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Asylum

Chapter Text

They often say that you can’t go home again, and Roger had never given the phrase much thought before, but he now understood it entirely. 

While he hadn’t actually lived in the manse full-time since he left for college, it had always been home to him. The place he’d grown up, a place he could always return to.

But it wasn’t the place. It was the people who had inhabited it. Namely his father.

Now that the reverend was gone, the manse was just a building. The reverend was the house’s soul, and without him, it was just a shell. It wasn’t home to Roger any longer.

He hadn’t returned since the wake, but he had some mail to collect, and Fiona was away on her honeymoon. 

Roger was in and out quickly, finding that being there was especially cold and unwelcoming without even Fiona there to brighten it. One of the items he was expecting were the papers to sign ownership over to Fiona and her new husband, should they wish to accept it. Oh, he would give an asking price of course. No sense risking insulting Ernie’s pride by offering it for free, though Roger would do so gladly. As it was, he wouldn’t be accepting more than a fraction of what it was worth.

As Roger flipped through the stack of mail, he was met with a very welcome surprise, one that lifted his spirits tremendously. A letter from Brianna. 

He decided to go into the village to a little cafe he knew of, and enjoy his letter with some coffee.

As he sat at the small outdoor table, he couldn’t stop himself from smiling. He never could, not when he was thinking about her.

It was all inconsequential things. Stories about school, her friends, a brief mention that her mother was doing well, and Roger very much hoped that was true.

But she didn’t so much as touch on what they’d all been through the summer before. None of her letters had. Roger had followed her example in his responses, but he couldn’t help but wonder if it had to do with not wanting to, or not quite able to put it to paper, or simply trying to forget. 

He really did hope Claire was okay. Brianna so often lived in his mind, but every now and then Claire was there too, with those sad eyes that still haunted him months later. 

“Roger? Roger Wakefield, is that you?”

Roger looked up from his letter, blinking against the sun in his eyes at the man standing beside his table.

“It’s me! Ronnie! Ronnie McNabb!”

Roger blinked again, this time in realization, and he jumped up to shake the other man’s hand. “Ronnie! How good tae see ye! Why don’t ye have a seat?”

Ronnie glanced at the empty seat, then shrugged good-naturedly and took it. “You’re no’ expecting anyone?”

“Nah,” Roger said, waving a hand. “Just catching up on some letters here. How are ye? Haven’t heard for ye in forever it seems!”

He and Ronnie had been good friends throughout primary and secondary school, but had gone their separate ways after graduation, as most people do. Roger remembered Ronnie as an amicable, energetic lad, often into mischief but with a good heart. 

“How have ye been?” Ronnie asked. “I heard about th’ Reverend. So sorry, mate. He was a great one.”

Roger nodded. “Yeah. Thank you. It’s been rough, but I’m alright. What about you? What are ye up to these days?”

Ronnie sat up straighter, grinning. “I’m marrit! Can ye believe it?”

Roger laughed. “Ronnie McNabb, chaser of skirts, has settled down? But no...I can believe it, Ronnie. Who’s th’ lucky lass?”

“Her name’s Lucy,” Ronnie said, quickly pulling a photograph out of his wallet to show Roger.

“Och, she’s bonnie. Too bonnie for you!”

Ronnie threw back his head, laughing. “Don’t I know it! What about ye? Have ye got a Mrs. yet?”

“No’ yet,” Roger shook his head, but held up his letter from Brianna. “I have a lass I’m interested in, but we haven’a reached that stage yet. What d’ye do for a living now?”

“I work security at Helwater Asylum.”

Roger’s eyebrows shot up. “Helwater Asylum? Th’ place for erm...unstable folk?” Nuthouse was what had first come to Roger’s mind, but he’d opted for a slightly more tactful description.

“Aye, ye can put it that way, but it isn’a as bad as what you’re no’ doubt thinking. Most of our residents are elderly and have dementia, and a fare few others are young and just have some issues that keep them from being able tae live alone. It’s a nice place, and th’ residents are treated well. Some o’ them ye wouldn’a even ken there was a thing wrong wi’ them just tae talk tae them. One in particular, really nice guy, intelligent, kind a guy I could get a beer with in any other situation. Shame, really.”

“So why is he there?” Roger asked.

Ronnie winced. “Well, I canna give you any details, but it was written up in th’ newspaper when he was first found, wandering around th’ wilderness in a filthy, blood-stained kilt, raving about bein’ from a different time.”

Roger felt like his heart had stopped, the hairs on his arms suddenly standing on end. “Different time?” he asked.

Ronnie chuckled. “Yeah. Like I said, it’s a shame. But, hopefully th’ doctors there can give him th’ help he needs, and they’ll let him out.”

Roger barely registered any of the rest of the conversation until Ronnie checked his watch and said he had to be getting home. He hugged Roger, insisting they get together again soon, and was gone. Roger was left sitting at that cafe table with an ice-cold cup of coffee in front of him, and a letter from the daughter of an actual time-traveler. 

Could the man in that asylum really be another time traveler, or truly just insane? But they knew that Claire wasn’t the only one who could do it. Roger had seen with his own two eyes the woman who was supposedly his many times great-grandmother walk straight through solid stone.

If the man in that asylum really was from another time, the poor bastard was probably petrified. Roger knew it wasn’t his responsibility or his business, but something was telling him he had to find out. 

He couldn’t help Claire, but maybe he could help someone else.

 

The first thing Roger did was find that news article Ronnie had mentioned. It had taken a good deal of digging at the library, but he finally came across a small blurb in the back of an issue six months prior about a man found wandering the hills around Craigh na Dun. He’d been malnourished and dehydrated, filthy, covered in old scars, and claimed he was from the 18th century. 

“Jesus Christ,” Roger murmured, hearing the echo of Claire elaborating the blasphemous phrase by adding an “H. Roosevelt.”

There was a photograph, but it was so grainy Roger couldn’t make out much, although there was also a brief description, in effort to find the man’s family. 6’4”, red hair, blue eyes, approximately thirty-five years old.

“No name?” Roger huffed. 

That the unknown man was found near Craigh na Dun was enough to make Roger believe he could be the real deal. 

He considered writing to Brianna about it, but decided against it in the end. He could tell her about it when next he saw her, but he didn’t want to dredge up the events of last summer if she didn’t want to talk about it.

Now...how to get into that asylum to see him?

 

“Ronnie! Glad tae catch ye in,” Roger said into the phone. “Look, I dinna mean tae bother you...it’s just, when ye told me about that gentleman at your work, it struck a chord wi’ me, and I looked up th’ newspaper article. Fact is, I think it’s possible that he may be th’ relative of a friend of mine…”

It wasn’t a terrible lie. Maybe no blood relation, but if this man was indeed from the 18th century, it certainly “related” to the Randalls’ life. 

“Do ye think it’d be possible tae come see him? I’d like tae take a look myself before even mentioning it tae my friend, of course.”

“Oh aye, that could be arranged,” Ronnie said. “Normally we only allow relatives tae visit, of course, but if ye’re just wanting tae take a look at him, ye could come in as a volunteer. Our volunteers just make rounds and visit our...well, friendlier residents. Play games wi’ them, chat, that sort of thing.”

Roger nodded, but stopped himself when he remembered Ronnie couldn’t see. “Aye, I could do that. How do I volunteer?”

 

His volunteer application was accepted immediately. Apparently they didn’t get many applications, and a reverend’s son seemed to be an exciting addition.

Ronnie only worked nights, so when Roger showed up one Sunday afternoon to “volunteer” he was on his own in figuring out which of the residents was possibly an 18th century time-traveler. He didn’t want to ask too many questions, lest anyone get suspicious of his motives, so he figured he would just do his job as volunteer and try to work it out himself.

He’d been given a brief training in how best to approach and speak to the residents, though he was assured that the ones he would encounter in the recreation room were not deemed dangerous. 

Roger spent a few hours walking around, chatting with a few sweet elderly people, one of whom was convinced that Roger was her grandson, Martin. 

It made Roger incredibly sad that many of these people probably didn’t receive many visitors, if at all. Just locked away somewhere when they became too much trouble to take care of at home, or too embarrassing to have around. But most of the residents he could see were older, not in their thirties like the article had said, except for a charming young woman with Downs Syndrome who had laughed and flirted shamelessly with him in a completely innocent, childlike fashion that had made him smile and almost forget his intended purpose.

And then he looked over, as someone else was entering the room.

He stood a head and shoulders above everyone else, even though he walked a little hunched over, as if he was trying to hide. 

It was the hair that caught his eye first, though...and then Roger caught a good look at the man’s face.

Roger would never have tried to imagine Brianna’s face in a man, but if he had...this would have been it. Same high cheekbones, same cat-like slant to their eyes...and then that bright red hair.

He felt like the earth was sliding out from under him, and at any moment he would fall through and just keep falling.

When he’d started this little venture, he’d never even entertained the idea that the mysterious 18th century man could actually be the man he, Brianna, and Claire had searched weeks for. 

But it couldn’t be. Claire had said Jamie had been unable to travel. There was no way.

The man had made his way to the far corner of the room and had taken a seat at a chess table. He moved the pieces around distractedly, but no one was playing with him. Every now and then his eyes would flicker up toward the TV in the opposite corner of the room, playing some daytime soap opera, but it wasn’t in the way one would if they were half-watching. He looked nervous about it.

And then, from across the room, their eyes met. Only briefly, before the other man turned his attention back to the chessboard, but Roger could barely breathe. They were Bree’s eyes.

“Hey, what’s a’matter?” the young woman asked him, tugging on his sleeve.

“Sorry, Polly,” he said, smiling at her but scarcely able to take his eyes off the man lest he disappear. “But there’s something I gotta do now, hm? I’ll say goodbye before I leave, though.”

He made his way over to the chess table with measured steps, trying not to appear like he was rushing, but with every step his heart raced faster.

“Fancy a game?” he asked.

The man glanced up at him again, narrowing in suspiciously at his volunteer badge, then grunted in the back of his throat. “Aye, if ye like.”

He quickly reset the pieces, and Roger took a seat. “Been a long time since I’ve played,” Roger said. “But I used tae be pretty good.”

The man simply grunted again, making his first move.

Their entire first game was silent, and all the while Roger was wracking his brain for how to ask him who and what he was.

The man beat him easily, and Roger chuckled wryly. “Like I said, it’s been a while. Rematch?”

“Ye’re never gonna win what wi’ th’ way your brain is runnin’ like a horse, trying tae think what tae ask me,” the man said, resetting the game. “So ye might as well come out wi’ it.”

Roger gaped, wondering how he could have been so transparent. “What makes ye think I want tae ask ye something?”

“Your sort always have questions.”

“My sort? Look, mate, I dinna work here. I’m just a volunteer. Here tae visit.”

The man looked up at him again. “I heard ye were a reverend.”

Roger scoffed. “My father was, no’ me. But, I guess I could ask ye a question. What’s your name?”

“...Jamie.”

Roger really did think he did a passable job of not looking like he was about to faint, but Jamie still narrowed his eyes further. “What’s yours?”

“Roger Wakefield. Well...I was raised by my uncle, who was a Wakefield, but my birth name is MacKenzie.”

Roger was aware that he was rambling, but it felt a relevant thing to mention.

The corner of Jamie’s mouth quirked just slightly in a half-smile. “I’m a MacKenzie as well. On my mother’s side.”

I know, Roger wanted to say. 

This was impossible. It should be impossible. But the damned proof was staring at him through eyes that were a carbon copy of the woman he was in love with...or hers were the carbon copy, more like. 

Roger didn’t know what to do. What he wanted to do was grab the man’s arm, drag him out of the asylum, and straight to Claire and Brianna. But he knew he had to be a lot more careful than that. To start with, he had to make absolute certain this was Jamie Fraser... the Jamie Fraser, before involving Claire and Bree.

“Forgive me for asking...but what’s a chap like you doing here?” Roger asked, going for oblivious tactlessness.

Jamie’s expression darkened. “Well I must be mad, aye? At least that’s what they keep tellin’ me.”

“You don’t seem mad tae me.”

Jamie opened his mouth to respond, but was halted by an orderly announcing that rec time was over for the day.

“Better be going,” Jamie said lowly, still giving Roger that same unnervingly piercing look. Similar to the one Brianna sometimes gave him, but with none of the good humor.

“Wait!” Roger exclaimed, wincing when it came out too loud. “I’d like tae talk tae ye again…”

Jamie shook his head. “Dinna have anything tae talk about.”

Roger grabbed his sleeve, desperate not to let him go but knowing this wasn’t the time or place. He lowered his voice so that hopefully only Jamie could hear. “Ye’re not mad, okay? I ken ye came through th’ stones. Ye’re James Fraser of Broch Tauroch…aren’t ye?”

Jamie snatched his arms away, eyes wide. “Who are ye?”

“Just...someone who believes ye.”

“Time to go, Jamie,” the orderly said brusquely. 

Jamie turned to go, casting astonished looks over his shoulder at Roger as he went.

 

Roger frantically paced the length of his hotel room, stopping only every so often to sit on the bed beside the phone, debating whether to pick it up. 

“Why didn’t I tell him I know Claire?” he muttered to himself for the fiftieth time. 

He supposed that, in the moment, he was still trying to determine if the man really was Jamie Fraser, somehow miraculously come into the twentieth century. He also had been a little afraid that either Jamie wouldn’t believe him, or react so strongly he would attract too much unwanted attention from the staff.

Now he was debating whether to pick up the phone and call the Randalls. Would they even believe him?

In truth, there were several things that didn’t quite add up. For one, Claire said that she’d witnessed Jamie touch the stone minutes before she did, and nothing happened. He hadn’t been able to hear the buzzing that evidently was some sort of indication that a person was capable of passing through. Roger appeared to be one of those people...a fact he didn’t like to dwell on too much.

For another, Roger thought that they had established that the timeline in the past moved along at the same rate as the one here...but the man sitting in that nuthouse was barely any older than Roger, for all that he gave off the impression of a man who’d lived much too hard a life for someone so young. Claire was in her late forties, and had said that Jamie was only five years younger...not fifteen.

No...he couldn’t tell Brianna and Claire just yet. He couldn’t put them through that pain if it turned out to be completely wrong. He had to talk to Jamie again. Preferably alone.

 

Roger couldn’t wait. He didn’t want to try and use his friendship with Ronnie, but at this point he was figured it was worth it. 

“Roger…” Ronnie said in surprise when he opened the door to admit him into the facility. “It’s late. Did ye forget something this afternoon?”

“I’m sorry tae just show up like this,” Roger said. “But listen...th’ resident we talked about, Jamie, I do believe he’s my friend’s relative, but I need tae speak tae him alone. Five minutes, that’s all I need.”

“I’m sorry, Roger,” Ronnie said, shaking his head. 

“Please, man, I’ll no’ tell anyone ye let me in.”

“It isn’a that. Look, I’d help ye if I could...but Fraser’s been moved intae confinement.”

Roger scowled. “Confinement? What th’ hell is that?”

Ronnie sighed sympathetically. “He’s locked up, tae put it bluntly. He tried tae escape this evening. Again. Now, that’s no’ normally cause for too much alarm...but he attacked one of th’ orderlies so now he’s been labeled as dangerous. Now they’re keeping him locked in his room, and he’s got nurses watching him ‘round th’ clock. I can’t get ye in, Roger. I’m sorry.”

Roger raked a hand roughly through his hair. “Christ, Ronnie. If this guy is who I think he is...keeping him prisoner is just going tae make things worse!”

