then?”

“Made a remark about my competence and stormed out to see the man. I was so angry I burst into tears. Which was a little embarrassing to tell the truth, but I’m glad now I did.”


“Because Dougal kent right away that they were angry tears and told me I had every right to be furious, but that I shouldn’t let small minded men upset me so. That I was brilliant and ruthless and capable and any man who did’na see that was an idiot.”

“That was very kind of him to say. What happened then?” Claire was fascinated by the story.

Geillis smiled at the memory. “It made me stop crying and I told him I wished I could find a man like that who wasn’t married already. Then he had the cheek to smile at me and ask if a widower would do.” She began to laugh.

“I told him that if he was’na being serious I was’na in the right frame o mind to jest about it. I’d about hit my limit for the day ye ken. He kissed me then.”

“That’s so sweet.” Claire said.

“Aye. ‘Twas. It took me a bit o time to realize he was in earnest, but once I did...”

“How did you… I mean, what made you believe he meant to court you seriously?”

“First, he did’na try to hide our relationship from anyone, no even his daughters. He never acted ashamed of me or embarrassed about our age difference. He's never talked down to me, even though he’s a great deal more life experience than I do. But the final thing was that he did’na back down when Murtagh challenged him. He fought for me. For us. Told Murtagh that he would do whatever it took to make me his wife and to Hell with anyone who did’na support that.”

“Oh my goodness. He really is romantic.” Claire exclaimed.

Geillis nodded. “He really is. Yer wee fox cub is the same. He’s perhaps a bit more open than Dougal, but he’s the same warrior temperament. Ye need to let him slay the dragon for ye. Prove he’s worthy to carry yer colors into battle. It costs ye nothing to let yer man stand for ye, but it does him a world of good.”

“How do you know all this?”

“My Mam mostly. My Da was a right beast of a man and once we got away from him, she was afraid to ever trust a man like that again. But she and then the Mother Superior at the Orphanage both made sure I understood the difference between the appearance of being a strong man and truly being strong.”

“I don’t understand.”

“A truly strong man, the good kind, can also be tender. He’s thoughtful and considerate. Doesn’t feel threatened by a woman who is smart. The others may be physically strong, but are actually weak and afraid. A truly strong man won’t feel threatened by a strong woman. A weak one will, and will try to control her.” Geillis stood up and took Claire by the hand drawing her up as well.

“Now, that’s enough for ye to be thinking on tonight. Go off to bed.”

Chapter Text

The next morning, Lamb sent a note around to Frank and also to Hal. He asked both men to come and see him that afternoon. Frank at 1pm and Hal at 2pm.

Claire, Geillis and Gayle were all absent, deciding that visiting the shops and then joining Jenny and Suzette for tea would be a better way to spend the afternoon.

After a bit of discussion, it was decided that Joe would sit in on the meetings but not say anything unless addressed directly.

Frank was right on time. He entered the study and took a seat. The manager had no idea what Lamb needed to discuss with him although seeing Joe in the room he began to think it might be about Claire’s illness while on tour. Particularly since he hadn’t seen any of the ladies when he came in.

Lamb came straight to the point. “Thank you for coming so promptly Frank. I felt that it would be best to let you know as soon as possible.”

“Let me know what precisely?”

“I’ve decided that we need to make a change.”

“A change?”

“Yes. You’ve been a good manager, but it’s become very clear to me that you have a different goal for Claire than she has for herself. I feel that at this point it’s holding you back to keep managing her and after discussing it with her, Claire agrees. You...”

Frank interrupted. “What are you talking about? Is this because I’ve taken on other clients? Most managers have more than one.”

“Yes that’s true. It is in part because of that, but I think you misunderstand. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you put your own career on hold to give all your attention to Claire the way you did, especially after Paul died and her being so young. A less scrupulous manager could have taken terrible advantage of her, and you did not. Now however, Claire is eighteen and is being courted by a young man. She will naturally have less time to devote to her music and I don’t think it right or fair to continue to impose on you.”

Frank sat there dumbfounded. It sounded complimentary, but it also sounded like he was being fired. That confusion kept him from saying anything while Lamb continued.

“You have other clients already and most are in America if I understood you correctly. We can’t expect you to keep running back to England to hold our hands. recognizing that, I’ve made the decision to take on more of the direct responsibility for Claire’s musical endeavors.” He paused, but Frank didn’t say anything so Lamb went on.

“I can’t be here all the time of course, so Dougal has graciously agreed to make sure that if I’m called away he’ll step in to cover me. Geillis will help with the paperwork of course and Joe is almost done with medical school, so he’ll be more available for advice. If we get truly stuck, I hope you wouldn’t mind answering a question or two while I find my way?”

“Of course.” Frank said automatically, still a bit in shock.

“Thank you. Now that Claire will be easing off a bit, it’s only right that you should focus your attention on more ambitious musicians.”

Lamb rose to his feet and held out his hand. “I’ll make sure to send you your final severance. Would you like it to be sent to the London address or...”

Frank rose to his feet also. “No, the London address is fine.”

“Good luck to you Frank. If you ever need me to give you a reference to anyone, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.” Lamb shook his hand and escorted him to the study door where Alec was waiting to show him out.

It wasn’t until Frank was halfway home that he realized what had happened. Fired! I’ve been fired. And I don’t even know why. Frank consoled himself that if Claire was backing off of performances the way Lamb had implied, that he could probably spin the narrative to his benefit. After all, I have other groups to manage now, and Miss Dunsany is more ambitious than Claire ever was. Managing her will be far more lucrative I think both in terms of money and reputation.

Having rationalized the situation to his satisfaction, Frank’s step was far more confident the rest of the way home.

As soon as the front door closed on Frank, Joe began to applaud. “Good heaven’s Lamb. That was the most amazing performance I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.” Lamb replied.

Joe snickered. “You basically told him to go to Hell in such a way that he was looking forward to the trip. My Dad was an amazing salesman, but even he wasn’t that good.”

For a minute it looked like Lamb would deny it. Then he snickered himself. “Yes well, you’ve never seen me try to get funding for a dig. There’s an art to prying money from a man while making him think it’s his idea in the first place. I simply applied that reasoning here. There’s no point in parting on bad terms with Frank and he’s the type of man that will convince himself that he did us the favor by quitting.”

“You’re probably right.” Joe conceded. He was just glad that it had been handled with very little fuss. Letting an employee go was never a pleasant task.

The meeting with Hal was a bit longer. He expressed no surprise that Frank had been let go and reiterated his commitment to staying on until the middle of December.

“In fact, if you need something, I’m more than happy to help out even after I leave. Contact information or advice, whatever you need. I must say I am happy that Gayle took my advice.”

“What advice?” Joe asked. “She didn’t say anything to me about it.”

“Nor to me.” Lamb said.

Hal looked a bit embarrassed. “Ah. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed.”

“What advice did you give her, if you don’t mind me asking.” Joe was curious now.

“It was her and Dougal actually. Geillis was present for the conversation as well.” Hal pointed out. “I simply told them that I thought Frank had a different worldview than Claire or Dougal and that it affected his management of them. I could foresee that it would only get worse the older Claire got.”

“Oh yes. Now I remember. Gayle did mention that conversation.” Joe remembered the rest of the conversation too.

“At any rate, now that Frank isn’t managing Claire anymore I wanted to talk to you about the possibility of John and Isobel working with your groups. They’ll want to do their own solo performances eventually, but I think it would do them good to perform with a group to start with.”

“You’ll have to discuss that with Dougal and Claire. I’m not actually planning to get involved in direct managing of anything.” Lamb explained. “Between Dougal and Geillis they can handle those things. I didn’t want Frank to get the impression that we were pushing him out in favor of Dougal.”

“You aren’t?” Hal clarified.

“No. If Claire hadn’t asked Geillis to take over and then Geillis ask if she and Dougal could do it as a team, we would have looked into hiring someone. This decision had nothing to do with Dougal, and everything to do with Frank not being a good fit for Claire. However I don’t think he would have seen it that way.” Lamb explained.

“You’re most likely right about that. Well then. I’ll speak to Dougal and Claire about it at Monday’s rehearsal.” Hal stood and offered his hand to Lamb, then to Joe. “Thank you for telling me directly.” It went without saying that he would keep their confidences, and not share the additional information with Frank. Hal was a member of the noble class as was Lamb, although in the latter case it was more landed gentry without the title. Still, for men of that social class, some things were just understood. Joe missed the subtext, but he trusted Hal to keep his own counsel.

Rehearsals for the holiday series went in the same order as usual, group instrument rehearsal in the morning, lunch, group vocal rehearsal in the afternoon followed by the duets and solos, then supper. Most of the musicians took the opportunity to practice when they weren’t actively rehearsing.

Dougal made the announcement on Monday morning that Frank would no longer be managing Claire, that he and Geillis were assuming that responsibility. The reaction was overwhelmingly indifferent. Most of the musicians had no direct contact with Frank and so the administrative change didn’t affect them in the slightest. Hal was present and spoke with Claire and Dougal at lunch that day. Both were welcoming to the idea. Claire was very pleased when she learned that John’s instrument was the harp.

“I dinna suppose John is available for the holiday series? Lesley is feeling a mite pressured to do both the singing and helping Liz.” Dougal inquired.

“I don’t see why not. He’s in London already but has no performance schedule as yet.”

“The holiday series is probably easier to start with. Most of the music is very simple.” Jamie said.

“Aye, and we already gave Lesley’s duet with Claire to Jamie so the lad would only be responsible for the group things.”

“Would he be open to playing the harp? There is a lovely harp accompaniment to one of my duets with Jamie. We usually just sing it a cappella, but if John could play, that would be lovely.” Claire asked.

“I’m sure he could. I’ll bring him along to rehearsal tomorrow, shall I?”

“Yes, that would be perfect.” Claire smiled. Now what about Isobel? Can she join us as well? We need another soprano anyway and another flautist. Isobel would be a wonderful fit.” Claire said. She remembered the young woman as being quite nice, completely the opposite to the spoiled Geneva.

“I doubt it. I don’t even know for sure if I’ll be able to convince her father to let her quit performing with Geneva in time for the Spring series, however, she and John are meant to marry in May so after that it will be up to him.” Hal shook his head.

“Married? I thought ye said John was only seventeen. Isn’t that a wee bit young?” Geillis didn’t mean to pry, it was just startling to her.

Oddly enough it was Claire who shook her head. “Not for their social class it isn’t. Are they betrothed?” She asked Hal.

He nodded. “Yes, from the cradle. I know it’s falling out of fashion, arranged matches, but at our level, they are still done by some of the families. As the son of a Duke, father wanted to make sure that John married the right person. Fortunately he and Isobel have always been quite fond of one another and share similar interests. It is a good match for both of them.”

“And has the added bonus of getting Isobel away from Geneva.” Claire said to everyone’s surprise.

“You sound as if you didn’t like Geneva.” Hal said.

“I don’t. She’s very unpleasant to interact with.” Claire replied.

Dougal’s eyebrows rose into his hairline. “Given I’ve never heard ye speak ill of anyone, including Laoghaire, that says quite a bit about the girl.”

“Nothing more than the truth I assure you, and kinder than Geneva deserves. She’s a spoiled brat and treats Isobel abominably.” Hal said.

“She treats everyone abominably. Particularly those she considers beneath her.” Geillis put in her two cents.

“Well then. Whenever you can get Isobel free to join us, I think we’d be glad to have her.” Dougal decided to end this particular conversation.

John joined them the following day. He was introduced around and Lesley was the most welcoming. “I’m glad ye’ve joined us lad. I like to sing dinna mistake me, however keeping track of all the instruments along with it is a bit much. Especially now that Liz is expecting. Whoever called it morning sickness was a demmed liar. All day sickness more like, poor woman.”

This announcement was met with a moment of shocked silence before the room erupted in congratulations for the couple. John was feeling a bit left out although his presence had been the catalyst for the chaos. Jamie noticed and made a point to speak to him.

“Alright John?”

“Oh. Yes of course.”

“I ken we can be a bit much at first. You’ll get used to it. Claire did.”


Jamie pointed to the young woman, currently hugging a blushing Liz. “She’s a Sassenach as well. I’m sure she’ll be more than happy to commiserate over the heathen ways of all the Scots here.” He laughed, and John smiled. It was impossible to hear Jamie laugh and not.

“You call her a Sassenach? Affectionately I assume.”

“Of course. I ken that most mean it as an insult. I dinna. I think of her as special, exotic.”

“You are close then?” John pried a little.

“I’m courting her.”

“Ah.” John’s smile was socially polite.

“She’s also my best friend and has been for some years.”

“That’s a happy circumstance.” John’s smile became more natural. “My betrothed is also my best friend. We grew up together.”

“Hal told us about Isobel. We’re hoping she can join us in the Spring.”

“That is my hope as well.”

Chapter Text

John integrated well. It took a few days for everyone to get used to one another when singing, his voice fit well with the others. The young man himself was rather shy, but confident in his skill and pleasant in temperament.

After looking over the harp accompaniment, he agreed to play it for Claire and Jamie. The duet was O Holy Night, sung in French.

The holiday concerts before Christmas went off without a problem. All the pieces were Christmas music, so Claire and Jamie had no romantic duets. The crowds at the receptions weren’t as oppressive.

The receptions were smaller, which Claire thought was part of it. People still tried to get Jamie alone, mostly women.

When someone tried to separate them, Jamie would take Claire’s hand and kiss it before pulling it through his arm; making it obvious that they were a couple.

Several of the young ladies were visibly disappointed that Jamie was no longer available. Thankfully, no one made a scene about it.

Frank had already booked all the venues, so there wasn’t really anything for Geillis or Dougal to do except confirm everything. With the extra time available, Geillis looked into staging some concerts for orphans and veterans.

It turned out to be more difficult to entertain the veterans than it did the orphans. Most Orphanages had a large assembly room. They had to use the harpsichord rather than a piano for some of the pieces, (the harpsichord was more portable) but Claire had no trouble switching instruments.

They scheduled six concerts at various orphanages in December, all on weekdays.

The Veteran’s homes by contrast, did not generally have a large space for everyone to congregate. Nor could Geillis find the appropriate person to get permission from. It was frustrating, so Claire told her to put it aside for now, and they would revisit the idea for the Spring series.

“Hal said that he could make some calls, let’s ask him about it.” She said sensibly.

The man in question said he would be happy to inquire. “This time I can confidently say it has less to do with you being a lady and far more to you NOT being a member of the military. Quite the closed group.”

