“Ye dinna think… after all these years?” Murtagh asked. But Jamie didn’t hear him. Jamie couldn’t hear anything over the blood pounding in his ears.
No. He didn’t think. Jamie prided himself on being logical. He was a soldier, a laird. He was not a man often led by passion alone.
Except when it came to Claire.
So no, Jamie didn’t think that his wife had returned after he’d lived with half a heart for almost ten years. But he did hope. Damn him, Jamie felt the familiar stirring of hope deep in his core. And it only grew from the moment Kerr mentioned La Dame Blanche to now when he was speaking with Murtagh.
There was only one thing Jamie could do. He had to check. He would never be able to move on unless he saw with his own eyes that it wasn’t his wife.
So Jamie bided his time and when the opportunity came to slip away, he took it with the help of his fellow inmates. Not for the first time, Jamie was grateful for the men that put their trust in him even though there was nothing he could give them in return.
The waiting was the hardest part. Jamie wasn’t sure when the guards would notice he was missing, or how long they would search for him afterwards. With any luck, they would be back at Ardsmuir before they noticed that Mac Dubh was gone. Still, Jamie waited at least an hour after he heard the last sounds of voices before he dared to come from his hiding spot. And after that, he waited until nightfall before he made any real progress towards the coast. He was distinctly aware that if Claire was there, every moment he delayed was another moment he kept her waiting, and there was only so long she could stay on the island in the cold. But if she was there and Jamie got recaptured, he wouldn’t be coming for her at all. Though it pained him, Jamie moved slowly to ensure he stayed hidden.
The only thing the long journey was good for was wondering. Wondering why Claire had come back (if she had come back). Why she’d chosen Selkie Island, why Kerr had been her messenger. Wondering how she expected him to come find her, how she knew he was alive in the first place. She must have either gone to Lallybroch or had found some clue in her own time.
Jamie couldn’t think about Claire in her own time, or what had happened to the bairn. Those were questions only Claire could answer, and Jamie was going to drive himself crazy if he let it consume him.
So he pushed himself hard when he could under the cover of darkness and he slept like the dead during the day until Selkie Island was finally in sight. He stared off at it for a moment, knowing that the only thing waiting for him on that island was heartbreak, but still hoping all the same. He had come this far, and there was no use delaying any longer. Jamie made his way down the rocky hill to the shore and swam.
Even if Claire was here, Jamie was sure he was going to freeze to death before he found her. He’d brought it on his own damned self, but the swim to the island was far colder than he’d been prepared for. He’d done it before, but Jamie no longer felt like a young man. After a decade of living in the wilderness and prison since he’d seen Claire, Jamie hardly felt like the same man she’d wed.
And apparently the person he was now wasn’t as good of a swimmer. Even if he survived the current, he was certain he’d catch his death with the temperature. Hypothermia? Is that what Claire had called it?
When he finally collapsed on the shore, Jamie figured either Claire would be there to heal him or she wouldn’t. In which case, Jamie didn’t think he’d want live anyways. It was a morbid thought after all he had done to survive the past decade. But Jamie didn’t think he’d survive the death of this small spark of hope. He hadn’t thought he was capable of that emotion anymore until it began to burn in him again.
The last time he’d felt it had been at Culloden when he’d said goodbye to her. Even as he cried and walked her backwards towards the stones, there was still a small part of Jamie that hoped Claire had lied to him. It was ridiculous, after all, falling through time. Despite the fact that Jamie trusted her with his life, that her glass face made her almost incapable of lying, he still hoped that she’d touch the stone and nothing would happen. Even as he’d thought it, he knew it was selfish. In a matter of hours, Jamie would be dead and he didn’t want Claire to have to fend for herself as the wife of a traitor. Jamie had no doubt she’d be taken care of if she went back to Lallybroch, but he wanted her to have a life that was more than surviving. A place she could be happy, have a husband, maybe even more children. But still, in that split second before she touched the stone, he begged god not to let her go.
But gone she had. And, somehow, Jamie had lived. It was a cruel, ironic twist of fate. Jamie knew he wouldn’t have been able to give Claire the life she deserved if she’d stayed, but it still would have been a life together. He was selfish enough to think that maybe Claire would be happy with that. Jamie knew he would have been. There was no love after Claire, that much he knew. She was his soul and he was her heart, and there would be nothing after her. Only missing her and praying for the child he’d never meet. Until he heard the words “La Dame Blanche” again.
Yes, coming all this way to find nothing would kill him. If not physically, it would kill his spirit. Jamie finally stood up and looked around the island. It wasn’t a large isle, but it had enough hidden alcoves that it would take a fair bit of time to search. He was equal parts nervous and ecstatic as he walked away from the shore.
“Claire!” Jamie called, his voice hoarse with the salt water he’d swallowed. He cleared his throat and tried again, “Claire!”
If Claire heard him, Jamie was sure she’d make herself known. For reasons only she knew, Claire had made him break out of prison and swim a mile in the frozen sea. She wouldn’t keep him waiting after all that, Jamie was sure of it.
Yet, Jamie continued to call for her. His heart, that he had lived so long without.
“Cla-” his call was cut off when he saw it. Or, rather, saw her.
A figure. A woman, standing with her back to him wearing naught but a shift and her curly mess of brown hair down around her shoulders.
“Claire?” Jamie managed to choke out. He saw her stiffen, but she didn’t turn around. It was either her in the flesh or his delusions were hitting a new high. Jamie couldn’t make himself take another step towards her, not until she turned around and confirmed that it was her. But she stayed still.
“Sassenach,” Jamie tried again, the nickname sounding strange on his tongue after so many years, “Please, Claire. Mo nighean donn.”
Finally, she did turn and Jamie let out a desperate noise that didn’t sound human. At first glance, she looked exactly the same, as if the years hadn’t even touched her. She had the same wild hair, the same kind and mischievous eyes, the same freckles that scattered along her cheekbones. But as Jamie continued to look at her, he saw the small changes. Her hair, once a dark chestnut brown, was starting to lighten at the roots. Did that promise grey hair in the future? Jamie hoped he’d be around to see it. There were fine lines at the corners of her eyes and one pronounced worry line between her brows. Her body had filled out a little. She was so slender when he’d met her, but her hips were wider now and her breasts, once small and pert, appeared to be heavier. Probably the result of nursing a baby.
Their baby. With Claire in front of him, he finally let himself think about the bairn.
If Claire was here, then where was the bairn?
That was the thought that finally spurred Jamie forward. First it was just one small, clumsy step. Then another until he was close enough to Claire to touch her if he wanted. But he couldn’t, he was still afraid of her evaporating before his very eyes. No, whatever Claire was here for, she was going to have to make the first move.
“Claire?” Jamie asked again. It was barely above a whisper. Claire’s eyes had drifted closed as he appraised her, and now they finally opened to see Jamie a mere foot in front of her.
“Jamie?” Claire murmured, as if she also couldn’t believe he was really there, and that was it. Jamie’s knees buckled and he would have hit the stone floor hard if Claire hadn’t been so close. Her arms locked around his waist and lowered him more gently to the ground. Claire’s hands remained on his shoulders as he gazed up at her, and that contact was the only thing holding him to consciousness. Hell, it was the only thing holding him to this earth.
“Why… Christ, Claire, How?” Jamie stammered. His thoughts were racing at a mile a minute and he couldn’t choose what to ask first. Claire seemed to understand and her hands moved from his shoulders to his hair. She drew him towards her until his head rested against her chest.
“Shh,” she soothed as if he was a bairn, “Shh, we have time. There’s the two of us now.” Jamie’s arms moved instinctively around her waist and he pulled himself as close to her as he could possibly get. It still wasn’t enough, but it was a start. He heard Claire make a small noise of surprise and maybe pain as he squeezed her harder, but Jamie couldn’t let her go. He released another broken sound as he felt Claire’s lips against the top of his head.
Claire was here. She was really here. And she was right. There would be time later for questions and explanations. Right now, Jamie was in her arms and no matter what happened, he didn’t think she’d ever let him go.
Please point out any typos or weird turns of phrase! I wrote this several months ago and I was having a really hard time editing
After a time, Claire lowered herself to the ground with him and they laid down together. Jamie’s head was still cradled on Claire’s chest and he was still clinging to her like she’d float away if he didn’t, but he was starting to calm down enough to speak.
“Why here?” Jamie asked. He didn’t know why that was his first question, but it seemed as good a place to start as any.
“It was Ian’s idea,” Claire replied, “He didn’t think you’d be followed here.”
“Ian?” Jamie asked, “Ye went to Lallybroch?”
“Yes,” Claire said. Something caught in her voice that Jamie didn’t understand and Claire didn’t elaborate.
“Is everyone okay?”
“Yes,” Claire said, “All healthy and happy. Living on mostly potatoes.”
“Thanks to ye,” Jamie said.
“Thanks to Jenny’s sheer stubbornness,” Claire insisted. Once again, there was something in her voice that Jamie couldn’t quite splice. Had she become a better liar, or did Jamie just not know how to read her anymore?
“Sassenach,” Jamie said. He lifted his head just far enough that he could look in her eyes, “The bairn?”
“With me,” Claire said immediately, “You have a daughter, Jamie.”
“A daughter?” Jamie asked with amazement. He’d thought about the bairn every day, but only in the abstract. He’d always pictured a boy with Claire’s dark, curly hair and his blue eyes. But he’d never had a name or a personality. But a daughter… Jamie felt tears sting the back of his eyes and he was clinging to Claire again.
“Her name is Brianna,” She said and Jamie had to laugh.
“What an awful name for a lassie,” Jamie said through his tears and he heard Claire huff.
“I named her after your father. Just like I promised,” she said, but Jamie could hear the smile behind her annoyance, “She looks so much like you, Jamie. Same red hair, same Scottish stubbornness. I thought Jenny was going to throw me out, but as soon as she saw Bree… no one could deny that she was yours.”
“Why are ye here, Claire?” Jamie asked suddenly. There didn’t seem to be a point in skirting around it any longer.
“Would you like me to go?” Claire asked, her voice turning cold. Jamie’s hold on her tightened.
“No,” He gasped. Go? She was all he’d wanted for the last decade, her and their child. How could she ever think he’d want her to go? Especially if she’d come with the bairn. But it seemed like she hadn’t found a warm welcome at Lallybroch. Maybe she was having second thoughts about whatever had brought her here, “I think ye best explain Claire, from the beginning.”
“It’s a long story,” Claire sighed, but she relaxed into his embrace once more.
“We have all the time in the world, Sassenach,” Jamie said as he brushed his lips over her collarbone. Claire shuddered in response and Jamie was nearly undone, “And I want to ken everything.”
It had been almost ten years since Jamie sent her away, but Claire could remember every detail of that day. She remembered his hands on her waist as he pushed her towards the stones. She remembered his breath on her neck. His final goodbye. He’d used her name instead of “Sassenach” and that had almost undone Claire completely.
She remembered the vertigo inducing fall and then waking up alone and pregnant 200 years in the future.
It was when she began exploring her own time again that things got fuzzy. She somehow managed to get herself back to the reverend’s house where she was greeted with shock and pleasure at seeing her alive. She was dragged to a hospital where her pregnancy was confirmed and her husband-her first husband- was called. Frank was on the first train from London and he was there the next day.
It hit her harder than she thought it would how much he looked like Black Jack Randall. Claire could barely bring herself to look at him, let alone touch him. But still, he cried and told her how happy he was that she was home. How he could forgive anything she’d done.
Except getting pregnant by another man.
There had been violence in his eyes that Claire had never seen from him before, and she was afraid. Frank might not have been Black Jack’s direct descendent, but he possessed the Randall temper, apparently. Frank had left and only come back two days later to tell her that he wouldn’t take her back. He left Inverness before Claire had even processed what his words meant.
Jamie had been so sure that Frank would still love her, that he would raise the child that Jamie could not. Claire felt like she had failed him, but there was nothing she could have done differently. Claire was only here because of the baby, and that was what Frank wouldn’t accept.
Frank was gone. Jamie was dead. And Claire was alone.
Of course Claire’s first instinct was to run straight back to Craigh na Dun.
But that would be foolish. Jamie had died on Culloden Moor and what kind of life could her baby have as the child of a traitor? She knew what was coming for the Highlanders; violence and famine. No place for a newborn when Claire was a traitor herself.
No, even without Frank, Claire had to honor Jamie’s wishes. Maybe she wouldn’t have a father, but she would be safer here than in the 18th century. But Claire couldn’t bear being any farther from Jamie than she already was. She decided to stay and make a life for her and her child in the Highlands.
With the reverend’s help and her own natural skills, Claire set up a small medical practice while her pregnancy grew more pronounced. By the time Brianna was born, she was an established nurse in Inverness. No matter how good a nurse Claire was, though, she once again wasn’t ready to give birth. Especially not early, just as Faith had been. Neither was the midwife Claire managed to find close by.
Brianna was born in the dead of night after nearly three days of excruciating labor. When it became clear that her life was in danger, Claire called Mrs. Graham, who she had stayed in near constant contact with since her return. She should have gone to the hospital, but she could barely move and knew she wouldn’t make it there anyways. Besides, she would be sedated, and that just wouldn’t do. Claire wasn’t going to be put to sleep only to never wake back up. If she was going to die, she was going to go down fighting and fully conscious. Even if she was delirious after days of pain.
If Claire had been in the 18th century, she would most certainly be dead already. But thanks to modern medicine, she was just in prolonged pain while Bree took her sweet time coming into the world.
“Promise me you’ll tell her everything about her father,” Claire begged during a rare break in her contractions. Her periods of lucidity were becoming rarer as her labor went on, but she somehow had the presence of mind to make Mrs. Graham promise she and the reverend would take care of Bree, “She might not believe it, but I know you do.”
“Of course, Claire,” she agreed, “But ye’ll be here to do it yerself.”
Claire couldn’t help but laugh at that. She felt like she was being torn in half and she’d seen the midwife carrying away towels soaked through with her blood. Claire at once wished she was at Lallybroch. She would certainly be dead, but at least Bree would be with family. Even as she felt her lifeblood draining from her, Claire could only feel profound regret that she hadn’t stayed with Jamie until the very end. It didn’t matter though, she would be with Jamie again soon. With that thought, Claire drifted into unconsciousness with a smile on her face.
It was with great surprise that Claire woke up. she felt like she’d been run through with a sword, but she was alive. There was a small part of her that wished she wasn’t. Claire wanted to be with Jamie. It was the most selfish thought Claire every had, and she immediately felt guilty when she saw the small bundle in a crib next to her bed.
The baby had lived. And she had the same copper hair as Jamie covering her small head. She had the same hair as Faith. Claire quite suddenly fell to pieces and Mrs. Graham was there the moment Claire woke the baby with her sobs.
“Yer alright, lass,” Mrs. Graham said as she helped Claire sit up and handed her the baby. In the arms of her mother, the infant quieted and it was easy enough to get her to feed. Claire didn’t have the strength to do anything other than hold her to her chest.
“I can’t do this by myself,” Claire said a time later when the baby- Brianna Ellen Beauchamp, she’d written on the birth certificate- was asleep, “He sent me back so Frank could take care of us. I can’t do this alone.”
“Yer not alone,” Mrs. Graham said affectionately, “Ye have me and the reverend. And a whole clan of druids who will believe yer tale.”
Claire wasn’t sure she’d ever want to tell her story to anyone other than her daughter, but she was comforted nonetheless.
For a time, everything was okay. Claire would never be completely happy again, but she had her daughter and she had her medicine and if that was as close to happy as she could get… she hoped Jamie would be proud of her.
But then it started to become clear that Brianna wasn’t happy. At first it was only Claire that saw it, she was only three after all. But Claire could see it in the way she interacted with the other children. She didn’t belong here. She didn’t belong in this time.
It only got worse as Bree got older. She got into fights with the other children, she was disinterested in school or any other 20th century activity. Claire was almost at her wit’s end when Bree was only five and facing a suspension.
“Ye could always take her back,” Mrs. Graham said over one of their common drams of whiskey.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Claire would have laughed if she hadn’t felt so hopeless, “She can’t go through the stones.”
“Have ye ever tried?”
“She’s only five!” Claire cried, but her traitorous heart was already warming up to the idea. It would be easy enough to take Bree to Craigh na Dun and see how she reacted. If she was anything like Claire, she wouldn’t be able to ignore the buzzing.
But then what? There was still so much danger in the 18th century, and Bree wouldn’t know enough at five to keep quiet about certain things, like time traveling through a rock. Claire had nearly burned for less.
It was ridiculous but…
Wasn’t that what Claire wanted more than anything in the world? When she was in labor, wouldn’t she have traded anything to raise Bree with Jenny and Ian and their children? If it was just Claire unhappy, she could bear that for the rest of her life. But there was small part of Claire that thought, despite everything that could go wrong, that Bree would be happier in the 18th century.
So Claire did what any parent would do. She asked. She didn’t tell Bree everything, how could she? But Bree was a smart girl, and Claire had the power any mother had over her child. So Claire and Mrs. Graham took Bree to Craigh na Dun and it was just as they thought. Bree covered her ears and immediately started to cry. The effect was just as strong on Claire herself. If Mrs. Graham wasn’t with them, it was very possible she would have gone through the stones then and there. But she managed to drag Claire away and when Bree calmed down, Claire explained things as best she could.
She simply said that there was a place they could go when Bree was a little older, a place very different than this one but where Claire thought they might be happy. But if they went, they could never come back. She told Bree that they had time to think about it. Claire couldn’t take Bree until she could get fully vaccinated at least, and she wanted Bree to actually understand what Claire was asking her to do. Like most children would, Bree wanted to go. So a deal was struck, if Bree was a good girl didn’t get into any more trouble at school, they could go in a few years.
Claire changed her mind about their decision almost every day, but there was no going back now. Now that she had some incentive, Bree was the most well-behaved child Claire had ever seen, and Claire told her stories every day about her life in the past. Claire thought Bree might realize the story was absurd as she got older, but her belief only grew stronger as time went on. Claire was never sure she was doing the right thing by feeding her stories of Lallybroch and her cousins without telling her all that she had suffered in the past as well. But she couldn’t deny that Bree didn’t belong in the world that Jamie sent her to, and maybe her daughter’s happiness was worth all the risks.
And Jamie… what would life look like for Claire without Jamie? She wasn’t naïve enough to think that she’d be as safe as she was last time. Jamie had given her the protection of his body, as promised, more times than she could count. Could she survive in the highlands without him? She’d been tried as a witch once and she had no doubt her sudden reappearance would stoke those rumors yet again. Those fears were quickly put aside. Jenny wouldn’t allow the mother of her niece to be burned at the stake.
Claire wanted that family for herself as much as she wanted it for Bree. Claire loved Mrs. Graham, but she was a friend. She wasn’t a sister, like Jenny had been once upon a time. She’d miss modern medicine and her practice here, but she could be a doctor in any time or any place. So Claire bided her time and she planned. She became a doctor, Bree took an interest in engineering and invention. And between living in this time, she and Mrs. Graham collected currency and made clothes and gathered supplies and before Claire knew it, Bree was nine years old and she was ready to go.
Claire asked Bree again and again if she was sure, and she was every time. Bree took it better than Claire could have ever hoped. She seemed to understand the concept of time travel, that there were so many things she’d never be able to talk about, things she’d never experience again. But Bree didn’t have any friends to miss or family to mourn. She just had Claire and the promise of a family on the other side of the stones. So Claire officially closed her practice and said goodbye to everyone she wanted to, which wasn’t many. She dressed Bree in the dress Mrs. Graham had made her and they walked to the stone circle together.
A few years older, Bree still reacted to the buzzing but she kept her composure. The same could not be said for Claire. She was overwhelmed with doubt. Could she survive being in Jamie’s time without him? Or would she crumble under the constant reminders of him in Lallybroch? Would they even end up in the correct time? Claire didn’t know how the stones worked, there was every chance she and Bree could be separated. Or once they got there, they could be discovered for the outlanders they were and be punished accordingly. Would Bree like it, or would she miss showers and chocolate? Claire supposed they could always come back, but she wasn’t sure she’d have the strength to leave Lallybroch twice, even for her daughter. And what kind of life would Bree have knowing this other world existed but not being able to tell anyone about it?
Still, though, Claire walked to the stones. She couldn’t shake the feeling in her core that the 18th century was where Brianna was meant to be. Claire’s instincts had caused her a lot of pain over the years, but they had also led her to the greatest gifts in her life. They’d given her Jamie and her daughter.
Claire gave Mrs. Graham a final kiss on the cheek and then she walked towards the stones. She tightened the rope that tied her and Bree together and prayed that it would be enough. Claire reached towards the stone and felt that familiar feeling of being swept away by a violent current. She heard Brianna’s breath catch then she heard nothing except the voices that guided their way.
When Claire awoke, Bree was still tied to her and she had the immediate feeling of being home. Mrs. Graham was gone and everything was eerily silent. No hum of car engines or people walking the paths the led back to Inverness. No blasts of canon fire that had accompanied her last journey through the stones. Claire knew in the marrow of her bones that they had made it and she knew that they would be okay.
And even if they weren’t, Claire was sure she would make the same choice anyways.
The journey into Inverness was hard on foot, but not as hard as walking to Lallybroch would have been. She didn’t want to risk running into anyone at Cranesmuir who would recognize her, but they needed a horse and some food at least. Thanks to the reverend, Claire had enough money to comfortably buy everything they’d need for the journey, so there was no real reason to shy away from the village.
Except of course if there was anyone left who thought she was a witch. She knew those fears were silly, it had been nearly twelve years and what felt like a lifetime since the witch trial. Even if there were people in town who recognized her, she doubted they would have the spirit to erect a pyre, especially when she was traveling with a child who so clearly had Mackenzie blood. Besides, Bree looked like she was going to either be sick or pass out. Claire didn’t feel any better. She had suspected that each journey through the stones was more physically taxing than the last, and now she had her proof. She felt half dead, and Claire was sure if she tried to go back, she would be fully dead. So even if Bree wanted to leave, Claire was stuck here.
Exhausted, dizzy, and starving, Claire decided the best thing for them to do was rent a room in town for the night. At least Bree could get some rest before she was faced with the realities of their several-day journey on horseback.
It was easy enough to secure a meal and lodgings with the silver she had. It was harder to hold herself together. She had only just gotten here and everything reminded her of Jamie. She was sure they had never even been in this tavern, but it reminded her of the one they spent their wedding night in.
“Did I make the right choice, my love?” Claire asked him after she tucked a quilt around Bree’s sleeping form. She didn’t expect an answer, but she felt a warm glow in her core anyways. Yes, she had. Even if Bree missed the future, she would get the gift of people who knew her father. Even if Claire crumbled under the weight of her memories, it was worth it for her daughter.
It wasn’t until the next day when they went to the blacksmith to get shoes for the horse that she was recognized. Bree was happily looking at the other horses within Claire’s line of sight. She was bartering over a ludicrous price when she heard a gasp behind her.
“Mistress Beauchamp?” A familiar voice said. Claire whipped around to see Mrs. Fitz looking like the ten years hadn’t touched her. Christ, how old must she be by now? She at least looked happy to see Claire, if shocked.
“I still go by Mrs. Fraser, actually,” Claire corrected happily as she pulled the woman into an embrace.
“It’s been so long, lass,” she said as she returned the hug. By now, Bree had wandered over to see what Claire was doing and she proudly presented her to Mrs. Fitz and prayed that Bree would remember everything Claire had told her.
“My daughter, Brianna Ellen,” Claire said.
“Ye mean…” she could see the thoughts flitting through Mrs. Fitz’s head. Bree clearly had the high cheek bones and red hair of the Mackenzies. Claire had never known the woman, but she was sure Bree was the spitting image of Ellen Mackenzie-Fraser
“Yes,” Claire confirmed with a small smile, “Me and Jamie’s daughter.”
“Good lord, Claire,” Mrs. Fitz said, “We havena heard a word of ye or Jamie since Culloden. With so many lost, we just assumed ye were among them. But Christ, she looks just like him.”
“Jamie was,” Claire said sadly, “We found out I was pregnant just before the battle so Jamie gave me money for passage to the colonies, and that’s where I’ve been.” Claire had spent months rehearsing her story and training her glass face to hide the truth. From the piteous look Mrs. Fitz gave her, Claire figured she had sold it well enough. It was mostly the truth, after all. Jamie had sent her away and she had been the in the colonies and Jamie was dead. She had just done it all 200 years in the future. Bree seemed so far to be taking the world of the 18th century in stride. She was saying little as Claire and Mrs. Fitz talked, but what she did say didn’t reveal anything out of the ordinary.
Mrs. Fitz invited Claire and Bree to spend the night at Leoch with the new Himself (Young Hamish, Claire was happy to hear, then felt a stab of regret as she remembered the fates of Colum and Dougal all those years ago). Claire politely refused saying she Bree were going to make their way to Lallybroch once their horse was fitted with new shoes. Mrs. Fitz gave them a promise to write and then she was on her way. Claire let out the breath she’d been holding the whole conversation.
“You did so well, Bree,” Claire sighed as she kissed her daughter on the head.
“She knew daddy?”
“Yes,” Claire said, “She was my first friend here. And she will not be the last person to tell you that you look like daddy, so you better get used to it.”
Bree nodded solemnly but didn’t say anything else. Like Jamie, Bree often got lost in her own thoughts and would come back when she’d exhausted every possible angle of a situation. Claire left her to her own devices and returned to her bartering. Knowing Claire was a friend of Himself and not simply a wandering Englishwoman, he was much more agreeable to the negotiations. In her opinion, Claire was still overcharged, but she was willing to accept it to get on the road.
“Come on, darling,” Claire said when she was done, “The sooner we start, the sooner we’ll get there.”
Claire was a competent rider, but nowhere near as skilled as Jamie or Murtagh had been. The journey that had taken five days the first time around was now getting into its ninth and Claire could feel it. Bree, to her credit, was doing very little verbal complaining. She was just cranky, sore and exhausted, much like Claire. She was jealous of how often Bree dozed in the saddle in front of her while she was left to navigate as best she could.
As exhausted as Claire was, she rarely slept whenever they stopped for the night. Now that they were in Fraser lands, Claire felt more confident about their safety, but she still didn’t want to be caught unawares. Not that Claire’s dirk would be much use against the red coats if they truly wanted to harm her or Bree. But by the grace of god, Claire made it to the gates of Lallybroch unscathed and with her daughter sleeping in her arms. Bree was already tall for a nine-year-old and Claire was very nearly buckling under her weight, but she found a renewed vigor as she caught sight of someone familiar.
“Ian,” Claire breathed. She wasn’t sure she’d said the words out loud, but Ian turned around and he took a staggering step back.
“Claire?” Ian asked finally, “Is it really ye?”
Tears came to her eyes unbidden. She’d had the whole journey to prepare to see her brother and sister again, but she was still caught off guard.
“It’s me,” She finally managed to say, “And there’s someone you should meet.” Claire walked towards Ian until he could clearly see Bree’s sleeping face and red hair.
“Christ, Claire,” Ian said. He gave her a careful hug so he didn’t wake Bree, “Come in and ye can tell Jenny and I yer tale.”
Jenny’s good graces were quite a bit harder to get into than Ian’s, but Claire had been expecting that. When she walked into the main house, Jenny appraised her for a long moment before she told Claire which room Bree could sleep in. Even though she trusted everyone at Lallybroch, Claire was still nervous to let Bree out of her sight. Jenny managed a sympathetic, if guarded, look then an offer of a dram when she was done tucking her daughter in.
Away from Bree for the first time in weeks, Claire was fidgety and nervous as she sat down in the place she once called home with the people she once called family.
“Where have ye been?” Jenny asked without preamble as she handled Claire a cup of whiskey. A nice cup, Claire noted. Not the chipped cup you’d give family, but a glass you’d give to guests. Leave it to Jenny Murray to get her point across without saying a word. Still, Claire had come all this way to be a part of this family, she had to at least try.
