Actions

Work Header

A Thousand Ships: A Tale by James Fraser

Chapter Text

“Tell me a story, Jamie,” said Claire.  Her voice was content and lazy as her head rested on Jamie’s lap.  He was running his fingers through her curls, combing them out just to watch them spring back into wild disarray.

“Ye’ve heard all my stories, Sassenach.”

“I highly doubt that.”

The children had all gone home, and they’d taken Fanny and Germain with them, leaving an empty house for the two of them to enjoy.  Claire lazily stretched her body across the couch like he’d often seen wee Adso do just before settling down to sleep for the night.  Her arms rose above her head, and her feet stretched out, pointing toward the warm fire next to them.  

God she was beautiful!  And every year they spent together, she only grew more beautiful still.  She was his very own Helen of Troy, with a face that could launch a thousand ships. 

“The only stories ye havena heard after all our years together are no’ meant for a lady’s ears.”  He slowly sipped his brandy, a serene smile playing over his lips.  He ran his hands languidly over Claire’s body, her thin shift hiding none of her curves.  He sipped his drink again, letting the warm liquid settle in his mouth before he swallowed.  It burned pleasantly all the way down his throat.  

“Make up something new for me,” said Claire.  “Uncle Lamb always told me a story on Christmas before putting me to bed.  You can’t break tradition.”

Jamie looked at the ridiculous pine tree Claire made him chop down and bring into the house.  Brianna and the weans decorated it with painted pinecones, adhering little bits of broken glass so they’d reflect the fire and candlelight like twinkling stars.  Mandy even volunteered to have Esmeralda sit atop the tree, dressed in paper wings and a halo like an angel of God.

“Weel, I suppose we canna break tradition.  Although, I dinna ken how to make stories about auld fat men coming down chimneys or wee green beasties stealing presents from children.”

“Then stick to something you know well.  Love, war, the wild outdoors.”

Jamie sipped his drink again, searching for a tale to entertain his wife before taking her to bed after such a perfect day.  He gently pulled the laces on her shift, opening her breasts up for his leisurely exploration.  

She was his...and his alone.  Mated for life, like the greylags on the coasts of Scotland.

The buzz of intoxication had him chuckling at making his lovely goose honk out all sorts of wee noises when he’d take her to bed in a few minutes.  His mind drifted to burying himself inside her, rocking into her over and over again, shooting his seed deep in her womb…

“Jamie!  You’re dozing off.  What about my story?”

“Alright then, Sassenach.  I’ve got a story for ye...though ye may regret asking by the time we’re through.”

Her answering smile lit her whisky eyes, warming his heart and spurring him on.  He squeezed her breast, gripping firmly and letting go as he began his novel tale. “Our story starts wi’ a young Scottish sailor…”

 


 

Some weeks ago—never mind how long precisely—a young Scot thought he would sail about a wee bit and see the watery part of the world.  So he took all he owned—which was very little—and found a small boat to sail across the seas.  

The evening before he was set to depart, he found a crowded little tavern and began filling his belly with warm food and too much ale.  It would likely be the last time he’d feel sated until he returned from his journey.  The tavern was packed fit to burst with men of all kinds.  Men with red hair and black.  Blue eyes and brown.  

In the very air around him, there was a thrumming energy.  His heart beat in tandem with the excitement pulsing through the room, making him restless and eager to be on his way.

He was only halfway through his meal when he was interrupted by a stranger who asked to share his table.  He nodded his consent, thinking it would be a fine thing to have a bit of company before going out on his own at sea.

“Call me Seumas,” said the man.

“I’m James Fraser.  Jamie.”

“Oh, aye,” Seumas laughed.  “’Tis a common name ’round these parts.”

“Is it now?”

Seumas nodded and pointed across the room to a tall man in a black tricorn, “That man over there...his name is Jamie Roy.  Best smuggler on the seas.”  

He then pointed to a table on the other side of the room where a large, filthy man, covered head to toe in grime and what appeared to be blood, sat drinking whisky straight from the bottle.  “That there is Red Jamie.  Stay away from that bastard if ye ken what’s good for ye.  He’s no’ been right in the heid since the last Rising.  And that man at yon table refers to himself as Himself, though I heard tell his Christian name is James.”

Jamie looked over Seumas.  His impromptu dining companion was dressed head to toe in Fraser tartan; the bright red stood out in a sea of trousers and of kilts of common dull hunting patterns meant to blend in with the forest.  

“Ye ken this place well?  And the people in it?” asked Jamie.  “Ye been around a long time?”

Och, no.  Only a few days, though I suppose ’tis a long time for this place.  Most of the men are only here for a day at most before they’re on their way.  I’ve heard tell of many who stopped by only hours before setting off again...others only twenty or thirty minutes before ’tis their time!”

“Busy place.”

Hmphm.  Aye, but dinna fash at how crowded it gets.  We’ll all likely be setting off come morning, and our numbers will surely die down shortly after.”

“Where are ye headed?”

Seumas laughed heartily.  “Verra funny, lad,” he wheezed.  “I dinna think I’ve had such a chuckle in a long time.”

Jamie huffed at being laughed at for his ignorance.  “I wasna making a joke.  Where is it ye’re going, man?”

“Ye’re serious?” Seumas choked.  “Ye dinna ken why we’re all here?”

Jamie just shook his head.

Seumas narrowed his eyes at him, uncertain if Jamie was teasing.  He must’ve seen the sincerity in Jamie’s expression, because he nodded in bewildered acceptance.  “Do ye no’ feel it, man?  The urge deep in yer bones?  The need to sail...to find her?”

Jamie shook his head once again, but even as he denied it, something stirred in heart.  An ache, a longing for the sea.  Then he realized, it wasn’t the sea he was longing for...it was something in the sea.

“Weel, I dinna think it would do me much good to tell ye the way things are,” Seumas smirked as he reached into his sporran, “but I couldna have ye sailing away aimlessly in these waters wi’ no mind of where to go.  Wouldna be right.”

Seumas pulled out a small, framed portrait that was wrapped in a bit of cloth.  He stared at the wee thing for some time, mesmerized by what he saw.  “I had to sell my best dirk for enough coin to buy this from Ellen’s son—he’s a good hand wi’ a paintbrush, ken.  I canna draw or sing to save my own life.”

Seumas stared for a long moment more before he handed the portrait over to Jamie.  Jamie looked down, wondering what could possibly spark such reverence in an auld sailor like Seumas.  

Jamie’s gaze locked on a pair of eyes that glittered brighter gold than the sun itself.  Her face was framed by flowing curls, more beautiful than glimmering water in a burn.  Her cheeks were soft and pale, as ethereal as the finfolk of the lochs.

Claire.”  Jamie already knew her name.  It was written on his soul.  An urge to find this woman, to hold her and protect her, to join with her, roared loudly in his ears.  “My Sassenach.”

“Aye,” said Seumas.  “You and everyone else here.”

