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Of Failed Escapes and Gunshot Wounds

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The familiar Clan war cry that ripped from his throat as he threw Claire aside from the horse and slid his arm from the homemade sling of Angus’ belt eliminated the fog of fatigue and ache that had settled in his bones earlier in the day. While Jamie didn’t become a soldier by choice, he had grown accustomed to the feel and thrill of riding into the midst of engaged enemy combat. He drew his sword from its scabbard and made haste to cut off the damn Redcoats before they could do anymore damage to his beloved homeland.

He was doing a fairly decent job of cutting down one Redcoat after another with just one hand, but his mind kept wandering back towards the brown haired Sassenach lass that straddled his horse in front of him not two minutes before. How did she know there was an ambush awaiting them? Were they aware he had just come back from France? Did that bastard Randall catch word somehow of his return to Scotland?

Before he could ponder on that thought further, a white hot flash of pain tore at his shoulder. For a split second, he wondered if he had dislocated it again, until he realized he was still atop his horse. Nae, that couldna be it, his mind niggled. Just as soon as he had felt it, the sensation was gone.

After a terse few minutes of active fighting, the blasted English were retreating to wherever they had come from, fearful of their plaid-clad foes. Jamie grinned widely. He could hear the Gàidhlig shouts and jowls of victory from his companions. 

Now he was off to find that Sassenach woman.

In the seconds of chaos before and after he flung her off the horse, he didn’t take note of where she landed, let alone where she could have gone. So he did his best to retrace his steps.

The feel of her in front of him on the horse. That round, succulent arse slid so close to his nethers while they rode. He inadvertently crossed himself at his impure, no doubt blasphemous thoughts. He shouldn’t even be thinking such a thing about a potentially married woman; he didn’t miss the glint of metal that gleamed from her hand in the waning Scottish sunlight. Women just didn’t wear such precious things if they were fleeing the Highland countryside, if what Mistress Beauchamp claimed was indeed true.

Jamie looked all around as he rode as quickly as his horse could carry him until he heard some rustling in the trees nearby. Looking towards his left, a flash of white and brown skirted across his vision.

Claire.

“Lost yer way?” He called out as he reigned in his horse to stop. He dismounted with a forward swipe of one leg, twirling his kilt around unintentionally as he ordered his horse to remain in place with a harsh gàidhlig command. He could see Claire, poor unfortunate lass, was wary of him. Probably more so now that he was encrusted with blood and grime.

“I hope you haven’t been misusing that shoulder,” he heard her scold, a worried glare on her pretty yet dirty face. As he slowly walked closer, he could see that her shift and hair were more damp than before. Probably from rolling around in wet grass. He saw her scowl further at him. “You’re hurt!”

“This lot isn’t even my blood,” he said with some bravado, but still looked down as if to make sure he wasn’t lying. He didn’t know why; it wasn't like he could tell the different between his blood and another’s when they were all blended together on his shirt. He licked his bloodied lips, the iron-copper consuming his senses. “Not much of it anyway.”

He knew Claire was going to run again even before she tried to go around the sharp edge of his blade as quickly as she could. Either out of fear or defiance, Jamie couldn’t tell. It didn’t really matter. She had no choice but to come with him. His threat to toss her over his shoulder, injured or not, showed her that both of them were at the mercy of another. If his damn uncle hadn’t insisted on bringing the lass along with them back to Leoch, he not only would have insisted on her going, but begged to join her. 

She was bonny, in more ways than one, but Jamie knew it was far too dangerous for him to be back in Scotland. He was a wanted man at just three and twenty. For a crime he didn’t commit. Couldn’t have committed, given he was so injured and on the brink of death, he couldn’t do more than hang on a horse. Now, what was left for him here? He had no home, couldn’t use his given name without endangering himself, and nothing more than a few pennies’ from a soldier’s wage. It wasn’t worth it. But…

Wherever the bonny Sassenach was headed, it might give him a chance to start a new life.

He felt his heart give an excited lurch at the thought of starting that new life with her.

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Jamie didn’t mean to threaten Claire. Truly, he didn’t. And he certainly wasn’t about to end her life right there in the middle of the boggy, dense forests for her potential insolence either. But if they didn’t start making their way back up the stream towards Dougal and the others, it would be much more trouble that he was willing to risk. There were certainly more Redcoats here now than there were before his arrest.

“Now if you won’t walk, I shall pick you up, and throw you over my shoulder! D’ye want me to do that?”

She was a strong lass, Jamie had admitted to himself. She didn’t take being forced into anything she didn’t want to do laying down. She also didn’t let a man twice her size with more than double her strength intimidate her. Whoever or whatever Claire was, Jamie was glad to have her around. Even if it was for a short time.