The red-head thanked him. With that off her plate, she finished planning her wedding. Mostly through letters to Dougal’s daughter who was doing the bulk of the actual arrangements as she was physically in Broch Morda. Geillis didn’t have any family left and her friends were all part of the group in London. Most of whom were related to Dougal in some fashion, other than Claire and her household. Moira said she’d take care of inviting everyone who lived locally, so Geillis hadn’t even seen the guest list.

Not that she cared. The whole town could come as far as she was concerned. The people she cared most about, Claire, Joe, Gayle, Hector and Mrs. Graham would all be there. Even old Alec was coming. Lamb had made arrangements for the local stable to send a couple of men over to care for the horses while they were gone. The house was to be closed, although nothing would be packed away. The local constabulary would keep an eye on things.

The plan was for everyone to go to Scotland for Christmas and stay thru Hogmanay. Then Mrs. G. Hector and Alec would return to London while the rest of them stayed on for another two weeks. It meant that they would have two fewer performances for the holiday series but everyone decided that since Dougal and Geillis deserved a honeymoon they didn’t mind.

All in all, they would be in Scotland for a month, less travel time.

Jenny had agreed to be her maid of honor. Dougal’s brother Colum would be his best man. By mutual agreement, they had taken Claire shopping with them for a dress. Geillis’ mum had burned her wedding dress when Geillis’ Da had died, not that the young woman would have wanted to wear it anyway, since the marriage had been unhappy.

“What color are ye thinkin’ then Geillis?” Jenny asked.

“Oh, but aren’t wedding dresses supposed to be white?” Claire asked.

“Perhaps in England but no so much in Scotland. Too many pale skinned red heads.” Jenny laughed.

“Aye. White would wash me right out. I need some color against this ghost-like complexion of mine.” Geillis laughed with her. “Besides, white’s only been the fashion since Queen Victoria. Since I’m no English, I dinna see the need to follow English fashion.” She continued, pretending disdain.

Claire laughed with them. “Alright then. So getting back to Jenny’s question, what color are you thinking?”

“I dinna want green. Every red head wears green. It’ll already be a Christmas wedding ye ken. I’d look ridiculous.”

“I can see that. What about blue?” Jenny offered.

“Aye. Blue would work.”

They had reached the first shop and Geillis started looking at the ready-made dresses. Fortunately all the holiday gowns were on display, many of them formal. Jenny ignored the ready made dresses and went over to the sketchbooks the seamstress had of her designs. Jenny found one that looked perfect for Geillis.

It had simple elegant lines and long sleeves. Jenny could see it designed in a dark jewel tone blue velvet. She called out to Geillis and Claire.

“Come here. I think I’ve found it.”

Geillis ignored her saying, “I canna afford to have a gown made. I’ll be hard pressed to find a ready-made dress as it is.”

Jenny looked at her curiously. “Ye are’na payin’ for the gown. What are ye even talking about?”

Geillis snorted. “Who else would pay for it? My Mam is dead. I dinna have a fairy godmother.”

“Of course not. I’m paying for it.” Claire told her.

Geillis stopped looking at the gowns and gaped at the younger woman.


“Didn’t Gayle tell you? I talked to her about it a week ago.”

For once the brash red-head was at a loss for words. “No. No she did’na.” was all Geillis said.

Claire blushed. “Oh. I’m sorry then. I should have told you at home.” She went over to her friend and explained quietly, “I just…your mother is gone and well, you aren’t exactly an older sister, but you’ve been so good to me. Almost like family… I just… wanted to buy your dress, like we were really related.”

Jenny didn’t say anything, but she raised a brow behind Claire’s back.

Geillis stood for a minute more, not saying anything. She took a deep breath. “Claire, that is… thank you. That is the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me.” She gave the younger woman a hug. “’Tisn’t only blood that determines kin. I would be proud to claim ye as family.”

Claire smiled brightly. “Good. Now that’s settled, let’s go look at the sketch Jenny found.” She drew the older woman over to the sketchbook.

The sketch was patterned after a two piece gown by Coco Chanel that resembled a man’s tuxedo. It had long sleeves and a shawl collar.

tuxedo gown

“It’s black Jenny. I canna get married in black.” Geillis said. “Ye ken the old saying, ‘married in black ye’ll wish yerself back.’”

“Aye, but ye dinna have to get it made up in black. Ye can go with blue and cream instead.” 

The seamstress had come out to the front as they were talking over the sketch and heard Jenny’s comment. “The young lady is correct. I can make up the style in whatever color or fabric you like.”

“What about a royal blue velvet and cream satin?” Claire asked. “Something in a shade similar to that.” She pointed to a blue velvet dress hanging on the rack.

blue velvet  Silk Satin

The seamstress thought for a moment and pulled out a cream satin nightgown from another display. Taking it over to the blue velvet, she draped the nightgown around the neckline. The effect was quite stunning.

“Oooh Geillis. That’s gorgeous.” Jenny exclaimed. The red-head nodded. “Tis.” She cocked her head and continued, “I wilna be able to wear a long veil with it, but that suits me just fine.”

“What about wearing a silk veil, or even just a snood? Those are becoming quite fashionable.” The seamstress offered.

“Hmmm. I think perhaps the snood with a length of silk veil over it for the ceremony. Father Ansalm is quite kind, but a bit of a stickler for certain traditions and a veil is one of them. He does’na even care for hats on ladies, though he never scolds.”

“Well, given the gossip that will already make the rounds over our age difference, I’d rather no give the hens any more ammunition than I have to.” Geillis said. “I’d like a snood in the same satin, to match the collar and cuffs. I can wear a veil over that in the church.”

“Come on then, let’s go look at the lace.” Jenny responded to the signal Claire gave her and dragged Geillis across the shop.

The seamstress was making notes. Claire stepped closer and said softly, “I know this is very last minute, but we’re leaving for Scotland in three weeks and Geillis is getting married two days after Christmas. Could you have it done before we leave? I’ll gladly pay extra for the rush. I just want her to have a nice dress to be married in.”

The seamstress smiled and patted Claire’s hand. “That’s a lovely thought. No need to pay extra, and yes, I can have it done in ten days.” Raising her voice the woman called Geillis over to take her measurements.

Twenty minutes later they left the shop. Geillis hadn’t really liked any of the lace, most of it was a floral pattern and she thought it too fussy.

When they arrived back at the estate, both Jamie and Gayle were waiting for them in the music room, playing with Lina. The little girl was racing between them and giggling.

Jamie’s Bass and Jenny’s cello were off to the side, ready to practice.

“Thank ye for bringing my cello along, I thought I’d have to go back to the house or borrow Claire’s.”

“Yer welcome.” Jamie waited until Lina was back with Gayle, then stood to greet Claire. Kissing her cheek he asked, “did ye enjoy the shopping mo nighean donn?”

“I did. Geillis’ wedding dress is going to be beautiful!” Turning to Gayle she asked, “Do you know where we put the trunk with my parents’ things? There is veil I wanted to show Geillis.”

“If it’s yer mother’s wedding veil, I dinna think I want to wear it. You should keep it and wear it to your wedding.” Geillis instantly protested.

Claire shook her head. “It isn’t Mummy's wedding veil. It was her grandmother’s, who was also a pale red-head. The veil itself is a cream colored lace, but not a floral pattern.” When Geillis began to protest again Claire added, “even if you don’t wear that one, at least it will give you an idea.”

Gayle stood up with Lina. “I have to put this one down for her nap. I can look for the trunk afterward while you all practice. Geillis can help me.”

“Thank you, that’s sounds wonderful. Is luncheon still laid out in the dining room? We forgot to stop and I’d like to eat something before we begin.”

“It is.” Gayle left the room and the others went into the dining room.

Jamie had already eaten with Gayle and Lamb, but sat and had a cup of tea with them. ‘I could spend hours just watching her’ the young man thought.

After the girls ate, Geillis went upstairs so the three could practice.

Usually Claire practiced harp in the morning on Wednesdays, but she hadn’t today. They worked on various things until 4:00 then Claire asked if she could practice harp with them in the room.

“I’ll warn you now Jenny, I might cry. My mother and I used to play harp together so I always miss her more when I’m playing now. I’m trying to stop crying over it though. I want to play for performances again… other than funerals.”

“Alright.” Jenny exchanged a look with her brother, who didn’t seem surprised. In fact, he pulled out a book in German and sat in one of the large wing chairs.

“I brought a book today Sassenach. I thought it might be more comfortable for ye if I’m no staring at ye the entire time, hmmm?”

Claire smiled at her beau. “That’s a good idea Jamie. Thank you. Jenny, if you’d like to read something we have lots of books in the library.”

“I might at that. Dinna wait for me, I’ll go fetch one and come back.” She left the room. Claire sat down to begin her scales.

Jenny took a few minutes to find a book and returned to the music room. Taking a seat, she pretended to read while watching her friend through her eyelashes.

Chapter Text

Claire practiced for her usual hour and although her eyes were a little bright by the end, she didn’t cry as she had the last time.

Partially because she was trying not to. Partially because when she began playing the new composition, Jenny gave up all pretense of trying to read and stared at her unabashedly listening to the music.

“Who wrote that piece?” She all but demanded.

Claire blushed a little. “I did.”

“’Tis beautiful. Ye should play it for the spring series.” Jenny said simply.

“I’d like to. In fact, now that John is with the group I’d like to do some of the duets that I used to play with my mother. I think it would make her sad that I don’t play them anymore. If I can stop this stupid crying every time I play that is.”

“’Tisn’t stupid.” Jamie protested. “Ye miss yer parents is all.”

“I didn’t mean I’m stupid Jamie. I just feel silly that I can’t play harp without crying still. I miss them, but they’ve been gone for a long time. In another two years I will have lived longer without them than I did with them. Besides, I played all my other instruments and sang too before. I don’t cry except for when I play the harp. That’s all.”

“Ach well, just keep at it. If ye like I can come over every day and listen to ye practice.” Jamie offered.

Jenny laughed at her brother. “Oh and it has nothing to do with wanting to spend all yer time with Claire then I suppose.”

“Oh aye. That too.” Jamie grinned unrepentant.

Claire laughed with Jenny. “You don’t need an excuse to come see me Jamie. I’m happy when you’re here. But thank you for offering to come when I practice. I do think it’s helping. Thank you too Jenny.”

“Yer welcome. I canna promise to come every day, but I will come when I can. Now, let’s go into supper. I’m hungry.” Jenny got up and left the room. Claire started to follow and Jamie grabbed her hand. “A minute Sassenach?”

She turned back. Jamie tugged her into his arms and kissed her. When they came up for air, he whispered, “I’ve been thinking about that all day.”

“Me too.” She whispered back.

“Claire, Jamie?” Jenny called from the hall. They grinned at one another and went in to supper holding hands.

The rest of the concerts in early December rushed by, and before long they were saying goodbye to both Hal and John who were going home for Christmas. John would be returning, but Hal would not.

“Father has been complaining more loudly about my absence. He’s getting on in years and wants me to take a more active role in running the estate.”

“Though I’m sorry to see you go, I do understand. John will be returning though, won’t he?”

“Yes. If I can manage to convince Dunsany to let her, Isobel will be coming with him.”

“I thought she was in America with Geneva?” Claire said in confusion.

“She is and she’s miserable.” John said. “Her letters to me are very concerning. Isobel never complains about Geneva but she told me in the last three that she’s very tired of touring and can’t wait to come home. Since I know Isobel loves sharing music with people...”

“You think it’s Geneva making her unhappy.” Claire finished. John nodded.

“Yes, well with any luck I can convince Geneva that she’ll shine more brightly without her sister to drag her down.”

“Hal! What a horrible thing to say.” Claire protested.

“I don’t think it’s true Claire. You don’t know Geneva like I do. The only way I’ll convince her is if she thinks cutting her sister loose benefits her. Geneva only cares about Geneva.” Hal explained.

“Isobel won’t care either. If Hal can get her out of performing with her sister, he can say she’s a terrible musician. She knows he doesn’t think so.” John added.

“Keep me posted aye Hal? Whenever the lass can join us we’ll be happy to have her. We need both a soprano and another flautist.” Dougal gave his opinion.

“I will.” Hal promised.

Farewells were said and the two men left. They were at Rose house, having gathered as a group for a final meal before going their separate ways. Most of the group was going to Scotland for the holidays, but not everyone. In addition to Hal and John, Lesley and Lizzie Mohr were staying in London with her father who was ill.

It was a pleasant, low key evening which ended early. The group were taking the train the following morning. Murtagh drove Claire home on his way to his. Jamie walked her to the door and since they had an audience, kissed her hand before she went in.

Joe was waiting up for her, Lamb having gone to bed already with a headache.

“Have a good time Lady Jane?”

“I did.”

“Excited about tomorrow?”

“I’m a little nervous actually.”

“About what?”

“Meeting Jamie’s parents.”

“You’ve already met both of them L.J. Ellen loves you and Brian has always been friendly too.”

“I know. But that was before Jamie started courting me. What if they want him to marry someone else?”

“I doubt that. Why would they invite you and Lamb to Lallybroch if they weren’t pleased?”

“I don’t know.”

“You are worrying over nothing Claire. Go on up to bed and get some sleep. You’ll see tomorrow that your worries are unfounded.”

Claire gave him a hug. “Goodnight Joe. I love you.”

“I love you too L.J.”

The next morning was a flurry of loading the car and getting to the train station for an early departure. Their group was so big they took up an entire carriage by themselves.

Joe had driven one car, Lesley had driven another. Joe and Gayle would come to Scotland when term ended in ten days. They would arrive the day before Christmas Eve. Hector was coming with the main group. Mrs. Graham was coming with Joe and Gayle so she could help with Lina.

It was a long ride to Inverness, almost nine hours. The train had left the station at 7:00 in the morning so they could expect to arrive at around 4:00. It was another hour by car to Broch Morda and fifteen minutes past that to Lallybroch.

Brian met them at the station with a bus he had borrowed from the school. Claire had never ridden a bus before and she wasn’t sure she liked it. The windows were closed of course but it was still very noisy, and didn’t feel quite safe, especially going around corners. Brian was a careful driver, but Claire spent the entire ride white faced and frightened, gripping Jamie’s hand tightly.

Both he and Jenny tried to distract her and to her credit Claire tried to overcome her fear, but by the end of the ride she had a headache from the anxiety. Thankfully Brian left his car in the school yard. The ride home to Lallybroch was short.

Claire managed to keep her composure until they pulled into the driveway at Lallybroch. She had ridden with Jamie, Jenny and Lamb. The others were coming behind in the car Willie had driven.

Ellen was waiting for them in the doorway a welcoming smile on her face, which fell when she got a look at Claire’s expression.

“Are you alright Claire?”

“I…” Claire didn’t quite know how to respond. She didn’t want to complain about the bus ride, it would sound critical of Brian.