Jamie could see Seumas growing restless without his portrait in his hands.  Jamie took one last look, drinking in the sight of the most beautiful creature he’d ever beheld before placing it back in Seumas’s outstretched hand.

“We’re all here for the Rising,” said Seumas.

“What is the Rising?

“D’ye really no’ ken, man?  D’ye no’ feel the truth of it in every beat of yer heart?”

Jamie closed his eyes and took a drink of ale.  If he was honest with himself, he’d felt that restless pulse surging through him ever since he entered the tavern.  In fact, he couldn’t remember a time when it wasn’t there.

“We dinna ken just when the Rising will happen, only that it is inevitable.  Soon, when the tides rise and the sea swells, like blast of a cannon, we’ll all set off in search of her.  The Sassenach.”

“Where is she?  Why is everyone looking for her?”

“She’s alone and waiting in the great fairy caverns deep in the heart of the sea.  She’s waiting for the one who will come save her.  The one who will join wi’ her, binding his soul to hers forever.” 

Jamie looked around the tavern at all the men gathered.  “And everyone here came in search of her?”

Seumas nodded.  “Aye.  Many will lose their lives on this quest.  They’ll be lost, or they’ll starve, or they'll lose their will to carry on.  Those who make it through the dangers of the elements will be fighting against each other for the chance at her hand.”

“And those that make it to the end?  Those that reach the Sassenach?”

“She’ll choose her mate from the survivors...if anyone even makes it there alive.”

Jamie drank his ale, picturing those golden eyes, and he promised himself that nothing, nothing would stop him from kneeling at her feet and begging for her hand.  There was no longer any other purpose in life but Claire.

Jamie’s throat was tightly strained when he asked, “Where?  Where can I find her in this fairy cavern?”

Seumas looked at him pensively, as though deciding how much he really wanted to reveal—the truth of it was they’d likely be enemies come morning.  He sighed in resignation and drank back his ale.  “Finish yer supper, lad.  We need to find ye a map.  I ken someone who can help.”

Chapter Text

The streets were even more crowded than when Jamie had arrived at the tavern earlier that day.  Soldiers, businessmen, nobles, and beggars were elbowing each other for space.  It was even worse at the docks where boats were tied up as far as the eye could see.

“The shop is just over here at the end of the road,” said Seumas.  “I’ll take ye there, but then I must be on my way.  We’ll want to be well rested before the start of the Rising.”

They wormed their way through the crowded street until they came upon a small shop.  There was a neat, white sign that hung by the door:

 

A. MALCOLM

PRINTER AND BOOKSELLER

(Books, maps, calling cards, pamphlets, broadsheets, letters, etc.)

 

“Mr. Malcolm will sell ye a map for a decent price. Ye can trust him to be fair,” said Seumas.  “He’s a good man...for the most part.”

Hmphm.  I thank ye for all yer help.  I willna forget it.  If ever ye should need a hand, ken ye can call on me as a friend.”

“Aye.”  Seumas patted him on the shoulder in farewell.  “Go on.  Ye’ll need yer rest as much as the rest of us.”

Jamie nodded and turned to go into the shop, happy to step away from the stench of the crowded street.  Just as he reached for the door, it sprung open on its own, and a young boy bolted outside, colliding right into Jamie’s belly.  Jamie grabbed the child to ensure he didn’t bounce off and fall to the floor.

“Careful, laddie.  These streets are far too busy for a snot-nosed bairn to be running wild wi’out care for what’s around him.”

The boy wiped his snotty nose with the back of his hand, a look of indignation on his face.  “I’m no’ snot-nosed bairn!”

“No?  What are ye then?”

“I’m a man!  Just like Nunkie!”

“Is that so?  Where is yer Nunkie, then?”

“Here,” said a man coming out of the print shop, rolling up a large bit of parchment.  Jamie wondered if it was a map to the fairy cavern.  “What trouble have ye gotten yerself into, Sawny?”  He thunked the boy on the head with the rolled-up parchment.

Och, no trouble, at all,” said Jamie.  “I was just ensuring he had a place to go and people to tend to him.”

Sawny squared his shoulders and blew a bubble of snot out of his left nostril, “I dinna need anyone tendin’ to me!”

“Oh, is that so?” said Nunkie.  “Yet when I found ye down by the docks, ye were pissing yerself under the boot of Red Jamie, where ye no’?  I got to ye just before he stomped yer brains out!”

The bairn rolled his eyes and scoffed.  Nunkie grabbed him by the scruff of his collar and hauled him away, chiding him about watching out for strangers and grumbling about lads showing up to the Rising that had yet to fully mature.  

Jamie chuckled and made his way into the print shop.  The scent of ash and paper filled his nose as the bell on the door tinkled at his arrival.  A man with an indecently large scarf came to the counter from the back of the store.  Jamie assumed it was the shop’s proprietor, A. Malcolm.

“I was just on my way out,” said Malcolm.  “The Rising will start in a few hours, ye ken.”

“Aye.  ’Tis why I’m here.  I heard ye’re selling maps to the cavern.  D’ye have any left?”

Malcolm sighed in frustration, scrunching a nose that had clearly been broken at some point in his life.  Finally, he nodded.  “Aye.  I’ve got one more left.  Give me a moment.”

He disappeared into the back to retrieve a large piece of parchment.  He rolled it up and shoved it into Jamie’s grasp, walking brusquely past to the front door.  Jamie unrolled the parchment to take a look as Malcolm stepped outside.

“How much do I owe ye?” Jamie called out.

“Keep it.  I’ll no’ be needing money where we’re headed, aye?”

“I suppose not.”

Malcolm didn’t bother locking up.  He just left Jamie standing there holding the map in his empty shop.  

The map showed a series of great caverns and long, deep passageways.  The way to the fairy caves was clear; the only problem was there were two different passageways at the end of the map—one leading to the East and one to the West.

Jamie ran outside, looking for that oversized scarf.  He spotted Malcolm heading toward the docks, nearly lost in a sea of red and black hair, tricorns, kilts, sarks, and silks.  

There were droves of men waiting around for the Rising to start.  The sheer number of them made him a bit hopeless.

Jamie wondered if he really had a chance of winning the Sassenach’s hand with so many other suitors fighting against him.  Perhaps it was just too much trouble for a woman he’d never met.  He could very well give up this quest before he even started and just set off exploring the seas on his own, the way he intended long before he ever set foot in that tavern.

But a pair of golden eyes lit up in his mind...Claire.  The image of her forced him to discard all thoughts of abandoning his quest.  He dashed down the road, fighting against the wild currents of men, in order to reach the printer.

“Mr. Malcolm!  Malcolm!  One moment, sir!”  Jamie grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him around.

Malcolm rolled his eyes, not unlike the snot-nosed Sawny he met moments before.  “What d’ye want, ye wee fool?  D’ye no’ ken how dangerous it is to be out on the docks this time of night?  Plenty of bastards are lying in wait to sabotage as many of us as they can before the Rising.”