“The colonies,” Claire said after a fortifying sip, “I… we… Jamie found out I was pregnant right before Culloden, and he made me promise I’d go and keep the baby safe.”
“And what are ye doing here?” Jenny demanded, taking a sip of her own glass.
“I want Brianna to know her family,” Claire said simply, it was the truth after all, “A girl needs more than just her mother, and she didn’t have that in Boston.”
“And ye thought ye could come waltzing in here with yer bairn like we’d all been waiting for ye to return?”
“Jenny!” Ian scolded. Even Claire was taken aback. She knew Jenny’s temper better than many, but Claire never thought she’d spurn her niece. Ian evidently felt the same way, “Claire is family.”
“Family writes,” Jenny insisted, “And I ken ye can send letters from the colonies. Even Auntie Jocasta gives us a note once in a while to say she’s still alive. It’s been ten years without a word, Claire.”
“I was a traitor, Jenny,” Claire said carefully. She was surprised she could keep her stories straight with the way Jenny was glaring at her, “What would have happened to you if one of my letters got intercepted?”
“So yer going to play the hero then?” Jenny asked, “Ye were a sister to me, Claire. We didna ken yer place or yer people, but ye were the one my brother chose and I accepted that because I saw how ye loved him. The Claire I knew would have taken any risk to stay with my brother.”
“I would have, if it had just been me,” Claire said and her voice finally cracked, “But Jamie knew he was going to his death and he begged me to take care of this baby, because it was the only thing that would be left of him. Lallybroch didn’t need more mouths to feed and you didn’t need me bringing the red coats down on you.”
“Yer so sure Jamie died then?” Jenny said with a wicked laugh, “Witch that ye are, I thought ye’d know better.”
“Jenny…” Ian said in weak warning. At some point in her ranting, Claire had stood up and paced in front of the fire and now she was feeling her knees start to buckle and her vision start to swim.
“Of course he is,” Claire said, “They killed everyone on that battlefield. I know it.”
“Ye know nothing,” Jenny spit, “Because two weeks after the battle, Jamie came back to Lallybroch barely alive, delirious and ranting about his missing wife. And I saved his life, not ye, Claire. Ye abandoned him.”
“That’s not possible,” Claire gasped. But she knew it must be. Jenny had a fierce temper, but she was above the kind of cruelty it would take to tell her Jamie was alive when he wasn’t. And if Jenny was telling the truth… Claire really had abandoned him.
“Claire?” Ian asked. He was suddenly at her elbow and holding her upright.
“Is it true? Is Jamie alive?” Claire asked as she looked him dead in the eye. To his credit, Ian didn’t look away. Instead, he gave her the slightest nod of his head in confirmation and that was the last thing Claire saw before she fainted.
There's one more chapter of mostly exposition, then I promise the story will move forward. I've just always loved Jenny and Claire's lack of real reconciliation, and I wanted to explore that further. Let me know what you think!
A note on the last chapter: I love Jenny, and I think the way she behaves in canon is totally justified. So the Jenny-Claire relationship will be important in these early chapters, and I want to fully explore that anger before they talk it out. Thanks for reading!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Claire came to, she was on the couch in front of the fire in the common room. Jenny and Ian were standing over her, he with concern and her with a slightly worried, but not at all guilty look. Claire tried in vain to sit u on her own before Ian was helping her up and handing her a fresh glass of whiskey. Claire took a small sip and tried to stay calm as everything came back to her.
Jamie was alive. Or had been alive after Culloden? Maybe he was dead now. Because if Jamie was alive, why wasn’t he here? Unless he was here and Jenny was just keeping him from Claire. And just like that she was on the verge of panic again.
“Take a breath, lass,” Ian said, “We’ll explain everything.”
“Jamie is alive?” Claire asked again.
“Ye’d ken that if ye’d bothered to write,” Jenny said, but she had lost the venom of when Claire first arrived.
“Janet,” Ian snapped anyways. It was maybe the sharpest Claire had ever heard Ian speak to her, but she refused to look abashed.
“I dinna want ye in my house,” Jenny said, “Ye can stay the night but I want ye gone in the morning.”
At that, Claire finally sat up fully and found her voice, “You can’t be serious.”
“I watched my brother’s spirit die over the last ten years thinking ye were gone,” Jenny said, “I willna have ye come back just to ruin him again.”
“Fine,” Claire said, though her heart was breaking, “Throw me out. But would you deprive Jamie of a chance to know his daughter?”
“Yer bairn is no kin of mine and neither are ye,” Jenny said after a slight hesitation, “I didna trust ye ten years ago and I dinna trust ye now.”
“Jenny be reasonable,” Ian said with forced calm, “She has nowhere to go.”
“She can go back to where she came from,” Jenny replied without meeting anyone’s eye, “I dinna want her here.”
And then Jenny was gone and Claire very quickly went to pieces. Claire had won Jamie’s sister over once before, she thought she would be able to do it again in time. Or at the very least, she had been sure Jenny would love Bree as her brother’s daughter.
Lallybroch was her only life line, and now her whole plan was shot to shit. Jamie was alive, but Claire would never be able to find him without Jenny’s help. Bree would never know her father and Claire wouldn’t be able to go back through the stones even if she wanted to.
And she didn’t truly want to. Despite all of it, Claire was back where she belonged.
“Ye willna go, Claire,” Ian said a short time later.
“Isna the only master of this house,” Ian said definitively, “No matter what she thinks.”
“I can’t stay in this house if Jenny doesn’t want me here,” Claire said faintly, “I won’t.”
“Ye will,” Ian replied firmly, “Ye and the bairn will stay here as long as ye like, and we will find some way to get ye to Jamie.”
“Where is he?” Claire asked, though she wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to know the answer.
“He’s in prison,” Ian said. he told her about the seven years Jamie had spent as the Dun Bonnet until he’d decided the risk had become too great.
“Like why ye didna write,” Ian said offhandedly, which made Claire’s heart clench with guilt but she didn’t interrupt. He explained how Jamie was the de facto leader of the Jacobite prisoners in Ardsmuir and how he was able to smuggle letters every so often.
“They come months late,” Ian said, “But it’s better than no word at all.” Jamie was serving a life sentence, as far as any of them knew, but the British worked in mysterious ways. Apparently, several prisoners had been shipped across the ocean as indentured servants, but they also still executed Jacobites on occasion. For now, prison was the best outcome they could hope for.
“So we send him a letter and wait six months for him to respond?” Claire asked hopelessly. Now that she knew Jamie was alive, she was going into rescue mode. She had broken Jamie out of prison before and she had no doubt she could do it again. But she hadn’t had a child when she broke Jamie out of Wentworth. Claire hadn’t had a single thing in the world other than her husband, and she would have done anything to get him back. But now Bree needed her, and if she couldn’t get Jamie out and she died in the process…
No, Claire couldn’t go into Ardsmuir Prison, guns blazing. So what was there for her to do? Leave planning to Ian, apparently.
“We’re no gonna break in,” Ian said, “Jamie is going to break out.”
“We’ll leave the how to him,” Ian said confidently, “If he has proper motivation, he could break out of anywhere.”
“And what’s his motivation?”
“Ye, of course,” Ian replied.
“No,” Claire said, “He knows I’m not coming back.”
“Maybe he knows it,” Ian agreed, “But he will never stop hoping for it.”
“He needs a better reason,” Claire insisted.
Ian stared at her thoughtfully for a moment, as if she was speaking another language. Claire’s doubt surprised even her. Her reception at Lallybroch had cast doubts on everything she once felt so certain about. Claire hadn’t thought for one single moment she’d come back to find Jamie alive. He had been so set on falling at Culloden Moor. There was no other outcome for him, he would die with his men in battle. Claire felt so stupid to not even consider that Jamie could have survived. If there was one thing Claire knew about James Fraser, he had a knack for staying alive, no matter how inconvenient.
And Claire hadn’t even thought to check. Her instincts had told her to come back through the stones the moment Frank left her, but she’d ignored it. And Jamie had been at Lallybroch for seven years all alone when they could have been together.
Claire knew logically that Jamie wouldn’t be angry at her for leaving when he was the one who had made her go. But still… her husband had been left to live in a cave while she had been safe with their child. Then Ian told her about the gold. Jamie wouldn’t be able to resist so much money he could send back to Lallybroch. The possibility of finding Claire was just the cherry on top.
Claire expected World War III to erupt when she was still at Lallybroch when Jenny woke up. But Jenny simply served her breakfast without a word while Ian and Claire solidified their plans to travel to Selkie Island. Ian was to go out today and start spreading rumors about the Frenchman’s gold. Ian figured a rumor like that would spread like wildfire, but no one would know where to go except someone who was familiar with the small isles on the coast. If he added the fact that it was guarded by La Dame Blanche, Jamie would be out of Ardsmuir within the week.
While Ian spread rumors, Claire was going to gather provisions and then they’d make their way to the island together. Claire would bring enough supplies for three days, then Ian would come back with more and they’d repeat the process until Jamie arrived or Claire thought she would die from exposure. It was the middle of winter and Claire would most likely not be able to build a fire, but the walls would shelter her from the wind and she packed enough blankets to keep a small army warm. It wouldn’t be a pleasant stay, but Claire would survive.
And once Jamie got there, then what? Claire wasn’t entirely convinced Jamie would find her, but Claire also hadn’t thought Murtagh’s plan to find Jamie before Wentworth would work. Ian knew Jamie better than Claire did now, so she trusted him if he thought Jamie would follow a weak rumor of La Dame Blanche. But what would she do when he found her? Tell him of his daughter, obviously. But after ten years, Claire couldn’t be sure he’d want her as his wife any longer.
She hadn’t come back with the intention of finding a husband for herself. When Frank refused to take her back, she’d shut that part of her heart off. She was a mother and a doctor, she didn’t have room in her life for anyone else. For ten years she’d lived like that, but now that traitorous flame of hope had been fanned. All she could think about as she gathered her things was what it would be like to touch Jamie again. And have Jamie touch her. Christ.
Claire didn’t expect a heartfelt goodbye from Jenny, but there were things that needed to be said. She had reminded Bree to watch her tongue and be a good girl for her Auntie. Bree, with her characteristic pragmatism beyond her nine years, had taken it in stride. She had kissed her mother’s cheek then left her to finish planning. Claire still had a stab of anxiety at the thought of leaving her alone in an unfamiliar time, but Lallybroch was safer than anywhere else Claire could have taken her.
“For the sake of your brother, take care of Brianna,” Claire told Jenny as she tied her cloak around her shoulders, “I swear I will not darken your doorstep again if that’s what you want, but don’t take it out on her. And if something happens to me…” Claire drifted off. Jenny might hate Claire, but in time she might love her niece. Especially if Claire got herself killed trying to find her husband and she left her daughter an orphan. Despite Jenny’s threats, Claire had no doubt that Jenny would love Bree as her own if it came down to it. Jenny cast a dark shadow on those she distrusted, but even she was incapable of hurting a child. And despite what she said, Claire knew Jenny would see Bree as family eventually. Claire’s absence could only speed that up, she decided. Jenny hadn’t said anything in return, but gave Claire a small nod. She would take what she could get.
Jenny gave Ian a longer, but equally frosty farewell. Whatever agreement they had come to, Claire wasn’t privy to it and she didn’t need to be. It was between the two of them and it ended with Claire getting Ian’s support.
She gave her daughter a brief farewell. Like Claire had hoped, Bree had formed a quick bond with her cousins. Maggie and Kitty especially had become fast friends. No matter what happened, Claire thought she’d made the right choice. Then they were gone.
All Claire had to do was follow Ian’s lead, so she had plenty of time to think. She had a million questions, but she couldn’t bring herself to voice any of them. But they still burned the back of her throat. How had Jamie survived? If he was able to escape Ardsmuir, why hadn’t he done it already? Then there were questions that only Jamie could answer, and those were the questions she was most afraid of. In ten years, Claire was sure that he had been with others. Claire knew she couldn’t blame him for that, but the thought of Jamie sharing another woman’s bed made her blood boil. But it also made her angry to think that Jamie might have just given up on living. After everything he’d done to stay alive, Jamie deserved any bit of happiness he could find.
But if he had fallen in love with someone else, Claire wasn’t sure she would survive that. Especially now that she was stuck in this time. And what would she tell Bree? She had been vague and she trusted Jenny to do the same. She didn’t doubt Jamie would want to know his daughter, but it wasn’t as simple as that.
By the time they made it to the coast, Claire had driven herself very nearly into a panic. Ian once again guaranteed that Jamie would be there, but Claire still wasn’t sure. Jamie was the most resourceful man she’d ever known, but she still doubted he’d risk his life for just a rumor. But Ian’s confidence was unwavering, so she kept her mouth shut. It was a simple matter for Ian to row Claire to the island and solidify their plans again. Three days, and then Ian would come back with more provisions. Rinse and repeat until Jamie showed up or it became clear he wasn’t coming. Claire didn’t know how long it would take for her to give up, but she feared it would be longer than was wise. She couldn’t risk missing Jamie, but she also couldn’t leave Bree alone at Lallybroch forever. Jenny’s patience with Ian being gone would eventually wear thin, if nothing else. But Ian was confident it wouldn’t be more than a few weeks, so Claire kept her concerns to herself.
In the end, it only took two weeks.
Claire saw him coming from at least a quarter mile out. She should have gone to help him, but she couldn’t make her feet move. She very nearly hid. She’d had weeks to ready herself to see him again, but the moment she heard his voice… nothing could have prepared her for that. It cracked with the exertion of his swim, but the tone was unmistakable. Fear. And hope. He had come for her. He had truly come for her. But still, Claire couldn’t make herself go to him. With the way her blood was pounding in her ears, she was very lucky she didn’t faint.
“Cla-” His call cut off when he saw her. Her back was to him, but there was no way he would have mistaken her. There was truly no going back now. Claire’s hands flinched at her sides. As Jamie questioned her, begged her to answer him, Claire couldn’t think of a single thing to say.
“Mo nighean don,” Jamie said desperately, and Claire finally did turn. She nearly wept at the sight of him. He looked haggard after his journey, and much too thin. But it was him. Underneath the fatigue and years of captivity, it was still her husband.
Jamie studied her with just as much scrutiny as Claire studied him. She resisted the urge to cover herself as his eyes raked across her body. Her dress had become soaked with the sea spray and she was wearing just her shift despite the chill. It left very little to the imagination and Claire knew she looked different than the last time he saw her.
“Jamie?” Claire murmured and it was only reflex that made her catch Jamie as he fell. His arms locked around her waist and all Claire could do was hold on. He was gripping her so tightly that it hurt, but Claire didn’t dream of pulling away. Instead, she gave him soft touches and kisses and tried to calm him. She had never known Jamie to be so beside himself.
“Shh,” she tried her best to sooth and felt woefully inadequate. Then she echoed what Jamie had said to her all those years ago when she had chosen to stay, “There’s the two of us now.”
I know that was a lot of exposition, but I promise the next chapter is entirely Jamie and Claire, so there's that to look forward to. Thanks for all the commentary on the last chapter, it was fun to read and respond to! Let me know what you think!
“Frank didna take ye back?” Jamie asked when Claire was either done or didn’t have the words to go on. Of all the things she’d told him, that was what Jamie fixated on. He was trembling still, but he couldn’t tell if it was from simply being in her arms again or his sudden anger. How many times over the last ten years had Jamie imagined Claire happy with a man that loved her? How many times had he been eaten alive by jealousy picturing another man in her bed, worshipping her the way he wanted to? Being father to his child, heading the family that should have been his?
But this was worse. Even when it felt like the envy was going to kill him, at least he’d known that she was taken care of. Claire insisted that Frank was a good, honorable man. And that he loved her enough to forgive her for loving another. Jamie had given Claire to his care on her word. But the reality was that Frank hadn’t even tried. And Claire had been alone to raise their bairn. Once again, he cursed the fact that Frank Randall didn’t exist yet for him to fight.
Claire had condensed ten years of her life into less than an hour, and Jamie could sense what she must have omitted. Being an unwed mother didn’t sound like it was much easier in her time than in his. Even with the few friends she’d mentioned, she sounded intensely lonely. And Jamie was selfish. Despite the danger, he wished Claire had been with him all that time instead.
“No, he didn’t,” Claire replied simply, and he again could hear all the things she didn’t say. How hard things must have been for her and Brianna both for her to make such a drastic choice.
“Are ye upset to have found me alive, then?” Jamie asked, because he had to. She hadn’t come back for him, after all.
“Are you upset I came back?” Claire shot back.
“No!” Jamie said.
“Then there’s your answer,” Claire shrugged. But it wasn’t exactly the same thing. Claire was always alive to him, and Jamie often dreamt that she would come back to him. It only hurt more to know that however improbable it was, it was never impossible. But Jamie was dead to her, he had meant to die. Seeing Claire again was Jamie’s wildest dream come true. Claire seeing him must be like seeing a ghost, and he wouldn’t blame her for not being entirely happy about it. Despite how gently she was touching him and how fervently she was holding him, Jamie would understand if this was more than she bargained for once their high-strung emotions ran their course.
“So what we do now?” Jamie asked. It was more to himself than to Claire. What in the world could he do?
“That entirely depends on you,” Claire replied anyways. Jamie pulled away from her just enough to search her eyes, and he saw uncertainty there.
“Yer my wife,” Jamie replied.
“I don’t have to be,” Claire said, “If you don’t want.”
“What the devil do ye mean, Sassenach?” Jamie demanded.
“I just mean…” Claire struggled, “It’s been ten years, Jamie. And if there are other ties-”
Jamie silenced her with his lips. She stilled for a moment too long and Jamie feared she was going to push him away, but then her hands tangled in his hair and she relaxed against him. Jamie pressed his tongue to the seam of her mouth, asking permission that she promptly gave. And then Jamie was tasting her in earnest and groaning into her mouth. It wasn’t long before Jamie was rolling on top of her. He didn’t have the presence of mind to lean on his arms instead of crushing her, but Claire didn’t seem to mind. Instead, her hands had wandered under his shirt and she was exploring his back, running her hands over his scars.
“Did you ever fall in love with anyone else?” Claire asked against his mouth when Jamie finally let her up for air.
“No,” Jamie said so softly it was more of a breath than a word, “I’ve never loved anyone but ye.” Jamie felt her smile, and there was nothing he wanted more than to tear that shift off of her and have her right there. But they were both trembling still with the intensity of being together again and there was still so much they needed to talk about. And Claire was shivering.
“Go get a blanket, Sassenach,” Jamie said as he finally let her go. It was getting dark now, and no matter how much Jamie resisted it, he was exhausted after his journey and the emotions of the last hour. Not that being pressed against his wife for the first time in ten years would be particularly restful, but his body would give out on him if he didn’t at least try. Somehow, he managed to let Claire go long enough for her to retrieve her cloak and several blankets. She also returned with a loaf of bread and a flask, both of which she handed to him. Two weeks, she had been here waiting for him. After she draped her cloak over his shoulders, Jamie ate as Claire made a small nest for them.
“When is Ian coming back?” Jamie asked. When do I have to leave you, was what he really meant. They couldn’t live on the island forever, and Jamie couldn’t take Claire on the run. Even as the thought of leaving her again broke him in two, just knowing she was here in his time was a balm to his soul.
“Tomorrow,” Claire said after a moment. She’d heard his unasked question, “Early morning.”
Jamie nodded. It wasn’t nearly enough time, but it was more than he ever thought he’d have with her again. Claire returned to her work as Jamie took a sip from the flask. The whiskey settled in his stomach and warmed him from the inside out. It fortified him enough to reach for Claire’s hand and pull her back until she was in his lap. He pulled the cloak on his shoulders until it settled around them both. It was so much like the day he met her, when he’d wrapped her in his plaid and she’d settled against his chest, trusting him even though she had no reason to. Jamie pressed his nose into her hair and inhaled her scent, salt and sweat and something distinctly floral. Something completely Claire. He felt her sigh as his lips connected with the nape of her neck.
“You’re real,” Jamie murmured, biting her neck gently for emphasis. Her answering moan was further proof. She was real, alright. And she was here.
“So are you,” Claire managed as Jamie’s hands wandered from her hips down to her thighs until they rucked her shift up.
“I saw ye so many times,” Jamie said. He very gently moved her legs apart until he could trail his fingers up her inner thighs. Jamie could already feel the heat of her, and he felt half crazed with want. He knew he was babbling, saying more than he meant to when he still wasn’t entirely sure where they stood with each other, but he couldn’t stop, “Ye came to me so often. When I dreamed sometimes. When I was in a fever. I was so afraid and so lonely I knew I must die. Whenever I needed ye, I would see ye smiling. Yer hair curled around yer face. Ye never touched me.”
“I can touch you now,” Claire replied, barely above a whisper. She tilted her head in a clear request, and Jamie moved his lips from the back of her neck to trail across her throat.
“Christ, Claire,” Jamie moaned as he grew hard beneath her. Claire felt it, and she shifted so she was pressing down almost painfully against his erection, “I want ye so.”
“Then have me,” Claire whispered. She spread her legs wider and guided Jamie’s hand to her center. He was caught between needing her to come undone right that moment and wanting to savor her. Jamie managed to hold back and just skirt around where she clearly wanted him. He was rewarded with Claire whimpering and throwing her head back to rest on his shoulder. Savoring it was, then.
After a few more minutes of exploring, Jamie moved his fingers to her wetness and she sighed heavily as he finally dipped a finger inside of her, “God, Claire,” he groaned as she writhed against his hardness.
“Please, Jamie,” She gasped, and he moved his fingers from inside of her to the bundle of nerves just a bit higher. He drew small circles around it, but resisted touching her in earnest. They had all night, after all. Claire wasn’t nearly as patient as he was. She tried in vain to grind herself against his hand but was only met with air when Jamie drew away.
“I mean to take my time with ye,” Jamie said against her throat. Maybe going slowly now would calm him nerves enough to take her properly. Even if not, he would not leave her wanting tonight.
Jamie raised his other hand to her breasts and massaged her through her shift. Her nipples hardened against his palm and Jamie growled in satisfaction. He moved her shift until her chest was bared and the fabric pooled around her waist. He wanted nothing more than to take her breast into his mouth, but he refused to shift her off his lap long enough to turn her around. Instead, Jamie pinched a nipple and enjoyed the gasp of pleasure and pain it tore out of Claire. She suddenly turned her head enough to catch his lips in a searing kiss. While Jamie was distracted by the taste of her, Claire moved his hands back to her slick folds and Jamie let her. He stroked her in earnest until Claire was unable to continue their kiss. Instead, her eyes drifted shut and her mouth fell open. Jamie moved his lips back to her neck and dragged his teeth against her skin. He knew he was marking her and growled at the thought. Very few people would know it had been him, but it would be clear that she was claimed. The thought made Jamie a little rougher than he had intended, but Claire didn’t seem to mind. Instead, she was letting out a steady stream of moans and curses that told Jamie how close she was. He redoubled his efforts, and then the tension in Claire’s body snapped and she was shaking.
After she rode out the final wave of her orgasm, Claire sunk against him. After the few moments of rest, Jamie shifted until they were lying together in the nest of blankets she had made. Jamie was still painfully hard, but Claire was lost in the afterglow of her own release and Jamie couldn’t bring himself to make a move. Finally, Claire turned to him and tried to lift his shirt, but Jamie stilled her hands.
“I have burned for ye for so long,” Jamie said as his eyes drifted closed, “But I think I might break if I have ye right now. Isna that ridiculous?”
“No,” Claire said. There was no judgement or disappointment in her voice, only the compassion and understanding that he had been missing from her for the last ten years, “We don’t have to rush this, Jamie.”
“No,” she said again, “I didn’t come here just to make love to you, Jamie.”
“Ye dinna come here to be with me at all,” he replied. He was trying for a joke, but it fell flat. Claire leaned forward until her lips were a hairsbreadth from his.
“No,” she allowed, “But now that I am here, I want to be your wife.”
Jamie pulled slightly away, “I am no longer the man ye once knew. You and I, we know each other less than we did when we were first wed.”
“Whoever you are, James Fraser, you are still the man I married and the father of my child. And I want you.”
“Even though I canna give ye or Bree the life ye deserve?” Jamie asked, “Even though I canna be with ye?”
“You have to go back to Ardsmuir,” Claire replied. It wasn’t a question.
“If it was just the two of us, I might run,” Jamie answered anyways, “But I willna put Brianna in danger and I willna give the red coats any more reason to raid Lallybroch.”
“I know,” Claire said.
“Do ye?” Jamie pressed, “I could be hung tomorrow, Claire. Or shipped off to the colonies. We might never see each other again. Ye might be able to live like that for a time, but it could become too much. To find ye again and to lose ye-”
“You won’t lose me,” Claire said fiercely, her hands pulling painfully in his hair.
“I wouldna survive it,” Jamie said, his eyes drifting closed, “It might be easier to not have ye at all than for ye to break my heart slowly.”
“Do you want me to go?” Claire asked after a moment. She had asked the same thing hours ago, but she seemed more afraid of the answer now. And why shouldn’t she? There were a million reasons to send her away, not least of which was for her own safety and the safety of their child. If Jamie was a better man, he would tell her to go. But he was selfish. And greedy. Now that she was naked in his arms, he couldn’t send her away and he couldn’t risk her ever being with another.
“No. I dinna want ye to go,” Jamie said. Claire breathed a sigh of relief and he kissed her briefly, but thoroughly, just because he could, “I am a traitor. And a prisoner. But I still wanna be yer husband, if ye’ll have me.”
“I’ll have you,” Claire said immediately, “For the rest of my life.”
“For the rest of our lives,” Jamie agreed, “But let’s start with tonight.”
Hi friends! How are we feelings? I hope you enjoyed the sexy times, I promise there's more where that came from ;) Let me know what you think!
Eventually, Jamie’s body did give out on him and he fell asleep with an arm slung over Claire’s stomach and his head against her chest. Claire wasn’t so lucky. For hours, sleep alluded her. She couldn’t stop turning the last day over in her head. She hadn’t been sure Jamie would want her back, but to find out that it was him that was afraid of losing her? It had been entirely unexpected to find him, of course. But now that the shock of it had waned a bit, there was nothing Claire wanted more than to live as Jamie’s wife again.
Every moment of their three years together had been underscored by the threat of being torn apart. Claire could live with that again. She wasn’t sure how much she would- or could- tell Brianna, but she would figure something out.
But Claire didn’t want to plan tonight. She’d known that Jamie wouldn’t come back to Lallybroch with her, even though her heart had hoped differently. For now, they only had this one night together, and Claire didn’t intend to waste it.
But Jamie was exhausted, and Claire was content to let him sleep. Eventually, she did become restless, though. She turned on her side and looked at him. She had only the light of moon to study him, but it was a clear night and she could see enough. Even in sleep, she could see fatigue etched into his face. When was the last time he had gotten a full night of rest? On a blanket out in the cold wasn’t where Claire would have picked for their reunion, but Jamie didn’t seem to mind.
His body was scattered with new scars that she wasn’t sure she wanted to know the stories behind, but would insist Jamie tell her anyways. Claire was sure at least a few of them had come from Culloden. She wasn’t sure she wanted to hear about the battle, or even that Jamie would want to talk about it. But still, it sat heavy between them and she would have to ask.
Her hand drifted across her own abdomen to the scar she wasn’t ready to explain yet. Claire had been less inhibited with him than she had planned, but she had been careful to keep a blanket or her shift wrapped around that particular part of her body. Jamie had been too distracted by the rest of her to notice, but she couldn’t hide it forever. Someday, there wouldn’t be any secrets between them at all. The thought made Claire equally nervous and elated. For three years, they had lived together as one. Would they be that way again?
