I've been working on this idea for months, it was originally supposed to be the second part for "I Came, I Saw, I Conquered" but I thought it would work better on its own. The story will stay as canon compliant as it can with Claire and Brianna going back so early for the first few chapters before branching off to a story of my own making. I really hope you guys enjoy this, stay safe out there!
“Mama, look!” Brianna said, peering out the circular frame as she pressed her face against the glass. They’d begun their descent fifteen-minutes prior, the city of Paris growing beneath them as they slowly dove towards the earth. Brianna bounced excitedly in her seat, pointing at the Eiffel Tower looming in the distance. Claire hoped she’d be able to see it; through her many visits–and shortly lived– time in Paris, Claire had never once been able to visit the magnificent landmark, the third time’s the charm if the mantra proved correct.
" Isn’t it beautiful?” Brianna asked, leaning closer against the glass.
" Yes, lovey, it really is,” Claire responded.
“Bree, darling, not so close,” Frank said, reaching across Claire to gently peel Brianna away from the window, “We’ll have plenty of time to see it in person, I promise.”
Brianna settled into her seat, resting her back against the chair, she let out a wistful sigh before turning to Frank, “Pinky promise?” Brianna asked, holding up her pinky towards Frank.
" Of course!”
Claire leaned into the cushion of the seat as much as she could as Frank and Brianna linked their pinkies in front of her middle, both smiling as if Frank had just promised her the world. He might as well have, Claire reasoned. Brianna was five-years-old and after many years of failed promises of a vacation, the Randalls were finally doing it– the vacation coinciding with Frank’s business trip was just a lucky coincidence.
Claire had been excited when Frank announced their trip, she was stressed from medical school and was happy for the break. The happiness had been brief, however, when Frank revealed their location. Paris France was the last place Claire wanted to be, hell, she’d rather visit the decrepit Lallybroch Farm before stepping foot in Paris, but Frank had turned the tables by telling Brianna first. By the time Claire was aware of their trip, Brianna’s head was already full of ideas of their perfect getaway and the streets of Paris she’d glimpsed from movies. Brianna was happy and Clarie couldn’t bring herself to crush the little girl, even if it meant enduring the painful memories.
Jamie weighed heavily on her mind, he always did, but as the wheels of the plane landed on the tarmac all Claire thought about was their daughter, Faith. Faith hadn’t been lucky enough to leave Paris or the hospital where she’d arrived into the world dead, the older Brianna grew the more Claire wondered what Faith would be like. She would have looked like her father and sister, no doubt, she was born with the tell-tale Fraser red hair and cat eyes, but what would her personality be? Would she be as stubborn as her father? A bibliophile like her great-uncle? Or perhaps a doctor like her mother.
Claire watched from behind the pair as Frank held tightly onto Brianna’s small hand with his own as they climbed down the stairs onto the black pavement. He pointed out the very building Claire and Brianna were eager to see, even from across the city it seemed gigantic. Brianna hung onto Frank’s every word of its construction as they walked across the tarmac towards the terminal. The closer they got to the security check-point the more Brianna bounced with glee, she wasn’t as tired as Claire had been expecting, but then again, she’d slept through the majority of the flight.
Customs and security waved them through quickly, traveling with a child had its perks, and after an hour of their landing, they had their luggage and were in a taxi on the way to their hotel. Frank was still talking excitedly to Brianna leaving Claire alone with her thoughts.
Before leaving Paris with their hearts broken in two and no idea what the future held, Claire had made Jamie promise her that they would never step foot in Paris again. The city held too much loss, Jamie had quickly agreed. Yet here she was, two-hundred and some odd years in the future and she was back, haunted by the memories. As they drove past the harbor, in combination with the darkening skies, Claire could all but see the flaming Patagonia in the distance. Claire briefly wondered what had become of Jared’s business and estate, he didn’t have any children unless he’d fathered one after their departure, however, she thought this unlikely. It had probably been sold or dissolved with time.
They pulled up to the hotel, Frank guiding Brianna out of the taxi before turning and offering her a hand of assistance, she accepted, but only because of the large puddle near the door.
Frank–and Harvard– were apparently sparing no expense, the hotel’s lobby was extravagant, easily on par with King Louis’s palace. They were escorted by the hotel’s staff to the top floor of the hotel.
“The best view in the entire city!” Their attendant chirped as they stepped foot into the room. Brianna dropped Frank’s hand and made a beeline for the beds while Frank dismissed the staff and Claire looked out the window. Their view was breathtaking.
“Brianna Ellen!” Claire scolded, turning to face the five-year-old jumping on the bed.
“Oh, let her,” Frank said, walking to stand next to the foot of the bed. “We’re on vacation after all!” Brianna leaped from the mattress into Frank’s waiting arms.
Of course, he was playing good cop. Probably buttering Brianna up for the next few days Claire was sure he would spend working instead of enjoying their family vacation.
They ordered room service, the adults were jetlagged while Brianna was bouncing off the walls with uncontained joy, there’s no way they could sit through a meal in a restaurant. After dinner was bath time, Brianna, much like her father, loved her baths. She splashed in the water happily as Claire mentally ran through the itinerary she had planned for the next day. They would wake up early, have breakfast with Frank before visiting the spots she’d once been familiar with: Jared’s estate, Louise’s house, Master Raymond’s shop, and L'Hôpital des Anges were all on her list.
Frank had pulled a sly move, booking them a room with only two beds, forcing her to sleep in the same bed as him. It backfired, however, when Brianna crawled into their bed not long after she’d settled, too afraid to sleep on her own in a strange city. Claire slept fitfully due to Frank’s snoring, Brianna’s constant kicking, and her wandering mind. Her dreams were filled with memories of the ones she’d lost, they were mostly of Jamie with Fergus and Murtagh tied for second. The older Brianna got the more vivid and realistic they seemed to become. Claire often woke expecting to find a slumbering giant next to her only to get slammed down to reality.
Claire was on her third cup of coffee by the time Frank excused himself to run some ‘errands’. Errands that would last the entire day as he’d bid them farewell with the promise of catching up over dinner. Claire bundled Brianna in her coat and together they explored the city. Brianna was thankfully much too young to notice that their destinations were clearly planned and meaningful. She missed the light tears trailing down Claire’s cheek as they stood on the land that once held Louise de la Tour and her family in favor of a passing bird flying over their heads.
Despite being brought down by the past, Claire was determined to make this the best trip possible for Brianna. The little girl was spoiled with French chocolate and various other candies as well as a new dress Brianna had picked out herself. It was there that she saw him, or thought she did. They were walking out of the beautique, Brianna holding her new dress to her chest while Claire did her best to stuff her wallet back into her bag. Brianna dropped the dress and Claire swiftly went to catch it before the ensuing meltdown when she caught sight of the familiar face.
A man no taller than four feet with a high forehead partially covered by long silvery-grey hair with black eyes to match.
She blinked once in shock, prepared to call out, but when her eyes opened again he was gone. Just a mirage, Claire reasoned. They’d been moving around all day, she was tired, dehydrated, and hungry. No wonder her mind was playing tricks on her, conjuring up the image of the man surrounded in blue.
They returned to the hotel where the night was the same as the last.
This time, the frog-man she’d once known as her friend consumed her dreams. She was back in the dark damp hospital bed in L'Hôpital des Anges, truly alone and dying. Her body ached with the physical toll of losing Faith while her mind languished in the agony of her losses. Then he came before her, cloaked with darkness and a healing pulse to save her life. Claire could feel Raymond’s calloused hands as they trailed over her womb before going between her legs and reaching inside, dragging death from her.
She awoke in a cold sweat.
Frank snored blissfully beside her while Brianna hugged her stuffed rabbit to her chest, both completely absorbed in imaginary worlds. She didn't go back to sleep, Claire knew trying would be fruitless, so instead, she dressed and went for a walk down the harbor. The putrid smell of salt and fish had not dissipated in the two centuries she’d been gone. She missed the small room she and Jamie had rented before moving in with Jared, it was small and homely, she saw him every night. She’d take that small room versus the large empty one of the hotel she was currently in. Still, she couldn’t fault Frank for trying to impress her. He was doing his best, or the best he thought he was capable of.
Claire was back by breakfast, Frank was finishing his tea and Brianna poked at the vanilla crepes on her plate.
“Have a nice walk?” Frank asked, tilting down the newspaper to look at her.
“I did,” Claire nodded, placing her hand on the top of Brianna’s flaming hair. “Cleared my senses right up, I’ve been a bit off lately.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed,” Frank agreed, turning back to the paper in his hand.
“Do you want my breakfast, Mama?” Brianna asked, holding up her fork towards her mother. “I wanted pancakes, but Daddy said these were better.”
“You need to broaden your horizons, darling, you can’t live off Sugar Smacks and peanut butter jelly sandwiches forever,” Frank told her.
“Yes, I can…” Brianna murmured, turning back to her plate.
“How about I take a shower and then we’ll go exploring? That always cheers you up Bree,” Claire suggested, taking off her coat and hanging it on a hook by the door. She walked into the bedroom and began undressing, not noticing that Frank had followed her until the door clicked shut behind him.
“Where are you planning on going today? Eiffel Tower? The Louvre?” he eyed her, leaning against the doorway as she started preparing her bath.
“No actually,” Claire said, glancing at him, “There’s a hospital, L'Hôpital des Anges, not far from here, opened up during the 1700s, I thought Brianna would like to see the architecture.”
Frank frowned, “You’ve never been there before, have you?”
Frank had little knowledge of her time through the stones. He knew about Jamie and their failed attempt to stop Culloden, but she as far as she could remember she’d only briefly mentioned their doings in Paris; meeting with King Louis and Charles Stuart, she’d mentioned nothing of her time working in the hospital.
" No,” Claire said, turning to focus on her bath. “Why?”
“Well, it’s not a hospital anymore,” Frank said, straightening himself. “It’s a church, I didn’t even know you knew about it. It’s quite interesting…”
“Oh, uh, a friend told me a bit while I was here during the war. It was a triage site and she knew the history of the place, told it as an anecdote. Fun fact if you will.” Claire lied, making sure to keep her face away from Frank so he couldn’t read her. Her answer seemed to appease him as he said nothing else and instead left the room, leaving her to enjoy her bath.
Before long Claire was holding Brianna’s hand tightly as they walked through the doors of what used to be L'Hôpital des Anges and what was now St. Bartholomew’s Church. The cots that had once filled the rooms had long been replaced with pews and burning candles. The ambiance was still the same, Claire could picture Mother Hildegarde plowing through the room with Bouton at her heels. The memory made her smile.
“What is this place, Mama?” Brianna asked, stopping to look at one of the colored glass windows.
“It’s a church, Bree, but it used to be a hospital.” Claire gently tugged on Brianna’s hand to get her to move. “I used to work here, you know,” Claire whispered, leading Brianna through the hall.
“Yes, I had many friends here, I saved lives. I lanced bunions and did surgeries–”
“You were a doctor!”
Claire chuckled, “Yes, I kind of was, though they thought I was just a witch.”
“What was it like?”
“It was crowded,” Claire began, “Over there,” she pointed to the area in front of them, “Is where the non-contiguous patients were housed and there,” she turned to the right, “Leads down to the basement below, where we kept the supplies and Mother Hildegarde had her room and office. She had a lovely piano down there and when she played, you could hear it all over.”
“That’s so cool!” Brianna said smiling.
Claire bit her lip, unsure if her next move was the right one, but they were here, and Claire couldn’t walk away. “There’s somebody I want you to meet, Bree.” Claire stood and tightened her grasp on Brianna’s hand as they walked through the small gathering of church-goers and out one of the back doors into the cemetery. They didn’t have to walk far, the hospital must have been converted not long after, they walked down the rows of decaying headstones until they came to the spot.
Claire was surprised to find the marker almost as she’d left it. It was in surprisingly good condition considering the amount of time that had passed; the writing was legible and a small blue rose rested on the grey stone, even more shocking was the rusted spoon next to the rose’s stem.
“Faith Fraser,” Brianna read, “1744… is that when she was born?” she looked up at Claire.
“Yes,” Claire nodded, “Born and died, 1744, Brianna…” Claire choked on the words. “This is Faith,” she knelt to Brianna’s level and took both hands in her own, “Your sister.”
“My sister?” Brianna asked, looking from Claire to the stone.
“I know you don’t understand darling or believe me but it's true. I know about this place because I was here back then, back in 1744. Faith was born in the hospital, the church, but she was already dead. I never got to meet her alive,”
Brianna stayed silent, processing as well as a child could.
“You’re true sisters, Faith, you have the same hair and eyes, the same as your father’s. You both look just like him.”
“But Daddy doesn’t have red hair,”
“Not Daddy, Bree, his name is–was– Jamie.”
“Is he here too? With my sister?” Brianna asked, looking around the surrounding area for any man with red hair.
“No,” Claire said, bringing Brianna’s attention back to her, “Jamie… you’ll never get to meet him, I’m afraid, but he loved you so much. So much that he sent us back to daddy so we would be safe. He died a long time ago.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure, Madonna.”
Claire turned towards the voice, it was so familiar, she had to be dreaming again, yet standing four feet away was the frog-man, Master Raymond.
“Raymond?” Claire whispered.
Raymond nodded once with a smile before saying, “He’s alive, Madonna, your husband is not lost in the past.”
Thank you so much to my beta albatross1013, truly amazing and I'm so thankful for the help and encouragement.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He was gone before she could speak.
A single blink and he disappeared like a puff of smoke.
She was going crazy, that had to be the only explanation. How could he be there one second and gone the next? How could he be there at all? Even if her assumption of him being a traveler was correct, which made her head hurt more than it already did, it was impossible to explain how he knew to be there at this exact moment. The moment she told Brianna the truth of her heritage, secluded in a crowded space with Faith as proof.
It was simply mind-boggling.
“Where did he go?” Brianna asked, spinning in a circle. “The man?”
“You saw him?”
“Yes,” Brianna nodded, a slow frown spreading across her delicate face, “What does… Madonna mean, Mama? He called you that.”
If Brianna saw him too then she wasn’t going crazy, Master Raymond had indeed just been there and shattered her entire world. Jamie was alive. Well, not alive since he’d been dead for the past two hundred years but he’d survived Culloden. How? He had been ready to die with his men but against all odds, Jamie survived when so many perished.
She suddenly wished she hadn’t given up her attempts of finding him after she’d come back for what was ultimately Frank’s sake, maybe if she had kept going she would have discovered Jamie’s survival sooner. Claire knew in her heart that if she knew his true fate she would have turned right back around and gone back to him. His survival changed their entire plan. He only sent her away because he was planning on dying; unable to take care of her and their child he sent them to someone who could, somewhere safe. But Claire always felt safe with Jamie.
“Mama?” Brianna tugged on her sleeve, “Who was he?”
“He was an old friend of mine, he knew your father and me back then,” Claire explained, finally placing all her attention on the little girl.
“He knew Daddy?”
“He knew Jamie,” Claire corrected.
Maybe Brianna was too young for this after all, maybe Claire should have waited longer, the slanted blue eyes staring up at her in confusion echoed her thoughts.
“C’mon lovey,” Hugging Brianna to her, Claire lifted her daughter and felt her toddler legs wrap tightly around her waist as she stood.
Burying her nose in Brianna’s hair Claire took a deep breath and let herself rest, for only a moment, that was all she needed. Sparing one last look at Faith’s headstone, Claire turned and walked through the wrought-iron gates of the cemetery.
Brianna was uncharacteristically silent on their journey back to the hotel, she stared straight into the back of the driver’s seat instead of out the window. When Claire’s offer of ice cream was ignored, she truly began to worry about Brianna. It was a lot to absorb, that Claire knew, but how much Brianna understood was unknown.
Frank was the only father Brianna knew, the only father Claire expected for her to know for a long while; now, the little girl had a man she knew as a father and a father she knew only as a name.
It was clear from their very brief conversation that Brianna had already begun to interchange the two men, but that was to be expected.
It wasn’t until after they’d arrived back to the hotel, cuddling in bed for a mid-afternoon nap after a steaming, cleansing bath that Claire approached the subject.