“The map,” said Jamie, unrolling the parchment once more.  “There are two passageways at the end.  Which am I to take?”

Malcolm snorted.  “Flip a bloody coin, man.  No one kens which cavern she hides in.  Follow yer nose or yer heart or yer bloody cock, for all I care.”

“Surely, someone kens which way to go.”

“I’m no’ even certain the Sassenach herself kens where she is.  Much of this journey requires great skill, lad, but ye’ll need a wee bit of luck on yer side, as well.”

Malcolm patted Jamie firmly on the back and took off toward the docks without waiting to see if Jamie had any more questions.  In only a moment, his great scarf—along with the rest of him—was lost to the crowd.

“Christ!” said Jamie, grunting in frustration and trying not to crumble up the map in anger.  His chances of finding Claire were just cut in half.

He tried not to let despair overtake him, but as the legions of men fighting against him passed by, it was difficult to cling to any semblance of hope.  

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to block out the overwhelming quantity of his competition, men spanning as far as the eye could see.  

He listened to the pulsing rhythm deep in his bones.  He felt her there...his Sassenach.  She was his, and he was hers.  It didn’t matter if there were hundreds of millions of men out there.  He and Claire belonged only to each other.

A shout for help pulled him from his thoughts and back to the crowded street.  Voices were raised, and men were fighting for a closer look.

It took some time for Jamie to make his way to the front of the crowd, but when he got there, his stomach clenched, and a lead weight dropped to the bottom of his wame.

“Seumas!” Jamie dropped to the ground, grabbing his friend’s face in his hands.  The poor bastard was already dead.  Even the cold stones he lay on were warmer than the body.  Jamie shivered at the sight of blood running through the cracks in the street.

“What happened?” Jamie demanded.  “Who did this?!”

No one answered.  Jamie looked around to see the crowd averting their eyes.  As quickly as they arrived to see what was happening, they began dispersing back from whence they came.

“Who did this?!” Jamie yelled to the backs of people’s heads.  “Which of you cowards murdered my friend?”

Still, no answer.

Jamie fell to his knees, helpless to bring Seumas back to life.  “Who did this to ye, man?” he asked the corpse.

“That would be Red Jamie, of course,” said a slick, French-accented voice from behind.

Jamie stood quickly, realizing for the first time that he had no weapon on his person.  He turned to face the Frenchman, ready to protect himself with his bare hands.

“Red Jamie, ye say?”

Oui.  I watched him as he drove his dirk in the man’s kidney from behind.”  The Frenchman was holding a bottle of wine as he stared down at Seumas’s body with pity.  “Here.  A drink for yer friend.”  The Frenchman handed Jamie his bottle and said a prayer to the virgin mother.

Jamie took the bottle out of courtesy, but couldn’t imagine being able to swallow red wine while staring at blood running in the street. 

“Yer name?” asked Jamie.

“Etienne Marcel de Provac Alexandre.  A merchant of fine wine and spirits.  And you?”

“James Fraser.”

“I am sorry for your loss, Monsieur Fraser, though I’d advise you to become accustomed to such things.  Tomorrow, there will be much more bloodshed at the start of the Rising.”

Etienne patted his shoulder and took off without another word, lost to the sea of men. 

Jamie shook off the chill that creeped up his spine and turned back to deal with the body on the ground.  He was considering how he might find a place to bury Seumas when a filthy beggar bent over his friend and started rifling through his pockets.

“What the Devil d’ye think ye’re doing?” Jamie demanded, pushing the man on his arse.

The man had a long, tangled beard and a mass of red hair covered by a dirty bonnet.  He was bone thin, and his clothes were rank with overuse.  

“His weapon,” grunted the man, voice coarse from lack of use.  “It shouldna go to waste.”

“Get on, ye filthy wee thief!” said Jamie, reaching down to grab Seumas’s blade and strapping it to his own belt.  He didn’t like stealing from a dead man, but the thought of a scrounger running off with his friend’s weapon made him ill.  

In an attempt to assuage his guilt for snapping at a man in need, he tossed Etienne’s bottle of wine to the bonnet-clad beggar.  The man grunted, whether in gratitude or vexation, Jamie didn’t know.

Jamie bent down to grab Seamus’s body.  The least he could do was throw him into the sea so he wouldn’t be trampled on by the stampede of men.  The beggar tucked the bottle of wine under his arm, and bent to help pick up Seumas’s feet.  They carried him through the crowd and over to the water.  He tried to forget the sound of the splash as they threw him over rail.

Both he and the Dunbonnet muttered quiet prayers until Seumas’s body could no longer be seen in the murky water below.  His filthy companion opened the bottle of wine and drank deep.

Jamie turned to watch the hordes of men trampling through the trail of blood without any mind for what had just happened.  How many of them had done something similar to improve their chances at finding Claire?  How many of their blood-stained sarks were made so in their quest for her hand?  

As he looked at Seumas’s blade strapped to his belt, he realized the violence of the Rising started long before the swelling of the tides or the blast of a cannon at sea.

Chapter Text

With nowhere else to go, Jamie slept in his small boat.  He wasn’t the only one to do so.   There just weren't enough beds at the inn to accommodate the demand.  

Traffic on the docks made for poor sleep.  The incessant rocking caused by movement of nearby boats had Jamie succumbing to a terrible spell of seasickness.  His nausea didn’t clear until all the contents of his stomach were expelled into the filthy water below.  

Many around him were far less fortunate.  Some of the poor bastards kept retching long after their stomachs were empty, their bollocks tied up in knots and their voices pleading for someone to end their miserable lives with all due haste.

The only man exempt from seasickness was a strange fool with long, thin needles poking out of his face.  Jamie wondered if the numpty planned to meet the Sassenach guised a pincushion.  He hoped the bastard didn’t roll over in his sleep.

Once the vomiting passed, Jamie’s sleep was victimized further by the multitude of sounds coming from the other men.  Between their continuous retching and nonstop chatter, there was never any peace to be had.  Worst of all was the sheer number of men abusing themselves with Claire’s name on their lips.

He, too, had done so, stroking his cock to the rhythm of his heart.  The image of her golden eyes was like a beacon of light, calling to his body to join with hers.  On and on he stroked, pleasure rolling through him in waves, his body rising and falling with every swell.

A roar of noise interrupted the momentum of his hand.  He sat up to look for what was causing the commotion.  It was then that he realized it wasn’t the waves of pleasure that were causing his body to rise and fall, but the swell of the tide itself!

“The Rising!” yelled a man wearing full Highland regalia.  “’Tis finally here, mo charaidean!”  He was waving a blue flag adorned with the white cross of St. Andrew.  

“Aye, my Laird!” Dozens of men rallied around him, readying themselves for the journey ahead. 

Men were swarming to the docks to find their boats...to find any boat, really.  As chaos erupted, Jamie took his oars and began rowing out to open water, desperate to get ahead of the crowd.