They had talked very little last night. They had barely talked about Claire, let alone how Jamie had spent the last ten years. Ian had given her an outline, but it was clear that Jamie had been secretive. He would have had to. He was a fugitive with a time traveling wife, there was no one Jamie could have confided in. Claire’s heart clenched. She’d at least had Mrs. Graham and the reverend, then Brianna when she was old enough. Claire had secrets, but she also had confidants. Jamie’d had no one.
The thought made Claire reach her hand out to brush the hair from Jamie’s forehead. It had lightened just a bit with age, copper at the roots where it used to be a bright red and a few streaks of blonde. With the physical labor of being a prisoner, Jamie was every bit as strong as he’d been in his twenties, but Claire could clearly see where the years had touched him. She traced her fingers from his forehead to his cheekbone, much too sharp, she decided. It was a testament to how exhausted he must have been that he stayed asleep as she explored him. Or how safe he felt. Jamie had told her that their wedding night was the first time in years he hadn’t slept with a dirk in his hand. After that, he often slept with some part of her filling his hands, but he still woke at the slightest provocation. Not tonight, though. Claire cupped his cheek and brushed her thumb over his top lip. The corner of his mouth turned up in response.
“Oh, Christ, Jamie,” Claire murmured as tears came to her eyes. That was a sight she never thought she’d see again. Jenny had told her once that she thought Jamie smiled in his sleep only when he was completely happy. Claire hadn’t seen it since well before Culloden. Even before Wentworth, if she was being honest. She had seen the habit mirrored in their daughter, though. The thought made her whimper louder than she intended, and Jamie’s eyes opened.
“Sassenach?” he asked, his voice raspy and confused with sleep.
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” she said, trying to get herself under control, “Go back to sleep.”
“Yer crying,” Jamie observed, fully awake now and looking concerned. There was no use in denying it, so she let her tears continue to fall, “What’s amiss, Sassenach?”
“Nothing,” Claire said even as she continued to weep, “Not a damn thing.”
Jamie looked confused, but didn’t press her. Instead, he pulled her back into his embrace and tried to soothe her with murmured Gaelic and kisses to the crown of her head. Eventually, Claire’s sobs ceased and she was aware of just how much of their naked flesh was touching. Claire had managed to get Jamie’s shirt off before he’d passed out and all of her was pressed against all of him. Jamie seemed to be aware of the same thing, if the hardness pressed against her stomach was any indication. Jamie had said he wasn’t ready to have her completely yet, and Claire felt the same way, if she was being honest. To possess him, body and soul, just to leave him in a matter of hours might break her. Still, he had given her pleasure, and Claire wasn’t inclined to leave him wanting.
Claire lowered her hands where they were wrapped around his waist until she was gripping his bare buttocks. She gave him a squeeze as she shifted her hips forward, giving him just the smallest hint of friction where he clearly needed it. Jamie responded with a sharp intake of breath, so Claire did it again.
“I want to touch you,” Claire whispered against his lips. She raked her nails down his chest in case her meaning was unclear. Jamie didn’t do anything except shut his eyes and murmur please. Claire began with a thorough kiss before she gripped his length loosely. Encouraged by his strangled moan, Claire started with a slow, experimental rhythm. Already, he was ready to spill. But he hadn’t been very nice to Claire, so she wasn’t going to give him a quick release. Instead, she gripped him just tight enough that he felt it, but didn’t give him any real satisfaction.
“Sassenach,” Jamie groaned. His hips thrust up seeking friction but met nothing, “Christ, Claire please.”
“What was it you said?” Claire said as she kept up her lazy rhythm, “‘I mean to take my time with you?’”
“Vixen,” Jamie yelped when she gave a twist of her wrist. It was followed by a series of Gaelic words that she didn’t know, but wasn’t entirely confident was complimentary. Still, Claire enjoyed the tension coiling in his body. He wouldn’t be able to last much longer, she could tell that much.
Claire leaned forward and took his earlobe into her mouth, biting hard. And then Jamie was spilling into her hand with a strangled cry. She continued nibbling on his earlobe until his breathing was back to normal, then she trailed her lips to his mouth and gave him a sweet kiss.
“Do ye feel better now, Sassenach?” Jamie asked when they broke apart. In truth, she hardly remembered she had woken him with her crying in the first place.
“Oh, Jamie,” Claire murmured against his mouth, “I do love you.”
Jamie gave her another uncoordinated, but heartfelt kiss. She could tell he was ready to fall asleep again, and this time she really would leave him to his rest, “I love ye, too, Claire.” With that, Jamie fell back asleep, and Claire followed right after him.
Unfortunately, the morning did eventually come. As much as Claire wanted to spend the hours they had left wrapped in Jamie’s arms, there were logistics they needed to figure out. The moment Claire shifted, Jamie was awake and looking at her strangely.
“What?” she asked with a smile.
“I just still wasna sure I wasna dreaming,” Jamie said. He raked his eyes over her bare chest for emphasis. In the light of day, Claire felt almost shy about the night before. Of course when she thought about being with him again, she thought about it in every sense of the word. But more in the abstract. The reality of it only left her wanting him more, so much that she was a little afraid of it. They hadn’t even lain together, but Claire still felt like a blushing virgin when she thought about it. Even before Claire had known she was in love with Jamie, she had loved being with him physically. And of the million things that were different in the ten years since she’d seen him, how wildly attracted to him she was hadn’t changed.
“Ye need to get dressed,” Jamie said with a suggestive quirk of his eyebrow, “Or we willna get a chance to talk at all.”
Claire bit back a tart reply and instead pulled her shift on and folded their blankets. She allowed Jamie to help her with her skirts and laces, which was almost more intimate than if he’d been removing them, then she was presentable. Jamie had elected just to put his shirt on, however, and Claire could focus on little else than his strong, defined legs in the light of day.
“See something ye like, Sassenach?” Jamie asked with a smug grin.
“Oh, shut up,” she replied, but didn’t try to bite back her smile. Yes, whatever it was that lived between them when they first met, it was still there.
Then Claire saw it, the wicked scar that snaked its way up his thigh. Dangerously close to his femoral artery, she noted with a sharp intake of breath. Claire had no doubt that had come from Culloden. So that was what Jenny meant when she said she’d saved his life. It must have been a close thing, too. It must have been done with a bayonet or dirk, but it was much to wide for any blade she’d ever seen. It must have gotten infected and Jenny’d had to cut out the rot. She hadn’t done a pretty job of it, but it had been effective. It was very likely maybe Jamie wouldn’t have wanted to live through such an ordeal. And Claire hadn’t been there. She wouldn’t have been much more elegant about it, but there were comforts that a wife could give that a sister couldn’t.
When Claire lifted her eyes, Jamie was already gazing at her.
“I wasna grateful that Jenny saved my life at the time,” Jamie said with a rueful smile, seeming to read her thoughts, “But I am now.”
“Jamie…” Claire murmured as tears filled her eyes. Christ, they had only had a few precious hours together, and they had barely talked about anything. Jamie took a step towards her and gripped her hands with his own, hard.
“Every moment of the last ten years has been worth it, if it led me back to ye, Claire,” Jamie said, his own eyes filling. Claire envied Jamie’s ability to just say everything that was in his heart. She didn’t have his way with words, she just had her actions. So, she kissed him with everything she was worth. Jamie’s breath rushed out of him in a gasp and he could only hold on as Claire kissed him. He was breathing heavily when she pulled away and he looked every much like he was regretting telling her to put her clothes on.
“I will never leave you again,” Claire promised as she gripped his face maybe a little too hard. Jamie gave her a look that said dinna make promises ye canna keep, but kept his mouth shut. Wisely, Claire thought. She would be damned if anything tore her and Jamie apart again. Other than the life sentence and her still technically being a traitor, of course. And just like that, the real world came rushing back in. Claire pulled away from him just so she wouldn’t be distracted.
“Ian will be here any minute,” Claire said, “Will you see him?”
“No,” Jamie said. He said it with certainty, but Claire could tell that it pained him, “No. the red coats will be around until I am back in prison, I willna give him reason to lie for me.”
“What about me?” Claire asked with a touch of anxiety.
“I willna deny yer a bad liar,” Jamie allowed, “But ye willna be questioned. Jenny will keep ye well hidden.”
Claire rather thought that was a little too charitable considering how much Jenny seemed to hate her, but she didn’t mention it. If nothing else, it would be dangerous for the red coats to find an Englishwoman who matched the description of Red Jamie’s traitorous witch of a wife. Even if Jenny didn’t care about Claire’s personal safety, she cared about her own family’s.
“I take it there was no treasure, then?” Jamie asked, interrupting her thoughts, “That makes things a little less complicated.”
“Treasure?” Claire asked with a furrowed brow, then she recalled Ian’s rumor, “Oh, Louis’ gold?”
“Aye?” Jamie asked with equal puzzlement, “Ye mean ye didna look for it?”
“Of course I didn’t,” Claire said rather defensively. She had left the gossip to Ian. She figured he would tell her if it was actually true. And he hadn’t, and Claire had been too caught up in worrying about Jamie to think about the treasure at all. But she’d had two weeks. She should have looked.
“No matter, Sassenach,” Jamie said with amusement, “I’ll look when ye are gone. And I’ll send word when I can.”
Claire only nodded, so Jamie continued, “After this, it’s likely I willna be able to smuggle a letter for some time,” Jamie said, “But I will write ye the moment I’m able.”
Claire nodded. So this was his goodbye. Jamie reached for her again and drew her close. He kissed her soundly, but with a finality that broke her heart. She kissed him back, as much as she was able to through the lump in her throat.
“I love you,” Claire murmured when they broke apart.
“And I, ye,” Jamie said. He gave her a final kiss on the forehead then took a resolute step away from her. Claire swayed forward as if she was physically tied to him, but she managed not to drag him back to her. She had no right to feel shattered. She was going back to family, to her daughter. Jamie was going back to prison, presumably for the rest of his life. She would give Jamie a good memory to take with him back to Ardsmuir, she decided. Claire wiped her tears away and managed a small smile. Jamie managed to return it slightly, and helped her gather her things. She left the food and a few blankets with him, Lallybroch could do without them and Claire thought Jamie might stay on the island a while longer. He deserved some comfort before going back to prison. Materials gathered, there was nothing left to do but give Jamie a final kiss goodbye and the turn away.
“Goodbye, Sassenach,” Jamie said to her back, his voice breaking. Claire fought the urge to turn around, but she knew she’d never leave if she did. And where would that lead them? She thought Jamie might run away with her if she begged, but that would be entirely selfish. He would never be happy as a wanted man, and he would always feel guilty putting her and Bree in danger. Letting him go was the only option, but she would fall to pieces if she watched him watch her walk away.
“Goodbye, Jamie,” She murmured, but she wasn’t sure that he heard her. Claire walked out of the stone building and down to the beach, where Ian was, of course, just a few minutes from shore. She schooled her features into something resembling normal. Of course Ian saw right through her.
“Ye saw him then?” Ian asked. Claire could only manage a nod, “Is he-”
“Gone,” Claire lied, “A few hours ago.”
Ian nodded, accepting with more grace than she had the Jamie would go back to Ardsmuir. The journey back to Lallybroch was largely silent, which Claire was grateful for. Ian ran the horses hard, and Claire felt guilty for keeping him from Lallybroch for so long. But she wasn’t able to muster up any kind of apology.
“Bree and I can find some place in the village, or Broch Mordha if that’s still too close for Jenny,” Claire said when they were within a few miles of Broch Tuarach. She’d been thinking through the possibilities over the last several days. She wasn’t familiar with any village other than Cranesmuir, and she clearly couldn’t go back there. Claire wouldn’t force sisterhood on her if she didn’t want it, but Jenny would just have to live with Claire living on Fraser lands
“Ye’ll stay at Lallybroch,” Ian said in a tone that left no word for discussion. Claire didn’t argue it. It would be easy enough to collect Brianna and leave quietly. She didn’t want to ruin the little time she had left by fighting.
Jenny was in the yard washing when Claire and Ian returned. Claire couldn’t see any of the children, but she could hear their voices scattered around the main house.
“There’s food inside,” Jenny said after she kissed her husband. Then she turned to Claire. She hadn’t thawed much, but her curiosity got the better of her anger. Claire would take what she could get,
“Ye saw him?”
“Yes,” Claire said.
“Was he well?”
“As well as could be expected,” Claire said. Jenny nodded and then returned to her chores. She wasn’t welcomed into the house, but she wasn’t turned away either. And she was starving. Claire made her way into the house figuring Jenny would say something if she wasn’t welcome. Instead, she found Ian teaching her daughter the Gaelic words for the food they were sharing. Claire made a noise without realizing it and then Brianna was barreling into her chest.
“Mama!” Bree cried as she embraced her. Claire placed a kiss on the crown of her head and just listened to Brianna babble, “-Kitty taught me how to make bannocks. And Jamie was trying to teach me to knit, but I’m not very good at it. He called it clickitting, which I thought was funny-”
“What are you wearing?” Claire interrupted. She had packed Bree a few dresses, but this wasn’t one of them.
“I got mud all over my dress, so Maggie gave me one of her old ones,” Bree explained, “But Auntie Jenny said we can go into town and get me a new one!”
“Did she now?” Claire asked with no small amount of surprise. She threw a look to Ian, who mouthed Told ye so.
“As soon as you were back, she said,” Bree confirmed. And then she was off again on how she and her cousins had spent their days, what she’d learned how to cook, new words Auntie Jenny had taught her. It didn’t seem like Bree would ever run out of words.
So Claire had been right. Ten years ago, Jenny had wanted nothing more than for her brother to have children of his own. And now, once the immediate problem of Claire was gone, Jenny had been able to see how much Bree resembled Jamie, and she had loved her for it. Even if Jenny never warmed up to her, Claire thought it was more than enough that she accepted Bree as her niece. That was all she had wanted when she decided to come back through the stones, for her daughter to know her family. And if Claire didn’t get that family as well, she could live with that.
Eventually, Bree did run out of words and left with an explanation that Auntie Jenny had given her chores to do. The moment Bree was gone, Claire nearly collapsed in the chair across from Ian.
“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” she murmured as the emotions of the last few weeks hit her. Bree loved Lallybroch. That was more than enough, but to also find her father alive? It was more than Claire had been prepared for, that was for damn sure. But it was a welcome surprise.
“So yer staying,” Ian said a time later.
It wasn’t a question but Claire answered anyways, “Yes.”
“Good,” Ian said as he passed her the plate of bannocks, “Welcome home.”
Hi again friends! I know this one was a little longer than usual, and honestly it was a little rough to edit lol. My last story had at least 5K words a chapter, which was just insane and I said never again. So chapters probably won't be much longer than this, but I loved getting Claire back to Lallybroch. I know some people were hoping Jamie would go with her, but I hope you still like where I'm going!. Let me know what you think!
The swim from the island was somehow better and much worse than the swim there had been. The worst of it was that Jamie knew what he was going back to, and he wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. He and Lord Grey had a… peculiar kind of relationship. He wouldn’t quite call it a friendship. He hadn’t known Lord Grey very long and the man was his captor, after all. But Jamie did think there was a respect between them. When Jamie needed something for his men, Grey usually got it. And Jamie in turn kept the prisoners in line for the British.
That was probably all over now, Jamie thought. Grey wouldn’t be able to ignore an escape attempt, especially from the leader of his prisoners. He’d probably be flogged. The thought out if made Jamie’s stomach twist.
But whatever the punishment, seeing Claire was worth it. Even if it had only been a handful of hours, Jamie felt like a new man. Or the man he had been ten years ago. He and Claire had both been holding themselves back, but she was still his wife and Jamie was still her husband. Jamie thanked god that he’d never let Jenny convince him to take another wife. He couldn’t imagine the holy reckoning that would take place if Claire came back to find Jamie married.
Speaking of things Jamie had held back, he couldn’t bring himself to tell her about Mary. Jamie couldn’t help feeling like he had been unfaithful. He’d felt it at the time, but he had at least thought Claire was married happily and never coming. But in reality, she’d been all alone while Jamie had been with another. Worse because Jamie had enjoyed it, found comfort in it. And he knew Mary was still at Lallybroch. Would she say something? Would Jenny? Jamie had to tell her himself when he got a chance to write. That could be months, though. If he ever got the chance again. Jamie rubbed his wrists, still raw from the irons that had only been off for a few weeks. At the very least, Jamie would be chained again. Still worth it, Jamie thought as he made his way back to Ardsmuir.
Jamie couldn’t think of a plan more sophisticated or effective than simply sneaking back in. Making his presence known at the gates would probably get him shot. Better to get in quietly and deal with Grey in the morning.
Then Jamie had seen the man pissing with his back turned, just how he had caught Jamie at Corrieyairack and he hadn’t been able to resist. A bloody flair for the dramatic, Claire had muttered more than once when that flair got him into trouble. Jamie grinned to himself at the memory just before he launched himself at Grey.
Jamie had known that Grey remembered him, probably by name before Jamie had recognized his face. Jamie knew Grey was an honorable man, his sacrifice for Claire had proven that and his stay at Ardsmuir had only confirmed it. But still, Jamie thought there was a chance Grey would just kill him when he kneeled and exposed his throat. Thank god he hadn’t, Claire would be furious with him for escaping just to get himself killed willingly. But Jamie had broken Grey’s trust, and he needed to try to repair it if he wanted to remain the de facto leader of the Jacobite prisoners.
To Jamie’s surprise, Grey demanded Jamie take him back to the moors and explain exactly what had happened. Of course, Jamie couldn’t do that. He couldn’t tell Grey about the treasure. Jamie still laughed a little that Claire didn’t even think to look for it. Of course, it had been out of her reach when Jamie did find it. But still, to have been in the presence of a fortune for two weeks and not have been aware of it, it must have been a testament to how anxious Claire had been to see him. Jamie obviously couldn’t tell Grey about Claire either. He might not be familiar with the Stuart Witch, but Jamie wasn’t willing to bet on in. Claire was a traitor in her own right, and Jamie would sooner die than lead the red coats to her.
“So the man’s words referred to your wife?” Grey asked in disbelief when Jamie had told him everything Kerr had said.
“I thought they might be,” Jamie said carefully. After days of being alone after a mere few hours with his wife, Jamie was struggling to keep his emotions in check, “And if so, I had to go see for myself. But there was nothing there to do with her. She is truly gone.”
“And the gold, Mr. Fraser?” Grey asked impatiently, seeming not to care about Claire. Jamie presented him with the sapphire and managed to convince him that was all there was. He mourned its loss. If Jamie every got out of this god forsaken place, that was money he could use to support Claire and Bree. But it was better to have Grey’s trust, Jamie reasoned. Especially when he suspected he’d be smuggling more letters than would be able to slip past Grey unnoticeable.
Grey seemed to accept his story and led him back to Ardsmuir. Jamie waited days for the other shoe to drop. For his flogging, or for him to be chained once again. But nothing happened.
“And?” Murtagh asked without preamble under his breath when Jamie laid down next to him that first night. Jamie barely managed to keep his voice down through his excitement.
“It was her.”
Murtagh didn’t manage to keep his voice down, “Truly?” he nearly shouted, which earned him several dirty looks from prisoners trying to sleep and suspicious ones from the guards.
“Keep it down, man,” Jamie scolded, but it had no heat. He was smiling too widely, and that would definitely raise suspicions.
“And ye came back?” Murtagh asked incredulously when Jamie finished telling his tale.
“I canna protect them,” Jamie replied defensively. Honestly, the moment Claire was gone, Jamie had regretted not going with her. A night of holding Claire wasn’t enough for him. And hearing about his daughter would never replace actually meeting her. But that regret only lasted until Jamie remembered last time he had taken Claire on the run. He remembered in the last days of the uprising, how Claire starved and froze on the road with him. The constant threat of military patrols, how they were separated more than few times and Jamie feared he’d never get her back. He wouldn’t do that to Claire again, and he damn well couldn’t do it to Brianna.
“Ye ken trouble finds yer wife,” Murtagh continued, “Ye are more useful with her than in this damn cell.” Jamie couldn’t deny that, so he just stayed silent. In truth, his elation was waning with every passing minute. The scent of her and feel of her in his arms was already fading. Knowing she was still here was keeping him whole, but there was now a new agony. He wasn’t sure when or if he would ever see her again. And letters wouldn’t sustain him forever. But he couldn’t find it in him to regret her coming back, despite the risks.
As Jamie suspected, it was several weeks before he was able to find paper to smuggle a letter out. He had half expected Claire to write him first, but Jenny would know better than to let her write before they’d heard from Jamie. Had she made it back to Lallybroch? Had she been discovered? Claire was a good deal easier to hide than Jamie had been, but he was sure Broch Tuarach was the first place the red coats would think to look for him, and there was every chance someone would recognize her.
And then there was what to actually say to her. He couldn’t tell her about the treasure for fear of his letter being intercepted. He couldn’t talk about her own time for the same reasons. And he didn’t want to mention Bree even though that was all he wanted to know about.
Dearest… Jamie began. He probably shouldn’t use her real name. As far as anyone knew, the Stuart Witch was dead or long gone, best to keep her that way.
I hope you are home safe by time this reaches you. Already, I ache for you, mo nighean donn. One night wasn’t enough, but it was the most blissful torture.
Jamie resisted the urge to start over. Blissful torture. Jamie wasn’t a romantic, nor a poet, but he feared he would combust if he didn’t at least try to get everything he was feeling out of his heart and into words. He imagined Claire reading it and calling him a fool, and that was enough for him to start writing again. Jamie thought he would do anything to make Claire laugh. And it wasn’t like he had another piece of paper to start over.
For years, I dreamed of you, and I didn’t realize how little justice my memory did you until I saw you again. I wish I could have had days to just look at you and memorize every detail. But in the hours we had, I am glad to have spent it in your arms.
Of course, since we did so little talking, there were many things I didn’t tell you…
Jamie paused, his hand beginning to cramp. He had already used half a page in his inelegant scrawl. His handwriting wasn’t good to begin with, but his right hand still caused him problems even ten years later. But now that he’d started, he had to continue.
You accused me of having other ties and asked if I’d ever fallen in love with another woman. I told you the truth of it, Sassenach. But not the whole truth. I burned for only you for ten long years, but there was another.
Jenny had gotten it into her head during my years in the cave that I was young enough to marry again and have bairns of my own. She often told me I was foolish to spend my life grieving you.
Of course, she didn’t know the truth of it. That you were out there, but you would never come back to me. And I never tried to explain myself.
The night before I gave myself up to the British, Jenny had Mary McNab (you’ll remember her husband, who fought with me at Culloden) bring me dinner and a razer. They- Mary and Jenny- seemed to think that I should spend my last night of freedom with a woman. And I did.
If I had thought for even a moment that you would come back to me, I would have sent her back to the house. But you were lost to me, and for the first time in years, it truly overwhelmed me. Mary offered me comfort, and I took it. I am sorry, Sassenach.
I should have told you in person, but I am a coward. I wanted you so badly that nothing else mattered
I’m sure Jenny will tell you more if you want to know. Please write me back, mo nighean donn, if only to let me know you and the rest are well. Rage and curse my name if you must, any word at all from you would bring me the greatest comfort.
So there it was. All Jamie wanted to do was continue in his cowardice. But if he didn’t tell her himself, Jenny eventually would. And he knew Claire’s reaction would be far worse if she heard it from another.
Jamie managed to send the letter a week later, and then all he could do was wait.
I'm not entirely pleased with this chapter, but this is a part of the story that had always been murky to me. So it's probably better to just get it out there so I can move on.
It's always kind of bugged me in show canon that Jamie never told Claire about Mary. I promise it's not going to turn into a huge drama, but I did want to include it. I also think letter writing is going to be a big part of this story for at least the next few chapters, so let me know what you think!
Edit: I know he does eventually tell her in the books! But he does take his sweet time about it, which always struck me as weird. I realize it probably will still happen in the show! I just wish he told her sooner
So much discussion on the last chapter! I loved it! I do know that Jamie tells Claire about Mary in book six. But without the drama of Geneva and the marriage to Laoghaire, and with it being not that long ago, I thought I'd address it in this story. Thanks for all the feedback! Enjoy the chapter :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The day after Claire and Ian returned to Lallybroch, Fergus came back. Claire hated to admit it, but she hadn’t much considered he would still be at Lallybroch. She thought about the boy often, and she hoped she would see him again. But he would be a man of twenty by now, why would he stay on a farm without Jamie and Claire? Then when she got to Lallybroch and Ian, Jenny, nor Jamie had offered anything about the lad, Claire figured he was long gone.
Seeing him walking up the lane was like seeing a ghost. Judging by the way Fergus froze when he saw her as well, the feeling was mutual. They sized each other up for a long minute. He had grown, obviously. But he was nearly the size of Jamie. He had the same soft French features and high cheekbones he’d had in his youth.
“Milady?” Fergus asked finally and hopefully. The wave of relief and guilt would have toppled her if Fergus hadn’t thrown his arms around her and held her close, “You’ve returned?”
“Oh, Fergus,” Claire cried as she pushed him just far enough away that she could take in his face, “Let me look at you.” His hair had darkened and he’d grown, but he was unmistakably the same boy she had loved as her own, the same boy she had left. Then she felt his hand. Wooden. Claire’s breath caught in her throat.
“The red coats, milady,” Fergus said ruefully, then his face brightened again, “It is truly you, then?”
“Yes,” Claire said. She threaded their arms together and walked back to the house, “And there’s someone I want you to meet.”
Unlike Jenny, the sight of Brianna seemed to explain away every hole in her story. Fergus spent a long time looking between the girl and Claire. Bree looked back at him with just as much scrutiny.
“Mon dieu,” Fergus murmured eventually, “She looks just like him.”
“I know,” Claire replied, “Acts just like him too.”
“I have chores, Mama,” Bree said eventually to pull Claire and Fergus out of their own little world.
“Shall we do your chores together, ma petite?” Fergus asked with a nervous smile. Bree’s eyes lit up and she nodded vigorously. Fergus promised he would meet her outside.
“And just like you, Milady, her face can’t hide a single thing,” Fergus said with a wide smile before running off to join her daughter. Claire couldn’t keep the smile off her face. Both her children, together.
It had been several weeks, and there was still no word from Jamie.
In that time, life at Lallybroch was much the same as Claire remembered. Well, life was the same for everyone other than her. Brianna seemed to blend seamlessly into life in Broch Tuarach. Claire tried her best, but she was still something distinctly other.
She knew the rumors that followed her. Faerie and ban sidhe were some of the nicer words that were left in her wake. There were others that weren’t so nice. She and Jamie had been giving so little time at Lallybroch when they were first married. It seemed that all anyone remembered was that she was English and that she had left when they’d needed her. Bree softened the blow, but not by much. It didn’t help matters that it was common knowledge how the current Lady of Lallybroch felt about her.
But the fact was that Lallybroch was in desperate need of a healer, and Claire had a responsibility to help whether they wanted her or not. And it was often that they didn’t. So Claire passed her days treating common ailments with so much resistance that it was like pulling teeth. She did a lot of that too, and she bloody hated it.
Lucky for her, Jenny’s resentment hadn’t seemed to spread to anyone else in the house. She and Ian were back to being good friends, Fergus acted like she hadn’t left at all, and a few of the children had even started calling her ‘Auntie’ (much to Jenny’s annoyance). Claire could often get one of the older children to go with her to town to assist when Bree couldn’t, which made things a little easier.
But still, other than Fergus, there was a clear divide between her and the rest of the house. She was still treated like a guest that could leave at any time. And though the children seemed happy to assist her, she always had to ask. Nothing was ever offered at Lallybroch, and that was because of Jenny. Claire hadn’t expected a warm welcome. It had been ten years, but she hadn’t been prepared for the open distaste. At the very least, Claire thought Jenny would accept her reasons even if it didn’t soothe her anger.
But it had been more than a month, and Claire hadn’t been alone with Jenny for even a moment to clear the air. With the sheer number of patients Claire had, she barely had a moment to rest or eat. That coupled with taking care of Bree, missing Jamie, and Jenny’s open hostility had Claire very nearly at the end of her rope.
