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THE HOUSE

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10:00 a.m. Wednesday, April 8, 2115 Lallybroch, Inverness-shire, Scotland
Brian Fraser came into the kitchen of his ancestral home with the mail in his hand, whistling. It’d been a good year financially, which meant they were able to put more than they anticipated in savings. He sat down and his wife, Ellen, brought him a large mug of steaming coffee and one for herself, setting both on the table with a plate of her homemade lemon tarts. Brian passed her half the mail and they got to work. They’d opened the mail like this for years, so that they were together to share good and, sometimes, bad news. Ellen tore the corner off a letter from the Royal Bank of England and furrowed her finger under the seam, opening the letter. She started reading and when she reached the second paragraph she stiffened and whispered, “No, oh God, please not yet!” Pale and trembling, she handed the letter to her husband, “Look, mo chridhe!”
Brian took the letter from his wife and read where her shaking finger had been pointing,
“Dear Lord and Lady Broch Tuarach,
As you know, your estate’s reparation amount for the failed Scottish War of Independence was set at five hundred thousand (£500,000.00) English pounds sterling plus ten percent interest per annum (p.a.). To date, our records show that you have paid a total of two hundred fifty thousand (£250,000.00) English pounds sterling against your debt. According to the terms of the original repayment schedule assigned to Broch Tuarach Estate and signed by the late Laird Broch Tuarach, Robert Ian Alexander David Fraser, the Royal Bank of England has the right to call in the loan at any time during its term.
The entire balance of your loan on August 31, 2115 will be three hundred sixty-seven thousand pounds (£367,000.00) English sterling (which includes interest), and will be due in full no later than midnight (12:00 a.m.) August 31, 2115.
As this is a Punitive Reparation, the total was decided upon by HM’s courts. As such, this due date is non-negotiable. Should you fail to repay the amount due by August 31, 2115, the estate and its complete contents will be forfeit to HM’s Exchequer for liquidation and you will be immediately remanded to Wentworth Debtor Prison for a period of not less than twenty (20) years. As the estate is in Laird and Lady Broch Tuarach’s names and you were the persons who committed the original crimes, no other people will be permitted to take your places at Wentworth Debtor Prison (i.e., your children or other relatives).
Should the balance be paid before the minimum 20-year sentence has been served by Laird and Lady Fraser, they will be immediately released.
Sincerely yours,
Reparations Department
Royal Bank of England
London, England

Chapter Text

Chapter 2
The War for Scottish Independence was fought over seven years, from 2088 to 2095. The English barely won the war, unlike the others waged by the descendants of Vikings and Robert the Bruce. Brian Fraser had been a Colonel of a Highland regiment, respected and feared by his men and enemies alike. Ellen was a registered nurse by the end of her first four years of college and rose through the ranks to helm the Blue Cross, the rebel medical corps. When the final blow had been delivered against the Scots, the troops of the English King George VII did not imprison, burn, kill and rape the Scots as they had in the past. Rather, in tribute to his Scottish great-great grandmother Queen Elizabeth, consort to George VI, the king and his ministers assigned them financial reparations according to their family’s participation in the uprising. Brian and Ellen were already married before she entered college, as the age of consent for matrimony in Scotland was sixteen. Because Brian had been three weeks shy of his 18th birthday when he joined the resistance, he was still considered a minor in Unified England and his parents were considered financially responsible for him. His family’s land was apportioned a reparation of four hundred thousand English pounds. Ellen’s fine was still hefty but was reduced to one hundred thousand pounds because she had saved the younger brother of a high-ranking British official from being beaten to death by a mob of Scots. For Ellen, 17-year-old Lambert Beauchamp was just another young person in need of her help. She’d also stipulated, on pain of banishment from the Blue Cross, that all casualties were to be treated equally no matter their uniform, race, religion, gender or creed. Ellen’s parents had not approved her marriage to Brian Fraser and sued in English court to be relieved of her financial burden. They won and her reparation became the responsibility of her in-laws’ estate.
Broch Tuarach had a small, profitable whisky distillery and the estate had been steadily chipping away at the debt for nearly twenty years. Brian and Ellen were comfortable but didn’t have the remaining three hundred sixty-seven thousand pounds English sterling to keep the estate out of English hands.
Slavery was reinstituted after the last Corona virus outbreak of 2050 wiped out sixty percent of the world’s population and with that, its industry. The New United Nations, headquartered in New York, had come upon the idea of forced servitude to allow business owners a cheaper way of running their businesses. The cancer of slavery had, of course, spread to all aspects of the Unified Worldwide Alliance of Nation-States (UWANS, pronounced “you-ans”). These days, there were slaves in demand as laborers in domestic arts, like nannies and housecleaners, fields, factories, offices and entertainment. Personal sex slaves or using slaves as prostitutes was allowed, but prostituting a free person was illegal.
5:00 p.m. Friday, April 10, 2115 Lallybroch, Inverness-shire, Scotland
“Alright, everyone, we’ve called this meeting because the English Bank has called in the loan on Lallybroch. It’s due by August 31 of this year,” Brian’s voice wobbled with emotion as he took in he stricken faces of those he loved more than life itself, all sitting at the well-scrubbed kitchen table. Brian, Ellen, Brian’s first cousin and godfather to the Fraser children, Murtagh Fitzsimmons Fraser sat with Willie, Brian’s heir. Jenny, Brian and Ellen’s only girl, was married to ersatz-Fraser and Jamie’s best friend, Ian Murray. He sat next to her, clutching her hand. They had announced last Saturday that she was expecting their first baby. Jamie was their third child and Robbie was the the youngest Fraser. The table immediately broke out into loud chatter as the family started to digest the news. Brian and Ellen stepped away and gathered glasses and a couple of bottles of their family’s best whisky, along with snacks and pens and paper for everyone. Ellen put her fingers in her mouth and whistled shrilly, the last notes echoing off the walls of the ancient house. All chatter immediately stopped and the table was silent. Her children, their cousins and friends all knew that if Ellen whistled and you were close, you stopped talking and paid attention. If you weren’t and heard the shrill summons sounded, you dropped what you were doing and ran to her, no questions asked.
“Alright, everyone, you all have pen and paper. Da and I want ye ta think of ideas to try to raise money to keep Lallybroch in our hands, aye? We’ll convene back here at,” she glanced at her mother’s diamond watch, “eight p.m.” She looked at her family and raised her glass in silent respect to her husband first, then Murtagh and then her children. They all silently raised their glasses to their matriarch in return.
7:40 p.m. Friday, April 10, 2115 Lallybroch, Inverness-shire, Scotland
Jamie and his parents sat at the well-scrubbed kitchen table drinking whisky together. “Son, I canna let ye do this! Please! There has to be another way! I’ll offer myself!” Brian ran his hands through his black hair and his wife looked at her second son with red-rimmed eyes, “Aye, Jamie, Lallybroch isn’t worth your life, please, mo mhac, don’t do this!” Fresh tears ran down her careworn face.
Jamie took his parents’ hands in his, “Are ye sayin’ it’s worth yers? Ye canna tell me that’s true! There is no other way, and you both know it, aye? Da, men in your age range aren’t accepted. I’ve been researching publicly recorded sales for ‘pedigreed’ well-built, healthy male slaves. I think, with my family background, build and looks, I can practically guarantee three hundred thousand pounds at auction. Ye have one hundred thousand pounds in yer savings. The proceeds from my sale and that money would enable ye ta settle the entire reparation an’ Lallybroch will belong to us free and clear again, aye?” Jamie said softly, looking only at Da. He heard the tears in Mam’s voice and couldn’t look Ellen Fiona Margaret MacKenzie Fraser in the eye, lest he begin to cry as well.
Ellen knew he was having a hard time looking at her, so she grabbed his hand in hers and said, “Mo leannan, look a’ me, now.” There was no mistaking the command in his mother’s tone and Jamie grabbed a tissue and slowly turned his head. “Jamie, mo mac, it’s for the rest of your life! The slavers are brutal when they break new ‘property’ in, ye know that. Not two weeks ago, we all watched the documentary put together with secretly recorded footage, aye? Did ye no’ see the fetters, collars and manacles, never mind that they usually aren’a allowed clothing. What about the corporal punishment, forced breeding, prostitution and near-starvation o’ those poor souls?”
Jamie took a steadying breath, “Aye, ye know I did, I was sittin’ next ta ye, Mam. All of that is frightening and believe me, I am scared.” She wiped a tear away from his cheek, “but what scares me more is thinkin’ o’ ye an Da in Wentworth Debtor Prison. Ye’ll no have Da ta protect ye in there an’ I canna allow that ta happen. I’m the only one who can do it, an’ ye both know it. Willie needs ta be here ta help Da, Jenny is with child an’ Rabbie is too young. Ye know if Jenny signs herself over that the baby will be taken from her an’ sold an’ you’ll never see yer only grandchild or Jenny again.”
Brian roared his heartache for all to hear; his terrible booming voice vibrated and echoed off his wife’s everyday glass candlesticks, “No, Jamie, ye are my son an’ this is my responsibility, no’ yours! I do not love you less than Jenny or any other child o’ mine! I will not give you up because of my terrible judgement! You will NOT contact the slavers! I forbid it!” I’ll-I’ll – “ Brian ran a shaking hand through his thick midnight-black hair, the inspiration for his nickname “Brian Dubh,” or “Brian the Black.” Yer brothers an’ I will guard yer door an’ bolt yer windows until I can get sedatives from Dr. Symonds an’ keep ye locked in yer room if I have ta, son!” He seized his shocked son’s upper arms and shook him like a rag doll, “Do ye hear me? You will obey yer father!” Although he was 6’4”(193 cm), 230 lbs (104kg) and all muscle, Jamie still had a healthy respect for his father and feared his temper. It never occurred to the trembling boy to resist his father. Ellen saw the terror on her second son’s face and prayed for both of them. The redhead tried to twist away but Brian shook him again and for the first time, backhanded his son who crumpled onto the rug from the force of the blow. Ellen jumped up and screamed, “Brian, no!” Brian hurled a furious warning look to his wife, bent over and bellowed at his prone son, “So help me God, ye will no’ contact th’ slavers, Jamie, do ye understand?” Jamie instinctively curled into a ball and tried to protect his head. Brian turned to his sobbing wife as frantic tears ran down his face.
Brian sat down heavily as the rest of his children came running. “Mam, Da, what is it?” Willie got to the table first. “What’s the kebby-lebby about?” He heard a quiet groan and looked down, “why is Jamie cowering on the floor?” Willie advanced on their father, face red and deadly angry, fists clenched. He turned to his father and said in a deadly growl, “Did ye hit him, Da?” Blond, gray-eyed Willie had always looked out for his siblings and he and Jamie shared an especially close bond. Jamie revered Willie and spent more time with him than Jenny or Robbie. Willie had shielded Jamie from life’s ugly business as much as possible and that included standing up to children trying to bully the redhead. Jamie, in turn, protected his brother as much as he could. Many bar fights picked by foolish drunks had been settled by their four fists. Jamie’s most prized possession was a wooden snake Willie had fashioned for him. He’d sanded it until it was satiny smooth and carved Jamie’s nickname, “SAWNY,” into the snake’s belly, protecting it with two carefully applied clear coats of varnish. The snake was a talisman for Jamie and he carried it with him everywhere.
Brian hung his head in shame, “Aye, I did. There’s no excuse. I canna believe I did it. Jamie, son, can ye fergive me, please?” Brian pleaded and his head fell into his hands.
“Yer brother has offered to sell himself to pay off the debt on Lallybroch,” whispered Ellen, hoarsely.
Stunned silence met the pronouncement and five pairs of eyes searched Ellen Fraser’s face for answers, as they had their entire lives.
Brian got up and tried to help Jamie up, but Jamie shrank back and whimpered in fear. Willie motioned his father away and he and Murtagh crouched next to Jamie, murmuring in Ghadlig to calm him. They helped him sit up for a few minutes and Murtagh wrapped him in a careful hug, his hand stroking the back of Jamie’s head in a soothing motion. All the while, Murtagh glared daggers at his cousin. They guided him to a chair far away from their father and Jenny brought him water, painkillers and a fresh whisky. Brian kept pleading with Jamie, “promise me, mo mac, ye won’ call the slavers, please. ‘Twas my mistake that landed us here an’ I was a fool ta think the Bank of bloody England would give us unlimited time to repay the money. God, please forgive me for what I did; it was inexcusable.”
Jenny looked like she would be sick. She looked over at her father, who dwarfed her by over a foot (30 cm) and shouted, “Are ye mad, or just daft, Da? Aye, Jamie’s solution is hare-brained, but ye had no call ta hit him!”
Ellen went to the freezer and got an icepack for Jamie, who nodded gratefully and placed the towel-wrapped relief on his throbbing cheek.
“I did it b-because it’s immediate – as soon as I’m sold, the profits minus taxes, fees and the handler’s fee will go to paying the reparation. Can ye stomach the idea of Mam an’ Da in Wentworth?”
Robbie cut in, “None of us can, Jamie, that’s why we’re all going to present our sane ideas to the family an’ get on wi’ this wi’out resorting ta FOOLISHNESS! There’s no call fer ye martyrin’ yerself fer the rest o’ us, dammit!”
“Rabbie is right, Jamie,” argued Willie, “Ye also know that the distillery isna on the estate, but a separate bit over which the English have no control. We can sell that, too.
“Plus, nobody but Willie has their degree yet. We agreed, we’re all goin’ ta leave school an’ return when we can afford it, aye?” Jenny spat. “Ian and I will get extra part-time jobs, an’ we’ll give our £5,000 for our now-delayed,” and she and Ian blushed and everyone at the table smiled, breaking the tension, “honeymoon. I’ve always wanted to stay at home with my children anyway, so we’ll sell Ian’s car because mine is newer. Mam, I’d like ta suggest ye keep yer most reliable vehicle an’ sell one. Ye an’ I can share a car because Da has his work truck.”
“An like Jenny said, I can get a part-time job an’ just delay college until we’re back on our feet, aye? I’ll sell my motorbike an’ give Mam and Da the insurance money every month. I can take the bus to town.” Robbie looked down at his paper. “I have £1,500 saved an’ I’m givin’ that.”
“I’ll get an extra part-time job an’ sell whatever I can an’ move home,” offered Willie.
“Mam an’ I can sell jewelry an’ the art an’ historical items as well as the family silver an’ good china. We’ll give th’ Viking sword to Ned for safekeeping. We can sell some of our outlying land, son, that’ll bring cash quickly.”
“Alright, alright,” Jamie cajoled, putting up his hands in surrender, “I won’t call the slavers. I give up, alright? ‘Twas a bad idea, aye? Everyone dispersed and Jamie settled himself into his favorite couch corner and stared at the flames in the ancient fireplace.
At 10 p.m., Jamie took a deep breath and said to Brian, “I’m goin’ ta the pub fer a pint to think fer awhile. I’ll be back soon. He grabbed his jacket and opened the front door. Brian followed him outside and touched his sleeve hesitantly. He turned around and gave his beloved sire a small smile.
Brian’s lip wobbled and he cleared his throat, “Mac mo graidh, I’m so sorry! I wish I’d never a’ touched ye. I’m ashamed an’ I’ll ask ye again if ye might be able ta fergive me one day.”
Jamie enfolded his father in his arms and kissed his cheek gently, “I know ye’re sorry, Athair. It was a desperate idea an’ I’m sorry fer upsettin’ the family.” Brian moved back a little but didn’t release his hold on his son, “I love ye so, Jamie, never ferget tha’.”
Jamie whispered, “An ye know I love ye, no matter what happens, aye? An’ aye, I fergive ye right now, Da. Kiss Mam fer me an’ please dinna wait up fer me, aye?”
Brian nodded and they said their goodnights, “See ye in the mornin’, son.”
Jamie turned and flashed Brian a brilliant smile, “Ye will, Da. Leave me some bacon, aye?” Jamie walked slowly to The Duck and Dog, a mile away from Lallybroch. Halfway there, he tried to calm his breathing. Finally, he dialed a number with shaking fingers, “Aye, can ye meet me fer a pint? I need ta talk to ye. Grand. I’ll be waitin.’”

Chapter Text

Chapter 3
Warning: This chapter is very violent. Read at your own risk. The next chapter will be much easier to read. And yes, Claire Bear will show up in this fic. We haven’t decided just when, but keep yer peepers peeled, my peeps!
11:00 p.m., Saturday, April 11, 2115, The Duck and Dog Pub, Inverness-shire, Scotland
Ned poured Jamie three fingers of his favorite whisky and toasted his young client with mineral water. Jamie raised his whisky glass and murmured, “Slàinte,” and downed the fiery liquid in one slug. He shook Jamie’s hand as they rose together.
Ned had tried every trick he knew to convince Jamie not to go through with this drastic step. Nothing moved Jamie. He steadfastly refused to entertain Ned’s arguments; instead, he drew a thick manila envelope out of his jacket and slid it across the table to his lawyer and friend, “Make sure ye gie’ this ta Mam and Da when they’re together, aye? Nobody else needs ta see it.” He took off his rosary and Fraser ring and handed them to the lawyer. He pulled Sawny out of his breast pocket and said, “Make sure Willie gets this, aye?” Ned nodded, too overcome to speak. The boy patted his pockets to make sure they were empty and finally handed his wallet over. Ned nodded, blew his nose and stuffed the personal effects in his coat’s inside breast pocket. He put the manila envelope safely in his briefcase.
Ned knocked on the door behind them and Jamie followed him into the room. Christie offered the men the bar’s finest whisky or another drink. A younger man sat next to Christie. Jamie assumed that this was the young man with whom Ned had made custody arrangements. Jamie took the glass with three fingers in it and clinked glasses with Ned, who’d chosen water again. Jamie bent over the table and read the contract one last time.
“I, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, born May 1, 2092, at Broch Tuarach, Inverness-shire, Scotland, do knowingly and willingly remand myself into the complete custody of Thomas Frederick Christie, born September 4, 2077, Manchester, Lancashire, England, for the auction at a Live Asset Sale. I swear that I am doing this freely and am not being forced or coerced by Mr. Christie or anyone else. As a goodwill gesture, Mr. Christie agrees to advance The Lallybroch Trust (hereafter referred to as “The Trust”) one-hundred thousand English pounds sterling (hereafter referred to as £100,000.00) as soon as Mr. Fraser signs the contract. The Trust shall be administered by Mr. Gowan and its funds will be used exclusively to pay Laird and Lady Broch Tuarach’s debt to HM’s Exchequer.
Mr. Fraser’s final sale price, less the £100,000 00 advance and all taxes, fees and Mr. Christie’s ten percent (10%) commission, shall be immediately payable by ChrisBond Enterprises to the Lallybroch Trust. Should the balance of the sale proceeds not be in the Lallybroch Trust within sixty (60 ) minutes of Mr. Fraser’s final sale, the sale will be considered null and void, the £100,000 00 will be forfeit to The Trust and Mr. Fraser will be released a free man.
Signed this day, Saturday April11, 2115 at The Duck and Dog Pub, Inverness-shire, Scotland

_____________________________________ ________________
James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser Date

_____________________________________ ________________
Thomas Frederick Christie, Freeman, Date
Owner and CEO of ChrisBond Enterprises

Witnesses:

_____________________________________ ________________
Thomas Culpeper Date
Freeman and Assistant to Mr. Christie

____________________________________ _________________
Edward MacArthur Gowan, Esq., Date
Freeman and Legal Counsel for Mr. Fraser