“The bus ride made her nervous Mam.” Jenny explained. “It was verra noisy and Claire’s never ridden in one before.”

Ellen understood more than the children did. “I see. Well, those contraptions make me nervous too. I always end up with a headache when I have to ride in one. Come along my dear. We’ll get you some tea and a quiet place to sit.” The older woman took the younger by the arm and guided her into the house.

“Jamie, can you see to Claire’s luggage? I’ve put her in with your sister.” Ellen called over her shoulder.

Brian chuckled at Jamie’s open mouthed expression. “Get the luggage lad. The sooner we show everyone their rooms, the sooner ye can join Claire. If I ken yer mother… and I do, they’ll be in the music room.”

It was almost an hour later before they finished bringing everything in and showing the guests to their rooms. At last however, Jamie was released to go find Claire.

He stopped to wash his hands and face, and run a comb through his hair. Jenny had disappeared into her room with Geillis who was also rooming with her. As the only single ladies in the house, Ellen put them all in Jenny’s room which was the second largest of the house. Only the master bedroom was bigger.

Claire was in the music room with his mother, just as his father had predicted. Jamie stood outside and listened for a moment. They were talking about piano. Claire sounded calm and happy. Smiling he entered. Her face lit up when she saw him.

“Jamie! I wondered where you were.” He crossed the room and sat next to her, unconsciously taking her hand. Brian had gotten to the room before Jamie and was sitting next to his wife.

Once Jamie was seated, Brian cleared his throat. “Claire, Jamie, we wanted to have a talk with ye before supper. We’re verra happy Jamie is courting you Claire. I ken we have no spent as much time with ye as Murtagh and Jenny, but they both speak verra highly of ye and we trust their judgement. No to mention how Jamie sings yer praises.” Brian gently teased his son. Claire blushed a bright pink, and Jamie grinned.

“Now that you’re here, Ellen and I would like to spend some time getting to know you better. With that in mind, I’d like to invite you to take tea with us in the afternoons for the duration of your visit. Jamie, you are not invited.” Brian said.

Jamie instantly began to scowl, and Brian held up a hand. “You will be taking tea with Lamb at the same time. I imagine Joe will join you as well, and perhaps his wife.”

“But why can we no all take tea together?” Jamie protested.

“Sometimes we will son. It’s just that in the normal course of events, we would have already gotten to know Claire and Lamb would have spent time with you. Courting isn’t just about the couple you know. It’s also about developing a relationship with their family. After all, if you do marry, Claire will be a part of our family and you will be a part of her family. It will be much easier all around if we have time to form our own relationships with one another, independent of the one you two have.”

Ellen turned to Claire. “I promise you, we aren’t planning some sort of test or interrogation. Brian and I just want the opportunity to get to know you as your own person, rather than as the girl Jamie is courting. You and Jenny are already friends. From what I understand, you are quite close with Ian too.”

“Yes Ma’am. Ian and I are good friends I think.” Claire squeezed Jamie’s hand. “Your parents are right Jamie. I think it helps Jenny that I know Ian and like him for himself. She misses him dreadfully. We can talk about it because I understand. When you go to university I’m going to miss you, so if I have my own relationship with the people who love you, it will make me a bit less lonely I think.”

Jamie’s scowl softened a little. “I suppose.” Giving Brian a suspicious look he asked, “how long will tea last if yer taking her away every day?”

Ellen laughed at him. “The same amount of time tea usually takes. This isn’t a plot to separate you Jamie. You’ll have ample time each day to spend together.”

“Hmmmph.” Was all Jamie said. “’Tis past teatime now, can I take Claire to meet Donas before supper?”

“Of course. If Claire isn’t too tired from the journey?”

Claire shook her head at Ellen’s inquiring look. “No. I’d love to meet the ‘devil horse.’ Jamie has told me all about him.” The young woman said with a smile.

Jamie stood. “Come on then. He’s probably in the small pasture this time o day.” He led her out, still holding her hand.

Chapter Text

Once the young people had left the room, Brian started laughing as Ellen dissolved into a fit of giggles. “I know the lad thinks himself a man grown, but that had the air of a tantrum about it.” Brian remarked wryly.

“Not quite a tantrum, but our boy was quite put out wasn’t he? I imagine Jamie thought he’d have Claire all to himself for the entire holiday. Not that I blame him really. Jenny writes about their schedules and from what I saw when I visited, Claire’s days are quite full. I remember how possessive you were during our courtship my love. I didn’t have anywhere near the obligations on my time that young lady does. With her parents gone and Quentin running off to his digs all the time, Claire’s been managing the estate since she was sixteen.”

“I thought her lawyer managed it.” Brian was a bit confused. Ellen shook her head.

“My distant cousin Ned Gowan, is her solicitor. I know Ned.  He wouldn't let Claire remain ignorant of her holdings.  Too easy for her to be taken advantage of, if something were to happen to him and another lawyer took over.  He probably does the day to day, perhaps the bulk of the administrative work, but Claire makes the decisions concerning the estate, including the management of her tenants and crop rotation.”

“Crop rotation? I thought her estate was in London.”

“The house she lives in is in London. Jamie doesn’t know it, but Claire also has a large property on the Isle of Isley. Truth be told, her holdings are larger than ours.”

“How on earth do you know that?” Brian had investigated the girl of course, but hadn’t heard of any holdings outside London.

“You forget my dear. I knew Julia Beauchamp when she was Julia Morison. We went to school together. Her father was a descendant of James Morison.”

Brian’s eyes widened. “Those holdings are enormous. How on earth can she manage holdings that large? Has she told Jamie?”

Ellen shook her head. “I doubt that Claire herself knows just how vast her holdings are. I only know because I visited Julia once during summer holidays. Jenny’s never said anything to me that would indicate Claire knows. She has cut short their Wednesday practices on occasion to go over paperwork concerning her holdings, but it sounds to me as though it’s all abstract to her. Ned asks Claire to make decisions about tenants and crops, which she does based on reports and things from the various stewards and tenants. Claire did tell Jenny that she’s hoping to take a trip and actually see all her property once she’s married.”

Brian took a minute to think on this new information. “Tis glad I am that Jamie learned estate management along with Willie. Even so, I dinna ken if he’d be up to that size challenge.”

“Dinna fash Brian. Claire is quite educated on the subject. They’re her holdings anyway.”

“I ken. But I also ken my son. Once he finds out, he’ll feel small if he canna help.”

Ellen pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Aye, he would at that. Tis a good thing I think that she does’na ken. Tis better if they find out together… after the wedding.”

“Ach. He’s only just begun courting her. Dinna fix the date just yet.” Brian warned her.

His lady-wife smirked at him. “I dinna think it will be a long courtship my love. Jamie is just as passionate as you are. Now he’s found his heart’s choice, he’ll be impatient to secure her.”

Brian leaned over to kiss his wife. “Aye. You may be right about that.”

The walk to the barn was a short one. Jamie had made sure to bundle Claire into a warm coat and himself as well.

Donas was in the small pasture next to the barn, and he raised his head when Jamie called to him. The horse came to the side of the fence and Jamie took several minutes to greet the animal.

“He’s beautiful Jamie. But so large! What breed of horse is he?”

“We are’na sure. Da is convinced one of his ancestors was a Friesian, based on his coloring and size. He’s almost as big as a Clydesdale, but without the feathering they have. Da bought him at a horse auction. The breeder selling him hadn’t found buyer and was saying if no one bid, he’d put him down as no worth the trouble. Da put in a bid of $15.00. No one else bid on him.”

“Was the breeder angry? A horse that size would cost almost $200.00, wouldn’t it?” Claire asked.

Jamie was a little surprised she knew that. “About that yes. The breeder was no angry though. He was just happy to have sold him. Shook Da’s hand and wished him luck.” Jamie chuckled at the memory.

“Was he hard to train?”

“No hard really. The breeder was stupid. Thought the only way to train a horse was to break him. Donas did’na need breaking. Just a bit o guidance and a firm hand.” Just then Donas pushed at Jamie’s hand, looking for an apple. “Well, that and an understanding of what motivates him ye ken.” Taking an apple out of his coat pocket Jamie offered it to the horse, who delicately took it.

Claire smiled. “Such as apples?”

“Oh aye. Apples, carrots, anything sweet. Mostly just respect though. I respect him and he respects me. It took some time to get to know one another, but we get along well enough now.” With one last pat, Jamie offered his arm to Claire and they began to walk back to the house. “I’ll show ye the rest of the horses tomorrow. If the weather’s nice perhaps we can go for a ride?”

“Oh yes, I’d love that. Jenny told me to bring my riding clothes. I’ve been so busy I haven’t gone for a good gallop in months. Alec exercises the horses of course, but I miss riding.”

“Well then. Let’s go for a ride tomorrow after breakfast. I can show you Lallybroch.” They reached the house and went inside just as Ellen stepped into the hall.

“Oh good. I was just about to call you. Supper will be ready in about ten minutes. You have just enough time to wash the travel dirt off Claire. Come, let me show you up to Jenny’s room.”

Jamie took her coat and hung it up. He missed the hook twice, watching Claire walk up the stairs.
Brian laughed to himself, but didn’t comment.

Supper was pleasant. Everyone made an effort to include Claire, even Willie. She enjoyed listening to them share their day’s doings with one another. Brian and Ellen were genuinely interested in what their children had to share, and the children were equally interested in the parent’s. Watching them interact reminded Claire of her relationship with her parents, but in a good way. It didn’t make her sad, well no more sad than thinking of her parents usually did.

It was more that it gave her hope. If she and Jamie did get married, he had the same close relationship with his parents that she had enjoyed with hers. So it was likely that he’d want to recreate that with his own children.

True to his word, Jamie took Claire riding after breakfast. They took along a stable hand for propriety’s sake, but the lad stayed a bit behind them allowing the couple to speak freely.

Jamie showed her all around Lallybroch, justly proud of his father’s estate. He didn’t take her up to the cave he and Ian used for study, but he did point out the pathway.

“I’ll show it to you properly another time. It’s more than a bit of a climb ye ken.” Privately Jamie thought he’d take Claire there after they wed. Very few people knew where it was and he wouldn’t have to worry about being interrupted.

The couple were gone all morning. They almost missed lunch, but Ellen held it back a bit when she saw them racing into the courtyard.

Lamb watched the two riding up. Jamie was laughing and to the older man’s surprise, Claire was laughing along with him.

I don’t think I’ve seen her laughing since Henry and Julia died.’ He thought. It was true. Claire hadn’t laughed in Lamb’s company since the death of her parents. She’d laughed of course, simply not in front of her uncle. There was no design to it, rather, circumstance was the culprit.

Lamb mentioned it to Jamie during their first tea later that afternoon. “My niece is happier around you. More relaxed it seems.”

“I’m glad. I like making her happy.” Jamie replied simply. He wasn’t sure what these teatimes were supposed to accomplish and was very nervous that it would turn into an interrogation. Joe picked up on his nervousness and tried to reassure him.

“We aren’t going to grill you Jamie. We just want to get to know you better, and for you to know us.”

Lamb nodded at that. “Joe’s right.” To prove his words he turned to Joe. “So how is medical school going son?”

“I’m almost finished. I have one more term and then I go into residency. I’m thinking of going into surgery, but family practice holds a certain appeal too.”

“How do ye decide?” Jamie asked.

“I try both and see which one I want to focus on. My professors are pushing a few of us towards surgery though. It’s a specialized skill and not enough people go into it.”

“Could ye no do both?”

“It’s possible I suppose, but with a wife and child it would be impossible to give my all to both and not neglect my family.”

“I’d think with a family ye’d want family practice then.” Jamie observed.

Joe shook his head. “Actually no. With surgery I have far more control over my schedule barring the occasional emergency surgery and most hospitals have a rotation of surgeons on call for those. With family practice I’d be on call all the time if I don’t take on a partner and 50% of the time if I do. Sick children don’t follow a schedule.”

“Aye, I can see that.” Jamie was thoughtful for a minute. “I’ve never been interested in medicine so I had’na considered the demands on a doctor’s time before.”

“Claire tells me you like languages?” Lamb inquired, digging a little.

“I do. I plan to study them at university and hope to find work as a translator. There are any number of ancient tomes in both Scotland and England that need translating. It’s my hope that by studying modern languages I can figure out the grammar of the ancient ones.”

Lamb looked interested. “I know just what you mean. It’s the same with archaeology. Sometimes by learning about ancient cultures we better understand our own.”

“Yes! That’s just what I think. If we can translate the old books, then perhaps we can come to a better understanding of how our traditions developed. Perhaps even rediscover some that were lost.” Jamie looked excited that Lamb understood. His parents were always supportive of him, but he often felt as though they didn’t quite understand why the prospect of translating old books was so important to him.

This launched a discussion between the two men on ancient cultures and the discoveries that Lamb made on his digs.

Joe sat back and drank his tea, not interjecting much but enjoying the discussion nonetheless. Jamie and Quentin were forming a bond quite spontaneously over a shared love of history.

Chapter Text

The conversation between Brian, Ellen and Claire was very different. Ellen knew that she and Claire shared a love of music so she began there.

“Jenny tells me you are working on a composition for harp?”

“Yes Ma’am. I used to play harp with my mother and I’d like to perform with it again.” Claire hoped Jenny hadn’t said anything about the crying.

Jenny had told her mother. Ellen, noticing the look on Claire’s face, didn’t bring it up. When Claire was ready to share that information, she would.

“Did you bring a harp to practice with?” She inquired instead.

“I brought a small practice harp Ma’am. I probably won’t be able to work on my composition, I need a full size pedal harp for that. Which is alright. I don’t want to spend all my time practicing. Just running scales and things for all my instruments already takes three or four hours a day.”

“Hmmm. We have a Concert harp at the music school if you find yourself inspired while you’re here.”

Brian decided it was time to turn the conversation to another topic. “I understand you oversee all your own holdings?”

Claire nodded. “I do sir. Mr. Gowan, my solicitor, helps tremendously of course, but I try and keep up with all the reports and things. I also read the agricultural journals as often as I can. Sometimes Uncle Ned will send me things he thinks are important. Having land and tenants is a great responsibility. I try to make sure I’m doing right by everyone.”

“How many tenants do ye have? I’ve a bit over three hundred at this time. My ancestor started out with fifty and every generation since has added to the holdings. Mostly sheep and cattle, although there are grain farmers as well now. They supply the distillery.” Brian explained.

Claire blushed a little. “In England I have about eighty tenants. There are a bit less than five hundred in Wales and slightly more than a thousand in Scotland.”

Brian was stunned. He knew that Claire’s holdings were larger than his, but not by this much.

Ellen interjected. “I thought you had land on Islay. I didn’t think there were that many people on the entire island.”