Something was bound to give.
“In the house. Now,” Jenny demanded one day just as Claire had come back from the village. She had taken Maggie, and Jenny’s tone was so stern that she thought for a moment she was talking to her child. But then Maggie scampered off and it was clear she had been talking to Claire like that. And what was worse was that she had no idea what she’d even done. She and Jenny had been butting heads more and more often, but it had been a relatively peaceful week.
“If this is about Maggie,” Claire ventured, “I asked Ian if I could take her to town.” Jenny didn’t respond and instead led Claire up to the laird’s room. When the door was bolted, she spun Claire around and efficiently untied her laces.
“Take yer skirts off,” Jenny said.
“Will you tell me what’s going on?” Claire asked. Instead of answering, Jenny got down on her knees and attempted to pull something from underneath the bed. Claire stared at her for a moment and then obeyed until she was just in her shift.
“Ye’ve been wearing the same dress for two weeks,” Jenny muttered as she finally pulled the thing- a trunk, Claire saw- from under the bed, “The same filthy dress.”
Claire looked at the discarded clothes on the floor. Jenny had a point. Claire had only brought two dresses, and she’d ruined the first one treating a family with a bad case of the stomach flu. Claire wrinkled her nose at the memory of it. The one she was wearing now was covered in blood and god knew what else, but it was the cleaner of the two. Between her patients, taking care of Bree, and her own need to sleep on occasion, she hadn’t had a chance to launder her own clothes. And her pride hadn’t allowed her to ask someone else to do it.
“Do ye not think that reflects badly on me that I canna keep ye clean?” Jenny demanded as she opened the trunk. Claire gasped at the sight before her. Clothes. Her clothes from Paris.
“You kept these?”
“Jamie insisted,” Jenny shrugged, “Dinna change the subject.”
“The subject of laundry?” Claire continued with a furrowed brow.
“The subject of ye claiming ye wanna be part of this family, yet ye dinna act like a member of the household,” Jenny said as she thrust a clean, silk skirt at Claire. Jenny took Claire’s dumbstruck silence as acquiescence and she continued, “Ye dinna help with the household chores, ye dinna let anyone help ye, ye barely speak at meals and ye have barely said a word to me.”
“You cannot be serious,” Claire finally snapped at the last. She was clutching the fine skirt so tightly that she was worried she’d tear it, “When have you ever given me the chance to talk to you?”
“Yer barely here for me to give ye a chance,” Jenny huffed.
“Because I have been taking care of the tenants,” Claire said.
“Dinna play the hero with me,” Jenny said as she crossed her arms, “We have been doing just fine without ye.”
“Just fine?” Claire replied. She could hear the venom in her tone. She knew she was heading towards saying something she couldn’t take back, but she couldn’t stop herself, “Half of them are malnourished, most are missing teeth. Injuries haven’t been properly tended to and people have died because of it. There isn’t enough peat to last the winter and some will freeze to death if they don’t get some relief. And the ones that aren’t starving are only fed because of me.”
“Aye,” Jenny allowed, with something equally spiteful in her own voice, “Ye said plant potatoes, I did as told. Ye already know that’s kept us alive. And barely alive, as ye’ve pointed out. Yet ye and yer bairn look well fed and taken care of.”
“Jenny…” Claire began, already seeing what this was really about and regretting her words. But there was no going back now.
“I never asked ye why,” Jenny continued, emotion starting to choke her up. But it wasn’t anger. Jenny was hurt, far more hurt than Claire thought her capable of, “But I thought ye would tell me on your own. Since ye wanted to be my sister again and all.”
“I told you-”
“But we both ken it isna the truth,” Jenny said, “Not the whole truth.”
“Jamie thought he was sending me back to another man. A man who would take care of Bree and I,” Claire said before she could stop herself, “But when I saw him, he wouldn’t raise another man’s child. By then, I was too far along to travel and I couldn’t risk Brianna’s safety.”
“And while we were starving and freezing, ye and yer bairn were safe in the colonies,” Jenny said, “I’ve heard that part of the story. So yer no going to tell me the truth, then?”
“It is a yes or no question, Claire,” Jenny demanded.
“I’m sorry, Jenny,” Claire said hopelessly. They held eye contact for one tense moment before Jenny tried to close herself off again. She wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes and pulled a bodice from the trunk that matched Claire’s skirt.
“Dress yerself properly in this for now,” Jenny said. She was trying for stern, but she couldn’t hide her hurt from Claire, “We can get ye something better suited for a farm when I take Bree into town.” Then she turned to leave.
“Jenny-” Claire tried again, but she was interrupted.
“When a horse breaks its leg, ye put it out of its misery because it’ll never heal right,” Jenny began. She gave Claire one more searching look, asking for the truth Claire couldn’t give her. Jenny gave her a nod of sad acceptance after a moment, “And neither will we.”
As much as Claire hated the distance still between them, that conversation signaled a kind of ceasefire with Jenny. She knew the household had breathed a sigh of relief, but the frosty politeness was almost worse than the anger. But what right did Claire have to be unhappy? Jenny’s parting look had been clear enough, all she wanted was the truth. Barring that, Claire was welcome at Lallybroch. She could be aunt to Jenny’s children, and she would be family to Bree in turn. But she and Claire were not sisters, and they would not be until Claire was ready to be honest.
But what would she even say? She didn’t have any proof, and it was an outlandish tale. In her own time, Claire had considered bringing photographs back. Just for herself. But she had decided the risk of being caught and having to explain them was too great. She wished more than anything she could have shown Jamie his daughter, and now she wished she had them as proof of another time.
Then there was the matter of if she even wanted Jenny and Ian to know. She loved them, and she trusted them as much as was possible in her situation. But Claire had already been tried for witchcraft once and she very nearly died. Even if Jenny and Ian still trusted her, Claire knew how the rumors would spread. If she told Jenny and Ian, eventually a servant would catch on, then it would spread to the rest of the tenants. What if Broch Tuarach proved to be just as suspicious and fearful as Cranesmuir? If it was just her, Claire might risk it. But any accusations against her would turn to Bree. Not to mention what might happen to her if Claire was burned at the stake.
No. Even if it meant losing Jenny, Claire couldn’t risk it. How was it that Jenny was every bit the fiery Fraser as her husband, but Claire could only manage him? For the millionth time, she wished Jamie was here. He would know what to say and what to do to earn Jenny’s trust. At the very least, he would be on the outside with her. She wanted nothing more than to send him a letter, but Jenny wouldn’t allow it. She claimed that he had to send one first. There was always the chance a letter would be intercepted, but Jamie had better odds of smuggling it if he knew it was coming. Or maybe Jenny was just being spiteful and she wanted to keep Claire away from her brother. Claire honestly wouldn’t blame her.
In any case, there was little Claire could do other than wait for a letter that might never come. Instead of obsessing, Claire tried to throw herself into the household as best she could without Jenny’s full approval. She was in the kitchen most mornings and in the garden in the evenings after she’d tended to her patients. She threw her dirty dresses in the communal laundry pile and gave Bree chores on top of the one’s Jenny already gave her. She tried her best to act with the grace the former Lady of Lallybroch should.
In exchange for her cooperation, Jenny kept her word. There was no more belittling or snide remarks. She gave Claire brief thanks for the chores she did do and made sure Claire had the medical supplies she could get in this time.
She even made good on her promise to take Claire and Bree into town. Claire tried to insist that Bree wear the hand me downs from Maggie, but Jenny insisted Bree deserved at least one dress of her own.
“Besides,” Jenny continued, “Ye cannot keep traipsing around a farm in French silk.”
Claire didn’t argue that, so into town they went with their brood. Her reception in the village was decidedly different when she was accompanied by Jenny. Claire tried not to linger on how the suspicious looks softened and she didn’t hear whispers in her wake. It had only been a few weeks, she reasoned, things would get better eventually and she wouldn’t need Jenny.
After her own fitting, Claire took Kitty to check in on a few of her patients while Jenny took care of Bree and the rest of the children. She was heading back when she ran straight into a woman significantly shorter than her.
“Oh, I’m sorry…” Claire’s words died on her tongue when she saw who it was. It had been a decade and the woman looked a good deal older, but Laoghaire Mackenzie was unmistakable.
“What are ye doing here?” Laoghaire demanded with confusion and thinly veiled contempt. Her eyes darted around the market, looking for Jamie, probably.
“What are you doing here?” Claire asked instead. It was her husband’s land, after all.
“I live on Fraser lands and this is the closest village,” Laoghaire replied, “Not that I owe ye any explanation.”
“No, I don’t suppose you do,” Claire said dryly. Laoghaire’s eyes darted to where Kitty was holding Claire’s hand, then she looked back up at Claire with a quirked eyebrow, “My daughter and I live at Lallybroch.”
“Daughter?” Laoghaire asked, “So ye married again then?”
“No,” Claire snapped, “My daughter with Jamie.”
“He isna here,” Laoghaire said once she managed to say anything past her shock.
“I know damn well where he is. Since I am his wife,” Claire said, “Goodbye, Laoghaire.”
“I dinna ken what kind of witchcraft ye used to come back here,” Laoghaire said when Claire turned to leave. She didn’t turn around, but Laoghaire continued, “But ye should have stayed gone.”
It was a thinly veiled threat, but Claire didn’t give Laoghaire the satisfaction of turning around. Instead, she nudged Kitty back to the direction of the tailor and left Laoghaire to whatever mischief she would plan.
“I ken Laoghaire is a nuisance,” Ian said once they were back at Lallybroch and Claire told him what had happened, “But I wouldna worry about a jealous lass.”
“That jealous lass very nearly had me killed,” Claire replied. She hated to admit it, but she was more than a little shaken up. Laoghaire still had the look of innocence about her, but Claire knew better than to trust her. If a decade hadn’t done anything to ease her hatred, it wouldn’t have done anything to soften her methods of revenge. With one chance encounter, Claire had put the whole estate in danger. Just as she feared she would do.
“Laoghaire MacKimmie has a small farm hours away,” Ian said sternly but with sympathy, “She is widowed with two bairns. She has no allies and no resources. She canna hurt ye or Bree, Claire.”
“A letter!” came a cry from outside. A moment later, Fergus was inside with two envelopes, “Letters from Jamie!”
He thrust one into Claire’s hands, and for just a moment, all of her other problems were forgotten. All that mattered was that Jamie was safe. And had enough freedom to send letters. Claire’s eyes filled with tears that she quickly wiped aside. Claire couldn’t wait a single moment longer. She tore the seal off the letter and began reading. She only got one sentence in before someone was pounding on the doors.
“Mr. Murray!” A Scottish voice with clear authority rang out. Ian and Fergus froze after exchanging a glance.
“Who is that?” Claire asked, even though she feared she already knew the answer. Ian answered anyways.
So obviously I struggled with this one since it's been two weeks since the last chapter. But! I am extremely happy with this one. This confrontation with Jenny has probably been my favorite thing to write so far. And it was so fun bringing some new characters into the story. I had thought about the photos before this, but I didn't think anyone else would notice, so I hadn't decided what to do about them. But so many of you asked about them that I had to actually deal with it lol.
Before you're too hard on Jenny! Remember that it hasn't been that long since Jamie gave himself up and Lallybroch has been in a precarious position. I always wished show canon gave Jenny and Claire more time to figure out their new relationship, but it hasn't, so I will. This is a pro Jenny account!
This is too long of an AN, but it's been a minute and I had a lot to say. As always, let me know what you think :)
“Where is Bree?” Claire asked, but Ian and Fergus were already on the move. Jenny must have been outside when the soldiers arrived, because Claire could hear her trying to reason with them. She couldn’t make out most of the words, but she heard Stuart Witch clear as day. Ian did too, apparently.
“In the priest hole, Claire,” Ian said without preamble. He grabbed her arm, not quite dragging her but with enough force that she had to give him a few steps before she resisted in earnest.
“Where is Brianna?” she tried again.
“With Kitty and Maggie, I imagine,” Ian said with obviously forced calm as he pulled her a little harder. Not enough to hurt her, but the urgency was clear. But Claire’s instinct to protect her daughter was stronger for the moment.
“No,” Claire said, losing all sense of reason, “I need to find my daughter.”
“We dinna have time,” Ian said, coming as close to losing his patience as Claire had ever seen him. That only served to increase her panic. Claire knew the red coats were a danger, enough of a danger that Jamie had given himself up, after all. But Claire had rather thought her days of fleeing the English were behind her. She’d naively thought that her own notoriety had paled in comparison to Red Jamie’s. But she was remembering now how much of an impression she’d made at Prestonpans. She remembered the way the English prisoners had looked at her with fear and a little bit of admiration. Red Jamie’s English wife, who healed the sick with nothing short of magic. Claire knew the rumors that followed her around town even now. Of course the British would have been interesting if they’d gotten word of a strange English woman dropping out of the sky.
“Brianna willna be in danger as long as no one kens who her parents are,” Ian said, interrupting her catastrophizing.
“She looks just like Jamie!” Claire protested.
“She looks like Jenny’s mam,” Ian argued, “And like almost every other Mackenzie I’ve ever met. Claire, we will protect her, but ye need to hide.”
"I will find her, Milady,” Fergus promised, “I will keep her safe.”
Claire gave him a long look. Fergus had been the most determined child she’d ever known, and she saw that same determination now. That look on a grown man was enough for Claire to finally acquiesce and allow Ian to lead her to the small hidden chamber that the red coats hopefully would never know about.
And not a moment too soon. Jenny had only been able to stall the soldiers for so long. The door was hidden behind a thick tapestry and there are no cracks for light to come through. But she could hear the shuffle of feet and several agitated voices. Most were English, but a few were distinctly Scottish. Traitors, Claire thought. The other red coats would surely think the same about her.
“Have we no proven ourselves loyal to the king?” Jenny argued as Claire heard the soldiers ransacking the main room. Claire flinched when she heard something break, “Did I no turn in my own brother for the traitor he is?”
“You and I both know that wasn’t the first time Red Jamie had been to Broch Tuarach,” the Scottish voice accused.
“Do ye have proof to back up those accusations?” Ian asked pleasantly. Claire could only hear the slight tremor in his voice because she knew all he had to hide. Claire clutched at her skirts just to have something to do.
“We all ken how cunning the Frasers are,” the leader continued.
“Good thing we are Murrays, then,” Ian continued, “And have no heard from any of the Frasers of Lovat since long before Culloden.”
“I may just question ye to be sure,” the red coat said.
“Feel free,” Ian replied. Claire could almost see the shrug that would have accompanied it, “I havena had anything to hide these past ten years, and I have nothing for ye now.”
"Place Mr. Murray under arrest,” the man said gruffly. All Claire could do was close her eyes in defeat. Her fault. Claire heard Jenny protesting, but Claire could hear the sad acceptance in her voice.
This was a dance the Fraser-Murrays had done before. Claire heard a bit more scuffling and the children’s voices (Bree’s wasn’t among them, thank god) then it seemed like the main house was empty. Claire didn’t dare leave until someone came to fetch her, but Claire was beginning to feel the claustrophobia of the space. Claire knew Lallybroch had the priest hole, and she’d known Jamie had hidden here many times over the years. He had talked about his years in hiding casually on Selkie Island. But Claire barely fit, and Jamie was a good deal taller and broader than her. What was unpleasant for her must have been torturous for him. Oh, Jamie, Claire thought. Would there every be an end to all that he’d suffered that she didn’t know about?
With that thought, she remembered the letter. Fergus had shoved all of them into her hands before Ian shoved her into the priest hole. At least they wouldn’t be found by the red coats, thank god for small blessings. She tucked the ones addressed to Jenny and Fergus into her bodice and unfolded her own. Her eyes had adjusted a bit to the dark, but it was a fruitless effort to read in the pitch black. Instead, she played the first sentence she had read over and over again in her head.
Dearest. I hope you are home safe by the time this reaches you. Safe, Claire thought with a silent snort. She’d never been under any delusion that she was safe anywhere in this time. But this was quite a bit less safe than even she’d imagines. She’d thought her days of espionage and battles were behind her, but it seemed she was still in the thick of it. She prayed that Fergus had found Brianna, at least. She knew he would sooner die than let Bree come to harm. In the short time they had been at Lallybroch together, it was clear that Bree already idolized him as an elder brother. And he looked at Bree as if she’d hung the moon. Claire remembered how protective Fergus had been when she was pregnant the first time. And how devastated he was when she’d lost Faith, how much he had blamed himself. She wished she’d gotten a chance to tell him she was pregnant again before Jamie had sent him away. He was meant to be a brother, Claire thought. Now he was getting that chance, though. It warmed Claire’s thought to think about it even as she was still gripped with terror at the thought of Bree being seen.
Home was the other word that stuck out to her. Claire had been intentionally vague when she’d told Jamie of her reception at Lallybroch. She hadn’t been kicked out, and that was enough. But now that she had settled back into life on the farm and she’d reached a stalemate with Jenny, Claire couldn’t deny that she thought of Lallybroch as home.
Claire tried in vain to read the rest of the letter for a few more minutes before stuffing it back in her bodice with the other ones for safekeeping. Then all Claire could do was wait. It was hard to keep track of time with no light, but Claire thought the raid and Ian’s arrest had taken a little less than an hour. She had grown stiff from standing ramrod straight for so long and she was becoming more uncomfortable by the minute. Sometimes in her own time, Claire managed to detach her mind from her exhausted and heartbroken body. As a single, working mother, sometimes that dissociation was the only thing that had kept her going. That’s what she did now. She took stock of every part of her that hurt and was uncomfortable and buried that pain deep down until all she could do was think.
In the weeks since leaving Jamie, Claire had barely given herself time to breathe. She worried that she’d drown in her feelings if she overthought things. She couldn’t believe how quickly her picture for the rest of her life had turned sideways. Of course she was thrilled that she had found Jamie alive, but where was she to go from there? There had to be a way that they could be together, but Claire had yet to figure it out. Everyone seemed to be adamant that Claire stay as inconspicuous as possible. It had seemed to be working until Laoghaire shot everything to hell.
At the time, Claire had accepted all of Jamie’s reasons for not going on the run with her and Bree, but it had still hurt fiercely that he was now so close yet still out of Claire’s reach. Now, after spending the better part of two hours in a hole, Claire was struggling to see how being with Jamie was more dangerous than staying here.
But Claire needed to talk to Jamie before she did anything so drastic. She wished she had pushed harder to talk about all their options when they had been together. There had been so many things they hadn’t gotten the chance to talk about. Now Claire feared they never would. They couldn’t risk putting most of their secrets in a letter, and Jamie had been very clear that there was every chance they’d never see each other again. It had been very easy to make promises to him when he had been in front of her. But the reality of living the rest of her life married to a man she might never truly be with was daunting. More than anything, Claire felt cheated out of the chance to get to know him again.
But even with all of that, Claire didn’t dream of leaving him. She’d regretted going back through the stones the moment she’d awoken alone. If she’d followed her heart, she would have come back that moment Jamie had put her hand to stone. It was only the promise of safety for her child that kept Claire in her own time. Now that she was here, and Bree truly loved Lallybroch, Claire couldn’t imagine making a different choice. Even though she was in a hole and had no idea where Bree currently was, or if she was safe.
After what felt like an eternity, someone finally pulled the tapestry back. Claire flinched back at the bright light and unknown person, but soon her eyes adjusted enough to see that it was just Mary McNab, one of the servants of the estate.
“Are ye alright, Mistress?” Mary asked as she offered Claire a hand. Claire accepted it gratefully and she was out of the priest hole able to stretch her body for the first time in hours. She winced as feeling came back into her limbs and Mary nodded sympathetically, “Mistress Murray wanted to make sure they were truly gone before we fetched ye. I’m sorry, Mistress.”
“Nothing time won’t cure,” Claire said offhandedly, “Where is Mistress Murray?”
“Outside checking on the children,” Mary replied, then added when she caught Claire’s worried look, “Brianna is with them.”
“I should go talk to Bree myself,” Claire said, but Mary stopped her.
“Mistress Murray said it’s best ye stay inside until we’re sure the patrol has moved on,” she said apologetically, “Sometimes they double back to try and catch us unawares.”
“You’ve had too much practice doing this,” Claire said, “I’m sorry for bringing the red coats back into your life.”
“No bother, Mistress,” Mary said with a shrug, “They will always come back. It’s just that now we have something to hide again.”
“Excuse me,” Claire said as the events of the last day finally hit her. Mary gave her a quick curtsey and then Claire made her way upstairs to her room. Of all the things Claire had felt since coming back to Lallybroch, useless had never been among them. But as she watched from her window as Mary and Jenny took care of the children- Claire’s child- outside, all Claire felt was helplessness. And guilt. So much damn guilt.
Claire knew Ian would tell her to think nothing of it, that she was family and they would protect her and Bree as they had protected Jamie. Claire didn’t think Jenny would grant her the same grace, and the masochistic part of Claire was looking forward to that row.
But contrary as ever, Jenny didn’t show any signs of coming back into the house. There were still several hours of daylight left, and it seemed that every Fraser-Murray was being put to work outside. Which left Claire alone in the house and with no idea what to do about it.
Then she remembered the letters again, no doubt getting wrinkled and torn in her bodice. Claire gingerly pulled them out of her dress and once again put Jenny’s aside and unfolded her own. Claire skipped over the first sentence she had already read and devoured the rest of it. Claire read it once, then again, sure that she must have misread it the first time. But no, the words stayed exactly the same the second time she read it. And the third. And the fourth. She was tempted to read it a fifth time, but Claire managed to put the paper down and turn her back to it.
Claire knew she had no right to be angry. As far as Jamie knew, Claire had been living happily as another man’s wife. She had no right to feel hurt or betrayed. And yet, tears still gathered in her eyes and streamed down her cheeks. She knew there was no stopping them, so she didn’t even try.
The worst part was that Claire understood. If Frank had taken her back, Claire had no doubt she would have shared his bed again in time. If for no other reason than to drive Jamie’s ghost away. In her head, she understood. The rest of her, however, wanted nothing more than to tear that letter up and leave Jamie in suspense as long as possible.
That was ridiculous, and Claire knew it. She needed to write Jamie back, just to let him know she and Bree were safe, if nothing else. She didn’t have the luxury of holding onto her anger, not when they could be ripped away from each other at any moment. So instead of throwing Jamie’s letter into the fire, Claire picked up a piece of paper and began drafting her own.
Jamie, she began, We promised no lies, so I will tell you the truth. Your letter hurt me. Badly. I don’t think it will stop hurting me any time soon.
So in the meantime, I have a secret of my own I’d like to confide…
Hi friends! I know this was mostly a filler chapter, but I promise Claire will get some more action soon. I think we'll be staying with Lallybroch for a few chapters more, but there will be more letters from Jamie until we see him again. As always, let me know what you think!
Claire wrote her letter and sealed it without reading it over. She worried that she’d lose her courage if she looked at it more than a second longer than necessary. Still, she managed to set it aside to send in the morning. Then what? She was starving, but didn’t dare go and interfere in Jenny’s kitchen. The woman herself didn’t show any signs of sitting down for a meal, so Claire decided to try and give her exhausted body some rest.
Claire couldn’t bring herself to face the rest of the family, so she said a brief goodnight to Bree then retired. Bree was shaken but seemed to be taking in the reality of the situation as well as could be expected. Of all the things she had inherited from Jamie, Claire was glad her daughter seemed to share her pragmatism.
She also bid a short goodnight to Fergus, who had done splendidly in finding Bree and keeping her away from the Red Coats. Claire didn’t share his same enthusiasm at the adventure of it all, but she relished in these last remnants of his boyhood.
She managed to studiously avoid Mary McNab, who seemed to have a hand in everything at Lallybroch. Claire honestly didn’t know what she’d do when she saw the other woman. It wasn’t her fault, Claire knew that. And there was small part of her that was grateful Mary had been able to offer Jamie comfort when she couldn’t. But the primal, possessive part of her hated the woman with every fiber of her being. Claire couldn’t believe Mary had been able to treat her as her mistress despite having carnal knowledge of her husband. Best to just stay away for a few days.
When Claire finally got back upstairs, sleep refused to come despite the deep aches in her legs and back from standing still for hours. Claire’s mind was a whirring mess of anger, hurt, and guilt. Anger at Jamie. Anger at herself for overreacting. Guilt that despite her best intentions, Claire had still brought danger to Lallybroch. And now Ian was gone and she didn’t have any idea when he was coming back.
The next morning, Claire’s mind had quieted just a bit. Instead of chaos, there was just one singular goal. She had to see Jenny. The guest room Claire was staying in was close to the Laird’s Room and Claire often heard Jenny getting ready for bed and waking. Not last night. Claire thought Jenny probably hadn’t gone to bed at all.
After searching downstairs and the kitchen, Claire finally caught Jenny alone in Ian’s study. She knew it was a mistake to confront her in that place, but after a night of anger and tears, Claire was itching for a fight. She was aching to feel something other than the gaping sadness. So she went in without knocking and set both letter’s in front of her.
“I’m glad he told ye,” Jenny said when she was done reading Claire’s letter.
“Is that all you have to say?” Claire demanded.
“What else is there to say?” Jenny shrugged, “We thought ye were dead.”
Claire was at a loss for words. Leave it to Jenny to remain cool and pragmatic the one time Claire actually wanted her Fraser temper. Jenny must have seen Claire’s frustration, because Claire swore she saw amusement in her sister’s eyes.
“Ye want to fight,” Jenny said, “Ye feel guilty about Ian.”
“This is about Jamie,” Claire insisted.
“No,” Jenny said as she rose, “Ye think if I get angry, it will absolve ye of something. But I willna let ye provoke me. Ian is gone, and that is partly yer fault. Ye kent the danger of coming back to Lallybroch just fine, and now ye have to live with that.”
Whatever Claire was going to say was interrupted by a very worried looking Maggie coming into the study. Claire thought for a moment that it was the red coats again, but she couldn’t hear anyone wandering the estate. Then the cause of Maggie’s concern was clear. Wee Ian was fussing her arms and Claire immediately suspected what was wrong with him.
“He has a fever, Ma,” Maggie said unnecessarily. Ian was flushed and sweating and Claire didn’t hesitate to pull him out of the child’s arms. That only made them both more agitated, but if Claire was right, then Wee Ian was highly contagious.
“Give him to me,” Jenny said. The amusement was gone as quickly as it had come and Claire could hear the fear beginning to lace her voice at Ian’s crying and Claire’s behavior.
“Stay away from him, Jenny,” Claire warned, but Jenny was undeterred.
“Dinna be ridiculous,” Jenny replied. She took a step forward, Claire took a step back, “Give me my son.”
“I’m sorry, Jenny,” Claire said as soothingly as she could but still maintaining the severity of the situation, “But I think he has measles.”
Things moved very quickly after that. Jenny, knowing when she was beat, asked Claire what she needed. Her relief at not having to fight Jenny as well as Wee Ian’s disease lasted only a moment before she went into doctor mode. Ian’s fever was high, but not dangerously so. Yet. That meant Claire had the luxury of a few moments to decide the best course of action, but she couldn’t delay. Measles was dangerous on its own, but Ian was barely 3. She had Jenny and Mary do a cursory examination of everyone else at Lallybroch. Her priority had to be Wee Ian, but someone needed to make sure no one else was sick. Mercifully, measles were easy to spot. Anyone infected would look visibly unwell before the distinctive red spots littered their skin. While they did that, Claire focused on setting up a makeshift surgery. She settled on the barn. It would be colder than anywhere in the house, but Claire couldn’t risk being inside with the rest of the family while Ian was contagious. Instead, she made due as best she could with a table and as many blankets as the house could spare. What she really needed was a fire, but she couldn’t risk burning the whole building down with an errant spark.