Jamie heard a slight noise behind Christie and saw two very large men in dark suits. One had a toolbox at his feet and the other, a large duffel bag.
“Before you sign anything, Mr. Fraser, may I look at your medical file, please? It’s standard procedure, I assure you. It’s simply to ensure that my company is making a solid investment in your future. I’m sure you understand.”
Jamie nodded silently. Ned touched Jamie’s sleeve, “You have to verbally agree, mo mac.”
“Aye, Mr. Christie, please, feel free.”
“Thank you, Mr. Fraser.”
Mr. Gowan, may I have the file, please?”
“Certainly,” Gowan said. He opened his ancient briefcase and slid the legal-size manila folder over the table. Jamie’s names were neatly typed on the tab and inside the folder were photocopies of his driver license, a front and two side views, National Insurance number, last dental and medical exams, height, weight and any known diseases or allergies. Christie quickly searched for one paragraph in his last medical report:
Sperm shape: – 85% (normal)
Movement, also known as motility: 4 (high)
pH: 7.5 (excellent)
Volume: 4 ml (excellent)
Liquefaction: 14 minutes (excellent)
Sperm count: over 300 million (excellent)
Appearance: white (normal)
Supplemental testosterone screening: 950 ng/dL (high)
Christie had a shit-eating grin on his face after reading the results, Jesus, this boy will make a perfect top-dollar stud! I’ll have rich breeders beating down my door to get their livestock covered by this bull. Unbelievable! he gloated. We can see how many covers it takes for him to get a unit like A-1792 pregnant. She hasn’t calved in a couple of years and should be ready soon.
A short biography was present which highlighted his pedigree as the son and nephew of lairds. Christie glanced at the sheet, pleased that the boy didn’t have any known allergies, surgery or diseases. Sure, he’d broken an arm falling from a tree he’d climbed when he was eight, but it’d been a clean, straightforward break. What boy hadn’t broken an arm or leg playing? Christie had broken a leg and an arm as a child. Jesus, not even any cavities! No orthodontics, either, which meant this boy’s teeth were naturally straight. He’d never even had a wisdom tooth extracted. His pedigree, curly hair, its color, his eye color and build would all be selling points. Christie couldn’t remember ever taking such a handsome animal into custody before. He glanced at the file again and his eyes lit up when he read “RC” the abbreviation for Roman Catholic, under “Religious Affiliation.”
“One last thing if you don’t mind, Mr. Fraser. My company always does background checks on potential business partners. We read that you gave up a four-year college scholarship to Heriot-Watt, where you’d intended to study distilling . Is that true?”
Jamie nodded.
“May I ask why?”
“Because the reparation amount levied on my parents’ estate by the English court was so great that my sister, her husband and I all quit school so we can work full-time at our small family distillery to pay the debt to keep our parents out of Wentworth, sir.”
Christie observed Fraser’s face and saw how he lifted his chin slightly and how dangerously his eyes glittered. Ten more minutes, you rotten little haggis-head, and I’ll be able to beat that pride right out of you, Christie seethed.
Mr. Christie watched as Jamie signed his freedom away. Christie, then Culpeper, then Ned all signed the contract. Christie handed Ned the plastic e-chipped card and the lawyer inserted it into his reader. A sweet, tinkling musical chime sealed Jamie’s fate. A second, slightly different chime sounded and Ned looked at Christie, “The money is in the trust.” As much as he wanted to refund Christie’s money and flee with his young charge, that was impossible now. He also knew the men would humiliate Jamie in front of him if he stayed and he wanted to spare his young friend at least that. Jamie looked up at Ned sharply and gulped, eyes wide with terror at the realness of what he’d just done – and the fear of the unknown. Ned’s eyes shone with tears as he nodded slightly. He’d known the boy all his life, having gone to school with Brian and Ellen. He’d been at their wedding and at all four Fraser children’s christenings. He counted the entire family among his closest friends. He knew that the next thing he’d have to do would be the hardest of his life. He thought about the terrible war that had precipitated this horror unfolding before his eyes.
“Well, gentlemen, my part of the business is concluded.” He bowed slightly to Christie to avoid having to touch him and gave Jamie a warm hug, pushing down on his shoulders so Jamie would bend his knees so Ned could whisper in Ghadlig in the boy’s ear, “I know you memorized my number and your NHS number, son. If you need me, find a way to call me or get a message to me and I’ll come to you, aye? Goddamn English bastards!” Jamie nodded and watched the lawyer leave, the door closing behind him with an ominous thud.
Jamie squared his shoulders and presented himself to his new master, “Sir. I am ready.”
Christie growled, “On your knees, boy. Put your hands on your head and interlace your fingers.” Jamie complied quickly and Christie kicked his legs apart, snarling, “Don’t you dare look at me or any other free person in the face ever again unless specifically ordered. My name is ‘Master.’ Show me you’re not completely Scottish and stupid. What’s my name? Jamie carefully repeated his owner’s title. The words tasted slimy and rotten in his mouth, but he forced them out anyway. Christie’s men approached with caution. One had a stun-stick at the ready which threw deadly sparks and arcs of energy as a warning to the young man. One knelt behind him, ran a chain around his middle and locked it. Jamie felt the pressure of the links burrow into his stomach and winced. He did not resist as his hands were pulled off his head and enclosed in cuffs soldered to the sides of the chain. A “Y” shaped chain was inverted into a broom shape and padlocked to the waist chain. There were fetters on the two short ends of the “Y” which were snapped closed around his ankles. A short chain was attached between his ankles so he could walk with small steps but not run. He was fitted with a wide medical-grade silicone chafe-free collar studded with evenly spaced D rings. Inside the collar were thick bands, impossible to cut. ChrisBond labs had developed these collars because Christie didn’t like the aesthetics of merchandise with marred neck lines. It’d proven to be a nice little money maker on the side. A strong metal- link leash was attached to the collar and had a handsome leather hand loop, branded with “Property of CBE Enterprises.”
Christie yanked on Jamie's leash and led the boy out to a black transporter. He helped Jamie get up into the back and chained him to a bench. The last thing Jamie saw was a thick blindfold being cinched tightly around his head. The two other men climbed into the back and both methodically checked Jamie, ensuring that he was properly restrained. One of them pushed Jamie's thighs apart and pulled a seatbelt buckle from under the bench and pulled a long "V" seatbelt over Jamie and belted him in securely. One yanked Jamie's head back and shoved his tongue in Jamie's mouth and the other squeezed Jamie's balls so hard Jamie screamed. The brothers laughed and one slammed his head against the wall of the transporter while the other inserted a ball gag into his mouth, buckling it tightly. The two men left Jamie alone finally and slammed the transporter's doors closed. Jamie heard the passenger doors opening and soon, the engine roared to life, taking Jamie away from everything he knew. Hours later, the transporter stopped. Jamie was freed from the back of the truck and he figured they must be at a large house, by the way the men's voices echoed. Jamie was dragged onto an elevator and brought to a room that must have been something like a jail cell, judging by the crash of the door. One of the men backhanded Jamie savagely and Jamie thudded painfully onto the concrete floor and the next thing he felt was his collar being removed. He heard an ominous "clink-clank" and what must have been an iron collar was locked around his powerful neck. "You're chained to the wall by your neck, slave. Don't even think about sitting up, much less standing. Stay on the ground like the dog you are and wait for your master." Exhausted and afraid, Jamie stayed on the floor, hoping that Christie would forget about him. All too soon, though, the door to his cell rolled open and Jamie heard three sets of footsteps echoing off the walls. Someone squatted in front of him and removed the blindfold and ball gag. Jamie blinked and coughed as Christie snarled, “Look at my eyes, boy!” Jamie looked up and Christie grabbed his hair roughly, lip curling in disgust, “You will no longer be called by your name, dog. Personal names are for free people. Your name will be whatever I or your trainers want it to be, do you understand? Jamie hesitated to answer and enraged, Christie unsnapped his leash and choked him with it. When he had wrestled Jamie to the ground and had a foot on Jamie’s windpipe, the boy’s eyes widened with fear, his hands scrabbling uselessly against his restraints as he instinctively tried to defend himself. Christie chuckled malevolently and asked, “Are you scared of your Master now, little bitch?” Jamie choked out, “Yes, Master.” Christie laughed, “Good!” and spit onto Jamie’s face and the gob of saliva ran down Jamie's cheek. Christie’s men pulled him up to his knees. Christie screamed in Jamie’s face, “Sit back on your haunches, boy!” Jamie scrambled into position and kept his eyes down as he’d been taught.
Christie continued, “This is called ‘present position,’ and normally, your hands would be palms-down on your thighs. Your legs must always be parted in a wide ‘V’ so you’re available to your master or mistress at all times. Widen your legs, now! Jamie murmured, “Yes, Master,” and grunted in pain as he spread himself open.
“Look straight up, you Hebridean filth.” Jamie looked up into the cold eyes of the man who had the power of life or death over him.
“Your name is now Bitch. What’s my name, you waste of life?”
“Your name is Master Christie.”
“Very good. And what’s his name?” Christie pointed to one of his assistants.
“His name is Master.”
“His name is Mr. Higham. The other gentleman is his twin brother. At Christie Compound, they’re known as The Terror Twins. The proper thing to say to a free person is, ‘Master or Mistress’ and their last name, if you know it, ‘how may I serve you today?’ Let’s try it. How do you address your betters properly, slave?”
Jamie cleared his throat, “Master Higham, how may I serve ye today?”
“What’s your name? Remember? I just gave it to you.”
“Bitch.”
“What’s his name?“
“Master Higham.”
“And what’s your name?”
“Bitch, Master, my name is Bitch.”
Christie ordered, “Open your mouth and stick out your tongue.”
Jamie complied and Christie laid two fingers on his tongue and slid them back and forth. Suddenly, he jammed his thick fingers to the back of Jamie’s throat. Jamie gagged and retched onto the hard floor and accidentally bit Christie. “You miserable sod,” screamed Christie. “Get me a ring gag, now!”
One of the men handed Christie the gag and he shoved the ring behind Jamie’s teeth and buckled the gag. “Never, ever, bite your owner, boy! I can see you have to practice that, so here we go.”
Christie unzipped his trousers and shoved his cock into Jamie’s mouth. “Gentlemen, help the maggot stay upright, please. I don’t want it refusing my generous gift.”
The two men stepped forward and pressed meaty legs against the redhead’s back.
“Go ahead, play with its tits.”
Both men grinned and said thank you. Jamie gritted his teeth as both reached down and massaged and tweaked his nipples. Jamie fought against the rising tide of pleasure in his wame and felt his cock leaking precum. He couldn’t hold back a pleasured moan.
Christie sighed, happy, and pulled out of Jamie’s mouth completely. Jamie sucked in a few breaths and Christie continued jamming his cock forward and back in Jamie’s mouth, loving the feel of his property choking on Master’s cock. With an evil smile, Christie plugged Jamie’s nose. His assistants pulled and pinched Jamie’s nipples until he was screaming in agony, or as much as he could with Christie’s cock in his throat. Christie pushed his cock as far down Jamie’s throat as he could, rumbling satisfaction at the snug hold of Jamie’s muscles. Christie watched in fascination as Jamie squirmed and his handsome face turned red, then white and finally, slightly gray. He pulled out and released his nose. The men stepped back and let Jamie collapse onto the floor. Jamie rolled over to his side and vomited again on the smooth cement floor. He was crying now and his nose was running. Wisely, though, he didn’t attempt to speak or rise but stayed where he was. Christie ordered his men to lay Jamie on the table on his belly. “Clean his face!” One of the men got a rag and spit in Jamie’s face and used his saliva to clean the saliva and mucous from Jamie’s face. They scooped the boy onto the hard surface and Christie arranged him as he desired. He hauled Jamie’s head up and fucked the boy’s virgin mouth again. He growled, “So good, so good, Master’s gonna make you into his best cocksucker, you damn Jock!” He called, “John!” over his shoulder and one of the men ambled over, “sir?”
“Hold its head up, will you, please?”
“Yes, sir,” and the larger man grabbed Jamie’s hair in two different places, using the holds as leverage to make the experience more pleasurable for his employer.
In and out, back and forth, Christie used Jamie as a sex toy. He groaned, “use your tongue, slave, worship your master’s cock!” Jamie tried as best he could and was rewarded with a long, drawn-out hiss of glee, “God, his fucking tongue is as big as the rest of him. I may not auction you at all, boy; I may pay your parents a little more money and keep you for myself.” Christie leered at the helpless Scot, “Would you like that? Being master’s personal whore? I’d keep you chained up in my bedroom, ready for me 24/7. I could let business partners fuck its ass as an enticement to do business with CBE. Or, as a reward, my loyal employees could have fun with it instead of getting a bonus!”
Christie crouched down, grabbed the acquisition’s throat and dug in with his fingernails, “you are a slave. You are my property, like a car, a couch or a jacket. You have no name except the one I give you. You own no property, have no rights and are worthless. Your only goal in life is pleasing your owner. You will address all free men and women as ‘master’ and ‘mistress’, with their last name, if you know it. Children are Mister, Miss or Missy. Remember all of that, pea brain, and you may live to be sold again. Oh,” Christie drawled, “Slaves have no family, no mother or father. Tables and chairs and other property don’t, do they? If you came across your former family somewhere, how would you address them, slave?”
Jamie blurted, “They’re Mam – “ Jamie never finished his sentence. Christie yanked his head up and punched him in the face. Jamie sprawled backwards, bleeding from his nose.
“Belt,” Christie growled. An assistant reached into the bag and pulled out a leather belt decorated with pointed studs.
Jamie saw the belt and he pleaded, “Please, Master, dinna beat me wi’ that. I promise, I’ll be a good boy an’ answer yer questions right the next time, aye, please?”
Christie slapped him and snapped, “My slaves never speak unless spoken to, do you understand?”
Jamie choked on a sob, “Y-yes, Master, I’m sorry.”
The other undid Jamie’s pants and yanked them down with his underwear. Christie grabbed a spreader bar from the bag and undid the shackles, replacing them with the spreader. Jamie was rolled onto his stomach by one man and the other man pulled a couple of flexible lengths of fat pool noodle from the bag and shoved both under his hips. His arms were pulled to opposite sides of the table and chained in place. “Clear out, men,” Christie said quietly, and struck Jamie’s sculpted bottom with the belt. Jamie screamed and wriggled, but he was held in place by Christie’s men kneeling on his shoulders. All he felt was the fiery kiss of the leather and the sinister bite of the studs. He couldn’t feel or think about anything else. His world narrowed to the pain and the warning whistle of the leather as Christie delivered it to its target. Jamie bellowed in pain and tried to push away from Christie several times, but all he got for his trouble was his head slammed into the table. He begged and cried, but Christie kept beating him. After around ten strikes, he stopped. Jamie’s bum was a bloody mess and he felt nothing but pain.
“Well, slave, do you know what you did wrong?” Christie crouched at Jamie’s head and grabbed his curls. Jamie gasped out, “Y-yes Master, I do.”
“Well, tell Master.”
“I-I didna answer the question correctly.”
“And?”
Jamie was confused. What else hadn’t he done right?
Since it was his first day, Christie prompted him, “what else did you do?”
Jamie coughed and whispered, “I tried escapin’ the discipline, Master. Beggin’ yer fergiveness, Master. Thank ye fer tha discipline.”
Christie stroked his head gently, “you’re welcome, boy. Now, let’s kiss and make up.”
To Jamie’s horror, Christie flipped him over, yanked him to a sitting position and French-kissed him, moaning into his mouth. Christie kissed and laved his neck and sucked painful hickeys onto Jamie’s neck. He caressed Jamie’s neck and rolled his nipples between his thumb and forefinger. Worst of all, Jamie’s cock started to stiffen. Humiliated tears ran down Jamie’s face as Christie noticed his arousal with glee, “Oh-ho-ho, someone’s happy to serve their Master!” Christie pushed Jamie down on his back and ordered, “Cut off his pants this time as well as his underwear but leave his shoes – it’s time for Master to have some fun,” Christie giggled. Two pairs of surgical scissors emerged from the duffel bag and soon, Jamie was naked from the waist down. One of his assistants asked, “Sir, would you like us to remove the slave’s shirt while you’re engaged?”
Christie smiled, “Yes, I would. I think both of you can play with it tonight too, if you would like. No penetration except oral, do you understand?” The men nodded, grinned and set to work shredding Jamie’s shirt.
“Oh, by the way, have you ever had intercourse, or are you a good little virgin Catholic sheeple?”
Jamie blushed hotly and stammered, “I’m a virgin, Master.”
Christie clapped his hands in glee, “This just keeps getting better and better. You’re a lucky bitch because I love breaking in virgins. What a treat!”
“Push it to a sitting position, please.” Christie stood and grabbed the whisky bottle and poured three fingers into a glass. He downed it, exclaiming, “Sex with a buzz is so fun!” Christie settled himself between Jamie’s legs and ordered him to watch.
Christie licked his lips and swiped his tongue over Jamie’s cockhead, making the young boy shout. Christie smiled and kissed up and down Jamie’s cock, humming all the time. He got Jamie’s cock good and sloppy and pumped him five times until Jamie was rock-hard. “Give me a cockring,” Christie demanded, snapping his fingers. Give me that lube, too. His cock is going to earn me a lot of money before his auction and I don’t want him damaged in any way.” Christie smeared lube inside the cock ring and slipped it on Jamie’s dick and started pumping his eight-inch hardness. Jamie moaned and the men finished cutting his shirt off. One of them said, “If you bite me, I’ll beat you worse than Master Christie did, do you understand?” Jamie whispered, “Yes, Master Higham,” and the man licked his face and bit his lips. Soon, though, Christie swallowed Jamie’s cockhead and the precum dribbling down his length and Jamie screamed in shock into the other man’s mouth. Christie pulled off Jamie, “I said to let him watch!” and the other man moved away. Christie went back to feasting on Jamie’s cockhead and Jamie couldn’t help thrusting into Master’s mouth. Christie laughed and Jamie gritted his teeth at the incredible sensation of the vibrations against his cock.
Christie hollowed his cheeks and sucked hard up and down Jamie’s length. Jamie groaned in pleasure and shuddered as his orgasm started building. It built and built and Christie kept manipulating his cock. Christie said, "Slaves don't get to come without the express permission of their owner. However, I know that tonight has been a difficult night for you, maggot, so you are allowed to come." Jamie panted, "Thank ye, master," and howled ferally as Christie swallowed his length again. Jamie bellowed and came the hardest he'd ever come in his short life. Christie had pulled off Jamie's cock a second before Jamie's climax and Jamie came all over his own stomach. He shook as Christie tongued his cock through his aftershocks and scooped up Jamie's spunk onto a finger and forced Jamie to eat it. Jamie coughed, groaned and looked imploringly at one of the assistants, begging with his eyes to speak.
“Sir, the maggot wants to say something, I think.”
Christie popped off Jamie’s cock, face flushed and eyes sparkling, “Speak, maggot.”
“Thank ye fer the orgasm, master." "You're welcome, maggot." Jamie opened his mouth and snapped it shut again and lowered his gaze. "P-please," Jamie said quietly, 

"What, maggot? Is there something else?" Christie yanked Jamie's head up by the hair,

"Master, my bum hurts somethin’ awful an’ I -I.  He whispered, "Please, master, help me.”  “Alright, men, shall we help maggot?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Blindfold him and secure him ass-up to the table.”
Jamie’s world went dark and he was lifted and then settled on his stomach. His hands and feet were restrained and soon he couldn’t move.
Christie rooted around in the duffel until he produced a packet of gauze and antiseptic. Without warning, Christie carelessly slopped disinfectant on Jamie’s ass. The poor boy screamed and screamed, praying to God and Mary and Joseph for mercy. He begged his owner for relief, so Christie mopped up the excess disinfectant and let it air dry for a few minutes. The men left him tied to the table and went outside. Jamie collapsed onto the table and sobbed until he was cried out. The men returned and again, Christie poured disinfectant on his ass. Jamie howled and writhed and cursed. He started to dry heave, begging Master Christie for relief again. Christie nodded to the men and they released him. Christie climbed on top of the table and tugged Jamie into his lap, whispering comforting words and kissing his hair, smoothing thick numbing cream onto his blazing-hot ass.
“Shhh, boy, Master is here and he’ll make it all better. You see? It’s much better to obey and be a good slave, isn’t it?”
Jamie groaned in agony as Christie pushed salve into a wound and mumbled, “Aye, Master. I’m sorry fer disobeying ye.”
“You can pray to Saint Peter Claver , boy, he’s the patron saint of slaves. I know you want to be a good boy for me, isn’t that right?”
“Aye, Master,” an exhausted Jamie whispered and began to weep.