Claire shook her head. “They aren’t all on Islay. I have some land up near Thurso, beef cattle mostly. I also have a holding down South. All the farmers there own dairy cattle. The English tenants are mostly crop farmers, wheat, oats and barley.”

“And the Welsh tenants?” Ellen was beginning to understand the scope of Claire’s responsibilities and found it a bit overwhelming. Brian had a better understanding. He was staggered by the enormity of her holdings.  Claire it seems was quite wealthy.  Far more so than he was.

“Oh they farm a variety of things. Some sheep of course, although most of the sheep tenants are on Islay. The rest grow a variety of salad crops and some vegetables. I have three tenants who are potato farmers too.”

“How do you keep up with it all?” Brian asked at last rejoining the conversation.

“I don’t think it’s terribly difficult. I read the reports, then discuss things as they come up. I mostly leave the day to day running of things to the Stewards and Uncle Ned. All the stewards were hired by my father, so I know they are trustworthy. Daddy was very careful about that sort of thing. I’m hoping to travel to my holdings and meet all the tenants when I’m a little older.”

She had begun to learn about her holdings from her father. He knew that Claire was likely to be their only child, and didn’t want her to be taken advantage of, so Henry had taught her about responsibility from a very young age. When he was killed, Ned had taken over.

“That’s very sensible, I just don’t know how you find the time to even read everything. You already spend many hours a day with your music.” Brian clarified his question.

“Oh! Well, I read at mealtimes if there are no guests. I take care of all my correspondence on Monday afternoons and Tuesday is set aside for a meeting with Uncle Ned to go over anything that needs to be talked about.”

Ellen was beginning to form a picture of just how full Claire’s days were, and she didn’t think she liked it. She wasn’t about to criticize of course, this was normal to Claire.

“What do you enjoy doing for fun besides your music, my dear?” Ellen asked instead. “We have any number of hiking trails and of course the horses.”

“Well… I love spending time in the garden. Mummy put in an enormous herb garden at home and I go out and play in the dirt whenever I have the opportunity. I can’t tend to it all myself of course so the garden staff make sure to keep an eye on it too. I like to sit out there and read in the summer-time. I spend time in the still room, making salves and tinctures with herbs from the garden. Mostly Mummy’s receipts, but Oncle Ray taught me some too. I like to ride, I try and go several times a week before breakfast. I plan my day out in my head while I’m riding. The stable boys take turns riding with me and they are all very nice and keep quiet so I can think, although I usually talk to them when I’ve finished going over my schedule.”

“I do that too lass. I find my day goes better when I’ve had my morning ride. Sets the tone ye ken.”

Claire smiled at Brian. “I feel exactly the same. I haven't been able to do so lately and I miss it terribly. Does Jamie ride in the mornings too?”

“Oh Aye. We could never get Willie out o the bed without complaint, but Jamie’s been up with the lark since he was a bairn. O course Jamie would spend all day outside if he could. He even takes his bass out into the garden to practice when the weather allows it.”

“Oh! What a lovely idea. I don’t think I’ve ever done that.” Claire exclaimed.

“Well, your instruments aren’t portable though are they?” Ellen smiled at her.

Claire thought about that. “Other than my violin, not really. It would be a bother to wheel my harp out or Heaven forbid the piano.”

Ellen laughed aloud. “I practice with the windows open, but moving the piano into the garden wouldn’t be a good idea.”

“I envy you that a little. I always practice with the windows closed, the city sounds are so loud and distracting. I miss the Austrian house. It was out in the country a bit and I could practice with the windows open.” Claire sighed a little wistfully.

“You are most welcome to come back this summer. Then you can practice with the windows open.” Brian offered.

“Thank you Mr. Fraser, that would be wonderful.”

The remainder of the tea was spent talking about inconsequential things and simply getting to know one another. Jamie came to collect Claire promptly at four o’clock (tea was at three.)

Knocking on the door, he entered at Brian’s call, and smiled at Claire. “Would ye like to go walking with me?” She smiled back. “I’d love to, if that’s alright?” She inquired of Ellen.

“Of course my dear. Jamie, show her my herb garden. Claire mentioned hers and I wonder how they compare.”

The garden was walled and would give them some privacy while limiting their time alone. It would be too cold and the sun would set in about an hour.

“Supper at seven Jamie.” Brian reminded him.

“Aye Da.” The young man offered his arm to Claire and they left the room together.

Stopping in the front hall to bundle up, Jamie led Claire back down the hall to the kitchen and out the back door.

“Oh! Your mother told me it was a walled garden, I didn’t realize she meant a full enclosure. How lovely. It’s bigger than mine, although I think the walls are taller at home.” The walls of the garden were approximately four feet in height. Tall enough to dissuade small animals, but short enough that most people could see over the top.

“Well, yer garden is in the city. It stands to reason the walls would be taller. I imagine thieves were more o’ a problem when it was built.” Jamie reasoned.

“Hmmm. Most likely. Although I don’t think there was more than a small kitchen garden back then. According to the stewardship accounts, the family spent more time in the country than the city. Usually the head of house came up for parliament but the ladies and the children only came once a year to shop. Especially the son and daughter-in-law of the original owner. My many-greats grandparents. They had twelve children.”

This last was said a bit wistfully, and led Jamie to inquire. “Ye sounded almost sad just now. Why?”

“I would have liked siblings. The idea of so many makes me a bit envious.”

“Do ye want many children then?” Jamie asked curiously.

“Oh, yes. I’d love a dozen children. No one would ever be lonely with that many brothers and sisters.”

“A dozen ye say? Well, ‘tis a good thing I’ve already a large plot of land from my grandfather. It does’na have a house on it, but I can build ye one. With lots of bedrooms for all the bairns.” Jamie looked pleased at the prospect.

“Where is your property? Is it close to Lallybroch?”

“Oh Aye. My far fields and Da’s share a common border. Tis about a ten minute walk across the fields if ye’d like to see it.”

“I’d love to. Do we have time now?”

Jamie looked up and gauged the position of the sun. “Perhaps no, but we could go in the morning after breakfast. Ye wanted to ride, aye?” Claire nodded. “Well then, we can ride across the fields as easily as walk. The harvest has all be brought in so we would’na be disturbing the crops ye ken.”

“Alright then, let’s do that.”

They continued to walk through the enclosed garden with Claire stopping to look at the various beds.

“I did’na ken ye knew herbs?”

“I guess it never came up. My mother had a very difficult time having me, and she learned a lot about herbal medicine when she and Daddy were trying to have a child. Once I was old enough, she taught me. We used to spend time in the gardens every day weather permitting. After she died I kept learning. Oncle Ray has taught me many things. I always nurse the servants when they become ill. Not if they are ill enough to need a doctor of course. But for small things, colds and the occasional cut everyone in the house comes to me. Even Joe.”

“Are ye interested in medicine then?”

“Hmmm, yes a little, but not enough to give up my music. Besides, if I were going to study medicine I’d want to be a doctor and that would take a long time. Daddy told me long ago that with my curious mind I’d be interested in many things, but wouldn’t have the time to do all of them I needed to choose what I wanted to invest my time in.”

“That’s verra good advice. I’m still trying to decide. I like making music and I like horses, and I like languages. I’ll no be able to keep up with all of them forever. Da oversees my tenants for me right now, but when I graduate from University I’ll have to do it myself.”

“I meant to ask earlier, what about your brother? Does he have land as well?”

“Nah. He’ll inherit Lallybroch ye ken. Although, since he went to Paris Willie does’na seem too keen to come back home again. He’s been working for Da’s cousin who owns a winery. Jared has no sons and Willie likes the wine business.” Jamie chuckled. “Although I also think he likes the museums and his lady-friend in Paris as well.”

"Willie has a lady-friend?  I didn't see anyone at supper?"

“Oh Aye. He’s gone to meet her train.  He's bringing her back home tonight, Da isn’t sure when they’ll get in.  Willie's been talking about Annalise for over two years now.  If he's bringing her to Lallybroch to meet everyone... I think it's serious.”

“Oh that’s lovely. With two of us here, perhaps I won’t feel so self-conscious at teatime.” Claire remarked.

“Why did ye feel self-conscious?”

“I’m just not used to talking to people by myself. Someone else is usually around to help with the conversation. I didn’t mind your parents so much though. Your mother has always been so kind to me and your father was very nice also. I think I surprised him a little but he was still nice.”

“How did you surprise him?”

“Hmmm, I just don’t think he expected me to be as knowledgeable about my holdings as I am. I’m also not sure he realized how large they are.”

“Ah. Well, I’ve never said anything to him about your estate. Twasn’t my knowledge to share ye ken. I dinna think Jenny has ever said anything either. I imagine he was surprised though. Yer holdings are quite a bit larger than Lallybroch.”

Claire nodded. “They are. That’s why I don’t talk about them much to people. Uncle Ned always warned me that unscrupulous people could try and swindle me if they knew. It’s alright if you talk about it with your parents though. I trust you, and I trust them. Perhaps your father would be willing to help us learn how to manage them better. I know Uncle Ned said he will, but sometimes more than one perspective is a good idea.”

Jamie grinned at her. “I agree with you. So it’s alright if I speak with Da after supper? Then he can discuss it with you during tea tomorrow.”

“Oh yes! I’d like that. Or maybe we should talk to him together tomorrow? Not at tea? If Willie’s young lady will be here too, I don’t want to monopolize the conversation.”

“Hmmm. Perhaps. I’ll speak with Da tonight and we’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

Jamie didn’t find an opportunity to speak with Brian until much later in the evening.

It had been just the two families at supper, Willie hadn’t yet returned. Instead of removing to the sitting room, the entire company had remained at table, conversing while picking over the fruits and cheese. Brian preferred to spend his time with Ellen in the evening, they spent so much of the day apart tending to various responsibilities.

At last however, Ellen decided it was time for her to retire.

“I’m off to bed. It’s almost 9:30. Morning comes quite early on the farm.”

The ladies of course all rose with their hostess and left the room. Once they were gone, Jamie turned to Brian and asked, “Da, may I speak with ye in private for a moment?”

“Of course mo mac. Let’s go to my study.”

They bid the other men goodnight and left the room. Deciding that turning in sounded like a good idea, the remaining men bid one another goodnight and went to their rooms.

Brian closed the door and sat down on the chaise. Jamie didn’t sit next to him, but instead began to pace the room.


“I’d like to share something with ye and ask yer advice. Before I do though, I want to tell ye that it makes no difference to me. I did’na even think of it until this afternoon.”

“Go on.” Brian was very curious now about what could be agitating Jamie so.

“I’ve known for a long time, it just wasn’t my place to say anything.”

“Jamie. Whatever it is, you can tell me.”

The young man took a deep breath. “Claire is… richer then ye.”

Brian smiled. “I ken.”

Jamie nodded. “Claire told me you had discussed her holdings over tea. What I’m trying to tell ye is that I ken. I have for a long time. Even before I joined the Roses. Well, I suspected before then. When we were writing to one another, Claire would ask questions about Lallybroch and the tenants. She told me it was part of her lessons with her solicitor about her own holdings.

Then I went to England and we started spending Wednesdays together… sometimes she’d still be working on something for the estate when Jenny and I arrived. She knew I’d had lessons about such things from you, although she did’na ken I had my own land until recently. So she’d ask me about different problems that would come up.
Once I received official permission to court her, Mr. Gowan sat down with Claire and I to explain everything.”

Jamie shook his head. “Ye ken it was’na that she was bragging or anything. Claire wanted to be sure I knew what I was getting into. It’s a huge responsibility and I understand if it’s more than you want to take on. That’s what she said to me.”

At this Jamie sat next to his father and leaned in. “While we were meeting Claire got called away for something. Mr. Gowan told me that he was grateful it was me courting her, since he knew I was’na after her for her wealth.”

Brian agreed with that. “I can understand what he means. Claire is aware that she has a great deal of money of course, but from her perspective the money is incidental to the responsibility she feels for the tenants.”

“That’s what Mr. Gowan said almost exactly.”

“I did’na say anything to ye or Mam because I kent you’d know I didn’t want her money. I love Claire. If taking care of her holdings is what we have to do then we will. I already told Mr. Gowan that the money should remain in her name. I dinna even want a dowry. That’s hers from her parents.”

Brian shook his head. “That’s no fair to the lass. I ken yer intention son, but if ye refuse a dowry Claire will take it as a rejection. For all her reserve, the young lady is verra strong minded. Ye ken I took a dowry from yer Mam and invested it in Lallybroch.”

Jamie got a stubborn look on his face. Brian sighed. “Jamie, lad. Ye see Claire as an equal. Aye?”

“Aye.” Where was Da going with this?

“Then ye need to treat her as an equal. Keep the estates separate if ye wish, but let her invest in the home ye build together. I ken how much goes in to running a small estate. Holdings the size of Claire’s are a full time job. Ye plan to help her do ye no?”

“Of course.”

“Then let her help you as well. It comes down to trust my lad. Ye must trust one another and work as partners in the life ye build together.”

Ellen hadn’t had property when they wed, but she had inherited a considerable amount of money from her mother’s family, along with her concert earnings which were substantial. Brian had wanted to keep things separate at first and Ellen had been very angry. “I trust ye with my heart and my future children, but ye dinna think I should trust ye wit my money? What does that say of yer priorities Brian Fraser?!”

Brian suspected that Claire would feel the same way. He could see from the set of Jamie’s jaw that his advice wasn’t well received. Ah well, at least Brian had given it. The young couple would have to find their own way. As strong minded as the two were, a bit of conflict was inevitable.

Jamie thanked his father and went to bed, turning over the conversation in his mind. Da means well, but I dinna intend to take money from my wife. ‘It’s my job to provide for my family. Course decided, he went to sleep, planning to discuss things with Claire in the morning.

They went for a ride after breakfast, with a groom trailing behind them for propriety’s sake.

“Lallybroch is beautiful Jamie. So is your land. Does it have a name as well?”

“Nah. It wilna until we build a home on it. Then we can choose a name together.”

Claire smiled shyly, pleased that Jamie was speaking of their relationship as permanent.

“Sassenach, I’d like to speak with ye about yer holdings.” Jamie began. Now was as good a time as any.

“Of course.” Claire looked at him. They continued to ride for a moment, then Jamie said,

“What do ye ye wish to invest… Ach. My Da told me something last night and I see the sense in it, but at the same time, I dinna wish to be thought a kept man.” He finished in a rush.

Claire began to laugh. “What?”

Jamie blushed, embarrassed and a bit irritated. Looking back he could see the groom was far enough away that he hadn’t heard anything. “My Da was surprised at the extent of yer holdings. I told him last night after supper that I already knew, that you and Mr. Gowan had sat me down and explained everything.”