“I hate it too, okay? Fraser’s a nice guy, and I dinna think it was his fault. Th’ orderly’s new, and he got too handsy. He didn’a mean anything by it, and others tried tae warn him that Fraser doesn’a like being touched. Fraser snapped.”

Roger started pacing again, trying to figure out what in the hell he should do. Ronnie watched him a few moments, then sighed deeply. 

“Listen. In about an hour, th’ nurses are gonnae switch out for th’ night. Cassandra called tae say she’ll be runnin’ a bit late so I’m keeping an eye on him between shifts. I can give ye five minutes, Roger, but no’ more. If this is found out, I’ll lose my job and all credibility, d’ye understand?”

Roger nodded frantically, shaking Ronnie’s hand. “Aye...thank ye, Ronnie. Truly.”

He snorted. “Dinna thank me yet. Come back in an hour.”

 

“Five minutes,” Ronnie reminded Roger again, opening the heavy door to admit him into Jamie’s room.

A cell was more like it. There was nothing in the room save a cot with a single, thin blanket, and a nightstand that held an untouched plate of food and cup of water. All utensils made of plastic. The walls were padded, and there was only a small window to let in light during the day, but was too far up to see out of and far too small to fit through. The overhead light was on, casting the room in blinding white. Was a person supposed to sleep like this?

“Jamie?” Roger called gently. After everything Jamie had been through, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect him to truly be a little unstable, so Roger wanted to be sure to go carefully.

The figure on the bed opened his eyes, fixing Roger with a cold stare that was quite unfocused. 

Sedatives, Ronnie had warned him.

Better sedated than tied down, Roger thought, eying the leather straps on the sides of the cot that thankfully weren’t in use.

“Jamie, it’s me, Roger. From this afternoon.”

“I remember,” Jamie slurred. “I’m no that mad.”

“I told ye, ye’re no’ mad at all! I want tae try and get ye out of here, d’ye understand? I want tae get ye back tae your family.”

Jamie snorted. “Family’s gone.”

“Not all of them,” Roger said, kneeling beside the bed. “I want to help you, but I need you to tell me who you are.”

“Ye already ken who I am.”

“Aye, but I need ye tae say it.”

Jamie’s eyes had drifted shut, but then he opened them again, blinking rapidly as he tried to focus. “James Alexander...Malcolm MacKenzie...Fraser. Now please...go away.”

There was nothing for it. Roger had to just come out and say it.

“I’m not going away. I’m going tae get ye tae Claire.”

Though still drugged, Jamie’s eyes zeroed in on Roger with intense focus, and his fists clenched.

“Roger,” Ronnie whispered from the doorway. “Time's up, come on.”

“Two more minutes!” Roger hissed back. “Jamie, listen tae me. I ken Claire, alright? Last year I was helping her look for ye.”

“Claire…” Jamie whispered, forming the name so carefully, as if uttering a prayer. 

“Roger!”

“I’m coming! I’ll call her, Jamie, okay? She’s going tae come and help get you out of here.”

Jamie rolled his head back and forth on the cot. “No.”

“No?”

“Roger! Now!”

“She’s gone!” Jamie rolled over, squeezing his eyes shut. “She’s gone!”

“She’s not gone, man! She’s here! In this time!”

All of a sudden, Jamie snapped back around to face Roger, eyes blazing. “Get out!” he roared, lunging unsteadily to his feet and shoving Roger halfway across the room. “Get out!”

Roger felt someone grab him by the collar and drag him out of the room, locking a drugged and enraged Jamie inside.

“Now ye’ve gone and pissed him off!” Ronnie snapped. “Ye need tae get out of here, Roger. Now.”

“Alright,” Roger said, voice wavering as he stumbled to his feet and made his way back down the winding corridors toward the lobby and out into the frigid night air.

He took deep, shuddering breaths, trying to clear his head and shake the terror he’d felt when Jamie fucking Fraser had drawn himself to his full height and turned to him in anger. Before, in the rec room, he’d seemed harmless. But now, Roger had seen what a genuinely dangerous man he could be. And one who was not stable.

How in the hell was he supposed to tell Brianna and Claire that he’d found Jamie Fraser...not in the past but here, only to have to tell them that there might not be much left of him?

Chapter Text

“You should go.”

“Th’ men need me,” Jamie tried to argue.

John pressed the sapphire back into Jamie’s palm. “I wouldn’t allow the other men to be punished for your escape, but I won’t be able to save you from a similar fate if you return now, Jamie. I’ve heard about the scars on your back. Do you really want to add to them?”

“But...Murtagh…”

“I’ll see to his wellbeing. Truth is, the prison is closing soon, and all prisoners will be shipped to the colonies. I’m not entirely sure what they’d do with you, so you should just go. Don’t come back.”

“And go where, John? I canna go home.”

John’s eyes held such pain, the type of pain Jamie didn’t want to examine too closely, but it made him ache nonetheless. “And I’m sorry for it, my friend. I cannot give you your freedom, except by turning the other way. Please, for your sake, for your men’s sake. Go.”

 

So Jamie had gone. When he escaped Ardsmuir it had been on the half-cocked hope that he would find her.

 

Claire…

 

But he’d always intended to return. To be with his men. There was little for him on the outside. Now that it wasn’t possible to go back, what next? He couldn’t go to Lallybroch. He could never go back to Lallybroch. The thought was like a sword through his heart.

John had mentioned that Murtagh and the other men would soon be paroled to the Colonies. Jamie supposed he might as well go there himself. Perhaps he could board a ship under an assumed name. Start over in the new land. Build himself a wee cottage somewhere in the wilderness and live unmolested and alone for the rest of his days.

The thought cheered him somewhat. Peace was really all he could hope for anymore.

But the thought of leaving...leaving Scotland forever...without saying a final goodbye felt insurmountable. 

He could write to Jenny and Ian when he was safe away in the Colonies. A coded letter perhaps. But he needed to feel close to her one last time.

 

Claire…

 

There wasn’t a grave to visit. After all, she wasn’t dead. But she might as well have been, as far from him as she was. She and the bairn. 

So the closest thing he could come to a memorial site was the place that had both given her to him, and taken her away.

 

Claire…

 

He slowly mounted the hill to Craigh na Dun, blessing and cursing the stone circle at once. The last place he’d seen her. Touched her. Kissed her. Felt her throb around him from deep inside.

 

Claire…

 

He looked up at the stone that had taken her. Given her. Taken her. What he would give just to look upon her once more. Ken that she was well. She and the child.

 

Claire…

 

He raised a hand, touching the exact spot she had. Trying to imagine that the cold stone was her warm, fragrant skin.

 

Claire…

 

Why, God? Why give her to him, take her away, and then force him to live without her?

 

~~~

 

“Claire…”

Jamie came to sudden wakefulness, staring up in confusion at the stone. He was exhausted to the very marrow of his bones, and starving. It was no wonder that he’d fallen asleep without meaning to, and now it was night.

He climbed unsteadily to his feet, his wame churning so. 

At the bottom of the hill would be the road. Perhaps he could steal a horse along the way to get him to the harbor. First, he would have to find something to eat, though he felt little desire to.

Blinding light from up ahead stopped him in his tracks. What the devil was happening? Had he finally died - not in battle, but starved along the side of the road, and now he was walking into purgatory?

Jamie almost felt relief. Waiting in purgatory would be a blessing compared to living his wretched life. Because if he was dead, he was one step closer to her.

“Claire…”

“Jesus Christ! Are you alright there, man?”

“Brendon, be careful! Is he covered in blood?!”

“Stay in the car, Margot! Sir, do you need a doctor?”

Jamie furrowed his brow. This isn’t how he thought death would be. Who were these people, and why were they dressed so strangely?”

But then his eyes adjusted to the light and he could make out the shape of something that didn’t make sense to him. It was vaguely shaped like a carriage, but…

“Automobiles are like carriages, but they move on their own, and they’re much faster…”

“Claire?”

“Margot,” the oddly dressed man addressed the woman behind him. “Drive back into Inverness and call the police.”

“What?! And leave you here with...him?!”

“He needs help, Margot! Just go, and hurry!”

Jamie watched in fascination as the...the automobile darted away with the woman inside, leaving only the man.

“Just take it easy,” he said. “We’ll get you help. What’s your name?”

“James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser,” Jamie said, not sure why he felt compelled to recite his full name.

Brendon smiled. “Quite a name. You said the name Claire a minute ago. Is that your wife? Can we contact her?”

Jamie shook his head. “No. She’s gone.”

“Oh...sorry to hear that, man. Look, just take it easy for now, and my wife will be back any minute with help, okay? It’s gonna be okay.”

Jamie shook his head again, feeling the need to get away, no matter how kind this man appeared. But his limbs simply wouldn’t cooperate. The last thing he knew after that were flashing red lights, and a sudden surge of fight returned to him moments before he felt a sharp prick in his arm, and everything was quiet.

 

Jamie barely remembered anything that happened those first days. He knew he spoke to the doctors, told him who he was, where he was from. If he’d been in his right mind, he would have known not to tell them the truth. A Dhia, how had Claire managed?!

He’d been close to death, but they brought him back, only to lock him up again. Insane and unstable were words he often heard bandied about.

They tried to ask him about relatives. About this Claire he’d spoken of. But with renewed health came awareness, and he kept his mouth shut. His family was gone. Turned to dust he didn’t even know how long ago. And if Claire was here, he didn’t know how to find her, and he wasn’t even sure he wanted to. Not like this. Not while he was locked up like a madman. Barely even a shadow of the man he once was.

Barely a man at all.

If someone tells you something enough times...it starts to sound true. That’s how Jamie felt, when over and over the doctors would tell him that time travel wasn’t real. That there was no Claire. 

After a time it felt easier to go along with it. And then...after a bit more time, he started to believe it.

Maybe he was just mad. According to the doctors, he’d suffered a terrible trauma, possibly since childhood since there was no record of him anywhere, and his shattered mind had concocted this vision of an estate all his own. Of a family who loved him. Of a life as a powerful warrior. Of a woman who had come to him by impossible means and been the love of his life. Of a child out there somewhere of his very own. He’d invented all the things his real life lacked as a means of coping, but now it was time to face reality.

And what was reality? He was no one. No name, no home. He was a ghost. 

Clinging to the idea of Claire was all he had left in the world, but they were slowly ripping that away from him, too.

 

He slowly, gradually, started to accept his lot. Many of the other residents at Helwater Asylum looked up to him, just as the prisoners had in his fever-dream. Everyone there were either mad, or misfits, just like him. There was a bonnie wee lass named Polly who was far too sweet and kind to be locked away from the world, but her family had no use for her, being slow-witted. So Jamie gave her the attention and kindness her family was unable to give. He did so with anyone else who seemed to need it.

It really wasn’t all that bad. Not as bad as Ardsmuir. Or Wentworth…but no…those places didn’t exist. He didn’t need to think of them.

At least here he was clean, fed, and mostly left alone so long as he went along with what he was told.

He actually thought he could live the rest of his days that way until a stranger appeared in the asylum, trying to bring to the surface things Jamie had been trying to shove down in all the months he’d been a resident there.

Roger MacKenzie, he’d said his name was. Of course he’d be a MacKenzie. MacKenzies were an unscrupulous lot in general...but no...no...that was just in Jamie’s imagination. 

Colum. Dougal. Angus. Rupert. None of them are real!

This Roger’s presence had unnerved him, and that was perhaps why he’d been on high alert when the new orderly was teasing Polly. He was calling her an idiot, and asking her lewd questions about her the size of her bust. And Jamie wasn’t going to stand for it.

He’d hit the orderly, feeling more alive as he did it than he had in many months. 

They restrained him, forcing him to knees. The orderly who’d teased Polly stood before him, grabbed him by the back of his neck. Visions of something the doctors tried to tell him wasn’t real flashed through his mind with such violence he couldn’t help but react. 

It landed him in a locked room, his arm pricked with the wee needle that made him insensible. 

And then that bastard Roger returned. Mocking him. Trying to say that the things he’d finally started to accept as figments of his own madness were real. Tricking him. Taunting him. 

And he’d said her name. 

 

Claire…

 

It was too much. Too much to hope. Too much to imagine. He wasn’t strong enough.

Maybe at one time he was, but no longer.

One who beats the drum for the mad man to dance, is also mad, after all.

 

After the incident with the orderly, Jamie went back to his placid self, and eventually they all let their guards down again, and he was permitted to join the other residents in the recreation room once a day. He was still closely watched, and still given regular doses of something that made him groggy and slow-witted, but without the pleasant warming effects of whisky.

“Hi Jamie!” Polly greeted him happily when he made his way into the brightly lit gaming room after weeks of confinement. For a moment, Jamie almost forgot how to respond to another person, but he found his voice at last, striving not to upset the sensitive lass. 

“Hello, Polly,” he said.

Polly wrinkled her nose. “Ye sound funny. Did they give ye shots?”

“Aye,” he said, surprised by her insightfulness. “Isn’a so bad...since they willn’a give us anything stronger tae drink than tea.”

“What d’ye mean?”

Jamie smiled. Or at least he thought he did. “N’er mind, lass. What’s changed since I’ve been on my wee holiday?”

“No’ much. But that nice man Roger has been back tae try tae see ye again.”

Jamie scowled. “Oh has he?”

“Fraser,” one of the orderlies called into the rec room. Not the one he’d punched, but then again all of their faces had started to blend together over time. “Ye’ve a visitor. Come this way.”

“If it’s that MacKenzie fellow, I dinna wish tae see him.”

The orderly gave him a flat look. “Well, wish or no, ye’re coming anyway. Now hurry up.”

Jamie glanced back at Polly who motioned for him to go, so he rolled his eyes and followed the orderly down the corridor to a room he hadn’t been to before. This one was less...medical than the rest of the asylum. It was more lushly furnished, with a plush sofa, dark wood paneling on the walls, a cheery fire. They didn’t allow fires on the ward, and no matter that their central heating was supposed to keep the residents comfortable, it always seemed to be cold. 

Sure enough, MacKenzie was there, eyeing him a bit nervously. To his left, sitting on the sofa was a dark-haired lass, looking up at him with an expectant, excited expression. 

“It is you!” she exclaimed, leaping to her feet. “I’d barely dared tae hope!”

Jamie took a step back, his suspicions raising. “Apologies mistress...I dinna think we’ve met.”

The lass deflated slightly, but still smiled brightly. “Ye dinna remember then? Oh Jamie, if ye only kent how long we’ve been searching for ye! Tis me! Your sister!”

Jamie balked. His twisted mind conjured an image of a small, dark-haired woman...but not the one standing before him. 

Roger came closer, and Jamie flinched when the other man rested a hand on his arm. “I ken ye dinna remember just now, but we’re here tae help ye, Jamie. Fiona and me.”

“Fiona?” Jamie echoed, now quite certain he didn’t know this woman...mad or no.

“Please, Dr. Brown, I want tae take my brother home, tae heal.” Fiona pleaded to the man who Jamie had silently dubbed governor of Helwater Asylum. 

Dr. Brown was looking over a stack of papers on his desk speculatively. “I understand that, but you must understand this gentleman has been placed in our care for a reason. To simply let him go under your word would be irresponsible.”

“We would take full responsibility for him,” Roger said.

Fiona nodded. “Aye, I’ll sign whatever ye need me to.”

Dr. Brown shook his head. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Buchan. But Mr. Fraser doesn’t even seem to recognize you.”

Roger shot Jamie a sharp look, and finally Jamie understood what was happening. He was being given a chance to escape. Another chance. But did he even want to risk it this time?

“Fiona…” he said, if nothing else, not wishing to land this woman in trouble for lying. “It...it’s you…”

Fiona grinned and flung her arms around Jamie’s neck. He tensed, but forced himself to put his arms around her.

“We’ll get you out of here,” she whispered in his ear.

“Yes, well then…” Dr. Brown cleared his throat. “In that case, I would like to evaluate Mr. Fraser for a period of one week. If I feel that he’s suitable for release, you may take him home.”

“One week?” Roger snapped. “Ye have your papers there, proving he’s Fiona’s kin. Ye have no right tae hold him here against his will.”

“Ye needn’t speak as though I’m no’ here,” Jamie said, nodding decisively. “If Dr. Brown sees fit tae evaluate me, then so be it.”

It felt wrong to reject a chance at freedom, but somehow the thought of being released to these strangers with their unknown motivations was even more frightening than being locked away. Besides, he had nothing for him on the outside and good people on the inside who needed him.

Dr. Brown gave Jamie an approving look. “Very good. You may come collect your brother in one week’s time, Mrs. Buchan, provided Mr. Fraser passes his evaluation.”

“We’ll be here,” Fiona said, hugging Jamie again.

Roger hesitated, looking like he wanted to argue some more, but eventually Fiona dragged him out with her.

“You may return to the recreation room, Mr. Fraser,” Dr. Brown said. “We’ll meet tomorrow to start your process.”

 