Chapter Text

12:00 a.m., Sunday, April 12, 2115, The Duck and Dog Pub, Inverness-shire, Scotland
The lawyer sat in his car in the parking lot of the Duck and Dog and watched the transporter take Jamie away. Ned didn’t know whether he’d see him again, ever. Mortality rates for new slaves was high – many died before their first year was out. Ned knew that Jamie ate well and worked out and prayed that would help him get through the trials that were surely ahead. For the first time in years, the small man simply let himself cry. The family was well-known for its willingness to help others, including Brian’s renters and complete strangers. What Jamie had done, though, went beyond the pale . Ned wiped his eyes and blew his nose and tried to prepare himself for what he had to do next. With a heart seemingly filled with cement, he looked up Brian Fraser’s number in his phone’s address book and pushed the talk button after a short prayer.
“Brian? Yes, it’s Ned. I’m sorry to wake you. I need to speak to you and Ellen, please.” Ned paused so his old friend could gather his wits, “Yes, right now.” Another pause, “Yes, it’s urgent and can’t wait.”
He heard Brian speaking low to Ellen and heard her voice, “Now? Well, it’s Ned, so it has to be important.”
“I’ll be there in 10 minutes. I’d suggest putting on a pot of coffee; this may take a while.”
Ned swallowed a lump in his throat as big as the Great Wall of China and started on the longest journey of his professional life. He was glad that he’d told his wife, Glenna, not to wait up. Married 45 years, she was the love of his life and the rudder with which their family life was guided.
12:11 a.m., Sunday, April 12, 2115, Lallybroch, Inverness-shire, Scotland
Ned pulled his car onto the driveway of Lallybroch and said a short prayer for strength to St. Ivo of Kermartin, patron saint of lawyers.
Ellen had her thick robe on and ushered Ned into the kitchen. Brian and Ellen served everyone coffee but he politely refused any cookies or pastries Ellen had put on the table. His gut was roiling with anxiety and he wasn’t sure he would be able to stomach any food for quite a few hours.
He opened his briefcase and extracted the documents Jamie had given to him, “I need both of you to sit. Come on, Brian Dubh, you too.”
Ellen looked at him with frightened eyes, “Ned, what’s happened?”
Ned knew the best thing was to say it straight out. He took a deep breath and said quietly, “Jamie sold himself today to pay the reparation.”
Ned didn’t bother hiding his tears. The next thing he heard was the most frightening sound - somewhere between an anguished howl and a devastated wail of complete terror, it was the sound of Ellen’s heart breaking clean in two, “Oh, God, no, no, no! Why? We told him not to! Jamie! My baby! Ned, Ned – “ she grabbed his hands, “Mo charaid, tell me it isna true!”
All Ned could do was shake his head quietly, too overcome to make any sound at all.
“Ned,” whispered Brian, “When did he set this up?” Brian’s massive fists slammed again and again into the abused kitchen table, the only way he could express his grief, “and ye knew about his plans an’ didna say anything ta us? Why?”
Ned spread his shaking hands out in helpless appeasement, “Attorney-client privilege, Brian. He invoked it, knowing my hands would be tied. He’s old enough to sign contracts in his own right now, you know that.”
Brian roared, “Bu’ he’s my bairn, dammit! He’s just a baby! I told him not ta do it!”
Alarmed shouts and the sharp echo of doors being slammed against their hinges came from upstairs as the rest of the Frasers tumbled down the stairs,
Ian cried, “Mam, Da, what’s happened?”
Brian whispered, “Jamie sold himself to settle the reparation.”
Murtagh swore and crossed himself, praying for his beloved godson. He pulled out the chair next to Brian and sat down heavily.
“No, Da, tell me he didna, please,” pleaded Jenny. She saw the empty look on her mother’s ashen face and burst into tears, clutching her husband and sobbing into his nightshirt. Ian soothed and embraced her and guided her carefully to a chair.
Willie and Robbie slowly advanced towards the table and sat down, stunned.
Willie ground out, “Da hit Jamie tonight, Ned,” and he glared at his father, “did Jamie mention that to ye?”
“No, not at all. Jamie came to me in secret right after you learned of the letter and demanded that I contact a human asset company,”
Murtagh snorted, “Slavers, ye mean. Ye can call it fer what it is, Ned. We’re all friends here.”
Ellen grimaced at Murtagh, “Please, Ned, continue.”
“He had me draw up a trust he named the Lallybroch Trust. All profits from his final sale, minus taxes, fees and the slaver’s ten-percent cut will be deposited there.” Ned continued after sipping his coffee, “He had me write into the contract that the slaver would pay the trust one-hundred thousand English pounds sterling upon collection, because the slaver mentioned Jamie’s pedigree, height, eye color, hair and build might net as much as three-hundred thousand pounds at final auction.”
“No! it’s blood money an’ we willna use it! Ever! We’ll get him out o’ this, an’ he can have the money back,” Brian shouted.
“But a bhalaich, his sacrifice will be fer nothin’ if we do that, think about it from Jamie’s perspective, please,” Ellen begged.
Ned cleared his throat, “Jamie asked me to distribute his things.” He reached into his coat pocket and addressed Murtagh, “Here’s his rosary. He suspected it would be confiscated and he said you gave it to him as a confirmation present.”
Murtagh opened his hand and Ned let the beloved symbol of Jamie’s faith slip to its new owner. Murtagh looked up, tears shining in his eyes, “Thank ye, Ned. I’m sorry fer snappin’ at ye earlier.”
“I didn’t take it personally. I know how hard this is.”
“Ellen, here is his wallet. Can you keep it in the safe in Brian’s office?”
He held it out to her and she looked terrified to take it, as if putting her fingers on the well-worn leather would make the situation too real. She nodded silently and stayed silent, pressing the wallet against her heart like a talisman.
“Robbie, he put the truck in your name. He was worried and he didn’t want you to be “without a ride,” as he put it. He knows you can’t drive yet, so he requested you let the family use it in the meantime. He paid it off already. Here are the keys.” The boy nodded and closed his eyes. A tear slipped down his cheek and Willie hugged him.
“Brian, here are your father’s cufflinks,” and the lawyer pulled a tiny velvet pouch out of his pocket. Brian’s lower lip wobbled and he angrily wiped a tear from his cheek.
“Brian, Ellen, he closed his checking and saving accounts. Here are the proceeds. He asks that you put that in the trust.”
Ellen took the check and gasped at the amount, “Ned, this is nearly ten thousand pounds! Wh – oh, Dhia, it’s his Europe fund!” She dripped tears onto the check and Brian plucked it gently from her fingers and set it on the kitchen island underneath the salt grinder.
“Jenny and Ian, he gifted you the picture of the three of you from last year from your Munro bagging trip. He said just take it off the wall and to remember how much fun it was.” Ian couldn’t hold his sobs back any more and the large man turned to his tiny wife for comfort.
The last object Ned had in his custody was the hardest to present. He cleared his throat twice and took a sip of water before trying to speak, “Willie, Jamie told me this is his most prized possession because you made it for him.” With shaking fingers, Ned placed the figurine in Brian and Ellen’s oldest son’s hand.
Willie clutched Sawny and moaned hoarsely, “Jamie, why’d ye do it? Jesus, Mary and Joseph, keep him safe, please. He looked at Ellen, I-I-” She squeezed his hand in support as anguished tears poured down the young man’s face. He pushed his chair back aggressively and stood to go upstairs, but as he took his first step, the floor rose up to meet him and everything went black.

Chapter Text

Over the next month, Jamie learned how to be the perfect plaything.  He was taught all the positions his owner might ask him to take, and every day, he was given lessons on how to humble himself in front of another person, to the point of being inculcated with “the fact” that he was no longer completely human and did not deserve to sit on furniture, wear clothing or have any wants or desires; his only purpose was pleasing his owner.  He was given vitamin and mineral supplements and placed on birth control for the duration of his training.

When he resisted for the first time, two months in, he was punished with a session euphemistically named “an attitude adjustment.”  He saw a trainer named Randall mercilessly beating a tiny woman for choking on his cock.  The woman’s screaming as the lash hit her made Jamie see red, and he roared and advanced on Randall, who backed away from the woman even though Jamie’s hands were handcuffed to his sides by his stomach chain.  Jamie’s feet were free enough for him to kick Randall a few times.  Randall rolled into a ball, trying to get away from the infuriated redhead,

“Revolt!” Randall bellowed, as he blew his panic whistle. 

The woman crawled away and Jamie screamed in fury, “Ye’ll not beat that poor girl any more, Master Randall! Leave her be!”

Four trainers came to help Randall and tased Jamie, who screamed in agony and writhed on the floor.  They forced him to his knees and ripped his head up by his curls.

“Get him on the bed, collar him and hogtie him, men,” hissed Randall.  “You didn’t want me to continue to punish that slavegirl, eh? Well then, you’ll take her punishment, boy!” With that, Randall nodded and a ring gag was forced into Jamie’s mouth and buckled securely.  Six other trainers were called into the classroom and each trainer took turns enjoying Jamie’s mouth, forcing him to swallow each man’s spend.  The other trainees in the room were moved so that they could see what happened to resisters.  When they’d had enough, Randall ordered Jamie strung up.  He took out a crop and beat Jamie until he passed out from the pain, his throat raw from screaming,

“You see, men, Christie wants to keep this one pristine until auction, so I’m not using the cat.  If he were my property, I’d use the cat and give him 200 lashes for what he did to me.”

The last part of his punishment was being locked in the training center’s dungeon in the pitch black, chained to the wall by his neck, feet and hands so he could not move more than about 30 cm (one foot). He was given a cup of water three times a day but no more; his begging for water and food were ignored.  He managed to curl up on the damp floor but by the evening of the third day, he started to hallucinate.  He cried out to Mam, Da, Jenny and his family, begging them to take him home.  He saw Donas, his horse, Bran and Lucas, two of the farm’s dogs and had a horrible nightmare of seeing Jenny at a cafe with Ian, Jamie on the floor on his knees with his owner.  When he woke he had salty, humiliated tears on his cheeks.  When the dungeon door finally opened on Thursday morning, Jamie immediately dropped to his knees in position, hands on his thighs and head bowed respectfully.

Randall strode over and sneered, “So, your attitude adjustment seems to have worked wonders, slave, hasn’t it?”

Without looking up, Jamie whispered, “Aye, Master Randall.”

“Well, have you anything to say to me, boy?”

“I-I’m sorry for hurtin’ ye, Master Randall, and not knowin’ ma place.”

“Well, let’s put that learning to good use, boy, “Open!”

Jamie dutifully opened his mouth and tried to suck Randall off as quickly as he could, but Randall pulled out, slapped him and snapped, “slow down, damn you!” Jamie did as ordered and Randall sighed as Jamie finished him and swallowed his come.  After Randall’s punishment, Jamie did not try to help other slaves, nor did he resist any trainer’s orders.

Master Christie was the one to introduce Jamie to all other forms of sex between men.  When Christie was satisfied that Jamie had learned at least basic techniques, he arranged for Randall to take Jamie to be trained to please women.

Randall came to Jamie’s cell in the slave quarters the next day and took him for massage and bathing training.  Jamie took forty hours of basic massage for men and women and learned how to bathe both sexes for their maximum enjoyment. 

After that, Randall took him for sex training.  Mistress Geneva was hated throughout the complex for her brutal treatment of slaves, regardless of gender.  She was no different with Jamie.  She forced Jamie to perform cunnilingus on her and female slaves until Jamie retched and his jaw ached.  When Jamie could make Mistress Geneva orgasm without touching her vagina, she finally took his virginity, much to his sorrow. He had wanted to save it for the woman he’d marry.  She forced him to practice techniques he’d learned from her on female slaves and on herself until he was sore and aching and his member was practically rubbed raw.  There were many evenings when she’d order him to her bed and not release him for two days.  She tutored him on the best ways to satisfy young women, older women, women with kinks, women without and how to deflower virgins without damaging them.  Many weeks and many women later, he was brought to Mistress Geneva’s private training room and a new slave girl was waiting for him, kneeling in position in front of Mistress Geneva.  Jamie came forward and knelt at her feet as well, “Good evening Mistress Geneva, how may I serve ye tonight?” Jamie inquired politely.

“Ahh, yes, Jamie. Good. Service this female,” she cooed, stroking along Jamie’s jaw.  He suppressed a shudder and took the unwanted attention.  After she removed her hand, Jamie stood and extended his hand to the girl, “Come on this way, lass.” He gave her an encouraging smile and she smiled back shakily and quickly lowered her eyes.  He led her slowly to the bed and she sat at the side, not knowing what to do.  He tipped her chin up with a finger, “Is this yer first time, a leannan?”

She blushed and looked down, nodding furiously, “Ye-yes, sir.”

“Dinna call me ‘sir,’ lass, we’re both slaves and equals.”

“Wh-what is your name, then?”

Jamie looked back at Mistress Geneva and she nodded her head, “Jamie, my name’s Jamie.  What’s yers?”

“M-mary.  Nice to meet you.”

Jamie smiled back and patted the bed, “On the bed on yer back, Mary, that’s a good girl.  I know this must be scary fer ye an’ I’ll try ta make it as pleasant as possible, aye?”

Jamie laid down next to Mary and let her get used to his touch.  When she finally relaxed, he gave her a light kiss and was delighted when she kissed him back.  Jamie caressed and nibbled her neck and breasts and made sure that everything he did was suited to her shy nature.  He went down on her and was encouraged when she orgasmed and her wetness gushed over his tongue.  He finished her off and got a thick cotton pad for her to lie on.  He made sure to use plenty of lubricant on his cock and pushed and retreated, pushed and retreated, until he asked with his eyes if she was ready.  She closed her eyes slowly and gripped his arms and looked at him, nodding.  Jamie surged forward and swallowed her pain with a passionate kiss.  Jamie gathered her in his arms and held her for a bit until Mistress Geneva ordered him to take her to the ensuite bath to bathe her and dress her for bed.

 

 

Chapter Text

I am inventing the stuff about the Islet of St. Agnes completely and fully.  If you’re from there, mea culpa! Ambo te ignosce me...

Claire sighed contentedly as she looked out onto the ocean from her custom-built home in Cornwall on the tiny island of St. Agnes off the English coast.  She remembered fondly the first time her Uncle Lamb took her to this wild place – on a well-deserved break from the hot places in Africa and the Indian subcontinent she was used to.  When her Uncle Lamb passed, he left her his investments and life insurance.  He’d urged her to buy a home outright, “for her retirement,” because he knew she wanted to go to school to become a doctor.  She had, indeed, become a doctor, and thanks to her investments growing steadily, had time to pursue side interests – medical herbology and writing.  It surprised her as much as it did anyone when her first novel, Red Highlander, White Rose, had taken off internationally and become a smash hit. Her fans and her publisher were begging her to write a sequel, but Claire wasn’t ready yet. Along with the perks of being an internationally acclaimed author came negative aspects of fame – gossip rags printing all sorts of lies about her, fans wanting to meet her and going so far as to find out where she lived and wait for her to come out. Paparazzi staked out her house and the disturbance they caused her neighbors was distressing enough that Claire got restraining orders against some of them and her neighbors would shoo away any gawkers.  Claire had been very generous to St. Agnes, creating a clinic with a 5-bed maternity ward and the newest in medical equipment so residents didn’t have to go to another island unless it was absolutely necessary.  There was even a medi-copter landing pad on the roof, and one of the local fishermen was on-call as the helicopter’s pilot.  She rethatched the roof of the St. Barnabas Anglican Church and paid for improvements to the one school on the island. 

Today was Saturday, and Claire woke extra early. Her best friend, Joe Abernathy, and his wife, Gayle, were taking the ferry in and were to spend the day with her and leave the following morning.  She bounced around making sure that Mrs. Fitz had left nothing to chance in the comfortable guest suite.  She chose a set of walking shorts and boots, because she’d offered to take her friends on a walking tour of the island.  Joe and Gayle were from the U.S., but Claire and Joe had met in medical school in Scotland, PG (pre-Gayle, as they called it) and glommed onto each other, both being “Sassenachs” and full-ride scholars.  Among their friends they were Joe‘n’Claire, almost like they were one unit, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Where there was one, the other would surely soon follow.  They partied hard, loved each other unconditionally and trusted the other implicitly.  It was an adjustment for Gayle when she met Joe, but Claire embraced her wholeheartedly and soon, the Terrible Twosome became the Triple Threat. 

Claire was there to meet the ferry and squealed as she saw her friends disembark.  They threw their arms around one another and hugged for a long while, then kisses were exchanged, “Alright, Abernathys, here’s the plan:  we drop your things at the house and then go to eat. I have a reservation at my favorite cafe right on the water. They specialize in freshly caught seafood and they make their own sourdough from a mother culture flown in especially from San Francisco’s coast.  It’s to die for!  Then, dessert and a short tour of the island.  There are some lovely shops to look at; the island put the kibosh on horribly touristy things, but you can buy lovely handcrafted items that were made 100 percent on the island by island residents – nothing made overseas.”  Triple Threat made short work of dropping luggage off at the house and Claire happily gave them a tour, including showing them her barn, where a stallion and a mare were resting, “This is Fearg whose name means fury and this is Molagan, or pebble.  They are a bonded pair.  I ride Molagan and I have a trainer come out every few days to work with Donas, who’s quite stubborn, but is learning.  They were rescued from a bad multiple-species hoarding situation.  I hope to be able to ride them both one day.” She smiled and pulled two cookies out of her pockets, “Come here, loves, come get a cookie,” she cooed.  Molagan walked right up to the Dutch door of her stall and stretched her neck out.  Fearg watched her get her treat and soon did the same. 

The three soon left the house to go into the village for lunch.  The weather was perfect and only a slight breeze was blowing in from the ocean.  They came to a crosswalk and waited patiently for the light to change.  In the distance, Claire could see a very large man with a shorn head carrying several packages.  She recoiled when she realized that he didn’t have a scarf on, but a slave collar.  The leash attached to the collar was being held by a tiny slip of a woman.  The indicator changed to “walk” and everyone started across the street.  As the man got closer, she could see he was very young – probably not even twenty-five years old.  His stubble was a tawny red and he had red stubble on his cheeks and chin.  Claire paled when she saw his cheekbones standing in jagged relief on his sunken face.  He had an old bruise over one eye and dark circles under both.  As the boy and his handler got nearly abreast of Claire and the Abernathys she could see that the woman was very fashionably dressed with no hair out of place.  The boy was at least 6’2” (190 cm), clothed in rags and barefoot.  He could have easily overpowered the woman who couldn’t have been more than 5’ tall (152 cm), but it was evident that he was afraid of the person holding his leash.  Claire’s head whipped to the right as she heard truck brakes being applied with great force.  The squeal was deafening and Claire watched aghast as the boy was struck and tossed into the air like a rag doll; packages, one of which turned out to be a bakery cake, flew every which way.  He landed on his right shoulder and screamed in agony as a sickening crunch was heard.  Stunned, the boy laid on the pavement unmoving, but before he could even attempt to right himself, the woman was standing over him, screaming, “You’re a clumsy good-for-nothing slave, you know that? I was planning on serving that cake to dinner guests tonight, you imbecile! Furious, she yanked his head up and slashed at his face and body with a crop.  The boy tried weakly to protect himself, arching his arms over his face, crying out, “Please, Mistress Geneva, I didna mean to! I fell! I’m sorry!” He curled himself into a tight ball and sobbed and then was suddenly quiet.  Without even thinking, Claire ran over and grabbed the crop out of the woman’s hand, “Stop beating him! He was hit by that truck and fell, he couldn’t help it,” she yelled. 