He wasn’t the only one.  To his left, he saw Jamie Roy with the efficient strokes of an accomplished sailor.  To his right, A. Malcolm rowed with his glasses perched on the tip of his broken nose.  His sail was crafted from his overlarge scarf and an extra pair of trousers.

Jamie was suddenly pitched forward by a violent collision from behind.  He scrambled to keep hold of his oars, lest they be lost forever in the pandemonium.  He looked over his shoulder to find Red Jamie paddling fiercely, trying to ram into him again.  

Jamie rowed with ever more vigor, every stroke a fight for his life.  Sweat and seawater covered his face, and his muscles burned with strain.  Desperation drove him far past the limits of his body, his need to escape surpassing all others.

Yet Red Jamie stayed right on his tail. 

He soon realized that rowing was all for naught, the fierce winds and unpredictable currents driving him in any direction but where he meant to go.  His boat was shifting direction, spinning him around and around, crashing into Jamie Roy, then smashing into Red Jamie.  

A bolt of lightning flashed from the sky, striking A. Malcolm’s mast and setting it aflame.  “Bonnie!” he yelled to his boat, scooping up water with his hat to try to extinguish the blaze.

It was all anyone could do to keep their boats afloat.  Even Red Jamie had stalled his efforts at sabotaging those around him just to focus on survival.  

Collision after collision clattered Jamie’s teeth together and knocked holes in his hull.  One of his oars flew from his grasp, falling into the water below.  He lunged, reaching for it, terrified of tipping over.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the map coming out of his coat pocket.  But he couldn’t let go of the boat, and he couldn’t lose the oar.  He reached and reached for the oar, trying to get to it before the map flew away on the wind.  He could hear the violent gusts of air battering against the parchment.

Ifrinn!” he yelled and gave up on the oar.  He snagged the map just as the wind attempted to steal it away, shoving it back into his pocket.

He couldn’t tell if it was hours or days or minutes that the storm raged on.  Back and forth, the sea rocked his boat.  Paralyzing fear was the only thing that kept him from succumbing to seasickness once again.  The wind was groaning in his ears, as though the spirits of the air had lost their minds.

As if in slow motion, a massive wave rose up behind him.  Ships as far as he could see were but tiny specks of dust to the will of God as the wave grew ever larger.  Men were scrambling all around, paddling madly, as if it would help.

Jamie stilled his body as the wave reached its peak, a strange calm settling over him.  He closed his eyes and saw his lady standing before him—wild hair blowing in the wind, golden eyes locked on his gaze, a thin shift clinging to her frame.  Her hand reached out to him...just out of his grasp.

“Come find me, Jamie.  Come find me.”  Her voice echoed in his heart.

And to the sound of a thousand battle cries, the wave crashed down.

Chapter Text

The wave shot forward, carrying all the boats and sailors with it.  Jamie clung to his vessel out of sheer desperation not to drown.  He gripped the edge as tightly as he could, splinters digging into his palms, oars long forgotten. 

His stomach was in his throat as his boat dropped from a terrifying height.  He couldn’t see a foot in front of him, not through the rain and the spray of the crashing sea.  Saltwater shot up his mouth and nose every time he tried to breathe.  

As he sputtered and gagged for air, the cries of the other sailors were mere echoes on the raging winds, their presence all but forgotten in the face of the storm.

And with a resounding crack, he finally found a lost oar as it struck him in the head, knocking him out cold.

 


 

Jamie awoke to pink skies as the sun fought to shine through an atmosphere covered in clouds.  His head throbbed, and his hands ached.  He was exhausted and desperate to quench his thirst.

Rising carefully as the boat swayed back and forth to the rhythm of the seas, he sat up and took in his surroundings.  It was almost peaceful, serene, after the madness of the Rising.  There were large rocks and trees in the distance, jutting haphazardly out of the water.  There were even a few small islands where he might be able to stop and rest awhile if needed.  

But all that serenity was naught but façade, and it was quickly stripped away as Jamie beheld the carnage littering the sea.  Everywhere he looked, he found debris from boats destroyed in the Rising—supplies, wooden planks, oars, and crates.

And worse, bodies.  Dozens of them.  Hundreds of them.  Maybe more.

There were survivors, too, all spread out, no longer crashing into each other in the vastness of the sea.  Part of him was almost disappointed with how many there were.  That many competitors still standing in his way.  

He shook his head to clear away the uncharitable thoughts.  He’d seen enough death to last a dozen lifetimes.

He tried to swallow, but his throat was too dry.  All his possessions, including what food and drink he brought with him, were lost in the storm.  He needed to find something to drink if he was to make it halfway to Claire.  

He paddled with his long arms until he was able to find an oar floating in the water.  He grabbed it and rowed through the debris, looking for salvageable supplies.

The heat of the day had him removing his coat.  It was heavy and wet anyway, weighing him down and slowing his progress.  

A tangle of casks, ropes, and sails were floating in a cluster not far away.  He steered for it, hopeful to find something useful.  His eyes were on a crate marked Propriété de Seigneur Fresiliere.

As soon as he was close enough, he lifted the crate onto the boat and began his attempts to pry off the lid; no easy feat, considering the wounds on his hands were still so raw.  He pulled out Seumas’s blade and shoved it under the lid, prying it open. 

There were several bottles of strawberry wine and some dried meat wrapped up tight.  He feasted on a dead man’s bounty like a glutton, stuffing and drinking himself full. 

When he finished, he was so relaxed and satisfied that he didn’t even notice anyone coming quietly upon him.  But alas, his boat tipped to the side, and a hand reached up to grab him by the scruff of his collar.  Caught off guard, he was pulled overboard with little resistance.  

He caught sight briefly of Red Jamie before a fist collided with his face, and he was dragged deep under water.  Already dazed from drinking too much wine and from the two hard hits to his head, it was all he could do to fight free of Red Jamie’s grasp, his shirt ripping in the process. He swam away as quickly as he could and desperately hoped he wasn’t being pursued.

When he reached the surface, he saw Red Jamie had commandeered his boat and was rifling through the crate of food and drink.  

“Goddamn bloody bastard.”  

Jamie wouldn’t allow himself to think of Claire ending up with such a bloodthirsty wretch.  He needed to find another vessel with all due haste, if not for himself, then for the sake of the Sassenach.

A few boats passed by as he swam for shore.  No matter his entreaties for help, no one paid him any mind.  He didn’t blame them; if he drowned, he was just one more man they wouldn’t have to face to get to Claire.

As he neared the shore, an unexpected sight played out before him.  There were two boats run aground on the beach, their owners only a few paces away.  They were standing back-to-back, each with a long blade pointing straight up in the air.  The older man was clearly a French officer, and the younger man was dressed in an amusing combination of Fraser tartan and French silk.  

Fighting to gain his footing against the crashing waves, Jamie kept his eyes on the men as they took several paces away from each other.  At a yell from one of the men, they both turned to face each other.  Another yell, and they both launched forward to attack.

The bloody fools were dueling.  The Sassenach was at the mercy of the likes of Red Jamie, and the blockheids were dueling.