~~~

 

“A week,” Roger huffed as they walked down the steps of the asylum. 

“It’s better than a flat “no”,” Fiona reasoned. “Which is what we may well have gotten wi’ only a forged birth certificate and some mocked up doctor’s notes.”

“And what if he snaps again, and does something else tae make them keep him longer?”

“He seemed tae understand what we were wanting tae do, and he played along. He’ll be alright.”

Roger sighed, opening the car door for her. “I hope so. I can’t thank ye enough, Fee, for doing all this.

“I’m glad tae help, but I canna help but wonder why ye haven’a called Claire and Brianna?”

“And say what, exactly? I found Jamie, but he’s half mad, dressed in a bathrobe, shuffling around a loony bin wi’ a bunch of nutters, believing himself tae be insane? No. He wouldn’a want them tae see him like that, and I wouldn’a want it either. If I can just get him out of there, convince him he hasn’a lost it, I can take him to them myself after he’s been given a chance to get himself sorted out a bit.”

Fiona gave him a narrow look. “And I suppose being a hero in Brianna’s eyes is no small consolation?”

“It isn’a about that!” Roger snapped, but he couldn’t really be sure that Fiona was wrong. 

He did want to do this for Brianna and Claire, and the last thing he wanted was to bring them more pain. Perhaps he wouldn’t be quite this invested were it not for his feelings for Brianna...but what of it?

“Ye canna just spring this one them, though,” Fiona admitted. 

“Aye, I see what ye mean, but what am I supposed tae do? Call them up and say, ‘Hey! Hope ye’ve been well! How’s th’ weather in Boston? Oh, by th’ way, I’ve found Jamie. He’s in a psych ward in Scotland. Want tae come collect him, then?”

“No,” Fiona admitted. “Can ye no’ invite them back for a visit?”

Roger shrugged. “I dinna think they’d come. Th’ last trip didn’a exactly end well, and Claire seemed fairly sure that she wanted tae move on wi’ her life, no’ that I can blame her. And Bree has school.”

Fiona nodded. “Aye. But I think ye should try, Roger.”

 

~~~

 

“D’ye remember when ye were brought here, Mr. Fraser?”

Jamie bit back a sarcastic remark about it having only been less than seven months. He didn’t remember the night he was found very clearly, but he remembered the day he first walked into Helwater.

“Aye. I remember,” he said.

“And d’ye know why?”

Jamie arched a brow. It was a trick question, alright. “I wasn’a in my right mind.”

Dr. Brown pushed his round spectacles higher up on his nose. “And d’ye feel that ye are now?”

“Dinna ken a man alive who hasn’a felt at some point that he’s lost his senses,” Jamie said honestly. “I was at a low point, Dr. Brown. Weak wi’ hunger. Frightened. I’m better, now.”

“Then can ye tell me where ye were born?”

Jamie frowned, carefully forming his next words.

They were back in Dr. Brown’s office for the third time in as many days, the office which was, appropriately, decorated in mostly brown. It was just an endless cycle of answering sometimes meaningless questions interspersed with direct ones about his life. Sometimes Dr. Brown showed him splatters of ink and asked him how they made him “feel.” How was spilled ink supposed to make him feel a certain way?

If he wasn’t mad already, he might well be by the time Dr. Brown was finished.

He looked around the office again and thought that if Claire was there, he could make a quip about her hair being right at home. 

Mo nighean donn.

He shook his head. No. No use going down that path.

“Jamie?”

“I dinna recall much of my childhood, to be honest,” Jamie said. “Before th’ other day, I hadn’t seen Fiona in many years.”

A lie. Not a terrible one, but a lie nonetheless.

“Why did you lose touch? Where were you all these years?”

More trick questions. “In th’ woods. Fending for myself.”

Not a lie.

Claire had once told him that she’d been taught the best way to lie was to stick to the truth as much as possible. Just as well that she was taught that, since she was the worst liar he’d even encountered.

No! Dinna think of her!

“What year were you born, Mr. Fraser?”

Jamie was prepared for that one. “1933.”

Dr. Brown nodded thoughtfully. “When you first arrived here, you told me you were born in 1721. You don’t believe that any longer?”

Jamie didn’t know what he was supposed to believe. He did know, though, what he wasn’t supposed to believe. “No sir. I see now that it is impossible.”

“And this...wife you’ve spoken of. Claire?”

Jamie gritted his teeth. “I made her up. She lives...only in my mind.”

Dr. Brown hummed. “Do you know, I learned something recently that may partially explain what led you to invent her. Th’ mind very rarely just creates something from nothing. Usually, something inspires it. And if a mind is weakened by illness or trauma, we may cling to it in an unhealthy way.”

Jamie hated how Dr. Brown always said “we” as if he’d ever known what it was like on this side of the desk.

Dr. Brown slid a piece of paper across the desk and nodded for Jamie to look at it. “A colleague reminded me of an event that happened some years ago. A lass that disappeared near th’ same place you were found, and reappeared years later in much th’ same manner you did. There was even a man of interest in relation tae her disappearance similar tae ye in description, but you would have been just a wee lad at th’ time.”

Jamie’s heart started to race the moment he reached for the paper, and when he brought it into his own view, it stopped.

A face he never dreamed he would see again, staring back at him in surprise and fear in the grainy image of a...what was it called? Photograph.

“Claire…”

“Awa’ wi’ the fairies,” Dr. Brown recited the headline. “Fanciful sensationalism. I can see by th’ look on your face that this is th’ face that has haunted ye. I have a theory, Jamie, that perhaps as a boy, you found this news article, and it stuck wi’ ye, until ye started to apply it to your life. Ye may no’ have invented this Claire as a person, but ye did invent th’ relationship ye had wi’ her. I’d rather hoped that perhaps if ye saw this, saw that she’s a married woman many years your senior, ye could start tae let her go.”

“Let her go?” Jamie whispered, his grip tightening on the wee piece of paper until it started to wrinkle Claire’s image, so he forced himself to set it down on the desk, though he didn’t remove his palm from it. “Let her go…”

“Aye. Perhaps by doing that, ye might be able tae have a life.”

“A life...wi’out Claire,” Jamie clarified slowly, then picked up the Photograph again. “Christ...she is here…”

“Now Jamie,” Dr. Brown said warningly. “Remember, this fantasy you made of yourself and this woman...while a bonnie one, I’m sure, isn’a real.”

“And who are ye tae say what’s real?” Jamie hissed, glancing up at the cross hanging above the fireplace. “I could tell ye God isn’a real. Would ye believe me?”

“We’re not talking about God, Jamie, or what I believe.”

“Aren’t we?!”

Dr. Brown nodded. “It’s as I thought. Ye are still clinging to this fantasy, and you’re much too emotional about it to risk releasing ye at this time. I’m very sorry, but I’m going to have to extend your stay wi’ us.”

“NO!” Jamie slammed his fists on the desk, standing. “Ye said in a week’s time I could be released tae Roger and Fiona.”

“If you passed evaluation, which you have not, Mr. Fraser. Now please, calm down or I will be forced to send ye back into solitary confinement. We shall revisit it in six months time…”

Jamie sent papers and baubles flying as he swiped his arm across the desk. As if they’d been summoned, two orderlies entered the office and grabbed Jamie by the arms, forcing him to his knees. He clutched the Photograph in a vice grip when one of them tried to take it.

“No! Ye willn’a take her!”

He felt the pinch in his arm. The sedative. Claire had explained what that was to him, once. 

 

Claire…

 

Even as he slipped into a stupor, his fingers retained their hold on the Photograph. They would have to tear it from him if they wanted it, but he wasn’t going to let them take her away from him again.





Chapter Text

“Six months?! No...I willn’a let this stand. Ye’ll be hearing from my lawyer ye…”

Roger slammed the phone down, feeling like he could explode. 

Dr. Brown had been peculiarly vague about why Jamie was being detained another six months, pending a second evaluation. Only that he considered Jamie to be a danger to himself and others.

“D’ye have a lawyer, Roger?” Ernie asked.

Roger huffed and plopped down on the Buchans’ plush leather couch. “No,” he admitted. He supposed he could call the lawyer who had handled his father’s estate for him after he died, but the soft-spoken old man likely didn’t deal with people in mental institutions.

“What th’ fuck did Jamie do tae get locked away again?”

Fiona sat down opposite Roger on the armchair, speaking in that soothing, level-headed way she inherited from her grandmother. “Have ye considered, Roger, that maybe Jamie really is unstable and a danger?”

Roger cracked an eye open at her. “Aye. I definitely dinna think he’s th’ same Laird of Lallybroch Claire spoke of, but I don’t think he’s a danger tae anyone. Especially not if we can get him tae Claire.”

“Then I think ye ken what ye have tae do, Roger.”’

Roger nodded, then sighed and ran a hand over his beard. “Aye. But what th’ devil do I say?”

“Th’ truth? They deserve tae know.”

 

~~~

 

“Paging Lady Jane…”

“I swear, Joe, if you’re about to place another patient chart in front of me, I will run screaming out of this office.”

The words in front of me had already started to blur together, and I’d meant to go home hours ago. 

But instead of a folder, a steaming cup of hot coffee in a paper cup slid into my line of vision.

“Oh ye of little faith,” Joe quipped. “Figure if we’re both gonna burn the midnight oil, we might as well be jittery while we’re at it.”

“You should go home,” I told him. “You shouldn’t leave that long-suffering wife of yours waiting.”

Joe chuckled. “Eh, she’s at her book club, which I swear is nothing but a suburban housewife version of a gentleman’s club.”

I smirked at him. “What? Are you just bitter because they’ve been taking all your Harlequin Romances?”

He went back to his desk, plopping down heavily in his chair. “Yes, I’ll have you know! So what about you then? Isn’t Bree at home?”

I sighed deeply, leaning back and rubbing my aching neck.

“I don’t know, honestly. She hardly is anymore. She wants to move out.”

“Move out?! What the hell for? She’s living every young person’s dream right now. Big house, plenty of privacy, mom who works crazy long hours, no rent.”

It had been hard. For both of us, but especially for Brianna, readjusting to life back home in Boston with the knowledge we now possessed.

She’d come to terms remarkably well with the fact that Frank wasn’t her birth father, and that her true father was a man who lived 200 years ago. But I knew it still weighed heavily on her, and was affecting how she saw herself.

And I...well, I’d simply thrown myself back into work and otherwise tried to focus my emotional energy solely on Brianna. If I thought too much about my self, well...that was just a sinkhole I didn’t care to get trapped in.

Joe, with his laser-focus and uncanny ability to read me, gave me an appraising look.

“What’s been going on with you lately, Lady Jane? Ever since you and Bree came back from Scotland something’s been up. When Gale and I were at your place for dinner the other week, you seemed...I don’t know, closer somehow. Which is great of course, but I can’t shake the feeling that something went down while you were there.”

“Nothing ‘went down’ as you put it,” I lied. “But I do think a wall has come down between Bree...if only to have perhaps created a new one.”

“How so?”

I didn’t answer at first, and Joe’s look narrowed.

“Anybody ever tell you you’ve got a face that a person can see right through? A person who knows you, at least.”

I chuckled, even though his innocent comment sent a sharp jab of pain right through my heart. “Yes. A glass face as...someone used to put it.”

“Shit…” Joe hissed, suddenly standing and hurrying his way over to me. I didn’t understand why until I felt a warm, fat tear roll down my cheek. “Was it something I said?”

“No,” I told him. “It’s nothing. I must be overtired, is all.”

“Bullshit,” he said, sitting on the edge of the desk and taking my hand. “I’ve seen you cry a grand total of five times in fifteen years, Lady Jane. Three lost patients, when Bree broke her arm, and when Frank died. So spill it. What is going on with you?”

I quickly dried my tears, not even really sure why I was crying. “I just don’t know what to do about Brianna. She’s so lost right now, and it’s all my fault,” I looked up and met his eyes. “In Scotland...I told Bree that Frank wasn’t her real father.”

Joe wasn’t nearly as surprised by that piece of information as I thought he would be, but then I supposed it seemed fairly obvious in retrospect. I told him everything that I could without telling him everything, including that Jamie had been the love of my life, and I was devastated by the fact that my chance of reuniting with him was gone.

“Damn,” he sighed. “I can’t believe you’ve held all that in for so long. Why didn’t you just tell me?”

I winced. “It’s a complicated situation. I suppose I’ve just been trying to process it myself. And Bree...she and Frank were so close. To lose him, only to learn that he didn’t make her has to be devastating. And no chance of connecting with the father who did.”

“And why is there no chance? He’s married?”

“No,” not as far as I’m aware. “He’s…” I couldn’t bring myself to say “dead” even though that’s exactly what he was. No matter where or when Jamie died, he had been been gone either way for a very long time. “He’s gone off the grid, I suppose you could say.”

“Did you love him?” Joe asked.

My answer came without hesitation. “I never stopped.”

“Then why the hell are you throwing in the towel so easily?”

I laughed, but there was no humor in it. “Nothing about this has been easy, Joe. But I can’t keep living in the past.”

“Course not. But that doesn’t mean you give up on your future.”

I shook my head, drying my tears and needlessly straightening the papers on my desk. “Fate just didn’t have it in the cards for him and me, that’s all.”

Joe held up his hands in defeat and turned to go back to his own desk, but not without a few more parting words. “Fuck fate.”

 

It was well into the wee hours of the morning by the time I got home, so I was surprised to find Brianna there, going through papers in Frank’s desk.

“Bree, it’s late,” I murmured softly so not to startle her, since she didn’t even seem to have heard me come in.

Brianna jumped regardless, looking up sharply. “Oh...hey, Mama,” she glanced at her watch. “Damn, I didn’t even realize what time it is. I was just packing and got distracted, I guess. Sorry.”

“It’s alright,” I assured her, coming to stand beside the desk. “I’ve mostly left it all here for you, anyway.”

“Roger called earlier this evening,” she said.