“Master Raymond, the frog man, called me Madonna because he sees me cloaked in blue, like Mary, Jesus’ mother.”
“That makes sense,” Brianna said, snuggling closer to Claire. “Mama… what was he like? My father?” she asked in a whisper.
Claire smiled, “He was amazing, Bree. He loved me, he loved us so much. He was the bravest, biggest man I’d ever seen with such a kind heart– a gentle giant.”
Brianna hummed as Claire stroked Brianna’s back as she described Jamie.
“He had red hair and blue eyes, just like you, he was pale–though not as pale as you and I– with large muscles. He loved horses, the outdoors and was quite the academic, he spoke five languages.”
“Really?” Brianna looked up at Claire.
Claire nodded, pulling Brianna closer as the girl laid her head on Claire’s chest and quickly fell asleep, the excitement and confusion of the day finally catching up with her.
“You’re so much like him…” Claire whispered, closing her eyes and kissing the top of Brianna’s head.
It was then that she knew. She knew what she had to do, knew what they had to do. They had to go back, back to Jamie.
Claire carefully maneuvered out from underneath Brianna, resting her gently on the bed, and with pen and loose paper she began to plan. She started with a list of everything they would need for the journey: period-appropriate clothing, money, food to last them to Lallybroch and Brianna’s baby pictures. She listed the wants: medicine, needles, sterile bandages, and generally whatever she could get her hands on from the hospital without attracting too much attention. She would need to resign from the hospital, handle her financials, deal with Frank… Frank.
Claire paused in her list-making. What was she going to do about Frank?
Claire doubted that he would willingly let them go back, he’d fought so hard to keep the truth from Brianna and to force Claire from the memories of the past into the present, there was no way he would just let them go. Let Brianna go. He would do anything to keep them from going.
The answer became clear when she went down to the hotel lobby to use the single, wall hanging landline to call Joe; an employee Claire recognized as the concierge approached her methodically, reaching out one of his hands to hand her a sealed envelope.
“From your husband,” he simply said, letting her open the envelope and read its contents. He waited until it was clear that Claire had read the message inside in its entirety, her face dropping into a mix of anger and relief before adding, “He sounded apologetic if that helps at all, Madam.”
“Thank you,” Claire told him, shoving the envelope into the clutch she’d brought down with her.
She dismissed the concierge with a wave of her hand, not usually so short with staff but wanting to be left alone. She waited until the concierge was firmly out of earshot before turning the dial and ringing Joe’s line.
“Hello?” Joe answered after a few rings, his voice hoarse with sleep. It would be just after six in Boston, Claire almost felt guilty for waking him.
“Joe? I’m so sorry to wake you but I need your help,” she said.
“Lady Jane?” his voice morphed from shock to concern, “What’s going on? Are you and Bree all right?”
“We’re fine Joe but I need you to do something for me, and I need you to do it without asking a million questions, promise me.”
“Of course, anything, what is it?” he answered without hesitation.
She took a deep breath, “I’m leaving Frank. I need you to go to our house and pack a few things and send them to an address in Scotland–”
“Whoa, whoa, LJ, slow down,” Joe said, taking a series of loud long breaths, “where is all this coming from? I thought you guys went to Paris to address your issues.”
“You promised you wouldn’t ask,” Claire responded, glancing around the lobby to make sure no one was close enough to hear, “I just found out that Brianna’s father, her real father, is alive, in Scotland and I just… I have to go to him.”
Joe went silent, if it wasn’t for the sound of his breaths coming through the phone Claire would’ve thought he hung up. Claire was in a similar state of shock, she had never verbalized Brianna’s true parentage to anyone besides Frank and Mrs. Graham; she felt exhilarated and nauseous with the admission.
“I always thought there was something more to the story,” Joe said, breaking the silence and stupor, “I mean, LJ, the red hair is a direct giveaway.”
Claire smiled, “It’s her father’s, and her eyes– those are his too.”
“You love this guy?” Joe asked.
“More than I’ve ever loved anything,” Claire answered, “I’ve been shattered since, well, since I thought he’d died but now that I know he’s alive, it’s like all the pieces are coming together again. I can’t ignore it anymore, knowing he’s out there.”
“I know what you mean, you have to go to him– should go to him if you feel as strongly as you sound. But what about Frank?”
“Fuck Frank,” Claire said before she could stop herself.
She could hear Joe’s laughter with the phone leveled at her chest.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to hear you say that,” Joe said, still fighting the remnants of laughter, “I’ll do what you need, Lady Jane, always. Let me get a pad and pen so I can write down the address and what you want me to grab.”
Claire felt more at ease when she walked through the door than she had since Raymond’s visit, things were slowly coming together. Joe would pack everything she requested and hopefully they’d arrive in Scotland within a month which gave Claire plenty of time to prepare for their one-way journey.
Brianna slept as Claire quickly and quietly packed their belongings back into the suitcase. The note she’d received from the concierge stated that Frank wouldn’t be back for a couple of days, having gone on a last-minute overnight tour of several historical sights relating to the Bonnie Prince with his group of fellow historians. Despite being transcribed by an employee, Claire could read the excitement of his new adventure and the lack of regret for leaving his family at the last second. He’d tried to smooth it over by suggesting she shop to her heart’s content.
Joke’s on him, Claire thought closing the suitcase.
She would definitely be shopping, but not in Paris and not for modern fashions.
She positioned the suitcase by the door for an easy exit, she walked over to the bed and gently shook Brianna’s shoulder.
“Bree?” Claire whispered.
Brianna cuddled tighter into the blankets at Claire's voice and movements.
“Sweetheart? You have to get up.”
This time, Brianna didn’t react at all.
Claire sighed and wrapped her arms around Brianna’s small body, lifting her so her legs could wrap around Claire’s waist and her head to rest on her shoulder. Claire rubbed Brianna’s back as she carefully walked to the door, surveying the room for any belongings Claire may have missed. When she passed the small table Claire grabbed the blue booklet of Frank’s passport and shoved it into her purse.
“Have fun in Paris, Frank,” Claire muttered, shutting the door behind them.
She accepted the offered help from a bellboy as she stepped out of the elevator with Brianna held tightly in her arms. The staff had changed, leaving no one to recognize her and no one to tell Frank of their departure. The young man, who couldn’t have been more than nineteen, flagged down a taxi and in moments her luggage was loaded, and the door was open and inviting. She gave the man a generous tip, sending him on his way with a smile and a quick adieu.
“Where to, Madam?” the driver asked, glancing at her from the rearview mirror.
“Airport,” she said.
Brianna finally began to stir as the taxi pulled away from the curb and down the street from the hotel.
“Mama?” she looked at Claire, her hair mussed from sleep and her eyes still weary. “Where are we going?”
“We’re going to Scotland,” Claire told her with a smile.
Brianna simply nodded, accepting her mother’s answer from what Claire hoped was still the influence of sleep and not the build-up for a future meltdown. Brianna relaxed into her mother’s side as the taxi navigated the roads while Claire stared out the window. The Eiffel Tower faded in the distance the closer they got toward their destination and for the briefest of moments, Claire felt regret for missing yet another chance at seeing the monument.
The last she would ever have if things went the way she hoped.
They arrived at the airport as the heat began to dissipate, Claire tugged her coat closer to her body as she walked through the airport doors with Brianna on one side and their luggage on the other. Having called earlier that afternoon Claire knew they would be arriving just in time to catch the last flight to Scotland for the day. She purchased their tickets and followed the instructions toward the appropriate gate, in just a few hours the first leg of their journey would be complete.
The arrangements had already been made. They would fly from Paris to Inverness where Mrs. Graham would be waiting for them. The woman was as clairvoyant as ever, knowing the reason for Claire’s call before she’d spoken a single word.
“Yer goin’ back then?”
After Claire’s confirmation, the older woman had promised Claire and Brianna a warm and safe place for them to stay, safe from Frank, that is. Claire was sure that the moment Frank realized they’d gone and had not returned to the states, he would know exactly what Claire was trying to do. Thankfully, he would be set back by Claire’s last-minute decision to take his passport, leaving him virtually stuck in Paris until he could obtain another, a process which could take months. By the time he would manage to resolve the situation, Claire and Brianna would be long-gone.
They boarded the plane without issue and within moments of take-off Brianna was once again asleep, Claire envied how the girl could fall asleep anywhere, another trait she inherited from Jamie.
Claire remembered the first few weeks after she’d gone through the stones, never comfortable in her sleeping quarters, only managing to fall asleep from pure exhaustion. When she’d finally gotten used to Castle Leoch and slept on a nightly basis, they’d gone on the road, throwing her circadian rhythm once more. Lallybroch had been the only place she’d truly felt comfortable enough to sleep through the first night, having Jamie by her side had made it much easier.
They’d be together again, Claire realized.
For the first time, Claire allowed the thought to truly sink in. They’d be reunited, the wife and child Jamie believed he had lost to time would be back. Their family would be whole and they would live together– die together once they’d reached old-age.
Claire couldn’t wait.
They arrived in Inverness only a few hours after dusk, the chilly summer weather of Scotland was a wonderful break from the humid day in Paris. They breezed through security and by the time they’d collected their luggage, Brianna hanging onto Claire’s neck like an additional bag, Mrs. Graham was waiting for them with open arms and the biggest smile Claire had ever seen.
“Girls!” Mrs. Graham rushed forward, wrapping them both in a warming hug, “It’s so good to see ye again! Look at ye, darling girl,” she cupped Brianna’s supple cheek, “so bonnie. And that hair! Ye truly are a Scot!”
Brianna smiled at the affectionate attention before digging her nose into Claire’s neck from embarrassment.
“She’s so precious!” Mrs. Graham said, watching Brianna with a chuckle. “Oh come, leannan, there’s no need to be so shy.”
“Brianna,” Claire said, rubbing Brianna’s back, “it’s okay lovie, Mrs. Graham is a friend of mine, we’re going to stay with her.”
“Right ye are!” Mrs. Graham agreed, “Let’s get these suitcases in the car and put some food into ye, ye’re too skinny!”
“Let me help,” Claire moved forward as Mrs. Graham began lifting their luggage into her waiting car.
“Nonsense,” Mrs. Graham dismissed her, “Ye take the child, I can handle this, besides, I’m almost done.”
Claire buckled Brianna into the backseat as Mrs. Graham loaded the last bag into the trunk. The two adults settled into the front seats as they began the half-hour drive to their destination.
Mrs. Graham placed her hand over Claire’s which had settled into her lap. Giving her hand a slight squeeze, she asked, “Are ye excited?”
“It’s a dream come true,” Claire responded honestly.
“Ye’ll be home soon, my dear, soon ye’ll be where ye belong.”
Claire knew the older woman was right. Soon she’d be with Jamie and nothing would ever tear them apart.
This chapter took me longer to map out than I thought it would, hopefully, the next updates won't be so spread apart since I know exactly what's happening for the next four chapters.
As always, thanks for reading and all your lovely comments! They make my day and I do take all your thoughts/suggestions into consideration so keep 'em coming.
Thank you so much to my beta albatross1013, truly amazing and I'm so thankful for the help and encouragement. You've truly been a huge mean of support to me– couldn't have done it without you!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Three weeks in Scotland and Claire had yet to find a single trace of Jamie.
The day after Claire and Brianna had arrived, Claire went straight to Reverend Wakefield’s house, knowing he had the largest collection of volumes on Culloden and Scottish life from the eighteenth century. He’d been more helpful than Claire expected. There was fear that he would call Frank, the two being friends, but he’d done nothing of the sort.
Over the past few years, Frank had been hounding the kind Reverend for information regarding a variety of subjects of the uprising and when the Reverend was unable to meet Frank’s requests, he was rewarded with hostility. The back-and-forth of kindness and impatience had continued for three years before the Reverend was left with no choice but to cut all ties with Frank, his toxicity becoming too much to bear. His requests for documents, mentions, or legends all revolved around a single Culloden soldier: James Fraser.
Despite his multiple volumes and penchant for research, the Reverend had been unable to find any concrete record of Jamie besides a signed document sent out by Prince Charlie pledging support. There were mentions of several James Frasers through the uprising but it was almost impossible to pinpoint the correct one based on the context of the records. The British had neglected proper documentation in the days following Culloden, there was no way to know for certain what had happened to Jamie according to historical documents.
But according to Raymond, Jamie had survived, and that was enough for Claire to continue the search, and with the Reverend’s books in her possession, she set up shop in Mrs. Graham’s living room.
The Reverend had been right, there wasn’t a single mention of James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser anywhere: no death record, business holdings or marriage contracts, though Claire was grateful for the nonexistence of the latter. She even tried to find Fergus, hoping if she could find him then Jamie would pop-up in association but like his lord, Fergus was nowhere to be found. The only record she was able to find was the birth of Ian Fraser Murray in 1752, Ian and Jenny’s son no doubt.
Jamie was a wanted traitor, Claire had to remind herself, he wouldn’t have wanted a record, it would have only led to his capture and inevitable death for treason. Hanging or firing squad, the Reverend had said. The reasoning made sense to Claire but left her frustrated nonetheless. He lived, she just had to find out where.
Claire, busy with grueling and disappointing research, also had to contend with an increasingly volatile Brianna. Every day Brianna seemed to grow more ill-tempered in manner, she missed their home in the States, her friends, and most of all Frank. She’d been easy to distract at first, Mrs. Graham spent the first few days after their arrival with a red-headed shadow, telling the young child various stories about fairies as she carried about her chores. Brianna was happy or entertained at the very least, but the longer they stayed the more Brianna began to act out.
She was by no means the worst behaved child in the world, but she wasn’t herself either. Brianna had become prone to tantrums and bouts of inconsolable crying, during which she would repeatedly cry out for Frank. It broke Claire’s heart to see her daughter in such a state. Claire tried to calm her with the promises of the future, how much Jamie, her real father, would love her and spoil her, the adventures she would have with her cousins and older brother, Fergus; but the hopes held no match for the current reality of a five-year-old.
It was the frantic shout: “I don’t want him, I want Daddy!” That made Claire, for the briefest of seconds, rethink her plan. Maybe this was all happening too fast for Brianna; she obviously wasn’t coping as well as Claire hoped and it wasn’t too late to go back, but the thought of being in Jamie’s arms again propelled her forward.
Today much like yesterday and the day before, Claire was buried in a book while Brianna played quietly with some of the toys Joe had sent. It was close to one o’clock in the afternoon when the front door slammed open, causing Claire and Brianna to jump in their respective places.
“Claire, I found him.” the Reverend shouted, practically running to where she sat on the couch with a document in his hands.
“What?” Claire asked, surprised by the sudden intrusion and news.
“I found your highlander,” he repeated, sitting on the couch next to her, “it’s all right here.”
He handed Claire the paper from his hand, it was a list of names, many of which Claire recognized, Rupert Thomas Alexander MacKenzie being the most notable.
“After the battle at Culloden, a few Jacobite soldiers, all seriously wounded, took refuge in an old house... for two days, then they were all taken out to be shot, but one of them, a Fraser of the Master of Lovat's regiment, escaped execution,” he explained, motioning to the names.
“There were a lot of Frasers on the field that day,” Claire said.
“But only five Fraser officers and four of them have their names memorialized on a plaque in the church in Beauly, so... we know for certain that they were killed.”
As her body tensed, Claire asked, “Who was the fifth?”
“James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser,” the Reverend said with a large smile.
“Jamie,” Claire whispered, staring down at the names. “But how? I thought there was no record.”
“Apparently, the British weren’t as careless as we thought, my dear,” he began. “James Fraser was in the capture of Colonel Harold Grey but escaped from the fate of his fellow soldiers. His name was recorded as a capture but he was not among those who were executed, at the very least, he left Culloden Moor alive.”
“Grey…” Claire muttered, settling into the cushions behind her.
Why was the name familiar?
Claire couldn’t place it, but she was sure she’d heard the name from somewhere, spoken by someone perhaps even introduced. In the end, it didn’t matter if she couldn’t remember the name because she now had proof that Jamie survived, and that was all that mattered.
“I can’t believe it,” Claire said, closing her eyes and shaking her head, “we found him, we found him.”