Mistress Geneva snarled, “How dare you!” And slapped Claire so hard the other onlookers gasped. 

Joe had been right behind Claire and was there to catch her. He made sure that she could stand and they immediately knelt down next to the boy.

Gayle came over to run interference between Mistress Geneva, the boy and Claire.  At 5’11, Gayle lifted weights to stay healthy and had chosen a lovely lacy sleeveless blouse for lunch.  Geneva’s eyes grew wide as she took in Gayle’s muscles.  Gayle said very quietly, “Lady, I suggest you BACK THE FUCK UP right goddamn now before I get really angry.  First, I want your name and contact information. Second, my husband and friend are doctors and they’ll see to the boy."

Suddenly, Gayle had a flash of inspiration and called an officer over, “Officer, I’d like to report physical assault by this woman on Dr. Claire Beauchamp.  This woman slapped Dr. Beauchamp.”

The officer got out his notepad, “Is this true, ma’am? Did you assault the other woman?”

Geneva turned red and started blustering, “I-I-she deserved it! She stopped me from disciplining my slave!”

The officer grimaced, “Ma'am, you are under arrest for physical assault on Dr. Claire Beauchamp.  Please turn around and interlace your fingers on your head.”

Geneva paled and started to walk away, “You have no idea who you’re dealing with, do you?"

The officer caught her easily and smirked, “And now we can add evading arrest to your list of charges.”

“They can’t assume custody of it, I’m that slave’s custodial trainer!” Geneva stammered nervously.

Gayle addressed her very simply as one would a toddler, “Yes, we understand - and if you’re really a government-certified trainer,” and she snickered derisively, “you know that in an emergent situation like what just happened, if two MDs determine that a slave needs medical attention, the custody of said slave is temporarily transferred to the two of them." Gayle got her cellphone and opened the notes section, “Name?” She barked.

“Geneva Dunsany.”

“Home phone?” Gayle got all of Geneva’s information so there was no way Geneva couldn’t be contacted. 

"Is his tattoo current?”

Geneva nodded silently.

“Good. Then the hospital will know whom to call when he can be released." With that, Gayle spun on her heel and joined her husband and Claire, who were both kneeling over the unconscious boy, checking him for any breaks or concussions.  The police had had arrested the driver already, who smelled very intoxicated.

The police officer installed Geneva in his cruiser and walked over to Claire, “Excuse me, Doctor Beauchamp?”

Claire looked up, irritated at the interruption, “Yes, officer, how may I help you?”

The officer saw her face and felt compelled to remove his hat, “Is it correct that Ms. Dunsany assaulted you earlier?”

“Yes, officer, it is.  May I get back to my patient, please?”

“Y-yes ma’am,” the officer stuttered sheepishly - Claire’s annoyed look was exactly like the one his mother used to give him when he was a boy - and scurried back to his cruiser. 

Claire could see that the boy’s right shoulder was dislocated.  She and Joe maneuvered him to a sitting position and Claire popped his shoulder back.  Before they could lower him to the ground again, the boy’s eyes flew open and he shouted in a language none of them recognized.  An older man leaned forward and said, “That was Scottish Gàidhlig. He said he was awake.”

“Would you please ask him his name?”

The man addressed the boy quietly, who looked around fearfully but did not utter a word.

The man asked for Claire’s pardon and knelt before the boy, murmuring something that sounded comforting in his ear.  The boy, in turn, whispered something in the man’s ear.  He stood back up and said, “Begging yer pardon, Madam, but I simply advised him that that awful besom is gone and he needn’t be afraid.  Oh, and his name is James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, ma’am, but he says to call him Jamie.”

“Can Jamie speak and understand English?”

The man questioned Jamie, who nodded slowly and turned his head toward Claire’s voice.  Claire had never seen such beautiful, haunted eyes.  They were a very light shade of blue, like a Caribbean ocean.  Jamie breathed in quietly as he really saw her eyes – the eyes of his Da’s favorite aged whisky with green and gold flecks dancing in them looked back at him.  Her skin was ivory and her cheeks were rosy from the exertion of yelling and setting Jamie’s shoulder.

Jamie ventured nervously, “Mistress, am I injured verra badly? Ma auction price will drop if buyers see me as damaged merchandise,” he amended quietly.

Claire closed her eyes and swallowed as her stomach flipped in disgust at the boy’s statement, “I don’t think so, Jamie.  I reset your shoulder and gave you some acetaminophen for your pain.  The ambulance will be here quickly and they’ll give you something stronger.  Do you mind if I look into your eyes? I want to check for concussion.”

“No, Mistress, whatever you want.”  The boy turned his head and looked away, seemingly not caring what happened to him.  Claire and Joe knelt next to him again and Claire gently tipped his chin in their direction.  Joe checked his eyes and murmured, “Beauchamp, I don’t like what I’m seeing.  Take a gander.”

Claire took the proffered penlight and asked Jamie to follow her finger.  He was having trouble following her finger and she asked, “Are you seeing double, Jamie?”

“Yes, Mistress,” he sighed quietly.  “May I close my eyes, please?”

“Why, yes, of course you may, you don’t – “ and Joe placed a warning hand on Claire’s arm.

“Go ahead, Jamie,” said Joe.

“Thank ye, Master,” Jamie murmured and his beautiful eyes slipped closed.

Joe signaled to Claire to come with him, “Jamie looks and acts like he’s a slave in training.  They have to learn to ask for everything – for food, water, sleep, even to relieve themselves or close their eyes in front of free people.  They are conditioned to believe they aren’t human and don’t have basic privileges like bathing, clothes and sitting on furniture.  It’s to ensure absolute obedience to the person who buys them at auction.  Jamie belongs to Christie Enterprises, which is notorious for harsh treatment.  That’s why he didn’t resist his Mistress when she beat him with that crop, Claire.  He was terrified of worse consequences when they returned to the training center.”

The ambulance pulled up and Jamie was loaded onto a stretcher.  Claire objected when the paramedics went to chain him to the gurney but they shrugged apologetically, “We have to, Doctor, he’s a slave.”

Tears stung her eyes as she and Joe climbed in the back of the vehicle and the doors were slammed behind them.

Chapter Text

Claire and Joe spoke to the front desk as Jamie was wheeled into x-ray for images to assess the state of his shoulder.  An hour later, he was in a room resting in a room on a slave ward with Claire and Joe at his side.  They had indeed signed papers for temporary custody of Jamie physically, but they were not able to prevent Geneva from coming that afternoon after she got herself out on her own recognizance because hospitals were public facilities.

Jamie had a peaceful look on his face until he heard Mistress Geneva’s high-pitched nasal whine.  He immediately stiffened and started to tremble, lowering his eyes.  She strode up to his bed, “Well, slave, I hope you enjoy this little vacation.  I was talking to Master Christie and he’s putting you in next Friday’s public auction at the livestock pavilion.  Do you know who my father is, boy?”

Jamie blushed and looked down, stuttering, “y-yes, I do, Lady Geneva, he’s Robert Dunsany, the 5th Earl of Helwater.”

She smirked, “Good slave.  Since you know who he is, you’ll know he made a fortune by investing in Apple years ago and is a millionaire.  I like how you fuck, boy, and I’m buying you on Friday!” She smiled greedily and Jamie’s wame sank.  He felt like vomiting. He knew she’d end up killing him some day, whether by abuse, neglect, or a shot to the head delivered in a fit of pique.

Claire and Joe were silent during this exchange, but when Joe saw tears threatening to fall from Jamie’s eyes, he stepped in, “That’s enough, Dunsany. Get out, now!” 

Claire had sprung up from her seat, ready to mix it up with the bitch in front of her, but Joe placed a restraining hand on her forearm.

Geneva cocked a haughty eyebrow at Claire, smirked and cooed to Jamie, “Until next Friday, slave, then the fun begins!” And the bitch sauntered out the door.

Jamie relaxed as the sound of her stiletto heels faded in the distance.  He took a deep breath and asked to lie back on his pillows and close his eyes.  As he did so, Claire and Joe were alarmed to see tears coursing down his face.  Claire took his hand, “Jamie, what’s the matter?”  Jamie couldn’t even wipe his eyes because his hands were cuffed to the bed rails.  She took a tissue and gently dabbed at his face.  Her gentleness only made the boy cry harder.

Claire got a fresh tissue for him to blow his nose.  Jamie’s tears had stopped but he just shook his head miserably and refused to speak.  Joe took Claire to the side, “Look, Lady Jane, I know you mean well, but I think this may be easier to talk about with another guy.  Can you step outside and let me have some time? I’ll come get you when we’re done, alright?”

Claire’s eyes filled with tears, “I’m not upset about leaving him because I think you’re right. I’m upset because I think this means that he’s faced overwhelming abuse and it breaks my heart.” A couple of tears rolled down her cheeks and Joe smoothed them away, “Alright, LJ, go get a coffee, I’ll come get you.” Claire fished her wallet and phone from her purse and started towards the door. 

As Claire was about to pull open the door, Jamie cried, “Mistress, please!” Claire turned to face him, Please! Dinna leave becaus’ o’ me! I’ll be a good boy, I promise!” More tears streaked down his face as he desperately tried to convince her to stay.  He fought his restraints wildly, trying to get to her.

Claire started to cry in earnest and resolutely tugged on the door and ran into the hallway, hearing Jamie’s last “Mistress!” echoing off the walls of his room.

Joe shushed Jamie, “Jamie, listen to me.  Claire will be back, do you understand?” He searched the slave’s face for any comprehension of what he’d said and found none, so he took Jamie’s face in his hands, “Jamie. STOP.”  Jamie’s eyes were wild, darting around, looking for Claire.  Joe tried again, “JAMIE FRASER! PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER, SON!” To his relief, Joe finally saw Jamie come back to himself.  “Alright. That’s better. Here,” and Joe held a cup with water and a straw to Jamie’s lips.  Dutifully, Jamie drank and sank back on his pillows, exhausted.

“Mistress Claire went to get a cup of coffee, that’s all.  She’s had a stressful day to begin with and sometimes she cries to get rid of tension.  Please don’t blame yourself for that.”

Jamie gazed gratefully at the American, “Aye, Master, thank ye.”

“I’m going to ask you a direct question and I want an honest answer, son.”

“Yes, Master.”

“Alright.  Why did you start to cry after Mistress Geneva left?”

Jamie blushed, “because I’m afraid she will win the auction.  She’s come very close to killing me several times already and might have had there not been someone to curb her excesses.  She’s an extreme sadist and if I become her private property, I won’t grow old at all.  She’ll use me up and kill me when she’s tired of me.  That’s what happened to her last pleasure slave; at least, that’s the rumor.”

“Well, fuck,” said Joe, and Jamie smiled for the first time in a long time. “Okay, now we know what we’re dealing with.  Does Christie know how much she abuses the slaves?”

“Och, he may but I dinna think he cares.  Hopefully I’m wrong, though.”  

Jamie was cleared to leave hospital the next day and a transporter came to pick him up.  Two guards took him away, but not before he had taken the time to thank Joe and Claire for their kindness.  Jamie was fairly certain that if they’d not been there his arm wouldn’t have been fixed so quickly. 

Claire and Joe left the hospital as well and rejoined Gayle.  The Abernathys had managed to extend their vacation by the two days they lost when they helped Claire care for and protect Jamie.  As soon as they got home, Joe and Gayle set about making dinner and Claire excused herself.  She entered her cosy office and got a legal pad and pen and searched through her speed dial.  Finding the number she wanted, she pressed the green button and waited, “Yes, may I speak to Mr. Gowan, please?”

Ned came on the line, “Claire! It’s lovely to hear from you! How are you?”

“I’m well, thank you Ned. How are you and Glenna?”

“Oh, we’re just fine, puttering around as always.  Ned and Moira had been married for 45 years and she was his touchstone in a world that somehow continually befuddled him.

Claire had become his client while she lived in Scotland.  He’d been recommended by a work colleague.  “How may I help you today?”

“I want to buy a slave at the next public auction.  Is there anything different about buying a slave than anything else at auction I should know about?”

Ned wasn’t sure he heard her correctly, “You want to buy a slave, Claire? May I ask why?”

“Well, it’s one slave in particular.  I saw him get hit by a van today and he was beaten by his trainer for falling.  His auction is next week and she wants to buy him.  I can’t let that happen, Ned.  He told Joe and me that this woman murdered her last slave.  I realize this is totally out-of-character for me, but Ned,” and she paused and drew a shaky breath, “I need this man in my life, Ned. It’s the craziest thing.  I can’t even explain it.”

“Did you know him as a free person?”

“No.  But I’ll tell you what.  He exactly matches my hero in my book.  He has eyes as blue as a calm Caribbean ocean, is about 193 cm (6’4”), has the most beautiful red curly hair I’ve ever seen, and is severely underweight at about 185 lbs (84 kg).”  While Claire was talking, Ned had gone to the credenza and shakily poured himself three fingers of Fraser’s Special, slopping some over the rim of the tumbler, and took an enormous gulp.  Uncharacteristically, he interrupted his client, “And his name is James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser,” he finished in a jagged whisper.

“Why, yes, how did you know that?” Claire wondered.

“I went to school with his parents, the current Laird and Lady Lallybroch, in the Scottish Highlands.”

“Wow. Okay, is there anything I should know?”

“Well, you have to pay the ten percent Live Asset tax on his sale price.  Other than that, no.  I would say Jamie will be extraordinarily lucky if you win that auction.  I will advise you, though, that I’ve seen boys like Jamie get auctioned before.  The last well-built, handsome son of a house like Jamie’s went for three hundred thousand pounds, Claire.  His family has owned their farm for over 300 years and was traditionally responsible for all the farmers and renters living on their lands.  The bidding is likely to be quite brisk for Jamie.  He’s fluent in French and Gallic and is wonderful with horses. If you win the auction, you may want him to work with your devil, Fearg, for a while.”

First thing post-auction is to get him checked out by my best friend at the hospital.  Then I’m going to take him home to Mrs. Fitz and her job is to feed him until he’s healthy.  She can’t wait,” Claire laughed.  Claire was hoping that having another Highlander around would be comforting for Jamie.  She knew Mrs. Fitz spoke the Gàidhlig and was forever getting her to try Scottish food.

Ned laughed heartily, the first time all day, “I’ll just bet.  She’s always clucking and fussing over you that you’re too thin.  She’ll be on cloud nine.”[1]

In fact, Mrs. Fitz had already made up the guest suite with the king bed for Jamie. It had a full bathroom and was quite luxurious.  Claire had asked Joe to go get Jamie some clothes and shoes and they were washed and waiting for him as well.  Mrs. Fitz had announced she wanted to have Jamie take a bath and then get into bed and have a grand dinner until Claire showed her a picture of Jamie and how unhealthy he was.  Mrs. Glenna Fitz burst into tears, pronounced him a “puir wee lamb” and went into broth- and soup-making mode immediately.

“Claire, just to be sure, I would recommend having at least five hundred thousand pounds available. Alert the bank of your intentions so an automatic fraud block doesn’t cancel out your bid, okay?”

“I just checked my bank balance and I have cash reserves of five million pounds. I already talked to the bank and told them on pain of losing me as a customer to let any transaction at the auction house to go through.”

“Grand. Ah, Claire, I have a personal favor to ask, please.”

“Anything, Ned.  What is it?”

“If you win the auction will you allow me to talk to Jamie’s parents and let them know he’s landed with a good Mistress?”

“Yes, I will.  On the condition that you keep my first name and location out of it.  At this point, I don’t think freeing him immediately will be in his best interest.  I want to get him healthy first and then we can talk about counseling and whatever he needs to be able to function as a free person.  Can you tell me why Jamie’s a slave if the rest of his family are free, Ned?”

“Yes. This information will be divulged at the sale anyway and is recorded in his contract with Christie, which is a publicly accessible document.  Jamie’s father and mother were part of the separatist movement during the last war.  The reparations placed upon the Fraser family were so great that Jamie felt like the only way to keep a roof over his family’s head was to sell himself because the reparations are due soon.”

Suddenly, Claire remembered a story her uncle had told him of his war days.  She blanched and sat down heavily and didn’t say anything for a full minute.

“Claire? Are you quite alright?”

“Ned,” she croaked, “Is Jamie’s mother’s first name Ellen? Is his father’s name Brian?”

“Yes, lass, why?”

She swallowed clumsily, her tongue feeling as dry as sandpaper suddenly, “Because Ellen Fraser saved Uncle Lamb’s life during the war. She rescued him from a mob of Scots!”

Now it was Ned’s turn to be astounded, “Lambert Beauchamp is ‘Uncle Lamb?’ He was your uncle,” Ned whispered weakly and sank into his favorite chair. “Holy God, Claire, I never put you and he together. I did think it strange you had the same name as the man Ellen saved, but I thought it was just a weird coincidence!  May I tell the Frasers of the connection?”

“Yes, of course! I’ll free him as soon as we can get the papers drawn up and a court order to get his tattoo erased but please don’t tell them about my intention to free him, though. I’ll have to give Jamie time to recover somewhat but this changes everything.  I can buy him a vehicle or hire a car to take him home when he’s well enough.”

“Ellen and Brian may want to thank you in person, Claire.  How would you feel about that?”

“Oh,” her brows furrowed, “I don’t know about that.  Please don’t tell them about my writing, just tell them I’m an MD and can nurse Jamie back to health, alright? And please tell them about Glenna being Scottish and all mother-henny, alright?”

Ned laughed, “Aye, lass, that I will.  I’ll wish ye good luck on Friday the 20th, Claire, but ye won’t need it if I ha’ measured your mettle correctly all these years.  Please call when you’re in the Highlands next and the three of us will have dinner at the house.  Glenna will be over the moon ta see you.”

“Alright, Ned.  Love to you and Glenna, bye.”

The next day was Tuesday and Claire went to the Psychiatry floor to talk to some counselors about the best way to introduce Jamie to her household.  She was met by Marsali MacKimmie, a willowy blonde who smiled graciously as she led Claire to her office. “Coffee or tea?”

“Oh, a coffee with two creams would be lovely, thank you, Dr. MacKimmee.”

“I think we can dispense with the doctor stuff since we’re colleagues.  How about it?” The blonde asked with a smile on her face as she handed Claire a perfectly doctored coffee.

“Agreed,” Claire smiled happily.  “I’m Claire Beauchamp from Surgery, Marsali.”

“Alright, Claire,” the blonde smiled, “so what did you come to see me about?”

“Well, I’m buying a slave at the Somerset House auction on Friday and I’ve never owned another person before. This case is a little different, because I intend on setting him free as soon as he’s healthy.”

“May I ask why?”

“Yes,” Claire smiled. “His mother saved my uncle’s life during the last war and I just found out this boy is her son.  He sold himself to pay for reparations leveled against his family’s house and I intend to set that right.”

“I see,” mused the blonde thoughtfully.  “Alright.  First thing is, he needs to decide when he sees his family even if he is healthy.  He may be ashamed of his conditioning or afraid for his family to see him in his new state.  Ask him to decide and give him plenty of time to do so.  Also, you need to give him time to get used to how your household works.  He will have been conditioned not to sit on furniture or sleep on beds.  So if you sit down to eat, he will have been trained to kneel at your side.  Wherever you are, that’s where he’ll want to be, kneeling at your side because that’s what he’s been conditioned to do.  You will have to put a utensil in his hand along with the food and order him to eat it, or he’ll just wait and not do anything.  He will ask permission for everything and I’m afraid that’ll drive you a bit nutty, but please, be patient with him.  Don’t even try to modify his behavior for at least 14 days, okay? Also, if you have a bed for him and he doesn’t use it, don’t question him.  Second, most slaves are not given clothing, so please just ask him to wear a minimum like a T-shirt and shorts until he’s more acclimatized or he takes to long sleeves and pants right away.  I would take him to get measured for shoes, since he probably won’t have any.  In terms of bathing, be sure to tell him to bathe with soap, water, shampoo and conditioner, or whatever you want him to use.  Specifically mention that he may use hot water and towels to dry himself.  Tell him he’s allowed to use the toilet as well.  Some slaves get punished for doing so.”