“I also told him that I did’na intend to take a dowry and Da said it would’na be fair to you.”

Claire thought about that. “Why don’t you want to take a dowry?” She asked after a minute.

“That’s your inheritance from your parents. Besides, I dinna want anyone to think I canna provide for my own family.”

“Ah. So this is about your male pride then.” Claire said.

“What? No!”

“Truly?” She arched a brow. “Alright then, what exactly do you expect me to do with my income? Put it in a bank, give it all away to charity? Save it for our sons? I imagine you don’t want it going to any daughters...after all, if we have a daughter, her husband won’t take a dowry...he’ll want to provide for her himself. Is that right?” Claire inquired, still in that calm voice. Her face however, told a different tale.

Jamie was now mystified. He could tell Claire was upset but couldn’t for the life of him figure out why. So he asked.

“Claire why does this upset ye? I thought you’d be happy to know that I plan to provide. And of course our daughters would have a dowry. As the father ‘tis my job to...”

She interrupted him. “But since my father is dead he doesn’t have the same responsibility? Jamie this isn’t about you providing or not providing for our family. It’s about whether or not you see me as a partner. I thought you wanted to build a life together.”

“What?! Of course I do. I just...”

“You just think that as a woman I shouldn’t contribute other than to bear children for you.”

“Now dinna put words in my mouth. I did’na say anything like that.”

“Oh really? You don’t want to take a dowry because it’s my money instead of my father’s. That will put me in the position of bringing nothing into the marriage. I won’t be able to invest anything in the home or the life we build together. I don’t want to be your master Jamie, but neither do I want you to be mine. I want us to work together as… as… well, partners. Equally yoked as the Bible says and pulling together.”

Jamie didn’t say anything, but his jaw was set. He wasn’t changing his mind.

Claire paused and took a breath. “Don’t you see Jamie, if you refuse this, you’ll be just like everyone else.”

“Now what do ye mean by that?” Jamie demanded.

“All my life everyone has tried to manipulate me into doing what they wish. Mr. Randall does it, Uncle Lamb does it, even Joe does it sometimes. I understand it’s unusual, but...I just can’t live my whole life as a meek an obedient subordinate to my husband. I could try, but I would eventually end up resenting you for forcing me to be someone I’m not. I love you Jamie, truly I do. But... If you don’t want to treat me as an equal then we are not suited.”

Jamie was shocked silent. What did she mean not suited? After staring at her for several moments, he realized that she had begun to cry. That startled him to speech, “Claire…” He didn’t get to finish.

Turning her horse toward the stables, Claire began going back the way they had just come.

Jamie yelled, “CLAIRE!” She urged the horse to go faster.

By the time the young woman reached the stables she was crying so hard, she could barely see. It was fortunate that Murtagh was in courtyard, greeting Willie and Annalise who had just arrived.

Claire didn’t see them. She pulled her horse to a stop in the doorway of the stable and bending over the horse’s neck began to sob into it’s mane. After a brief silent conversation, Willie quietly ushered his lady friend into the house. This left Murtagh to approach Claire.

“Claire? What’s the matter nighean?” he asked. “Is Jamie hurt?”

Claire couldn’t speak, but shook her head. Murtagh figured it out. “Ye had a spat then did ye?” He said calmly while catching the horse’s bridle.

Again Claire shook her head, breaking out into a fresh round of crying.

Jenny came into the courtyard, sent by Willie. She didn’t know what was wrong, only that Claire was upset. Murtagh nodded at her and said to Claire,

“Come down leannan, come down off the horse. I’ll put her away. You can go into the house with Jenny for a cuppa.” Murtagh gently took Claire by the waist and lifted her off the horse.

“Oh Jenny!” Claire wailed.

“Ach now, come along. It canna be as bad as all that.” Jenny consoled. Putting an arm around her friend, she led the distraught young woman into the house.

As he was leading the mare into the stables, Jamie came thundering into the courtyard on Donas looking just as upset as Claire had.

“Woah lad. I dinna ken what ye’ve quarreled over, but whatever it is ye wil’na resolve it unless ye calm yerself.”

“We haven’t quarreled. Claire just… I told her I wanted to provide for her and she… must have misunderstood what I meant. She was crying! Where is she?”

“Jenny took Claire into the house. She was crying when she rode up and would’na tell us what was wrong. I dinna think she’ll thank you for discussing it with me either.”

Jamie started to speak again. The older man held up a hand to stop him.

“No. Tis none of my business what caused this. If ye need advice, seek out yer Mam. I will say one thing though. Take care o your horse and calm down before ye say or do anything. Yer less likely to regret it later.”

Not giving the younger man a chance to reply, Murtagh led the mare into the stable in order to see to the animal’s needs.

Jamie took his godfather’s advice. He took his time putting Donas away thinking over the entire conversation. At first, Claire’s reaction made him angry and defensive. How can she accuse me of trying to make her subservient? He scoffed to himself. She might not yell like Jenny did, but Claire was not the meek and obedient type.

The more he thought things through, the more the young man began to understand her point of view. Claire was right about everyone around her pushing and pulling her to do what they thought was best. She had very few opportunities to make a decision without outside influence.

By the time he finished and started toward the house, Jamie was feeling quite chagrined. He was most anxious now, to reassure Claire that he did see her as an equal and to apologize for making such a decision without discussing it first. The young man also realized that he was going to have to swallow his pride about the money. Perhaps it was a bit misplaced, he admitted to himself. After all, if he was the one with the larger estate, Jamie couldn’t see Claire refusing to use his money.

Da had said it came down to trusting one another and being partners. Why did I no pay attention? I’m such a numpty sometimes.

Chapter Text

Horse cared for, Jamie went into the house, looking for the older Fraser’s but hadn’t gone two steps beyond the door before Jenny was there blocking his way and looking angrier than he’d ever seen her.

“James Alexander Malcom Mackenzie Fraser! You’d best be explaining yourself and quickly.”

Jamie’s hackles immediately rose. “Not now Jenny.” He went to brush past her.

“Yes NOW!” His sister grabbed him by the arm and swung him back to face her. Jenny was small of stature but she was strong. “Claire’s upstairs sobbing her heart out, and won’t say why.”

Jamie’s face twisted. “Is someone with her?” He asked earnestly.

Jenny snorted. “Of course. Mam is with her. I would’na leave a friend alone in that state.”

Jamie nodded distractedly. “Where’s Da?”

“Nevermind that. What did you say?”

Jamie ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. “Claire misunderstood something. I said it wrong, and I need to ask Da how to make it right. Where’s Da?!” The last bit was yelled.

Brian stepped out of his study. “I’m here lad. Come into my study and we’ll talk about it.” Giving Jenny a look which left her red faced in embarrassment, Brian shepherded his son into the room and closed the door.


When Jenny had led Claire into the house, Ellen and Brian were in the study discussing holiday plans.

The older couple heard someone crying and went into the hall. Upon seeing Claire, Brian shook his head and retreated back into the study. No sense in embarrassing the lass. Ellen went into the hall.

“What’s happened?” She asked Jenny.

“I dinna ken. Willie sent me outside saying that Claire was upset. I’m just taking her upstairs for some privacy.”

Ellen nodded. “Aye.” Drawing Claire away from Jenny she suggested, “Can you ask Mrs. Crook to send up tea? I think I might ken what this is about.”

Jenny looked relieved. “Aye.”

Ellen Put an arm around the weeping girl and led her upstairs and into the girls room. Sitting on the bed she let Claire cry, holding her as she cried.

“Tis alright leannan. Twill be alright.” The older woman soothed.
After several minutes, Claire’s crying eased. Handing her a clean handkerchief, Ellen waited while she wiped her eyes.

“Would you like to talk about it?” Ellen asked.

Claire nodded tentatively. “I don’t even know where to begin.”

“Why don’t you begin by telling me what upset you so?”

“I thought Jamie was different. I… but he’s NOT! He sees me as a child to be manipulated, just like everyone else does.”

Ellen raised a brow. “That does’na sound like Jamie. Suppose you explain exactly what he said to gie ye such an impression?” The older woman said neutrally.

Ellen’s manner allowed Claire to calm down. Taking a deep breath, the younger woman wiped her eyes again. Wrinkling her brow, trying to recall the details of the conversation. “We were out riding and I asked him about his land, if it had a name. He said no, that we’d name it together.”

She sighed. “I was happy that he’d want me to help him think of a name, and… I thought it meant Jamie saw me as a partner, an equal.”

“I believe he does. What did my son say to indicate otherwise?” the older woman continued to prod gently.

“He… the very next thing he said was that he wouldn’t take a dowry… that he didn’t want to be thought of as a kept man. I… I admit I was a bit rude about it at first, I asked if this was just his male pride talking. He said it wasn’t, but…” Claire started to tear up again.

“I tried to explain to him that I want to be equal with him and invest in our future too… it’s just like everyone else in my life. They all want me to do what they think is best and I don’t get to make any of the decisions. I didn’t even pick the clothes in my closet, Gayle and Mrs. Graham did.” Claire broke down again, falling down onto the bed. Perhaps she was being dramatic, but it felt as though her world was disintegrating and Claire couldn’t think of how to stop it.

Ellen shifted so Claire’s head was in her lap and began to gently stroke the distraught girl’s hair. Thankfully the girl had closed her eyes and couldn’t see Ellen’s indulgent smile. “Hmmm. That’s quite a lot of anger and resentment my dear. However, I dinna think it’s truly Jamie that yer upset with.”

“What?” Claire sat upright again. “Of course I’m upset with Jamie. He’s just like…” Ellen put her finger to Claire’s mouth, shaking her head.

“No my dear, he is’na. I will grant you that my son perhaps stumbled over his words, which led to the current misunderstanding, however, I’ll come back to that. It’s more important to talk about your desire to direct your own life and the resentment you feel toward those who are interfering with that desire.”

“I don’t resent anyone.” Claire said, a bit bewildered.

“Are you sure about that?” Ellen patiently waited for Claire to consider the idea.

At last Claire shook her head. “Well...maybe I am. A little.”

Ellen put an arm around Claire’s shoulder. The younger woman leaned into the comfort.

“I agree. In fact, I think your resentment has been building for quite some time, and the conversation with Jamie just brought those feelings to the surface. Since Jamie is’na a person who has control or authority over you, he is a safe person for you to get angry with. Your speech just now tells me that a number of people make decisions for you, or try to persuade you to do things their way, rather than in the way you would prefer. You mentioned Gayle and Mrs. Graham picking your clothing, and I’m going to assume you also mean those who would direct your music performances and such?”

Claire nodded. “Yes. Mr. Randall mostly, but also Mr. Mackenzie and Joe. Even Uncle Lamb to some extent. I wanted to find another manager last year, but Uncle Lamb said no. He didn’t even discuss it with me, just said that he didn’t know any other managers and that Uncle Paul had approved.”

Now Claire became thoughtful. “Truly, Uncle Ned, I mean Mr. Gowan is the only person who encourages me to make my own decisions. Joe doesn’t understand the estate business and Uncle Lamb doesn’t want to be bothered with it.” She bit her lip. “Neither of them really know that I took over running everything when I turned sixteen. I mean… I discuss things with Uncle Ned of course and ask his advice, but the final decisions have been mine for almost three years now.”

“Is there a reason you didn’t inform the others?” Ellen inquired already knowing the answer.

At this, Claire blushed. “I… didn’t want them to forbid it or take it over. Uncle Ned agreed with me that I should wait and let everyone know when I’m legally an adult.”

“So Ned advised you to wait until yer 21?”

“Mmmmhmmm.” Claire was biting at her lip again.

“Have ye discussed any of this with Jamie?”

Now the young lady looked sheepish. “No.” She said softly.

Ellen smiled again although this smile had a bit of a scold in it. “Well then, did ye expect him to just ken how ye feel wi’out ye saying it? I grant that Jamie is a canny lad, but he’s no a mind reader.” The older woman chuckled. “I would’na be surprised if he is’na downstairs asking his Da what on earth he said to set yer back up so.”

“I… haven’t been very fair, have I?” Claire whispered, looking down at her hands.

“Perhaps no, but I dinna think it’s truly a question of fairness. It’s more that ye need to share yer thoughts with Jamie better.”

At Claire’s crestfallen look, Ellen hugged her. “Now, dinna fash. Ye did’na or said anything that canna be mended.” Ellen gave her another gentle squeeze and said; “Why don’t ye wash yer face and we’ll go find Jamie. Tis almost lunch time. I’ll have Mrs. Crook bring something into the study and the two of ye can talk privately.”

“Oh, but…” Claire protested. Ellen was already shaking her head. “No my dear. I will gladly advise you as I will Jamie, but the two of you need to learn how to talk to one another without someone mediating. Good communication is the foundation of any successful relationship.”

Ellen drew Claire to her feet and led her out of the room and down the hall. Claire washed her face, then followed the older woman down the stairs.

Jamie went into the study with Brian, and threw himself into a chair before pulling at his hair with both hands.

Brian sat down in the other chair and waited.

“I dinna ken what happened.” Jamie said at last.

“Hmmm. Well, why don’t you take me through your conversation and we’ll see if we can’t puzzle it out. Aye?”

Jamie nodded. After gathering his thoughts, he began. “We went riding this morning. Claire asked if my land had a name. I told her it did’na that we could name it together when we built a house. She seemed...pleased by that I think?” The young man screwed his face up trying to recall the details.

“Then what happened?”

“We… talked a bit about her holdings, I told her that I’d talked to you and Mam. Then… I said I did’na want to take a dowry, that I did’na want to be seen as a kept man.” Jamie blushed a bit. “Claire asked if that was my male pride talking, and I said it was’na. Then she… just became angry and yelled at me that I was trying to control her.” Now the young man looked bewildered. “I swear I did’na mean it like that Da. I tried to tell her such, but Claire rode away back to the stable. Jenny says she’s crying.” He said miserably.

Brian patted his knee. “I dinna ken why young Claire took what ye said the way she did… however, I do think it’s something more than yer conversation about her dowry. Although… I did warn ye the lass would’na like it.”

“Aye. Ye did. But… what should I do? How can I make this right? I dinna want to control Claire. I want to love her and be a partner to her.”

“Then tell her just that. Yer Mam is up with the lass now. When they come down, I’ll send her in to talk to ye. I’ll let yer Mam know ye won’t be in to dinner.”

Jamie looked nervous. “Will ye and Mam help...”

Brian was already shaking his head. “No lad. Ye ken yer Mam and I both will always gie ye advice when ye ask, but ‘tis ye and Claire in this relationship and ye and Claire who need to learn to talk to one another more importantly to listen to one another, without an audience or someone to translate what yer sayin.”