“Yes, it’s quite exciting when the subject of your research makes an appearance, isn’t it? Very thrilling and makes you want to jump right back in! These rare highs make the many lows worth it, don’t they?” the Reverend asked.
“Very much so,” Claire agreed, opening her eyes to look at the older man. “I can’t tell you how much this means to me– I couldn’t ever thank you enough.”
“Your thanks aren’t needed,” he smiled, “I’ve quite enjoyed the process, especially for an unknown man. Why you picked James Fraser to research I will never know, but the chase I will never forget.” he reached over and squeezed one of Claire’s hands.
“Thank you, Reverend,” Claire returned the warm gesture. From the corner of her eye she saw Brianna sitting quietly playing with a doll, a thought struck her, “Do you think Roger might want to come over and play with Brianna? She hasn’t had much interaction with children her own age since we’ve been here, I’m afraid.” Claire asked.
“Well…” The Reverend paused for a moment to think, “I think he would enjoy that very much! I can bring him over tomorrow if you’d like.”
“Please,” Claire nodded.
The Reverend made a promise to bring Roger over the following morning and quickly returned home, leaving Claire giddy with anticipation and a list of newly unforgotten names.
In the following days, it became a repeating occurrence for Roger Wakefield and Fiona Graham to spend time with Brianna, playing with children her age had brightened Brianna’s mood considerably, the trio spent the majority of the day chasing each other and inventing new games. The sound of their laughter made Claire’s heart swell.
The next finding came a week later, Claire was counting and organizing the old coins she’d been able to purchase when she overheard Fiona request a story from her grandmother, the Dunbonnet.
The Dunbonnet was a famous outlaw from the seventeen-hundreds, hiding in various caves throughout Scotland and living off the land. It was until Mrs. Graham described the man as having long, red curly tendrils, “Much like yours, Brianna.” that Claire made the connection. Jamie was also known as ‘Red Jamie’, simultaneously feared and wanted by the British, what’s another alias to Jamie’s already long list?
“Was he ever captured?” Claire asked, leaning against the door frame to the room where the three children sat enchanted by the story Mrs. Graham was telling them.
“No, he wasn’t.” Mrs. Graham answered, watching Claire over the tops of the children’s heads. “Legend has it that he roamed around, never to be caught. Dependin’ on who ye ask, he still lives.”
Claire nodded her head and left Mrs. Graham with the children, heading back into the living room she sat on the couch and stared at the piles of books in front of her. She’d come across the Dunbonnet’s name in one of these books, she just couldn’t remember which.
“Oh, well,” Claire sighed, dragging one of the heavier volumes closer to her. She settled into the cushions and began flipping through the books. Why the Reverend and Frank enjoyed spending all day buried in books Claire would never know, but it was damn well effective.
Turns out, the Dunbonnet was popular just as Mrs. Graham had said, Claire found several mentions of the hooded figure in several books; some described him as a nuisance or a fable while others compared him to Robin Hood. Despite the inconsistencies of what the Dunbonnet did with his time and his overall existence, all of the physical descriptions matched: long, red curly hair matching the color of rust. The first mentions of him, from the older books, stated the Dunbonnet figure and legend started in the prominence of a north-facing tower.
Claire was now sure that the Dunbonnet was in fact Jamie, there were too many similarities for it to be a simple coincidence. Not only had Jamie survived Culloden but he’d made it home to Lallybroch, back to Fraser lands where he could be with his remaining family. In hiding, of course, given the alter ego. Claire wondered if one of the tenants started the rumor to throw the scent off their laird.
Former laird, Clarie reminded herself, for the land technically belonged to Wee Jamie.
Claire couldn’t imagine what he must have gone through, losing everything and living in the former shadow of what he believed to be a perfect life.
Well, she would know soon enough, Claire realized, now that she knew where Jamie was, they were almost ready to travel through the stones. All that remained was procuring period-appropriate clothing for herself and Brianna.
From the boxes Joe had sent, Claire had already packed several of Brianna’s baby photos, mementos of Uncle Lamb, various medicines Joe had snagged from the hospital and twentieth-century identification papers into an old suitcase Mrs. Graham had found in a store window. It was large enough for Claire to pack exactly what they needed yet not too bulky to render it impossible to travel with, blending in for the time.
Satisfied that the research portion of her preparation was done, Claire stacked the books onto the ground and walked down the hall, after a brief check to make sure Brianna was okay, Claire entered the sewing room.
In the middle of the room stood two mannequins, one Claire’s size and the other Brianna’s. Claire would buy most of the clothes she planned to take back, but Mrs. Graham had insisted on making a dress for each of them from scratch. The dresses were a dull tan, a color to help them blend into the crowds and not fancy enough to give the appearance of wealth. The outer fabric was thick and waterproof, covering the layers of pockets and thin petticoats underneath; the dresses would keep them warm, dry and inconspicuous until they could reach the safety of Lallybroch. They were nearly identical, the hood on Brianna’s coat was long with pull strings so her hair could be completely hidden underneath, it would keep her safe.
Claire removed the dress from the mannequin and called Brianna into the room so she could try it on.
“Yes?” Brianna asked, walking into the room.
Claire said, handing Brianna the garment, “Try this on for me.”
It took several minutes, but with Claire’s help, Brianna stood in her new outfit as Claire examined it for any impurities.
“It’s too big,” Brianna said, shifting under the fabric.
“It’s supposed to be,” Claire told her, lifting the hood over Brianna’s head to see how well it covered her, “you’re going to grow and we won’t be able to make you another one, I want it to last as long as possible.”
“Why not?” Brianna questioned, “Won’t they have the stuff to make one where we’re going?”
Claire chuckled, “Yes and no,” she answered honestly, lifting the coats to reach the inner layer. Claire frowned at the zipper trailing down Brianna’s back, remembering the way Mrs. Fitz had stared at the foreign clasps on her bra. Claire wanted the gowns to be as authentic as possible, however, the design worked better with a zipper than laces. They’d just have to be careful with who handled the coats.
“Are we leaving soon? Will Daddy be there?”
“Hopefully within the next week,” Claire said, circling around to face Brianna, “Frank won’t be there, but Jamie will. Do you remember him?”
“Yes,” Brianna nodded tentatively.
Claire had been telling Brianna nonstop about Jamie, hoping to give the girl some sort of familiarity toward him before they met in person. Given her age and lack of understanding, Brianna was excited about the journey. Jamie was still an unknown figure to her, he would simply be there for her when they got to where they were going, but for Claire, he was the destination. One she was eager to reach.
“All right,” Claire started, placing the gown back in its place on the mannequin as Brianna tugged on her final shoe, “go on and play, and behave for Mrs. Graham. I have some more shopping to do.”
“Okay!” Brianna shouted, running down the hall to play with her friends.
It was early in the morning when they set out, the sun was far from rising and the morning dew had yet to settle. Claire watched in the side view mirror as the lights of Mrs. Graham’s home faded into the distance. Claire would miss electricity and indoor plumbing most of all. She’d taken a long, hot shower the night before, relishing as the warm water trailed down her skin knowing it would the last time she ever partook in the luxury.
Brianna was fast asleep in the backseat, bundled in her newly finished outfit with her bear clutched tightly to her chest. The air in the car was thick with anticipation, Mrs. Graham drove silently as Claire thought to their journey ahead.
She was finally going to Jamie.
They reached the hill of Craigh na Dun sooner than Claire expected. While she was excited to go, she wished they could have stayed longer. Claire had finished preparing two days prior, she had everything they would need to get to Lallybroch and to start a fresh life with Jamie and Fergus, she had no reason to delay any longer. Claire planned on talking to Jamie about going to the colonies, the American Revolution wouldn’t start for another twenty-five years, and by then they should be well-established. It was a good plan, one Claire hoped Jamie would agree to.
“Wake up, leannan,” Mrs. Graham spoke softly, gently shaking Brianna to wake her. Brianna’s eyes slowly fluttered open, she frowned when she realized she wasn’t in the bedroom she’d fallen asleep in.
“Mama?” she asked, looking for Claire.
“Right here, lovie,” Claire said, setting the suitcase down on the damp grass and walking where Brianna could see her. “Are you ready to go?”
Once Brianna nodded, Mrs. Graham pulled her from the car and hoisted Brianna onto her hip, preferring to carry the child rather than the bag. Claire shut the doors behind them and walked at the elder woman’s side up the hill, the suitcase hanging in her hand. It had been tough deciding what to pack, their entire lives were now fit into this one rectangular case. The rest of their belongings were stored away at Mrs. Graham’s for safekeeping. Though she doubted their return, Claire wanted something to come back to should the need arise.
When the buzzing filled her ears Claire stopped, suddenly fearful that Brianna wouldn’t be able to go through. What would they do then?
Her concerns were alleviated when Brianna covered her ears with her hands, squinting into the darkness.
“It’s okay, Bree,” Claire assured her daughter, running her hand down Brianna’s back. “Do you hear it?” Claire asked Mrs. Graham curiously.
“No, I don’t.” Mrs. Graham answered, giving Claire a sad smile before placing Brianna gently onto the ground.
“I can’t ever thank you enough,” Claire said, wrapping her arms around Mrs. Graham. Holding the older woman close, Claire felt a sense of camaraderie. She would always have a friend in the future. “I couldn’t have done this without you. Frank–”
“Will never need to ken,” Mrs. Graham interrupted her.
“You’ll send the divorce papers?”
“In a month’s time.”
“Good,” Claire nodded, “good.”
“I canna go any further,” Mrs. Graham said. “The two of ye will have to go by yerselves, but I’ll stay here until I’m sure ye’re gone.”
“Are you sure?” Claire asked, nervous to part half-way up the hill.
“Aye,” Mrs. Graham nodded, “the journey is yours– and your daughter’s. Not mine though it breaks my heart to see ye go.” Mrs. Graham reached across the small distance and stroked Claire’s cheek with her thumb. “I wish ye the best of luck in finding yer love, he’s a lucky man.”
“That he is,” Claire sniffled.
“Goodbye, Bree,” Mrs. Graham turned to the silent Brianna, “I think I’m going to miss you most of all, leannan.” She crouched down and wrapped her arms around the smaller figure. “Be good for yer Mam, aye?”
“I will,” Brianna promised, grabbing Claire’s waiting hand when Mrs. Graham pulled back.
“Go on now, both of ye, get. Ye have a man to find.”
“Let’s go, darling,” Claire said, squeezing Brianna’s hand, and with a final look and smile, Claire and Brianna ascended the hill, leaving Mrs. Graham alone in the dark.
“You hold onto my hand, do you understand? Don’t let go for a single second.” Claire said, guiding Brianna toward the tallest stone.
“Okay, Mama,” Brianna nodded.
“I mean it, Bree,” Claire looked down at her daughter.
Brianna looked from her mother to the stones, “Is it going to hurt?”
“It’s going to feel a bit funny,” Claire answered, “but it’s not going to hurt. All right,” Claire took a long breath, “you have Beary tucked under your arm?”
Brianna nodded, tightening her arm around the stuffed bear.
“On the count of three, you put your hand on the stone,”
“Okay,” Brianna nodded again.
And with a final breath, “One… two… three.”
In case I haven't made it clear guys, this is a slow burn, which makes it that much better in my opinion. Jamie and Claire are going to have tons of obstacles to climb over to be together but they will be together, of course.
Thanks so much for all your comments, reads, and kudos.
As always, stay safe out there!
Back again with another chapter!
It wasn't until I'd already established the timeframe of this fic that I realized I'd veered from the canonical timeline. In this fic, the time difference between the future and past is two years instead of three, and the majority of the events will be moved up a few months, for example, Young Ian is born in July of 1952 instead of November.
Thank you so much to my beta albatross1013, I couldn't have done this without the constant help and encouragement!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“One… two… three.”
They stepped forward in unison, both their hands stretched in front of them as they made contact with the largest stone. Claire shut her eyes as the wind began to whirl around her and she felt a pulling sensation, like being sucked into a spaceless vacuum. She felt the ground disappear beneath her and the only reason she felt alive was Brianna’s hand squeezing her own tightly. It was over by the time she managed to count to ten in her head, suddenly, the ground was back at her feet and the cold Scottish air was nipping at her skin.
“Brianna? Are you okay?” Claire turned to her daughter, Brianna was standing immobile next to her, staring up at the star-filled sky above in her wonder. “Brianna?” she asked again when Brianna didn’t answer.
“Mama… that was… fun!” Brianna bounced on her feet, dropping Claire’s hand and turning back toward the stone, “Can we do it again?”
Claire dropped the suitcase, uncaring where it landed, and lurched forward to grab Brianna before she could touch the stone and disappear. She pulled Brianna to her by the girl’s hood, whipping Brianna around so they were face to face, her bear falling onto the ground below.
“I told you not to let go of my hand,” Claire scolded.
“When we went on the ride! You didn’t say after!” Brianna protested, stomping her foot into the mud.
“Brianna Ellen,” Claire warned, lowering her voice, hoping to stop the incoming tantrum in its tracks, “stop it this instant. I need you to listen to me, okay? This world… this place is different than what you’re used to. If I tell you to do something, do it, no questions asked. Understand?”
Brianna decided to cooperate, for the time being at least, and let her mother know her position by nodding her head. Claire grabbed her bear of the ground and hurriedly shoved it into the suitcase for safekeeping.
“Good,” Claire took Brianna’s hand once more and lifted the suitcase from the ground. They walked to the edge of the hill, Inverness was only a speck in the dark distance, the city’s lights weren’t as bright or noticeable as they were in the twentieth century. The stones had worked, Claire’s third and hopefully final passage had been successful. They were in the eighteenth century, though Claire was unsure of the exact date; if her calculations were correct and the timeline reliable, they were in 1752. She would have to wait until morning to find out for sure.
Claire’s plan was simple, they would start in Inverness, purchase a horse and a small number of supplies to last them until they reached Lallybroch. Just in case, Mrs. Graham had packed them a day’s worth of rations consisting of PB&J’s, jerky, a pint of water, and a flask full of whiskey. Claire hoped to be at Lallybroch and in Jamie’s arms by the day after tomorrow. They’d purposefully gone through before dawn to allow them a full first day of travel. The sooner they began, the sooner they’d finish.
“Come on, Bree,” Claire tugged lightly on her daughter’s hand to get her moving. They walked in silence, nothing except the sounds of crickets to accompany them. They went slow, the mud beneath their shoes making the already treacherous hill harder to climb down. Claire could see no more than five feet in front of her, the fog and darkness of night obscuring her vision. They had walked on no more than a few feet of flat ground when Brianna’s hand slipped from Claire as she tumbled to the ground.
Claire was expecting a cry or a sniffle, but instead, Brianna screamed.
Claire dropped the suitcase and bent to the ground, trying to offer her daughter comfort as well as the reason for her screams. Brianna looked unharmed, there were no obvious signs of blood and she wasn’t in distress. It took a few seconds before Claire realized Brianna wasn’t screaming in pain but terror.
“Brianna, what happened?” Claire yelled, trying to get through Brianna’s continued screams. Fearful of attracting unwanted attention, Claire clamped her hand around Brianna’s mouth, the screams turning into whimpers. “Bree? I need you to calm down, why are you screaming?”
Brianna simply pointed behind Claire, the source of her fear and the reason for her tumble, was the unmistakable white of bone protruding from a bush.
Claire dropped her hand from Brianna’s mouth and moved forward, pushing away the green to reveal a full skeleton underneath, “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” Claire cursed, eyeing the scene before her. The skeleton was complete, resting just as the person had died, a highland warrior based on the destroyed kilt covering the lower half. Claire couldn’t designate which clan this man had belonged to, knowing just enough to know he wasn’t a MacKenzie or Fraser, the tartan’s pattern was wrong.
In all the scenarios Claire had imagined, this was not one of them. Brianna’s first look at her new life was not supposed to be a dead warrior, she would have preferred some beautiful flower, or ideally, Jamie’s face would have been the first thing associated, but they were in a world full of violence and short life spans. This skeleton was simply a reminder as to why Jamie sent her and their unborn daughter away.
“Mama?” Bree sniffled, dragging Claire’s thoughts to the present.
“It’s all right, you’re okay.”