After the conversation with Joe that night, the mention of Roger brought even more memories of the previous summer to the surface, so I looked away at a photograph of Frank and Bree so that she couldn’t see my expression. “How nice,” I glanced back at her when she didn’t continue, realizing she had a similar look on her face that I no doubt did. “Is something wrong?”

“No, not really. I don’t know, it seemed weird.”

I crossed my arms and leaned against the desk. “What did? Your conversation with Roger?”

I knew the two had been keeping in touch, and had begun a tentative relationship. But long-distance relationships were difficult to maintain at best, especially when it had barely gotten to begin in the first place.

“He invited us back to Scotland. I guess they’re naming a library after Reverend Wakefield next month?”

I tried to imagine why that was ‘weird.’ “It’s very kind of him to invite us, but I can’t take any more time off work. You could go, if you wanted to,” I bit back any mention of the fact that she had plenty of time since she’d dropped out of Harvard, but I didn’t want to start another argument.

“It wasn’t really that...he just seemed really insistent on us going. At first I thought it was just because he wants the support, but I don’t know, it seemed like more than just that.”

“Well darling, perhaps he just wants to see you.”

Brianna still didn’t look convinced.

I hummed in thought. “Well, as I said, as much as I would like to for Roger’s sake, I just can’t justify another trip like that so soon after…” I trailed off, looking away.

“Yeah…I can understand that. I don’t know…I wasn’t sure about it at first either, but it would be nice to see Roger again.”

I smiled at her, then stroked the hair back off her shoulder. “Good. I think you should go. Let it be a getaway though, and not about…well, you know. Give Roger my regrets, and find out what library it is, and I’ll arrange a donation in our name.”

Brianna nodded, and we both shuffled ourselves off to bed.

As bone tired as I was, I didn’t actually go to bed right away. Taking a glass of whisky to my room, I sat in the window seat, wishing for the hundred thousandth time in the past twenty years that I wasn’t alone.

“Damn you, Jamie Fraser,” I whispered. “It was supposed to be forever.”

 

~~~

 

“It’s gonna be great,” Gale said, watching Brianna hang a poster by her bed. “I’ve been waiting a long time to see you really cut loose, Randall.”

Brianna smiled, trying not to show her friend how being called ‘Randall’ was no longer a simple thing to her.

Oh, she was a Randall. The knowledge that her father wasn’t her father by birth changed nothing in how she felt about him, but in a weird way it felt like she was walking around with a name she didn’t earn. Yeah, it was on her birth certificate and her driver’s license, but it didn’t feel like it belonged to her the way it used to.

In the dark hours of the night, a few days after returning from Scotland, she’d whispered. “Brianna Fraser” aloud to herself a few times, testing it out on her tongue. But it didn’t feel like hers either. 

“Cut loose?” Brianna echoed. “Like what, go streaking?”

Gale hummed. “Maybe nothing that conspicuous. I was thinking more like finding one or five guys to date. Bring them home at all hours of the night. Do things you’ll regret the next morning. You know, all the normal things you couldn’t do when you lived with your mother.”

Brianna chuckled and rolled her eyes. “Right. Speaking of guys, I meant to call Roger so he’d have my new number…”

Gale sighed teasingly. “Ah, yes, Mr. Scotland. You can’t do regrettable things with a guy on the other side of the world, just saying.”

Brianna shook her head at her friend, and after checking the time and making sure she wouldn’t be waking Roger up, she dialed the number.

He picked up on the third ring. “Roger Wakefield.”

“Hey, Roger, it’s Brianna…”

“Brianna! Uh..hey! I’m so glad ye called!”

Brianna smiled, then shot a glare at her new roommate who was making moony eyes at her. “Yeah?”

“Yeah. Hey, were ye able to talk to your mother about th’ dedication service?”

“Yeah! So um, my mother said to tell you she’s sorry, but she just can’t take any more time off work right now. Plus, I think she just isn’t quite ready to go back there, you know? But I’d like to come! And Mama wants to make a donation to the library...so if you can give me the address…”

“Bree…” Roger broke in before letting out a breath. “Listen...I wasn’t being honest with you.”

Brianna frowned, then waved sharply at Gale to get her to quit making faces at her and leave the room. “What do you mean? You don’t want me to come?”

“No! I mean, yes! Yes, of course I want ye tae come, that isn’t it at all…but…”

“So…there’s no dedication?”

“No, there is...I didn’a lie. They really are naming a library after my father...but that isn’t why I asked you and your mother tae come. Not...not the main reason, anyway.”

“Then why?”

“I want tae tell ye, I do, but it...it’s just no’ something I can talk about on th’ phone, aye? Just know that it has tae do wi’ Jamie...and it’s important. And your mother needs tae be here.”

Brianna’s heart leapt. “You found him?!”

“Yeah but...Jesus, Brianna, it’s complicated. I ken we don’t know each other that well, but I need ye tae trust me on this. And I need ye tae get your mother tae Scotland as soon as possible.”

So many emotions started warring within Brianna at once. Elation that Roger had found Jamie in the past...along with sudden and acute fear that it would mean her mother might leave. Forever.

“I could really use a few more details…” Brianna said. “My mother isn’t really the type who will do something on faith alone.”

“I really canna give ye more than that, Bree. For one...I dinna think ye’d even believe me.”

Brianna chuckled. “For God’s sake, Roger, if I can believe my mother traveled 200 years to the past to conceive me, I can believe anything.”

“Ye know, a month ago I would have said th’ same thing. Promise me ye’ll get her here?”

“I’ll do my best. Thank you, Roger.”

 

~~~

 

“But Mama…”

“Bree, as I said before, we can’t keep doing this…”

The argument had been going on a good three quarters of an hour, but at least it was considerably less heated than some of our other recent quarrels. Brianna had spoken again to Roger, and it sounded like he’d found solid confirmation of Jamie’s whereabouts, and that was why he wanted us in Scotland so damned badly.

I felt irrationally angry. I’d said my farewells to Jamie in Scotland, I’d felt peace in knowing he hadn’t died senselessly on the battlefield. I liked to believe that after the hardships following Culloden, Jamie had found his own peace. I liked to think of him as still alive somewhere, happy and living. 

All of these things were things I’d chanted to myself in my mind over and over in the months since we’d returned home. It was the only way I knew of to be able to go on and not be miserable for the rest of my life.

And now this? As much as I appreciated Roger’s determination (though I suspected it was at least in part of a desire to impress Brianna, and that was quite alright as far as I was concerned,) I was irrationally angry at him for not just letting it go, so that we could let it go as well. 

“But he found him! Aren’t you listening?!”

“I’m listening, Brianna!” I snapped, harsher than I’d intended, then took a deep breath to calm down. “But I just can’t do this anymore. What are we to gain from knowing?”

Brianna held her hands out to her sides, floundering a moment for words. “What? How about the goal from the beginning? So that you could go back?”

“I…I know what I said, Bree. But leave you?”

“We’ve been through this, Mama. And I’m not saying I want you to go away, but...don’t you think you deserve it? Don’t you think he deserves it? Look, I’m not saying go pack your petticoats now. Let’s just go and see Roger, see what he has to say?”

“That’s another thing...what is it that he can’t say over the phone, or in a letter?”

“I don’t know, Mama, but I don’t think he’d be this insistent if it wasn’t important.”

I took a deep breath. My brain was screaming at me to say no, frantically trying to keep me from getting hurt again. But my heart, that stubborn thing, still wanted to hope.

Chapter Text

“Oh hush, you have not!”

“Are ye calling me a liar, Sassenach?”

We were huddled close beside the fire, so not to wake the other men. It had been a long, grueling day of travel on our rent collection, ended by a cruel and humiliating display where Jamie’s uncle Dougal used the sight of the scars on his back to sway villagers into joining the Jacobite rebellion. But even though Jamie and I were both completely exhausted, we had each found ourselves unable to sleep, and so in the way that two souls do in the small hours of the night when everyone else is slumbering, we drifted together, just to talk and not feel so alone in the dark.

I lowered my voice, made aware that we were getting loud when Rupert snorted in annoyance. “Well, I certainly don’t believe you, I’ll tell you that!”

Jamie grinned unrepentantly in that boyish way of his that I was gradually finding harder and harder to pretend it didn’t make my heart flutter. 

 

“Mama, wake up. The plane is landing.”

 

I opened my eyes, still seeing that toothy grin. Still feeling that flutter in my chest. I glanced over at where Brianna sat beside me, and with Jamie’s face so fresh in my mind, the resemblance between them was even more breathtaking than usual. 

“What were you dreaming about?” Brianna asked. “You were smiling in your sleep.”

When I didn’t answer, her smile widened, looking so like him I wanted to cry. “Were you dreaming about my father?”

I chuckled. “I usually do. It wasn’t a dream really, though, but a memory. Back before we were married and I was still busy pretending I wasn’t developing feelings for him, we used to sit beside the fire and talk late into the night. About all manner of silly things. Sometimes, I think that’s what I miss the most. Just...talking to him. No one has ever been able to make me laugh quite the way he could.

Brianna nodded. “I kind of know what you mean. It’s different, I know, but I miss that with Daddy, too. Just those inconsequential conversations in car rides on the way to school.”

I took and squeezed her hand. “I do miss him, too, you know. Even though our relationship wasn’t what...it should have been, I truly did love him.”

“I know,” she said, nodding. “I’m not upset about it, anymore. I’m more just...sad, that none of you had what you deserved. You, Daddy...or my father.”

I looked away, unable to come up with a response to that. Because it wasn’t fair. But nothing could change it.

 

Roger was waiting for us at the end of the terminal when we disembarked, and I bit back a grin at the besotted expression on his face when he saw Brianna. 

She glanced at me a little shyly, and I chuckled. “I think I’ll just go see if I can get our luggage off the carousel before the crowd gets there,” I said, leaving the two young lovebirds to greet one another without me watching on.

“Claire!” Roger exclaimed when they caught up to me a little later, hugging me and kissing my cheek. “I canna tell ye how glad I am ye both came.”

“Well, you certainly wouldn’t take no for an answer,” I said lightly, trying not to let my nerves rise to the surface.

Roger clearly caught the tone in my voice, though, and smiled sympathetically. “Aye, I’m sure ye’re both very curious. Come on, I’ve booked us a couple of rooms nearby, but there’s somewhere we need tae go, first.”

Roger was uncharacteristically quiet when we were in the car. Brianna tried to engage him in conversation, but after a few monosyllabic responses, she too lapsed into silence. 

It was about an hour drive to...wherever we were going, but the nondescript medical facility we pulled up to was the last thing I was expecting.

“Where are we?” Brianna asked, then caught sight of a sign. “Helwater?”

“I’ve gone over a thousand different ways tae explain this tae ye,” Roger said. “And each one just seemed...impossible. So, in th’ end, Fiona suggested that maybe I ought tae just bring ye here, and let ye see for yourself. I...I could be wrong...but I dinna think I am.”

“Roger, for God’s sake, what is this all about?” I asked, leaning forward from the back seat. “This looks like a psychiatric residential facility. What in the world does this have to do with us, or Jamie?”

Roger looked back at me, and I didn’t like the urgent, almost desperate look in his eyes. “Please just...come with me? Have a wee bit of faith?”

I sighed, tossing up my hands. “Fine.”

He looked at Brianna. “I think maybe ye ought tae stay here, just for now, aye? Dinna fash, I’ll explain everything but first...she needs tae see.”

Brianna glanced from him to me and back uncertainly like she wanted to argue, but relented when I nodded at her. “Uh...ok.”

I simply couldn’t fathom what purpose Roger could possibly have in dragging Brianna and me across an ocean for this cold-looking facility, but I didn’t like it.

“Roger, you’re scaring me,” I said lowly as he led me toward the front door.

“Aye, I know I am, I’m so sorry, Claire. It’s th’ only way tae know for sure...and tae make ye believe it.”

“Believe what?!”

“Just come wi’ me.”

I did, following Roger past a reception desk where the woman sitting there only barely glanced at us before issuing visitor badges, seeming to already know Roger. 

He led me through a recreation room, where people shuffled about in bathrobes and slippers, some muttering nonsensically to themselves, others pacing aimlessly back and forth. 

My heart went out to them, having never liked the types of places where relatives sent their supposed “loved ones” who didn’t fit into societal norms. Treatment for their mental ailments were controversial at best - and downright inhumane at worst. In many cases of course, the individual was too dangerous to be kept at home, but the sweet-faced woman who enthusiastically greeted Roger and cheerfully introduced herself to me as Polly didn’t seem like the kind of person who needed to be shut away from the world.

“D’ye ken where he is?” Roger asked the girl.

Polly frowned. “They willn’a let him out.”

Roger nodded. “Aye...thank ye, lass.”

“Let who out?” I demanded as Roger grabbed my hand and led me along. “Roger, I swear to God if you don’t explain all this to me right now, I’m leaving.”

Roger’s grip on my hand tightened in response. “Just hold on. Almost there.”

We wound through long, steril, white hallways lined with identical doors, each with a small window near the top. I was questioning whether Roger even knew where he was going until we reached a door marked with the number “246.”

“Roger…” I sighed. “What…”

“Look in,” he said, squaring his jaw. “Please.”

For some reason, something inside me desperately did not want to look into that window. I broke into a cold sweat, my heart thundering in my chest.

But Roger wasn’t going to relent, so I stepped up to the door, and peered through the little square window.

A figure sat hunched over on the narrow cot, elbows on his knees, head bowed.

...A head covered in wild, red curls.

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ…”

The head snapped up, even though I’d only whispered, and I stumbled back, covering my mouth with both hands to smother the scream that bubbled up from my throat.

“Claire! Claire...listen tae me!”

I shook my head, my back colliding with the opposite wall and I sank down to sit on the cold floor.

Roger knelt before me, grabbing my shoulders and giving me a light shake. I realized that my vision was blurring, and I was close to passing out. I squeezed my eyes shut, took several deep breaths from between my fingers, and then slowly opened them again.

Roger was rubbing my arms, trying to soothe me. “Fuck...I’m so sorry,” he was babbling. “This was wrong. I should have explained it all tae ye first I just…”

“This can’t be real…” I said shakily. “That can’t be...him.”

But my heart knew the truth, as deeply as it knew the eyes that had met mine for a breath of a second.

The blood had been rushing so loudly in my ear, it took a moment to realize he was banging on the other side of the heavy door. 

“OPEN THIS DOOR!” he was screaming, and the sound of his voice sent shockwaves right through me, even though it was a tone I’d never heard from him before…even at his lowest point of recovery from his time in Wentworth Prison.

“Come on,” Roger said, hauling me to my feet. Someone was coming down the hall, and he started yanking me in the opposite direction. 

“Wait! No!” I tried to resist, but I was so gobsmacked that my body had little strength left for resistance. “We have to let him out of there!”

“We can’t,” he hissed, pulling me around the corner just as a cluster of white-coated men approached his door.

He was still screaming, still beating the door. Every sound like a bullet through my heart.

“I can’t leave him here!” I cried. 

“We won’t,” Roger assured me. “We’re going tae get him out, okay? But for now we need tae talk. I promise ye, he’ll be okay.”

I barely registered the rest of the building as Roger led me back outside, my mind spinning.

How? How did Jamie get here? He wasn’t able to travel. But even if he was...how did he get here? To an asylum?

I must have already begun hyperventilating before Roger got me outside, because he immediately steered me toward an area shielded by tall ferns.

Once he released me, I collapsed to my knees, unsure whether to cry, or vomit.

The crying won out...wracking sobs that left me shaking. 