By the time she was done setting up the bed and meager medical supplies she had, Ian had fallen into a fitful sleep. His breathing was erratic with the coughing, but his heartbeat was steady every time Claire felt his pulse. He would live. Claire wouldn’t allow any other outcome. There was so much she had missed in her ten years away, but Claire was here now and she refused to let her nephew be taken. Claire settled herself next to the bed and ran her fingers through Ian’s sweat-soaked hair. That was the moment Jenny chose to open the door to the barn. She knew better than to question Claire in matters of medicine, but one look at her told Claire she wouldn’t be kept in the dark. Not with this.
“No one else seems sick,” Jenny said finally.
“Good,” Claire replied. It was nothing short of miraculous, really, but Claire didn’t let that show.
“How is he?” Jenny asked from across the room, “And dinna lie to me, Claire.”
“His fever is high and probably will be for a few days,” Claire said, “He’ll be in pain and he won’t understand why. He’ll want his mother, but you won’t be able to see him until his fever breaks. I am sorry, Jenny.”
“But he will live?”
“I will do everything I can,” Claire replied. It was a piss poor answer, and Jenny didn’t let her get away with it.
“Will he live, Claire?”
“I don’t know,” Claire replied honestly. She thought there was a good chance he would, but he was so young and any number of things could happen. Claire didn’t want to give Jenny assurances only to have the boy die. It was better than she was realistic, “Will you send Bree with some boiled water when you can?”
“Why can Bree come in but not me?” Jenny asked. A fair question for someone with no knowledge of inoculation.
“Bree has already had measles,” Claire settled on, “She can’t catch it again.”
Jenny nodded again and then turned to leave, but Claire stopped her before she was too far, “I do feel guilty about Ian. I am truly sorry, Jenny.”
“I ken,” Jenny said not unkindly, “But he will be back. The British took him a dozen times when Jamie was here. He will keep ye and yer bairn safe.”
“He shouldn’t have to,” Claire insisted.
“Ian will do whatever he needs to do in matters of family,” Jenny said. She and Claire seemed to realize it was the first time she’d referred to Claire as family at the same time. Instead of letting the moment linger, Jenny closed herself off again and gave Claire a stern look, “Make sure his son is well by the time he gets back.”
Claire knew Wee Ian would get worse before he got better, but it still gutted her to watch him suffer. At the same time, there was no way around it. Measles was a simple disease, but there was no sure even in her own time. Claire could only treat the symptoms. She was doing her best, but she was missing modern medicine more acutely than usual. Claire thought she would trade almost anything she had for some aspirin.
Like Claire suspected, Ian wanted his mother more than anything. His aunt was proving to be a piss poor substitute and Ian didn’t hesitate to show it. For the first two days, his tantrums could be heard even in the house. Eventually, Ian reached a point of weakness and exhaustion that he could do little more than whimper and accept the spoonfuls of water and milk she gave him.
That was when Claire truly got worried. His fever had always been concerning, but Claire had thought half a dozen times that his fever had to have spiked and would break soon. But each time, he only got hotter. What Claire wouldn’t give for a thermometer. Or some ice. By her best guess, his fever was around 103. Any higher and she knew Ian wouldn’t make it, and she just couldn’t accept that. Instead, she constantly sent Bree on errands for wash cloths and cold water from the creek in desperate attempts to cool him down. Nothing was working. The other children had taken to gathering random plants on the off chance any of them would be useful. None of them ever were, but Claire was grateful for them regardless.
By the third day, the tension all over the estate was palpable. Claire never left the barn and no one else was allowed in. Not even Bree. Just because she couldn’t catch the disease didn’t mean that she couldn’t accidentally carry it to someone else. Claire’s one saving grace so far was that no one else had gotten sick, and she’d be damned before she broke Ian’s quarantine. Food was left for her at intervals throughout the day and she gave Jenny updates from the across the yard. It didn’t look like Jenny had slept, but Claire hadn’t either and she couldn’t spare much thought for anything other than the measles.
“You knew what this was going to look like,” Claire muttered to herself on the sixth day when Ian’s spots had gotten worse. He was considerably itchy, but mercifully hadn’t seemed to get any hotter. But still, she was running on nearly a week of no sleep and mortal worry for a toddler. She was running on fumes, and everyone in the house knew it.
“Mmm,” Ian groaned as Claire probed him. He’d run out of tears long ago, but he was still vocal enough when he was particularly displeased. Like right now when Claire was trying a new poultice.
“I know, sweetheart,” Claire murmured, “I promise I’ll make it better soon.”
“Annie,” Ian muttered. Claire thought he meant ‘auntie’. She hoped he meant auntie, at least. Claire was eager to grasp any sign that Ian was lucid.
“Auntie Claire is here,” she murmured soothingly, “I’m going to make it all better.” It was a damn lie and she knew it. Even if she could make Ian better, it was looking likely that Ian’s little body wasn’t strong enough to hold on until Claire figured something out.
Mercifully, this new poultice seemed to soothe him enough that he’d fallen into a deep sleep. Good, Claire decided. There was a chance he would fall so deep he’d never wake up, but Claire knew first hand the restorative powers of sleep. Plus, with Ian comfortable, Claire could step away from him long enough to try and decide a new treatment.
She’d mostly been trying to coax him to take some tea. Her herb garden had several plants that were supposed to reduce fever, but they were risky with someone so young. They were highly diluted and Ian wasn’t keeping enough down to make any marked difference anyways. Claire was trying her best to hide it, but she was growing desperate. Without modern medicine and ineffective herbal remedies, she was starting to consider other courses of action. Other physicians of this time would surely try bleeding. Or just skipping the middle man entirely and giving him last rites. Claire shook the idea from her head. The truth was, the only thing she could think of that might actually work was sweating the fever out. Even as she considered it, she was dubious. There was no scientific evidence that the concept even worked. Even if it did, Claire wasn’t sure Ian would be able to withstand getting any hotter. Still… if it didn’t work, Claire knew any harm she caused wouldn’t be any worse than not trying at all.
Her course made up, Claire sent Bree into the house for more blankets. Jenny gave her a quizzical look across the yard, but must have sensed that this was Claire’s last-ditch effort, because she crossed herself quickly then began to help Bree. Soon, it seemed that every piece of wool in Lallybroch was in the barn and Ian was swaddled in all of them. It was late into the evening by then, and even the winter air couldn’t prevent the sweat that was now dripping down Ian’s face.
Claire felt unimaginably cruel to keep Jenny out of the barn, but as long as Wee Ian was fevered, he was contagious. Claire would sooner die than let anyone else get sick. From the look Jenny had sent her as she handed off the last of the blankets, Claire knew she understood. And she knew whatever happened, Claire had done everything she could.
Claire was having a hard time accepting that herself as she stayed up and watched Ian grow hotter. She should have noticed sooner that he was sick. He had developed the telltale lesions of measles only a day after she’d quarantined him, which meant he’d had the illness for several days. He would have been visibly unwell. Claire should have known. That she hadn’t was just evidence of what Jenny had accused her of. She was physically here, but she was still holding herself back from the rest of the family.
Claire wasn’t one for prayer, but there was nothing else she could do other than monitor Ian. So, she began making her bargains with whoever was listening. She swore she would try harder with Jenny. She would use her gift of healing in whatever way God saw fit. She would accept with grace anything that happened with Jamie, even though she had spent the past several months cursing it.
At some point during the night, her prayers must have been heard. Wee Ian’s fever broke just after dawn and Claire couldn’t contain herself. She was reluctant to leave him, but she crashed into the house to wake Jenny.
Jenny threw her arms around Claire and let herself go for a brief moment before she woke everyone else. Claire was still a little nervous about the illness spreading, but Ian was significantly less contagious with his fever broken. Now that the danger was nearly past, it was obvious how scared everyone had been. Claire herself was nearly faint with the relief of it. And she was nearly faint with nearly a week of no sleep and very little food.
But like everything else recently, their celebration was cut short by a commotion just outside the main house. Claire could hear Young Jamie outside, trying to figure out who it was. But Claire already knew. And so did Jenny, judging from the panicked look she sent Claire.
The Elder Ian was back, and the red coats had escorted him home.
Two chapters in a week? I know, I'm surprised too. I realized halfway through writing it that I should really split this next bit into two chapters. So here we are! I promise, we'll get back to Claire's letter in the next chapter, but I'm happy with how this one turned out. Let me know what you think!
Hi friends! Just a quick note: I don't usually moderate my comments, but I think I'm going do delete anything needlessly aggressive towards Jenny (or other female characters, in some cases). If you think certain female characters are bitches and whores, feel your feelings but don't comment on it. I'm always a fan of your honest thoughts, but I don't find vitriol constructive. Please keep this in mind as the story progresses. Happy reading!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“There’s no enough time to get back in the house,” Jenny whispered. Claire knew that, but her eyes closed in defeat regardless.
“You should give me up,” Claire said.
“Absolutely not,” Jenny replied with no hesitation. Claire would have been touched by the certainty in her voice if she didn’t look so angry that Claire had even suggested it.
“No,” Jenny repeated, “Even if I was tempted to, which I’m not, the red coats willna believe I didna ken ye were here.”
“Then what do we do?” Claire asked hopelessly. She knew the only course of action was to stay put and pray they didn’t search the barn thoroughly, but she was hoping Jenny would have come to a different conclusion.
Instead of answering her, Jenny turned to Maggie and Kitty, who had both been in the barn doting on Ian since his fever had broken, “Ye both have measles, do ye hear me?” They nodded mutely as Jenny gave them further instruction. The girls were to stay in Ian’s bed and act sickly if the red coats came in. Considering the week of worry and little sleep, it wasn’t a stretch for them to look physically ill. Jenny gathered Wee Ian in her arms. He was no longer fevered, but he was still speckled with pox and was pale enough that Claire’s heart clenched. There was no doubt that the red coats would believe Lallybroch was ravaged by illness after one look at him.
Then, Jenny turned to Bree, who was glued to Claire’s side, “Stay with yer Ma and dinna make any noise.” Bree nodded even though her lower lip trembled. Claire held her tighter.
“It will be fine,” Jenny said when her gaze finally returned to Claire. Claire couldn’t think of a single thing to say that would sound equally reassuring, so she gave Jenny a tight smile and a kiss on the cheek before she tucked Maggie and Kitty into Ian’s bed. When Claire turned back around, Jenny was gone. And not a moment too soon, Claire realized as she heard voices in the yard.
Claire heard Ian’s voice laced with fear as he caught sight of his son. She heard Jenny explain how half the house was sick and she was at her wit’s end. Claire urged Bree into one of the horse’s stalls before she gave some final platitudes to Kitty and Maggie, who looked afraid but determined. Claire took one step towards where Bree was hidden before doubling back and grabbing one of the knives from her medical kit.
From the little that Claire could hear, Jenny was doing a remarkable job of keeping the patrol away from the barn. After fruitlessly questioning Ian, it didn’t seem like they had any legal recourse to search the whole estate again. Claire knew that wouldn’t stop them if they truly wanted to, though. Lucky for them all, it didn’t seem like any were eager to linger any longer than necessary. Not in the dead of winter when there were fires and warm food waiting for them as soon as they were done with this patrol, and especially when the place was riddled with disease
But while the commander seemed eager to go, Captain McGregor, his second in command, seemed intent of searching every cranny of Lallybroch. Barn included, despite the illness. As if on cue, Maggie had a coughing fit as footsteps approached the door. That deterred them for only a moment before Claire heard the door open.
She pressed her and Bree hard against the wall, as if it could swallow them up if she willed it hard enough. She gripped the knife so hard she felt her nails biting into her own palm. She didn’t know what use the knife would do her. Even if she managed to get one of them, there was still a whole patrol outside the barn. If they caught sight of either of them, it was the end.
Still, Maggie and Kitty were doing a commendable job of selling their illness. That, combined with the lingering scents of Ian’s real illness seemed to do the trick in making even Corporal McGregor want to get this over with as quickly as possible.
Still. He gave the barn a once over, giving Kitty and Maggie a wide berth. Clair and Bree were hidden in the farthest stall from the door, and she held her breath as McGregor came ever closer. It didn’t sound like he was giving anything more than a cursory glance. He hadn’t opened any door or ventured into any stalls. Claire held her breath when she heard him just outside their hiding spot. She held the knife slightly out, ready to strike at the slightest movement, and held her daughter so tight it was a wonder Bree didn’t cry out.
And then he walked away.
Claire didn’t allow herself even a breath of relief even though her legs seemed like they were about to give out. Her heart hammered even as she heard the door to the barn close behind the red coats. Even as he gruffy told Ian and Jenny that they would surely be back. Even as she heard the patrol mounting their horses and leaving the yard.
It wasn’t until Jenny was right in front of her that Claire relaxed even a little. And once she did, she finally hit her breaking point.
The next thing Claire knew, she was on her back and looking up at half a dozen worried faces. She wanted to say something reassuring, but she couldn’t find the words. Her gaze zeroed in on Jenny, and she tried to say help me with her eyes. It must have come across, because soon she was declaring that they’d already lost half a day of work with the red coats visiting, and everyone needed to get back to their regular chores. Young Jamie and Maggie grumbled a little, but they herded the smaller children out of the barn. Only Bree lingered, but after a final reassurance from Claire she was gone and the adults were alone. Both Ian and Jenny looked like they’d aged a decade in the last week and Claire was sure she didn’t look any better. She probably looked worse, if she was being honest.
“We can’t stay here,” Claire said without preamble.
“We can talk about this when ye have the strength to stand on yer own two feet,” Jenny said with a pointed looked at where Claire was still sitting on straw. Maybe she had a point, but still…
“You know it as well as I do,” Claire tried again. She made a halfhearted effort to stand and managed it once Ian helped her balance. Her head was still swimming, but she figured it was lack of food and sleep rather than fear this time, “I would have killed that man, and then where would we all be? We need to make some decisions.”
“Yer no leaving today,” Jenny insisted, “So there’s no point in discussing it right now.” Claire gave one more half-hearted attempt, but Jenny wouldn’t be deterred. Claire knew she was right. She couldn’t leave at least until she was sure Wee Ian was well. But still, every moment she stayed at Lallybroch would bring danger nearer to them all. At the very least, it would wreak havoc on her own nerves. For the rest of the day, Claire was on the precipice of panic. This time had been too damn close and Claire was sure their luck had run out.
Not for the first time, Claire grew a new understanding of how Jamie had spent their time apart. She’d known logically that it had been seven years of secrecy and hiding. But until now, she hadn’t understood the visceral feeling of dread that must have been a constant undercurrent in his life.
Claire could maybe live like this herself, but she wouldn’t make Brianna. In the week since Ian had been taken, Claire saw that same anxiety take root in her daughter. Bree was as skilled as Jamie at hiding what was on her mind, but there were some things a mother always knew. Brianna was scared, and it would only get worse.
Claire tried to breech the subject again a few days later. Wee Ian was well on his way to fully regaining his strength and Claire was certain now that no one else would get sick. She had been thinking of places they could go and things they could do.
Every thought led her to one place: Jamie. Claire thought she was far less notorious outside of the Fraser and Mackenzie lands. There was a good chance she’d be safer closer to Ardsmuir than she was here. And Claire had no doubt that being near Jamie would do wonders for own emotional wellbeing.
Claire could be a healer anywhere. She could probably even make a better living with it than with most other professions. Illness and injury would be anywhere in Scotland, and Claire was better equipped than almost anyone else to deal with them.
She only wondered if she could take care of Brianna and run a practice at the same time. Fergus took care of that particular problem. It shouldn’t have shocked her when Fergus declared the day after the red coats came that he intended to leave with her and Bree. She knew Jamie was the closest thing Fergus ever had to a father. There was a time when Claire had been his mother. But she had thought (had worried) that those feelings had diminished over the years.
“Of course I would go with you and ma petite, Milady,” he said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, “Where else would I go?”
“Well, I thought you would stay here?” Claire replied dumbly.
“I am very appreciative of Madame and Monsieur Murray,” Fergus said, “But my place has always been with you and Milord.”
There was also the added fact that Fergus was now a man and didn’t particularly want to spend his young adult life on a farm, Claire thought. As such, she made it very clear that should he come with her he would be expected to watch over Bree. He couldn’t go gallivanting around without a word to her. It was a formality and they both knew it. Fergus rolled his eyes in faux exasperation, but Claire suspected he desperately wanted to stay with Bree. In the short time they’d known each other, the truly acted like siblings despite the age difference. Besides, there weren’t many professions open to Fergus with only one hand. Better to be with Claire than striking out on his own with no idea what he wanted to do.
With that sorted, there wasn’t anything to do but tell Jenny. One morning after breakfast when the children and Ian were busy with their chores, Claire laid out her plan. She was silent for a worryingly long moment and Claire resisted the urge to explain herself further. She was a grown woman. She didn’t need Jenny’s permission to go, not when she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was right to. And especially not when Jenny had spent the last two months acting like she wanted nothing less than for Claire to stay.
“Put on yer cloak,” Jenny said finally, “I want to show ye something.”
It became abundantly clear after a few minutes of walking that Jenny was leading Claire to the small family cemetery at the edge of Lallybroch. Claire just had no idea why.
Jenny didn’t speak a word to her the entire trek. Talking would have been difficult with the howling wind, but Jenny didn’t even try. There were only so many reasons Jenny would have brought her here, though, and Claire couldn’t help the gasp that escaped when they stopped in front of a grave.
Caitlyn Maisri Murray. There was only one date listed. December 3rd, 1749.
“Oh, Jenny,” Claire said as tears came to her eyes.
“The red coats came the day before I delivered,” Jenny explained. Her voice was cold, but Claire was sure her emotions were being kept on a very short leash, “I knew the moment I saw her that she wasna gonna make it. I knew it, and yet the whole time, I remembered how I didna think Maggie was gonna live either. And ye saved her.”
Claire didn’t need Jenny to continue, she understood. But Jenny kept talking anyway, “I wished ye were there. The whole time, I thought if only Claire was alive, she’d save my bairn. Then after, I prayed that ye would take care of her when I couldna.”
“When Bree was born,” Claire ventured after a silent moment, “It seemed like I was going to die. And I wished I was here.”
Jenny turned to Claire, tears running down her cheeks and here eyes begging for truth, “Then why weren’t ye?” Jenny looked at her expectantly, but Claire couldn’t find the words. Jenny wouldn’t believe her. Or she would, and she’d think Claire was a witch.
“I’m here now,” Claire settled on. It wasn’t nearly enough, but Jenny nodded anyways, knowing it was all she was going to get.
“I suppose you’ll never tell me the full story,” Jenny said. It wasn’t a question, “But ye are still my sister-in-law. And ye saved my son’s life. I will always be grateful for that.”
“I don’t need your gratitude,” Claire said.
“But ye have it all the same,” Jenny said, not unkindly, “If ye canna tell me the whole truth, what can ye tell me? I promise, I will listen this time.”
So in the small family graveyard, Claire shared everything she could about her time away from Lallybroch. She knew there were things Jenny didn’t understand, but she didn’t interrupt. True to her word, Jenny Murray listened, even when what Claire said made no sense. And when Claire was done, Jenny took her turn.
After several hours, they were both shivering and crying but the strain that had been between them was finally gone. There was still the weight of Claire’s secrets, but for the first time, Jenny seemed to finally understand that everything she’d done was for Jamie and Bree. Jenny didn’t like that Claire wouldn’t confide in her, but she seemed to accept it.
All of a sudden, the cold became unbearable but neither could walk away from wee Caitlyn’s grave. Finally, it was Jenny that grasped Claire’s hand and took a small step back, “I think,” Jenny said so softly that Claire could barely hear it, “That Caitlyn and yer Faith are the best of friends.”
“And I’m sure your parents are taking care of them both,” Claire said as she squeezed Jenny’s hand back. Ellen and Brian Fraser’s graves had caught Claire’s eye when they’d walked in. Jenny nodded and that seemed to be their cue to leave.
“Ye truly think it’s wise to be so close to the British?” Jenny asked as they made their way back.
“I don’t know,” Claire admitted, “But no place in Scotland would be any safer.”
“Ye will always have a place here,” Jenny replied, “Ye and yer bairn. If ye decide to come back.”
“Thank you,” Claire said, then she promised, “I’ll write as often as I can,”
“If ye dinna, I’ll send Ian after ye,” Jenny said with a slight smile. The first she’d directed at Claire in nearly two months and something loosened in Claire’s chest. She wished desperately that they could stay, but she would do anything to keep Jenny and her family safe. For now, it was enough that she had a place to come back to.
Here we are! We're nearing the end of Claire's time at Lallybroch. Jenny talking about Caitlyn is something I'd been thinking about since almost the beginning, so I hope is explained more of Jenny's behavior. I think it does in Voyager. What do you think is coming next for Claire, Bree, and Fergus? Let me know what you think!
Jamie grew more agitated every day that passed without a letter from Claire. Or from Jenny and Ian, or even Fergus. Had they never gotten his letter? Had Claire and Ian not come back to Lallybroch? Was it unsafe to write? Or did Claire simply not want to speak to him after knowing the truth about Mary? It was almost enough to make Jamie write another letter, but he didn’t dare in case his first one had been intercepted.
Instead, Jamie tried his best to keep his head down and take care of his men. It was always difficult with his notoriety. Some guards and non-Jacobite prisoners took his lack of reaction as a challenge and tried harder to get a rise out of him. They didn’t understand that he had more to lose than ever by not being a model prisoner.
It helped that he often spoke with Lord Grey. Now that their meeting at Corrieyairack was out in the open, there was a freedom in their acquaintanceship. Well, as much freedom as was possible when John was his warden. Aside from the one evening John had grabbed his hand, there was no confusion in what their relationship was. He was a friend, Jamie was shocked to realize after one chess game had gone long into the night. A friend who kept him in chains, yes. But also a friend who could provide warmth and medicine to the freezing and the sick.
The number of sick were growing every day, and Jamie’s godfather was among them. Right after Jamie had gotten back, John had provided the prisoners with more blankets and more food, but it was too little too late after years with barely enough to survive. Those already well were grateful for the extra warmth, but it did little for those who had been dying by inches for years. It seemed for a moment that Murtagh especially was getting better, but it was only a matter of weeks before his cough returned even worse than before.
“We need a real doctor,” Jamie insisted to John for what must have been the hundredth time.
“We’re in the middle of nowhere, Mr. Fraser,” John said with thin patience, “Physicians are few and far between.”
“Then send for one!” Jamie cried.
“I’ve made some inquiries, but there aren’t many licensed physicians willing to treat criminals,” John grimaced. It wasn’t just Murtagh. It must have been half the prisoners that were ill. Jamie feared many of them wouldn’t make it through the winter, and he knew that unlike the last warden, John actually cared. Which meant he must not have enough sway to summon a trained doctor, “I am sorry, Mr. Fraser.”
“Here,” Jamie said gruffly when he was returned to his cell. He shoved a handful of green plants into Murtagh’s hands. He harumphed grumpily, but ate them anyways. He remembered Claire’s lectures on roughage as well as Jamie did. Jamie had made it very clear to Murtagh that Claire would never forgive him if he died before she got the chance to see him again. Like Jamie, Murtagh knew seeing Claire was unlikely, but his hope sprung eternal. If he couldn’t get Murtagh real medicine, Jamie would at least make sure he was eating as decently as possible. It didn’t do much good, Jamie thought, as Murtagh was lost for several minutes in yet another fit of coughing. Jamie was surprised every time he didn’t start coughing up blood.
“No word from Claire?” Murtagh asked when he was finally done. Jamie hadn’t told his godfather what was in his letter, but it was clear enough that Jamie was worried about it. It was too dangerous for Murtagh to smuggle letters of his own, but he asked after word from Claire every day. And every day Jamie had to disappoint him.
And just like that, his thoughts were drifting back to Claire. If his letter hadn’t been intercepted, it should have arrived more than three weeks ago. It was usually faster to get a letter into Ardsmuir than to smuggle one out. Even if Claire had taken her sweet time replying, he should have it by now. Which only left so many options, each of them making Jamie’s stomach twist with anxiety.
That anxiety persisted as the days turned into weeks, which turned into a month. In that time, Murtagh only got worse. He was so bad that Jamie worried each night that Murtagh would not be alive in the morning. But each morning, his godfather kept stubbornly breathing. It was a rattling, painful sound. But it was breath nonetheless, and Jamie thanked god for it.
Until one evening when Jamie came back from yet another backbreaking day of labor to find Murtagh gone. It had been weeks since Murtagh was fit to work with the other men. Instead, he was left to fester in his cell. Jamie thought the time outside would do him good, but he didn’t have the strength to move himself and the guards wouldn’t remove Jamie’s chains so he could help him.
Jamie didn't ask where Murtagh had gone, he was afraid he already knew the answer. Gavin Hayes, one of Jamie’s more devoted prisoners, must have caught the look in his eye, because he was quick to explain the situation.
“A healer?” Jamie asked once Hayes was done explaining that Murtagh and several others had been removed for medical care. Most of them hadn’t returned, and were instead being kept at least overnight. The few who had returned had apparently been sedated and hadn’t been able to recount who the healer was.
Jamie couldn’t help the relief that swept through him. He knew John would find someone. After the initial feeling of relief, however, the worry started to creep back in. He remembered how many times Claire’d had to argue with other healers during the rising. According to her, subpar care was worse than no care at all in most cases. There was no way to know if this healer was legitimate until Jamie saw him for himself. He figured that would happen sooner rather than later. Jamie had miraculously stayed healthy enough, but he’d been patched up by other prisoners more times than he could count. It was only a matter of time before Jamie would need care.
Still, several days passed without much word of the healer. Murtagh was the only one of Jamie’s men who had been deemed ill enough for treatment, and the men from the other cliques in the prison were keeping tight lipped. Jamie just didn’t know why.
When Murtagh finally returned several days later, there was a look in his eye that Jamie couldn’t even begin to decipher. He looked far better that Jamie had seen him in years, that was for damn sure.
“How are ye, man?” Jamie asked when they had gotten settled for the night, “How was the healer?”
“Doctor, not healer,” Murtagh replied with amusement, “She’s been quick to correct everyone about that.”
“She?” Jamie asked, his voice barely above a whisper. It wasn’t possible, Jamie thought, there was no way. And yet… Murtagh looked happier than Jamie had seen him since before… since before Claire left, he dared himself to think.
“Aye, She,” Murtagh replied, a rare smile gracing his face, “English, too. With the foulest mouth and wildest hair I’ve ever seen.”
“Claire,” Jamie breathed, and then Murtagh broke out into a full grin.
“Aye,” he replied, “Barely said hello before yelling at me about all sorts of things.”
“Why? How?” Jamie replied. He was mostly talking to himself, but Murtagh answered anyways.
“That’s for her to tell ye herself,” Murtagh said, “But she wanted me to tell ye that Bree and Fergus are with her and everyone else at Lallybroch it safe.”
“Anything else?” Jamie asked, greedy for any shred of information.
“Aye,” Murtagh replied, his smile dimming a little, “She wanted me to let ye know that she got yer letter.”
Sleep was never going to find Jamie when Claire was in the same building as him but still just out of reach. And it especially wasn’t going to find him when he knew that Claire knew everything.
Yet she had still come, that had to be a good sign. If what he’d done was truly unforgivable, it would have been easier for her to just let him rot in prison and never speak to him again. He supposed there was a chance it was unforgivable and Claire simply wanted to break his heart in person, but breaking into prison seemed like a little too drastic a step.
So why then? Why would Claire be there when she could be safely at Lallybroch?
Jamie half expected to wake the next morning and find it had all been an elaborate dream. But no, Murtagh still looked better. More importantly, he looked happier.
“I need to see her,” was the only thing Jamie said at first.
“She thought ye’d say that,” Murtagh replied with a small laugh, “She made it very clear ye weren’t to hurt yerself on purpose.”
Jamie huffed at that. Claire was always a step ahead. And he didn’t want it any other way.