Claire began to turn toward Brianna, ready to whisk her away, when a glint of silver caught her eye. She brushed away the dirt to reveal a sgian dubh settled next to the dead man’s lower right leg. Claire grabbed the dagger from the ground, being careful not to disturb the skeleton, with the dagger free Claire wiped the blade on her coat. The blade’s weight was familiar in her grip, similar to the one Jamie had given her so many years ago.
Frank had confiscated hers while she had still been recovering in hospital, claiming there was no need for her to own such a weapon. He’d taken it and Claire never saw it again. She assumed he had kept it hidden or donated it to one of his scholar friends. Nonetheless, Claire never forgot how to yield the knife and easily slipped the six-inch blade in her stocking. At least now, she wouldn’t have to buy one.
Claire took Brianna’s hand and the suitcase and walked away from the bush, already willing her mind to forget the scene.
They made it to Inverness by dawn, the sun was just making itself known on the horizon as they walked down the dirt road, Claire pulled Brianna’s hood up as soon as they entered the city’s radius. The residents were just beginning to wake; laborers toiled in the streets, lifting and pulling carts, herding animals while owners began opening their shops. The smell of freshly made bannocks hung in the air making Claire’s stomach growl, Brianna’s too as she stared at everything in fascination, her nose sniffing the air.
Claire approached the bakery, trading a few coins for a warm, round freshly baked bannock wrapped in cloth. They stepped away from the bakery and Claire tore off a piece of the bread, handing it to Brianna who scarfed it down hungrily.
“Did you like that?”
“Yes! Can I have another?” Brianna asked, standing on the tip of her toes to get closer.
“Of course,” Claire handed her another piece, “they taste even better with honey and butter. Your Aunt Jenny makes a wonderful jam, it’s absolutely delicious,”
Brianna looked up in confusion at the word “aunt”, Claire had only given the girl a brief rundown of the family outside of Jamie and Fergus. Brianna would soon be surrounded by a large family who loved her, it made Claire’s heart swell with the thought. Frank had been an amazing father and an adequate husband, Brianna was always taken care of and given what she needed. However, through the first few years of Brianna’s life she had no family outside of Claire and Frank, the Beauchamps were dead and the Randalls in England, depriving Brianna of the large family she deserved. The Fraser/Murrays were the epitome of a close familial relationship, and even the MacKenzies despite their flaws kept family close to their hearts.
After all these years, Brianna would finally have the large, loving family she deserved. Claire was thankful that Brianna would get to experience such a feeling.
The bannock was all but devoured by the time Claire had managed to find a stable willing to sell a horse. It was a beast, similar in look to Donas but much more friendly with light grey hair. Claire walked around its stall, doing her best to imitate Jamie’s inspection of the creatures. She learned from him that a horse’s eyes had to be clear and alert, weight needed to be placed evenly amongst all their legs, have a shiny coat with a healthy appetite and thirst.
“Can you lift its hooves, please? I want to look at the shoe.” Claire said.
The stable boy did as she asked, carefully lifting the front right leg for Claire to expect. The bottom of its hoof was unscathed, lacking the warning signs of cuts, bumps, or pustules. Satisfied with her examination, she let the stable boy drop the hoof and ran her hand along the back of the horse.
“I’ll take him,” she said with a smile.
It was mid-morning by the time Claire and Brianna rode slowly out of town, having purchased another bannock due to Brianna’s delight and a few other supplies, they were ready for the journey. Brianna was situated in front of Claire with their suitcase tied securely to the saddlebag the stable had graciously provided. Claire hadn’t ridden a horse in years, Brianna never, so they rode slowly, bouncing with the clip-clop of the horse’s hooves. It would take them longer to get to Lallybroch this way but Claire didn’t mind too much, preferring safety over speed.
Claire permitted Brianna to let down her hood, the sun bounced off Brianna’s red hair, almost blinding Claire with the red glow. They stuck to the side of the road, getting out of the way of travelers hurrying toward their destination, Claire was thankful and a tad curious as to why they hadn’t come across a single redcoat so far. From what the Reverend told her, they should be all over the place.
“Can we name him Ash?” Brianna asked, looking back at Claire.
“The horse,” Brianna said, “can we name him Ash? He needs a name.”
Claire thought for a moment, this horse was the closest Brianna had ever had to having a pet, it made sense she would want to name it.
“Ash sounds lovely,” Claire smiled down at Brianna who bounced with glee. “You’re going to love the farm, Bree, your aunt and uncle have lots of animals! Horses, dogs, pigs, and sheep, I think there was even a cat.”
“A dog?” Brianna asked hopefully. “Can I get one?”
“We’ll have to talk to your father, aunt, and uncle about that but I don’t see why not.” Claire was sure they would let the girl get one, however, Claire had no idea how they would even get a dog.
“So Daddy is meeting us there! How come he didn’t travel with us?”
“Jamie, Bree, Jamie is going to be there, your–”
“Real daddy,” Brianna finished, interrupting Claire.
Claire nodded, “I know this is all confusing, darling, but we’re better off here, trust me.”
“I trust you, Mama,” Claire barely heard Brianna mumble before the young girl rested her head back against Claire’s chest and fell silent.
Despite their slow speed, they were making great progress. They stopped periodically to allow the horse to graze and drink water, allowing Claire and Brianna to stretch their legs. By nightfall, Claire estimated that they were a third of the way to Lallybroch, passing the road to Beauly many hours before. She didn’t know their exact location, she just knew up north was Leoch, south was Glasglow, and west was Lallybroch.
Claire tied Ash to a tree, helping Brianna down from the horse before setting up camp for the night. Claire had smartly brought matches with her but decided to light the fire without them, the matches would only last so long. She found two rocks for the purpose and showed Brianna how to move them together, creating a spark that would lead to a roaring fire.
“Now, you try,” Claire said, handing Brianna the rocks once the fire was lit. Brianna did her best, rubbing the rocks together as Claire had, it took several minutes and strikes, but eventually, a spark made Brianna’s face break out into a smile.
“Look, Mama! I did it.”
“Yes, you did, good job Bree.”
“Can we eat now?” Brianna asked, settling down next to the fire for warmth.
“Of course,” Claire said, pulling out the wrapped sandwiches and pieces of jerky. They conversed quietly, Brianna doing most of the talking, repeating the sights she had seen during their first day, the many horses having been her favorite. While Brianna talked, Claire focused on keeping the fire alive but low. They weren’t on the main road, a little ways from it, but Claire was sure their fire would stand out against the surrounding darkness, she had no desire to attract attention from anybody.
Brianna slept peacefully through the night, curling into Claire’s side with her head resting on her mother’s stomach. Claire, on the other hand, was merely able to doze for no more than an hour, being awoken by the once-familiar sounds around them. Ash stayed calm and steady, telling Claire that there was no immediate danger nearby, remembering how Jamie could tell the danger level by the way a horse acted. The small reassurance didn’t snuff her fears, however, and Claire found herself waking with any small sound: the rustling of leaves, hooting of owls, and howling of wolves.
Every once in a while Claire would hear voices in the distance and the neighs of horses of passing travelers on the main road, making her body tense with fear and suspicion until they could no longer be heard.
They set out at daybreak, keeping the same pace as the day before to reach Lallybroch the next day. Claire once again stayed silent as Brianna talked away, pointing out every pretty flower or animal she’d never seen before. It was around noon when they had their first encounter with a redcoat.
Claire noticed Ash move nervously, whipping his head around to try and see whatever noise he’d picked up, Brianna had to grip the reins to keep from sliding off. Soon, Caire heard it too, the shouting of a man and the galloping of a horse coming from behind. She tightened Brianna’s hood over her hair just as the man passed and stopped in front of them, essentially blockading them.
“Whoa, whoa,” Claire said to Ash, gently pulling back the reins to get him to stop. “What can I do for you, soldier?” Claire asked the man with a smile, doing her best to pull Brianna closer without making it noticeable.
The redcoat pulled off his tricorn hat, holding it to his chest and bowing his head at them, his black hair perfectly flattened from the cap.
“The question, my Lady, is what I can do for you. What is a fine English woman and child doing by themselves in the middle of hostile territory?” he asked.
Claire frowned, this man was the first and only person to have interacted with them thus far.
She quickly morphed her frown into a false look of admiration, “Why, I’m just seeing what brave men such as yourself have managed to do with savages such as Scots. I’ve heard the rumors, you know, turning them back toward the rightful King and God.”
He seemed appeased by her answer, lifting his hat to rest on his head once more with a smile, “It truly is magnificent,” he began, “and so well worth the time. All of the land reunited under the one true King, why, it warms my heart.”
“And mine,” Claire added.
“Mmm, yes,” he said with a single nod, “but that still doesn’t explain why you’re alone with no escort.”
“Oh, um,” Claire bit her lip, trying to quickly come up with an answer.
“You know,” Brianna began before Claire could stop her, “you’d travel much faster by car, you should get one! I like horses but they’re so slow.”
Claire felt her pulse quicken.
“Car?” the man questioned, staring at Brianna.
“Yes! A car–”
Claire covered Brianna’s mouth with her hand before she could say another word.
“Don’t mind her, soldier, she’s delirious with fever,” Claire explained.
“Fever, you say?” the soldier leaned closer to get a better look at Brianna, “She does look a bit ill.” his eyes narrowed.
“Yes, I thought the fresh countryside air would do her some good as well as show her the hardworking–”
“I shall escort you to the nearest outpost, there’s one not far from here,” he said matter-of-factly, resting back onto his horse, “we’ll be there in no time and your daughter can get the care she deserves.”
“Really, there’s no need,” Claire said, trying to think of an excuse to get him to leave.
Just then, as ill-fated as their luck was, a strand of Brianna’s hair escaped its confines, blowing in the summer breeze. The soldier noticed, leaning forward once more as if trying to confirm his unspoken conclusion.
“She’s contagious!” Claire shouted, the man lurching back as a result. “Highly contagious, in fact, I think it’s the beginning stages of the pox. We were kicked out of our lodgings, you see,”
“My word… you poor girl,” he gave Brianna a look of pity, “And what of yourself, Madam?”
“I’m her mother, is it not my job to look after her?”
“Where’s her father? Your husband?”
“Well, he’s,” Claire motioned down to Brianna, “dead,” she spoke softly.
“Ah, yes,” he nodded in understanding, “I see, no need to panic the child. Well, I simply can’t take you to the outpost in such circumstances, I’m afraid.”
“Of course not,” Claire agreed.
The man nodded, again, taking the reins of his horse in hand, he bid them farewell.
Claire watched as the redcoat disappeared down the road, going in the same direction as she was planning. Claire decided it was no longer safe to travel on the main road, the man would surely recognize them if they passed and he was definitely going to spread the word of a pox case. Claire gently veered Ash to the right, off the main road, and through the bushes and trees. They stopped less frequently, Claire hoped to make it to Lallybroch sooner, somewhere safe and protected from any more British soldiers.
Claire slept restlessly again that night, not bothering to keep the fire Brianna had started lit. The next morning, they set off a bit later than Claire would have liked, Brianna refused to get up and back on the horse. It took coaxing, and promises of more bannocks to get Brianna moving.
Within a few hours, Claire resigned herself to the fact that they were lost. They were moving west, Claire was assured by her compass, but their exact location and proximity to Lallybroch was unknown. Their stomachs grumbled, Claire unwisely had not rationed their food, Brianna had eaten the last of their provisions for lunch the day before. Claire forced Brianna to drink large amounts of water while she drank whiskey, hoping the liquids would trick their stomachs thinking they were full.
“Mama, what was that?” Brianna asked, stopping in their tracks. Claire held Ash steady, hoping to hear what Brianna was talking about. “You hear it?” Brianna looked at Claire.
“I don’t…” Claire trailed off, trying to focus on their surroundings. It took a few minutes before I realized what Brianna was talking about; voices, shouting voices could be heard close by.
Claire frowned, why did the voices sound familiar?
“Bree, stay here,” Claire instructed, tying Ash to a tree and motioning for Brianna to stand close to him. “I’m going to be right back, don’t move from this spot until I come and get you.”
Claire left Brianna and Ash alone in the brush, slowly walking towards the shouting.
“Blood money!” A male voice shouted, followed by a series of grunts.
“Ye gave me no choice, brother. And I’ll never forgive you. Never!” This time it was a woman.
Claire watched, hidden by the plants, as two redcoats wrestled a large man into a waiting cart. He fought them, twisting his massive body, trying to get away but achieving nothing. It wasn’t until Claire caught sight of the man’s eyes that all the pieces fell together.
“Jamie?” she whispered, stepping out of her hiding place when the redcoats disappeared. Sure enough, Jamie, her Jamie, was encased behind steel bars. “Jamie!” she said louder, hoping to get his attention without attracting the guards.
“What?” he grunted, stopping his thrashing long enough to peer through his cage. “Sassenach?” he asked in surprise, his eyes widening.
Before she could say another word, the cart jerked to life, and with it Jamie.
“Sassenach!” he yelled, thrashing about once more, “Let me go! No, Claire!”
She watched helplessly as they pulled him away, she could still hear his cries despite having disappeared from view. Claire took a few steps forward, unsure of what to do next, this was not how their reunion was supposed to go. Her mind fogged with the possibilities of his capture.
Where were they taking him? What was going to happen?
She was so lost in thought that Claire didn’t hear the upcoming footsteps from behind and the subsequent gasp.
Claire turned slowly, only to find the shocked face of her sister-in-law, Jenny Fraser Murray, standing a few feet away.
Yes, this was my plan all along and exactly what I meant regarding a slow burn, nothing is ever easy for our favorite couple– and it won't be for some time. I'm sure you can all guess exactly where Jamie is going but we'll cover it next chapter regardless. Fear not, however, there will be some light fluff next chapter to brighten up the darkened mood.
Thanks for reading everyone, I really appreciate it and I'm looking forward to seeing what you guys think.
As always, be safe and stay healthy.
Thank you so much to my beta albatross1013 for the advice and encouragement while writing this as well as pointing out that the Ian's–senior and young– had brown hair... I can't be the only one who thought they were redheads, right?
This chapter is a bit dialogue heavy, sorry, I tried to space it out so it doesn't drag on too long, the next chapter will be much better!
“Jenny?” Claire asked, meeting Jenny’s gaze. Despite her shaking hands, Claire felt her body go numb, her respiration increased and the only sound she could hear was her heart pounding in her ears. She was going into shock, her mind dimly realized.
Jenny seemed to be in a similar state, unmoving except for the flash of expressions across her face, alternating between confusion, relief, regret, and anger. They stared at each other quietly, neither mentally nor emotionally in a place to break the uneasy space that divided them.
Jenny looked exactly as Claire remembered her, dark blue eyes furrowed with her long brown hair curled into a bun on the top of her head. The beginnings of wrinkles could be seen on her otherwise pristine forehead, the result of having her brother as a wanted criminal, no doubt. Her breasts were heavy with what Claire assumed to be milk, Claire remembered finding the birth record of a new baby, the child would be no more than a month old.
Jenny crossed her arms, her face settling into resolution, “Ye must be a ghost to brave comin’ back here.”
“What?” Claire responded, her voice shaky.
“Ye heard what I said,” Jenny snapped, “only a ghost would be foolish enough to back come here after all this time.”
Jenny’s words flew over Claire’s head, her mind kicking into gear once more as her brain finally processed Jamie’s arrest. Claire turned, ignoring the snort from Jenny’s mouth as she stared down the path that the redcoats had taken Jamie.
“Where are they taking him?”
“Jamie, Jenny!” Claire yelled, whipping around to face Jenny. “The redcoats took him, where are they going? Why the hell would anyone turn him in the first place? He’s their laird, your brother.”
“Exactly, my brother, dinna go blabbin’ about things ye canna understand,” Jenny said, poking her chest, “ye’ve no matters here anymore. What happens to Jamie is none of yer concern.”
“He’s my husband!”
“No!” Jenny shouted, her voice easily loud enough to overpower Claire’s. “He stopped bein’ yer husband when we grieved ye,'' Jenny's body began to shake with emotion, “ye’re nothin’ more than a ghost now, and as I said, we’ve no room for ghosts at Lallybroch. Ye’re no’ welcome here anymore.”