Not only was he alive...but he was here. In my time. Close enough that I could see him...touch him...talk to him.

But seeing him locked in that tiny cell brought back horrible memories of seeing him locked in a very different cell. Very different, but I was left feeling just as helpless.

“Mama? Oh, God!”

Brianna dropped to her knees beside me. I felt her arms go around me, and leaned gratefully into her warm strength. “Roger! What the hell did you show her?!”

“It’s him…” I gasped. “Jamie.”

 

“How is this even possible?” Brianna asked, her arms sternly crossed.

We were sat in one of the hotel rooms Roger had booked for us. Brianna had tenderly led me to the chair and Roger had produced a bottle of whisky...showing he had at least some foresight. 

It took several large fortifying sips to feel halfway human, and alert enough to participate in the conversation.

“It shouldn’t be,” I said. “Jamie wasn’t able to travel.”

It was a fact that I couldn’t let go of...if for no other reason than if it wasn’t true to start with, it meant that Jamie had been able to come with me all along. That twenty years apart needn’t have happened.

“I haven’t been able tae talk tae him much,” Roger said. “He was found wandering th’ hillside almost a year ago, disoriented, dehydrated. He tried tae tell people where he was from...and of course they didn’a believe him.”

“That’s how he ended up there,” Brianna summarized. “Shit. Well, can’t we just go and tell them he’s our...I dunno, long-lost crazy uncle?”

“I tried pretty much exactly that,” Roger said. “I didn’a want either of ye tae see him there, so I tried tae get him out first. And I thought I’d succeeded, but something happened...I don’t know what, exactly, but they up and determined he was ‘dangerous’ and are keeping him an additional six months for evaluation.”

I could practically hear the echoes of his screams from that room. He didn’t sound like the Jamie I knew.

“There’s something else,” Roger said, wincing.

I laughed, but there was no humor in it. “Might as well tell us, then.”

“Look, I don’t pretend tae know how all this time-travel stuff works...but...but th’ man in that room...he’s only about thirty-five years old, Claire.”

I looked up sharply, for some reason that having been the last thing I’d expected him to say. “What?”

“So we were wrong?” Brianna asked. “Time in the past doesn’t run the same way it does here?”

Roger held out his arms, indicating how much he knew. “I have no idea. He does know ye, Claire. But th’ time he’s spent in that damned place...it’s done something tae him. I think they’ve all but convinced him he truly is crazy.”

Tears stung my eyes again, but I swallowed thickly, refusing to let them flow again. Afraid if they started, I wouldn’t be able to stop them. I turned to look out the window, my eyes caught by the bird on the windowsill. “What have they done to you?” I whispered.

 

~~~

 

It took two of their wee Injections to subdue Jamie, until he was pliable enough that they could maneuver him into a coat that forced his arms into a crossed position around his body, like he was hugging himself. 

He didn’t care though. He didn’t care that he was mad, and slipping farther and farther into the oblivion.

Because he saw her. He hadn’t seen her...his grieving mind’s conjuring of her at least...since he left Ardsmuir. He used to relish those brief hallucinations where he would see her...smiling at him...the hair curling around her face. 

This hadn’t been the same. She hadn’t been smiling. She hadn’t been standing serenely before him. It had only been a brief glimpse, through a yellowed window, but he would have kent those eyes anywhere. He didn’t care if he was mad...he didn’t care whether she was real, or if the life they’d started together was real or not...he wanted more.

He would gladly embrace the consuming depths of insanity with open arms if it kept her with him.

They left him sitting on his cot, his body snugly confined in the strange jacket, the dizzying effects of the drugs beginning to swarm his mind once more. And he smiled.




Chapter Text

I didn’t sleep so much as a wink that night, my mind running through everything that had happened in the past 24 hours, and everything that may or may not happen next.

One thing that was for certain was that Jamie could not be left to stay in that asylum another six months, nor another day if I could help it. I could think of no other person in history that had been unfairly locked away as many times as he...but this was the worst of all. From what Roger had said, the people that ran that asylum...even if they thought that they had good intentions...were warping his mind as surely as Black Jack Randall had. Roger had expressed his concerns that the Jamie I’d known might be gone...but I didn’t care. However much was left of him there was, I wanted him. I’d told him once that I would have him any way that I could…and by God I’d meant it.

I wracked my brain on how best to go about it. Breaking him out was the obvious first choice, but this wasn’t Fort William or Wentworth Prison...and I wasn’t some unknown Sassenach without a family. If I wanted to give Jamie and Brianna any semblance of a life after this, I had no choice but to go about this carefully. 

I knew blood testing had recently been done to try and determine a child’s paternity, but I doubted I could get it arranged to prove that he was Brianna’s father anytime soon...and it might not make a difference to them anyway. 

I needed to see him. Talk to him. Make sure he knew that even if we had no choice but to wait the six months, that I would be there waiting for him.

“Mama?” I heard Brianna’s quiet voice creep its way through the solemn dark to where I sat by the window, staring at nothing. 

“I’m fine, darling,” I whispered back automatically. “Go back to sleep.”

Instead, Brianna got out of bed and shuffled sleepily over to me, a throw wrapped around her shoulders. I couldn’t help but smile, since even at 20 years old, she could sometimes still revert back to that sweet little girl she used to be.

“Can’t sleep?” she asked rhetorically. “Can’t say I blame you. I can only imagine what’s going through your head right now.”

“Even I barely know,” I said. “I can hardly even wrap my mind around it.”

“Me either,” she admitted, sitting across from me on the window seat and pulling her feet up so that our toes nearly touched. “That my father lived 200 years ago was one thing...that he’s here and that I can actually meet him is another...and Roger says he’s only in his thirties? How am I supposed to look at a man fifteen years older than me and see him as a father?”

I snorted. “With everything else, I’d barely thought about that part. But as far as that goes, 15 year olds have children every day, darling. But Jamie wasn’t a boy when you were conceived, nor is he a boy now. You need to remember that.

Brianna snorted in clear imitation of me, then grew quiet. “You never said what he looked like...I mean, how he looked...in that place.”

I sighed, then rubbed the back of my sore neck. Just how long had I been looking out that window, anyway? “I didn’t really get a good look at him. But I heard him. He was screaming to be let out. He didn’t sound like himself at all.”

I felt the tears starting to form in my eyes but did my best to swallow them back. “What if it’s too late? What if he’s too far gone? What if I can’t reach him?”

“Don’t talk like that, Mama,” she said, taking my hand and squeezing it. “You once told me that loving him was the most powerful thing you’d ever felt. Has that changed?”

I shook my head, tears hitting the back of our joined hands despite my efforts. “No.”

“Then you have to trust that it’s the same for him, and that because of it, you can bring him back to himself...just like you did after Wentworth.”

“But Bree…” I cried. “There’s only so much a human being can take.”

Brianna smiled, but there were tears in her eyes as well. “What was the other thing you said? That Jamie was no normal man? Well then, I believe that he won’t be beaten by this...not after everything.”

“I hope you’re right,” I said. “You have to be right.”

 

What I wouldn’t have given to have been able to enlist the help of Ned Gowen. Since that was impossible, I did the next best thing, and contacted a lawyer in Edinburgh that had been a friend of Frank’s, ironically enough. 

Because of Jamie’s apparent age, and because I had no proof, I couldn’t very well tell them he was my husband, so we decided to continue with the ruse Roger had already set into place with Fiona as Jamie’s sister. The lawyer, Dennis McPherson, thankfully took the case on immediately for the sake of his old friend, though my offer of an advance probably didn’t go amiss. 

“To be perfectly honest, Mrs. Randall,” he said on the phone. “Having him released to his sister’s care could be a rather lengthy court battle, considering his unusual history and record of violence in the facility.”

Before my heart could sink too far, he continued.

“However, Helwater Asylum already has an active case pending against them for th’ accidental death of a patient last year. They can’t afford any more bad press, and I highly doubt they would be willing to risk it for one patient. Let me make a few calls, and I’ll bet ye a dram I can have him released by the weekend.”

“Thank you,” I said, feeling at least a little hope. I knew that getting Jamie out of Helwater was only the first step. But I had faith that once we were together, everything would work out fine.

 

Since sitting around waiting for Mr. McPherson’s call would have driven me mad, Bree and I left Roger by the phone and went out to purchase a few things Jamie might need once we got him released.

“I never would have dreamed that I would be standing in the chemist buying a toothbrush and razor for Jamie Fraser,” I muttered, mostly to myself, smelling one of the shampoos and looking for one that smelled natural and not perfumy.

“Well, he’ll be glad to have some things of his own no doubt,” Brianna said.

I nodded, trying not to think how in most of the two years I’d been with him, except for that all-too brief time we lived at Lallybroch, he’d had practically no possessions of his own other than the clothes on his back and whatever fit inside his sporran.

Oh God…his sporran…would they have taken it? Would it have come through?

“How about this, Mama?”

I snapped out of my memories to look at Brianna, staring in momentary incomprehension at the tiny box she was holding before balking and almost slapping it out of her hand, absurdly looking around to see if anyone had noticed. “Brianna! Honestly!”

Brianna grimaced and returned the box of condoms to the shelf. “Sorry! I was just trying to lighten the mood, is all.”

I smiled at her, even though my cheeks were burning. “Well, thanks for the effort, darling. But that’s the last thing I need to be thinking about right now.”

“Yep,” she agreed with a grimace. “I regret putting that thought into my own head.”

Tossing one of the shampoos into the basket Brianna was holding, I took a sudden deep breath, putting my fingers to my temples.

“Mama, calm down,” Brianna said. “I was just teasing! Everything is going to be alright.”

“Is it?” I asked her, refusing to cry in the toiletry aisle of Boots. “What are we going to do? We can’t take him home…he doesn’t have papers, a passport. And what would he even do once he’s there? His world is rolling green hills, wilderness and mountains. His life is that of a soldier and a laird. What sort of life could he have here? Do I try to take him back through the stones? What if it doesn’t work this time? And the Highlands are hell in his time anyway…”

“Mama,” Brianna broke in sharply, both of us glancing sheepishly over at an old lady who was just trying to get past us to the bar soap. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, okay? Let’s just focus on getting him out. Come on, I think we’ve gotten enough for now. Let’s go see if the lawyer has called back yet.”

I nodded and followed her to the checkout. 

She was right, of course. The important thing was getting Jamie out. We could figure out the rest of our lives later.



~~~

 

“Are you absolutely sure this is necessary, Dr. Brown?”

“He’s been out of control since yesterday afternoon. He won’t even let anyone near him to treat the cuts on his knuckles from where he drove his fist through that window. Mr. Fraser is clearly a very, very troubled man, and he’s taken a turn for the worse. And with his size and strength it would be irresponsible to do nothing to curb his outbursts. Electroshock therapy has been known to do wonders for cases such as his, with minimal side-effects.”

The young charge nurse frowned, clearly not agreeing with him, but Dr. Brown knew good and well that most of the female staff in Helwater were half in love with Mr. Fraser, regardless of his mental state, so he dismissed her discomfiture. 

He was quite confident that Fraser would benefit greatly from the therapy. There were risks, of course, but he felt that those risks were worth it for the possible benefit. Perhaps in time he would even be able to reenter society...but one step at a time, of course.

“Shouldn’t we at least ask his family, first?”

Dr. Brown snorted. “I have my doubts that those people really are th’ poor man’s family, and even if they are, they’re hardly fit to be making decisions about his welfare after letting him get to th’ state he was brought to us in. No, until we have official confirmation that he’s their relative, he’s our responsibility. I’d rather call them after to let them know of our success.”

“As ye say, Dr. Brown.”

“Have the room ready first thing tomorrow morning,” he continued. “His family will thank us later.”



Chapter Text

“Come on Fraser, you’re coming with us.”

Jamie cracked an eye open, finding two of the asylum’s biggest and strongest orderlies standing in his room, staring down at him.

“And just where would we be going, then?” Jamie muttered dazedly, trying and failing to rouse himself out of his drugged stupor. 

“Doc Brown’s got a new treatment for ye,” one of them said. “Now please don’t make this harder than it has to be and come along peacefully.”

Groaning, Jamie allowed them to help him to his feet, figuring that whatever Dr. Brown had up his sleeve couldn’t be much worse than sitting in that frigid room feeling something worse than drunk.

He may have been dazed, but Jamie didn’t think he’d ever been down the west corridor, accessible only by a pair of thick double doors that read “Authorized Personnel Only.”

Just before they led him through the doors, he caught sight of wee Polly, watching him go with a worried look on her sweet face.

“Oh no…why are you taking Jamie there?” she asked.

“Never ye mind,” the orderly said gruffly. “Get back to your room.”

Suddenly, Jamie was concerned, but there was little he could do to prevent them from getting him through those doors. If he fought, they would just drag him, weak as he was.

“Where are ye taking me?” he growled.

“Don’t worry Mr. Fraser,” Dr. Brown was standing by another door, this one plastered with warnings not to enter without authorization and an image of a large lightning bolt. “In just a little while I assure you that you’re going to feel much better.”

Jamie very much doubted that, especially when the door opened to reveal a single cot - similar to the one in the medical clinic - in the center of the room, only this one was surrounded by Machines and Wires and leather straps to hold a person down.

Finding a surge of clarity of mind, Jamie pushed back against the men restraining him. “No…”

“Now, Mr. Fraser, I assure you everything will be much better soon. All of these thoughts plaguing you…of fantastical lands and non-existent people that have you grieving for nothing…all will be no more.”

In a way, Jamie could see why Dr. Brown would think getting rid of those mad thoughts would be a blessing, but all Jamie was hearing was that they were going to rid him of Claire.

He knew that Claire, or at least the Claire he’d built up in his mind, was nothing more than that. A construction of his own madness. But he didn’t care. He wanted her. Even just the imagining of her. To lose that…surely that would be the worst madness of all. 

So he fought. He knew that it was pointless. He knew he would probably only make things worse for himself. But he tried anyway. He would do anything to keep her. 

“I was hoping we could do this without further sedation,” he heard Dr. Brown sigh as he managed to send the bigger of the two orderlies crashing into the wall. “Bring me the syringe.”