Brian raised a brow. “Unless ye plan to share a bedroom wit’ yer Mam and myself too… when ye wed?”

Jamie turned a bright, bright, red at the thought. “NO. No, I dinna.” The young man sighed and nodded. “I see yer point Da.”

Brian stood. “I’ll go ask Mrs. Crook to send ye in a tray. No sense in being hungry while ye talk.”

The Fraser Laird left the room and met his wife coming down the stairs with Claire. Smiling at them both, he pointed to his study. “Jamie’s in there lass. Go on now and work this out betwixt ye.”

Claire smiled tremulously at Brian. Ellen gave the girl a hug and shooed her in.

The door closed behind her and Brian offered his wife an arm. She took it and they made it all the way to the kitchen before breaking down into helpless laughter.

"Oh, Oh.  Those puir wee lambs."  Ellen hooted.

Brian smiled.  "Ah well the course o true love ne'er did run smooth."

Ellen asked Mrs. Crook to send a tray to the study and the couple left for the dining room.  Jenny was waiting for them.

"Is Claire alright?"  She demanded.

"Oh aye.  Just a wee misunderstanding twixt the two o them.  They're mending it now."

Jenny opened her mouth and Ellen gave her a severe look.  "Dinna take sides Janet Arabella.  They both misspoke and both ken it.  They'll mend it and neither one will thank ye for holding a grudge.  Remember, Claire's never had a beau before and Jamie's never courted someone.  Twas inevitable a misunderstanding would come up.  I'm just thankful it was here and no in London, so we could gie them advice about it."

Jenny closed her mouth again and nodded.  "I see yer point Mam."

"Good.  Now I'm hungry, let's go in to dinner."

Chapter Text

Claire closed the door to the study quietly. Jamie was sitting in one of the chairs, his head in his hands. He looked up when he heard the door click shut.

Jumping to his feet he rushed to take Claire by the hands. “I’m so sorry mo nighean donn. I did’na mean to upset ye so. Please… please tell me how to make this right.”

Claire shook her head. “No Jamie, I’m sorry. I… wasn’t really angry with you. Well, not entirely. Could we… could we sit down and I’ll try to explain?”

Jamie nodded and led her over to the settle. They sat down, Jamie still holding onto Claire’s hands. He tried to let go, but Claire held on tightly. “Can we… could you… it helps. If we touch.”

“Of course mo ghràidh.” She smiled at him.

“Thank you. Jamie, I truly didn’t mean to get so upset. I honestly didn’t even realize I was upset until this morning. Talking to your mother helped.”

“How so?”

Claire sighed. “You know that everyone else makes most of the decisions right? What we perform, when we perform, my daily schedule, even the clothes I wear. I do pick the instrumental pieces and my own solos, but everything else...”

“No. I did’na ken that. Someone else chooses your clothes?” Jamie sounded surprised.

She nodded. “Mmmhmm. I don’t usually have time to go shopping, so Mrs. Graham or Gayle will do it. Sometimes I don’t even have time to pick out what I’m wearing, so Mrs. G. will lay it out for me.”

“If ye dinna like something ye can ask for something else can ye no?” Jamie asked logically.

“Of course I could, I just don’t most of the time...because I’m in a hurry.”

Jamie nodded. “Randall bullying you did’na help either.”

“Oh, but he didn’t really bully me,” Claire protested, then added, “well, not until this last tour anyway.”

Jamie snorted. “Ye forget Claire, I was at most o the planning meetings for the last tour and before that ye would tell me about the meetings in yer letters or in person. Randall has been trying to manipulate ye since before Joe’s Da passed.”

“What? No he didn’t.”

Jamie didn’t argue, just looked at her steadily.

“Alright. Perhaps he was manipulative.” Claire conceded, “I never really thought about it that way.”

“I believe ye did’na, but Joe surely saw what was happening. I dinna understand why he did’na put a stop to it long ago.”

Privately Jamie put more of the blame on Claire’s Uncle Lamb for not paying more attention to what was happening.

“Perhaps, but it’s partially my fault too. Whenever Joe was at meetings I stood up for myself better, because I knew he’d support me. So… Joe probably didn’t know how often Mr. Randall argued with me. I didn’t really realize it myself. When I got sick, Gayle suggested firing Mr. Randall and I protested the idea. I had convinced myself by then that I was taking Mr. Randall’s behavior too personally, and I should just learn to work with him.”

“That is’na right.” Jamie protested.

“I know. I’m not saying that it is, or that anyone in particular is to blame. I’m just telling you what happened.” Claire replied.

She played with Jamie’s fingers unconsciously. “I didn’t recognize it until your mother pointed it out, but I… I think I’m a little resentful. The one time I complained about Mr. Randall to Uncle Lamb, he thought I was overreacting. No one noticed a problem until I got sick and the doctor talked to Gayle. Then she talked to Joe and Uncle Lamb… and suddenly it’s a great idea to dismiss Mr. Randall. But Uncle Lamb never apologized to me for ignoring my concern. I’ve spent the last year questioning my own perceptions and allowing Mr. Randall to bully me. My uncle dismissed my concerns until someone else saw a problem. Until someone other than me brought it to his attention. I know it shouldn’t, but that makes me angry.”

“I also know I shouldn’t blame other people, but I… I don’t feel in control of my own life, and if I’m old enough to be contemplating getting married... I should be making decisions for myself, shouldn’t I?”

“Of course ye should, and I want that for ye too. I want a partner as wife, no a dependent. But Claire… I dinna think it fair to say that everyone dismissed yer concerns. Yer Uncle perhaps, yes. Most o the rest of us had no idea ye thought this way because you never said anything about it. I was at those meetings and I did’na ken any o this.” Jamie pointed out.

“How could you know? Particularly since I didn’t realize myself what was happening. That’s part of the problem. I knew what Mr. Randall was doing was wrong. Still, I let him keep doing it until I got so sick I couldn’t perform.”

“Sassenach, I think yer being a bit too severe with yerself. O course ye trust yer Uncle and Joe.”

I know. But I don’t think I should let my trust overrule my own common sense. They are good men, but they don’t know everything. I think that’s why I got so upset with you this morning. I love you Jamie and I trust you. I do. It’s just…when you said you didn’t want a dowry, I jumped to the conclusion that you wanted to control me too, and I don’t want that.”

Jamie immediately began to protest the idea. Claire put a finger to his lips.

“I know. I know you didn’t mean it like that. I am sorry.”

Jamie couldn’t resist kissing her finger where it rested against his lips.


“Thank you.”

“Sassenach, I’m sorry too.”

“Whatever for?”

“No seeing that you were struggling with this. Making the situation worse.” Jamie shrugged.

“As your mother pointed out, you can’t read my mind and I didn’t tell you what I was thinking. I’m glad she told me to talk to you. I think I need to talk to people more in general. I can’t even really blame Joe or Uncle Lamb. I didn’t tell them everything that was going on, or ask them to talk to Geillis or Dougal. If I had… well. It doesn’t matter I guess. Mr. Randall is gone and I’ve learned a good lesson for the future.”

“I think so too. Sassenach, ye should talk to me about it whenever ye dinna agree with me. I canna promise I wilna argue wit ye, but I do promise to listen. If ye promise the same.”

“I promise.”

Claire smiled impishly deciding to test him. “I still disagree with you about the dowry. The money will do us both far more good invested in building our home than it will in the bank.”

Jamie laughed. “After thoughtful consideration, I concede yer point.”

He hesitated, then his father’s words rang in his head… ‘ye must learn to communicate with one another’ “Can I explain why I refused at first?”

“Of course Jamie. I did promise to listen.” She smiled at him.

He smiled back. “I was’na refusing a dowry as a rejection of you ye ken. ‘Tis just that… ye have so much more than I do and... I want to be your equal, just as ye want to be mine.” He finally said.

Claire shook her head. “Jamie, you are my equal in everything that matters. I have more money than you do. That’s all. It isn’t really mine anyway, I’m just holding it in trust for future generations. That’s what Daddy always said.”

She truly did see it that way, Jamie realized. “I’m being silly aren’t I?” He said.

“No, I don’t think you’re being silly. You will be the head of our family some day, at least… I hope you will. It’s only natural for you to want to provide for that family.” Claire said simply. “You do realize I hope... providing means far more important things than just money… right?”

It was Jamie’s turn to nod. “Yes. I do.” He sighed. “We need to do this more.”

“Do what?”

“Talk with one another. Share our thoughts. I dinna like fighting. I really dinna like fighting with you.

Claire giggled. “I don’t like fighting either.” Jamie put an arm around her and she snuggled into his side.

A knock sounded and Mrs. Crook came in with one of the kitchen boys, each of them carrying a substantial tray.

“Yer Mam said the twa of ye would be taking yer meal in here.” The housekeeper said. She directed the lad to set his tray on the table and she set hers down beside it. “There’s tea, but also a pitcher of milk.”

“Thank you Mrs. Crook.” The couple said simultaneously.

“Yer welcome.” Shooing the lad out ahead of her, the woman left, deliberately leaving the door wide open behind her after giving the couple a look.

Jamie and Claire both blushed, realizing they had been alone in a room with the door closed. Neither one had thought anything of it, being more focused on mending their quarrel.

They stood and went over to the table. Jamie seated Claire before sitting down himself.

“Tea or milk?” He asked.

“Milk please.” She replied. Jamie poured Claire a glass, then one for himself.

They served themselves, each taking a generous portion of the chicken pie and buttered bread on the tray. They prayed over their food and ate in silence for several minutes, both being very hungry after the emotional upheavals of the morning.

Claire was the first to break the silence. “Jamie?”

“Hmmm?” He said, still eating.

“Do you think Uncle Lamb was right?”

“About keeping Randall?”


“No. Definitely not. He should have gotten rid of him when ye first complained, or at least investigated whether your complaints had basis.” Claire looked surprised at Jamie’s emphatic response.

“Let me explain. I dinna care for the man that’s true. But my personal feelings have verra little to do with thinking it’s a good thing yer Uncle fired him.”

“Alright.” Claire said cautiously. She was happy Mr. Randall had been let go, but she wanted to make sure her reasons were professionally sound. Claire was so used to second guessing her own reactions and dismissing Frank’s behavior that she was hesitant to trust her own perceptions on the matter.

Jamie continued. “He did’na put you or your music first. Every time we met about a new series, he wanted bigger and better. Randall did’na seem to have any understanding nor did he care about why you want to make music for people in the first place. He just wanted you to be famous and make money. I ken that’s no a priority for you.”

Claire started to reply and Jamie shook his head. “Wait please mo chride, let me finish my thought.” She nodded, sitting back to listen.

“I ken ye want to make sure the concerts make enough income to pay everyone, but ye dinna care if it makes a profit per se. Ye took most of the profits from last year and donated them did ye no?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Exactly. And what do ye intend to do with profits from this year?”

“I wanted to buy some instruments to send to Mother Hildegarde in Paris, for her orphans.”

Jamie smiled widely. “That’s a lovely thought. Ye should do just that.” He took a bite of food, chewed and swallowed. Claire looked down. “What?”

“Mr. Randall… he wasn’t supportive of the idea. He said we should save the money in case the next tour wasn’t as successful.”

Jamie snorted. “I’m no surprised, but he’s gone so he’ll no be able to argue with ye over it. ‘Twas never his decision in the first place. You are in charge of yer money, no him.”

“I am… aren’t I?” Claire said thoughtfully. She continued eating for a bit and took a drink of her milk. “Uncle Lamb and Joe might think the same way Mr. Randall did though. How can I convince them?”

“If ye truly think ye need to, ye should ask my Mam how to go about it.” Jamie suggested.

“Ooooh. That’s a wonderful idea Jamie.” They continued eating for a few minutes. Jamie finished off his milk and wiped his mouth.

“Sassenach, ye ken I’ll support ye no matter what.”

Claire smiled. “I do now. Thank you.”

Jamie nodded, then continued. “I also dinna mean to tell ye what to do, but…if ye dinna mind a bit o advice, I think ye maybe should talk to Mrs. G. and Gayle about yer clothes. I think yer beautiful in whatever ye wear, but if ye want more say over what’s hanging in your closet ye should tell them that, rather than letting them have their own way and getting upset in yer head about it.”

“I know. It just always seems… I don’t know, silly to worry over my clothes. I know they’re just trying to help.”

“Tisn’t silly. Yer a grown woman. Ye should be able to have what ye like. I ken yer time is limited, but it bothers ye that ye dinna have control of your closet. Make the time to shop fer things you like. If ye dinna want to go with Mrs. G. or Gayle, take Geillis and Jenny. My sister is always complaining she does’na get to spend as much time with ye just being friends as she would like to.

Claire nodded. “I agree with Jenny. My days are all so full, it just seems I can never make the time to do simple things. I miss riding and I miss being in my gardens back home. The ground staff do a beautiful job, but I’d like to spend more time in it myself, especially Mummy’s herb garden.”

“I thought you did spend time in the gardens?” Jamie asked.

“I do, just not nearly as much as I would like. It’s just like riding. I go every morning for exercise, but it’s all so scheduled. This morning is the first time I’ve gone riding just for the joy of it in a very long time.”

“Hmmmm. We’ll be here for almost three weeks. Perhaps ye can do some of the things ye want here. Me Mam has a lovely large garden that I know she’d love to share wit ye. Janet never was interested in the herbs.”

Claire’s face lit up. “Oh, you think so? I would really enjoy learning more.”

“Ye can but ask her.” Jamie pointed out.

“I think I will then. Thank you.”

“Of course.”

Claire used her napkin to wipe her mouth and sat back with a sigh. “Mrs. Crook is a wonderful cook.”

“Aye, she is that.” Jamie stood and offered Claire his arm. “Would ye like to go for a walk?”

Claire stood also. “Yes, let’s.”

They went into the hall and Jamie helped Claire with her coat. He poked his head into the dining room to let his parents know they were going outside.

“All mended then?” His mother asked.

Jamie nodded.

“Stay close to the house. It looks like a storm later.” Murtagh cautioned.

“We will.”

The couple went out. Those in the dining room heard the front door close.

Chapter Text

“What was all the fuss about?” Willie asked.

“Nothing important, just a misunderstanding.” Ellen replied.

Annalise laughed. “My goodness, if that was a simple misunderstanding, I’d hate to see what a full on disagreement looked like.”

“What d’ye mean by that?” Jenny asked sharply.

The French girl smirked. “The little girl, Claire? She came into the yard weeping as though her heart was broken. I had not thought the English were so...expressive. Most that I have met were more stoic.”

Jenny decided she didn’t like Annalise. “I see.”

As quick as Jenny could be to share her opinion on any and every subject, she was also very good at freezing out someone she didn’t like. Annalise didn’t recognize what she was doing, but everyone else at the table did. Brian gave his daughter a look that cautioned her to be polite.