“Jenny…” Claire began, pausing to try and think of the right thing to say. It was clear Jenny was upset, whether it was because of her disappearance or sudden arrival Claire didn’t know. They didn’t have the time to find out, however, Jamie was being carted off further and further away the more they just stood around and argued. If they had any hope of rescuing Jamie and reuniting him with his family they had to move fast, but Claire needed help.
Help from the Murray’s would only come in tandem with Jenny’s blessing and permission.
“I know I have a lot to explain and I promise I will but you have to tell me what happened with Jamie, I have to know if he’s going to be all right.”
Claire watched as for the briefest of seconds Jenny’s face fell into concern, she was just as worried about Jamie as Claire, that much was clear, but in true Fraser fashion, she refused to budge. Locking her feet into the ground, unwilling to waver from the position she’d already set; Jenny was as stubborn as ever, just like her brother and niece.
“Ye’re no welcome here,” Jenny said, her voice slow, trying to hide the emotions threatening to barrel out, “I’m no’ goin’ to say it again. Go away and dinna come back, there’s nothin’ ye can do about it anyway.”
“Surely you don’t believe that?” Claire asked, dumbfounded by Jenny’s statement, the old Jenny would have never given up on her brother, not too long they had ridden into the night in search of Jamie but now… something was off and Claire couldn’t pinpoint what. “Jenny–” Claire began.
A rustling came from the side of the road, the women broke their stand-off to turn towards the noise, only to see bright red hair emerge from the green bushes.
“Mama!” Bree yelled, beginning to walk toward Claire but stopped when she noticed Jenny. “Mama…” Bree’s voice was softer, questioning with hints of curiosity and fear.
“Mama?” Jenny looked from Bree to Claire, “Ye’ve got to be kiddin’ me.”
“Perhaps we should go inside, aye? Seems we have a lot to speak of.”
They turned once more, this time in the opposite direction as Ian stood directly parallel from Bree, the four of them forming a cross in the road. No one moved, Ian and Jenny shared looks of a silent argument while Bree looked to Claire for assurance and comfort. Claire wanted nothing more than to rush forward and trap Brianna in a hug, however, she didn’t move a muscle, afraid of setting Jenny off again.
It was Ian who moved first, hobbling slowly across the road to Bree, kneeling in front of her and giving her the biggest smile.
“Hello, little one,” his voice was soft, “I’m guessin’ I’m yer Uncle Ian. Am I no’?” he addressed Claire at the end of his sentence, looking at her for confirmation which Claire gave without hesitation. “What’s yer name, lass?”
“Brianna Ellen,” Brianna answered, even though Jenny wasn’t in her direct sight Claire could see Jenny’s shoulders stiffen at Brianna’s name.
“Brianna Ellen,” Ian repeated, his Scottish tongue rolling the R, making it more pronounced. “A bonnie name for a bonnie wee lass.”
“I’m not wee… are you really my uncle?” Brianna asked, stepping forward. No longer shy, she reached a small hand towards the thin brown locks covering Ian’s dirty forehead.
“I am,” Ian nodded, “and that’s yer Auntie,” he motioned to his wife behind him who had gone completely still and quiet.
Brianna leaned around Ian to look at Jenny, giving her a once-over before returning her attention to her uncle, “Do you need any help?” Brianna asked, watching Ian as he began to stand, not waiting for an answer, Bree grabbed Ian by his elbow and did her best to raise him from the ground. In the end, her help did nothing, her tiny body no match for Ian’s but he smiled and thanked her nonetheless. Ian grasped Brianna’s hand, propelling the two women forward as he led Brianna through the gates of Lallybroch for the first time.
“Is it just the two of you?” Ian asked Claire.
“Yes, well, no, our horse is tied through the bushes,” Claire answered, walking slowly behind Ian and Brianna.
“Rabbie!” Ian yelled.
Seconds later, a teenage boy ran forward, long brown hair tied behind his head.
“Rabbie McNabb?” Claire looked from the boy to Ian.
“Aye, the very one,” Ian nodded.
“Yes, Mister Murray?” Rabbie asked.
Claire stood silent as Ian told the boy to get Ash and bring him to the paddock, instructing that the horse be fed and watered.
The exterior of the estate hadn’t changed, Claire noticed as she surveyed the scene before her.
The yard was still full of animals lazing around in their pens, the stone frame of the house was cracked from age and weather erosion, the garden was weeded and growing beautifully. Two dogs slept peacefully on the stairs to the house, a perfect recreation of the scene Claire was created with on her first visit. It was almost as if nothing had changed, Claire would have believed so if it wasn’t for the specks of grey in Ian and Jenny’s hair.
“Fergus?” Claire turned to Ian when she didn’t immediately notice her son amongst the gaggle of teenagers by the edge of the yard. She didn’t recognize any of the children, she assumed one of them to be Wee Jamie but the others couldn’t possibly identify.
“He’s out in the field,” Ian said, “we had to send him out when the guards came. He would have tried to stop them, would no’ have ended well, if ye ken what I mean. Oh, Claire, he’ll be so happy to see ye.” Ian gave her a smile before leading them all inside into the dining room.
Similar to the exterior the interior had remained the same, paintings adorned the walls, covering the wallpaper beneath, the same furniture in the same place with the tiny decorative pieces unmoved.
Brianna sat into the chair Ian pulled out for her before calling Mary– the cook Claire assumed –to retrieve food and drink. Claire took the seat next to Brianna as Ian sat across from them, Claire felt hurt yet unsurprised when Jenny sat as far from them as she could.
Ian thanked Mary and dismissed her, instructing the woman to fetch Fergus and then make herself scarce, they were to remain undisturbed until he said otherwise. While the adults stared at each other in awkward silence, Brianna dug into the plate that had been placed before her.
“She’s quite the appetite, aye?” Ian said, “Jamie was the same at her age, couldna get enough food into his body, he was always hungry.”
“I can barely keep up with her sometimes,” Claire admitted with a smile, thankful that Ian had broken the uneasy silence. Claire didn’t think she could take much more of the daggers Jenny was giving her when she wasn’t staring at Bree, that is.
It wasn’t long before the doors to the living room swung open, shutting just as quick when the boy was in the room.
“Milady!” Fergus said, a smile spreading across his face. He rushed forward just as Claire jumped from her chair, wrapping her arms around him and hugging him to her chest.
“Fergus, oh, Fergus.” Claire cried happily, burying her nose into the mop of curls on his head.
“I thought I’d never see you again, I thought… well, I guess I don’t know what I thought,” Fergus said.
“Let me look at you,” Claire told him, gently pushing him to arm's length to take in his appearance. He was no longer the short, scraggly boy she had left but a tall, muscled teenager, practically a man, Claire noted. His hair was still wild, his curls hanging down his forehead to cover his beautiful hazel eyes. “My God, look at you, all grown up.” Claire smiled, moving her hand to cup his cheek lovingly. Her eyes trailed down his form once more, almost as if to reassure herself that he was in fact standing before her, her breath hitched when she noticed how the flesh of his left arm turned to a rounded stump.
“I’ll explain later, I don’t even notice it anymore,” he promised with a smile noticing where her eyes had landed, “I can’t believe you’re back, milady, milord is going to be thrilled…” he trailed off, his smile dropping to a frown as he thought of Jamie.
“I know,” Claire said, using her index finger to lift his chin, recovering from her stupor, “we’ll get him back, don’t worry, we always do, don’t we?”
“Oui,” Fergus nodded in agreement.
“In the meantime, Fergus,” Claire wrapped her arm around Fergus’ shoulder and moved him to stand next to Brianna. “This is Brianna, your, well, your sister.”
Fergus’ breath hitched, looking from Brianna to Claire and back again in surprise, “My sister,” he whispered.
“Hello!” Brianna greeted between bites of the potato she was clutching in her hand.
“Here, mon petite,” Fergus said, breaking away from Claire’s hold to sit next to Brianna. He took the potato from Brianna’s grasp and cut it into smaller pieces for her on the table, handing them back to her as he cut each section. “It’s easier to eat this way.”
Claire smiled at them, it was clear that they would get along perfectly, Claire was thankful. She was worried about how Brianna might react to him, suddenly no longer an only child, but Brianna surprised Claire by allowing Fergus to help her, usually, Brianna wouldn’t accept help from anyone who wasn’t her mother or Frank.
“Weel, are you goin’ to stand around all day or tell us whatever ye’ve come to say?” Jenny asked, ripping Claire’s attention from her children.
“Right,” Claire nodded, sitting back down in her chair, “I–I thought Jamie died at Culloden. He was prepared–we prepared for it– for him to go down with his men. We found out the same day that I was pregnant with Bree so he sent me away. He said it would be safer for me and for our child to be as far from Scotland as we could, given his status as an outlaw, you know?” Claire began to explain. She’d been practicing their story, their lie, since Raymond had visited. Claire knew they would have to have an explanation for her absence, she’d mastered it on their journey to Lallybroch, able to recite it without hesitation.
“I’ll stop ye right there,” Jenny said, interrupting Claire, “my brother loved ye so and I ken if he kent ye were with child again he would never have sent ye away. He would have sent ye here.”
“Jenny, let her finish,” Ian said to his wife, Jenny snorted in response, waving her hand for Claire to continue.
Claire shook her head, pleading with her eyes for Jenny to understand, “I boarded a ship to the Colonies, remarried soon after I arrived– it was a matter of survival– you have to believe me. I did what I had to do to survive, for myself and Bree, and when he died,” Claire looked at Bree as she spoke, breathing out a sigh of relief when Brianna didn’t react to her words, “I decided that Bree had to know, deserved to know about Jamie so we came back, except I didn’t find a grave, I heard rumors about the Dunbonnet and I just knew it was him.”
Ian nodded in approval, the story sitting well with him as a good enough explanation, Jenny, on the other hand, didn’t look convinced.
“I hear... truth in what ye’re sayin’ but I can see in yer eyes, there’s somethin’ yer keepin’ from me. Yer no tellin’ the whole truth, part of what yer sayin’ is a lie, and I’m no’ interested in hearin’ such things.” Jenny said, jabbing her finger on the table.
“My mama is not lying!” Brianna suddenly shouted, surprising all three adults and Fergus who looked at her in response. “We lived in Boston with my daddy but then we went on a ride, through some stones, and came here.”
“What in the devil is she talkin’ about?” Jenny asked, frowning at Brianna.
“Bree,” Claire sighed, hoping to catch her daughter’s attention which was stuck firmly on Jenny.
“Weel then, care to try again?” Jenny turned back to Claire.
Claire looked to Ian for support but Brianna’s outburst seemed to drain him of whatever faith he’d placed in her, his face stoic and unreadable.
“You won’t believe me,” Claire said, void of hope, it had been a miracle that Jamie had believed her in the first place. He’d wanted it kept hidden from Jenny and Ian, afraid they wouldn’t understand, but if Claire could make the bullheaded Murtagh believe, then she could try with her in-laws.
“I’m from the future, I was born in 1918 and in 1946 I was on holiday with my husband, Frank, and when I visited the standing stones at Craigh na Dun I was transported here, two hundred years in the past. I don’t know why, I don’t know how but I was, and I’m grateful for it. I met so many people, met Jamie because of it, I met all of you.”
“Have ye lost yer mind?” Jenny asked, shaking her head at Claire, “That’s all nonsense!”
“You asked for the truth and I’m giving it to you!” Claire shouted, “I knew what would happen at Culloden, the failed Jacobite uprising, and that’s why we went to Paris– to stop it but we failed. I went back because it was safer for me and the baby, if I had known he would live… I wouldn’t have gone, but at the time it was the only choice I had.”
“How did ye ken to come back?” Ian asked, his voice at a whisper.
“I found out Jamie was alive and for the first time in years I felt hope, true hope, and I just knew I had to come back. I want us to be a family, all four of us, Jamie and I together with Brianna and Fergus. Don’t we deserve that chance?”
“How do we ken this isn’t a lie?”
“Look me in my eyes, Jenny, you said you could tell I was lying before, am I lying now?” Claire made eye contact with Jenny, leaning as far as the table would allow so Jenny could see her eyes, “I’m from the future.” Claire said slowly.
Jenny took a deep breath, holding eye contact with Claire for several seconds before she closed her eyes and relaxed back into the chair.
“I… I think I believe ye,” Jenny admitted, “God, I’m as insane as ye!”
“How else do you think I knew to grow potatoes?” Claire gave her a sad smile, “ I knew what would happen and how it would help.”
“Aye, and it did, saved us for many winters,” Ian confirmed.
“Now that you believe me,” Claire squared her shoulders, “why don’t you tell me what happened to Jamie?”
Jenny opened her mouth several times, unsure of how to string together an explanation of what had happened, in the end, it took two hours for Jenny to finish.
Jamie had arrived at Lallybroch almost a week after Culloden, broken and scarred– emotionally and physically– but alive, nonetheless. Jenny did her best to heal his physical wounds, cleaning them with alcohol as she’d seen Claire do and wrapped them with fresh linens. Her work wasn’t perfect but he lived, he got better and soon enough Jamie was moving around the estate.
At first, he lived with them inside the house, he and Fergus spent most of their nights together, taking solace in the other, until the raids by redcoats began. They would show up with enough warning for Jamie to hide but left a trail of destruction in their wake, tearing apart the house and oftentimes arresting Ian for made-up charges. Eventually, Jamie couldn’t take it anymore, resigning himself to live as a hermit in the caves nearby. He would forge for food, hunt game which he would bring back to the farm and was never gone for long, around to see the birth of his nephew and the loss of Fergus’ hand.
Claire had to shut her eyes when Jenny talked about Fergus’ scuffle with the redcoats, doing her best to keep her face neutral and the emotions at bay. Fergus, who was still cutting Brianna’s food, tensed when Jenny began, relaxing almost immediately when Jenny moved on to her and Jamie’s plan. They need money, desperately, and it was Jamie’s idea to use the price on his head to fund the farm. It was arranged that Jenny would call the guard, telling them of Jamie’s impending arrival and he would be arrested; Jenny claimed the reward money before someone else could.
. Throughout Jenny’s explanation, Ian had been refilling their drams with sorely needed whisky, but by the time Jenny finished talking Claire was buzzed from the alcohol and the wave of knowledge.
“Now, ye ken everythin',” Jenny finished, leaning back in her chair with a sigh, “they’ve taken him away. I dinna think… dinna ken if there’s anythin’ we can do about it.”
Ian nodded grimly, “They took him to Ardsmuir most like, at least they’re no longer hangin’ Jacobite soldiers, he’ll probably get a hefty sentence though given his reputation and position to Prince Charlie.”
“There’s something we can do, there’s always something we can do, I just can’t think straight right now,” Claire said, rubbing her temples to try and ward off the impending headache.
“Aye, it’s been a night,” Ian said, draining the last of his dram before standing from the table, “I’ve had Mary make up the laird’s room for ye, I ken Wee Jamie is laird now but I’d rather ye have it. Jamie stayed in it a bit while he healed, we never moved back in when he could no longer stay. I think it’s only right that ye and the bairn stay there.”
For the first time that night, Jenny nodded in agreement with her husband.
“Thank you,” Claire smiled at Ian, standing from the chair and looking expectantly at Fergus, “Fergus? Would you like to stay with us?”
“No, I, uh, I have my own room, milady,” Fergus seemed to look everywhere except Claire. “Good night, mon petite,” Fergus said to Brianna, leaning down to place a kiss on her red hair, “I’ll see ye tomorrow. Auntie, Uncle,” he gave Ian and Jenny a bow before rushing from the room.
“Good night!” Brianna called after him followed by a large yawn.
Claire watched him leave, confused as to why he was leaving in such a hurry, saying goodbye to everyone but her.
“He needs time,” Jenny supplied.
“I suppose…” Claire sighed.
Ian led them to their room, their suitcase waiting for them at the edge of the bed, Ian wished them good night before leaving and closing the door behind him. The room was practically just as Claire and Jamie had left it before Culloden, her trunk of dresses from Paris was in the corner while her small number of cosmetics rested on the vanity.
Claire helped Brianna dress into the shift left on the bed, an old one of Maggie’s, Claire assumed. The gown was slightly too big for Brianna, the hem of the dress dangled at her ankles, hanging loosely around her slim frame. Brianna was asleep the moment she was tucked under the blankets.
