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A New Frontier

Chapter Text

July 1777
Philadelphia

Claire had hung Brianna’s drawings on the walls of the parlor. It had only been a few years since they had left, but I couldn’t help but feel as though the charcoal portraits were already dated. Jemmy would have grown into boyhood by now and, for all I knew, it was a possibility that there could even be a new addition to the family. I felt a presence behind me. Claire’s face suddenly appeared in the reflection of the glass frame.

“Do you think they’ll ever find these drawings? Perhaps in an archive somewhere, or a museum exhibit?”

“I would think it unlikely. I’m no expert on the subject of decomposition, but I daresay that the materials Bree used should hardly make it even half the years it would take to reach their time.” I was still hesitant to believe the Frasers’ tales of time travel. Although, I still felt it was rude to not give them the benefit of the doubt. I considered myself to be fairly well-traveled, and I had seen plenty of things just as seemingly outlandish as time travel.

“Oh, John. A skeptic as always.” Claire chuckled lightly, “Would you like something to drink? It is teatime, afterall. Except, we still can’t seem to get our hands on any tea since the war. Coffee, perhaps?”

Despite my general disgust of the beverage, I accepted Claire’s offer. She disappeared for a moment, but returned swiftly with a tray of coffee and scones. A moment later, Jamie appeared in the parlor.

“John, a pleasure to see you, as always.” He shook my hand firmly and clapped my shoulder.

“The pleasure is mine, I assure you. I am grateful for your offer to host me while I am in Philadelphia.” My hosts took their seats and I followed suit. Claire poured some cream into my coffee.

“Cuts the bitterness,” she said with a wink. I must have hidden my contempt for the drink poorly. She continued, “John and I were just discussing the likelihood of Brianna finding the portraits she drew before she left,” she said to Jamie. She seemed to want his input on the matter.

“Well,” he started, scratching his chin, “It depends on a number of factors, I s’pose. I dinna think they will find them unless they look for them. And even then, who’s to say they will still exist?”

There was a hint of sadness in Jamie’s voice. He missed his daughter immensely. I still didn’t quite understand why Jamie had even allowed them to leave. If William ever told me he was leaving indefinitely with no form of communication, I would surely do everything in my power to stop him. Jamie and Claire had all but kicked them out the door.

“Might I inquire as to why Brianna and Roger went back in the first place?” I still did not quite believe that such a thing was possible, but if it were I would be curious as to the purpose of it. “If Brianna knew how to survive the war, then what was the point of leaving?”

Claire jumped in to answer my question. “There is more opportunity for all of them in 1977,” she started, “As a woman in the future, Bree can get a proper education and even become employed as an engineer. Roger can continue his work as a professor of history, which I think we can all agree is more suited to him than a life in the back-country. “Jamie gave a chuckle at this, prompting a smack on the arm from his wife. “And Jemmy will be growing up in a safer, more accepting environment. All of them are safer medically and emotionally.”

“But Jemmy is a white boy, surely he would be accepted in this time? Brianna’s case for acceptance is sensible, but the boy would have no trouble fitting in now.”

“Well, yes,” Claire began. She took a moment to choose her words, “Before I came back, which was in 1968, the United States had recently declared that people cannot be discriminated against on the basis of religion, sex, or race. People were even starting to advocate for gay rights, so who knows how far they will have gotten by 1977? We want Jemmy to grow up to be accepting of everyone.”

“I canna even imagine a world like that,” Jamie added, “But if it has even a small bit less of hate in it than this one does, then it is the best place for the wee lad.” Claire reached over and squeezed his hand lovingly.

There was a silence as we all processed what had been said. The fact of the matter, regardless of the validity of the time travel tale, was that we would never see the three of them again. I pondered Claire’s words, although one particular eluded me.

“Claire?” She perked up and looked at me intently. “Perhaps I am unfamiliar with the term, but what does ‘gay’ mean?” I had only ever heard the term used to refer to happiness, which made no sense in the context of Claire’s words.

To my surprise, Claire burst out laughing. I had no clue what I had said to set off this response, but it took her a moment to compose herself.