As it turned out, Jamie didn’t need to do anything on purpose. He was so distracted that it was only a matter of minutes into his work that day of chopping wood that he missed his mark and hit his own arm instead. It was his luck that he had been so far off that he’d only grazed himself rather than taking the limb clean off. He’d still need stitches, though, Jamie realized. He fought back the nearly hysterical laugh that almost bubbled out of him. Claire was going to eat him alive for this, Jamie thought. He couldn’t wait.
To Jamie’s surprise, John saw fit to escort Jamie himself. That could mean any number of things, but one option was that John knew who Claire was. Any why wouldn’t he? He knew John had clear memories of Corrieyairack, and Jamie had already revealed that the Englishwoman had been Jamie’s wife. But if John knew who Claire was, who else did? His own men, surely. Anyone who had fought at Prestonpans. Suddenly the other prisoner’s silence about the healer made a hell of a lot more sense.
Jamie was so lost in thought he didn’t notice that John had stopped until he ran smack into him. Instead of a wry look, John just gave him an understanding nod. That was enough confirmation for Jamie. John knew exactly who was on the other side of that door.
John didn’t even give Jamie a moment to compose himself before he was knocking on the door and calling, “Dr. Randall?”
Randall?. Jamie flinched; he couldn’t stop himself. John gave him a strange look, but then the door was open and Claire was in front of him. She looked tired from what must have been weeks on the road, but she was here. And she looked confused as to why Jamie was here. Until she clocked the blood soaking through his shirt, then her eyes widened in alarm.
“Dinna fash,” Jamie said instinctively.
There was one guard posted in the hallway. Claire’s eyes darted to him and then back to John. Something unspoken passed between them that Jamie wasn’t privy to, “Mr. Fraser requires stitches,” John said and then the three of them were in the small surgery with the door closed.
“How long does he need to be observed?” John asked.
“Overnight,” Claire said without hesitation, the managed in a more authoritative tone “I have to make sure infection doesn’t set in.”
John nodded, then continued too loudly, “Would you mind if I relieved your guard for dinner? Mr. Fraser is a model prisoner and he’s chained, I’m sure he’ll give you no trouble.”
Claire quirked a brow at John, but played along, “Of course. He’s been very helpful all day, but I’m sure I can manage without him. Over night.” She tacked on as an afterthought, her eyes a clear challenge to John.
“Thank you, Dr. Randall,” John replied. It was his turn to quirk an eyebrow at Claire, but she didn’t back down. Instead, he made a big, loud show of adjusting Jamie’s chains so he was bound to the bed. Then he quietly slipped the key to Claire.
“Goodnight, Doctor.” John said with the wry smile Jamie had come to know well. Then he was gone and he and Claire were alone.
Claire turned her back on him and checked the hallway quickly before bolting the door. But she didn’t come back. She just stood there with her hand against the lock and tension making her back rigid. That was when Jamie truly noticed he was chained to the bed. And Claire and the key were out of reach.
“Sassenach?” Jamie asked nervously. It wasn’t that he thought Claire would hurt him, but he was remembering a lot of things about their situation at once. Not least of which was the letter that Claire had made sure Jamie knew that she knew about. As if she could read his mind, Claire finally turned around. Unlike on the island, her eyes weren’t tear-filled and vulnerable. They were cold. And angry. And Jamie was shackled.
Still, Jamie thought. There was no place he’d rather be.
This definitely needed a little more polishing, but I'm incapable of sitting on chapters once they're finished. There will be some flashbacks to how Claire ended up in Ardsmuir similar to how i did the beginning of the story, but I thought it was time we get back to Jamie. Let me know what you think!
In the chaos of the red coats and Wee Ian’s illness, Claire had entirely forgotten about her letter. At this rate, she would arrive before the letter did, so she decided not to send it at all. Claire couldn’t even pretend it was more for convenience than cowardice. Now that she was on solid ground with Jenny, it seemed like all her other insecurities were ready to bubble back up. Not least of which was her own secrets she’d put in the letter.
But she could cross that bridge when she came to it. There were more immediate things to worry about right here at Lallybroch.
For example, should she tell Mary what she knew? She supposed she should. Sleeping with her husband aside, Mary had always been pleasant to her. Kind, even. And in the early days when Jenny’s displeasure was palpable, that made all the difference.
But Claire needed to sort out her own feelings before she confronted Mary. And that was no easy task.
Claire understood, she really did. She was gone, and Jamie didn’t think she would ever return. She was as good as dead. Other than the price on his head, there was no reason Jamie couldn’t have taken another wife. Or another woman to his bed.
But still, when Claire had seen him on Silkie Island, he looked at her like no one else had existed for him. They’d fallen back into each other like they’d never spent any time apart. He’d told her there had never been anyone else, and Claire had believed him. Well, she’s asked him if he’d ever fallen in love with anyone else. But a lie by omission was still a lie.
And it stung that Jamie had found comfort with someone else when she’d had no one at all.
It wasn’t for lack of options, she supposed. She wasn’t the most popular woman in Inverness by a long shot. She was a single mother who was unapologetically devoted to her career. Still, if Claire truly wanted to get married again and if she’d been willing to put in the effort, she had no doubt she would have found someone.
The truth is she hadn’t wanted to.
The only man she could picture being with after Jamie was Frank. His rejection hurt more than she cared to admit. Even though she left him first. Even though she was bearing another man’s child. Frank had still been her husband, her first love. And he hadn’t loved her enough.
That, coupled with mourning Jamie was too much for her. Even as she craved intimacy and connection, she couldn’t quiet her head enough to find comfort with someone other than her husband. Either of them, she supposed.
And once Bree was old enough, Claire was able to fully throw herself into medical school and part of that hole in her life was filled. She was once again a part of something bigger than herself. Saving lives brought her the same rush as falling in love, and her daughter filled in most of the rest.
Claire didn’t blame Jamie for seeking that connection for himself, but a part of her was jealous that she’d been unable to.
But she believed all that Jamie said in his letter. If he’d thought for even a moment that Claire was coming back, he wouldn’t have done it. All the proof she needed was in how Jamie had broken out of prison based on nothing but vague rumors. And that he returned rather than putting her or their daughter in danger.
And now every part of her was screaming to go back to him, to throw all her anger and hurt at him and then let it go. That was the only way they could move forward.
No, she decided. She didn’t need to confront Mary. She didn’t blame the woman for sleeping with her husband. She was even glad that she had offered Jamie comfort, but Claire didn’t want to hear the details of it. Ever. Probably never from Jamie, and especially never from Mary.
Yes, Mary’d had Jamie for a night, but Claire would have him for the rest of her life. That knowledge was enough for her to let her anger towards Mary go and focus on getting back to Jamie.
“I will tell ye one more time that ye have a place here,” Jenny said some time later while Fergus was readying Bree to go.
“I know,” Claire replied, “And I love you for it. But I’d be a bad sister if I stayed and put your family in danger.”
“If it’s too dangerous,” Jenny continued, “Send Bree back with Fergus, we will keep her safe.” Claire appreciated that Jenny didn’t question if Claire would leave if it was too dangerous. She knew Claire wouldn’t leave her brother for anything. How far they had come in just 2 short months.
“If…” Jenny said hesitantly, “If ye have to leave again, promise ye’ll write to say goodbye.”
“Leave?” Claire asked.
“Wherever ye went last time,” Jenny clarified, though that didn’t make things any clearer.
“You mean the colonies?”
“I’m not a fool, Claire Fraser,” Jenny said with exasperation, “We’ve always kent ye were different. And yer daughter is just the same. I dinna ken if yer a faerie or an auld one, but whatever ye are, ye went somewhere we couldna reach ye.”
“Just dinna leave again without saying goodbye,” Jenny said with a raised hand, “Please promise me that.”
“I promise,” Claire said. She didn’t know what else to say. She knew Jenny hadn’t believed everything Claire had told her, but Jenny had also kept true to her word to not demand answers Claire couldn’t give her. But Jenny was one of the most cunning people Claire had ever known. Of course she would have put some of the pieces together. And she wanted Claire in her life anyways.
She threw her arms around Jenny and gave her a final kiss on the cheek. She’d already said her goodbyes to Ian and the children. Her goodbye to Wee Ian had been particularly hard. He’d grown quite attached to her in the time they spent together while he was sick, and he was too young to understand why Auntie Claire had to leave and why they couldn’t talk about her. Claire’s heart had broken when she’d had to pry him from her skirts. She gave him a kiss and a promise that she would be back. She had no idea if that was truth, but she couldn’t bear to leave without believing she’d return home someday with Jamie.
With that thought, she drew away from Jenny and dried her eyes.
“Ready, Milady?” Fergus asked. He was already on his horse with Bree sitting in front of him. They had enough supplies for the long ride to Ardsmuir and not much else. It was as terrifying as it was exhilarating.
“Yes,” Claire said with more confidence than she felt. There was just one small stop she needed to make.
Balriggan wasn’t on the way, but Claire wouldn’t rest easy until she’d had one final word with Laoghaire.
No one had dared formally accuse her, but Claire knew Laoghaire had been the one to sell her out to the red coats. She might not have done it directly, but a few whispers in Broch Mordha was all it would have taken for word to get around to a British soldier. And if Claire was ever to return here, if Lallybroch was ever going to be safe, Laoghaire needed to be put in her place.
Fergus seemed nervous to lead her, but he could also see that Claire wouldn’t be deterred.
“Stay here,” She told him when they were in sight of the small, stone house. Fergus didn’t need to be told twice.
Claire was spared the need to knock on the door. Laoghaire was in her small garden and she saw Claire long before Claire saw her. To Laoghaire’s credit, she didn’t immediately balk at the sight of Claire. Instead she stood her ground after a nervous glance to the two children helping her.
“Your daughters?” Claire asked when she was within earshot of the other woman.
“Go inside,” Laoghaire commanded, completely ignoring Claire. She used the opportunity to get off her horse and steel herself for what she had to do. She summoned the memory of every person she’d ever found intimidating. Geillis Duncan. Dougal and Colum Mackenzie. The Compte St. Germain. She meant to scare Laoghaire Mackenzie enough that Claire’s name would never again leave her lips.
“Leave this instant, or I shall get my husband.”
“I think you would have fetched him already if he was here,” Claire challenged. Laoghaire flinched and Claire knew she was right. Good, “You told the red coats I was here.”
“I told some people in town,” Laoghaire hedged, “I canna help who overhears me.”
“I understand why you hate me,” Claire said, “But as a mother yourself, I expected better of you.”
“No one wants a witch like ye here,” she said, “Ye should hear the way they talk in town.”
“I don’t give a damn what people say in town,” Claire said as she took a step forward. Laoghaire managed not to step back, but Claire could tell it was a close thing, “But you got your way. My daughter and I are leaving.”
“Good,” Laoghaire spat.
“But,” Claire continued, “I will come back. And when I do, it will be with my husband.”
Claire could see Laoghaire trembling with rage, the way she always did when Claire talked about Jamie in front of her. Claire managed to also keep her anger in check. She needed Laoghaire to believe Claire was as cold and evil as she feared. A burst of ill timed fire would ruin that.
“If you say anything against me, or Lallybroch, I will know,” Claire said with what she hoped was a confident smile, “And I will not hesitate to do what I must to protect my family. And since you don’t seem to care that I’m a mother, I will not care that you are either. Do I make myself clear?”
“Y-yes,” Laoghaire managed to stammer.
“Good,” Claire said with satisfaction, “You put my daughter in danger. I will not give you or your family mercy next time. Goodbye, Laoghaire.”
When Claire returned to Fergus, he was looking at her like she had grown a second head.
“What?” Claire demanded.
“You can be terrifying, Milady,” Fergus replied as they got back on the road, “Remind me never to get on your bad side.”
The road to Ardsmuir was easier than Claire anticipated, but still harder than she’d hoped it would be for Bree’s sake. Claire found the quiet of the road a welcome rest after the constant chaos of Lallybroch, but it was clear that Bree hadn’t grown accustomed to it yet. She was constantly cold and hungry, but rarely voiced any of it. Claire and Fergus tried their best to keep her comfortable, but there was little they could do other than just keep going. The road was long, but it was a straight shot up the coast. It wasn’t hard terrain and they made good time.
Before Claire knew it, she was running out of time to formulate her plan. It was conceptually easy: work as a healer in town until her reputation allowed her to approach the prison. Jamie had mentioned briefly that his warden was the young man who’d tried to save her honor in Corrieyairack. Jamie said he was a good man who tried to keep them fed clothed with the little resources he had. She suspected the prison would be desperate for a healer and Grey wouldn’t be in a position to refuse. They’d met so briefly she doubted Grey would recognize her.
And after she was inside Ardsmuir? She didn’t know. Knowing her husband’s knack for getting into trouble, Jamie would probably be her first patient. He’d probably scold her for being reckless, but Claire knew he’d be secretly pleased. She wasn’t so delusional to think he’d suddenly change his mind about running away. But she did hope that once they were together, Jamie would be more willing to make a move. Especially with Bree with her. Claire was banking on Jamie not being able to resist when his daughter was so close.
As she suspected, Claire found her first patient almost as soon as they made it into town.
She had sent Fergus along with Bree to find an inn they could stay at for the next few days. She would worry about permanent lodgings when (if) this became a viable place to stay long term.
Claire was going from place to place making general inquiries. Were there any other physicians in town (no one legitimate, it seemed), were there any shops she could replenish her medical supplies (there was a small apothecary a few blocks away), and were there any people in town in need of a healer. The third tavern she went into, she caught her lucky break. One of the bar maid’s husbands had been plagued with a terrible ague for weeks now, and nothing was working. She asked if Claire would be willing to make a house call, and she agreed.
“Thank ye, Mistress,” the young woman said.
“Doctor,” Claire gently corrected her. Then after a small hesitation, she added, “Dr. Randall,” Claire had thought long and hard about what name she would go under. Fraser was obviously out. She supposed she could go under one of Jamie’s other names, but she didn’t know if he’d already used them as aliases. She wanted to go by Beauchamp again, but that had been her name during the rising and it was too risky. She decided on Randall, even though it pained her. She would always answer to it and if anyone assumed she was related to Captain Randall, that could only help her. Still, using the name made something inside her crumble a little.
Lost in thought, it wasn’t long before she was led to a small stone house. She clocked the red coat hung up the moment she walked in. He had to work at the prison. What other occupation was there for an English solder around here? And if he worked at the prison, then all Claire had to do was make a good impression and she had an in.
Unfortunately, an ague could be any illness from a slight cold to full blown pneumonia and there was little Claire could do for any of them. She could prescribe rest and liquids, but it was likely the soldier’s wife had already thought of both of those things.
But one look at the soldier told Claire the biggest danger to the man was his fever. After dealing with Ian, that gave Claire some measure of confidence. After an inquiry to what his wife had already done, Claire decided that, like Ian, the only thing left to be done was to sweat his fever out.
She found Fergus quickly to let him know that she’d be gone overnight and to watch Bree. He seemed a little peeved that he wouldn’t be able to inquire after employment for himself, but he didn’t complain. Claire promised herself that Bree would come with her the entire next day so Fergus could get some time away from them both.
When she went back to the soldier’s house, she found his wife already gathering blankets. She held a healthy skepticism regarding how making her husband hotter could heal him, but she didn’t argue when Claire stoked the fire and tucked him more tightly into bed.
His fever broke over night and he was markedly better. He’d apparently been delirious for the better part of three days and couldn’t remember most of his time being ill. Suffice it to say, he was grateful. Grateful enough to tell Claire half a dozen houses she should visit to tend to other ill red coats.
After giving Fergus his promised day to himself, Claire did just that. All were afflicted with similar fevers and all were fairly simple to treat. By some miracle, none took a bad turn and her reputation as a physician grew faster than she had ever hoped it would.
But she still had no idea how she would meet Lord John Grey. It seemed he rarely left the prison and she still had no way in. Despite healing half a company of his soldiers, none had offered to take her to the prison. She asked once, but the solider simply laughed at her, a gentil born Englishwoman, wanting to treat criminals. She didn’t ask again for fear she would be seen as suspicious and lose whatever ground she had already gained.
Rather than searching for Grey or other patients, Claire decided to set up a small surgery outside the inn they were staying at. They had been staying in the heart of the town, and If Grey left the prison, it would probably be to come here. Not to mention the foot traffic she would get from actual patients. As suspected, it didn’t take long for a small line to form at her pop-up surgery. She was busy pulling a tooth when she saw a distinctive red coat out of the corner of her eye. She didn’t take her eyes away from her patient, a young soldier with a dangerously impacted molar. It was putting up a fight and sweat was starting to pour down Claire’s face as she gave another yank. The soldier yelped, but the tooth didn’t come free. Claire adjusted her grip and tried again. And again. And again. All to no avail.
“God dammit,” Claire swore much too loudly for the center of town. The soldier’s- he was little more than a boy, really- eyes widened at her language, but he wisely didn’t say anything. She dipped her pliers in her bowl of alcohol and wiped the sweat from her hands. One more try, she decided. One more try before she had to consider a more sophisticated method.
“Brace yourself,” Claire warned before she went back in. It took her several more hard pulls, but the molar finally came free with a pop and a spurt of blood, “Finally!” she cried as she stuffed gauze into the boy’s mouth. She instructed him on keeping it clean and come back if it swelled excessively or if he became fevered, but he was white as a sheet and shaking and it seemed to go in one ear and out the other. Claire didn’t blame him. It must have been terribly painful. Still, he had been a good patient and he would feel better for it.
When Claire turned around for her next patient, she was greeted only with the single red coat. Claire figured that the few other people waiting had been scared off by the difficulties of her last patient. No matter, she decided. They would come back when the pain became too much.
“What seems to be the problem, sir?” Claire asked. With any luck, this would be her final patient of the afternoon and she would be able to take a much-needed break.
“Forgive me, Mistress,” he said, “I was simply observing.”
“You picked a hell of a patient to observe,” Claire said with a slight smile, “I promise it’s usually easier than that.”
“I should hope so,” the man observed, “I doubt you would have been able to treat half my men if every procedure was that bloody.”
“Your men?” Claire asked with barely contained excitement. Had her plan actually worked?
“Pardon me, I haven’t introduced myself,” the man said as he removed his hat, “I’m Lord John Grey, warden of the prison and commanding officer of most of the men you’ve treated the last several days.”
Claire dropped into a clumsy curtsy, “I’m Dr. Claire Randall.”
“A doctor, truly?” Grey asked. It wasn’t condescending, just simple shock and observation. Claire tried not to stare.
“Yes,” Claire said.
“Do you have a license?” Grey asked.
“I did,” Claire replied. She’d been practicing her story for the last several days, training her glass face to hide the truth for once, “It was lost in a house fore, like nearly everything else I own.”
“That’s convenient,” Grey said, a spark of… something in his eyes.
“Are you accusing me of lying about my medical credentials?” Claire demanded as she crossed her arms.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Grey placated, “I’m quite grateful for the men you’ve treated so far. I’ve been trying to get a physician here for months. Not many people want to come this far from civilized society”
“Thank you,” Claire said. Claire knew what he meant about ‘civilization’. There were enough merchants in town for the bare essentials, but not much else. As far as Claire could tell, there were no gentleman’s clubs or bars. There wasn’t even a brothel. No wonder Grey’d had a hard time. Claire suppressed a smile. This was going to work, “I was about to take some lunch. Would you like to join me, Lord Grey?”
Grey agreed, and he led her inside after Claire put away her medical supplies. Away from everyone else, Claire noted, as Grey led her to a table in the corner.
“I must confess I’ve been looking for you for several days now,” Grey said once they had their food. Claire was starving, but her stomach was too tied up to eat.
“Were you?” Claire asked.
“Yes,” Grey replied, “It seems that no one knew where you were staying. It was lucky you had set up shop in the middle of town today. Luck, or a very good strategy.”
“I beg your pardon?” Claire choked out. Grey looked around the tavern before leaning in close to her.
“Shall we cut the pretenses,” Grey said softly, “Mrs. Fraser?”
I know this isn't the most exciting of chapters, but it was necessary. I have a lot of the next chapter written already, so I'm hoping for 2 chapters this week. Thanks for stick with me! Let me know what you think :)
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” Claire managed after a few excruciating seconds of silence. John just kept staring at her, unimpressed and unfooled by her deception. The odd look in his eye now made sense. He knew who she was, and he had been sizing her up.
“Let’s not play coy,” he continued. Claire let her mask drop, knowing when she’d been beaten.
“How did you know?”
“I recognized your husband the moment I saw him two years ago,” John said, something that looked suspiciously like amusement crossing his face, “The same is true for you.”
“But you didn’t know me when you sought me out?”
“I had my suspicions,” Grey admitted, “A random female, English doctor appearing at my door right after Mr. Fraser escaped to look for his English, healer of a wife?”
“Jamie didn’t think you’d remembered him.”
“You and your husband make quite the impression,” he said. It didn’t sound like an insult, but Claire was sure it wasn’t a straightforward compliment, “I was quite single-minded for years thinking Mr. Fraser was responsible for one of my greatest humiliations.” Definitely not a compliment, then.
He gave Claire another appraising look and she struggled not to buckle under it. John Grey had come far from the terrified lad he’d been at Corrieyairack. He had always been honorable, that was how they had trapped him, after all. But over the span of ten years, he had grown into every inch a soldier. He wasn’t examining Claire as a man would a woman, but rather how an officer would appraise a soldier. Or a spy. Claire jutted out her chin and didn’t flinch from his evaluation.
“It would seem though,” John continued, “That you were the one to blame.”
“I hope you’re not expecting an apology,” Claire said boldly, “You were my enemy.”
“I have many questions about how an Englishwoman became an enemy to her own army,” John said, “But I have a feeling you wouldn’t answer them, so I won’t waste my time.”
“Then tell me how I might make your time worthwhile,” Claire said with forced politeness. She was expecting Grey to put her under arrest at any moment. Infiltrating Ardsmuir was dependent on her not being recognized, and that plan was already blown to hell. At this rate, she would end up imprisoned there herself. But still, John didn’t seem intent on detaining her. On the contrary, it very much seemed like he wanted to figure her out. Or use her to figure Jamie out. Either way, Claire rather thought she wouldn’t be able to help him.
“Why are you using the name Randall?” He asked, his curiosity apparently getting the better of him.
“My first husband’s name,” Claire explained.
“Any relation to the late Captain Randall?” John asked.
“Distantly,” Claire replied, her mouth drying. She knew Black Jack Randall was dead, it was the promise of history. But hearing his name, knowing his memory was fresh here, made her blood run cold, “I am… well acquainted with him, but not as kin.”
“I would imagine not,” John said in a tone that revealed Jamie had apparently told him quite a lot about Black Jack Randall.
“Are you planning on breaking Mr. Fraser out of prison?” John asked suddenly, catching Claire off guard.
“Do you think I would tell you if I was?”
“You are a bad liar, Mrs. Fraser,” John said with a genuine- if small- smile, “Damn me if I know how you tricked me all those years ago, but I can see every thought written on your face.”
Claire didn’t dispute it, “No, I am not planning on breaking Jamie- or anyone else- out.” Not quite a lie. If Jamie decided he wanted to run, she would obviously help him. But she wasn’t quite planning on it. John pursed his lips as if she had said it out loud, but he didn’t press the issue.
“Do you intend to commit any other treason against the crown?”
“No,” Claire repeated. A full truth that time. Claire had no interest in being on the wrong side of history ever again.
“Are you truly a physician?”
“Will you be willing to treat the prisoners at Ardsmuir?”
“I- what?” Claire asked. Of all the things to come out of Grey’s mouth, this was the most shocking so far. Could it truly be this easy?
“Your intent was for word to reach me that a skilled healer was in town,” John said, “If you don’t want to break Mr. Fraser out, then your intent must be to stay close to him. What better place than the prison?”
“You trust me, then?” Claire asked, dumbfounded.
“Not even a little bit,” John said dryly, “But I’m sure it’s clear to you by now that I’m rather desperate. I can’t offer you much, but I can offer you a surgery and a bedroom close to my quarters. You will be safe and supplied to the best of my abilities.”
“I need lodging outside of the prison,” Claire said, “I am… accompanied by my two children.”
Grey arched an eyebrow at her, seeming truly surprised for the first time in the conversation, “Does Mr. Fraser know?”
“He knows the children exist,” Claire said, not wanting to give much detail away, “But he doesn’t know we’re here.”
“I can arrange a modest stipend for you to rent your own lodgings,” John agreed.
“My son, mine and Jamie’s adopted son,” Claire clarified, “Is looking for a trade. He is just past 20 and is smart as a whip and capable, but missing a hand. Could you find employment for him as well?”
“You are rather pushing your luck, Mrs. Fraser.”
“You said you were desperate,” She shrugged.
“That I did,” John agreed sardonically, “Is your son able to write?”
“Yes,” Claire replied. Luckily, his non dominant hand was the one that was lost.
“I am in need of a secretary,” John said, “We’ll see how he does.”
“I… thank you,” Claire said, at a loss for words for once in her life.
“I have a feeling I’ll be thanking you before the week is out,” John replied, “Your husband speaks highly of your skills as a healer.” Claire accepted the compliment with a nod of her head.
“As… revealing as this conversation has been, I do have other duties to attend to in town. I take it you’re staying at the only inn in town?” John asked, then continued when Claire nodded, “I will send someone to fetch you tomorrow. Good day, Mrs. Randall.”
“Doctor Randall,” She corrected, and John gave her another one of those wry smiles in return. Claire didn’t want to think of him as anything other than an enemy, but she could see why John and her husband got along so well.
Her husband. There was a chance Claire would to see Jamie tomorrow.
Claire didn’t see Jamie tomorrow, or for the next several days. John had made it clear that she was expected to act only as a healer. Claire would have been insulted at the implications if she hadn’t been aware of just how distracted she was. As such, she couldn’t seek Jamie out and she wasn’t sure if he even knew she was here.
Even if she had wanted to find him, she had more than enough to do with getting the surgery in order. The medical supplies she had available left much to be desired.
John had told her that there wasn’t much money to spare, but he would try his best to get her what she needed. She made an impressive list that she was sure Fergus would have to deal with. Despite its shortcomings, Claire decided she would just have to be ready to see the most severe patients.
From what John told her, it seemed like almost every prisoner suffered from some sort of grippe or ague. Claire was unsurprised. From just her walk in, Claire could see the cells were damp and drafty and there weren’t enough blankets for half the men. Claire suspected several cases would have escalated to at least pneumonia. If she was very unlucky, some would be tuberculosis (or consumption, as it was often called in this time). Claire prepared herself to lose more than a few men in the first few days.
Claire could barely contain herself when the third patient led into her surgery was Murtagh. The only thing that truly held her back from throwing herself into his arms was how he looked like he was moments away from collapse. Murtagh’s eyes opened in surprise and wonder, but that was all he gave away.
Claire glanced over at the prisoner she had put on bedrest in the corner of the room. She suspected he had bronchitis and would need to be kept warm for several days. Murtagh looked much the same. Claire had already put a few men in the room next door, which would have been her bedroom had she been staying at the prison, but she really needed more than the 4 beds she was able to set up there. Claire made a note to ask John for another room nearby. He’d probably deny her, but another recovery room would help matters immensely. Especially right now when she wanted nothing more than a private word with Murtagh.
“Lieutenant,” Claire said, turning to the guard who had been bringing her patients but whose name she couldn’t recall, “Could you please…” Claire struggled to come up with an errand that would keep him busy long enough for Claire to say anything she needed to.
“Ma’am?” He prompted when Claire remained silent.
“I need my surgical knives sharpened,” she decided on. It wasn’t untrue, but it was a job far beneath a lieutenant in the army. Judging by the look on the man’s face, he knew it, “I know you have other duties, but I don’t have time to do it myself. And I don’t where the armory is.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he replied. He looked reluctant to leave her with two prisoners, even if they were both ill. But John had made it clear that her word was as good as his own, and her orders were to be followed. So he accepted the small parcel of her knives and scalpels without complaint. He definitely thought she was an odd one, but he hadn’t given her anything other than the upmost respect so far, which was more than Claire could say of many other men she’d dealt with in this time or her own. Claire wondered if John had told him anything of her origins, or if he was just particularly evolved. In any case, the lieutenant left with a promise to be back as soon as he could, but warning it would probably take several hours. The armory was a busy place, and her tools would probably be the last priority. Claire didn’t mind that one bit.