Claire stared at the space above her as she laid in bed, overwhelmed with a sense of belonging and loss. They were finally home but Jamie wasn’t with them, he was either already at the prison or spending the night in his mobile cell. Wherever he was, Claire hoped he was comforted with the knowledge that she was here, and she would soon be coming for him.
He had to know that, right?
Claire felt conflicted, the thought of Jenny turning Jamie in made her stomach churn, even though Jenny made it quite clear it was all Jamie’s idea, she had been squarely against it. However, at the same time, Claire understood Jenny’s situation. Claire had practically done the same thing, acting out a plan set forth by Jamie so what little he could do for his family could be done. Jamie had been right, no matter how reluctant Claire was to admit, Brianna had had a wonderful life in the future with Frank as her father.
Frank may have been a terrible husband, though it wasn’t all his fault, he was an amazing father to Brianna. Doting on her since the moment she’d been born, his perfect little angel, Brianna had everything she could possibly need or want since Frank was rarely able to tell his princess no– a source of many of their arguments. Despite the luxuries of the future and somewhat idealistic lives they led, Claire had never felt properly in place, but now, two hundred years in the past Claire felt content. She felt home. She hoped that soon, Brianna would feel the same.
For the first time in weeks, Claire slept all through the night, peacefully.
Thank you so much to my beta albatross1013 for the advice and encouragement while writing this– my truly perfect soundboard for all ideas before the words hit the screen. I can't do this without you!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Claire awoke in a haze of sleep, her eyes heavy and her head pounding; the goose-feather mattress that had once been a source of comfort wreaked havoc on her back, the pains of getting older and missing the support of springs. She forced her eyes open, blinking at the sudden rush of light to her corneas, Claire wanted nothing more than to bury herself back into the covering of the blanket but the absence of a small body besides her propelled her forward.
Brianna was not in the room.
Claire sat up, looking around for any clue which might explain where her daughter had gone. She knew that tenants would never hurt Brianna especially when word got out that she was Jamie’s daughter, and with how fast gossip spread, Claire was sure that it would be common knowledge by nightfall. She looked like Jamie and acted like a Fraser, even without verbal confirmation, it was easy to tell her parentage.
Claire forced herself out of bed, her body jolting when her feet hit the cold floor before taking a firmer stand and quickly dressing in one of the gowns from her trunk. The dresses Claire and Brianna had arrived in were gone, probably being washed by Jenny or one of the maids. Claire watched herself through the mirror as she struggled to tighten the laces of her dress. Who had helped Brianna? She shook her head and, satisfied with her decency, Claire left the room and quietly walked down the stairs, one hand on the railing for support as she surveyed the room in front of her.
“Sleeping Beauty finally awakes,” Jenny said, walking past Claire toward the dining room with a pile of laundry in her hands.
Claire followed Jenny, yawning before she asked, “What time is it?”
“Almost midday,” Jenny told her, glancing at Claire before placing the clean clothes onto the table, “that girl of yours was up with the mornin’ birds.”
“Where is Brianna?” Claire asked, sitting down in one of the chairs closest to Jenny.
“Followin’ Fergus around like a wee lost puppy, she’s been helpin’ him do chores all mornin’, nothin’ strenuous, mind ye, given his hand,” Jenny explained, a smile spreading on her face as she talked about her niece.
The gesture made Claire’s heart swell with love and pride, Jenny might not be ready to acknowledge it just yet, but it was clear she was fond of the little girl. Even if Jenny stayed mad at her, she cared for Brianna, and that’s all that really mattered.
“I named her after your parents,” Claire started, looking at Jenny, “I promised Jamie that I would name the baby– a boy, we thought at the time– Brian, after your father. Then Bree was born a girl and I found a way to keep my promise, adding in Ellen for good measure.”
“Ye ken what Bree means? A disturbance?”
Claire paused, “She kind of was in a way, very unexpected and changed everything, with lungs to rival her father. I swear she could rattle the entire house.”
Jenny chuckled, “Wait until ye hear the bairn, Young Ian, I can tell already that he’s goin’ to give me and Ian a hard time.”
“That’s what they’re supposed to and we love them anyway.”
“Aye, that we do… Are ye hungry? I can get ye some bannocks or somethin’.” Jenny offered, one hand on her hip and the other supporting her body as she leaned against the counter.
“That sounds wonderful.”
Jenny left the room and returned moments later, hands carrying a small platter of bannocks, butter, jelly, cheese, and a glass of milk. Claire ate in silence as Jenny told her the current going-ons of Lallybroch and the various troubles they were facing. Not even a day had passed since Jamie was turned over and the redcoats seemed to be making good on their promise, the outpost stationed on the edge of the land had been dismantled and moved. Jenny still had scouts littered around, just in case, not trusting the British completely and leaving nothing to chance.
Lallybroch and its tenants were doing well compared to the surrounding farm, they managed to harvest enough potatoes to keep themselves fed and procure a small profit. Ian had settled in as proxy laid, given Wee Jamie’s age and Jamie’s outlaw status, though all decisions still came from the latter. Jamie had made periodic trips to the house, looking over the financial books and using time in his cave to try and come up with a solution for various problems.
The newest proclamation through Ian as de facto laird came as soon as Jamie regained his wits after weeks of delirium through fever following Culloden; he lowered taxes. Times were hard, evidently so and Jamie had no desire to add to the misery of the tenants; the unfarmable land Ian had sold before the uprising would keep them floating for months. A couple of years went by with small improvements and Jamie considered raising rent once more, only for the British to start conducting numerous raids and squashing his plans once more.
Jenny and Claire talked for the better part of an hour, Claire helping Jenny with the laundry when she finished her meal. Once the laundry was folded and put away, Claire left her sister-in-law to check on Brianna, eager to place eyes on her daughter to assure herself that she was safe. Claire stood on the steps, looking around the yard hoping to find either one of her children. She saw Wee Jamie first, lugging hay from a cart to the stables, next she saw Maggie and Katherine feeding the goats.
Claire lifted her dress and walked down the steps, rounding the corner and sighing in relief when she spotted them. Brianna stood to the side, holding the small door so she could see inside as Fergus rounded the eggs and placed them gently into the basket Brianna was holding in her other hand. Finished, Fergus climbed out and wiped the straw off his trousers, he shut the coop’s door and together they examined their small bounty of eggs.
When they finished, they turned toward Claire's direction, Fergus’ hand was placed protectively on Brianna’s shoulder, steering her toward the house where Mary was inevitably waiting for them.
“Mama!” Brianna called, noticing her mother for the first time, and took off at a sprint.
“Mon petite!” Fergus shouted, jogging to catch up with her. “The eggs, they’ll break, and then we’ll have little to eat.”
Brianna stopped abruptly halfway to her destination and looked down at the eggs as her eyes began to furrow with concern. “Can’t we get some at the store?” she asked Fergus who had come to a halt next to her.
“Bree,” Claire started, walking slowly toward the pair with an explanation for why they couldn’t buy supplies at a store on the tip of her tongue when Fergus interrupted her.
“No,” he shook his head, gingerly picking up one of the eggs. “Eggs are expensive and we don’t have much money to spend, we have most of what we need here on the farm, we just have to be careful. These things… they’re not easily replaced.”
“So if I break the eggs we won't have food to eat?”
“That’s right,” Fergus said, “well, we’ll have some food, we won’t starve, but it won’t be much. Do you understand?”
Claire watched with open eyes and a melting heart as Fergus wrapped his good arm around Brianna’s shoulder and pulled her into a hug, Brianna returning the embrace immediately. When they broke apart Brianna tried to hand the basket to Fergus, deciding she was no longer able to carry out such an important task, but Fergus refused, pushing the basket back to her.
“You have to learn, just like I did, and you will, but it’s going to take some time,” he explained, offering Brianna a bright smile.
“I want to learn from you!” Brianna announced.
“And I will teach you all that I know, come now, Madam McNab is expecting these.” Fergus tightened his arm around Brianna’s shoulders and together they walked past Claire, ignoring her presence, into the main house where Mary was waiting for them.
Claire watched them go, her throat tightening with emotions as Fergus steered his new little sister where she was supposed to go, barely a day had passed and he was already such a wonderful big brother. Claire could only wonder as to how their relationship would grow and develop with time. Soon, Claire believed and hoped that it would be like they had been together their entire lives, never having been apart. Seeing the two children together erased one of her concerns, her mind able to now focus on Jamie and how to get him back.
Claire turned from the house and began walking toward the field where she knew Ian would be. Jenny was still lipped about her brother, refusing to speak about him that morning, claiming she’d told Claire everything she knew about Jamie the night before. Jenny seemed to have resigned to the fate they’d agreed to by turning Jamie in, she wasn’t willing or simply couldn’t phantom the idea of another prison break. Ardsmuir was different, Jenny had said.
Ardsmuir was further out in the highlands, located on an empty moor and mere miles away from the sea, marooning the prisoners and workers alike. The prison was miles away from any major city with just a small town on the outskirts of the area to house and entertain the prison’s guards. Everyone knew everyone and the walls were firmly built, backed with strong defenses, and housed a garrison of redcoats. Getting there was easy, enacting a prison break was hard, and surveying the escape was almost impossible. Jenny held no hope for Jamie’s release and encouraged Claire to do the same, but Claire refused to give up on Jamie.
She hadn’t uprooted her and Brianna’s lives, come all this way, just to let Jamie rot away in prison– the thought wasn’t even entertainable to Claire. There was always a way, there had to be.
Claire spotted Ian easily enough, he was standing in the middle of the crop field, shouting various instructions to the farmers nearby.
“Claire,” he nodded in greeting as she stopped beside him, “what are ye doin’ down here?”
“I’m here to talk to you about Jamie,” she said, folding her arms.
“Aye,” he paused, “I thought ye might, sooner or later.”
“We can’t just leave him there,” Claire began, “There has to be something we can do.”
“Claire…” Ian shook his head, turning his body to face her. “He’s miles away, locked in an impenetrable prison–”
“Fort William was hard, Wentworth was impossible, but we always found a way. Why is now any different?” she asked.
“Because we dinna have backing,” Ian answered easily, “both times ye had Dougal’s men with ye– Angus, Rupert, that sort– now there’s no one. It would just be us, Claire, and two isna’ enough to break into a prison like Ardsmuir.”
“We could get more people, if we can find Murtagh–”
“There’s no one, Claire,” Ian stopped her, “Murtagh… Murtagh is dead. Died on Culloden wi’ the rest o’ the men, Jamie survivin’ was miracle enough, we dinna have anyone else.”
“Then we’ll just have to be enough!” Claire insisted. “Jamie wouldn’t leave you in prison, and you know it, he’d come up with some plan even if he was by himself. Don’t we owe him the same?”
Ian began to speak but no words came out, his jaw closed and reopened making him bobble like a fish, her words having a clear impact on him. After a few minutes of Ian’s brain trying to process and his mouth playing relentless catch-up, his jaw closed and tightened, Claire could hear his teeth grinding from feet away. Finally, Ian sighed, ran a hand down his face, and nodded once.
“Ye’re right, we’ll speak later tonight about it, but dinna tell Jenny until then. I dinna ken what she’ll try and do to stop us but I ken she willna’ be happy.”
“Thank you, Ian,” Claire smiled at him, resting a grateful hand on his shoulder and giving him a firm squeeze.
“Off wi’ ye,” he said, dismissing her, “I have work to do.”
Claire gave him another smile before turning and beginning the journey back to the house. Ian was on her side, now they just needed to convince Jenny, a task Claire was sure would be just as hard as the prison break will be if not harder. Jenny had long since mastered the art of Fraser stubbornness and rarely faltered when she dug her heels in, a trait Claire once admired now bothered her. Jenny seemed eerily resistant to the idea of Jamie’s possible rescue, not willing to even entertain the thought. She was hiding something, and Claire made it her mission to find out what.
Claire spent the rest of the day helping Mary and Jenny with various household tasks, taking frequent breaks to check on Brianna who was still following Fergus as he continued his daily chores. Claire easily fell back into the daily farm life of an eighteenth-century highland farmer. Tenants stopped by frequently, bringing matters of importance for Jenny to pass to Ian, and once having spotted Claire, they would bow and welcome her home as Lady Broch Turach, Jenny’s body would stiffen with each repetitive greeting. Even though Wee Jamie was now laird, it seemed the inhabitants of Lallybroch still saw Jamie as their leader, and her as his wife. The title and greeting made her feel more at home with each address.
Dinner consisted of potatoes covered in butter and cream, with some kind of meat and flatbread. Brianna was asleep before she managed to finish her meal, her face would have landed on her food if Fergus hadn’t been quick enough to catch her. When their meal was finished, Ian excused the children to bed, all except Fergus who Claire requested stay behind as she carried Brianna up the stairs. Bedtime was simple, Claire changed Brianna into her nightgown and put her to bed, an easy task considering Brianna was practically asleep as soon as they entered the room.
Claire left the bedroom door ajar, enough for a bit of light to enter the room and for Brianna to hear their voices below. Claire returned to the dining room, Ian holding another dram of whisky while Fergus stared at the wall before him and Jenny nursed Young Ian. She resumed her seat and looked at Ian to begin, knowing Jenny would be more receptive to the plan if it came from her husband.
“We’re going to get Jamie home,” Ian started, downing his dram of whisky in a single gulp, “Claire’s right, we canna leave him there.”
“We’re going to get milord?” Fergus looked to Ian excitedly.
“Are ye mad, man?” Jenny asked at the same time.
Ian licked his lips, “Jenny, I ken ye dinna believe–”
“It canna be done,” Jenny looked between Ian and Claire addressing them both, “I ken ye want him back– I do too, but it’s no’ possible.”
“We have to try,” Claire said.
“No, ye dinna! Jamie kent what he was signin’ up for by turnin’ himself in, ye’re goin’ to get my husband and yerself killed. Ye want to leave yer daughter alone?”
“She won’t be alone, she has you and her cousins but that’s not enough, she needs her father too. Jenny, we need to at least try, you know that.” Claire started. “What if I make you a promise, hm? Will that make it easier?”
“What kind o’ promise?” Jenny asked, intrigued by Claire’s imminent proposal.
“Let us see if it’s possible– support us looking– and I promise that we will only make a move if I’m one-hundred positive that our plan will work. If we go to Ardsmuir and it’s not possible… I’ll drop the matter, we’ll come right back and I won’t bring it up again.”
“Ye’ll just let him go?” Jenny questioned in disbelief.
“Milady,” Fergus turned to Claire, “you can’t do such a thing.”
Claire silenced Fergus with the raise of her hand and looked at Jenny, “I’m a woman of my word, just like my husband.”
Jenny thought it over, mulling the possibilities in her head, trying to believe if it was possible for Claire to give up on ever trying to rescue Jamie. Silence filled the room for several minutes as Jenny debated Claire’s proposal internally, finally, she gave a single nod, her mouth tightening, “Fine, I’ll support ye just lookin’, I owe Jamie that much.” Jenny relented causing Claire to sigh in relief and Ian to smile.
“When will we go?” Fergus asked.
“Fergus,” Claire shook her head.
“My place is by milord, I will go whether you like it or not,” Fergus said to Claire before nodding to Ian resolutely and standing from his chair.
“Two days time,” Ian answered, returning Fergus’ head gesture, “gives us enough time to get supplies for the journey and to tell wee Brianna that she’ll be here wi’out ye, Claire. She will be stayin’ here?”
“Yes,” Claire said, “if you’ll let her, that is it, Jenny.”
Jenny nodded, “Of course she can, it’s her birthright just as mine and the other children.”
“It’s settled then,” Ian stood from the table, placed his palms on the wood, and addressed them all, “we leave the day after tomorrow.”
The next two days felt like a million for Claire as they prepared for their journey. Brianna was not at all happy with the idea of being separated from her mother, alternating between begging her mother to stay at Lallybroch and demanding she accompany them; the latter Claire refused immediately. She would be safer at Lallybroch with her aunt and cousins, Claire tried to assure Brianna. Fergus going was bad enough, Claire wasn’t willing to risk another one of her children on the perilous and uncertain journey north.