Jamie had a mind to jump in one of their boats and start rowing away while they were otherwise occupied, but given his weakened state and the ferocity of the men who were in possession of blades, he decided to wait and allow the duel to produce a winner.  Perhaps, if one of the participants lost their life, he could take their boat without forcing himself into a fight he wasn’t prepared to have.

The young man was quick and skilled; however, the officer was a man of wisdom and experience, frequently finding himself with the upper hand.  Finally, with a punch to the young man’s face and a thrust of the officer’s blade, the duel was over.  The young man lay bleeding and groaning in the sand as the officer cleaned his blade and left his competitor to die.

Jamie was still catching his breath from his long swim as the officer made his way to the boats.  The officer spared him only a brief glance as he inspected the state of his vessel.  

“Is he dead?” asked Jamie.  

“No, but he will be soon.”  The officer spoke in thickly accented French.

“So it was a fatal wound?  He’ll no’ be needing his boat?”

“I struck him in the pride.  I’m sure he will die of shame in no time at all.”

Jamie stepped closer to the young man writhing on the floor.  The lad was holding his bollocks and groaning in pain.  The officer must’ve stabbed him in the cock!

Jamie knelt by his side and asked, “Is there anything I could do for ye, man?”

Oui,” the lad grunted.  “Ensure the captain doesna win the hand de la dame blanche.”  

Jamie looked over his shoulder at the captain attempting to push his boat back into the water.

“Take my blade,” said the lad, “and my boat.  Protect our Lady from men like him.”

And with a final breath, the lad’s eyes glazed over, and a smile lit his eyes as though he was seeing a glorious vision.  Softly, he whispered, “Sassenach…

Then, he was gone.

Jamie closed the young man’s eyes and said a prayer over his body.  He took the blade from his hand and turned back to the boats.

“They are both run aground,” said the captain, scratching his long beard.  “We’ll make better time if we work together to get them back in the water.”

“Aye,” Jamie grunted.  Displeased as he was to work with the captain, he had little choice in the matter.  They each took one side of the first boat and began to push it into the water.

“Did’ye have to kill the lad, Captain?” Jamie asked as they worked.

“My name is Captain Alessandro,” the Frenchman corrected.  “And yes, I did.  The fool was naught but trouble for me.  This was the third duel he challenged me to in as many days.  Le Petit Sauvage had an appetite for the blades.  When he heard me speak in detail of all the things I planned to do to Claire should I have her naked and willing and on dry land, he lost his mind with rage and demanded we duel for her hand.”  

The Captain's words sparked rage in Jamie, and he considered challenging the bastard to a duel.  But he cast the thought aside as the first boat finally sprang free, moving chaotically up and down with the motion of the waves.

“He was a young fool who didn’t understand the meaning of love,” said Captain Alessandro, scratching his balls with a sigh of relief.  “The Sassenach deserves much better.”

“And you believe ye’re better for her than he is?”

Alessandro shrugged, “I am alive, and he is dead.  So, yes.  I’d say so.”

Jamie turned around to lead the captain back to the other boat so they could both be on their way.  It was then that he felt the hilt of the captain’s blade crash down on his head. 

Jamie’s vision went black, and stars filled his eyes.  The waves threw him off balance further, and he collapsed to his knees.  With blurred vision, he turned to find the captain pushing his boat out to sea, leaving Jamie with an aching head and a boat run aground.

Chapter Text

It took Jamie a great deal of time and effort to get Le Petit Sauvage’s boat back into the water by himself.  His map was long gone, and he had no idea where he should be going, but everyone seemed headed in the same direction, save a few stragglers caught up in the rocks and trees.  Once the boat was in the water, he followed the rush of suitors, hoping they weren’t all headed in the wrong direction.

Carnage littered the sea, and for the most part, he was able to ignore the bodies—a man of war learns to do such things if he means to survive—save for when he passed Nunkie and Sawny floating together in the water.  He wondered if it was perhaps Red Jamie or Alessandro who had gotten a hold of them.  He said yet another prayer as he passed their bodies and sailed on.

It was with his heart softened by the death of the snot-nosed child that he came upon a lone man struggling to tread water in the middle of the sea.  The poor young man was bleeding something fierce, and his shoulder was popping out at an odd angle.

Jamie knew he should probably sail on, but he didn’t have it in him to leave a broken man to drown alone in a sea of death.  He paddled up to the young man and helped him aboard.

“I thank ye, truly,” said the lad.

“What’s yer name, a charaid?” asked Jamie.

“MacTavish.” 

“Jamie Fraser.  Let’s see that arm.”

“I’m afraid there’s little to be done about it, unless ye ken how to set it?”

“I do not, I’m afraid.”

“Aye.  I expected as much.  The only one likely to ken how to do so is the Sassenach.  I’ve heard she has the magic to heal wi’ only a touch.”

“Weel, I suppose I can take ye wi’ me to find her.  It wouldna be so terrible to have company, and the Sassenach can decide for herself who her mate will be.”  And if Jamie saw any sign of treachery in the lad before they reached her, he’d run him through with his new French blade.  

“Ye hungry man?” Jamie asked. “The wee popinjay who once owned this boat had it packed full of French food and wine.  Help yerself to what ye can stomach.”

“There was a time when I lived on naught but winter grass; I’m sure I can handle the Frenchman’s food,” he laughed.

Jamie rowed on as MacTavish filled his belly.

“Tell me,” said Jamie, “how did’ye end up wi’ yer arm knocked off yer shoulder?”

Hmphm.  ’Twas a beast of a man who came upon me.  Bear Killer, he’s called.  He fights only wi’ brute strength and his bare hands.  A bloody-minded animal.  I canna think of the puir Sassenach lass being settled wi’ such a terror of a man.”

“Ye ken much about the other men?”

“Aye, a bit.”

“Good.  Perhaps ye’ll be of some use, then.”  Jamie looked around at the boats in clear view.  “Who is it I should be looking out for?”

MacTavish snorted.  “Everyone.  Devious lechers, the lot of them.  Claire is all that matters to anyone here, and they’ll have lied, killed, stolen, betrayed, and broken trust to find her.”

“So I’ve noticed,” Jamie grumbled, rubbing the bumps on his head.

“There are a few who willna likely do ye much harm.”

“Oh?”

“Aye.”  MacTavish pointed to a large boat being rowed by several men.  “The French Lord who owns that vessel, Seigneur Broch Tuarach, dinna trust him nae matter how pretty a tale he spins for ye.  He’s as devious as they come despite his silky hair and fine clothes.  But ye see the man rowing for him at the head of his ship?”

“Aye.”  The man in question was strong and broad-shouldered, his hair tied back neatly, and a permanent scowl covered his face. 

“That is Alex MacKenzie.  He’s a melancholy type.  He’s got no interest in much save for a love he once lost.  We worked together at a great Laird’s stables once.  Sad fellow, but plays a fine game of chess.”