“I suppose the term would be unfamiliar to you, although the predispositoion it describes is surely not,” she looked around as if she were ensuring that there were no other people around to hear, “It means homosexual.”

I felt myself blush instantly. I could tell that Jamie was trying to suppress his laughter.

“So you mean to tell me that in 1977, people will open about those desires?” The idea of loving freely was unimaginable to me. I had spent my entire life hiding in fear of losing everything if the wrong person discovered my sleeping arrangements.

“Well, not always. In 1968, anyways, being gay is still difficult socially and not everyone agrees with it. But there are places where being open about it is safe. San Francisco comes to mind. Even some parts of Boston, now that I think about it.”

I stared down into my coffee. Claire and Jamie had moved on from the subject, but it had piqued my curiosity. A time when people were free to love openly? Even if it was still considered taboo, it seemed preferable to skulking in the shadows with the threat of a destroyed livelihood hovering over you at every turn.

Why was I even entertaining this notion? It was *time travel* for God’s sake. Even if it were true that some people could travel in time, I had no way of knowing if I could. And even then, I couldn’t just pack up and leave my life. I had responsibilities here. People would go looking for me.

“John? John!” Jamie had been trying to get my attention. “Ye’ve been spilling on your waistcoat, man.”

I looked down and sure enough, my waistcoat was covered in a beige stain. “Oh, I apologize. I was, uh, lost in thought I suppose.”

Claire removed the cup from my hands. “Go change, quickly. I need to get the stain out while it is still wet.” She ushered me to my chambers and I hastily offered her the waistcoat. She was out of the room in a flash.

I didn’t feel like returning downstairs, despite the fact that Jamie and Claire would be waiting for me. Supper would be starting soon, but my appetite had diminished. There was a pit in my stomach, the cause of which was hard to put my finger on. Why was I so bothered by the notion of homosexuals being more accepted 200 years from now? That knowledge should be comforting to me, shouldn’t it? I sighed deeply and flopped backwards into the bed, pondering.

I must have fallen asleep because, next thing I knew, Claire was standing over me looking concerned. The room was now candle-lit and flickering gently.

“Are you feeling alright? You slept through dinner. Are you ill?” She had her diagnostician face on- slightly concerned, but mostly focused on trying to detect even the smallest of symptoms.

“Not in a way that can be remedied with medicine, unfortunately.”

Claire gave me a knowing look and sat down on the edge of the bed. The doctor-like concern in her eyes remained, but was now that of a worried friend. “I could tell that something about our conversation earlier struck a nerve. Jamie and I didn’t mean to poke fun at your expense. We care about you and-”

“That’s not it,” I said, interrupting her unnecessary apology, “I don’t quite know what it is. It feels almost like...love sickness perhaps? But I have no idea why I’m not pleased by the future being easier for people like me.”

Claire smiled knowingly, “It sounds like you may be jealous of what you’re missing out on. I used to feel that way, back when I first came through the stones. Although back then I was also missing aspects of the future.”

“Is it possible to miss something you’ve never had?” I was staring up at the ceiling, but I could feel Claire’s gaze on my face. I held back the tears that were pricking at my eyes.

“I would think so. If you have an idea of what it would feel like to have it and you want it badly enough, I don’t see how you could avoid missing it in a way.”

“It’s just so frustrating,” a tear escaped and rolled down my cheek, “to know that something you want- no, *need*- is possible, but unattainable. Before today, I just assumed that the world was incapable of accepting me. It was easier to accept.” I sat up and wiped away the tear with my sleeve. Claire had my spare waistcoat folded neatly in her lap.

“Here,” she offered it to me, “put this on and come downstairs. Jamie was just about to open a bottle of whiskey.” I smiled, relieved, and shrugged on the waistcoat.

“That, my friend, is just what I need.”

(A/N: Hi everyone! I am very excited about this story. Let me know if there is any thing you would like to see in this story. I am hoping to take suggestions in the comments for things that John experiences in the future. Also, I plan to post everyday, but sometimes it will be more than once a day or I may skip a day. I will post regularly though.)