When Claire wasn’t dealing with Brianna’s meltdowns, Fergus’ avoidance, or Jenny’s stares, she was imagining her reunion with Jamie. She could already feel his arms wrap around her, picture the tears of happiness when he learned about Brianna for the first time, hear his promise that they would never part again; the thoughts made her eyes brim with tears. The days dragged on as Claire did her best to go through the daily motions, her mind solely focused on Jamie and his impending escape.
Finally, the day arrived. Claire awoke before dawn, giving Brianna a final kiss as she slept before meeting Ian, Fergus, and their waiting cart outside. The weather matched their unsettled mood, layers of fog making it impossible to see more than five feet in front of them with heavy dew clinging to their bodies. Jenny and Ian said their goodbyes, sharing a quick kiss and words of affirmation before Jenny wrapped Fergus in a tight hug. She whispered something in his ear, Claire couldn’t hear what but a pang of jealousy spread through her as Fergus laughed at whatever Jenny had told him. Fergus hadn’t so much as smiled in Claire’s direction since she’d first arrived, teenage broodiness and angst, Claire told herself. She’d gone through a similar stage with Uncle Lamb, refusing to speak with him for days followed by the same amount of time clinging to him endlessly.
Time. Fergus just needed time. They all needed time.
Claire sat next to Ian as Fergus took his spot in the bed of the cart, dozing off as Lallybroch was absorbed into the fog behind them.
“We’re coming, Jamie,” Claire whispered, pulling her shawl tightly around her body, “we’re coming.”
Slowly getting there folks. Just a few more chapters until our lovely couple are back together and all is right with the world. Tons of you guys have requested major sibling love/bonding between Fergus and Brianna and I'm extremely happy to comply so don't fret, there will be tons.
I'm a little behind on my stories, I know, but work has been busy and I'm just now starting to play catch-up.
As always, thanks for reading and for all the kind words you readers leave me, really means a lot! Until next time, stay safe!
I know it's been a long time and I'm so sorry! Life has gotten to me again and then my computer broke but we're up and running! All the information presented in this chapter came from Wikia and Ardsmuir's general location in the real world. Enjoy the read!
Thank you so much to my beta albatross1013 who has stood by me through my short hiatus and encouraged me to get back to it! Couldn't have done it without them.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Claire closed her eyes and tilted her face up toward the warming sun hovering in the pale blue sky above them. The morning fog had dissipated hours before leaving nothing but a gentle blowing breeze to combat the ever-growing humidity. One of the things Claire had missed most about Scotland- and this particular time- was the open environment and clear air. London was crowded and filled with the haze that settled following the industrial revolution; while Boston was cleaner, it was just as crowded. However, since they’d begun their journey north– toward Jamie– they hadn’t seen a single other traveler. It was a beautiful day in Scotland and Claire could only wish for a thousand more.
They stopped periodically to let the horses feed and drink, allowing time for Ian to stretch his body and Fergus to grow more and more distant from Claire. He hadn’t spoken a word to her all day, referring to Ian for all his questions, concerns, and general comments, ignoring every word Claire spoke to him almost as if she wasn’t there.
She barely was, Claire had to admit.
Her mind wandered from Jamie to Brianna, trying to picture both in their respective positions and what they might be doing. Brianna was probably bonding with her cousins and the bundle of children was likely getting on Jenny’s last nerve if not Mary’s at the least. Claire would be surprised if, by the time they returned, Brianna hadn’t been disciplined at least once. She really was well behaved for her age but given the recent change in their lives, Claire wasn’t sure how Brianna would react to the freedom her new environment offered.
Jamie was, no doubt, absolutely miserable. Claire felt comforted by the repeated assurance from Ian that they no longer hanged Jacobite soldiers, but his life inside the prison couldn’t be easy. He was probably starving, getting little to no food, and crowded by the sheer amount of prisoners. Ardsmuir was a working person, Ian said, their days consisted of long hours of hauling stones and cutting peat. The thought of Jamie suffering terribly either from work, the conditions, or guard treatment plagued her as she drank water freely or ate however much she chose. She hoped his temper and defiance had lessened in the almost decade they were apart, she could only imagine how worse off he’d be if he couldn’t control himself.
They made camp a few hours later, the horses tired and Ian’s bones too heavy to continue. Fergus gathered wood as Ian tended to the animals and Claire prepared a small meal with the potatoes and bread Jenny had packed them. Fergus and Ian talked idly as they ate, Claire listened to their conversation but made no moves to join it herself. She was tired and missed Brianna horribly; the closer she got to her husband and the further from her daughter, the more her heart ached. Jamie needed her more at the moment, he was helpless in his current position, but that didn’t stop the guilt she felt for abandoning Brianna.
Claire knew she hadn’t actually abandoned their daughter, but she was leaving the child alone with a family she’d only just met in a place she still thought of as strange. Brianna still believed they would go home to Boston, to Frank, it would be a long while before she thought of Lallybroch, Jamie, and Fergus as home.
They went to bed soon after supper, Ian was asleep almost immediately with Fergus following quickly after. Claire hoped that as the night grew darker and the air colder, Fergus would move closer to her but to no avail. He stayed on the other side of the small fire, his back was the only part of him she could see. She slept lightly, dreaming of Jamie.
The trio awoke at first light. Claire, having woken before the boys, had everything packed and ready to go by the time they rose from their makeshift beds. They chose to forgo breakfast, electing to snack on the remaining provisions and the promising hearty meal they’d receive once they made it to Coigach– the small town residing a few miles from the prison.
It was only a few hours since they’d set out that morning that the cart came to a sudden halt, jerking Claire out of her thoughts and startling Fergus who had once again dozed off in the back. Ian took off his hat and ran his sleeve across his forehead to wipe away the sweat and as he reeled his arm back he pointed to a spot in the distance. The stone building of Ardsmuir was barely noticeable in the distance, even with the open-air separating them.
“Look over there,” Ian said, holding his index finger toward their destination. “We’ll be there by nightfall I reckon.”
“That’s it?” Claire questioned in disbelief, squinting her eyes to try and get a narrower view. “It looks… big.”
Ian nodded, “Aye,” he placed his hat back on his head. “it’ll only grow as we get closer.” he assured, grabbing the reins of the horse and flicking them gently to move the creatures forward.
“Do we know how guarded, Uncle?” Fergus asked, sitting up and moving closer to the front of the cart.
“Dinna ken,” Ian answered with a shrug, “we’ll find out when we get there. Well guarded I’d have to imagine.” Fergus nodded in agreement and settled his elbows on the wood upon which Claire and Ian’s back rested.
“Wentworth was big to me once too,” Claire began, wringing her hands together. “We rescued him then and we will now, we have no choice.”
“I still canna believe you promised Jenny,” Ian said, shaking his head.
“Why do you think I’m so determined? I’m not leaving without him, Ian, I can’t. I won’t.”
“Me neither, Claire, me neither.” Ian gave her a small smile before they fell into silence once more.
The journey seemed to slow the bigger Ardsmuir grew before them and the road more populated. Soon, Ian had to carefully guide the cart on the edge of the main road, people walked, ran, and galloped in both directions next to them. The hustle and bustle felt familiar to Claire and uneasiness spread through her as they finally entered the town that reminded her much of Cranesmuir.
Fergus hopped off the back of the cart and carefully led them through the crowd toward the inn. Once they arrived, he disappeared inside before Claire could ask him what he was doing. Ian waved off her concerns of his sudden disappearance, reminding Claire that he was no longer a little boy and, despite his hand, could take care of himself. Claire wasn’t as sure but had no choice but to trust Ian’s judgment, after all, he’d been with Fergus longer than she had. Ian secured the horses and cart as Claire packed their more important belongings– money, clothes, and tools. Claire handed Ian the packed bag just as Fergus emerged from the inn, walking slowly over to them with a paper in hand.
“I’ve booked us one room,” Fergus explained, showing Ian the bill, “it’s a rowdy bunch in there, didn’t think it safe for… any one of us to be alone.” Fergus glanced at Claire before returning his attention to Ian. “ It’s only for a few days, I figured once we had milord we wouldn’t be sticking around.”
“Aye…” Ian said, taking the paper from Fergus. “But we dinna ken how long until we get him.” Ian shoved the paper into his pocket, “Any ideas, Claire?”
“Me?” Claire looked back at him with wide eyes. “Why would I have an idea? We’ve only just arrived.”
“Ye’ve done this before,” Ian reminded her, “I ken verra little on the matter.”
Claire opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by Fergus.
“We should wait until we’re inside and can talk privately, should we not?” Fergus pointed out.
“He’s right,” Claire agreed formally ending their discussion. “Let’s get this in the room and eat some lunch, I’m absolutely famished.”
Claire did her best to think of a plan as her belly slowly filled with ale and a stew made of meat and vegetables but her mind was simply blank. If she was telling the truth, Murtagh had done most of the planning for Jamie’s Wentworth escape. The cows had been an entirely positive coincidence, Claire had no idea what they hadn’t done without the missing herd and Claire doubted they would receive a similar miracle. They should scope out the prison first, Claire reasoned, see if there was any possibility of getting inside to see Jamie to give him some sense of his imminent rescue.
Claire wanted to head straight to the prison after lunch, an idea Ian fought as soon as it escaped her mouth. He thought it was too dangerous to go without some idea of what it was like or how it was run. They could be walking straight into a trap or unintentionally make things harder on themselves. Ian believed the first step was to ask around town, see what the inhabitants knew and gather a sense of the area around them. Fergus sided with Ian of course, not even bothering to spare an apologetic glance for Claire before voicing his opinion.
Claire conceded, clearly outnumbered, and they split into different directions to see what they could find. Claire was soon reminded of her lower status as a woman as most of the men she tried speaking to outright ignored her, the only ones who acknowledged her were the merchants trying to sell their wares. It took Claire an hour to find someone willing or who could talk with her about Ardsmuir.
She ended up purchasing a few brand new cloth linen shirts which she planned on turning into bandages, listening to the seamstress as her purchase was packed. The woman told her Ardsmuir was well guarded as half of the building was surrounded by water and the other housed a large number of troops. The bubbly woman had been to the prison a few times, she explained, she was lucky enough to have been chosen to mend the uniforms of the prison’s officials. Claire thanked her for her items and information and began to walk back to the inn, hoping Ian and Fergus had gathered more knowledge than she.
Ian was sitting on one of the chairs just outside the inn, his body ramrod straight and his head shaking as Claire approached, causing her to sigh loudly and collapse into the chair.
“Nothing?” Claire asked him.
“Nothin’ we didna already ken wi’out bein’ suspicious, ye?”
Claire sighed once more, “It’s well guarded by both sea and men. Obviously, the sea is out, there’s no way we can scale a cliff especially since we don’t know what condition he’s in, and walking through the front is impossible. I spoke to a woman who stitched their uniforms and she was barely let through the gates.”
“Ye found out more than I and we kent it would no’ be easy, Claire, we’ll think of somethin’,” Ian said, scratching the short hairs covering his chin.
“I hope so,” Claire said.
Ian changed the subject from Jamie’s rescue and instead began asking questions about the future. What was it like? What’s changed the most? What exactly was this ‘car’ thing Bree had mentioned? The standard questions, Claire assumed, Jamie had asked the exact same things except he had been fascinated by airplanes. Claire had just finished drawing a rudimentary picture of a car as Fergus arrived with a huff completely out of breath.
“What is it, lad?” Ian asked.
“I...I…” Fergus began, taking large gasps of air.
“Calm down,” Claire said, putting her hand on his back and rubbing circles gently. “Take deep breaths.”
Fergus shrugged her off and moved out of her reach, after a few moments, he started, “No one gets in through the gates except soldiers and people of profession.”
“Seamstress,” Claire supplied.
“Yes, but they’re very selective of who actually gets to interact with the prisoners– almost no one at all but the guards.”
“That’s no verra helpful,” Ian told him.
“I didn’t finish,” Fergus said, giving Ian a grin. “Coigach is close to the prison, the guards tend to stray no further, and the best place to get a drink? Right through those doors.” he pointed behind Ian towards the doorway leading into the tavern.
“Guards get drunk–” Claire started.
“And they spill secrets.” Ian finished with a nod. “That could work.”
“A drunken source of information,” Fergus said.
“A source of hope, for the first time in days,” Claire smiled at him. “Well, lads, it seems we’ve got ourselves a plan.”
This chapter is short considering all the ones before but it's a needed stepping block for Claire and the gang as they start planning to rescue Jamie (only a couple more chapters away). Everything in this chapter is laying down the framework for the future, everything has a purpose, trust me. Fergus is a bit OOC for now but as I've said... it's all part of the plan. Don't hate me! We'll see the happy Furgus we all know and love again.
Thank you all for staying interested in this fic (and all my others) as the updates have been getting further and further apart, I'm working on going back to a weekly basis as I once did. You guys rock! Stay safe out there.
Welcome back for another chapter as Claire and Jamie fight to be reunited (we're getting close). This chapter sets up major scenes and future events for this story, so make sure you pay attention. Every little detail counts. Happy reading!
As always, I couldn't have done this without my wonderful beta albatross1013. Many thanks to you my dear!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Simply rub this on the affected area,” Claire began, gently pressing the cream-filled glass bottle into the woman’s hand, “when the itching starts. I know it’s terribly hard but don’t scratch, you’ll only make it worse.” Claire withdrew her hand and watched as the eyes of the woman sat across from her widened.
“Thank ye, Mistress!” The woman said with a large smile, tightly clutching the small bottle between her hands.
“Of course,” Claire mimicked the facial gesture, “don’t forget to tell all your friends.”
“I will!” The woman promised, standing from her seat and walking out the door where Fergus stood guard.
Claire sighed and wiped the sweat off the back of her forehead, the day's heat in combination with her workload and the enclosed room was doing no favors for her body temperature. She felt hot and stuffy, the endless amount of whisky was no help either. What Claire wouldn’t do for a cold glass of water or coca-cola. She missed the bubbly drink just as much as she missed indoor plumbing, though neither came as close as her longing for Jamie who made the unbearable heat worth it.
“Send in the next one,” Claire called toward the door, quickly clearing the wooden table she’d been using to mix her herbs and examine her patients.
The plan was simple and one she’d used before with great success. Murtagh may have been a stubborn coot, but he had no shortage of good ideas, Claire would have to admit. When they’d first started, she’d been lucky enough to convince one or two of the town’s residents to let her treat them. Now, just over a month in Coigach, there was a line outside the door. Word of the Sassenach healer had quickly garnered attention and many patients, reminding Claire how grueling the work truly was and the lack of medical knowledge in her time.
Many of her patients were covered head-to-toe in grime and dirt, bathing every few weeks if they were so inclined, creating the perfect environment for infections and diseases to run rampant. That day alone Claire had treated four infected wounds, numerous abnormal fungus growths, and enough bunions to put down an army. She gave these poor Scottish farmers the same advice and speeches as the Allied soldiers: bathe often, eat a nutrient-rich diet, and take better care of the extremities. Funny enough, the Scots seemed more willing to listen to her words than the young soldiers had been.
Claire greeted the patient Fergus had sent in with a smile and a round of questions. What was the problem? How long had it been going? What had they been doing in treatment so far?
By the time Claire finished with her final patient for the day, the sun had long since set, and she was exhausted. Deciding to leave the clean-up and disinfecting for the morning, Claire exited the room and motioned for Fergus to lock the door behind her. The room was small and lacked ventilation, not perfect but suitable for their purpose, and the rent was cheap so they– mostly Claire- couldn’t complain. It was there she spent sixteen hours a day and there she left her medical box unguarded, though she took the burlap role of tools and penicillin from her time with her every night. She would be utterly lost without her tools and the antibiotic.
The stainless steel was a Godsend and the penicillin was helping boost her reputation as a successful healer, though she only used it in the gravest of cases. Those she had deemed worthy had reported quick and complete recoveries. Claire had brought only four vials with her, she’d already used close to one, the antibiotic needed to last as long as possible considering it wouldn’t be invented for another couple hundred of years. As Claire walked silently down the dirt path toward the inn with Fergus by her side, Claire contemplated the possibility of growing the fungus herself. She remembered studying it in school, the process Alexander Fleming had taken to create the wonder drug, Claire believed she could replicate it in the right circumstances and environment.