Willie wiped his mouth and stood, looking irritated. “I’m going to show Annalise the grounds.” He announced.

The French girl looked surprised, but gave him a smile and stood also. He offered his arm and they went out.

Brian turned to Jenny immediately. “Ye be civil to that young lady Janet. She’s a guest and Willie is courting her.”

“More fool him,” Jenny retorted. “I’ll be polite Da, I would’na want to cause difficulties for anyone, but I did’na care for the way she talked about Claire. Calling her a little girl was just rude. Annalise canna be more than twenty which is only two years older.”

Ellen nodded. “I did’na care for her tone myself. However yer Da is correct. She’s a guest in this house. Besides, ye ken yer brother. If we’re unkind to the girl, he’s likely to dig his heels in and we’ll end up related to her. The more polite we are, the more her behavior will suffer by comparison.”

Jenny nodded. Brian and Murtagh laughed.

Jamie and Claire enjoyed their walk, returning to the house in time for tea.

Today, everyone was seated in the same room. Lamb and Joe had heard about the upset of the morning. After discussing it with the senior Frasers, had decided that perhaps letting everyone talk together would help.

Gayle joined them as well, with little Lina running from person to person before settling down to play on the floor with her toys.

Tea went well. With Jamie’s support, Claire was able to properly articulate her frustrations without making the two men defensive. The conversation shifted into a planning session for future concert series.

“You know Claire, we could also reduce the number of performances. Perhaps shorten each series by a week or two, give you more down time in between.” Joe offered.

“What about the other musicians? They rely on the income to support their families.” Claire protested.

Joe shrugged. “Yes, but why can’t we pay them the same salary? If we pay them per series rather than per performance, we don’t have to reduce anything.”

“But will the series make enough income to do that?” Lamb asked.

“It can if we add more school performances.” Joe replied.

“So, you propose to reduce the number of weeks in the series, but increase the school performances?” Lamb asked.

Joe nodded. “Yes. Currently during a series, one school performance per day is scheduled, three days a week. If we arranged for two per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, we would be adding three performances each week.”

He leaned forward, doing the math in his head as he spoke. “If we do that, we could shorten the season from twelve weeks to eight weeks, and still come out ahead. They do 60 performances per season right now. With the schedule I just proposed there would be 64 performances, but Claire would get an additional month off.”

“I’m not sure that would be beneficial. Claire might get an additional month off, but she’d be exhausted by the end of the series and need the extra month simply to recover. The idea is to reduce some of the burden on Claire, not wear her out in a shorter period of time.” Gayle said doubtfully.

“If we let more of the musicians perform for the schools, Claire would'na have to do as much, even with the additional performances.” Jamie interjected, looking eager. “It would justify the full salary for the musicians wie-out putting more pressure on her.”

Claire smiled at him. “I thought of that too. When I was ill, it was very difficult for the others to fill out the program. Thankfully, Jamie and Jenny both had solo material that they had kept up with. Some of the others did as well. Why don’t we utilize that? If we have a more varied program it would justify paying the musicians a bit more, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes, it would.” Lamb was thoughtful. “I must confess that I’m not all that familiar with the details of your concerts Princess. Perhaps we should ask Dougal and Geillis to join us before continuing this conversation.”

Ellen stood. “I can go and fetch them if ye like?” Claire and Lamb both nodded. Ellen left the room, returning after a few minutes with her brother and his fiancée. They joined the rest of the company and Joe explained what they had been discussing.

“So what do you think? Could we add school performances and cut the series to eight weeks?”

Geillis shook her head. “Unless we tour, I dinna think we can add that many school performances. Quite honestly, there aren’t enough schools that would be interested.” At Claire’s crestfallen look, the red head added, “we could maybe add performances at hospitals or veteran’s homes. Ye ken I was trying to set some up before Christmas, Aye?”

“Geillis is right. We could’na do all schools, but there are other options. We could even inquire about orphanages such as the one in France, although they’d probably need a sponsor. We could try at any rate.” Dougal thought the basic idea was good, he had already been thinking of ways to cut down on the burden borne by Claire. “I definitely agree with the idea of offering a more varied program. I did’na realize just how much of the performances were solely Claire until she became ill.”

“Jamie and Claire both touched on it earlier.” Ellen informed her brother. “I’m glad you all seem to be aware of the issue, more so that ye are thinking of ways to address it. Ye ken I have’na toured in some time, however, Brian and I were just talking of me going back on tour this winter. Now Glenna is off to university, I will'na have that obligation. What do ye think o me joining you occasionally?”

Ellen didn’t say it out loud, but she missed her children. It would be nice to perform with them in a professional setting. She never had performed with any of them, other than things at the local church and once or twice at the music school. Ellen had missed the opportunity to do so with Willie, she didn’t want to miss it with Jenny and Jamie.

Claire smiled brightly. “I would love that. There are any number of piano duets that I would love to play, I just could never find another pianist who could play them with me.” This wasn’t ego. The level at which Claire played was incredibly good and a pianist of lesser skill would suffer terribly by the comparison which would make the piece sound bad.

Ellen nodded, knowing exactly what the younger woman meant. “I would enjoy that tremendously.” Turning to her brother, she added… “What do ye think Dougal?”

For his part, Dougal liked the idea. Ellen was a superb musician and he enjoyed her company. He looked at Geillis to get her opinion. She nodded, smiling. “I think that’s a fine idea. Which tour were ye thinking of joining us for?”

Ellen exchanged a look with her husband. “I could join you for the Holiday series for certain. The autumn series is right in the middle of harvest season, however, if ye shorten the Spring series to the eight weeks and I can be home for Spring planting and sheep shearing, I could come for the Spring series as well.”

“Oh how lovely!” Claire exclaimed.

Geillis stood. “Well then. I’ll start making up lists of places to contact and we’ll see if we can arrange to shorten the Spring Series then.” Kissing Dougal on the cheek, she left the room. Already running through the possibilities in her head, wanting to get them on paper.

Dougal laughed. “I should remind Geillis our wedding is in a week, lest she get carried away.”

“Please do. There is time enough when we get back to London.” Claire said.

Everyone was at the table for supper. Christmas Eve was the following day. Christmas fell on a Sunday this year, so Geillis and Dougal’s wedding was on Hogmanay. They couldn’t have it on a Sunday so the last day of the year (a Saturday) was chosen.

When picking the date, Geillis had remarked that it was a wonderful beginning to the New Year. “That and since everyone will be at Lallybroch for Hogmanay, Dougal won’t be the entire focus of everyone.” Ellen had said with a laugh. Dougal was happy to be getting married, and very in love with his bride, but despite his career as a professional musician, he didn’t like being the center of attention on social occasions.

The wedding itself would take place with just family in attendance, early in the morning. They’d have a wedding breakfast afterward, again just family. The larger celebration of Hogmanay would give acquaintances a chance to give gifts and best wishes to the couple without a lot of fuss.

The meal was spent discussing plans for the next week. At one point during the meal, Claire asked Jamie for a piece of bread. He nodded, picked up a roll, broke it and buttered it, then placed it on her plate. Annalise laughed and leaning over asked, “does he cut your meat for you as well Cherie?”

Not missing a beat, Claire said, “Yes sometimes he does, if my arms are tired. Jamie is very thoughtful.” before turning her attention back to what Geillis was saying. She knew what the other girl was inferring, but Claire didn’t care what Annalise thought of her. Jamie buttered her bread because he knew she liked it that way. It was a loving act, not a condescending one.

The French girl didn’t like Claire. Annalise was pretty, but Claire was beautiful, in that breathtaking timeless way that was completely unconscious. Her comment had been designed to make Claire feel inferior. So Annalise was shocked and very disappointed that Claire didn’t become defensive. Most women did when she talked down to them. However, others at the table were now looking at Annalise reprovingly. She was smart enough to realize that she should back off… for now.

Ellen hid a smile. She didn’t care for Annalise, finding the girl self-absorbed and shallow. However, she had confidence that Willie would figure it out eventually. In the meantime, Claire was secure in Jamie’s affections. The two girls weren’t likely to spend much time alone at any rate. Jamie didn’t want to give her up even for tea.

Chapter Text

The following morning, Jamie and Claire finished their ride to see his property. It was almost as large as Lallybroch, although there were no improvements on it, other than the tenants cottages. Fifteen acres had been reserved for the Laird’s house and outbuildings. If there was a problem, tenants knew to go to Brian until Jamie reached his majority. Brain kept Jamie up to date.

The young couple spent a great deal of time exchanging ideas. Claire was very insightful and offered a number of practical suggestions. She asked about the possibility of an herb garden and Jamie assured her that he’d build her whatever she designed.

They returned to the house and went in to breakfast.

Over the meal they all talked of their plans for the day. Mrs. Crook and Ellen were cooking, and Ellen was adamant that everyone else had been banned from the kitchen.

Brian and Murtagh planned to spend the day putting together the baskets for Boxing Day. Lamb and Joe offered to help.

Gayle and Gellis were going over the small last minute details for the wedding, and Dougal was meeting with the contractor that was fixing up his house. With him on London so much, it had been neglected a bit.

Ian came in while they were still at breakfast, and was exuberantly greeted by his fiancée, Jamie and Claire. Brian invited him to pull up a chair, which he did after filling a plate. The discussion at table continued. Jamie, Jenny and Claire had previously decided to spend the morning in the music room catching up. Claire asked Ian if he’d be willing to play with them before lunch.

“I need to practice harp this morning, but we haven’t all played together since you went to school. I promise we won’t play for too long, I know you want to spend some time with Jenny. Besides I need to take a nap if I’m to stay up for Midnight Mass.”

Annalise laughed at that. “You still need naps? I had not realized you were so young.” Jenny opened her mouth to defend her friend, but surprisingly Willie beat her to it. “Knock it off Annalise. Mam already told us Claire’s recovering from a serious illness. Yer being rude.”

The French girl looked at her beau in open-mouthed shock. “I…” Her face turned red in embarrassment, then she pushed her chair back and ran from the room, tears springing to her eyes.

Everyone else turned to look at Willie. Brian raised a brow, but didn’t say anything. Willie shrugged. “I dinna ken why, but Annalise is jealous of Claire. She gets this way sometimes. If I dinna shut it down immediately she’ll get worse and I dinna want to deal with that.”

Ellen shook her head. “If ye ken the girl is prone to jealousy then why did ye bring her home?”

“I love her Mam. She’s no reason to be jealous, but I canna get her to see that. I’m hoping that by being away from her family and spending time with mine, Annalise will understand that I’m no like her Da.”

“What d’ye mean by that Mo mac?” Brian inquired.

“He’s got a wandering eye. Annalise is his only legitimate child, but she has almost a dozen half-siblings from his various paramours. Her Mam kens about it too, but pretends she does’na because she wants to keep her generous allowance. Her Da ne'er pays Annalise attention unless he's showing her off to his business associates.” Willie informed them.

The others at the table felt a bit of sympathy for the girl after learning the reason behind her jealous behavior. Not that it excused her of course.

“Should ye no go after her?” Jamie asked. He couldn’t imagine Claire behaving that way, but if she did, he couldn’t imagine leaving her alone while she was upset.

“I will in a bit. She needs to have a good cry, then throw some pillows and scream. I’ll finish my breakfast to gie her a bit o time to work it out o her system. Then I’ll go to her so we can talk it out.” Turning to Claire he added. “Understand, it is’na you personally. Yer just the only single female in the house that’s my age and no my sister.”

Claire nodded slowly. “Would it help if I talked to her? Would it make it better if I explained that I love Jamie and I don’t see you that way?”

Willie shrugged again. “I dinna ken. Let me talk to her and I’ll tell you later.” He smiled at her. “Thank you for the offer though.”

“Of course.” Claire replied.

After a moment of awkward silence, Ian said, “Returning to your question Claire, I’d love to play with you all. I’ve missed performing more than I thought I would.”

“Are you enjoying school?” Joe asked him.

“I am. There is so much to learn and my days are verra full. I ken that this is a short season o my life, my schooling. There will be time to play music again when it’s finished. Right now I need to focus on my studies.”

“Aye, but remember to take time for other things too lad. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, as the saying goes.” Brian cautioned him.

“I ken that too. I do play and sing, just no so much with other people.”

“What sort of things are ye learnin’?” Jamie asked.

Ian launched into a detailed description of his classes. The rest of the table listened and asked the occasional question. This took them through the rest of the meal.

Getting up from the table, everyone went about their various tasks. Willie sighed and went upstairs to talk to Annalise.

He found her sprawled across her bed crying. Sitting down next to the distraught young woman, Willie began to stroke her hair. She began to sob anew, putting her head in his lap and arms around his waist.

The young man began to soothe her in Gaelic, waiting for the storm to pass. At long last Annalise subsided into sniffling and Willie thought perhaps she was ready to listen. Continuing to stroke her hair he spoke gently.

“Mo chride, why did ye speak so to Claire? Ye must ken I dinna love anyone but you.”

Annalise blushed. In her head she did know that. “I know...truly I do. It’s just...she’s so beautiful and everyone pays so much attention to her.”

“So is it simple jealousy then? That ye are’na the center o attention?”

“ it very bad of me to say yes?”

Willie shook his head. “No it is’na bad per se, especially to me since I ken about yer family. But it is’na fair o you to take it out on Claire. She does’na ask for attention.”

Annalise snorted and sat up. “Well for someone who doesn’t ask for attention she certainly receives the bulk of it. Your uncle is getting married in a week and his fiancée pays more attention to Claire than to her own wedding preparation.”

Willie nodded. “Aye, perhaps so, but ye ken it’s Geillis’ job to look after Claire’s business interests. They just fired her manager and Geillis is taking over those duties for Claire and The Roses. Then too, Claire was taken verra ill on their last tour. Everyone is still a bit concerned over her health. It makes them hover a bit I think. Surely you understand that?”

Annalise turned a bit red. “I do… it’s just… I wanted your family to like me.”

“Well, they will like ye. Ye just have to gie them time to get to know ye.” Willie said.

“How can I do that when they spend all their time with Claire!” Annalise wailed. “I don’t even have anything in common with anyone. They all talk about music all the time. I’ve nothing to contribute to such a conversation.”

“Perhaps that’s so, but I dinna think ye need to try and talk about music. My family is’na so narrow-minded. They talk about music because they have that in common. However, I also ken that me Mam and Claire talk about herbs a lot. Ye ken about herbs, do ye no?”

“They do?” Annalise hadn’t known that.

“Aye. Me Mam has an enormous garden out back o the house and Claire tends the one her mother built in London. Ye should ask about it.”