 

~~~

 

“Hello? Oh, hi Ronnie. What?”

Brianna and I both looked up sharply at Roger’s suddenly harsh tone, then watched as his brow furrowed while his friend spoke on the other end of the phone. Brianna and I were sitting around the little table in my hotel room, while we all impatiently waited on word from the lawyer.

“No…surely they canna… shit. Thank ye, Ronnie. No, I don’t know what we’ll do, but thank ye.”

Roger hung up the phone, turning to us with an expression that turned my blood to ice. 

“Somethings wrong…” I said, not even needing to ask.

Roger shook his head. “Ronnie said that one o’ th’ patients…ye might have seen her there, a sweet young woman, Polly…she came tae him, crying…suppose she learned somewhere that when you’re afraid, ye go to a police officer, and since Ronnie is about as close as she’d know of…”

“Christ, Roger, what is it?” I urged him.

“She said that she saw Jamie being taken tae what she called th’ “bad room.” Ronnie didn’a ken what she meant at first, but th’ more he tried tae coax it out of her, th’ more it started tae sound like th’ room where they perform…”

I stood up, feeling like my heart would either beat out of my chest, or plummet to my feet. “Perform what, Roger?”

“Electro-shock therapy,” Roger said lowly.

“Oh my God…” Brianna exclaimed. “Is that even legal?”

“Legal,” I confirmed shakily, my mind racing. “But incredibly dangerous. Most patients are left with permanent brain damage. Many end up in a vegetative state.”

“What are we going to do?!”

“You’re staying here,” I told her firmly. “I’m going to that asylum.”

“And do what?” Roger asked incredulously. “Break him out?!”

“I’ve broken him out of worse places. But if you think I’m just going to sit by and let them…” I trailed off when my voice started to break, brushing past Roger to get to the door.

“Mama’s right,” Brianna said, following me. “But I’m coming too.”

“No,” I said, not pausing my steps out of the hotel to argue with her. “If something happens, or I get arrested, I won’t have you dragged into it.”

“But Mama…”

I did stop then, swinging around to face her. “Brianna…I need you to stay here. Someone needs to be here for him if I can’t.”

That got through to her at last, and she deflated in defeat. “Alright.”

“But I’m coming,” Roger said, opening the passenger side door of his car for me. “Bree, get the lawyer on th’ phone, tell him what’s going on. Something tells me we might need him before th’ day is done.”

 

Roger broke all sorts of traffic laws to get to the asylum, but it still didn’t feel fast enough. Every second that ticked by was more time that they could take what was left of my Jamie and destroy him. That brilliant mind…that beautiful spirit. If being locked away again hadn’t killed what made him him, I had no doubt that this would.

I barely waited for Roger to park the car before I flew out of it, but he caught up quickly.

“What the hell…Roger?!” Ronnie exclaimed, eyes widening as I wrenched open the glass door to the reception room hard enough to crack it on the brick railing outside. 

“Let me in,” I said simply, and Ronnie took one good look at me, a glance at Roger, then pressed the button to admit us inside.

“Claire, wait!” Roger called, chasing after me as I charged through the halls, ignoring flabbergasted staff and residents alike. “Ye don’t know where you’re going!”

Roger was right, but just as he said it, I caught sight of the young Downs woman who had been the one to tell Ronnie about all of this.

“Polly,” I called out, forcing my voice into a semblance of calm so not to frighten the poor girl. “Do you know where Jamie is?”

Polly gasped in surprise, but eagerly pointed to one of the several hallways. “Th…that way! Upstairs, to the Bad Room. The one with pointy lines on the door. I hate that room!”

“Thank you,” I managed, my feet already carrying down the corridor, dimly hearing Roger murmur praise to Polly before following me at a jog.

Upstairs, at the far end of the hallway, there was a barred off section of the floor that thankfully had no sort of lock to keep anyone out. I supposed that the residents had no problem with staying out of that wing.

The door with electric bolts on it… pointy lines… was locked, however, and from inside I could what sounded like a struggle. 

“Strap him down, dammit!”

“JAMIE!” I screamed, kicking ineffectually at the door.

“Claire!” Roger snapped, appearing with a metal chair hoisted over his head, and I dodged out of the way just as he brought it down on the doorknob. One more solid push with our shoulders together, and the door finally gave way.

Jamie was tied down to a bed, but it didn’t stop his back from arching grotesquely off the mattress, his mouth open in a silent scream.

“NO!” I lunged unthinkingly, ready to throw my body atop his, take some of the charge into myself instead, but Roger wrapped an arm around my waist, flinging me back before shoving Dr. Brown aside in order to get to the switch, turning off the machine. 

Jamie’s body went limp as the machine whirred to a stop, and I ran to him again, desperately pulling at the electrodes stuck to his face that were keeping the wires in place. Underneath the adhesive patches were little pink burns. 

“Jamie,” I cried, my voice coming out in a harsh whisper. I ran my fingers over his face, chest, abdomen, every bit of his skin that was exposed. It was to reassure myself that he was really there, and breathing, as much as it was to check for further injury. 

“Just what in God’s name do you think you’re doing?!” Dr. Brown demanded. 

“Stopping you!” I screamed, whirling on him with clenched fists. The bastard was wise to keep his distance from me, because oath or no oath, I was prepared to kill. “You fucking son of a bitch!”

Dr. Brown spluttered a moment before answering. “I don’t know who you are or how you two got in here, and while I can understand what this must look like to you, I assure you that this is necessary for Mr. Fraser’s wellbeing. He is an unstable man and…”

“Shove it up your arse you sadistic hack! I’m a doctor…an actual doctor…but it doesn’t take a medical degree to know that this sort of torturous “treatment” does more harm than good!”

Absurdly, he looked more offended at being called a “hack” than “sadistic,” but he only sighed impatiently. “Mr. Won, go call the police.”

“Go ahead,” I shot over toward the hulking orderly. “Call them. I’m sure they’d love to see what you’ve done to this man and no doubt countless others. I’m aware of the lawsuit already pending against you for poor treatment and a suspicious death, and no doubt many of your residents and their families have their own tales to tell. Regardless, I’m taking Jamie with me, and if you try to stop me, I will make you live to regret it.”

They probably weren’t that afraid of being accused of mistreating their residents. After all, they knew as well as I did that the general public didn’t know or really care about how “mentally unstable” people were treated as long as they were kept neatly shut away. But they also didn’t seem to have the nerve to put hands on me, knowing I could and would report them for assault if they tried.

“Help me, Roger.”

Together, we got the rest of the wires and restraints off of Jamie, and I bit back tears of frustration wondering how we were going to get him to the car unconscious. He was painfully thin…even thinner than he’d been when last I saw him and we’d both been half-starved along with the rest of the Jacobite army…but he was still a very large man.

But even as I wondered what to do, I glanced once more at his face only to find his eyes open and fixed dazedly on me.

“Jamie?” I whispered, touching his cheek. “It’s alright, darling. I’m here. We’re going to take you away from here.”

No response, no reaction. Nothing but a blank stare, and my heart plummeted. Was I too late? Was he already gone?

I resolved right then and there that it didn’t matter. Even if the Jamie I’d known and loved had been stripped away, I would love and take care of him for the rest of our lives. Through better or worse.

“It’s alright,” I continued, hoping he could at least understand me. “Don’t be afraid.”

To my incredible relief, Jamie nodded, ever so slightly, his voice a mere whisper as he said “…two of us now.”

Letting out a choked sob, I fell upon him, kissing the side of his mouth.

“Claire,” Roger said. “I found a wheelchair. Come on.”

Dr. Brown and his orderlies stood back while Roger and I managed to get Jamie maneuvered into the wheelchair. He was completely out of it, and weak as a kitten, but he complied as best he could, which I took to be a good sign. 

He’d been naked under the sheet, and once we moved him, I caught the telltale smell of ammonia. No matter to me of course, but knowing how he would normally be so shamed by that loss of control only inflamed my anger even more. Since the sheet was soiled and there was no other in immediate sight, I snatched up the doctor’s lab coat which was hanging on a hook by the door and quelled his spluttering protest with a look before getting it around Jamie.

“Dr. Brown,” I said lowly as Roger began to wheel Jamie toward the door. “You will not come after him. If you attempt to contact us, or send anyone for him, or so much as breathe in our presence again, I will do everything within my power to make your life a living hell.”

“Is that a threat?” Dr. Brown growled.

“More of an assurance,” I said levelly. “Now if you’ll excuse us…”

 

Nurses and other staff stared in bewilderment as Roger and I calmly walked Jamie through the building. Roger would later tell me that my expression was such that absolutely forbade anyone from asking any questions.

No one but Polly, who stood in the doorway of the rec room, watching us go with a smile.

“Is Jamie going tae be alright?”

“Yes,” I assured her. I had far too much to think of in the moment, but I did spare a second to decide that later on, I would like to look into Polly’s situation, and make sure she was being well looked-after. I owed her nothing less for doing what she could to protect Jamie. “Thank you, Polly.”

“You’re welcome,” she said cheerfully, as if no one had just nearly been electrocuted to death. “Bye, Jamie!”

Jamie was only barely conscious, and didn’t acknowledge her, which didn’t seem to bother her, but we hurried to get him out of that horrid place for good.

 

Chapter Text

It wouldn’t exactly do to take Jamie to our inn, so Roger suggested that we take him to the manse instead. We stopped at a payphone to ask Fiona and her husband if it was alright, and another to Brianna to meet us there.

I rode in the backseat with him, his head in my lap. I stroked his hair, barely able to believe it was really him. Here. In 1968. It hardly seemed real.

He looked impossibly young in sleep, but I could see the lines on his face that hadn’t been there before. He may have only been thirty-five or so, but he’d lived a life far harsher in ten years than my twenty. 

“D’ye think we should take him tae a hospital?” Roger asked gently.

“I wish we could,” I said regretfully. “But I daren’t risk it. They’re the ones who sent him to that place to start with, and I’d worry they might just turn him straight back over to Dr. Brown. Hopefully I can give him whatever medical attention he needs for now, but I may have to send you for supplies.”

“Not a problem.”

I looked up at his reflection in the rear-view mirror. “I want to thank you, Roger. You risked so much for him, and I can never repay you.”

He smiled at me through the reflection. “Dinna mind that. No one deserves what he’s been through.”

It took Roger, Ernie, and myself together to get Jamie inside and to one of the downstairs bedrooms. I then sent Roger to the pharmacy with a list of things I may need.

“Is there anything I can get ye for now, Claire?” Fiona asked, standing uncertainly in the doorway while I tenderly tucked Jamie into bed.

“Some warm water and a washcloth,” I said. “I’d like to get him washed up before Brianna gets here.”

If nothing else, what I’d seen of Helwater was that it and its patients were all kept quite clean and hygienic. Jamie’s hair was dirty, but it was cropped short. And he had a beard, but it looked to only recently been left unkempt. But right now he was coated in a thick film of sweat, globs of adhesive from the electrodes stuck to his skin, the scent of disinfectant, ammonia, and terror emanating from him.

“I’ll get that right now,” Fiona said.

“Thank you,” I told her, barely able to take my eyes off of Jamie long enough to answer her.

After she brought me the water, I sat beside him on the bed and gently folded the sheet back to his waist and used the rag to wash his chest and arms with slow, soothing circles, murmuring to him what I was doing before I did it, just in case he could hear me. I looked at the scars I knew well, and mentally catalogued the new ones, resisting the urge to trace their shapes with my fingertips.

He wasn’t fully unconscious, nor even asleep. Sometimes his eyes flickered open briefly, but there was no way of telling if the dazed state was because of the electro-shock or drugs. If it was drugs, that presented yet another problem - withdrawal. I had no idea what kinds of drugs or how much was running through his system, and highly doubted I could get Dr. Brown to tell me.

I wanted to touch his skin with my bare hands, feel the warmth and life in him, but I focused on keeping my motions as clinical as possible. I hesitated even to move downward after cleaning his torso, which was positively ridiculous. He needed cleaned, and I had done the same for any number of other men in my career. Besides, we had a child together for God’s sake.

And yet…it felt wrong to touch him intimately without his permission, even for medical purposes. Still, I couldn’t leave him with dried urine on his thighs, so I mentally told myself to buck up and made short work of it, being ever so gentle, and talking constantly to remind him that it was only me.

I noticed another familiar substance on his thighs as well, and a dark feeling settled within me as I hoped to God that it simply came from himself at some point, and that his mistreatment hadn’t extended to that.

If it had…I would end Dr. Brown…and anyone else responsible.

He stirred as I finished washing him, his member twitching in automatic response to touch, and once I covered him up again, his eyes opened, still looking hazy, but clearer than before.

“Hi,” I said a bit lamely. But then, what the hell else do you say to the husband you thought died twenty years ago, who inexplicably had only aged around ten or so?

His mouth quirked up at one corner in a small smile. “I knew they couldn’a take ye awa’,” he murmured, his speech slurred, the muscles in his face twitching slightly.

“Never,” I said. “No one is ever taking me away from you again, or you from me, Jamie Fraser. Do you hear me?”

“Aye…I dinna care if’m mad, so long as I can still see ye.”

I smiled back at him, brushing his limp hair off his face, anxious to get some nutrition in him and a good washing to bring his curls back to their lustrous, soft, vibrant selves. “You’re not mad,” I assured him. 

I had a thought then…doubting he could tell me, but needing to try now while he was feeling calm. “Jamie…do you know what sort of medication they gave you?”

His brow furrowed in incomprehension.

“Did they give you a pill? Or a needle? Do you remember when?”

“Damned needle,” he hissed, rolling his head away. “Dinna ken why they canna just give me whisky if they want me pished.”

I chuckled at how very him that answer was, my heart soaring at this small sign that his personality was intact. It didn’t tell me much that could help him, though.

“Never mind,” I murmured, stroking his hair. “Rest now. I promise I’ll be right here when you awaken.”

His eyes drifted shut, and his body relaxed into sleep. For a long time I just sat there, staring at his face, barely able to take my eyes off of it.

“What are we going to do?” I whispered, wishing to God that he could answer me. He’d always seemed to know what to do, or at least had some words of encouragement and hope when he didn’t.

“Claire?” Fiona called out, peeking carefully into the room with a small stack of clothing. “Brianna’s here. She wants tae come in. I wanted tae make sure he was decent first.”

I didn’t want to risk disrupting his healing sleep by attempting to dress him, so I simply pulled the blanket up to his chest and stood. “Could you sit with him for just a moment while I talk to her? Call out right away if he wakes.”

“Of course,” Fiona said kindly, pulling a chair up to the bedside.

“Thank you,” I said, forcing myself to leave the room, as much as my mind and heart rebelled against taking my eyes off of him, lest he vanish in a puff of smoke once I do.

Brianna was in the living room, pacing and wringing her hands, her face pale.

“Mama?” she gasped as soon as she saw me. “How is he? Is he…”

“He’s resting comfortably now,” I told her. “I don’t know yet what damage has been done by the electrocution, if any, or what sort of withdrawal he may suffer from the drugs they pumped him full of. But he’s spoken to me a little…even if he doesn’t seem to think anything around him is real…it’s still a good sign.”

Brianna smiled and nodded. “That is a good sign. Can I…can I see him?”

Part of me wanted to tell her no. Wanted to ask her to wait until he had recovered some, and could know that he was meeting his daughter. I knew that he would want it that way. But I could also understand Brianna’s impatience…as well as the fact that if Jamie’s condition was worse than I believed and she didn’t get another chance…but no. I refused to go down that road. He would survive. He would recover.

“If he wakes up, he isn’t going to understand who you are,” I warned her.

“It’s okay,” she said. “We don’t even need to tell him anything right now…I just…I want to see him.”

With a small smile, I nodded and put my arm around her shoulder, leading her into the bedroom.

Fiona quietly made her exit as we walked inside, and thankfully Jamie was still peacefully asleep.

For a long moment, Brianna just stood there in the doorway, staring.

I was a little torn between staying and leaving them alone, but in the end I just couldn’t leave. Jamie would need me if he awoke, and Brianna simply needed me there.

“He’s big,” Brianna said, and I could tell by the flat tone of her voice that she was trying determinedly to keep her emotions in check. 

“Funny,” I said, even though it was anything but. “I was just thinking how small he looks like this.”

She slowly approached the bed, eyes roving over his face, no doubt looking for the ways it reflected her own.

The echo of the front door opening and shutting made her jump, and she turned away. 

“That must be Roger. I’ll uh…go see if he needs help with anything.”

Without another look at the bed, or waiting for a response, Brianna fled the room, but I moved aside to let her go. It couldn’t be easy for her, and she needed to be allowed to approach Jamie at her own pace.

I sat back down on the edge of the bed, finding his hand and holding it, my thumb stroking along the scar made by my own hand.

“You need to recover,” I told him firmly. “You need to wake up. Because she needs to know you, Jamie. And you…you deserve to know her.”

 

I did my best to keep him hydrated and comfortable, but Jamie remained only barely conscious for two days. And then the withdrawal began.

Full-body shakes, cold sweats, eyes that flailed around wildly and unfocused whenever they opened. He cringed away from my every touch as though it hurt him, and would sometimes come violently awake, screaming in fear, and not even I could soothe him.

I forbade Brianna from coming into the room, but nothing could prevent her from hearing the screams.

Fiona helped the best she could, but I was getting the impression that her husband was trying to encourage her to stay away. He was clearly uncomfortable with the situation, but thankfully kept silent about it, at least to me. 

I don’t know what I would have done without Roger’s help. He was there to help me hold Jamie to his bed to keep him from getting up and hurting himself. Some kind of restraints would have been better, but I adamantly refused to tie him down, not after seeing the leather restraints on all the beds in the asylum. Roger wisely did not suggest it, even though he was the one receiving most of the damage from Jamie’s blindly flying fists.

“Take yer damned hands off me ye gorach pios de cac!” Jamie roared, rearing off the mattress, Roger and I on either side of him, trying to hold him down. “Falbh dairich fhein, criochnaich fhaighean!” 

“Jamie, darling, it’s me!” I cried. “Claire!”

But Jamie couldn’t see or hear anything I was saying. All he knew were the demons in his mind as his body rejected the absence of long-accustomed oblivion. 

“Is there something we can give him?!” Roger asked. 

I shook my head. “We can’t sedate him, it would only prolong this. If I knew exactly what they’d given him I could have weaned him off of it, but to give him something else blindly could be dangerous.”

I had made the attempt to find out what medications Jamie had been on at Helwater, but Dr. Brown had apparently ordered his entire staff to have no further contact with us, including Roger’s friend, Ronnie. My hopes of appealing to his professional empathy and desire to prevent his own patient’s suffering was quickly dashed. Dr. Brown might have decided not to bother pursuing Jamie, but neither was he going to help him.

So I’d called Joe, he having had more experience with drug-related illness than I had during his residency. All he could really tell me though was that it was going to get worse before it got better.

Jamie kept yelling curses in Gaelic, ones I only occasionally understood, his eyes wide open, pupils unnervingly dilated, but focused on nothing.

“What is he seeing?” Roger asked. “Dr. Brown?”

“No,” I said darkly, having caught him hiss words like “sadistic” and “devil” in between strings of Gaelic. “I think he’s seeing someone far worse.

He shouldn’t have been so strong. He was ill, underfed, his muscles atrophied from disuse. But the fury, pain, and fear raging in his mind gave him strength, and I watched as he jerked his arm, sending Roger flying backward into the bookshelf.

He turned on me then, bloodshot eyes trapped in a never ending nightmare, the pulse on his neck thrumming so hard I could see it from a foot away. At this rate, he would be dead of heart failure before the night was done.

“Claire!” Roger exclaimed, lunging for Jamie as a thought struck me.

If his mind was trapped in Wentworth, maybe he needed the same treatment I gave him to bring him out of it before. 

I released his arm only to climb on top of him, sitting astride his torso, my palms pressing against his chest as I might would in order to perform emergency chest compressions, and I was prepared for that need, as well. 

“If you think for a fucking second that I am going to let you die, Jamie Fraser, after all of this, then you have another goddamned thing coming.”

Roger had frozen when I climbed on top of Jamie, then hissed “bloody hell!” When I suddenly slapped Jamie across the face.

Jamie’s face contorted in fury and brought a hand up to my own chest, shoving me forcefully away. I would have tumbled off the bed had Roger not caught me.

“What the hell are you doing?!” he asked.

“Trying to get through to him!” I said, not wanting to spare the time for a better explanation.

“Mama?”

I looked around, finding Brianna’s head hesitantly peeking through the door, face gone white in horror at the scene before her.

“Get her out of here,” I snapped at Roger. “Don’t let her see him like this!”

“I’m not leaving you in here alone with him!” Roger exclaimed. Jamie had gone boneless on the bed, his energy sapped, but this had happened before, and it was only a matter of time before he caught his next wind. 

“If he’d wanted to hurt me just now, he could have,” I said lowly. “He’s hallucinating, and not himself…but deep inside he’s still Jamie. And he would never hurt me.”

I could only hope that my words to Roger were true. Fact was, Jamie could hurt me, even accidentally, and I knew that if that happened, he would never forgive himself. 

Once Roger had grabbed a protesting Brianna and dragged her back out of the room I resumed my spot on top of Jamie, lightly slapping him again to wake him up.

“You are not in Wentworth prison, Jamie,” I said, getting handfuls of his hair to make him look at me. “And you’re not in Helwater, or Ardsmuir. Do you hear me? You are never going to be locked away again. Not even in your own mind. I won’t allow it! I don’t know how this happened. I don’t know how you came to be here, but you are and I am never letting you go again! Do you hear me?!”

Jamie let out a long breath, his eyes finally focusing fully on me for the first time since getting him out of that damned asylum. One shaking hand slowly rose, and rested on my wrist.

“Claire…”

He blinked as my tears hit his face, but didn’t take his eyes off of me.

“That’s right,” I sobbed, letting go of his hair to gently hold his face. “Look at me, Jamie. Keep your eyes on me. Stay with me.”

I slowly lowered myself to rest my forehead on his, sliding the fingers of one hand down to feel his pulse. I breathed deeply, willing him to match my rhythm. He smelled of sickness and terror, with the foul hint of the asylum still clinging to him. None of the warm hay, horse, and healthy male sweat that I still remembered from twenty years ago, but the feel of his skin was the same. His voice when he murmured my name again was the same. He was still Jamie .

Gradually…so gradually…I felt his heartbeat go back to normal, and when he fell asleep again, it was peaceful. As the last of my own reserves of strength failed me, I collapsed beside him on the bed, my arm and one leg still over him. Holding him. 

It wasn’t over, but he’d turned a corner. And that night, we both rested.



Chapter Text

Swirls of heat and cold wrapped around him in turn and, at times, all at once. He didn’t know what had caused this fever, but he had desperately wanted to just give up and succumb to it.

Be free of pain.

Free of confusion. 

Free of fear.

He didn’t even remember what it felt like to not be afraid. To not feel alone. He started to lean into the fantasies instead of draw away from them like the doctors told him to, because it was the closest thing he could come to a happy memory.

An estate that was once his own in a time long ago. Fanciful nonsense, they said. A mother, a father, brothers and a sister. A happy child running free in the highlands.

But all that was taken from him. Mother, father, and brothers all dead, and his estate ripped from his hands. Seems not even his imagination could build a world without pain. In his mind his sister remained though, raising a family safely in his family home. 

Paris. He and his friend, his future brother. Smiling at lasses, thinking of what it would be like to touch them. Lie with them. Not a soldier or a laird or a husband or a madman…just a carefree lad.

But that felt hollow. He couldn’t even remember the faces of those other lasses he’d kissed. He didn’t want to.

A cold, dark house. Dirty, bone-tired. Pain lancing through his shoulder. And then a woman walked in. Wearing nothing but a shift. She was dirty and tired, too. And afraid. More afraid even than him. Not that she showed it the way she barked and cursed and bullied him about.

From the moment he saw her, his life had overturned. What was once a simple existence and determination to survive became a fight for so much more. A fight for his country, his people, his life…and a fight for her. 

It was a fight that had torn him apart. Made him question everything in his life.

He’d been beaten. Shot. Starved. Imprisoned. Raped. He’d given everything. Lost… everything.

All because a half-dressed Sassenach with wild hair and a shrewish temper walked into his life.

By God…he would do it all again in a heartbeat.

He wanted to let go. He wanted to just sleep and never awaken. And once, he might have done just that because it would mean that he could wait for the day his Sassenach would join him.

But if Claire wasn’t real…death would not bring him closer to her. 

In the depths of his delirium, he could see her. Hear her. Even feel her touch. Tender strokes of fingers on his cheek, a squeeze of his hand, a painful strike to the face. It all felt wonderful to him, and he was afraid that if he died, it would be gone. So he held on. 

“Stay with me,” she whispered.

I’m trying, he thought to himself.

 

When the fever at last receded, Jamie was left feeling weak as a kitten. A kitten with a raging hangover. 

When he at last opened his eyes and could see clearly, he was surprised to find himself in a strange bedroom. It looked nothing like Helwater, nor anyplace else he could remember being. Not that that was saying much.

He looked to the bedside, a little disappointed but not at all surprised to see Roger MacKenzie sitting there, dozing off in a chair.

“Roger?”

The man’s eyes flew open and met his. “Christ! Jamie! Ye’re awake! How d’ye feel?”

Jamie snorted. “Like…like…what is that expression? Like I’ve been hit by a…a…”

“A truck?”

He snorted again. “Dinna really ken what a truck is, but aye, it sounds about right, doesn’t it?”

Roger grinned, and Jamie was a little alarmed to see that he looked rather close to tears.

“We forced Claire to go get some sleep…she’s going to be pissed when she finds out you woke up and she wasn’t here. Just hold on…I’ll go get her.”

“Why are ye doing this?” Jamie asked, narrowing his eyes.

Roger paused mid-step and looked back at him. “Doing what?”

“Helping me, for one. Encouraging my fever dreams for another.”

Roger scowled. “Ye still think it isn’t real, don’t you?”

“There’s no such thing as time-travel, lad. I ken that. And I ken that Claire Randall is real. Dr. Brown showed me her picture. It’s alright. I’m content tae just let myself imagine her, our time together. But ye dinna have tae try and indulge me.”

“I’m not indulging ye,” Roger growled in frustration. “That quack doctor may have succeeded in convincing ye that you’re insane, but Jamie…you’re not. Time-travel is real. Claire Randall really did travel back in time 200 years tae marry you. Now shut up and let me go get her.”

Roger left without another word, so Jamie rolled his eyes and pushed himself up into a sitting position against the pillows. 

Roger had been gone less than a minute before the door opened again, and a traitorous part of his mind wanted to hope…that maybe… but no. A woman he’d never seen before stood in the doorway, staring at him.

She was bonnie. Beautiful, in fact. Hair as red as his, and taller than most women he’d ever seen. She looked more like a MacKenzie than Roger did. In fact, she reminded him of his mother. And she was staring at him like he was a ghost.

“Hello…” he ventured, unsure what else to say to a strange woman standing in his bedroom. A discreet peek beneath the quilt assured him that even though he was bare-chested, he was wearing soft pants similar to what he sometimes wore at Helwater. That was a relief, at least.

“Hi,” she answered. “Do you…do you know who I am?”

He shook his head. “No. I’m sorry if I’m supposed to, lass…but I dinna ken you.”

She smiled, looking a bit nervous. He wondered why.

“That’s okay. We’ve never actually met. I’m…my name is Brianna.”

That was a rather strange name, but he knew better than to tell her that. “Pleasure tae meet ye, Brianna. My name is Jamie.”

She chuckled, and he found he liked the sound. “I know. I mean…I already know who you are. Sorry, I just wanted to come in and see you before…well, my mother will be in here any second and I have a feeling neither of you will be aware of much else for a while.”

“Your mother?” Jamie echoed, but the young woman was already backing out of the room.

 