On they sailed, MacTavish regaling Jamie with stories of the men around them.  The company was some consolation to the violence raging across the sea.  And when there wasn’t violence between men, nature itself waged war on Claire’s suitors.

“Christ,” said MacTavish, “careful coming up here.  ’Tis easy to lose yer way through these marshlands and moors.”

“What is this place?”  Jamie surveyed the shallowing sea in front of him.  The water was barely deep enough to sail through in some places, and in others, there were expanses of great boglands and muddy plains.

“This is Culloden.  Dinna be tempted to leave the boat and walk through the moor.  ’Tis a fool’s errand.  We’ll sail around, lest we join the legions of men who’ve died here before.”

MacTavish was turning out to be a blessing of a companion.  The lad knew the land well and helped navigate the murky water.  Many others were not so lucky.

Halfway through Culloden, the flag-wielding Laird that Jamie had seen at the docks seemed to be stuck in the moor, desperately trying to lead his men to safety.

“Dinna fash, Jamie,” said MacTavish.  “He’s a good Laird.  He’ll see his men safe, even if he must sacrifice his chance at the Sassenach for his trouble.”

Onward he went, steering away from the tragic Laird and his doomed men fated to perish on Culloden Moor. 

“What is that?!” asked Jamie, staring ahead.  A great cavern rose up before them, and all the boats were headed straight there.  A bottleneck of activity seemed to block the entrance to the cave.

“Abandawe,” said MacTavish, pulling his dirk out of his scabbard and spinning it on his palm. “’Tis the only way to the Sassenach and wrought with fretful danger.  We’ll have to go on foot; there’s no way to sail through.  Be on yer guard, aye?  The worst of this madness is yet to come.”

Jamie nodded, ensuring his blade was within reach.  They were able to avoid trouble until they reached the end of the sea.  They quietly packed what they could in MacTavish’s sporran to sustain them for their journey.  Then, they hid in the cover of the brush as they made their way to the cave.  

The entrance was blocked by a crowd of men in the middle of a stramash.  A band of soldiers were fighting against a group of redcoats.  The sound of shots firing, cannons blasting, and swords crossing could be heard from a great distance.  

“Is that a militia fighting the redcoats?” asked Jamie.

“Aye, and a few mercenaries.”

They avoided detection as they neared the mouth of the cave.

Och, no!” MacTavish whispered.  “Colonel Fraser has got Mac Dubh prisoner.  A damn shame.  He’s a fine man.”

A redcoat officer was pulling a filthy prisoner behind him.  Mac Dubh’s chains clanked and clattered as Colonel Fraser yanked hard, sending him to his knees.

“This Colonel Fraser...is he a fair man?”

“No,” said MacTavish.  “An opportunist to be sure.  He’ll take whatever side he can to ensure his victory and give him a better chance at finding the Sassenach.  All Mac Dubh wants is to care for his people and search for Claire.  Colonel Fraser is no’ about to let that happen.”

“Will he kill the man?”

“Likely so, aye.  He’ll do what he thinks must be done.”

Knots formed in Jamie’s wame at the thought of a good man being executed at the hands of the redcoats.  Worse still was when more and more prisoners were brought next to Mac Dubh and lined up on their knees.  

“What should we do with them, sir?” asked a redcoat.

Colonel Fraser looked at him with steel in his eyes and said, “Kill them all.”

Jamie couldn’t say what compelled him.  He knew it was foolish to intervene, but he couldn’t help himself as he ran forward to attack the recoats that were trying to execute the prisoners.  He raised his sword and gave a fearsome battle cry.  

He killed three of the soldiers before any of them knew what was happening.  The prisoners rose up to help him fight, no matter that they were bound in chains.  Even MacTavish assisted him with his one good arm.  

Jamie battled through redcoats trying to save the innocent men.  He watched as Colonel Fraser lashed out with his sword, aiming at Mac Dubh.  Mac Dubh parried the strikes with the very chains that imprisoned him.  

Jamie struck down the last redcoat standing between him and Colonel Fraser.  Just as he charged toward the Colonel and Mac Dubh, Colonel Fraser plunged his sword deep in Mac Dubh’s chest.

Jamie roared in berserking rage, stabbing the Colonel in the softest part of his belly.  The Colonel collapsed to the ground, and Jamie rushed to Mac Dubh’s side, MacTavish right on his heels.

“Ye alright, man?” asked MacTavish.

Jamie ripped open Mac Dubh’s shirt to inspect the fatality of the wound.

“I’m braw, laddie.  It doesna hurt a bit to die.”

And he was most certainly going to die.  The stab wound in his chest was bleeding profusely, and Jamie knew no way to stop it.

“I’m sorry we couldna save ye,” said Jamie.

Och, ’tis just the way of things.”  His whole body shuddered as he took a rattling breath.  “Come.  Come close.”

He pulled Jamie’s ear down to his mouth and whispered quietly.  “I met an auld man at the edge of the moor—a survivor from the last Rising.  He told me...he said...the white lady was found on Silkie Island.  Find her, man.  Dinna let the worst of us reach her first.”

“Silkie Island?”

“Aye.  He said he reached her there...saw her wi’ his own eyes, but she sent them all away.  She’s waiting for the one she calls to in his dreams.”

Jamie closed his eyes and tried to remember the sound of an angel’s voice ringing in his ears as he slept.  “Come find me, Jamie.  Come find me.

Aye, he thought to himself.  Nothing shall stand in my way.

A groan from behind had him turning around.  The bloody Colonel rose up behind him with a dirk in his hand before Jamie had any time to react.  He tried to raise his blade to parry the blow, but knew he was too late.

Colonel Fraser froze with his blade in mid swing.  An arrow was sticking out of his chest.  He collapsed to the ground and took his last breath.  

Jamie looked around to see what savior had sent the arrow that spared his life.  In the mouth of the cave, he saw a filthy man with long hair covered by a bonnet and holding a bow in his left hand.

The Dunbonnet.  Jamie gave a nod of gratitude before the man disappeared into the cave.

Mac Dubh was already dead by the time Jamie turned back to him. MacTavish was closing the prisoner’s eyes and saying Gaelic prayers over his body.

Jamie looked toward the cave and crossed himself.  Their journey was not close to finished, but he made a promise to Claire that he’d see it done.

“Come, MacTavish.  Our lady awaits.”

Chapter Text

Abandawe was a dark and dank cavern.  Fog obscured Jamie’s vision so badly, he could hardly see a few feet in front of him.  Strange screeches and skellochs echoed around him.  They weren’t coming from any particular direction, but from the fog itself.  Even the walls seemed to vibrate with life.

MacTavish guarded his back as he led with his sword drawn.  He was surprised at how few of the men seemed to make it inside the cave. They didn’t run into anyone for hours as they moved through the rugged and muddy terrain, until finally, a voice called out begging for help.

Jamie and MacTavish rushed to the man in need, climbing over rocks and ditches to reach him.  The man’s leg was caught in a pile of rocks, and he couldn’t pull it free.