Jamie was looking forward to having her all but sit in his lap as they shared a horse on their journey back to his uncle’s castle. He didn’t know what it was, but it felt like she belonged next to him. Close to him, always. The kind of feelings her proximity brought upon him were indescribable. He wanted to kiss her, bed her, have his way with her, but at the same time, he wanted to be gentle and kind, protect her from all manner of danger and mayhem. He had a strong desire to wed her properly, father as many children as she would allow, and be completely under her power of control.

He shook these thoughts from his head. What was wrong with him?

As they were making their way back towards the group, Jamie started to feel funny. It wasn’t dizziness, per se, but he could feel the edges of his awareness start to dull. By the time they made it back and the exchange of victorious jeers and whisky sharing were done, night was close to falling. The sooner they made it back to Leoch, the safer he would be.

As the night wore on though, that feeling of dullness grew into something else. He wasn’t in any pain; he felt lighter, almost. A dull, rhythmic ache turned into a steady throb throughout his being. The steadiness became faster and more pronounced as a feeling of dread imbedded itself into his wame. And he was sleepy. Oh God in heaven was he so tired! He felt he could sleep for days, weeks even.

What was stopping him? They weren’t doing anything important right? It was a bonny night for a lie in among the forest beds. Why not have a wee nap? Maybe it’ll make him feel better.

The slow trot of his horse allowed the sensation to grow. By the time Jamie realized the rhythmic ache was his now-racing heartbeat, it was too late. He was too drowsy and confused to recognize anything or anyone. He couldn’t hear anything other than the sloshing woosh of the blood in his veins, racing towards some unknown destination at alarmingly speeds. The inside of his shirt felt more wet than it did earlier during their ride. Had it rained again? He felt he would have remembered that.

He felt his body lean towards the right side of the horse against his will as the tiny tendrils of his consciousness ebbed further away from him.

The last thing he heard before darkness consumed him was Claire’s sweet yet fearful shout from in front of him.

“Stop! Help! He’s going over!”

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The darkness was a comfortable weight in his chest. He couldn’t feel anything. It brought a measure of comfort to him. If Jamie concentrated hard enough on the weightlessness, he could imagine he was anywhere in the world.

He envisioned himself being at Lallybroch once more. His last day there started like any other. His father had left a few days before to attend a funeral in Broch Mordha. After a warm bowl of parritch his sister Jenny made every morning, he would start with tending to the animals, getting the oxen ready for the day’s plows, ensure there was enough hay for-

Jamie’s imaginative reflections were interrupted slightly by the feeling of being poked, almost like the chicken were trying to nip at his skin. How did they get up to his neck?

He felt warm fingers grace the underside of his jaw and press lightly for maybe a second or two. Strange, but it was a dream so he let it go.

Voices. He heard voices. Stern, but warm and tender like honeyed milk. Then, stern again as commands were given. Actually, it was just one voice. One rather feminine voice.

“Gunshot wound...idiot could’ve said something,” the female voice said, rather annoyed for some reason. Jamie couldn’t imagine why. He hadn’t been shot. Had he?

He was determined to go back to his dream. I think I was milkin’ the cows in the barn, he thought absently.

A sharp burn of something acrid smelling made the skin on the inside of his shirt sizzle with a wrathful fury. He’d never felt anything like that before!

“Tha mi gasta,” Jamie blurted drunkenly in his mother tongue.

“Welcome back,” Claire replied dryly.

He tried to justify his feelings of inadequacy, but Claire was clearly not having any of it. She proceeded to verbally lash out at him for getting shot and not telling anyone about it. What was her deal? It didn’t hurt at the time; no point in whining like a snot-nosed bairn about an injury that wasna painful! This Sassenach really needed to leave off or else!

Except the longer Claire spoke, no matter how harsh and angry her words were, Jamie couldn’t help but stare. He knew he shouldn’t have been so smitten by her, with her cursing for damn near bleeding to death, but he...just knew...like his Da told him he would.

He wasn’t looking at any part of her face in particular; how could he? Every aspect of her made her the Goddess-like being she was. Her eyes were the colored of finely aged whisky, straight from its barrel. Her lips were supple and full, just begging to be christened with his own. Despite the collection of grime gathering around her hairline and shift, she was the most beautiful woman Jamie had ever laid his bonny blue eyes on. His heart called out to hers, even if she didn’t know it yet.

“Jamie Fraser,” he thought, as much to himself as to God, where his parents and brother were eternally waiting for him to join them, “this is the woman.”