“My housekeeper has been preparing broths and easy-to-digest soups since he’s severely underweight,” volunteered Claire.

“Oh, that’s good to hear.  That was the next thing I was going to say.  Most slaves aren’t fed every day and food is often withheld as a punishment.  His stomach probably shrank.  I’d start out on a BRAT (Bananas, Rice (white), Applesauce, Toast (white)) diet, as if he has had a severe flu. Lots of your housekeeper’s broth and drinks like Pedialyte for now.”

“I’m sure I don’t have to mention this but I’m going to anyway so I don’t feel guilty later. Some slaves sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds, Claire.  Are you prepared financially for that?”

Claire smirked, “Marsali, what’s that book on your desk?”

“Oh,” Marsali blushed, “It’s wonderful escapist fiction. Julia Moriston is a great writer.”

Claire smiled, “Yes, the real Julia Moriston was a wonderful woman.”

Marsali looked puzzled, “Pardon me?”

“Julia Moriston was my mother, Marsali.  I wrote Red Highlander, White Rose.  I want you to keep that quiet, though, only Joe Abernathy knows here, okay?”

Marsali’s mouth crashed to the floor, “YOU’RE JULIA MORISTON?” she whisper-shouted.

“Yep, that’s me! And you know, I was thinking of developing a new female character.  Would you mind terribly if I used Marsali?”

“Mind? Mind? Fuck no!” and aghast at her unprofessionalism, the blonde blushed inferno red and clapped a hand over her mouth and said (with her hand still over her mouth), “Oh God, I’m sorry!”

“No problem, Marsali.  That was Joe’s reaction, too.” Claire smiled gently at her new friend.

After Marsali had collected herself, she continued, “Before you leave, Claire, I’d like to touch on a sensitive subject,” Marsali said quietly.

“Yes?” Claire shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

“Sometimes in these types of rescue situations the slave becomes very attached to his or her new owner and is unwilling or psychologically unable to separate from them when their former owner has freed them.  I’ve seen it happen dozens of times. Please be careful, okay?”

 

*************************************************************************************

 

The morning of the auction dawned clear and sunny. Jamie and other slaves were herded into a transporter to be moved to the auction house. Once there, their heads were shorn to prove that they weren’t infested with lice or had other issues, and they were bathed if they needed it. Makeup was applied to cover disciplinary marks and the slaves were divested of pubic hair regardless of sex.  Women’s legs and underarms were shaved, as were men’s faces and necks.  Jamie’s tiny friend Mary was with him and he held her hand as often as he could, knowing that his very presence gave her courage. She was brought to her place on the stage first and then it was Jamie’s turn.  He was walked across the stage and his wrists were locked into handcuffs soldered to a waist chain.  A heavy iron collar was locked around his neck.  It was carabiner clipped to an iron ring embedded in a solid beam behind his head with a scant 12” (30 cm) chain and his feet were shackled shoulder width apart (for better balance) to the floor.  A much lighter silicone collar emblazoned with “Somerset House” was above the iron one, complete with three evenly spaced “D” rings, ready for a leash so that guards could escort him to his new owner.  It had two chips in it – one with Jamie’s identification and one that could trigger an electric shock if he tried to escape.  The duration and intensity of the punishment was controlled by the guards via remote control.  The men and women were placed several feet apart so that potential buyers could walk completely around their bodies.  One by one the rest of the men and women were put on display, completely naked and helpless.  A screen shielded them from the audience until the auction.  Jamie could hear people coming in and being registered. 

The lights were dimmed and an unseen man addressed the crowd, “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  My name is Joseph Worthington, your master of ceremonies and auctioneer.  Today is August 20.  Welcome to Somerset House’s live asset auction.” The crowd applauded heartily. Mr. Worthington continued, “Here are the rules of the auction.  Failure to comply by the rules may result in your bids being nullified and your ejection from the auction house. Particularly egregious flouting of rules may include temporary or permanent ban from this house and its worldwide subsidiaries.

“Number One: You may not, under any circumstance, touch a live asset until it has been signed into your custody. You may talk to them, tell them a particularly atrocious dad joke,” Here, the MC had to stop to allow for the crowd’s laughter,” Or tell them your Aunt Martha’s cracking pancake recipe. But keep your hands to yourself, please.”

“Number Two: All sales are final.  If a bid is made on an asset and the bidder is found to be lacking the necessary funds to satisfy the debt, your bid will be canceled and you will be temporarily banned from all Somerset House’s auctions for no less than six months.”

“Number Three: After purchase, all slaves must be kept in complete restraints until they are removed from Somerset House property.  They must be secured in your vehicle.  You will be held responsible for any damage done by your slave to Somerset House property.”

“Number Four:  You’ll see guards onstage during the bidding and the viewing.  Their orders must be obeyed completely and immediately, for your safety, their safety and the live assets’ safety.  Failure to comply may result in suspension from Somerset House auctions.”

“Number Five:  This should be understood without having to be said, but you wouldn’t believe what some people try.  Bidders must be at least eighteen years old and have a valid, government-issued signed photo ID they can produce.  If you’re lucky enough to look younger than that, please, I’m begging you, come see me after the show so I can discover your secrets,” The MC grinned and the crowd hooted.

The MC took a remote from his jacket pocket and pressed a green button.  The screen shielding the slaves rose slowly.  “At this time I’d like to invite all prospective bidders to the stage to inspect the merchandise.  Please use caution when climbing onto the stage.  We have people to assist anyone who needs it.  There’s a wheelchair ramp at the right end of the stage.”  The MC gave the crowd a couple of moments to get onstage and start mingling.

Unfortunately for Jamie, the first person he recognized was Mistress Geneva.  She grinned wickedly at him and said, “Just you wait, boy.  I’ll be taking you home at the end of the day and I can hardly wait.  I’m going to wreck you!” She glanced around and saw that the guards were otherwise occupied.  She leaned in and kissed him, forcing her tongue in his mouth.  Jamie tried to move his head back but she followed him.  Just as the besom broke the kiss, Jamie heard an indignant hiss, “I saw that, you cunt!” And there she was, Jamie’s whisky eyed angel.  Geneva spun to face Claire and taunted her, “What’re you going to do? I’m going to win this auction! My father’s friends with the owner and Marcus MacRannoch practically guaranteed me I could have Jamie!”

“Alright, you amorphous blob of nothing in a meat suit, let me school you on a couple of things,” and Claire ticked her answers off on her fingers: One. Gravity affects everything on this planet. Two: Crunchy peanut butter is an abomination. Three:  You don’t fuck with a Beauchamp!” Claire snarled at Geneva and advanced toward her with hands up, clenched into fists.  Geneva paled at the sight of Claire’s fists and scurried off to the bidders’ hospitality tent.

Jamie cracked a smile at Claire, “Mistress, ‘amorphous blob of nothing in a meat suit’?”

Claire blushed, “Um, yeah.  I thought of that insult a while ago while ironing and stored it away. Taaa-Daaa!” She curtsied and laughed and Jamie did the same. “I’m bidding on you today, Jamie, and nobody but nobody can beat me when I put my mind to it. My paddle number is 321.”

Jamie smiled, “Confidentially, I hope you win.  Beggin’ yer pardon, Mistress, but my friend next to me, wee Mary, she was a culinary college student before she came into the trade. Do ye have an idea of anyone who could use her? She sold herself to pay for her sister’s college education.”

Claire held up her index finger for silence and then said, “Eureka!”

She dug out her phone and pressed on a name in speed dial.  She held the phone up to her ear for a moment and then cheekily intoned, “Yes, this is a call from Mothra to Godzilla.  Do you accept the charges?”

She giggled, “Listen, Frankenstein, The Mummy has your cook problem solved. A young female here at auction was a culinary school student before going into the trade to pay her sister’s school.  You interested? Ok, smashing. What’s your ceiling? Oh. Very nice. Good. Ok I’ll let you know, Paul Bunyan. Kiss Babe for me. Right. Johnny Appleseed out.” Claire clicked off the call and grinned, “Done and done, Jamie. Let’s hope nobody else bids for Mary.  Well, it looks like I might be holding up the line.  I’ll talk to you later, I hope, Jamie.”

“Aye, Mistress, thank ye.” Jamie inclined his head as he couldn’t kiss her fingertips as he wanted.  She turned away and he gazed wistfully after her and whispered, “Gabh ann an sìth, m ’aingeal donn dìoghaltais (go in peace, my avenging brown-haired angel).”

A churlish voice shook Jamie out of his reverie, “Well, look who we have here!” Frank Randall stood sneering at Jamie. “I’ll be bidding on you today, my sweet, easy fuck. I have the cellar in my house all kitted out for you, slave, and I can’t wait to introduce you to my friends and all my new toys. I can’t wait to stick my cock in that ass and then make you lick it off, you piece of garbage.  I get hard thinking of dragging you around the house on a leash, on your hands and knees like the dog you are.  Do you remember the first time I fucked you?  Just imagine that pleasure every damn night, maggot!” Jamie stayed silent with his eyes cast down during Randall’s diatribe.  Laughing, Randall drifted away.

A few minutes later, the MC announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, let the auction commence.” Every slave was presented to the crowd and one by one, they were unchained and led to their new destinies.  Finally it was Jamie’s turn.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a very special animal here. It’s 23, one-hundred percent Highland Scot. It is the second male product of a Laird and can trace the sire’s line back to the Norman invasion and the mare’s line back to 10th century Scotland. It is fluent in English, Gallic and French and is used to working on the sire’s family farm. It has naturally curly red hair, light blue eyes and has a six-pack to die for. It can read, write, do maths, drive and enjoyed a full pre-university education before coming into slavery to pay reparations levied against his sire’s estate for the last Scottish uprising. As you can see, it’s a little thin. Turns out, a bull like this can be motivated with food withdrawal. However, its paperwork shows that it’s only had one broken arm and a perfectly healed right shoulder dislocation. It’s good with other beasts, especially dogs and horses, and loves human children. It would be an excellent, exceedingly protective nanny for the little ones. And ladies, sperm count and motility are extremely high. It could be used as a pleasure slave or as a breeder to cover your mares to increase your herd. You could rent it out to stud and make money that way. Its center assured me that they used this bull to break in its virgins, as they would be ready for service in two days and not over a week, as with traditional methods. As you can see,” and Jamie grew increasingly tense as the MC walked in his direction, “it has a lot to work with.” To Jamie’s horror, the MC produced a small bottle of lube and squirted some on his hand and slicked up Jamie’s cock. He gripped and massaged it, doing anything to get Jamie to come to full hardness. The MC reached under Jamie’s legs and rolled his balls gently in his hand. Jamie could only stand there and take the abuse and the MC smiled as he saw Jamie’s pupils blow wide and turn dark. The MC grasped Jamie’s root and squeezed and set up a quick rhythm of sliding his hand up and down Jamie’s hardening shaft. Jamie panted and gasped and whispered, “Master, please, no,” and then begging with his eyes for the other man to stop. The MC ignored him and continued gripping his shaft and palming Jamie’s cockhead until it was an angry purple and his fully erect cock bobbed up and down slightly. It was all Jamie could do not to burst into humiliated tears. The MC proudly showed off Jamie’s cock for the cameras and then took Jamie the rest of the way. Jamie couldn’t help bellowing in pleasure as his come splattered all over the floor. The crowd broke out into loud applause. As soon as Jamie’s humiliation was over, a slave scurried forward with cleaner and a rag and wiped up the Scot’s spend. Another came behind her with a bowl of warm water, soap and a towel for the MC. “Alright, Ladies and Gentlemen, this unit has a reserve of one hundred thousand pounds. Do I hear one hundred thousand?” Several paddles raised into the air. “Excellent, do I hear one hundred fifty thousand?” The same number of paddles went high. “Do I hear 200?” One less paddle hit airspace, “Do I hear two-fifty?” all remaining paddles stayed up. “And three hundred, do I hear three hundred?” There were only four paddles raised this time. Jamie looked out into the crowd, but the setting of the lights prevented him from seeing the paddle numbers and he realized that was probably intentional. The bids climbed past three hundred and the MC said, “Do I hear four-fifty? He looked towards paddle 86, “Madam, are you bidding further?” He received his answer and said, “Do I hear five hundred? Five hundred thousand pounds for this magnificent stud?” He nodded at the two bidders, “Thank you both.” Do I hear fifty-five?” Again, two paddles raised in the air. Ladies and gentlemen, the bid now stands at five hundred fifty five thousand pounds. A high feminine voice shouted, five seventy-five!” The MC looked at the person who made the bid, surprised at her outburst, “Very well. Do I hear five seventy-five?” Yes? Thank you. Do I hear six hundred? Yes, a bid from the paddle on the left side of the room. Madam, are you going to place a bid? Alright, thank you. I have six hundred thousand pounds on the left side of the room, going once, going twice, SOLD! To the bidder on the left hand side of the room. Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve witnessed history today. This stud is the most expensive unit to ever be sold at a public auction anywhere in the world. Congratulations to its new owner.” The audience members broke out in loud applause again.

Jamie was led offstage, his face was wiped of all makeup as was the rest of his body.  He was given simple paper shorts and a pullover paper shirt and cheap flip-flops.  He was given a bottle of water and ordered onto his knees to wait for his new owner.  Claire’s skin crawled when she bought restraints for him, but at least that way she could buy fur-lined ones guaranteed not to chafe.  Jamie and Claire’s information was entered into the new collar she brought and it and the restraints were taken from her and brought to Jamie.  He shuffled out of the ready room and into the reception room. “Kneel for your new owner, slave,” intoned one of the guards.  “Yes, Master,” and Jamie complied.  He hoped Claire had won the auction but they hadn’t used names, just genders to talk to the bidders. His prayers were interrupted when the door opened with a God-awful creak.  Jamie would never forget this moment.  He sat still, not daring to look up, because he hadn’t been given permission.  Quiet footsteps were muffled in the cheap carpet.  A pair of feminine, very attractive legs encased in dainty shoes stood before him.  A finger hooked under his chin and she whispered, “Look at me, Jamie.”

He looked up and a dazzling image met his exhausted eyes – a halo of dark curls, whisky eyes, full rosebud lips and ivory skin saturated his sight.  He grasped her hands in his and kissed them repeatedly. As tears streamed down his face he whispered, “There ye are, my angel.”

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_Nine

Chapter Text

Ninety minutes earlier than our last scene, Lallybroch, Inverness-shire, Scotland
Ellen and her whole family sat in the TV room after Saturday dinner, reading the paper, clicking it, crocheting or, in the case of Rabbie and Willie, playing a long-standing game of chess. The wee ones were all in bed, having tired themselves out fishing, chasing each other and swimming in the pond earlier in the day. The day had been perfect – sunny and warm, gorgeous picnic weather. The adults all talked quietly to themselves or watched the news on the big screen TV mounted over the fireplace. Ellen was watching a report on rising seafood prices. When that ended, the announcer intoned,
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a special report for you tonight. The highest auction price for a single slave was reached today at Somerset House in England.
Suddenly, a full-face and two side views of Jamie materialized on screen. Ellen paused the show and yelled for everyone to be quiet, “It’s Jamie they’re talkin’ about! Hush!”
Everyone quieted down and Jenny stifled a sob when she saw the sloppily camouflaged bruise on Jamie’s face and his gaunt appearance. She whispered, “Oh, Dhia, Ian. Look at him, he’s been abused an’ is mos’ likely starvin’!” And her warm brown eyes filled with tears.
Ian was transfixed, seeing his best friend, “Aye, I know, Jenny, I see it. Hopefully he has a good owner now.”
Ellen and the rest of the family cried silent tears as they listened to the story.
“It was sold for the record price of six hundred thousand pounds, an international record. From public records, we know that it is 23, 6’4” (193 cm), blue eyes, red curly hair and the product of a highland laird. It sold itself into service to satisfy reparations against the family’s estate from the last Scottish War. We at BBC would like to congratulate the unit’s new owner.”
Brian stood up to his full height and screamed at the screen, “Ma Jamie is no’ a Goddamn product, a unit or an it! He’s a human being, ye damn English bastard!” He roared in anguish, pivoted crazily and threw his crystal highball glass into the fireplace where it shattered and the flames licked hungrily at the jagged remains. He sank back into his easy chair and dug his heels into his eyes, sobbing out his heartbreak.

Somerset Auction House, Reception Room
“Madam, my name is Mr. Higginbotham. if you’ll follow me, I’ll be happy to escort you to the Cashier’s Office,” a balding man in a dark suit intoned.
“One second, please.” Claire removed Jamie’s restraints,
“There, it’ll be easier to walk and move about, won’t it?” She smiled at Jamie, and he felt as it the sun was caressing him. “Jamie, will you come, please?”
The employee was shocked and thought to himself, “Dammit, must be a virgin owner. I can’t stand these people.” He addressed Claire, “Madam, you are required to restrain your purchase while on Somerset property. It’s for your protection and ours. I hope you understand.”
Claire’s mouth evaporated into a thin line, “I have a collar on him, isn’t that enough?”
Higginbotham barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes at this newbie, “I’m afraid not, Madam.”
Claire bit out, “Yes, of course. I apologize for the oversight.” She yanked the leash from her bag and tried hooking it to the front “D” ring with fingers shaking with rage. The eye bolt clinked and missed its target several times and Higginbotham could see that Claire’s agitation was mounting. He was just about to intervene until Jamie whispered, “Mistress? Kin I help ye, please?”
She looked up into his kind blue eyes and was lost. “Y-yes, thank you, Jamie.” His eyebrow cocked up ever so slightly and she saw humor twinkling in his eyes as his massive, incredibly warm hand engulfed hers. He gently took the eye bolt from her trembling hand and secured the leash to the “D” ring and handed the loop of his leash to her.
Irritated, she grabbed the fur-lined manacles, waist chain and fetters and held them like they were going to bite her, “I have no bloody idea how to put these on you, Jamie. I’m so sorry.”
Higginbotham stepped up, “Here, Madam, I’ll do it.”
She snapped, “You’ll do it gently and not hurt him, do you hear me, Higginbotham?”
Higginbotham envisioned her getting stomped by an elephant, but said in an oily voice, “Of course, Madam.” He quickly put Jamie’s restraints back on and they headed to the cashier’s office.
Claire settled the account with the Cashier and she and Jamie walked outside. In order to comply with Somerset House regulations, Claire held on to Jamie’s leash – with her pinky finger. As trained, he walked two paces behind her. She was enjoying the feeling of the sun on her face when she stepped on a pebble and started to fall. Jamie rushed forward and steadied her, “Here ye go, Mistress, are ye on yer feet now?”
She looked up at him and breathed, “Yes, Jamie, thank you so much, I appreciate it. These shoes are new and not really broken in yet.”
They reached Claire’s Land Rover and Claire reluctantly secured Jamie inside the vehicle, but not before she gave him a large canvas bag. “Okay, Jamie, I have to make a call. Here are water, warm broth and and a bit of Mrs. Fitz’s homemade bread. There’s a banana and applesauce in there, too. These things should be easy to digest.”
Jamie stared at her like she’d grown two heads, “M-Mistress, is all this good food fer me? He stared at his largesse, “This is, this is – free-people food,” and his voice cracked, “Too good for the likes o’ me.”
Claire swallowed hard and addressed Jamie gently, “Jamie, it is my wish that you try this food. Try to eat slowly. When I come back I want to see that you tried at least a couple of swallows of each. Try and eat at least one bite of bread, banana and applesauce, too.”
Jamie whispered, “Thank ye, Mistress.” He looked down at his bounty again and heard the locks click, securing him in the vehicle. As soon as he saw his Mistress turn her back, he fell on the broth like a starving animal. It tasted almost exactly like Mam’s and tears ran down his face. He drank four gulps before he remembered to drink slowly. He reluctantly put the broth down and switched to water and didn’t gulp this time. He bit into the banana and closed his eyes in ecstasy. It was his first fresh fruit he’d had since entering the trade. He followed bites of banana with applesauce and slowly chewed on the wonderful bread that reminded him of Mrs. Crook’s.
Claire’s first call was to Mrs. Fitz, “Okay, I have him. Is his suite ready?” She paused for a minute, “Excellent. I gave him your food and he-he,” she swallowed a lump in her throat, “He said it was free-people food, Mrs. Fitz.” She listened for another few minutes, “Yes, I know. I felt awful hearing that. I think your idea of him bathing and directly to bed is best, Mrs. Fitz. So we’ll see you in a bit, yes?” Claire smiled. “Right-o. Goodbye.”
The second call she made was to Ned Gowan, “Ned? Yes, Claire here. You can call his family but don’t tell them I’m going to free him, yes?” She listened to Ned for a minute, “Yes, actually, go ahead and tell them about my writing, just not my real name. Everything needs time right now. He has food and is waiting in the car.” She listened intently, “Yes, that’s right. Taking him home now. Alright, goodbye, Ned.”