~~~

 

Roger, Brianna, and Fiona all had to practically carry me out of Jamie’s room so that I could get some sleep. Only the fact that he was out of danger could have pried me from his side, though. 

I took the opportunity to shower, feeling more human once I emerged than I had in days. I even did my hair, the dull routine of it relaxing and making me feel like I didn’t quite look like an old witch from a storybook.

After all that I fell right into bed and into an exhausted sleep, and I resisted being pulled out of my slumber when I was abruptly awoken just a few hours later. 

“Claire…Claire, wake up.”

“Roger?” I muttered into my pillow, before awareness caught up to me like a lightning bolt and I shot upright in bed. Thank God I dragged myself into a nightgown before collapsing. “Jamie?! Is something wrong?!”

“No!” Roger assured me quickly. “No…on the contrary. He’s uh…he’s awake.”

I sat back against the pillows, feeling the absurd desire to get away from Roger, and anything he had to tell me. “He’s awake? Is he…”

Roger smiled. “Well, I dinna know him like you do, but from th’ times I met him at Helwater, he seems himself. He’s alert, asking questions.”

“But?” I prompted, able to see that there was something he was holding back.

“He’s still convinced that he imagined everything. You, th’ stones, his life basically.”

“God,” I sighed, putting my head in my hands. “What did those bastards do to him?”

“He seems in good spirits though. It was strange, he said he didn’a mind imagining you, but he didn’a seem to like me “indulging” him, as he put it. But surely, once he sees you, talks to you, he’ll know th’ truth.”

“Will he?” I whispered, crossing my arms. “And what then?”

“What do you mean?”

“Mama?” Brianna called, tapping on the door before opening it.

“Roger, could you excuse me?” I said. “I need to put on some decent clothes before going downstairs.”

Roger blinked, as if just realizing I wasn’t properly dressed. “Of course! I’ll just…go see how he’s doing.”

“You alright, Mama?” Bree asked once Roger had left. “I kind of expected you to run straight down there.”

“Roger says he still thinks he fabricated me, and everything about our relationship,” I said, a little more harshly than I’d meant to.

“That’s why he needs to see you! So you can convince him that he hasn’t lost his mind! Whoa, slow down…”

I’d fumbled trying to get my blouse over my head and wound up tangling my hair into it. Brianna helped get me sorted out, then once she’d smoothed down my blouse in much the same way I used to for her when she was little, she rested her hands on my shoulder. “Talk to me, Mama. You’re acting like you’re afraid to see him all of a sudden.”

“Look at me!” I exclaimed, exasperated. 

From the moment I saw Jamie through that window in the asylum, I’d had nothing on my mind beyond getting him out, and then after that it was a fight for his life.

Now that he was recovering, and awake and alert, a new realization had struck me like a lightning bolt. Well, not new, but one I had refused to contemplate until now.

“He’s thirty-five years old, Brianna,” I said. “He’s still a young man. I’m going to be fifty next month. Almost old enough to be his mother, for God’s sake.”

“So what?” she asked. “You’re gorgeous! I hear my friends say all the time how you sure don’t look like you’re in your late forties. I’ve even had people ask if you’re my sister. It’s annoying, to be honest. And you’re healthy, active. It isn’t going to matter to him.”

“How do you know? When he knew me I was only a few years older than you, and for him that was only around ten years ago or so,” I turned toward the mirror, frowning at my reflection. “My hair is graying…I have wrinkles…” I smoothed my hands over my blouse. “And these sure aren’t what they used to be.”

“Oh God, Mom…don’t,” Brianna laughed, making me scowl at her. “I’m sorry…I’m not laughing at you, because I get it. I do. But I really don’t want to have to assure my mother that her rack looks amazing, but I guess I will if that’s what I have to do.”

I grimaced at her choice of expression, but her words did help a little.

“I don’t know what I’ll do if reacts badly,” I whispered so quietly, I wasn’t even sure she could hear me, but she did, coming up behind me and resting her chin on my shoulder, meeting my eyes through the mirror.

“Any strong reaction he may have is going to be because of his situation, not because of you.”

I took a deep breath through my nose, held it there, then let it out through my mouth. “Listen to me, worrying about my looks when he’s been through hell and back.”

“I saw him,” Brianna said, a little breathlessly. “I just poked in and introduced myself, but didn’t tell him what I am to him. I just couldn’t resist.”