“Christ, Lass,” Murtagh began the moment they were alone, “What the hell are ye doing here?”
“Sit down, you look bloody awful,” Claire commanded rather than answering him. She wasn’t exaggerating. His breathing was little more than a shallow wheeze and he looked practically dead on his feet. He had been coughing since the moment he walked in, but Claire didn’t see any blood, so it probably wasn’t tuberculosis. Thank god. A bad case of pneumonia, most likely. So bad he would probably be dead any day now without medical intervention. John had told her they hadn’t had a healer here in quite some time, but were the men just left to die?
Claire’s anger was barely under control as she gave him an examination. It was pneumonia. Claire was as certain as she could be without modern medicine. And the treatment without antibiotics was just guess work. She could make him warm and comfortable and hope that would improve him enough for his body for the fight the infection, but there was little she could do medically without penicillin.
“It’s that bad, then?” Murtagh asked. Claire tried to school her features into something professional, but she knew it was a poor job. Claire was a bad liar even to the people who didn’t know her intimately.
“Yes,” Claire said, “But I’ve seen people miraculously recover from worse.”
Without an empty bed, the best Claire could do was make him a mat on the floor by the fire. Murtagh seemed to resent having to stay still while Claire worked, but one glare from her had him frozen in his seat. Soon enough, Claire had him tucked into a nest of blankets in front of the fire with a cup of tea, and he seemed more than content to stay there. Her other patient hadn’t woken with any of the commotion, so Claire was inclined to speak freely.
“I was given up to the red coats,” Claire said without preamble, “It wasn’t safe for anyone for us stay at Lallybroch.”
“Do ye ken who betrayed ye?” Murtagh asked. Then when Claire hesitated, “So ye do then.”
“Yes,” Claire said, “But I put the fear of god in her should she ever speak my name again.”
“Good lass,” Murtagh said approvingly, “But ye never answered my question. What are ye doing here?”
“I had no place to go,” Claire shrugged.
“Christ, Claire,” he swore, “Ye couldna have thought of a better place than enemy territory?”
“Everywhere is goddamn enemy territory,” Claire snapped, “If we can’t be at Lallybroch, I thought we might as well be close to family. And that includes, you, by the way!”
“We?” Murtagh asked, unperturbed by her outburst, “Do ye mean the bairn?”
“And Fergus,” Claire confirmed. And a rare smile graced Murtagh’s stern mouth and Claire couldn’t help but smile back.
“Jamie is gonna faint dead away when he sees ye.”
“He won’t see me until he needs a healer,” Claire said seriously. Lord John had made it perfectly clear that he wouldn’t facilitate any trysts. Jamie would see her if and only if he needed medical care. Knowing Jamie, he would make that happen if it meant he got to see her. She said as much to Murtagh, and made him promise he’d pass along the message that Jamie wasn’t to hurt himself on purpose. After seeing several men with illnesses and ailments she couldn’t treat without antibiotics, Claire wasn’t inclined to take any chances with infection.
“Is there anything else ye want me to tell him?”
There were about a million things she wanted to tell him, but very few that she wanted to send through Murtagh.
"Tell him…” Claire struggled, “Tell him I got his letter.”
Murtagh’s eyebrows rose, but he didn’t say anything, which Claire appreciated. After that, the conversation strayed from Jamie to how Murtagh and Claire had spent their time apart. In the lead up of coming back to this time, Claire had tried to focus only on Lallybroch. Most of the Jacobites were dead. Claire knew that beyond a shadow of a doubt. And Claire had been so certain that the grief of it would topple her if she allowed herself to dwell on everyone she lost. Just thinking about Jamie was enough to nearly drown her.
But being here with them all… everything about the uprising was coming back to her.
Claire thought if anyone notable survived, Jamie would have told her. It was likely that all of Dougal’s men were dead. But still, Claire had crossed paths with nearly every Jacobite as a healer. Who else could be here? Who else could she have saved if she’d stayed?
“Ye look a million miles away,” Murtagh said gruffly, “Or 200 years? Do ye wish ye were back?
“No,” Claire said immediately, “I was actually wishing I had never left.”
“We kent ye did it for the bairn,” Murtagh replied, “Jamie wouldna have wanted ye to be here alone.”
“I know,” Claire said, tears coming to her eyes unbidden, “I wish you could meet her, Murtagh. She is so much like Jamie it kills me sometimes.”
“Maybe I will meet her, ye never know,” Murtagh said, “Anything seems possible when it comes to ye.”
With that, conversation drifted back to more casual topics. Soon, Claire forced Murtagh to get some real rest. She was certain he would have to stay for a few days. With any luck, she could get his strength up enough to fight the infection. Claire didn’t let herself consider what would happen if she wasn’t lucky.
A few days later, Claire deemed Murtagh and several other prisoners fit to return to their cells. She was loathe to send them back to the damp and the cold, but there was little else she could do. She needed the space for other patients and she knew John would confront her if she seemed biased.
“I’m so happy you’re alive,” Claire said when she was able to steal another private moment with him. This time, she didn’t hesitate to throw her arms around him. Claire couldn’t think of anything that adequately described her feelings. Surreal, was one sentiment. Seeing a ghost was another. But he was a ghost she wouldn’t trade anything for.
Murtagh hugged her back and whispered, “It was good to see ye again, lass.”
Claire managed to pry herself off of him and compose herself before her guard came back to escort Murtagh away, “Don’t forget to tell Jamie what I said.”
“Yer a fool if ye think anything is gonna keep Jamie away from ye,” Murtagh murmured, not unkindly. And Claire managed a weak smile, “I’m sure I’ll be seeing ye again, Mistress,” Murtagh continued as the guard came back. And then he was gone and all Claire could do was think about her next patient, and the time that was running out until she saw Jamie.
Listen.. I Know. But I got to the end of the chapter and realized it would be like 6K words if I continued. Which I'm sure everyone would be fine to read, but chapters like are a bitch for me to edit. So I decided to break it up and here we are. I love the way the Lord John scene turned out and it was really fun to write some more Murtagh in there. I swear, Jamie will be in the next chapter. Let me know what you think!
It happened a few days later. And John, damn him, didn’t give Claire any warning. One moment, she had been sorting through the supplies Fergus had brought her that morning. The next, Jamie was in front of her, chained and bleeding.
Claire could see his injured arm from where she was standing across the room from him. She resisted the urge to deal with it. It was bleeding, but not excessively, and it would be fine if she didn’t tend to it immediately. So she stayed where she was.
“Are ye not gonna unchain me, then?” Jamie asked with forced humor, “Do ye not trust me?”
“It’s me I don’t trust,” Claire replied, through gritted teeth. “If I let you touch me, I’ll forget how angry I am.” It was already a struggle to stay away from him, Claire was realizing with annoyance. She’d wanted him desperately from the moment she’d decided to come to Ardsmuir, and now that he was in front of her, it was almost painful to resist the pull of him. She knew she’d give into it sooner rather than later. But Claire needed to feel the full scope of her anger before she did.
“Ye got my letter then?”
“Of course I got your goddamn letter,” Claire snapped. Hiding in her anger was so much easier than showing him her hurt.
“And ye dinna write back?”
“I would have gotten here first,” Claire explained, then she pulled a letter from her small desk in the corner. Jamie’s name was written on the front, “But I did write it.”
“I see,” Jamie said slowly. He was still eyeing her nervously, but Claire could see that his curiosity was getting the better of his self-preservation, “May I read it?”
“I’ll read it to you,” Claire said. Him reading it would require Claire handing it to him, which would require her getting far too close to him.
“Alright then,” Jamie said, “Get on with it.”
Just for that, Claire took her sweet time opening the envelope and unfolding the paper. One glance at Jamie told her that he knew exactly what she was up to. He wisely kept his mouth shut.
“‘Jamie,’” Claire began, “‘We promised no lies, so I will tell you the truth. Your letter hurt me. Badly. I don’t think it will stop hurting me any time soon.’” Claire chanced a look over at him, and she saw his eyes shutter closed and his fists clench. The glee she was expecting to feel at his hurt vanished.
Annoyingly, most of her anger washed out of her. He was scared, she realized. He thought there was a real chance Claire wouldn’t forgive him when he sent his letter. And he’d sent it anyways. So Claire decided to take mercy on him, even as her own hurt still thrummed through her veins.
“‘So in the meantime, I have a secret of my own I’d like to confide,’” she continued. Jamie’s eyes snapped open and she held his gaze. He looked at her suspiciously, nervous at whatever she was going to reveal. But there were the clear markings of hope in his eyes. His face was usually so much more guarded than hers was, but she could see his thoughts as clearly as if he’d spoken them. If Claire was willing to give up some of her secrets, she must not be lost to him.
Claire folded up the letter. She didn’t need to hide behind it.
“I can’t have any more children,” Claire said. Jamie’s brow furrowed in confusion. Claire struggled to think of a way to say it without sounding barbaric. She knew Jamie had a strong skepticism about any kind of surgery. And for good reason, she thought. For someone untrained, cutting into someone to heal them seemed counterintuitive. But Claire was trained, and she knew exactly what she’d been doing when she’d chosen to get sterilized.
“Bree’s birth was hard. Not as hard as Faith’s,” Claire’s voice caught on her first daughter’s name, but she forced herself to continue, “But bad enough that if I’d been here, I would be dead. Bree too, probably.”
She expected Jamie to interject something, but he didn’t. He was fully focused on her, “When I decided to come back, I knew having another child in this time would kill me.”
“So what did ye do?” Jamie asked quietly.
“I was sterilized,” Claire said, then explained, “Made barren through a type of surgery.”
“Ye canna have children,” Jamie echoed.
“No,” Claire said, “No. But I made that choice when I thought you were dead.”
“Forgive me for being presumptuous, Claire,” Jamie asked slowly, “But if ye thought I was dead, why were bairns on yer mind?”
Claire steeled herself. Because that was the crux of it. She didn’t want anyone other than Jamie, but she knew better than most how unexpected these things were. And there was a part of her, no matter how small, that thought getting married in this time was a possibility. And she’d take the proper precautions. No matter how unlikely it was, Claire would be ready. She couldn’t take any unnecessary risks and leave Bree orphaned.
Claire’s thoughts must have been written clearly on her face, because Jamie nodded in understanding. Claire resisted the urge to defend herself and just let Jamie process the information.
“Did ye think I’d be mad, Sassenach?” Jamie asked finally.
“I wasn’t sure,” She admitted, “You can be rather… traditional sometimes.”
“Ye have already given me two bairns, Claire,” Jamie said, emotion choking him up, “If it was a choice between ye and another, I would rather have ye.”
“Truly?” Claire asked, taking a small step towards him. She saw Jamie struggling against his chains to return the gesture.
“Yes,” he replied with a certainty that she knew he couldn’t fake, “I would choose ye before anything.”
“And you have,” Claire said with a small, sad smile that Jamie returned.
“But,” Jamie said hesitantly after a few moments, “I dinna quite understand what this has to do with Mary.”
Claire took several more steps forward until she was standing between his legs. Jamie couldn’t touch her still, but she saw his desperation to and it made her bold. She was still hurt, yes, but Claire also knew she was the only one who could make him feel this way.
“When I read your letter, I was furious. And heartbroken,” Claire said, “And I wanted to kill you, and her and Jenny. But…”
“But?” Jamie prompted.
“But,” Claire said, “I think I would have done the same thing if Frank had wanted to be with me. I would have needed that same comfort and connection. So how could I blame you?”
“I blamed myself,” Jamie said, “I felt guilty as soon as I did it, and again when I thought ye’d returned.”
Claire pressed a kiss to his forehead, “You don’t need to anymore. I don’t care about what you did before I came back. I only care about being with you now.”
Jamie’s eyes drifted closed at the press of her lips, and Claire moved from his forehead to both cheeks then down to his throat just for the pleasure of watching him shudder. She brushed their lips together gently once, then twice before she withdrew.
“Unchain me,” Jamie said softly. But it wasn’t a request. It was command, and Claire started to obey. But there was a small, vindictive part of her that wasn’t quite ready to give up her power.
“I need to deal with your arm first,” Claire said, leaning just a hairsbreadth away from him. Jamie tried to follow her, tried to connect their lips again, but Claire was just out of reach.
“I need to touch ye,” he rasped.
“No,” Claire said with a smile. She took another step back and heard Jamie practically growl with the rejection. That only spurred Claire on. She was heady and bold with the power of it. And yes, she did truly need to stich him up. If she swayed her hips and bent over a little farther than was strictly necessary to gather her supplies, who could truly blame her?
Jamie could, clearly. When Claire turned back around, he looked pained and there was something dangerous in his eyes. Claire reveled in it.
But she realized her mistake almost immediately. Claire wouldn’t be able to get his shirt off with the chains on. Jamie seemed to realize it too, based on the smug look he was giving her.
Claire ripped his shirt before she really knew what she was doing. It was an easy thing, the sleeve already torn from whatever the hell he’d cut himself with. The action startled a laugh out of Jamie, and it took every ounce of self-control for Claire to not smile back.
“An axe,” Jamie replied to her unspoken question when she examined his wound.
“Bloody idiot,” Claire muttered and she could feel Jamie’s smile. In truth, it wasn’t a bad wound. It would only require two or three stiches, but she was worried about infection. Observing him overnight was probably excessive, but Claire wasn’t inclined to take chances.
It took only a matter of minutes before Jamie’s wound was stitched and dressed and there was nothing left to distract her from Jamie. He was already looking at her when her eyes drifted back up, his gaze smoldering.
“Unchain me?” Jamie asked, this time it was clearly a request. One she would grant. Eventually. Before she did, though, she gripped Jamie’s face roughly in both her hands kissed him, her tongue plunging into his mouth and taking all she could. Jamie didn’t seem to mind it. In fact, Claire could feel him straining against his bonds to pull her closer.
That only spurred Claire on. She moved from sitting next to him to straddling him as best she could with his irons in the way. Judging from the hardness that was now pressed against her stomach, she seemed to have done a decent job.
Claire pulled away only when it was either breathe or pass out. Jamie kept his eyes closed, a small smile gracing his face. Damn him, Claire thought. This was supposed to be a punishment. Jamie leaned back towards her again, but Claire gripped his hair and pulled him away. Jamie hissed, but she felt his hips thrust into her involuntarily. Good, she thought. She wanted to tear him apart.
“You’re mine,” she growled. She was unsure of where this possessive streak was coming from. They were alone, there were no threats. But she felt the foreign need to mark him as hers. So she did. She descended on his neck and bit and sucked until she’d created an angry, red welt, “And only mine, James Fraser. Do you understand me?”
“Yes,” Jamie managed, his hips straining up again in search of friction, “Always yours, Claire.”
Claire gripped his face roughly and forced him to look at her, “If you ever hurt me like that again, I will…” Claire struggled to find an adequate threat.
“Cut my heart out and have it for breakfast?” Jamie supplied, quoting what she’d told him all those years ago about what would happen should he ever raise a hand to her again. And he never had. Just as he never again would lay with a woman other than his wife. Claire connected their lips again. It was no less intense, but the bite of anger was gone.
“I missed ye, Sassenach,” Jamie said when they broke apart. Claire gave a contented hum as she pulled the key out of her bodice and finally, finally unshackled Jamie. And gasped at what she saw.
“What?” Jamie asked, his eyes snapping open, “Oh, that.”
“Oh, that?” Claire demanded as she grasped his wrists for a closer look. Now that the irons were removed, Claire could see his raw and bloodied wrists. How long had he been chained? Had they been like this on Silkie Island? Claire knew they had been… preoccupied, but she couldn’t imagine she’d been that unobservant. This must have been his punishment for his escape, “Christ, Jamie, you’re lucky its not gangrenous.”
“Gangrenous?” Jamie asked, then decided he didn’t care. He didn’t care about his wrists either, it seemed. Now that he was free, Jamie seemed intent on touching all of Claire at once. But she was having none it. She managed to wiggle out of his grasp and get back to her medical chest.
“Sit down!” Claire commanded when Jamie made a move towards her. Jamie obeyed, but Claire could tell it was close thing. Lucky for her, she had been making salves the last several days. Jamie was the only man who had been chained so far, but several other men had similar injuries. It wasn’t guaranteed to fight off infection, but it was better than nothing. Jamie couldn’t remain in chains, that much was for sure. Sooner or later, the wounds would get infected if they remained open. Claire made a mental note to demand John remove the chains from every prisoner who had them. She knew she was going to push John too far one of these days, but he had acquiesced to all her demands to far.
“It’s really not that bad, Sassenach,” Jamie reasoned as Claire pulled his hands into her lap to apply the salve. He hissed at the first contact of the ointment. But soon, it became clear that it soothed the angry skin.
“You were saying?” Claire smirked. Jamie stayed quiet as she cleaned and dressed the wounds.
Claire’s back was turned once again, putting her medical supplies away, when she felt Jamie’s arms come around her waist and pull her against him.
“You should rest,” Claire said. He looked exhausted, and her poking at him hadn’t helped.
“I need ye,” Jamie breathed, his mouth against the nape her neck and his hands trying to loosen the bodice of her dress, “Will ye have me?”
Claire hummed as she bared her throat to him. Jamie took the hint and moved down and nibbled her collarbone. Claire wanted nothing more than to rip his breeks off and have him right there, but the whole night spread blissfully ahead of them. Claire wanted to take her time with him and make him come undone.
Jamie seemed to have similar plans. Rather the just ripping the bodice, he loosened it just enough that he could dip his hand in and cup the swell of her breast. Claire moaned as he found an already pebbled nipple.
That moan made something in Jamie snap. Soon, he was pulling up her skirts until he could reach his other hand under her shift. He didn’t waste any time spreading her legs and tracing a finger through her folds. Claire nearly collapsed against him as he stroked her. Jamie hadn’t even found a rhythm before he was spinning them around until she was sitting on the edge of the bed and he was kneeling before her.
Jamie started at her feet and kissed a path up her calf to her thigh. But instead of tasting her, he moved to the other leg and did the same thing. Claire was expecting the feel of his tongue then, but he moved to her inner thighs and nibbled there instead. Claire could only feel the rasp of his stubble and it wasn’t nearly enough.
“Jamie, please,” Claire whined. She knew she sounded needy, but she couldn’t bring himself to care. Finally, finally, Jamie touched her where she needed it.
It was so good it was almost painful. Once he’d tasted her, Jamie couldn’t seem to manage any sort of finesse. Instead, he was licking and sucking with wild abandon and Claire could only weave her fingers through his hair and try to hold on. Jamie set a punishing pace, and it wasn’t long until she was quaking beneath him.
Jamie tried to gently bring her back down from her orgasm, but Claire pulled his hair hard until she could kiss him. It was messy, all teeth clacking and accidental biting and it was glorious.
“Do it now,” Claire gasped against his mouth, “And don’t be gentle.”
That was all the encouragement Jamie needed. He pulled his breeks down and climbed on top of her on the narrow bed. He shoved her legs apart and then plunged inside of her. Claire cried out at the intensity of it. She was still so sensitive from her first orgasm, she was already on the brink again. But she wouldn’t fall without Jamie.
Claire gripped his ass and pulled him hard against her, meeting him thrust for thrust. Claire wanted every inch of them pressed together, but she couldn’t be away from him long enough to pull the rest of their clothes off. Instead, they were a mess of half torn garments and exposed flesh and Claire grabbed onto any part of him that she could reach.
She was dimly aware that they should maybe be more careful. The surgery was at the end of an unused corridor, but anyone could still walk by and hear them. But Claire didn’t care about anything past their joining and how she finally felt whole.
Jamie was close too, Claire could tell from how his rhythm kept stuttering and he moaned in Gaelic against her neck.
“Give me yer mouth, Sassenach,” Jamie commanded when he managed to lift his head. Claire obliged and then he was kissing her with the same rhythm he was fucking her, and it was all too much. Claire shattered again with a barely contained scream.
“Oh, god,” Jamie groaned as her walls squeezed him, “Oh, Claire.” He managed a few more uncoordinated thrusts before he spilled into her. Claire shook with the aftershocks of her own release when Jamie collapsed against her.
Spent and sated, there was no sound for awhile other than them both catching their breaths. It was hard with a six-foot-tall scot on top of her, but Claire didn’t even dream of asking him to move. Claire would be content if Jamie sank inside of her until they became one person.
Eventually, Jamie did slide out of her and moved enough to the side that he wasn’t crushing her. But the bed was small and he was still half on top of her.
“You asked me once what it was between us,” Claire said some time later. They were still half dressed, but Jamie had pulled her bodice and shift down around her waist and his fingers were trailing over her now bare chest, her hands brushing through his hair.
“Ye said ye didna know,” Jamie remembered.
“I still don’t,” she said.
“But it’s still there?” Jamie asked. Claire’s heart almost broke at the slight uncertainty in his voice.
“Yes,” Claire breathed as she connected their lips again. This kiss was unhurried and thorough, “You’re still mine, Jamie Fraser.”
“Aye,” Jamie agreed, “I always have been. And I always will.”
“‘Till our life shall be done’” Claire quoted and she showed him her wedding ring, “I never took it off.”
Jamie placed a kiss over the knuckle before holding her hand over his chest. He was fading fast, Claire could tell. As much as she didn’t want to waste any of their time together, she wanted Jamie to get a good night’s sleep.
“I just need a moment,” Jamie said, but his eyes were already drifting shut, “Promise ye’ll still be here when I wake?”
“I will never leave you again,” Claire said, echoing what she’d promised on the island. It wasn’t an empty promise this time. They had the whole morning to talk about why Claire was here and what that meant. But right now, they were together, and that was apparently enough to set Jamie’s mind at ease enough to fall asleep. Jamie’s even breathing would lull her to sleep soon, she knew. But until then, Claire was content to count his heartbeats and just revel in the fact that her husband was alive and with her.
A lot of this was inspired by a conversation I loved in The Fiery Cross where Claire told Jamie she'd considered getting sterilized, but decided not to in case he wanted more children. This is my take on what she would have done if she (and Bree) were younger and getting pregnant again was more likely.
But... was it worth the wait? This is the scene this whole story grew around. So, I've been tweaking it for a really long time, and I'm really happy with the result. Let me know what you think!
Claire was still asleep when Jamie woke sometime later. He hadn’t wanted to lose any of the limited time he had with Claire, but his body needed rest if he had any hope of loving her again before morning came. Forget making love, he probably wouldn’t have been able to even talk to her without regaining some strength.
When he awoke, it was still dark but he could see that dawn wasn’t far off. How long would John give them after sunrise? An hour? Two?
It wouldn’t be nearly enough, but it was so much more than Jamie ever expected to get. Between his prison sentence and his other transgressions, Jamie had been certain he’d never see or hear from Claire ever again. And he would have deserved that. He had been trying and failing to make his peace with it. But here she was, half naked in his arms.
Jamie was content to just watch her sleep, counting her breaths as proof that she was truly here with him. But he was also itching to talk to her, to love her. In the end, his body was restless enough that he woke her.
“Good morning,” Claire said sleepily as she nestled further into his chest.
“Not quite yet,” Jamie said. He accepted her warmth gratefully. Claire had always told him that he ran hotter than a furnace, but Ardsmuir had left him cold to his very bones. He hadn’t been truly warm since the last time he saw her, if he was being honest. Claire could feel it, judging by the way she wrapped her arms tighter around him. He would have been content to stay there forever, but they were running on borrowed time, and there were things they needed to talk about.
“What are ye doing here, Sassenach?” Jamie asked softly, trying desperately not to burst the bubble of peace they had found.
“The red coats found me,” Claire replied. Jamie stiffened in her arms, but Claire was quick to reassure him, “Everyone is alright. But we couldn’t stay.”
“And ye thought to come here?” Jamie demanded.
“I already had this fight with Jenny and Murtagh. Don’t make me have it with you,” Claire warned. There were more arguments on Jamie’s tongue, but she sounded so fatigued that he didn’t push it. Claire wouldn’t have made this decision lightly, and he trusted her to keep herself and their daughter safe.
“How did ye bluff yer way in here, then?” he asked. A look of amusement crossed her face that Jamie didn’t understand.
“Who says I bluffed?”
“Well, I should hope ye didna announce yerself as the Stuart Witch or Red Jamie’s wife,” Jamie replied.
“As a matter of fact, I didn’t have to,” Claire said with a smile, “I was fully prepared to lie my way to you, but Lord Grey recognized me. It seems someone blew my cover of a proper English lady.”
“I’m not sure anyone would make that mistake,” Jamie snorted. He was rewarded with a pinch to the stomach, but he could feel Claire’s smile.
“In any case,” Claire continued, “Grey needed a doctor, and I was here.”
“And ye were here,” Jamie echoed wistfully. Then his thoughts turned serious, “What did ye tell Bree about me?”
“Bree thinks the world of you, Jamie,” Claire replied seriously, sensing where his thoughts were going. She lifted her head to look him straight in the eyes. He saw only fierce honesty in them.
“That isna what I asked, Sassenach,” Jamie said.
“I told her the truth,” Claire said. Jamie laid back down, a little defeated, until he could only see the ceiling.
“That her Da was a traitor? That he would never be a free man again?”
“I told her that her Da was a hero,” Claire snapped, “That he fought with his men for what was right. And that he didn’t win, but he kept her safe. That he loved her very much.”
“Well, then,” Jamie said dumbly.
“And that he was bloody stubborn and impulsive,” Claire continued, “Honorable to a fault, but I loved him anyways.”
“Maybe a little too truthful there, Sassenach,” Jamie said. He was trying for humor, but he could barely speak around the lump in his throat. His daughter was here, but she knew he was criminal. Jamie had never been ashamed of it before, not even when he married Claire with a price on his head. He knew that wasn’t his fault, and he’d never once regretted his role in the uprising. Even though it cost him everything he had, he knew his place was on that battlefield. But it was different now. It wasn’t just him suffering the consequences of it. Now he had a wife and child who couldn’t bear his name, who’d have to live in hiding. Jamie’s fists clenched involuntarily.
“Where did you go?” Claire asked softly after a moment, her eyes wide and worried. Jamie willed his breathing back to normal.
“Dinna fash, Sassenach,” Jamie said, “Just wishing.”
“I know this isn’t the life we wanted,” Claire said. Jamie couldn’t help but snort, but Claire continued, “But Jamie, I am happy with any life with you.”
“I truly never thought I’d see ye again, Claire,” Jamie said, tears flowing freely down his face. He would have been embarrassed if it weren’t for the tears in Claire’s eyes as well. There was more things Jamie wanted to say. How much he missed her. How much he wished he could meet his daughter, but was equally terrified of the possibility. How he wished he was free. In the end, he didn’t need to say anything. Claire still understood him, as she always did.
The next thing Jamie knew, it was past sunrise and they were truly on borrowed time. Jamie ruefully untangled himself from Claire’s arms and pulled his shirt and breeks on. Claire stayed asleep through it all, so Jamie got a chance to just watch her. He should have woken her, or at least pulled her bodice up to cover her chest, but Jamie couldn’t bring himself to change a single thing about the moment.
Jamie knew she’d kill him if she was caught unawares by whoever came to guard her surgery for the day, but it would be well worth it for just a few more quiet moments.
All too soon, Jamie heard voices in the hall. It was still far enough from the surgery that Jamie didn’t worry, especially when the door was bolted, but it was enough to wake Claire.
Her eyes blinked open a few times slowly before blowing wide open when she noticed the after-dawn sun streaming through the windows. She was up in a moment trying to make herself presentable.
“Why didn’t you wake me?” Claire chastised as she tried to brush her hair with her fingers. Jamie only smiled when that only made it wilder, “Will you bloody say something?”