Chapter Text

Brian had just poured everyone whisky after they’d seen the report on Jamie.  Eyes reddened with tears of anger and sorrow looked blankly at the others in the room or stared off into space.  Ellen was beside herself and sat in shock.  Brian pulled her up to his lap and cradled his wife, knowing that this was the best way to soothe her.  Suddenly, the ring of the house phone ripped through the living room,

Brian yanked the receiver from the cradle, growling, “Aye? Och Ned? Weel, we all just saw that Jamie was sold for six hundred thousand pounds and we’re all just tryin’ ta process it righ’ now.  Brian listened for a few seconds, “Aye, Ned, we’ll see you in a few.  Just let yerself in.  We’re all in the TV room tagether.”

Ten minutes later, Ned let himself into the front door.  He took off his coat and hung it in the wardrobe and walked into the kitchen.  Brian raised his hand wearily and gestured to a healthy dram of Fraser’s, all ready for their guest.  Ellen and Jenny had gotten some snacks out of the kitchen and put them on the kitchen table for everyone as well as sodas for those who wanted them.

Ned sat down with the rest of the family in one of the comfortable chairs and opened his briefcase, “Alright, let’s get down to brass tacks.” He laid several documents on the table.  “I have good news.”  The small man cleared his throat and continued, “Jamie’s six hundred thousand pound sale price, as you probably know by now, was the largest ever set for a single slave, ever, in the entire world.  The proceeds less CBE’s advance of one hundred thousand pounds, CBE’s ten percent cut, the auction house’s cut and taxes means that the Lallybroch Trust will net $374.000 (£271,034), was enough to satisfy HM’s Exchequer with the money you were able to pay from your accounts.  All the monies have been transferred to those thieving bastards and, as of 8pm tonight, you own Lallybroch free and clear again.”

Brian and Ellen shook Ned’s hand, Ian and Jenny embraced and Willie and Rabbie hugged one another.

Ellen spoke up, “I’d like to offer up a toast to the man who made all of this possible – “ and waited until all stood up, “James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser,” her voice broke as she said MacKenzie and Brian rubbed her back to soothe her. 

“Hear hear!” Cheered the family in unison.

Ellen looked carefully at Ned, scarcely daring to voice the next question, “Ned, have ye any news of Jamie?”

Ned smiled broadly, “Aye, my lady, that I have.  Jamie’s new owner doesn’t want her name to be revealed, as I am sure you can understand.  She is an MD and met Jamie by chance.  She and some friends were enjoying a day downtown when they saw Jamie out in public with his trainer.” Ned adjusted his glasses, “I must warn ye, the next part will be hard to hear.”

Brian encouraged his old friend, “Aye, a charaid, we’re listenin’.” 

“Weel, Jamie and this trainer were crossin’ the street when his new owner was in the middle of the crosswalk as well.  As she tells it, a car didn’t stop in time and Jamie was hit.  He fell, of course, and his right shoulder was dislocated.”

Ellen gasped and Willie slammed his fist on the table.  He growled, “Was the driver stopped, at least?”

Ned grimaced, “Yes, he was.  It was later determined he was drunk.”

“Jamie’s trainer had loaded him down with bags and parcels and became enraged when he fell and dropped them, including a cake she wanted to serve to dinner guests that night.  The wee besom castigated Jamie and started beating him, right there in the street.  His current owner confronted the trainer and forced her to stop the abuse.”

Ian cleared his throat, “Tang Dhia!”

Ned went on, “It turns out that this doctor’s best friend and his wife were with her.  I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but if two MDs determine that a slave needs medical help, they can elect to take temporary custody of the slave to make sure he or she gets proper medical care, and that’s what the two doctors did.”

“They took him to the hospital?” Asked Rabbie, “Right?”

Ned beamed, “Yes, and Jamie’s owner and her friends accompanied him.  Later when the trainer tried to come and intimidate Jamie, she was chased off by the three of them.” 

“Ned, how is it that you know this woman?” Willie asked, puzzled.

“She’s a client from a long way back, Willie.”

“Ned, if she works for NHS, how on Earth would she get the funds to pay that much for Jamie? Do you have any idea?” Jenny finally spoke up; it was a rarity for her to stay quiet for so long.

“Hmmm, well, let’s see.”  Looking around the room, Ned spied what he was looking for, “Ian, bring me the second book from the left on the third shelf there, please.”

“Aye, Ned, here ye are,” Ian passed it to him with an easy smile.  Ned held the book up so all could see it.

“Thank you.  Everyone, the woman who now owns Jamie wrote Red Highlander White Rose,” Ned ended with a flourish, grinning like a madman.

The room was completely silent for a couple of seconds and then pandemonium broke out.

“Jamie’s owned by Julia Moriston?”

“That can’t be true, Ned!”

“Get out o’ town!”

“Weel, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!”

“She’s ma favorite guilty pleasure!”

Rabbie’s uncharacteristically rough “holy crap!” made everyone stop in their tracks and burst out laughing.

Ned continued, “I can assure you, Julia Moriston is one of the kindest, gentlest people I know.  Jamie is in the best possible hands.  She’s half-Scot by blood and all Scot when she gets angry.  Then the gloves come off.  I can assure you that she has never owned another person previously and wouldn’t now except what that trainer did made my client see red and she didn’t know of a more effective way to help him.  She has a Scottish cook, some outdoor cats, two indoor cats named Bill the Cat[1] and Loretta Divine and horses that Jamie can take care of, that’s how much I know at this point.  I do believe she said something about buying some guard dog puppies for Jamie to train.  Although, honestly, I don’t think Julia will let him out of bed for at least a week, if not longer, and her cook won’t stop stuffing Jamie with food until he’s as round as a Christmas goose.  I’ve enjoyed the lady’s cooking and Jamie’s in for a treat.  I am positive that he will be given clothes, books, the opportunity to bathe regularly and a room in the main house to sleep as well.” 

Ellen walked over to Ned and flung her arms around his neck, “Oh, Ned, thank ye, ye’ve taken a horrible weight off our shoulders.  I could kiss ye!” And with that, Ned received a kiss on the cheek from Ellen and Jenny.  He sat down, red as a Valentine’s Day heart and gulped his whisky.

“Ned, call Glenna, get her over fer dinner. We’re having lamb, aye?

“Oh, yes, thank you, I shall.  I’ll be back in one minute.”

Ned returned a minute later, smiling, “Glenna says thank you for the invitation and she’ll be over in a minute – she’s just taking a cranachan out o’ the oven.” The Frasers all groaned in delight. Glenna Gowan was well-known in their circle of friends for her cranachan.  It seemed to always have a little bit “more” of something mysterious that made it really special.  Even Ellen admitted her cranachan couldn’t hold a candle to Glenna’s.

The energy over the dinner table was lighter than it had been for months.  Ever since Jamie had disappeared, Ellen insisted on setting a place for him at the table, in hopes that he would come home one day.  Willie had placed Sawny next to his glass and the snake gleamed gently in the candlelight. 

Claire checked on how much Jamie had eaten and explained that they were going to go to the hospital so Joe could give Jamie a thorough check up.  Drowsy from the warm broth and unaccustomed food, Jamie barely heard her.  Claire felt terrible when she had to wake him to get him out of the car, but insisted that he be taken to the exam in a wheelchair.  Jamie didn’t like that at all, but certainly didn’t dare complain.  Claire got a lump in her throat when he was handcuffed and shackled to the wheelchair.  Jamie was so used to being restrained he hardly noticed the restraints clicking into place.  Claire went to the trunk and pulled a bag out.  Jamie admired it surreptitiously.  Maybe mistress would let him carry it – he’d pretend it was his.  It was beautiful, made of gorgeous buttery leather with a matching strap and sturdy brass hardware.  The zipper was well-made and whisper quiet.  The brand’s tag fluttered in the breeze, twisting enough so Jamie could see the name. “Jesus, it’s a Barbour[2].  I couldn’t afford one of these when I was free,” he thought sadly.  Mistress said quietly, “Jamie, can you carry the bag on your lap, please?” 

“Aye, Mistress Beauchamp, it’s a pleasure wi’ such a beautiful piece,” and Jamie blushed, realizing he’d given his opinion without being asked, “beggin’ yer pardon, mistress,” he hurriedly added.

Mistress smiled at him and his panic vanished, “I’m glad you like it, Jamie.”

They arrived in the exam room and Claire demanded that the restraints be removed.  Begrudgingly, the guard at the door removed them.  Claire shut the door and picked up the thin gown at the end of the exam table, “Alright, Jamie, I’m going to leave the room and I want you to take everything off, put on the stupid gown and Joe got you some boxers that you’ll find in the bag.”

Jamie looked at Claire in alarm, “Leave me by mysel’, mistress? Are ye sure?”

Claire looked Jamie straight in the eye, “Jamie. Do I look like the type of woman who isn’t sure of what she wants?”

Jamie blushed and mumbled, embarrassed, “No, mistress, my apologies for ma rudeness.”

Claire stepped out of the room and Jamie put on the boxers, also Barbour.  He looked hurriedly at the rest of the clothes in the bag – a pair of pants, socks, two T-shirts and he gasped as he saw the warm, cloud-soft button down, for its pattern was Fraser of Lovat plaid.  Joe entered quietly and hugged and kissed Claire in greeting, “Lady Jane!  The Boss-Lady says hello and you need to come over for dinner next week, okay? JJ hasn’t seen you and he asked Gayle this morning, porridge smeared on his face, where his Atie Caire was! His hands up in that ‘whut?’ pose. Claire, oh, I thought I was gonna die, trying not to laugh at your nephew!” Joe snorted and Claire giggled.  Jamie stayed on the examination bed, not moving, not reacting to what the free people were talking about.  Slaves should be seen and not heard unless addressed and given leave to speak.

“Alright, Jamie, how’re you feeling?”

“I’m fine, master, thank ye fer askin’.”

Joe fought the urge to scream “Don’t call me master!” but knew all that would do was terrify the boy.<

“Alright, Jamie, can you open your mouth for me, stick out your tongue and say ‘Aaaaaah?’”

Dutifully, Jamie did as asked.  Joe went on to listen to his heart, lungs, take his pulse, take a sample of blood to test his blood sugar and said quietly, “Jamie, I’m going to palpate your ribs and internal organs and just make sure that everything’s where it needs to be, alright? I promise, I’ll be as gentle and quick as I can.”

Jamie breathed slowly, trying to quell his rising panic.  Any second now, Dr. Abernathy would feel his ribs and know his secret. Joe was at Jamie’s back and reached up slightly to palpate the next couple of ribs.  He swore under his breath as Jamie stiffened and let out a nearly imperceptible whine of pain.  Joe glanced at Claire, murder in his eyes, “Jamie, were you recently beaten?”

The tension in the room was so thick, Jamie could practically taste it.  What if Mistress Claire brought him back to the auction house as damaged goods? Who would win his next auction? It could be Mistress Geneva or Master Randall! Jamie started to breathe harder and shallower and the room jerked crazily.  His traitorous wame flipped and flopped like soapy clothes in a washing machine, and why was it so blasted hot all of a sudden?

Claire sensed Jamie’s panic and moved in front of him, “Jamie?” she searched his eyes, a cloudy, glassy gray-blue, blown wide, “Jamie? Can you hear me?”

Suddenly, the huge man dropped to his knees in front of his mistress and crouched low on his knees, head on the floor in front of him, hands clasped behind his back weeping.  He begged, “Please, mistress, ah Dhia, please, dinna send me back as damaged goods! I’m sorry! It was my fault!” He cried out, “I- I refused to eat and Master Jenkin punished me fer it, as ‘e should ha’.  I’ll be a good boy fer ye, mistress, I swear it! I’ll do everythin’ ye say and eat whatever ye give me wi’out complaint - ”and he tore his hands from the small of his back to support himself on the floor on all fours. 

Knowing what was coming, Claire grabbed the small garbage can and shoved it in front of Jamie at the same moment she stepped back.  She supported his forehead head gently over the can and he vomited up the food he’d eaten in the car.  Jamie coughed and spit until there was nothing left in his stomach or his mouth.  He sank back on his haunches, sobbing from exhaustion and embarrassment.  Joe got some wet paper towels and a cup of water and told Jamie to swish and spit into the rubbish bin.  Claire got on her knees in front of him and cleaned his face and stroked his hair and did her best to soothe him,

“Ss-s-shhhh, Jamie, it’s alright, everything’s fine, you’ll see.”

He looked at her in despair, “Ah-ah’m so sorry about the food I wasted, mistress, it tasted so good,” and he burst into fresh tears.

“It’s really okay, Jamie,” she smiled gently at him, “you’ll get more when your stomach is more settled, okay?  Right now I want to get you to the car and take you home.  For right now, just sit on the exam table again, alright?”

“Yes, mistress,” Jamie whispered. 

Claire stepped outside and called John and Hector, “Hey – is there any way you two could help me? I need to get Jamie home and he just vomited during his exam.  Also, is there any way you could bring Mary?  They’re friends and I’m sure Jamie will feel better seeing her.”

Claire listened for a minute, “Really? Okay, thanks. See you at the hospital.  We’re at Level One, room 115, okay?”

Thirty minutes later, John Grey and his husband, Hector Bingham, arrived at the hospital to help Claire and Jamie.  John stayed in the exam room with Jamie in case he felt sick again.  Hector and Joe stood outside with Claire and set up a date for their next dinner party.  When Jamie was fully clothed and in the wheelchair, Hector said, “Jamie, we’ve a surprise for you,” and smiled.

The door opened and Mary threw her arms around Jamie’s neck, “H-he-hello Jamie! Masters John and Hector are going to let me cook for them! Can you imagine?”

Jamie smiled tiredly, “Och, Mary, tha’s wonderful, lass.” He held her on his lap all the way out to the car and she never let go of his neck. 

When they reached the car, she kissed him gently, “You’ve been a good friend, Jamie, thank you for everything.”

“Ach, mo luchag bheag (my little mouse), ‘twas my pleasure.  I’ll see ye in a bit,” Jamie smiled and settled into the car for the ride to his new future. 

 

About thirty minutes later, Claire pulled into the garage and John, Hector and Mary pulled into the driveway with Mary in their backseat.  John, Hector and Mary got out of their car first and waited for Claire to open the passenger side door to help Jamie out. Claire led the way into the house, calling, “Helloooo, Mrs. Fitz, we’re home!”

“Aye, Doctor, I’m gettin’ a roast chicken out o’ the oven now, I’ll be with ye directly.”

“Would my men like to stay for dinner?” Claire smiled, knowing that Hector and John loved Mrs. Fitz’ cooking like all her friends.

“It’s not too much of an imposition, is it?” asked John, anxiously.

“Pffft, no, ‘tisn’t!” giggled Claire.  “Alright Jamie, wagons ho!” and the petite woman with the enchanting curls led the way to Jamie’s new quarters.  He hoped he’d at least have a mattress to sleep on – he didn’t need sheets, a blanket or a pillow, as he’d conditioned himself to do without, since he almost never had those types of luxuries since entering the trade.

When Mistress Claire opened the third door on the right, Jamie couldn’t believe his eyes – a real bedroom, with a king-sized bed, a downy carpet and an ensuite bath,

Timidly, he asked, “Mistress, would this be yer room, then?”

She smiled gently, “No, Jamie.”

He looked at her puzzled, “Mrs. Fitz’ room or a guest room for free people?”

Claire swallowed the rock in her throat and replied, “no, Jamie, this is your room for as long as you’re with me.”

He looked at her, astounded, “MY room?” His mouth twisted into a confused frown, “I- I know ma place – I’m yer slave - I’ll be fine sleepin’ on the floor on a pallet in the kitchen or outside in the barn I saw wi’ the other animals; mistress, please!”

Mary gasped at how Jamie addressed Claire and to everyone’s surprise, Claire’s eyes narrowed, she spun on her heel and barked, “Jamie, stay!” She marched into the kitchen right up to Mrs. Fitz and promptly burst into tears.

“Och, lassie, what is it?”

Claire wiped her eyes angrily, “He-he keeps saying he’s not good enough for what I’m giving him and now he doesn’t want his room!”

“Alright, alright, there there,” soothed the older woman.  You go out there and send the boy in ta me and we’ll see who’s telling who what’s what!” Mrs. Fitz winked at Claire and Claire smiled despite herself.  She marched back into the living room, stood up straight and tall in front of Jamie and commanded, “Go see Mrs. Fitz in the kitchen, Jamie!”

He looked at her and paled, “Yes, mistress, right away, mistress.” He took off for the kitchen at double-time. 

Claire invited everyone into the family room with the large hearth.  A fire was already warming the room.  Claire noticed how Mary silently folded herself onto her knees on the floor at John’s side.  She served everyone drinks and small snacks and put some on a plate in front of Mary.  John said, “Mary, you may eat that food and drink from that cup if you wish.”

She replied softly, “Thank you, Master.”

Jamie walked in to a very modern kitchen with a very short rotund woman at a large AGA range.  The entire kitchen would have been Ellen Fraser’s dream – all AGA appliances.  The woman turned around and addressed Jamie in perfect Gàidhlig, “What do ye think ye’re doin’, laddie, questionin’ our mistress and upsettin’ her so?”

Jamie blushed ten shades of red, “I’m sorry, Mistress Fitz, I was so horrified, th’ likes o-“

It was here Jamie was cut off again, “NO! The mistress knows what she wants, she knows what she’s doin’ and she’s tryin’ the best way she knows how to make a situation with which she is also very uncomfortable as bearable as possible!  I’ll not have ye makin’ her cry again, James Fraser!”

Jamie felt positively sick, “I - I made my mistress cry?” Tears sprang to his eyes.

“Aye, lad, ye did.  It may no’ ha’ been intentional, but ye did. Please, son, I know you’re a good boy, I kin feel it.  Trust in Dr. Beauchamp.  She knows what she wants and what she’s doin’, wi’out a doubt.  Now, dry yer eyes and go apologize to her, aye?”

Jamie gave Mrs. Fitz a grateful hug and went to find his mistress.  When he found her in the living room, he gracefully sank to his knees beside her club chair and tried to relax.

After Claire’s guests left, she was about to go into her bedroom when she remembered Jamie was here.  She hurried back into the living room and he was still kneeling beside her chair, not having been allowed to move. 

“Jamie, I am sorry I kept you waiting.  Please come with me,” she said.