I turned and pulled her into my arms, hugging her. “He’s going to love you, you know. He already does in fact, he just doesn’t know it’s you.”

“Well, go on,” she said in that patented manner of hers when she wanted to brush off emotion and gave me a teasing shove. “Good luck.”

I gave her a wry look and tried once more to smooth down my hair. Should I apply some makeup? No, that would be overdoing it. Besides, he wasn’t used to that.

Fiona was standing outside Jamie’s door as I approached, and gently called for Roger who hurried out.

“We’ll all be in the kitchen if ye need us,” Fiona said kindly, grabbing both Roger and Brianna’s arms and pulling them away.

I hesitated outside the door for a ridiculously long time. Buck up, Beauchamp, I thought to myself, pushing it open.

He lay there with his eyes closed, but I could tell he wasn’t deeply asleep.

Now that the strain of pain and sickness was gone, he looked more like himself. His face was freshly shaven, and a kit on the bedside table suggested Roger had just been helping him with that. 

Without the beard, Jamie finally looked as young as he was, and it tore at my heart.

I didn’t resent his youth…far from it. But it hurt to know that we’d already been denied so many years together, and eventually we would have to face the reality that I was going to grow old long before him. 

I sat on the side of the bed, forgoing the chair, and took his hand. Still as strong and calloused as it had always been.

“Jamie,” I said softly. “Wake up, darling.”

The corners of Jamie’s lips curled up in a smile. “Sassenach…”

Hearing that word from his mouth after twenty years was the most beautiful thing to my ears, even if he didn’t understand that he was talking to me.

“Open your eyes, you stubborn Scot.”

His eyes did open then. Clear, focused, and blue as the late afternoon sky.

When he looked at me, his smile broadened. “I knew they couldn’a take ye from me.”

“Nor will they,” I said at once. “Not ever.”

He smiled a bit drunkenly at me a moment before he suddenly frowned, and my insecurities rushed to the surface.

“Your hair…” he began, reaching out as if to touch it, but stopping just short. “It’s different.”

I looked away, opening my mouth to…what? Apologize for having gray hair?”

“Where are your curls?”

My eyes snapped back to him in surprise. “That’s what’s caught your attention? That I’ve straightened it?”

His scowl deepened. “Well, aye. Why would ye do such a thing?”

“It’s the style now, Jamie. Trust me, they’ll come back next time I wash it.”

“They’d better,” he groused, finally completing his gesture of touching the straightened locks.

But when he did, something very odd happened. Jamie’s eyes widened and he shot completely upright, his skin blanching so dramatically that it worried me.

“Jamie?” I said, touching his chest, feeling for his heart, and he flinched as if I’d burned him. “What’s happening? Does your chest hurt? Your head? What?”

Slowly, without ever taking his eyes off of mine, Jamie covered my hand with his, a gasp leaving his lips.

“All these years…” he whispered. “I would see ye. Ye would come tae me…when I needed ye. I could imagine what ye felt like…but…I only imagined it…”

“No,” I told him sternly, turning my hand to lace our fingers together. “You didn’t imagine anything James Fraser. I know what Dr. Brown told you, I know what he did to you, but he’s the one who’s lied…not your memory. Years ago, I accidentally traveled back in time. To your time. You befriended me, you saved me, and I tried not to love you but I couldn’t help it. You made me your wife, and we were together for two years before fate took me away from you. I thought I’d lost you at Culloden. I never in a thousand years dreamed you could find me here… but you did.”

I was fully crying now, and Jamie was just staring at me, as if he expected me to disappear at any moment.

“I imagined ye,” he said again, as if I hadn’t even spoken, and I wanted to wail in frustration before he continued. “But when I saw ye…I couldn’a touch ye. You never touched me.”

An unexpected bubble of laughter burst out of me, and I brought my free hand to his cheek, wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed beside him and hold him to me. 

“I can touch you now,” I whispered.

Jamie smiled back. The single most beautiful thing I’d seen since the day Brianna was born.

“If I’m mad…” he said. “Then so be it. I dinna want tae be sane.”

I shook my head. “How can I convince you this is real, Jamie?”

His eyes flickered downward, toward my mouth. “Will ye kiss me? I dinna think a human mind can conjure what that feels like.”

I wanted to laugh again, just at how absurd it felt to me for him to need to ask that of me, but instead I simply did as he requested.

 

Chapter Text

He’d forgotten how the mere touch of lips on his own could make his heart soar, his very skin come alive, his breath hitch.

But it wasn’t just any kiss that could do that to him. It was her.

Claire.

It had been so long. So long… but somehow it felt like no time at all had passed since he last kissed her on that damned hill.

She still tasted of mint and honey. Still smelled like her wee herbs and something else that was uniquely her. 

If he had only imagined her, how could he know that?

Jamie opened his eyes as she pulled away, his mind at war with itself.

Everything they had told him in the hospital…the way they’d made it make sense. He’d finally learned to accept that Claire…or at least the Claire he’d loved…wasn’t real. But surely even the most insane couldn’t create a feeling like this from nothing?

“Claire?” he breathed, tears stinging his eyes. Somehow he wanted both to haul her back to him for another kiss, and be held to her bosom like a bairn at the same time.

“Oh Jamie,” she sobbed, her hands framing his face. “Oh, my love.”

He could feel the cool touch of metal on his cheeks, and he slowly reached for her right hand, removing it from his skin and bringing it where he could see it.

“I never took it off,” she whispered as he brushed his thumb across the silver band, one he’d had made from his own key.

“Am I dreaming?” he wondered aloud, still so afraid to hope that this was real… she was here.

A sudden flash of something - mischievousness? - came into her eyes the second before she suddenly pinched the skin a couple of inches below his nipple, and he yelped in pain.

“What are ye…” and then he remembered something, and smiled. “‘Pinch me, I’m dreaming.’ Ye used tae say that sometimes, like when I bought ye that wee cake in Paris. I didn’a think ye meant it literally.”

She chuckled, and God he loved the sound. “You aren’t asleep, you stubborn Scot.”

He smiled back, but then shook his head with a grimace, holding a hand to it.

“Take it easy,” she said. “You’ve been hurt, and very ill. Does your head hurt?”

“Like th’ devil,” he admitted.

“Lay back,” she helped him reclined further into the pillows, then had him sip some water, then a little more. After that, she became the busy wee scold he remembered. Fussing until he swallowed pills and drank more water and submitted to a flurry of poking and prodding.

He’d been poked and prodded plenty in Helwater, but never had it filled him with such happiness and peace. She could scold him into his grave, and he would beg for more.

“Why are you smiling at me like that?” She asked, her own lips quirked in an answering smile.

“I’ve missed ye,” he said drowsily, trying to resist the pull of sleep.

“I’ve missed you, too,” she whispered. “Rest now, Jamie.”

“Will ye stay?”

She stroked his face, fighting back tears. “Yes. I’ll be right here.”

“Lie down wi’ me, Sassenach. Please?” He hated to beg for comfort like a child, but he couldn’t help himself. He couldn’t keep his eyes open, and he was terrified that he would waken and she would be gone

His Claire lost her fight with the tears, but she nodded and crawled into bed with him, curling into his side, her arm across his chest, fitting just as perfectly as he remembered. He grabbed her hand…the one with his ring…and held it tightly. He was still so unsure, so confused. 

But he didn’t feel quite so mad, anymore.

 

~~~

 

I was tired… exhausted really, but I found myself unable to close my eyes, unwilling to take them from Jamie’s sleeping face.

That he was not only here with me in body, but in mind…and even heart was more than I could have ever hoped for. Survivor that he was, he hadn’t let himself be broken, and if possible I loved him even more for it.

My hand rested on his chest, over his heart, and I counted the beats while I listened to his breath. 

I must have drifted off after all though, because when I awoke again, it was night. The bedside lamp had been left on, so I could see that Jamie’s eyes were open and watching me.

They looked a little dazed, and it worried me for a moment, but they blinked into awareness when I touched his jaw.

“Did you think you were dreaming again?” I whispered.

“I’m still no’ so sure I’m not.”

I smiled, stroking his cheek. “That’s alright. We have plenty of time to convince you.”

He looked away, frowning up at the ceiling, but his thumb stroked my shoulder where it wrapped around me, and his free hand covered mine on his chest.

“My memories are a wee bit foggy.”

“That may be from the electro-shock therapy. It may come back in time.”

I wasn’t actually sure if it would or not, but was already making a plan to take him to a neurologist friend of mine once we figured out how to get him to the States.

He shook his head. “Dinna ken…I think they’ve been foggy a while. My whole time in that damned asylum feels barely real. But then…nothing really feels real.”

“Oh Jamie…” I whispered, leaning up to press a kiss to his shoulder. “I know you must feel so lost right now. But I promise, I’ll be right here for you, and help you any way that I can. Why don’t you start by trying to tell me what happened after I…after I left?”

His face contorted in a grimace, and I pressed my hand harder into his chest, reminding him of my presence. 

“No, not Culloden,” I amended. “Not yet, anyway. When you’re ready. After that. Tell me how you got to the stones.”

“I was…in hiding,” he said at last. “I lived in a cave near Lallybroch…for many years.”

I closed my eyes, unable to bear the thought of him living alone in a cave for years, only to continue being locked away from the world. He was a man who lived for the wide, outside world. He didn’t belong in a prison…whether or not it was a prison of his choosing.

“I was a danger tae Lallybroch though. Jenny, Ian…their bairns…”

I felt him turn his head and looked up to find him looking back at me questioningly. 

“Yes, Jamie. I delivered one of their children, remember? Little Maggie.”

Jamie smiled, getting the confirmation he’d needed that his sister and her family weren’t figments of his imagination.

He nodded. “I turned myself in. Was sent tae prison…Ardsmuir.”

“I knew that,” I told him, in case he didn’t particularly want to get into the details. “And a little bit more.”

He gave me another searching look, and I realized he wouldn’t know why I knew that, so I attempted to explain.

“This past summer, I looked for you. In history books, that is. That’s how we met Roger. He’s the son of an old friend, and a historian.”

Jamie snorted. “Figures he’d be a historian. Like a wee dog wi’ a bone, that one.”

I chuckled. “That he is, and I’m very grateful for it. So what happened? Were you paroled?”

He shook his head. “No. I would have been, but I escaped instead.”

“What? How?”

His brow furrowed. “I dinna remember exactly. I was looking for you… but I dinna ken why. But…I remember…my friend, John Gray. D’ye ken him?”

“No, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone named John Gray.”

Jamie looked a little distressed about that, making me wish I’d lied and said I did.

“That’s no’ right,” he argued. “Ye kent him…he was the governor of th’ prison. But he was an honorable man.”

“Erm…yes…now that you mention it, I think I remember him…” I ventured.

“I can tell when ye’re lying, Sassenach. I haven’a lost that much of my mind.”

I sat up on my elbow a little, offering him a smile. “I’m sorry. I don’t know him, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t.”

All at once, Jamie’s expression cleared, and he chuckled. “I’m sorry, a nighean . I do remember now. Ye wouldn’a ken him by name, but ye did meet him. D’ye remember, when we were living in that barn wi’ th’ army, and that wee lad tried tae slit my throat? Ye pretended tae be an English prisoner tae save him.”

I remembered that night vividly. Surprising, after so many years. I remembered the slight and unexpected rush of power that came to me when Jamie along with all of the men immediately leaned into the little ruse I spontaneously set up in effort to get the boy to give them information about his unit. Along with the slightly shameful secret I’d kept that I’d been unnervingly aroused by Jamie’s rough handling of me that night. I’d never told him that…but I decided that I would…when he was better.

But the boy…that poor boy…yes I remembered him. He had been so gallant in trying to save my honor…not that it needed saving to begin with.

I grinned at Jamie. “I remember. And he was the governor of the prison? Small world.”

Jamie chuckled. “Aye. He was a good man, though. After I returned tae th’ prison…”

“Returned? Why would you go back after escaping?”

He shrugged the shoulder I wasn’t resting my head on. “Th’ men needed me, and there wasn’a much waiting for me on th’ outside. Couldn’a go back to Lallybroch. Problem was, my return would have done more harm than good, for th’ men, for John, and me. John begged me tae just run…so I did. I thought about going tae th’ colonies, starting over there…but I felt like…I dinna ken…that I needed tae say goodbye tae ye again. Once more.”

It made me think of a patient I’d had not long ago…one that had reminded me so strongly of Jamie. He’d been a Scot, but unwilling to return to his home country, even though he missed it, because it would mean leaving his wife’s grave. I said as much to Jamie.

“Aye. But there was no grave, ken? And praise God for it.”

“So you went to the stones.”

He nodded. “It was the last place I was wi’ ye. I dinna ken how it happened. I just touched it…and I was here. I didn’a ken what happened until it was too late tae shut my gob about where I was from.”

An alarming look came over Jamie’s face then, and he screwed his eyes shut, as if in pain. I sat up and hovered worriedly over him.

“Jamie?!”

“He told me I was…I’m traumatized,” Jamie said, in a voice so small…almost childlike…that it made my eyes sting with tears. “Probably sexually. And I…I kent that tae be true, because I remember what that feels like.”

“Jamie…” I whispered, not sure what to say.

“My brain constructed a world tae protect it from things that hurt me. I didn’a believe him at first…but after a while…” his eyes opened then, fixed on me with so much pain and fear that I just wanted to shield him from forever.

“Listen…I know, alright?” I said, trying to keep my voice from shaking. “When I came back, there were whispers. It ranged from me running off and having an affair to being taken against my will. There were some wild moments when I questioned my own sanity, and I didn’t have a doctor breathing those thoughts into my head, so I can only imagine how it must have been for you. So I know that it feels like reality is slipping away from you, and you don’t know who you are, so let me tell you who you are. You are James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, son of Brian and Ellen Fraser. You are a soldier. A laird. You are my husband…and a father.”

I felt more than heard Jamie’s sudden intake of breath, and his eyes widened, losing that fog of confusion. 

“Th’ bairn…” he whispered. “God in Heaven…th’ child…is he…”

“She,” I corrected. “You have a daughter, Jamie.”

“Daughter…” he echoed. “Daughter?”

I nodded, the tears I’d been holding in starting to fall. “Yes.”

“Where?”

He was sitting up, trying to stand, and I grabbed his shoulder. “Jamie, don’t! You’re still weak! She’s nearby, but listen to me, there are some things you need to understand…”

Despite my attempts to stop him, he got unsteadily to his feet and turned back to look at me. “That woman…th’ one wi’ the red hair…”

“She wanted to see you,” I explained weakly, worried he was going to be upset.

He turned without another word and fled the room, and I scrambled out of bed after him. But he was as unstable as a newborn giraffe and promptly knocked over an end table just outside the bedroom.

“Jamie, please!” I cried. “Lay back down, I’ll bring her to you!”

“Mama?”

Brianna and Roger both peeked out of the living room, evidently having been sat up talking, and were alarmed by the sudden noise. Brianna and Jamie locked eyes, and Jamie just stood there, stunned.

From behind his back, I gave Brianna a little nod, and even from several feet away I could see her gulp.

“Brianna?” Jamie said, his voice hoarse. 

“Yeah,” Brianna chuckled nervously. “I’m…I’m your daughter. I’m sorry I didn’t say anything before, I was just waiting until you were…”

Brianna was cut off when Jamie suddenly took two lurching steps forward and pulled her into his arms. She hesitated only a moment before returning his embrace, her face pressed against his bare shoulder.