“MacKenzie!” said MacTavish.  “Jamie, this is Alex MacKenzie.  The groom I was telling ye about before.”

“Oh aye,” said Jamie.  “What happened to the Lord ye were serving?”

“I dinna ken.  We were set upon by the bastard Bear Killer.  Ferocious beast if I’ve ever seen one.  I canna imagine anyone survived.”

“Get the other side of the rock,” Jamie told MacTavish.  Together, they were able to free MacKenzie’s leg and help him to his feet.

MacKenzie looked Jamie in the eyes and said, “I thank ye, sir.  In return for yer help...If ye want...I mean, I would be willing to...that is…”

“What is it ye’re offering, man?”

“I’m offering my body...in yer defense should ye need it.”

“That I should live to hear an offer like that.  Do ye really think I would demand payment for such a service?”

“Aye, well.  I didna mean to insult ye.”

“I ken ye offered in gratitude, but a simple ‘thank ye’ will suffice.”

“Aye.  Thank ye.  But ye shall have my friendship, if that has any value to ye.”

“A verra great value indeed.  Ye’re welcome to accompany us to find the Sassenach if ye like.”

“Aye.  I thank ye.”

“Let’s be on about our business then.”

Jamie turned to step away, but MacKenzie’s big warm hands, light and strong as the brush of an eagle’s feather, were on his cheeks.  His soft wide mouth touched Jamie’s own.  The faint taste of ale and fresh-baked bread lingered on Jamie’s lips long after MacKenzie’s mouth was gone.

“Oh,” said Jamie.

MacKenzie gave him a shy, crooked smile and walked on.

 


 

Light could be seen at the end of the cave.  Jamie, MacTavish, and MacKenzie all breathed a sigh of relief as the fog started to clear.  They rushed forward, excited to meet the New World awaiting them.

Rain sprinkled down on them when they left the mouth of the cave.  Jamie was surprised to see another body of water before them.  At the other end of the great loch were two more caverns...one heading east and the other heading west.

“Silkie Island is to the east,” said MacTavish.  “Shall we fashion a boat and set sail?”

MacKenzie looked around, “There are naught but rocks and mud around here.  And there was no’ any wood in the cave.  I think we must swim.”

Jamie looked at MacTavish’s lame arm and shook his head.  “Let’s have a wee look around before we dive in.  There’s a storm coming, and I dinna think ye can make it through wi’ that arm.”

They searched the beaches far and wide for anything that could be used to fashion a boat.  It was a waste of time, and they all knew it.  The pressure of time was building as they watched men emerge from the cave and dive into the water.  Rain was coming down harder, and the dark clouds were swirling overhead.

“Ye’ll need to go on wi’out me,” said MacTavish.  “If I can find a way across, I’ll meet ye at Silkie Island.”

“I canna leave ye, man,” said Jamie.

“Ye can, and ye will.  For Claire’s sake!  We’re running out of time.”

A thunderous roar echoed from the mouth of the cave.  Jamie turned around to see a group of men tangled up in another battle.  

“Oh Christ,” said MacKenzie.  “Bear Killer and the Four-Fingered General.”

“And Red Jamie,” said MacTavish.

They both looked to Jamie with fear in their eyes.  “We canna let them get to Claire,” said MacKenzie.  “Ye must go.  We’ll hold them off.”

“No!” said Jamie.  “I willna leave ye behind.”

“Ye must!” said MacTavish.  “I canna make the swim.  Ye ken that as well as I.  Besides, it wouldna be the first time I took a beating for a lass.”  He smirked in resigned amusement as he pulled out his dirk.  “Treat her well, man.  For all our sakes.”

MacTavish bolted off to join the fray.  Jamie tried to follow after him, but MacKenzie held him back.  “Ye must go, Jamie!  Go find Claire before one of the beasts harms her.  Ye must protect the Sassenach!”

MacKenzie pushed him into the water, making Jamie stumble and fall on his arse.  Mackenzie took Jamie’s sword and followed MacTavish into the fight.

Jamie watched as Bear Killer struck the General in the side of the head, sending his sword flying and knocking him back into the water not far away.  The General searched desperately in the water for the blade, but came out not with his sword, but a fish!

“Christ!” said the General, but shrugged and slapped the fish across Bear Killer’s face.

Bear Killer looked stunned for a moment at the audacity of being hit with trout.  Then, he roared fierce and loud, raising his hand to strike the General as hard as he could.  

In mid-swing, Bear Killer’s back seized, and he dropped to the floor, writhing in pain.  The general pounced, picking up a large rock and battering the man to death.  

When Bear Killer was dead, the General turned around and dove into the water, swimming to the middle of the loch.

“Christ!” said Jamie, stuck between staying to help his friends and rushing to find Claire.

More and more men were coming out of the cavern and diving into the water.  A. Malcolm, Captain Alessandro, and a strange man in a powdered wig that fell off once he hit the water.

A blood-curdling cry sounded, and he watched as Red Jamie ran a sword through Alex MacKenzie’s heart.  

“No!” Jamie ran toward him.  Red Jamie smiled and raised his sword, preparing for attack.

From the ground at Red Jamie’s feet, MacTavish grabbed hold of his dirk, spun it in his hand, and slashed at Red Jamie’s leg.  A massive cut from his groin to the inner part of his thigh was bleeding out.  Red Jamie took one step forward and collapsed heavily on the ground.

“Go!” yelled MacTavish.  “Find Claire!.”

Come find me, Jamie.  Come find me.

Jamie nodded and took off running into the water.  He dove in as the rain poured down.  Stroke after stroke, he swam through the building storm.  The dark clouds were circling overhead, and the winds raged trying to throw him off course.  Great waves rose up, tossing him side to side  It was as if God himself was standing in the way of his love.

Still he swam.  

Come find me, Jamie .  

Though he could hardly see, Jamie followed the rhythm of the beating of his heart.  He swore he could hear Claire’s thrumming in tandem with his own.

He caught up to the other men quick enough.  General Fraser was nearly swimming in circles with the missing finger in his right hand, while Captain Alessandro was swept away by a violent wave, washing him up on a foreign shore.

Finally, they made it to the other side.

“Come!” commanded the General.  “We have reports the White Lady has taken refuge at Silkie Island!”

“Aye!” said some of the men, following the General to the east.  

Jamie knew he should join them.  Mac Dubh told him so before he died.  But he could feel the beating of Claire’s heart coming from the west.

Come find me, Jamie, it seemed to echo in his bones.

He turned the other direction and swam madly to the west.  

“Where are ye going, ye fool?” said Malcolm.  “D’ye no trust the General?”

“Can ye no’ hear her, man?  Does she no’ call for ye to go the other way?”

Malcolm’s eyes glazed over as though disappearing inside his own mind.  “Aye.  I’ve heard her.  When I dreamed sometimes.  When I lay in fever.  When I was so afraid and so lonely I knew I must die.  Ye’re right, man.  She’ll be there, smiling, wi’ her hair curled ’round her face.”