“Yes, mistress,” answered Jamie softly, and rose to follow her.  Before she turned around to lead him into his room, he took a chance, “May I speak, mistress?”

“Yes, you may speak, Jamie.”

“I apologize for defyin’ ye earlier, mistress.  I’m not used to kind treatment and I was shocked.  However, that doesn’t excuse my rudeness.” He straightened his shoulders, “I’m ready fer my punishment at yer pleasure, my lady.”

Claire’s eyes softened, “I’m not going to punish you for that, Jamie.  I would ask, however, that you try to adjust to me giving you things so that you can live as normal a life as possible within the system to which we are both currently bound.  If you have questions or are confused, please try to wait until we are alone so I may explain what’s going on in my head.  Please keep in mind that I’m a virgin – “ she blushed nearly purple and Jamie couldn’t suppress a tiny grin, “you’re the first person I’ve ever owned, and I’m just getting to the point where I can say that without jumping off the nearest tall building.

Now, I want you to go into the bathroom and shower. Use everything and anything in the bathroom, hot water, cold water, towels, flannels, soap, conditioner, shampoo, everything, because it’s all yours.  There’s a robe and shaving items in there as well.  Mrs. Fitz has placed washed pajamas in the dresser here,” and she pulled out a drawer filled with soft sleep shorts, T-shirts and classic pajamas.

“Your underwear is in this drawer, your socks in here, T-shirts in here, sweaters in here,” she pulled out each drawer showing Jamie the amazing array of clothes just for him.

“If they don’t fit or please you I can donate them.  There are pants and shorts in the closet, okay?  Go take a shower and dry your hair and come and find me before you go to bed, alright?”

“Yes, Mistress, thank you fer everythin’, truly.” The large redhead nodded his respect to his lady and disappeared into the ensuite bath.

Jamie closed the door to the bath and looked around in wonder.  There was a separate shower and extra-long tub, a towel warmer and the shower already had scent-free products in it. He found a razor and foam and a brand new toothbrush and toothpaste.  He brushed his teeth first, reveling in the clean, slick feeling after months of not having access to such things. He found towels and a flannel and hung them on the shower wall, which was so big that the towels wouldn’t get wet at all.  He turned on the hot water and adjusted the temperature.  He stood under the hot spray and tried to let all the stress of the past day flow down the drain, but what flowed instead were tears that came so thick and fast Jamie felt safer sliding down the enclosure wall until he was sitting underneath the spray, as if he were in the tropics in a cave, sheltered from the flowing liquid.  It was only then that he felt safe enough to release his emotions.  He cried for the slaves he’d seen beaten, like Alistair, because he’d spilled gravy on his mistress’ lace tablecloth; Amy, starved to death, because she refused to rape another slave; Joseph, flogged to death for allowing his young master to climb a tree - the boy had fallen and broken his arm.  He wept for the people they’d left behind, like he had his family.  He cried for the heartache he created and for the abuses he’d suffered.  He prayed thanksgiving for the kind people he’d met along his journey – his friend Mary; Jenelle, another slave who risked double punishment by sneaking him a hot buttered roll that’d fallen off Master Randall’s dinner tray when she delivered it.  He’d thrown it at her, made her pick it up in her teeth and crawl to the door of his chamber.  He’d ordered her to throw it out in the kitchen.  Jamie was in solitary confinement for one or the other imagined sin and his cell was on the way to the kitchen.  With a quick look around, the aromatic buttery warmth was airborne and then in Jamie’s stomach.  He’d been out with Master Esslington one day when a sausage vendor with a broad Highland accent “dropped” a sausage on the ground and asked the Englishman with a sneer if he could “feed the manky food to your monkey boy.” Master Esslington had laughed and allowed it.  When Esslington was distracted with something happening down the way, the vendor winked at Jamie, tossed the dirty sausage in a bush behind him and quick as lightning nestled a clean sausage with a bit of mustard in a warmed bun and shoved it in Jamie’s shaking hands.  

Esslington never heard Jamie’s whispered “tapadh leat,” or the burly vendor’s “Dia a bhith maille riut (God be with you).”

Jamie was utterly exhausted when he could finally stand again and finish his shower.  He felt cleaner than he had in months.  He dried himself carefully and made sure to leave no water on the floor or counters.  He slipped on the sleeping shorts and T-shirt mistress had gifted him and went to find her.  He found her in the living room.  She smiled as he came near, “feeling better?”

“Och, yes, Mistress Claire, much, thank ye so much.”

“Alright. I guess you’ve had an exhausting day.  One thing I’d like to try is for you to drink a little bit of broth for the calories and a bit of Pedialyte – just one to two swallows now and a few in the morning to make sure you get some electrolytes in your system, okay?”

The boy nodded, a serious look on his face.

“You go and get under the covers and I’ll bring your things, alright?”

Jamie bowed slightly, as he’d been taught, “as ye say, mistress.”

He walked into his room and got into bed.  Mistress knocked on the door a minute later, “Jamie, it’s Claire, may I come in?”

He had to stop himself from snorting.  He thought sarcastically, “Of course ye can come in, I have no rights – I canna say no!” but he bit his tongue.

She entered and bade him to try the Pedialyte first and then the broth.  He seemed to be able to keep both down, so she bade him a good night.

Jamie snuggled down under the covers a bit more, not sure if this was all real or he’d wake up to someone screaming at him to wake up and service them.  He was so drained that his eyes remained open for approximately five seconds before he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

[1]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_the_Cat - A/N: I named my orange cat after this cartoon character :)

[2]  https://www.barbour.com/us/barbour-leather-medium-travel-explorer-bag-uba0008br71

Chapter Text

Jamie slept from 5:00 p.m. on Friday night to 8:00 p.m. the next evening. Claire had come in several times to check his pulse and heartrate and after he’d slept for a full twelve hours, clipped a heart rate monitor on his finger to ensure that he was alright.  At one of her check-ins, she sat on the edge of his bed and just looked her fill at his beautiful face.  She could see faint bruises from past beatings but she couldn’t change that now.  A few months of good sea air, exercise and Mrs. Fitz’ food would put him right.  She checked on him every about every thirty minutes and was satisfied with his vitals when he started to stir.  She smiled as she saw his eyes crack open, “Good evening, Jamie, have a good sleep?”

He pushed himself up in bed and with a horrified expression, fingered his collar and rocketed out of bed, crawling on all fours to her.  He knelt low over her feet, pleading, “I’mma so sorry, Mistress Beauchamp, I fell asleep – I didn’a mean to, I swear!  How may I serve ye, please?”

Claire paled and thought fast.  She nudged her hand into her medical bag by her feet and was reassured when she felt the sedative-filled syringe at the tips of her fingers.  She withdrew her hand slowly so she wouldn’t frighten Jamie, but he was already so afraid of her he was literally shaking, too spooked to even look at her.  She remembered that Joe had warned her not to expect Jamie to look her in the eye because slaves weren’t supposed to do that to free people.

She lowered the tone of her voice to make it more soothing and spoke next to his right ear, “Jamie, I want you to listen to me, alright?”

He shuddered as her warm breath caressed the shell of his ear and whispered hoarsely, “Yes, mistress.”

“You’ve done nothing wrong.  You were a good boy and slept in your bed, just as I wanted; do you hear me?” You’ve done nothing wrong.”  She reached her small hand out and gently stroked Jamie’s head.  Claire was sure he didn’t realize that he leaned into her hand.  She changed her tactic to scratching his scalp lightly, stroking her fingers gently through his stubble, down to the nape of his neck and back up to his crown.  She could see that he’d finally stopped shaking and was breathing deeply.  She continued the massage and even used both hands.  To her great surprise (and not little delight), Jamie whispered in a dreamy rumble,

“Now, Kitty, ye know if ye pull Uncle Jamie’s curls straight, they’ll stay that way!”

Claire slowed her ministrations and stopped.  Jamie was now a relaxed puddle at her feet and she wondered for a second if he’d fallen asleep again, poor man.  She placed a warm hand on his upper back and rubbed in a soothing motion,

“Jamie? Can you hear me? I’d like you to look at me, please,” Claire asked quietly.

After a few minutes, he answered in a low, dreamy rumble, “I’m here, Mistress Beauchamp, I hear ye,”  he murmured.  Hesitantly, he raised his head and looked in the vicinity of Claire’s throat.  She sighed inwardly but kept going,

“Did you understand and accept that you did nothing wrong by sleeping?  That’s what you were supposed to do.  I’m very pleased that you were able to sleep for so long.”

Jamie looked puzzled, “Yes, mistress, thank ye.  But f-for so long? How l-long have I been asleep, Mistress?” His puzzlement disintegrated into fear and Claire saw it happen.  Again, he was afraid of being punished.

Claire took a cleansing breath and smiled fully and Jamie swore the sun rose in her face, “Fifteen hours.  It’s Saturday night at 8:30 p.m.”

Jamie sucked in a great breath, rocked back on his heels slightly in shock and looked as if he was going to vomit again.  Claire quickly took over and steered him back to his bed and got a lined trash can ready, “You can be sick in this rubbish bin if you need to, Jamie, that’s what it’s here for.”  He shook his head rather energetically and closed his voluptuous lips Claire commanded, “Breathe in through your nose and out your mouth, Jamie, that’s an order!”  He nodded mutely and she rubbed his back in a soothing circle again.  When he’d calmed, she said, “Would you like to take a shower or take a small walk around the house before going back to bed?”

“What would you like me to do, mistress?” He looked earnestly (at her adam’s apple this time) at her.

“No, Jamie,” she said firmly, I asked you what you would like.  You have three choices: shower, tour of the house or simply back into bed.  I’ll be bringing you something to eat in any case,” she smiled.

“Oh, well,” a doubtful look crept over his handsome face, “I think I should like to see the house, if that’s alright, mistress,” and he reddened and looked at his feet.

“Alright, house tour coming up!” Claire tried to sound cheerful but she was aching inside for Jamie.  In just a few months, this young man had been so brutalized he was unwilling to make a simple choice that affected nobody but him – whatever he chose, it would not matter in the least to the larger world outside Claire’s door, and yet, he was paralyzed with choice.  What was it like for people that had been in the trade for much longer, or born slaves?

In the dim lighting of the bedroom, Jamie watched Claire turn to the wardrobe and pull out a dressing gown, thick woolen socks and shearling-lined suede slippers.  “Here,” she directed. “Put these on.  Your shoe size was in your paperwork so Joe picked these out for you.”

Jamie slipped on the socks and slippers first and gently took the hanger from Claire’s outstretched hand and carefully brushed the fabric with reverent fingers– the finest merino lambswool.  He pulled it slowly into the dim light of the bedside table lamp and gasped at what he saw – the Fraser of Lovat weathered tartan[1].  He whispered, “Oh, Mistress Claire, thank ye. It’s too much, really, fer me, a –“

Claire shut her eyes in exasperation, opened them quickly and interrupted gently, “Jamie, did you look at the label in the robe, by chance?”

He fumbled with the label in the light and had to bend down to read it properly.  Claire saw his lips moving as he read the label, “Made Especially for You by The Frasers of Lallybroch Farms” label.  He made a barely audible half-keening sound as his face crumpled into tears.  The huge man fell on his knees and kissed Claire’s hands as he’d done at the auction house.  In a voice thick with emotion, he whispered, “God bless ye, Mistress Claire, thank ye.  T-ta have ma family wi’ me was more th’ I ever hoped fer.”

She smiled and said, “I give Joe all the credit; it was his idea.”

“T-hank ye fer allowin’ it, mistress. May I please wear it downstairs?” Claire nearly cried at the hopeful look on his face.

“Jamie,” Claire said rather sternly, “look at me. No, not at my throat.  Look me in the eye, like you would have before you went into the trade. Now, Jamie.”

Jamie took a halting breath and lifted his great head slowly and actually managed to obey Claire’s order.  Claire’s breath was stolen by the sheer beauty of his eyes, now alight with hope and happiness.

“I just put the robe, slippers and socks in your hands and told you to put them on, did I not?”

Jamie blushed, “Yes, mistress.”

“Right.  Do you know why I did that?”

“No, mistress; it’s not for me to wonder about why my master or mistress does anything. I am only to obey.”

Claire noticed that she was now clenching her jaw in consternation and gingerly loosened it, “Alright.  Here is a hard and fast unbendable rule for you, yes? Anything I give you and say, ‘put this on,’ or ‘put this in your wardrobe’ is YOURS.  You can do with it what you want – you can wear it or not, anytime you want.” To emphasize her point, she poked her tiny index finger carefully into his chest, “Are we clear, soldier?”

To Claire’s shock, Jamie smiled radiantly, reached out and lightly captured her invading finger in his mammoth hand, “Crystal, Madam,” kissed her fingertip and released her.

[1]  https://us.tartanblanketco.com/products/lambswool-scarf-in-fraser-hunting-weathered-tartan?

Chapter Text

Over the next week, Jamie started to integrate into the rhythm of the household.  He spent most of his free time either reading or in the barn with the horses.  Claire was very pleased at how he seemed to charm Fearg.  She watched him take the great beast into the paddock one day and marveled at how relaxed Jamie was.  He was a very accomplished rider and Fearg saw Jamie visit Molagan and give her ear scratches and bits of cookie and, darn it, he wanted those things, too.  Eventually he realized that nipping, biting and trying to unseat Jamie were good ways of being isolated and getting no attention -  sugar cubes or cookies came when he did what Jamie asked of him.  Claire came into the house while Jamie was putting Fearg in his stall and laughed to Mrs. Fitz, “Typical male, Fearg – he fell under the sway of your cookies!” Mrs. Fitz blushed pink and turned back, pleased, to the salad she was making.  

Claire had allowed him to eat his fill on his first Tuesday with her and he was mortified that he vomited the food back up, just as he had at Joe’s office.  Aghast, he crumpled at her feet, ashamed, tears in his eyes, “Mistress, I’mma sorry. I did it again, I wasted yer food.”

Claire raised his chin and said quietly, “Jamie, that’s not your fault. It’s mine.  I’m the doctor and I should have known better.  Please forgive me.  I’ll ask Mrs. Fitz to give you several very small meals throughout the day so your stomach can adjust to real food again.  She held her hand out to the kneeling man, “Come on, up with you.  I’ll have no more upset over a few pennies worth of food, yes?”

He gulped and looked at her navel, “Yes, mistress.” He let her pull him up and she led him back to his bed.

She frowned as she looked at his face, which was pale.  In fact, he looked rather peaked.  “Jamie, how are you feeling right now?  Are you feeling worn out, like you’re getting a cold or something?”

He looked at her in surprise, “Aye, mistress.”

She sighed inwardly, men. “Were you going to say anything to me, Jamie?”

He blushed nearly purple and looked at his feet, “O’ course no, Mistress. Nobody cares if a slave gets sick unless it may die.  Otherwise, it may be punished for complaining.”

Claire winced at “it;” no person was an “it,” for God’s sake.

They reached his bedroom and Claire ordered him right back into bed.  Mrs. Fitz brought up more broth, soda crackers and 7-Up. Claire brought her laptop and sat with Jamie as he sipped the clear broth, praying he wouldn’t throw up this food, too.  She shuddered to think of possible injuries to his internal organs.  

Before she met Jamie, she’d never been able to stomach reading about the new slavery or how slaves were treated. When she’d contemplated buying him, however, she forced herself to watch a documentary from a few months back when a reporter for BBC went undercover as a new slave.  He had sold himself to a training center where there were several moles, posing as trainers and center staff who wore hidden cameras so they could record exactly what slaves went through.  The reporter and moles were able to get the footage safely away and escape the center by hiding the footage in a woman’s underwear.  The documentary provided the government with enough ammunition to close that particular training center down for repeated and egregious human-rights abuses.  The reporter, however, wasn’t so lucky.  He suffered horribly in the center and ended up permanently injured.  Nonetheless, he became a fervent anti-slavery activist.  In tribute, the BBC donated his sale price, two-hundred thousand pounds ($277,900.60) to Amnesty International’s “Free Our Brothers and Sisters” campaign.  After she watched the reportage, she was determined to save and protect the helpless boy she’d met in the street that day.

By Thursday, Jamie had a fever and a racking cough.  Claire diagnosed pneumonia and put him on antibiotics.  He managed to fall into a restless sleep on Thursday night.  When Claire got home from work, she had just changed into comfortable yoga pants when she heard a bloodcurdling scream from Jamie’s room.  She ran to him and was horrified at what she saw.  Jamie was tangled in the bedclothes, red-faced, sweating and obviously in the grip of a nightmare.  He cowered in his bed, neck tendons taut and straining, arms thrown up over his head to protect himself from an unseen assailant, “Master Randall, please, no! I- no’ that – “ and he curled up into an even tighter ball, sobbing, “I’ll be good, I promise, master!”

Claire ran to the door and nearly knocked over Mrs. Fitz, who carried towels, aspirin and ice packs in her arms, “Doctor, run, get me that heavy letter opener from yer desk, aye?”

Claire nodded and was off in a flash. 

Mrs. Fitz put the icepacks on the floor and hit them with the butt end of the letter opener until the ice shattered and then laid the packs on Jamie’s forehead, the crooks of his elbows, feet and hands.  Claire realized the older woman was using a folk remedy – the skin on these body parts was thinner than the rest of the body, so cooling them would help the body regulate itself.

Mrs. Fitz did not touch Jamie, as much as she wanted to console him.  Instead, she spoke to him in their primary language, “Jamie, a bhalaich, ye’re home an’ safe.  That man canna get to ye here.  Can ye hear me, lad?  Jamie? Please, come back ta us!”

Gradually, the ice packs seemed to help.  Jamie quieted down and eventually stilled, to the women’s immense relief.  Claire passed a wand thermometer in front of his forehead, “Jesus, 40 degrees Celsius (103.5 Fahrenheit). No wonder.” She took a cold washcloth and carefully washed Jamie’s face and neck, soaked it again in cold water and wrung it out.  She unbuttoned his pajama top and washed his torso – and Jamie’s eye’s opened sluggishly.  He whispered hoarsely, “Mistress? Why’re ye here? Is somethin’ the matter?”

She exhaled slowly, “You were having a nightmare, Jamie. You screamed and begged a ‘Master Randall’ not to do something and that you’d be good.” We ran in and discovered you’re running a fever.”

Jamie closed his eyes, “Aye, Master Randall was one o’ my trainers.  I’m sorry to have disturbed ye, mistress, Mrs. Fitz.”

Claire smiled at him, “You couldn’t help it, Jamie. Now,” she reached over him to the bedside table, “Here’s some antibiotics and acetaminophen; I’m hoping giving you a bit more than is normal will help reduce your fever.  Jamie couldn’t help but breathe in her essence, a perfume of honey, jasmine and Dove soap.  Her enticing breasts swayed slightly in front of him and he gulped and shut his eyes.  Claire straightened up and held the pills in her cupped hand, extending it to Jamie.  He took the pills carefully but couldn’t avoid brushing her palm with his fingers.  Without realizing it, four pupils expanded and four eyes grew darker at the whispery touch.

After another week in bed and another three weeks of supervised small meals, Jamie’s stomach had slowly gotten used to food and Jamie stopped worrying that his present meal would be his last.  Mrs. Fitz was glad when she stopped finding rolls, bannocks and individually wrapped protein bars Jamie’d hidden in his closet.  She remembered the first time she’d found his stash.  She’d found the carefully wrapped rolls and wondered why on earth the boy was doing it – and then, she saw a squirrel in a pine tree outside Jamie’s window, an acorn in his mouth.  Her heart broke and her eyes filled with hot sympathetic tears.  She never said anything to Claire or Jamie about it - it’d be another thing to worry Claire and embarrass Jamie. 

Claire had started to trust him enough to let him take Fearg for longer rides on her property, which overjoyed him.  He vowed to himself to do nothing to have this privilege taken away.  He kept both horses well-groomed and -exercised and even Claire noticed that they seemed more content. 