“I’m being stupid aren’t I?” Annalise sighed.

Willie smiled and kissed her forehead. “Perhaps a little.” He put a finger under her chin and tilted it upward so she met his eyes. “I understand why though. Yer Da’s a right bastard and it makes ye unsure of yer worth. I’m no him. Yer head kens it… and we’ll keep working on yer heart til yer heart kens it too. Aye?”

Annalise nodded. “I do love you. I will keep trying. I promise.” She paused playing with the blanket. “I think I should apologize. To Claire I mean.”

Willie nodded. “Ye should. But make it a private apology. No one of yer mother’s displays.” Willie was determined to help his love break the cycle her parents had modeled for her. “Ye should also make time to spend with my parents and the others. They’ll ne’er get to ken ye if ye don’t make an effort.”

“I know. I’m just… nervous. I don’t know how to act sometimes.”

“Be the version of yerself yer trying to become. I’ll be there with ye to help. I promise.” He smiled and kissed her again, this time on the lips.

“Alright. Thank you William… did I say that right? William?”

Willie kissed her once more. “Ye did. Now go wash yer face and let’s join the others in the music room. Ye canna play an instrument, but ye can listen. Ye ken I sing, but I dinna play an instrument either...except a wee bit o piano to pick out the notes for my part. We’ll go listen together. Be their audience.”

Annalise nodded and got up to wash her face. When she finished, Willie took her hand and led her downstairs to the music room.

On the way down he told her about Claire’s offer. Annalise was touched that a girl she had been spiteful towards had offered kindness in return. It made her more determined to do as Willie asked and be a better person.

Downstairs in the music room, Claire was practicing harp. Since Jamie and Jenny and begun to sit in the room, it had become progressively easier for her to play without crying. Most of the time she could just relax and enjoy the music.

When Willie and Annalise came into the room Claire was playing harp, Jenny was reading a book. Jamie was talking quietly with Ian in the corner farthest from the instrument. The newcomers sat down on the settle and listened until the piece had finished.

“That was beautiful Claire.” Willie said quietly. She smiled. “Thank you. My mother wrote it for my third birthday. It was one of the first pieces I performed in public.”

“It was? I did’na ken that.” Jenny commented. “Willie’s right though. ‘Tis beautiful. Ye should play it for the next series.”

Claire shook her head. “I don’t think I’m quite ready to share it with audiences again.”

“Ye will play something though...Aye?” Jamie entered the conversation.

“Mmmm. Yes. Maybe a duet with Hal’s brother…or a solo if he’s not ready for that.”

“Hal said harp is John's primary instrument. Why would he no be ready?”

“I just meant if he doesn’t want to perform a duet with someone. I don’t know his repertoire. Is it mostly solo work? Orchestral? That’s all.”

“Hm. Sensible. Are ye ready for group work then?” Ian cut the conversation short.

“Of course. Thank you all for waiting so I could get some time in with harp.” Claire rose and went over to the piano.

“I was thinking a string piece actually. Yer the only violinist in the room, so…”

“That’s no quite true. Jamie plays a bit of violin now.” Jenny said smugly.

“Ye do? Since when?” Willie demanded.

“Claire’s been working with me for some time. I’m certainly no good enough to perform, but I can play a bit. It’s no so much different than Bass ye ken. Just a smaller bow.”

Everyone in the room laughed except Annalise who didn’t quite get the joke. Claire noticed and instead of singling the girl out, decided to explain in private another time.

“Alright, strings then. What do you want to play?”

“What about the Bach Fugue you arranged for strings a couple of years ago. I like that one and still know it.” Ian suggested.

“I’ll need the sheet music, I dinna have it memorized.” Jamie said.

Jenny opened one of the file boxes of music in the room. “I have a copy here. It’s the full score.”

“Did you want top line or second violin Jamie?” Claire asked.

“I should take the top line. Tis easier for me to sight read. I canna guarantee it will sound like anythin’ though.”

“That’s alright. ‘Tis just for the fun o making music.” Ian reminded his friend.

“Or you could take the low part and play it on the Bass.” Claire suggested. “Since it’s just for fun, it doesn’t matter so much if we have a second violin.

“Oooh, let’s try that. If Ian takes the second violin line and I play the viola line it would work I think.” Jenny was excited at the prospect.

“That would be interesting to hear. The overall tone of the piece would be lower. Let’s try it.” Ian agreed.

“Alright.” Jamie said, a bit relieved to be playing an instrument he was more familiar with while sight reading.

Chapter Text

The group spent the next hour playing. Willie and Annalise sat and listened.

With everyone except Claire sight reading, they all made a number of mistakes. Jamie made the most since the piece was brand new to him. He didn’t seem to mind though, even when Claire teased him as he repeatedly missed one note, playing F natural instead of F sharp. The young people smiled and laughed together the entire time.

'They really seem to be enjoying one another’s company.' Annalise thought wistfully. Before meeting Guillaume, William, she reminded herself, the French girl hadn’t had friends. Sycophants yes, people who wanted to be close to her because her father was wealthy and influential. Suitors yes, boys, men, old men who wanted to marry her to gain access to her dowry or her father. Willie was the first person to want her for herself.

It made Papa very angry of course. More so when Maman stood up to him for Annalise, something the woman rarely did. It was due to Maman that Annalise was in Scotland. She was of age, but Papa was trying to insist that she marry an English Duke he was business partners with. It didn’t matter to Papa that the man was older than Papa. It did however matter to Annalise. She loved William.

Maman thankfully understood and had helped her get away. She hadn’t told William yet, she didn’t want him to think she was using him. It was no excuse, but her fear was the main reason she had behaved so badly to Claire. Annalise sighed. What if William decided she wasn’t worth the effort?

The impromptu concert went on for over an hour, until Ellen came in and asked Claire if she wanted to see the garden. Annalise took the opportunity. “Madam Fraser, may… may I go too? I love the herbs and Guillaume… William, says you have a lovely garden.”

Ellen paused and looked at the girl searchingly. Whatever she found must have reassured her, as her expression softened and she smiled. “O course my dear. Come along then.”

Jamie caught Claire’s hand as she made to leave and kissed it. “I’ll see you at lunch then mo chride.”

Claire nodded and followed Ellen out. Willie whispered something into Annalise’s ear and she smiled back at him timidly. “I will.” She said before also leaving. Jenny got up to follow and Willie stopped her.

“Leave them be Janet. Annalise is sorry and wants to apologize. Ye ken Mam wil’na let anything happen to Claire.”

Jenny started to say something. “Please Jenny. I ken she did’na make the best first impression, but please. For my sake. Gie Annalise another chance.”

His sister made a face. “Alright, but if she says one more nasty thing…”

Willie ran a hand down his face. “I canna guarantee she won’t. What I will say is that she is trying to be a better person. Can ye just… gie her a bit o grace and space to grow?”

“I dinna ken about Jenny, but Claire and I already talked about it and we will.” Jamie offered.

“When did ye have time to discuss it? I’ve been wit ye since breakfast.” Jenny protested.

“On our morning ride. Claire said she thought Annalise was jealous. Said she reminded her o Laoghaire a bit, when she first got to London. Said that if we were kind she might no turn out the same way. Especially since Annalise is in love wit Willie and Claire’s in love wit me.” That last was said a bit smugly.

Ian smiled. “Come mo chride. Gie the girl a bit o a chance. Ye ken well how ye’d react if ye thought another girl was looking at me.” He coaxed.

Jenny stared at Ian for a full minute before giving an exasperated laugh. “Oh alright. Since yer all determined to gie her the benefit o the doubt I suppose I can too.”

Willie walked over to his sister and enfolded her in a hug. “Thank ye a leannan.”

“Hmmmph.” Jenny said, hugging him back.

Willie hadn’t been exaggerating, the herb gardens at Lallybroch are enormous, Annalise thought. It took her several minutes to work up the courage and they were entering the walled enclosure when she finally addressed Claire. “Claire? I...I wanted to apologize for my behavior. I have no excuse. I was unkind and you did nothing to deserve it. I am sorry.”

Claire blushed. “I forgive you.” She hesitated then added, “I can understand being a bit possessive of Willie though. He’s almost as handsome as my Jamie.”

Ellen smiled behind them. Trust Claire to try to reassure Annalise without being overt.

Annalise smiled too. “Thank you, for understanding...although...” she linked arms with the other girl. “We shall have to agree to disagree about which is the most handsome.”

Claire laughed. “Yes. Let’s agree to disagree.” Changing the subject entirely she asked, “So which are your favorite of the healing herbs? I tend to prefer Lavender.” Ellen caught up to the pair and added her thoughts to the conversation.

They spent the better part of an hour in the garden. Annalise was much more relaxed when they entered the house for lunch. Afterward they returned to the music room.

“Well since we played together this morning already, and the rest of us practiced while Claire was in the garden, what shall we do to occupy ourselves this afternoon?” Ian asked.

“Something other than music.” Claire said. Everyone in the room looked at her and she blushed but stood her ground. “I mean it. Let’s do something everyone enjoys.”

“Ooooh. Willie can you read?” Jenny turned to her friend. “Willie is the best reader. He does all the voices and everything.” She wasn’t putting her brother on the spot. He truly was enjoyable to listen to.

“I could, I suppose. What would ye like me to read?”

“A Christmas Carol” Ian said promptly. “Tis the season after all.”


“Could I run upstairs and fetch my knitting project? I’m trying to improve the skill.” Claire asked.

“O course.” Willie said.

“I can fetch it for ye Claire.” Jenny said. “I need to get mine anyway, and ye’re supposed to be resting for an hour no running up the stairs.”

“Oh alright.” Claire huffed a little. “Thank you Jenny.” In an aside to Annlise and Willie she remarked, “everyone is being a bit overprotective since my illness. I feel fine but they all hover.”

“Ye scared the life out o us mo chride. Let us mother ye a bit.” Jamie lightly scolded her.

“I didn’t mean to.” Claire retorted.

“I ken.”

She made a face at her beau and he chuckled in reply.

“Do ye knit Annalise?” Jenny asked.

“I do a bit. I prefer crochet though. I’m working on some lace at the moment. May I… come upstairs with you? I left my bag in my room.”

“Oh. O course.” Jenny stood. “Come on then. The sooner we come back, the longer Willie will have to read.”

Taking a deep breath, Annalise followed Jenny out of the room. She went into her room and quickly retrieved her craft bag. Jenny came out of the other room a moment later. At the top of the stairs, Annalise put a hand out to stop Jenny.

“Miss Fraser… May I apologize?”

“To me? What for?”

“Yes. I’ve already apologized directly to Claire, but she’s your friend. I think I owe you my sorry also. I… Willie said he told you about my Papa?” At the other girl’s nod she said, “Bien. It’s no excuse, and I am truly sorry for behaving so rudely to Claire. I… do not expect you to believe me until I prove myself, however, I… I want to be worthy of Guillaume – William” she corrected herself, “William’s love. I want to be a better person. Part of that is admitting when I’ve done something wrong.”

“Aye. So why d’ye no apologize to everyone?” Jenny asked skeptically.

Annalise shook her head. “William specifically asked me not to. Ma Mere… my mother you understand is given to large dramatic displays. It bothers him, the spectacle of it. So he requested I apologize privately.”

Jenny looked at the girl thoughtfully, remembering what Willie had said that morning. Eventually she smiled. “Well then, I forgive ye. I canna say I’m perfect, and I imagine it’s a wee bit intimidating coming into a group that all kens one another so long.”

“It is a bit.” The French girl agreed. “You were all very welcoming. It was my own insecurity that caused me to behave as I did.”

“Ach well, we could have made more o an effort to include ye too.” Jenny said generously.

Annalise gave the girl a small smile. “You are trying to now. Thank you.”

Jenny patted her arm and the two continued downstairs.

They sat all afternoon, Willie reading and the others working on a variety of small projects. Annalise was a bit shocked when Ian and Jamie also pulled out knitting and began working on it. Jamie was making some socks and Ian a muffler.

Claire was working on a triangular shawl for Mrs. Graham. When Jenny had first shown her how to knit, she had said, “Most people begin ye on a rectangle scarf thinking ‘tis the easiest. I think the triangle is more forgiving if ye drop a stitch or add one because the lines are’na straight but angled.”

There were two ways to knit a triangle, either cast on two stitches and add two every row, stopping when the shawl was wide enough. The other option was to cast on the number of stitches needed for the width and then drop a stitch from the middle every couple of rows. Jenny set Claire to doing it in the first manner, it was easier to count and gave Claire practice adding a stitch.

Claire worked at it every chance she had, but it was slow going. Her stitches were clumsy and several times she had knotted the yarn and needed help to pick it out. Jenny helped her most often, but Jamie would help also if Jenny wasn’t available.

Most women would be self-conscious if their beau was better at something domestic, but Claire didn’t seem to be, Annalise noted to herself. Eventually her curiosity got the better of her and she asked about it.

Claire had just miscounted and added too many stitches at once, which made the ends uneven. She laughed and handed the project to Jamie who began to pick out the stitches carefully so as not to drop too many.


“Hmm?” She turned from watching Jamie to Annalise.

“How does it not… frustrate you?”

“That Jamie’s better at knitting?” Claire seemed to understand instantly.

“Oui, Yes. If Papa was better than Maman at any of the domestic skills… she would be embarrassed about it.” Annalise paused, then hurried to say, “I don’t think you should be… I just don’t understand this… calm. I’m not used to it.”

Claire smiled at the girl. She really is trying very hard not to offend people. “Jamie learned to knit when he was very small. I just started learning a few weeks ago. Of course he’s more skilled than I am. Besides, until the 17th century only men were admitted into the knitting guilds.”

“Truly?!” Annalise hadn’t known that.

Willie answered. “Oh aye. O course in Scotland, whole families made a living with knitted goods especially during the Jacobite era. It became fashionable for the upper classes to knit during the reign of Queen Victoria, but before then it was mostly done by the poorer classes once the guild system faded.”

“So truly, if anyone should be should be Jamie.” Claire said with an impish smile.

“Aye? Why d’ye say so?” Willie asked.

“Well, if I keep practicing, I’ll eventually be as good as he is. Since it’s more of a tradition for men, particularly Scottish men to be good at knitting…” Claire drifted off with a lift of her eyebrows.

Jamie started laughing out loud. “Ach, ‘tis no bother to me if you do become better mo chride. Although I’m no worried it will be soon, given the limited amount of time ye spend on the skill.” He waggled his eyebrows back at her.

Claire giggled and they continued to enjoy their afternoon. Annalise was again struck by the differences between these people and the ones she had known before. ‘I hope I can stay with Gui-William.’ the girl thought. ‘I hope Maman will keep the secret of where I am from Papa.’