Jamie nodded, “Come on, then.  Leave them to their false stories and vague rumors.  Our lass awaits.”

 


 

Jamie and Malcolm swam west against the current as hard and fast as they could.  Claire’s calls grew ever louder the closer and closer they came.

Finally, they reached dry land.

The sun came out almost immediately.  Exhausted, they hiked up a beautiful ridge covered in waterfalls and a splendid forest.  Strawberries were growing all around, ripe and juicy and sweet.  A wee gray cat came bounding out of a bush, purring madly and rubbing against Jamie’s leg.  

Sorcha!” Malcolm whispered, breathless.  

There she was on her knees in the meadow, digging up some wee herbs and placing them in a basket.  

“Claire…”

She turned and smiled, rising to her feet.  Step-by-step she came closer, joy spreading across her face.  She was light, and she was love.

Next to him, Malcolm took a shuddering breath and fainted.

“You found me, Jamie,” she said.  “You found me.”

He stepped over the Printer to pull his love into his arms.

Chapter Text

“Where did you learn to kiss like that?” Claire breathed against his lips.  He kissed her again, their bodies seeming to meld together.

“Ye are my courage, as I am yer conscious,” he whispered, pulling her down to lay on the ground.  “Ye are my heart—and I yer compassion.  We are neither of us whole, alone.”

“You are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my Bone.  I give you my Body, that we Two might be One.”

“I give ye my Spirit, ’til our Life shall be Done.”

And there he took her.  On a lush hill of the most beautiful ridge in the most magical forest, he pushed inside her, and their bodies finally became one.

 


 

As they lay together, burrowing themselves into the fertile land they would call their home, gravity somehow shifted.  

“Jamie?”

He held tight to Claire as the world seemed to turn sideways.  

“What’s happening, Jamie?!” her voice was full of panic.

“I...I dinna ken, my Sassenach.  But we’ll face it together.”

They tried to keep themselves planted firmly on the ground, but soon they were falling, dropping like birds from the sky.  Jamie clung to his wife, holding her tight against him. 

Down they fell, past the Ridge and beyond the loch that had already drained through Abandawe.  They dropped through the cavern, silently enduring the terror of what might happen next.  On they went, past Culloden Moor and the vast sea.  

Suddenly, a light shining brighter than anything they’d ever seen before blinded their eyes.  They could see naught but each other as they fell, the cold air freezing their lungs.

And with a great splash, they landed in a mighty sea.

 


 

“Claire!” Jamie yelled, swimming to his wife, pulling her above water.

“I’m alright!” she said, clinging to him.  

They were treading water as best they could.  All of the men who had survived the Rising and the battles that followed were there in the sea, swimming with them.

“What the Devil is going on?” said Malcolm, who thankfully had awoken from his slumber.

“I dinna ken,” said Jamie.  “We seemed to have fallen off the edge of the Earth.”

“And into an ocean,” said Claire.  “How long can we last swimming like this?”

Jamie didn’t want to venture a guess.  “Claire,” he said, lost in her whisky eyes, “If my last words are not I love you, ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”

“I love you too, Jamie.”

A booming voice echoed around from overhead.  It sounded like the voice of God vibrating through their bones.  

“What are ye doing, Sassenach?” it said.  Jamie nodded, his suspicions confirmed that God was a Scot. 

“Seeing things," said a sassenach's voice.

Jamie clung to Claire, terrified he couldn’t keep her safe from such great and powerful spirits.

“Oh, aye?  What sorts of things?  Not ghosties, I trust.  I will have had enough o’ those.”

“Come look.”

“I see them!  Wee things with tails, swimming all about!”

“Isn’t it marvelous?”

“Aye, marvelous.  Look at them.  Such busy wee strivers as they are, all pushing and writhing against one another—and such a mass of them!  I’ve never seen such a thing, Sassenach.  Ye’d told me about the germs, aye, but I never in life imagined them so!  I thought they might have wee teeth, and they don’t—but I never kent they would have such handsome, lashing wee tails, or swim about in such numbers.”

“Well, some microorganisms do.  These particular beasts aren’t germs though—they’re sperms.”

“They’re what?”

“Sperms.  Male reproductive cells.  You know, what makes babies?”

“You mean seed?  Spunk?”

“Well...yes.”

“Sperms.  Sperms.  Whose are they?”

“Er...well, yours, of course.  Who else's would they be?”

“How the hell did ye get them?”

“How do you think?  I woke up in custody of them this morning.”

Jamie gripped his Claire tight, having no idea what was going on, but knowing this wasn’t the way things were meant to be.

“They seem verra fierce,” the voices went on.

“Well, they do need to be.  It’s a long slog, afterall, and a terrific fight at the end of it.  Only one gets the honor, you know.”

“The, um, sperms…”

“Yes?”

“Can ye not take them out and give them decent burial or something?”

“I’ll take good care of them.  I always do, don’t I?”

 


 

The great sea was moving again, waves crashing all over.  Jamie and Claire held fast to one another, accepting that these were likely the last moments of their lives.  Jamie’s great journey was about to end after making love to his wife only one time.

“My garden seems a good place for a burial,” said the sassenach’s loud voice.  “At the very least, the sperms should make for excellent fertilizer.”

 


 

Gravity shifted once again, and Jamie and Claire came crashing down, landing with the rest of the men in a pile of cold dirt.  The great ocean in which they once swam absorbed into the earth, coating their bodies with mud.  

Jamie kissed his wife one last time as the light of their life was smothered by a pile of dirt and a Gaelic prayer.

Chapter Text

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, Jamie!”  Claire sat up and hit her husband across the shoulder.  “Sperms?!”

Jamie’s laugh boomed out across the house.

“You incorrigible bloody Scot!”  She hit him again, dissolving into her own fit of laughter.  “I can’t believe you spent a whole evening telling me a story about your fucking sperms!”

“Can ye blame me, Sassenach?  Ever since ye showed me those fearsome wee beasts, all I can think on is how crowded it gets in there when I havena had ye for some time.  I think I might kill the bloody pope himself if he was standing in my way.

“Oh, Jamie. I do love you.”  She kissed him sweetly between fits of giggles.  “But you know, that’s not exactly how it works.  Half your sperms actually hold the genetic material of a female.”

Jamie’s eyebrows shot up.  “Is that so?”  

She nodded.

“Weel, if I was a woman, I’d still verra much want to bed ye just the same.  The story wouldna change all that much.  Perhaps a bit less violent.”

Claire’s hand dropped down to find his cock under his kilt.  “And how are all your busy little sailors?  Do you think they’re ready for another Rising?”

They both looked down and watched the Rising start to take place.  “Oh aye, Sassenach.  But first, take off yer shift and spread yer legs.  We should give the puir bastards a chance to find a map and secure provisions, aye?”

“That sounds marvelous.”  She moaned as he kissed down her body.  “But when it’s time, don’t make it easy on them.”

“Aye.  We’ll give ’em a hurricane to deal wi’ before we launch them out to sea.”