On a late Saturday morning, the doorbell rang.  Mistress and the Abernathys had an outing at a local beach planned.  Mrs. Fitz had kindly packed a large picnic basket for everyone and it sat near the door.  Claire ran to the door and JJ squealed and almost launched himself into the air to get to “Atie Atie Atie!” She scooped him up from his Daddy’s arms and twirled him around, both laughing at the other. Claire pulled up JJ’s shirt and gave him a huge, messy, loud raspberry on his belly and the baby crowed in joy.

Jamie had been kneeling, head bowed, at Claire’s club chair and had not moved when Claire greeted her friends.  He was happy they were going to have a fun day at the beach.  His attention wandered as he remembered how often his family would go to the beach when he was younger and nearly teared up – he wouldn’t have any more days like that now.  He told himself in a scathing inner voice to remember his place in the household – he was a purchase with a receipt, after all, like tires or flour or a soup ladle. He supposed he could work on the barn roof and finish it today.  Mistress had mentioned the possibility of chickens and he wanted to research the best breed for her situation online. 

The Abernathys and Claire walked over to Jamie.  He didn’t raise his head as he hadn’t been spoken to yet. 

Joe spoke first, “Hello, Jamie, it’s good to see you looking so well.”

Without looking up, Jamie answered, “Thank ye, Master Abernathy.”

Gayle smiled at Jamie, “I’m Gayle, Jamie, do you remember me?“

He answered respectfully, “Aye, Mistress Abernathy, I canna soon ferget a lady who intimidates someone like Mistress Dunsany,” and everyone (except Jamie) laughed at the memory of Gayle strongarming Geneva.

“And this little octopus is Joseph Junior, or JJ.  JJ, this is Jamie.” The baby flapped his arms in greeting and said, “‘Iss, iss.” 

Joe laughed, “Jamie, he’s never done this with someone he doesn’t know, but he wants you to hold him and give you a kiss, will you take a sloppy kiss from my son?”

Jamie smiled, “Oh aye, Master, sloppy baby kisses are the best kisses.  Come here, Mister JJ,” he added hastily, remembering his training, “a charaid bheag.”  JJ reached out to Jamie and when he was sitting on Jamie’s arm, he leaned forward and gave Jamie his version of a kiss – an open-mouthed near-miss of Jamie’s mouth that landed on his jaw, complete with saliva bubble.

“What did you say to him, Jamie?” Asked Gayle.

“Oh, apologies, mistress, I said “my little friend.”

“How many languages do you speak, Jamie?” Joe looked at him in amazement.

Jamie blushed, “Well, we only spoke the Gàidhlig in the house growin’ up, so I’mma fluent in writing and speakin’ it. I learned French in school and spent two summers in France at a cognac distillery in Cognac where I was able to perfect my French – my writin’ and speakin’, both.”  

Both Abernathys stared at him for a moment, “Well, honey, I think we’ll be bringing our kids to Mister Jamie for lessons if that’s okay with him,” Joe joked.  Claire looked at Jamie and grinned.

Claire raised her voice, “Is everyone ready to get in the car?”

Jamie insisted on loading the SUV by himself, “It’s my job, Master.  Please, let me do it,” begged Jamie as Joe tried to help him.  Joe smiled sadly and backed away with his hands held up in defeat, “No problem, Jamie, thank you.”

“Alright, everyone, into the SUV.” He scarcely dared hope he’d heard right; might he be allowed to at least drive them to the beach and come back to get them?  Even if mistress made him stay in the car while they had fun, he could look at the ocean.  Maybe she wouldn’t mind if he rolled down a window so he could listen to the happy people on the beach and smell the ocean air.  Luckily, the Abernathys had bought a truck designed to hold all the children they dreamed of having.  The beast had heat and massage in every seat, electric windows and even third-row seating.  Jamie asked bashfully if he could sit next to JJ.  He spent the entire ride speaking his native tongue to the boy, who watched him intently and sometimes put his two cents in.  When they arrived, Jamie insisted on unpacking the car while mistress and the Abernathys enjoyed the summer sun.  He finished unloading everything and addressed Claire, “Mistress, may I speak?”

She shaded her beautiful eyes with her hand, “Yes, Jamie?”

“Have ye any more tasks fer me? Or would ye like me ta drive back to the house and pick ye up when ye call, or shall I wait in the car fer ye?”

She bit her bottom lip for a second, praying for patience.  God, when she does that I just want to – thought Jamie ruefully.

She handed him the second bag next to her, “No.”  She handed him the bag, “I want you to take this and go put on your very own swim trunks.  There’s a towel, a zip up sweatshirt, a T-shirt and new flip-flops in there, too.  When you’re changed, come back to us. I’ll find you and squash you like a bug if you try to go sit in the car, Jamie, so help me!” She crossed her eyes at him and burst out laughing.  Jamie couldn’t help himself and he burst into laughter too.

Just as she’d hoped, the swim trunks Claire and Gayle picked out looked great on him[1].  He walked over to them and bashfully asked, “So, mistresses, wha’ do ye think?”

Both women looked at each other and applauded him and Jamie wasn’t sure if he was embarrassed or pleased.  “Mistress, may I take off my T-shirt? I dinna want ta offend yer, ah, sensibilities,” he amended quickly.

Claire graciously said yes and both she and Gayle had to swallow hard when they saw Jamie remove his T-shirt.  Mrs. Fitz’ food and their care had done wonders.  His skin was a warm brown, scattered with freckles and his muscle tone had greatly improved.  He had a wondrous six-pack of abdominal muscles which flowed into a pelvis framed by hipbones that no longer jutted out from starvation.  His russet curls ran riot in the wind.  He looked like a god and many beachgoers, male, female, free and enslaved, shot Claire and Gayle envious glances.  Gayle took Claire aside when Jamie was out of earshot,

“Damn, Claire, he is built!  Yum yum!”

Claire smacked her friend’s arm playfully and gasped in mock disgust, “Why, Gayle, shame on you!” and both women giggled to beat the band.  Joe just snorted, rolled his eyes and muttered, “Women!”

Jamie was not prepared when mistress took off her skirt and T-shirt.  He was glad JJ had buried his nether regions under about six inches of wet, cold sand as her skirt slipped off and he saw her Norma Kamali Diana Mio One-Shoulder Ruched swimsuit[2].  Jamie’s inner voice chided, Och, Dhia, man, she’s yer owner! Ye canna think o’ her tha’ way! Ye are no’ her equal, no’ anymore. She’ll never have ye.  Ye must honor her investment in ye an’ work hard fer her so she dinna regret ye an’ sell ye on!

 Jamie loved the beach and the water and gladly played all afternoon with JJ, taking him into the water, building sandcastles and just enjoying being around a small child again. Joe thought it was sweet that Jamie was trying to teach JJ his name, “JJ, my name’s Jamie,” he said, carefully enunciating his name and patting his chest.  He did this throughout the day, but the child didn’t repeat his name – he just grinned and patted Jamie’s cheek with a drool-covered hand, which only made Jamie collapse in giggles.  JJ had run to Gayle for “ooice” (juice) and was now getting sunscreen smoothed on his chubby arms. 

Jamie was picking up JJ’s dump truck, pail and shovel and heard a familiar voice in his ear, “Well, well, what do we have here?” Jamie froze as he recognized Master Esslington’s nasal whine.  “You better remember how to greet your betters, boy, or I’ll make you remember it.  Present!”  Jamie’s muscle memory took over and he dropped to his haunches in the sand, head down, fingers interlaced at the nape of his neck, quivering in fear.

Claire and the Abernathys were distracted by the sudden lull in the chatter of voices around them.  Other beachgoers were watching the interaction between freeman and bondsman very carefully, wondering what history the two men had.  Gayle said, “Oh God, Claire, look!” Claire’s head whipped around and she saw Jamie’s humiliation, her fury mounting as she watched the two men.  Claire had been willing to talk calmly to the other man until he put his hand on Jamie’s head and left it there, calmly scratching his head like he was a pet. Afterwards, Claire couldn’t quite remember everything that happened.  Everything grew deathly still around her as her focus narrowed to the invading hand on Jamie’s head.  She saw red and a primitive part of her subconscious roared, “MINE!”

Good afternoon, Master , how may I -”

“Jamie! Stop! Come here this instant!”

“Yes, mistress!” and he hurried to their blanket. 

She looked up into his agonized face and laid a comforting hand on his cheek, “Are you okay, Jamie?”

Stunned by her gentleness when he’d expected a slap or worse, Jamie nodded mutely.  As soon as she knew he was okay, Claire whispered, “You did nothing wrong. Stay here,” and marched over to the ballsy stranger. 

Quickly, Gayle handed Jamie the baby and whispered, “Can you hold him for a minute? Joe and I need to go after her and make sure Claire doesn’t hurt that guy – too badly!” and Gayle smiled evilly, flashing her perfectly white teeth at Jamie.

Claire stormed up to Esslington, “Just who the hell do you think you are, ordering him about like that, touching him like you own himHE BELONGS TO ME,” she snarled.

Jamie’s heart leapt at mistress’ declaration. Hers. She called me hers, for all to hear, his heart whispered to itself.

Esslington looked down at the curly haired dynamo beneath him and smiled like a hungry predator, “My name’s Esslington, madam.  I was just saying hello to one of my trainees is all. No harm meant. May I ask your name?“

Claire snapped, “You most certainly may not!  I don’t care who you are! You stay away from him, do you hear me? You don’t look at him, talk to him, touch him or give him orders, ever again!” 

He drew himself up to his full height of 182 cm (6’0”) loomed imperiously over the tiny woman and snapped, “And you would do well to watch your shrewish tongue, madam!” Before Esslington could blink, he had about 450 ml (15 oz) of sticky Irn Bru dashed onto his face and clothes.  

Esslington growled and started towards Claire but Joe stepped up, “Back off, man.  I don’t want to have to defend her, but I will if you force my hand.”

Enraged, Esslington swung at Joe, who ducked, popped back up and plowed his right fist into the other man’s nose.  The resulting crunch was so loud that even Jamie heard it and winced.  Blood as crimson as Claire’s rage flowed from Esslington’s nose and soaked into the thirsty sand below.  The five of them simply left Esslington groaning on the sand and went home.

[1]  https://us.oneill.com/collections/mens-boardshorts/products/sp1106021-btb-superfreak-flow

[2]  https://www.harpersbazaar.com/fashion/trends/g7186/best-one-piece-bathing-suits/

 

Chapter Text

A few weeks had passed since the beach incident and Claire was sad to see that Jamie seemed to withdraw into himself in fear.  He no longer looked her or Mrs. Fitz in the eye and ate very little.  Claire was alarmed when she made him stand on her bathroom scale and saw he’d lost ten pounds.  His beautiful face was drawn and dark circles were ever-present under his dull eyes.  He only really smiled laughed or perked up when he was with the horses or with his littlest friend, JJ.  It was like a pall descended on the house.  One of the only bright spots came when the Abernathys and Claire came home from a dinner only to see JJ sprawled out on Jamie’s broad chest, drooling all over the redhead’s shirt. Jamie’s huge hand was tucked firmly around the little boy and both slept peacefully as only good friends do.  In desperation, she called Marsali for some sessions for Jamie and decided to make good on her idea to buy two puppies for him to train as guard dogs.  She enlisted John’s and Hector’s help – they knew of a dog rescue and suggested Claire and Jamie look there. 

On a Tuesday afternoon, Jamie met with Marsali in her hospital office.  He refused to sit on a chair or couch when offered, preferring to kneel at her feet instead.  Marsali was very gentle with him, encouraging Jamie to speak to her as if he were a free man once again.  For the first hour, he seemed too cowed to speak. Little by little, she coaxed him to relax and set free whatever was troubling him.  After about five sessions, it became evident to her that Jamie blamed himself for the beach situation. Normally, she would keep anything someone said confidential, but as Jamie’s appointments were arranged by his owner, she wasn’t bound by the same confidentiality requirements.

Claire came to see Marsali after a long operation and sank into an overstuffed chair. Marsali started the meeting right away and carefully explained how Jamie blamed his behavior for “ruining” the beach outing.  Claire’s heart broke and Marsali handed her the entire box of tissues.  Claire resolved to go home and hoped that Jamie would believe her when she said that not only was the beach incident his fault, but nobody blamed him for what happened, either. She did just that as she was eating dinner that night. Clearing her throat nervously, she shifted in her seat so she was facing the boy and fought to keep her tone and energy calm. “Jamie, I want to make sure of something.”

“Yes, Mistress?” He said softly.

“Face me, please.” She waited while he shifted. “Look in my eyes, please.” He did so and was lost in their kind depths. “What happened at the beach with that man did NOT ruin our beach day. I wanted to make sure that that man couldn’t bother you anymore.  Also, JJ needed to go down very soon after that incident. So, nobody blames you at all.  Do you understand?” Claire prayed he’d get it. 

Jamie looked at her doubtfully, but he dutifully said, “Yes, Mistress.”

“No, Jamie, don’t tell me what you think I want to hear!” Claire’s frustration finally gained the upper hand. “You did nothing to deserve that awful treatment!  We were all horrified at what that man did because he had no right to do that to another human being.  And I know it’s hard for you to accept that you are still a human being worthy of respect, but you are and I’m going to work with you every day until you believe it!”

Jamie’s eyes misted with tears, “Thank you, Mistress, and kissed her hand.

A few days after the discussion, Claire called Jamie to her.  “Jamie, go to your room and put on clothes you won’t mind getting dirty and get on your boots as well.  We’ re going on an outing.”

“An outing, Mistress?”  “

Yes.  There are times when you and I may be separated and I’m going to need extra security. When you’re done, get in the car and I’ll join you in just a second.”

Mystified, Jamie did as ordered, slipping some work jeans over his muscled legs and a faded T-shirt hid his perfect six pack. He nervously fingered his collar the whole time. He wondered when that became a habit, but it always soothed him.  Claire had picked out a beautiful collar for him that was crafted of the finest, softest leather money could buy.  He remembered when he saw “Barbour” stamped into the inside of the collar; she could have chosen any brand, but she chose a Scottish one just for him.  His name and her particulars were embedded in the chip hidden in the leather and his name and her cell were also tooled into the buttery surface in case Jamie was incapacitated and there wasn’t a chip reader available.

As his mistress got into the driver’s seat, a gleeful smile seemed to deepen her beautiful dimples even more.  The trip took about a half hour.  They finally turned onto a muddy unmarked road and bumped along for a couple of minutes until a large house and barn appeared in the distance.  Claire pulled up next to a late-model Jaguar and cut the engine.  She and Jamie got out and were greeted by John, Hector and Mary. Mary squealed when she saw Jamie and jumped, grinning, into his strong arms.  He caught her and let out an exaggerated “oof,” but Mary just laughed, threw her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. He laughed and blew a raspberry on her neck, to which she squealed, as he twirled her in his arms, “Och, mo luchag bheag! ‘Tis good ta see ye again!”

“Oh J-J-Jamie, you’re looking so healthy!” she exclaimed excitedly as he carefully eased her to the ground.

“And you, Mary, ye’re lookin’ like ye’ve been eatin’ yer own cookin’, a leannan, I’m glad!”

Claire, John and Hector couldn’t help but smile as Mary eased her arm around the waist of the giant next to her.  They looked like a sequoia and a sapling – the height difference and build between the two friends couldn’t have been more different or comical.

“Everybody ready?” John asked?

Everyone chorused “Yes!” and John and Hector led the way into the brightly lit barn. 

Jamie immediately felt at home, because the barn was filled with dogs of all sizes and descriptions.  John led the way to the large breed section.  He walked up to a service counter and greeted the man at the counter, “Hello, my name is John Grey and I have a 2:30 appointment with Mr. Fergus Mochrie.”

“Certainly, Sir, one moment while I text him and let him know you’ve arrived.”

Jamie and Mary looked around at all the dogs, wondering what they were doing there.  Soon enough, a young man with gray blue eyes and dark curly hair approached with a relaxed smile on his face, “Mr. Gray?"

John extended his hand cordially, “Mr. Mochrie, thank you for meeting me and my friends.”

“You said you and your partner are looking to adopt a dog?”

“Yes, that’s right.  My friend here, Claire, is looking to adopt two dogs she can give to her manservant to train as guard dogs to protect her in her home if her man, Mr. Fraser, is not with her.”

Jamie gasped, hand to his mouth, unable to believe what he’d just heard.  Claire turned toward him and smiled. He swallowed, “Mistress, permission to speak please?”

“Yes, Jamie, go ahead.”

“Ye really mean it? Truly? I kin train yer dogs fer ye?” He had a fire in his eyes that she hadn’t seen before; she realized it was purpose.  Jamie’s spirit had been reawakened with a purpose.

“Yes, of course I mean it. Come on, it’s time for you to advise me on which two puppies we should bring home.  She smiled at John and Hector, “Is your friend ready to show us the way?”

“Aye, madam, I am,” smiled Fegus.

“Jamie?” Claire called, “Come on, man, walk with Fergus.” She smiled inwardly; the boy still looked like he was on cloud nine.

“Mistress? Did I hear ye properly? I should walk wi’ Fergus? No’ two steps behind?” His mouth dropped open and he abruptly shut it again.

Claire strode up to Jamie and whispered, “You’re the authority in this situation, Fraser. I’m following your lead.”

His voice came out in a soft, comforting whisper, “Ye needn’t worry, Mistress, I’ll do ye proud!” A

After about an hour, the group chanced upon a couple of females with large litters.

“Ah, yes, these two were brought in together, both pregnant. We think they might be sisters – a hoarding situation.”  Both dogs were powerfully built and looked like part Bull Mastiff at least.  Jamie approached one of the mothers with caution and extended his hand carefully, speaking to the bitch in soft Gallic.  She sniffed his hand and her great tail thumped on the soft bedding.  He slowly brought his hands to the first pup and lifted him gently.  He looked at the pup’s eyes, ears and paws before praising its mama and letting him snuggle with his littermates again. He passed his hands over each pup, selectively choosing another two to pick up and examine.  He went over to the other bitch and worked his magic with her as well. Just as her sister had, she allowed Jamie to stroke her babies and examine them. 

Jamie straightened up and said, “Mistress, I like two from the first litter.”

“Alright, Jamie, pick them up and then we’ll help John and Hector pick their dog.”

Jamie smiled broadly and Claire thought the sun had come out from behind clouds. He looked happy and excited, like a kid at Christmas and Claire had to hold back a small sob.  He gingerly picked up a fawn male and a red male.  The troop walked down the aisle again and Fergus led them to the small dog section.  He found them a four-year-old blond Border Terrier who desperately needed a home. Montgomery (Monty for short) was chipped, vaccinated, had his shots and was neutered.  Jamie took the puppies up to the adoption counter.  Fergus went behind the desk and grabbed two manila folders, labeling it “Beauchamp fawn male mastiff DOB 10.08.15 in shelter.”  He labeled the other one for the red male.  He placed soft collars around both their necks with “Beauchamp” written on paper discs edged with cheap metal.

“So, we still have to give them their shots, neuter them, chip them, give them a bath and the whole nine yards, aye?” The young man checked the surgery schedule.  “It looks like I can put them in for Tuesday.  That means you can pick them up next Saturday. Since they’ll be newly altered, they’ll have to be kept quiet for at least a week.”

Claire stepped up to the counter and paid the adoption fees and she and Jamie waited while John and Hector did the same.  Everyone separated and Jamie and Claire headed off to the pet supply store.  They each took a buggy (cart/trolley) and loaded them up with beds, blankets, treats, toys, puppy pads, shampoo, leashes and collars.  They got very high-quality puppy kibble. Jamie respectfully requested stainless steel bowls for food and water, explaining that they could be sterilized, unlike plastic bowls.   Jamie escorted Claire to the driver’s side door and shut it firmly behind her.  He dutifully loaded up the back of the car and joined her in the cab when he was finished.