“Yer verra beautiful, Sassenach,” Jamie replied.
“Oh, shut up,” Claire said crossly, but he swore he saw a blush climbing up her neck. Jamie had just decided to see how far that blush went down when there was a knock on the door.
Claire swore quietly, “Get back on the bed and stop looking like that.”
“Like what?” Jamie asked even as he obeyed.
“Like the cat whose just caught the canary!” Claire snapped as she finished pinning her hair up into something that mimicked respectability. Jamie’s witty retort was cut off by Claire opening the door,
“Lord Grey,” Claire said with obvious relief.
“I thought it would be wise for me to escort Mr. Fraser back alone,” John said. His eyes swept the room before returning back to Jamie, “I see my estimate of the situation was correct.”
Claire ignored the jab and turned back to Jamie. Their bubble had been well and truly broken, it seemed, “You shouldn’t use that arm for at least a week, but knowing you, you’ll only manage it for a few days. Keep it clean and I’ll take the stitches out in a week or so.”
“Is that all, Sassenach?”
Claire glanced at John before giving Jamie a sound, but final kiss on the mouth, “On your way, soldier,” she said with a forced smile, then he was out the door. A week. He could make it.
Jamie lasted about half a day before he was going out of his mind. Rather than easing his need for her, seeing Claire had only intensified it. Knowing she was here, knowing she was only a few minutes’ walk away was torture.
Now that Jamie was back in his cell, the other inmates silence about the healer made sense. Anyone who’d fought at Prestonpans held a healthy fear and/or respect of her. It became common knowledge that Claire had been part of the uprising, but not that she was Jamie’s wife. That was alright by Jamie. The fewer people who knew she was a traitor the better, and no one seemed inclined to let anything slip to the British. That secrecy didn’t always include respect, however. Like everything else, Tom Christie and his protestant men had a lot of opinions that ran opposite to those of Jamie.
And now that Jamie had finally seen her, it seemed the moratorium on talking about the healer had ended. Christie himself maintained a quiet disapproval. The same could not be said of his men. Half of them seemed to think of her medicine as witchcraft or blasphemy and were intent on refusing treatment. Of course, Claire wouldn’t stand for that and she had men forcibly brought to her more often than not. Jamie could stand Christie’s men calling Claire a witch as long as it didn’t put her in any real danger. Claire herself just rolled her eyes when Jamie told her what the men were saying when she took his stitches out. Grey couldn’t give them another night together, so he’d had to be happy with Claire stretching out his treatment as long as she could.
What Jamie really couldn’t stand were the other comments, the ones that had nothing to do with her as a doctor and were instead about her as a woman. Jamie remembered well the way Dougal Mackenzie’s men had talked about her before they had gotten married. They thought they could say whatever they wished in Gaelic when they knew she couldn’t understand them. It had mostly stopped when Jamie had married her and every vulgar comment risked him beating them within an inch of their lives. But now that his marriage wasn’t common knowledge, it was just like those early days. It was driving Jamie insane.
Jamie tried his best to hold his peace. Nothing good would come of him starting fights. But of course, one day someone went too far. Jamie didn’t even know the man’s name, he was just tired of hearing his wife’s name on his lips and the crude gestures that accompanied it.
Jamie snapped. He was lucky that enough of his men had been around to drag him off of the man before he could do any real harm, but the damage had been done. The only saving grace was that Jamie hadn’t injured the man enough to need a healer.
A few hours later, Jamie was summoned by Lord Grey. He expected a punishment, maybe his chains would be put back on. Claire had successfully made the case for striking the irons from the few men who still had them, but Jamie knew the threat of them was always present. John knew it was one of the biggest threats he had.
To his surprise, however, John didn’t seem the least bit angry when Jamie was brought to his private quarters.
“Did you forget what day it was?” John asked with a small smile. In truth, Jamie had. He’d been with Claire on the night he usually dined with John the week before. His thoughts had been consumed with her or keeping his own anger in check. He honestly had forgotten he had responsibilities not related to her. Such as petitioning John on the prisoner’s behalf.
“This isna about my stramash then?” Jamie asked.
“I have it on good authority that you fought in defense of a lady,” John shrugged and Jamie couldn’t help but laugh, “I thought perhaps she’d like the opportunity to thank you herself.”
“Claire is coming?” Jamie, his heartrate instantly speeding up.
“I took the liberty of requesting some soap and a basin for you to wash in,” John said, gesturing to a small tub in the corner of the room, “I’m going to escort Dr. Randall here. That should give you some privacy.”
“Thank ye, John,” Jamie said sincerely.
“Well,” John replied, “The door will be locked from the outside and there will be guards posted. Don’t get any ideas.”
“Of course not,” Jamie replied. John bid him another farewell and then Jamie was truly alone for the first time since he’d lived in the cave. There was small looking glass for Jamie to shave with. He took a quick stock of himself. He hadn’t had that luxury before seeing Claire the last several times. He wasn’t entirely pleased with what he saw. The most noticeable things about him were the marks from his fight. His lip was split and there was a bruise blooming over one cheekbone.
Past that, though, were deep lines of fatigue and age that had come from prison living. Jamie wasn’t sure those would ever go away. Did Claire mind?
Jamie admitted that after a quick rinse and shave he looked halfway towards respectable, but he was a far cry from the young man Claire had wed a decade ago. Jamie rubbed his wrists absentmindedly. The wounds from his shackles were healing and Jamie was sure they would scar. Would she care that he would always carry the marks of being a prisoner?
Jamie didn’t have very long to dwell on it. He had only just gotten his clothes back on when he heard Claire’s distinctive voice on the other side of the door. She was laughing at something John had said, and Jamie couldn’t help but smile at the sound of it.
Claire’s eyes widened when they found his face as she walked into the room, “What the hell happened?” she demanded. But Jamie didn’t have a chance to answer. He wouldn’t have been able to speak even if he wanted to. It was taking all of his strength to stay standing.
At Claire’s exclamation, someone else had run into the doorway. Fergus, Jamie noted with shock. But that was nothing compared to who was next to him.
A child, about ten year’s old. She was clutching onto Fergus’ hand and trying to stay hidden behind Claire’s skirts. But nothing could hide the hair as wild as Claire’s but with Jamie’s coloring. She held herself tall and regally like Claire, but there was no mistaking those high Mackenzie cheekbones. Brianna.
This isn't my favorite chapter I've ever written, but still let me know what you think.
“I told you to stay outside!” Claire scolded when she saw Bree and Fergus in the doorway. She couldn’t spare Jamie a glance right now. She had planned to give him a moment to prepare to meet his daughter. That plan was blown to hell now.
When John had asked her to join them for dinner, Claire hadn’t hesitated to ask to bring Bree. The way Jamie had talked as if she would be ashamed of him had broken her heart. Between her and Jenny, Bree had a very vivid picture painted of her father. Not an entirely pretty one, but Claire knew it was truthful, which was what mattered. Of course there were things that Claire couldn’t tell a child, but Bree was a mature and observant girl. She would know if Claire was hiding too much, and Bree had been able to handle most of it. And she loved him anyways. In truth, Bree had been begging her to see him since the moment Claire had told her they’d be living near him.
She just needed to prove it to Jamie. Claire wasn’t about to risk bringing Bree into the prison when she’d be distracted in her surgery, however, and she hadn’t been able to come up with a believable alternative other than needing help with work. She should have thought of something like this sooner, but lucky for her John had been one step ahead. And willing to facilitate it, despite what he had said when Claire had first met him. Claire suspected there was more to that than met the eye, but she wasn’t inclined to look too much into the gift that it was. If John had feelings for her husband, that was none of her business, not when he and Claire seemed to have formed a shaky friendship. Or a symbiotic relationship, at least.
Which brought her to this present moment, with Jamie in front of her and yet again injured. John had told her Jamie had gotten into an altercation, but she hadn’t known over what or that he had been injured.
Fergus and Bree scurried out of the room in wake of Claire’s glare, and it seemed that John had followed them even though Claire hadn’t noticed him leave. Now all she had to focus on was Jamie. The look on his face nearly bowled her over. There were tears in his eyes and his teeth were badly worrying his split lip. Two fingers were tapping a frantic beat on his thigh.
“Jamie?” Claire asked, slightly worried she had sent him into shock. But his eyes snapped to her the moment she spoke.
“What are ye about, Claire?” he demanded. She flinched slightly at the sound of her name on his lips. He only called her that when he badly needed to make a point, or when he was truly angry.
“I didn’t mean to upset you,” Claire tried soothingly, “I can have Fergus take her home if-”
“No!” Jamie replied so vehemently that Claire startled. Jamie shot her an apologetic look and his face softened. Not angry then, “Christ, no, don’t go. But ye didna think to warn me?”
“In fact, I did think to warn you,” Claire said, “But your daughter seemed to have decided against waiting.”
“Sounds a lot like her Mam,” Jamie said with a small, but genuine smile.
“Shut up,” Claire said, but there was no heat in it. In fact, she was smiling right back at him. She reached a hand up to caress his bruised cheek, “What happened?”
“Couldna keep my temper,” Jamie shrugged. Claire tsked as she examined the cut on his lip. She could well imagine what he had lost his temper over. Her patients had been gossipy the last few days, and it seemed like many of the men had stopped keeping their comments about her to themselves. Jamie gave her a sheepish look that told her she didn’t need to scold him over it, so she didn’t.
“You’ll live,” Claire said lightly. Jamie’s eyes darted to the door. Claire gave him a reassuring smile and squeezed his hand, “She’s been begging me to see you almost everyday day since we got here.”
“Yes,” Claire said, “And she rarely takes no for an answer.”
“Well,” Jamie said after he cleared his throat, “Best not to keep her waiting then.”
“Are you sure?” Claire asked again, “If you need more time to prepare-”
“I dinna think any amount of time will prepare me for this, Sassenach,” Jamie said, “Bring her in.”
So she did. Fergus gave her a murmured apology. Bree had run ahead of him and he couldn’t catch her in time. Claire gave him a small nod, but she wasn’t capable of speaking. Her gaze was fixed on Jamie and Bree. She had obviously always known they looked alike, but she hadn’t been prepared for seeing them together. It went past just having the same coloring. They had the same posture, the same cock of the head.
And at the moment, they were sizing each other up in the exact same way.
“My god,” John said next to her, so quietly that only she could hear it. Claire was inclined to agree.
The moment seemed to stretch on forever, with Jamie and Bree just appraising each other. And then, quite suddenly, Bree burst into tears. Claire took a faltering step towards her, her instincts being to protect and comfort her, but Jamie already had her.
“Dinna weep, a leannan,” Jamie said as he pulled Bree into his arms. Claire felt like she was intruding on what should be a private moment, but there was no way for her to subtly leave now. And it seemed like Fergus and John were just as transfixed as she was.
The moment stretched into a minute or two of Jamie trying to calm Bree with whispered Gaelic and it seemed to be doing the trick.
John cleared his throat when it seemed like the emotional height of the moment had past, “Shall we eat, then?”
The meal passed pleasantly, if a little awkwardly at first. It seemed like no one quite knew what to do with themselves. There were so many things Claire, Jamie and Bree wanted to say that they couldn’t in front of John and Fergus. But Claire didn’t think there was a way to get Jamie and Bree alone without raising suspicions.
It had been hard enough to sneak her into the prison without the guards seeing her. It had become common knowledge that Claire had a daughter; she was in the habit of making conversation with her patients. It wasn’t even far outside the realm of possibility that Claire’s children would accompany her to dine with Lord John. He was her superior and she was a gentlewoman (as far as anyone knew), it was something to be expected in polite society. But there was no way anyone in Ardsmuir would see Bree and not guess who her father was. Claire had made the right choice in covering Bree’s hair and face in a long cloak and bringing her in at night.
Even so, Claire was still worried someone would see and all their covers would be blown. John had arranged to have the meal brought in by prisoners who already knew Claire, but too many special arrangements for her wouldn’t go unnoticed. Claire wasn’t inclined to take a risk like this again, so they had to make the most of tonight.
Even with the risk, Claire couldn’t find any regret in herself now that she was seeing Jamie with their daughter. She could tell how badly Jamie needed this; how badly they all did. Now that Bree was a little more comfortable, she was chattering incessantly. Her attention was focused almost entirely on Jamie, but no one seemed bothered by it. There were a few times that Bree let something from her own time slip and Claire would stiffen. But if John or Fergus noticed anything amiss, they were mercifully keeping it to themselves. Jamie would occasionally shoot Claire amused and/or concerned looks at how outspoken their child was, but Claire largely stayed out of the conversation. She wanted Jamie and Bree to have as much time to themselves as possible.
Claire, Fergus, and Bree lingered long after the meal was formally over. Long after what would be considered appropriate, if she was being honest. But when had Claire ever been particularly concerned with propriety? Certainly not now, when she was content to have Bree’s head in her lap and watch Fergus and Jamie catch up while her husband and John played chess. Now that Bree was asleep, it seemed that Fergus was taking his turn monopolizing the conversation. Claire hadn’t thought things between her and Fergus had been strained, but hearing him talk to Jamie… there was still so much that Claire didn’t know. She was once again hit with a wave of grief for all the things she’d missed. It wasn’t just Jamie she’d lost time with. But she was here now, she reasoned. And it didn’t seem like anything was beyond repair.
They all made a very strange little tableau, but it was one that Claire was more than happy with, all things considered.
It wasn’t long before Claire was dozing right along with Bree. And it wasn’t long after that that she was being jostled awake.
“It’s well past midnight, Sassenach,” Jamie said gently as he woke her, “It’s best ye and the bairn leave.”
Claire sat fully back up as she became aware of her surroundings, “Where’s Fergus?”
“Talking about something with John in his study,” Jamie shrugged, then said pointedly “John has him running all sorts of errands, did ye know?”
“Not the specifics,” Claire admitted, “But Fergus is a grown man, Jamie.”
“Aye, I ken that,” Jamie said, “It’s just hard to remember sometimes.”
“And it’s not like your ‘errands’ were ever particularly safe, Mr. Fraser,” Claire teased. She got the desired reaction of a rueful smile.
“Right ye are, mo chridhe,” Jamie said with a kiss to her lips. Jamie’s hand traveled from Claire’s shoulder to rest on Bree’s head in her lap, “I dinna think I thanked ye properly.”
“For everything,” Jamie said, “But for bringing the bairn. I ken I didna have the most gracious reaction.”
“I caught you off guard,” Claire reasoned. She waited for Jamie to say more, but he seemed to be lost gazing at Bree asleep on her lap. Quite suddenly, Jamie plopped down on the floor next to the couch Claire was on. His head was close enough that Claire could run her hands through his hair while he watched Bree sleep.
John would be back any time now, Claire knew this. And she knew that this night would not last forever, but this moment felt like it would. It stretched out until Claire couldn’t remember a time when they weren’t all together. Tears came to Claire’s eyes unbidden. This moment had been a decade in the making. But here they were, her whole world at her feet.
I know it's a short chapter, but that's honestly all I had in me, friends. Introspective chapters aren't my strong suit. I promise the actual plot will be picking up again in the next few chapters. Until then, let me know what you think :)
Jamie would have been content to spend the rest of his life watching his wife and child asleep on John’s couch. But reality was going to intrude at any moment, and he wanted some time alone with Claire before it did.
This night had been nothing short of a dream. There was a part of Jamie that was certain he was going to wake up any moment, and he’d be back in his cave. Or even worse, he would wake up on Culloden Moor and have to truly face the fate he always feared. But Jamie was happy to remain in this dream, if that’s what this was.
Jamie would allow Claire a few more minutes of sleep, he decided. She hadn’t once complained, but Jamie knew that the past few months hadn’t been easy on her. He could see it himself, the way the long journey on horseback had worn her down. And he knew from John that she was working longer hours than she was hired for. Jamie didn’t know if that was because Claire wanted to be close to him, or if it was simply because she didn’t have help and she refused to leave her patients without care. Either way, more often than not, Claire was sleeping on a pallet on the floor instead of a real bed.
And now he knew from Fergus that even when she was home, she was only sleeping and eating the bare minimum to keep herself going. It made Jamie’s blood boil that she wasn’t taking care of herself, but he was angrier at himself than at anyone else. If it wasn’t for his prison sentence, Jamie could be the one taking care of her and making her take care of herself. But he was useless in Ardsmuir.
One minute more, Jamie decided when he saw Claire stir in her sleep. One minute more to put on the same brave face for her that he knew she put on for him. As Jamie looked at her, he replayed the last several hours in his mind.
Jamie had figured Bree would be a lot like her mother, slow to trust and open up. He hadn’t been prepared for her to throw herself into Jamie’s arms mere moments after meeting him. It had taken everything Jamie had not to break down right there with her. But his daughter needed him, so he managed to hold himself together and comfort her as best he could.
From there, dinner began with an awkward air that quickly melted as Bree chattered. Jamie clocked that Claire barely spoke a word. She gave him a glance here and there, and he saw her stiffen any time Bree said something that must have been about the future. But Claire had been uncharacteristically silent from beginning to end. After dinner was over, she retired quickly to the couch with Bree while Jamie got roped into a game of chess.
He managed to win despite Fergus’ nearly uninterrupted monologue, much to John’s annoyance. Despite filling most of the conversation, Fergus let remarkably little slip about the reality of their situation, but Jamie could read between the lines. Past the general unsafety of the area, John was sending him to deal with anything he didn’t have time for himself. And it seemed like a good deal of it wasn’t official Ardsmuir business. Jamie didn’t know the particulars, but he knew John had a hand in several intelligence groups, so he could only imagine the correspondences Fergus was handling. And he was taking Bree with him most of the time. Jamie thought he might prefer her with Claire at the prison.
It seemed like there was danger around every corner, all because Claire wanted to be with Jamie and this was where he was stuck. Possibly for the rest of his life. Jamie couldn’t allow himself to linger on that. The choice had already been made, and Jamie had no right to tell Claire how best to take care of their daughter. Not when she was trying to make choices in all of their best interests. That was the thought that finally pushed Jamie forward to wake her.
“It’s well past midnight, Sassenach,” Jamie said when her eyes blinked open, “It’s best ye and the bairn leave.”
“Where’s Fergus?” Claire asked when she realized where she was. Her hand went automatically to Bree to check she was still asleep, then it went to smooth her red hair back from her forehead. Jamie was a little jealous of the easy intimacy of the gesture.
“Talking about something with John in his study,” Jamie said “John has him running all sorts of errands, did ye know?”
“Not the specifics. But Fergus is a grown man, Jamie,” Claire reminded him.
“Aye, I ken that. It’s just hard to remember sometimes.” Jamie admitted.
“And it’s not like your ‘errands’ were ever particularly safe, Mr. Fraser,” Claire said with a teasing smile, and Jamie could help his own answering grin. He remembered how much Claire had been against hiring Fergus in Paris all those years ago. And now look at them all.
“Right ye are, mo chridhe,” Jamie said. He kissed her lips just because he could, then he gave into the temptation to touch Bree, who was still sound asleep. Her hair was impossibly soft even with the curls she’d gotten from Claire. Jamie was very nearly choked up, but he managed, “I dinna think I thanked ye properly.”
“For what?” Claire asked with furrowed brows.
“For everything,” Jamie said, “But for bringing the bairn. I ken I didna have the most gracious reaction.”
“I caught you off guard,” Claire asked mercifully and Jamie gave her a small smile. Then, Jamie suddenly wasn’t able to hold himself up anymore. He felt Claire start as he landed hard on the stone floor, but she seemed to recover quickly. Her hand landed in his hair and Jamie enjoyed the feeling of her nails on his scalp as he watched Bree’s eyes move under her lids in sleep. He hoped she was having a sweet dream. He hoped he’d have dreams of her when she was gone.
“Jamie?” Claire asked a few minutes later. She was whispering, as if she didn’t want to burst the bubble of the moment.
“Hmm?” Jamie replied, trying to pull himself out of his daze.
“John will be back soon,” Claire said, “If there was anything we needed to talk about in private?”
“There are a great many things I want to do with ye in private,” Jamie said cheekily and he was rewarded with a light blush painting Claire’s cheeks, “But aye, I suppose we should talk.”
“I don’t suppose you’ve changed your mind about running away?” Claire asked. It had the cadence of teasing, but Jamie could hear the genuine question in it.
“Was that yer master plan in bringing the bairn here?” Jamie asked in the same tone.
“No,” Claire replied, “My master plan was proving to you how much that girl loves you, Jamie. Anything else was just a biproduct.”
“And I appreciate it, Sassenach,” Jamie said, “But no. I havena changed my mind. As much as I wish I could.”
“I know,” Claire said, and Jamie could hear the weary acceptance in it, “I didn’t expect you to.”
“But ye hoped?”
“Of course I did,” Claire said, “I told you I’d take any life with you, but I’d prefer one where I could see you without a medical emergency.” Jamie managed a small smile at that.
“Even if I ran, we wouldna really be free, Claire. Ye ken that,” Jamie said sadly. He brushed an errant tear from her cheek, “Besides, what would the other prisoners do without ye?”
“You’re right, it’s all my fault for making myself indispensable,” Claire said with a wobbly smile, “It was worth a try.”
“I love ye for always trying. But John wouldn’t be able to look the other way a second time if we got caught. I couldna put Bree and Fergus in that kind of danger.” He didn’t add that they probably would get caught. They made a rather conspicuous group: a redheaded scot, a Sassenach doctor, a onehanded Frenchman, and a child. They probably wouldn’t make it five miles before they were discovered. And then it wouldn’t be just Jamie paying for the crime.
As if on cue, John and Fergus took that moment to come back into the room. Both looked very much like they’d rather be anywhere else when they caught sight of Claire crying and Jamie very close to tears himself. But Claire gamely brushed her tears aside and put on an unconvincing smile.
“I’ll carry Bree, milady,” Fergus said as he gently picked her up from Claire’s lap. She gave Fergus a grateful smile and allowed Jamie to help her to her feet. There was little they could say now that John was back in the room, so Jamie contented himself with a final kiss to Bree’s head and Claire’s lips.
“I’m sure I’ll see ye soon, Sassenach,” Jamie said with a gesture to his bruised face.
“I better not,” Claire warned, but she smiled anyways. Never one to draw out the inevitable, Claire turned and left the room with Fergus, but John held back.
Without speaking, Jamie and John gravitated back to the chess board. With his family there, they had only managed one game when they usually played three. It was late, but Jamie would do anything to hold onto this night for a little bit longer. John seemed to understand that and took his time setting up the board.
“It’s remarkable how much she looks like you,” John said as he moved his first pawn.
“Except for the curls,” Jamie agreed, “Those are all Claire.”
They played in silence for awhile after that. That wasn’t rare. Their games often found a rhythm and they fell into companionable silence. Jamie was too lost in his own thoughts to wonder what John was so silent about. Jamie was distracted enough that John backed him into a corner soon enough. Jamie let his king fall and set up the board again for their final game of the night.
“Was tonight Claire’s idea or yours?” Jamie asked.
“Bringing the child was Dr. Randall’s idea,” John replied. Jamie stiffened, as he always did when he heard the name Randall. Jamie knew why Claire had chosen it. She clearly couldn’t use Fraser or Beauchamp, and it would be obvious she was using an alias if she’d chosen something she wouldn’t respond to. But it still grated on him every time someone used it. Jamie had managed so far to never use it himself, sure he would choke on the name if he tried. John noticed the flinch and gave Jamie an apologetic look, “In fact, I thought it was a damn foolish idea and tried to talk her out of it.”
“But,” John continued, “After seeing the two of you together, I understand why it seemed like she would move heaven and earth for you to meet her.”
“I hope you know how much I appreciate what you’ve done for us these past few months,” Jamie said. John held his gaze for a long moment before looking away with a smile.
“Thanks isn’t necessary,” John said, “I daresay your wife has made herself indispensable, which I’m sure was always her plan.”
“Aye,” Jamie said, “She tends to have that effect.”
“I am glad to have met her, Jamie,” John said sincerely, “She is a remarkable woman.”
“She is, that,” Jamie agreed, glad that John had taken Claire’s strangeness and impropriety in stride. Jamie knew firsthand how many men were quick to dismiss her as either fraud or a sorceress. This time, it seemed that John was the one who was distracted and Jamie checkmated him easily.
“I’m long overdue back in my cell,” Jamie said. Jamie caught John looking at him several times like there was something he wanted to say, but no words ever came out.
“Goodnight, Mr. Fraser,” John said when a guard finally came to escort him back to his cell.
“Goodnight, Lord Grey,” Jamie replied with a slight bow. Jamie caught the look again, but John kept his mouth closed, and Jamie had no choice but to return to his cell.
For once, time seemed to move quickly at Ardsmuir as winter turned into spring. Jamie never hurt himself on purpose, but he was constantly getting cuts and bruises that Claire insisted she look at, and Jamie was the man elected to escort other injured prisoners. So he usually saw Claire several times a week. They didn’t have the privacy to do anything other than exchange small talk most of the time, but they managed to have entire conversations with words no one else would think twice about.
As much as Jamie wanted to see Bree again, he and Claire agreed that it was risky to bring her into the prison again. They had been unbelievably lucky the first time that no one had recognized her. It was lucky that no one recognized Claire herself. There were several guards at Ardsmuir that had fought at Prestonpans and Culloden. It would be easy enough for someone to see her with Bree and put the pieces together that she was Red Jamie’s wife. So as much as it killed him to be away from her, Jamie didn’t ask to see Bree again.
John invited Claire to dine with them a few times a month, and between that and his visits to her surgery, they made due.
Then Murtagh got caught with his small, torn piece of tartan. Just as Jamie warned him he would someday
After a few months of medical care, he was doing worlds better than before Claire. But everyone knew what the penalty would be for his forbidden clan memorabilia. Murtagh would be flogged, and Jamie knew he wouldn’t survive it. He was too weak after years of prolonged illness and malnourishment.
Jamie could survive it, though.
He hadn’t hesitated to confess to the crime. Murtagh tried to get him to take it back, but Jamie was persistent. And he had the other prisoner’s support. Any number of them would do the same thing for him.
“Possession of clan tartans is illegal. You know the penalty, of course?” John asked when Jamie was brought to his office sometime later.
“And are volunteering to be flogged?” John pressed.
“It’s no volunteering when the tartan belonged to me in the first place,” Jamie replied.
“We both know it’s Mr. Fitzgibbons’” John replied without even a hint of the wry humor that was often in his voice. John knew that Jamie had been flogged before, and he was not looking forward to doing it again. But what choice did he have? Jamie didn’t begrudge him for it. John had looked the other way about a great many things. He couldn’t with this, not now that Jamie had publicly confessed.
“Sixty lashes,” John said once it became clear that Jamie wasn’t going to renege on his confession. It seemed like the words physically pained him, but Jamie hung his head in acquiescence.
The lashes themselves weren’t nearly as bad as the flogging that had given Jamie his scars. He wasn’t expecting it to be. Unlike Randall all those years ago, it was clear the young solider administering them didn’t take any pleasure in the act. He whipped Jamie quickly and relatively lightly. Still, sixty lashes did damage, even if applied without enthusiasm. Jamie had lost his footing around the thirtieth one and he’d never gained it back.
But what Jamie hated more than anything else was his men seeing his flayed back. After years of living in close quarters, it was unavoidable that most of them had caught glimpses of his scars every now and then. But Jamie had taken great pains to keep them mostly hidden. And now here they were, on fully display. Jamie didn’t miss the gasps and mutterings of displeasure when he first took his shirt off. And he didn’t miss the pitying looks in the men’s eyes when he was finally untied from the whipping post and dragged away.
And Jamie definitely didn’t miss Claire’s eyes looking down on the scene from the window in her surgery, her eyes nearly alight with fury.
Hi, friends. We're finally heading into some chapters that I've had plotted out for awhile, so hopefully the next update will be soon. There are plot reasons for Jamie getting whipped, but I also just liked the scene in Voyager and wanted to include it. Let me know what you think!