She shook her head to clear the thoughts, she was too tired to be planning scientific marvels centuries early, she’d leave that for another day. After Jamie was rescued and their family was finally reunited at Lallybroch.
Yes, Claire decided, she would think about it then.
She glanced at Fergus as he yawned beside her, smacking his lips and rubbing his eyes with his good hand. He was still distant with her, not reaching out for affection or kind words from his mother, but he was no longer shying away from her. It was progress. Slow and steady progress.
“Are you sure you can play tonight?” she asked as another yawn escaped his lips.
“Yes, don’t worry, I can play,” he assured.
Every night after guarding her practice and until the early morning, Fergus would entertain the guards. Sometimes he would lose to gain their trust, sometimes he would win to make them desperate. From the many games, the trio had managed to get confirmation of Red Jamie’s imprisonment at Ardsmuir; a quiet and somber prisoner according to the guards. At the same time, however, he was also respected, looked upon as a leader by the other men in the short month he’d been there.
That was definitely her Jamie, her husband. No matter where he went or where he was, he commanded leadership and had the skills and brains to excel in the position. The information from the guards settled her nerves, assuring her that he was still alive and fighting. He was probably biding his time, just as she was, knowing his wife was coming for him. He did know that, didn’t he? Claire asked herself several times throughout the day. She hoped he knew she was coming for him, that she would never abandon him, and she never would, ever again, leave him. Once they were together, they would never separate, their near-decade apart was long enough. Claire didn’t think her heart could take another separation from him.
She retired to bed after supper and a wash just like she did every night, Ian’s steady snores and laughter of drunken men below acting as a lullaby, settling her into an easy sleep.
“How many patients have ye had?” Ian asked over their morning porridge.
“Too many to count,” Claire said with a sigh, stirring her tea.
Ian shook his head, “This isna working, Claire, we need a new plan.”
“No!” Claire hissed, lowering her voice as a few heads turned in their direction. “This will work, it’s worked before and–”
“Ye’ve only treated a handful of guards, good-will from the local people will only do so much,” he pointed out.
“Do you have any better ideas?”
“No,” he sighed in defeat, “I dinna.”
“Then we stick with mine,” Claire said resolutely. She quickly drank the rest of her tea, slammed the cup onto the table, and stood. “Send Fergus along when he’s gotten enough sleep, make sure he eats too.”
“Ye worry too much over the lad.”
“Whether he likes it or not I’m his mother, that’s my job. I mean it, Ian.” She gave her brother-in-law a final look before exiting the inn and making the short journey to her practice. The line was small this morning, she could easily keep up if the number of patients stayed the same throughout the day. She bid those waiting for her good morning, letting them know she would be with them shortly, Claire quickly cleaned her instruments and examination table with whatever alcohol had been left before seeing the first patient.
Fergus joined her a couple of hours later, taking his usual spot by the door. It was Fergus’ job to keep records of everyone’s name, illness complaint, treatment, and payment as well as control who entered the room. The payment was small, adjusted to what people could afford but enough to afford their rent and pay for supplies. While Claire and Fergus worked at the practice, Ian slowly made his rounds around the town, asking for information and spreading the word of Claire’s miracle cures.
The plan was to make themselves notable and trustworthy in the community, a recognizable face. They interacted with the residents of Coigach as much as they could, the trio even attended the Sunday morning mass at the local chapel. Claire wasn’t much of a believer herself, having abandoned her faith long ago in Paris, but it was important to the Fraser-Murray’s and the time so Claire practiced. Fergus, much to Claire’s surprise, seemed to share her beliefs. She’d caught his eye several times during prayer, he would fold his hands like her, he would bow his head but he never seemed to mumble the established words. He may never admit it, and despite their lack of biological relation, he was like his mother and sister in so many ways. However, it was easy to assume that his lack of faith was due to separate reasons than Claire’s own.
They locked up their practice at the end of the day after Claire had taken stock of her herbs and written down what she needed and the cleaning finished. They joined Ian for supper, the meaty stew filling their stomachs and making them sleepy.
“Not too late tonight, okay?” Claire told Fergus, as she and Ian walked toward their room. “I want you in bed before midnight.”
Fergus nodded his understanding, waiting for Claire and Ian to be out of sight before he approached the group of guards playing cards behind him.
The next day mirrored the one before, they ate porridge for breakfast, worked in the practice, and locked up after they’d added another twenty people to their ledger. Though unlike the night before and any other night, a group of soldiers joined them in the inn for supper. The guards sat with their bright red coats near Claire, Ian, and Fergus, making each of them uneasy for various reasons. Ian feared he would be recognized, Claire had a general distrust of Redcoats, and Fergus was plagued with memories of losing his hand.
They kept silent as they ate, not wanting to give any of their plans away accidentally or the reason for their visit. Claire was able to identify one of the men as a keyholder, by his words and the large ring of copper keys hanging off pants. The trio stayed long past dinner, watching and listening as the men became drunk off ale and whisky, loudly shouting stories at each other. The room was crowded, the inn being a popular place, Claire could barely move her elbow without hitting another patron.
She couldn’t have seen what Fergus was doing even if she knew beforehand or else she would have surely stopped him, he was out of his seat, claiming the need to urinate. Claire watched as Fergus walked past the drunken guards in the direction of the outhouse. Claire lifted her dram to her lips as the commotion broke out. People quickly distanced themselves from the king’s men as the drunken guards began to yell. It took the sight of Fergus’ small body being pinned stomach down against the table with his arms outstretched for Claire to realize what happened.
Fergus had tried to pickpocket the keys off the guard.
And he had failed.
“What do you think you’re doing, boy?” the guard hissed, pressing his elbow further in Fergus’ back.
“Stop it!” Claire shouted, jumping from her seat to make her way toward them but was stopped by Ian.
“I didn’t do anything!” Fergus said.
“Liar! I felt you feeling around my pockets, you’re a thief. And do you know what we do with thieves?”
Claire, as well as the rest of the crowd, gasped as the guard removed his sword from its sheath and held it over Fergus. Ian wrapped Claire tighter in his grip as she squirmed, making every attempt to get to Fergus.
“No, please, I beg of you!” Fergus shouted, spotting the iron blade hovering above him.
“Well, it seems you’ve already lost one hand, but clearly, you haven’t learned your lesson. Maybe you will this time, hmm?” The guard sneered, preparing to swing his sword down.
“No!” Claire shouted, just as the guard’s motion was interrupted by Fergus’ pleas.
“I’ll do anything, anything you want! I’m stronger than I look and I’m fast. Please, please, put me to work, don’t cut off my hand.” Fergus begged.
The guard took a few moments to think, making Claire’s heart beat wildly in her chest before he lowered his sword and motioned to his colleagues to lift Fergus up.
“You’re lucky I’m in a charitable mood and only a mile away from a prison, or else it would have been your hand or your neck.” the guard told Fergus, sheathing his weapon. “Take him outside.” he motioned to the men.
With their proximity to the door, the guards and Fergus couldn't exit without passing Ian and Claire. Claire watched as Fergus was dragged toward her, his face etched in fear and misery, but for the slightest of seconds he grinned, in perfect time for his left eye to bat as he neared closer to his mother and uncle.
“Did he just?” Claire asked Ian in a whisper, unsure whether or not she’d seen it.
“Aye, he did,” Ian replied, as Fergus repeated the motion as he was dragged past them and outside into the dark night.
“He winked,” Claire said in disbelief, “he bloody winked.”
“The eejit meant to get caught,” Ian said. “He’s going into the prison to find Jamie, tell him we’re here I suppose. He… I canna believe it.” Ian ran his palm over his face.
Claire, still lost for words, her brain desperately trying to process the events she’d just witnessed. Fergus had deliberately gotten caught trying to steal from the guards, taking the gamble of prison or dismemberment. She was going to wring his neck the next time she got a hold of him. So was Jamie for that matter, surely he would never approve of such a manner.
“What now?” Claire asked in a whisper.
“Now,” Ian sighed, “we wait.”
Much to Claire’s relief, they didn’t have to wait long.
It was only two days later when her line of patients was sent scattering by a group of redcoats, hitching their horses to the post and swearing profusely at the heat they should have been used to. Ian stood carefully from his chair by the door, having replaced Fergus, he greeted the men warmly. Claire couldn’t hear their conversation from her position inside, but moments later an older gentleman, with flecks of grey in his otherwise black hair, walked past Ian toward her examination table.
He bowed his head slightly and slowly took his black hat off his head, moving the garment to rest against his chest as he greeted her, “You’re the Sassenach healer I’ve heard so much about then?”
Claire nodded, she knew exactly who this man was based on the stripes of his uniform and the careful guard, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Governor Quarry,” she curtsied, “what can I do for you today?” Claire eyed him over, not seeing any obvious signs of injury or sickness she was curious as to why a British governor would seek her assistance over another Britt’s.
“You employed that young heathen we picked up a few days ago, are you not, Madam Malcolm?”
Claire thought for a moment, silently commending Fergus for having thought ahead and given her an alias, they would get nowhere associated with the Fraser name.
“Yes, sir,” she said.
“He made numerous claims that you were the best healer around– better than those who serve the King– I had to see for myself,” he explained.
“I’d be glad to offer you any aid that I can, what seems to be the problem?” she asked, giving Ian a reassuring smile as she closed the door.
Governor Quarry handed his hat to the guard to his right and slowly began to remove his coat, carefully avoiding a tender area on his left arm. Claire watched as the coat was discarded followed by the rolling of his sleeve on the affected arm, revealing a rather nasty wound that had clearly gone untreated for a long amount of time. She stepped forward to get a better look at the cut, a few inches long but not too wide, likely made with some kind of blade.
“When did this happen?” Claire asked, gingerly touching the skin around the oozing wound to confirm her suspicions.
“Nigh on a week ago, I suppose?” the governor winced as she touched a sore spot. “The prisoner doctor said there’s no use in saving the hand, the sickness has spread too far, I was wondering… is it possible to save it?”
Skin warm to the touch, Claire was sure it was an infection, the beginnings of necrosis had begun to set in but hadn’t spread far, much to the man’s luck. The prison doctor was probably more concerned with the heat of the flesh and the horrible smell the wound was emitting rather than the muscle decay.
“I can save it,” Claire told him, “would you mind sitting on the table?” She motioned to her table and began gathering the items she would need. When Quarry was seated, she poured him a dram of whiskey with a few drops of laudanum. She could save his arm, but it would be painful for the patient, though the alternative outcome was well worth the pain. “You see this blackened flesh here?” she pointed to the area. “It’s dead muscle, not too much of it, thankfully. I need to cut it out and clean the area to prevent further infection.”
“Why should I put my faith in you?” he asked, narrowing his eyes at her.
“As you said, your lordship, I’m the miracle Sassenach healer.”
“I suppose I did say that…” he took several deep breaths, downed the liquid she had given him, and laid back on the table. “Get to it then.”
“As you say,” Claire said, turning her attention to the guards, “I’ll need your help to hold him steady, he can’t move while I’m operating.”
The guards moved forward and held the governor down as she had instructed. Claire poured a healthy amount of whisky over the wound and with her scalpel, slowly began cutting away the rotted flesh. When she was sure she had removed every piece, she cleaned the wound again with more alcohol and a smear of lavender oil. Satisfied with her cleaning and dressing, Claire turned from the men to her pouch and readied her syringe, using what was left of the first vial of penicillin, she resumed her previous position and injected the man with the drug.
“All done,” she said with a smile, helping ease Quarry up.
He blinked a few times before turning his attention to the newly dressed wound.
“You saved it?” he asked in disbelief.
“I did more than that. Now, as long as you keep it clean you shouldn’t have any more problems.”
He slowly lifted himself from the table and straightened himself up, placing the offered hat from his guard back on his head. Quarry and the guards began to exit the building, not another word was said until he turned around, almost hesitantly, before opening his mouth.
“Madam, I would like for you to come with me.”
“What?” Claire asked. “Go where? Why?”
“Back with me,” he said, “I have a prisoner there I need tended to and I feel you’d be more of help than the staff we currently have. The health and wellbeing of this prisoner is critical to a deal I’m currently in the midst of making.”
“To the prison?” Claire locked eyes with Ian.
“You’ll be well protected, a lady such as yourself, I can assure you,” Quarry began, “though I’m afraid your male companion will have to stay put. You have my word she’ll be returned safe and unharmed.” he addressed the final part to Ian.
“Of course,” Claire blinked in shock. “Let me gather my things.”
Minutes later Claire found herself holding tightly onto the guard in front of her as they traveled the short distance to Ardsmuir. The prison looked more menacing the closer they got, the stone walls looming above them, casting a cold shadow onto the ground. Upon reaching the castle’s gates, Claire was helped off the horse by another guard and slowly led into the building by Quarry. Her heels bouncing off the stone flooring, Claire kept a close eye out for Jamie or Fergus, hoping she would be able to see either of her boys housed inside. They passed cells packed so full of men it was inhumane, dimly lit with a seemingly endless chill.
Quarry turned to face her when they reached their destination, a locked door at the end of a long hallway past the cells. He gave the man standing guard the command to open the door, revealing a small but better-lighted room. Inside was a bedroll placed precariously on the ground, with a prisoner resting on it shackled to the nearby wall. She could tell from the man’s body that the prisoners weren’t properly fed, his ribs could be clearly seen through his shirt, the protruding made worse by the hacking coughs.
“I’ll need him unlocked,” she said.
The guards and governor spoke amongst themselves for a few minutes before deciding the man was too sick to be of threat and unchained him.
“I need him made well, Madam,” Quarry reminded her, shutting the door behind her leaving her alone with her patient.
“Fuck,” Claire whispered under her breath, unsure of what to do next. She moved a few steps forward to get a better look. “Sir, I’m a healer, I’m going to turn you on your back so we can talk easier, all right?” The man stiffened at her words but no made no move to fight her movements. She turned him on his back and was surprised to find two familiar beady eyes staring up at her.
“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ… Murtagh?”
In a gruff voice he said, “Aye, lass, it’s me.”
Y'all didn't really think Murtagh was dead, did you? I would never kill the best godfather in the world! Thanks for sticking with me guys, we're getting really close to Jamie and Claire's reunion, I just can't stand the wait anymore. If any of the characters throughout this fic seem OOC, dinna fash, I have a plan in mind for each and every one.
This is a long fic, guys, I don't know how many chapters exactly but I've planned their lives out for at least a decade. I hope you all will continue with me as I write this adventure.
Thanks for reading, commenting and the kudos– stay safe out there.
All right guys, so, it's the chapter you've all been waiting for. THE chapter. I can only hope it's been worth the wait and you guys enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. Happy reading!
As always, I couldn't have done this without my amazing beta albatross1013 who deals with so many messages from me to help bring everything–and everyone– together.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ… Murtagh?”
In a gruff voice he said, “Aye, lass, it’s me.”
“I-I… I can’t believe it,” Claire whispered, staring down at the man before her.
And she really couldn’t. He was almost completely unrecognizable, his once lithe body was now covered in grime and merely skin and bone. Claire could easily count the ribs protruding from the thin clothing, could play them like a xylophone if this were a cartoon. His brown hair was now tangled with strands of grey, his eyes nearly completely black, a reflection of the last seven years of his life. He hadn’t been back to Lallybroch since the uprising, evidenced by both Jenny and Ian’s assumption of his death, meaning he had been in British capture since. What these stone walls had done to make a great man seem so low made Claire shudder.
“Ye came back,” Murtagh said, his voice low and shaky as his tongue swiped across his lips; Claire became immediately concerned with the absence of a wet trail. Murtagh was dehydrated, severely, if his dry cracked lips and lack of saliva were taken into account. “What of the bairn?” he asked.
“Shush,” Claire said, placing a reassuring kiss on his sweaty forehead. “Don’t talk, all right? I’m going to do an examination and I need you still.”
“Claire,” he protested.
“Please,” she begged, “for once, will you just listen to me?”
He nodded solemnly, content to lay back and bask in the presence of someone familiar and friendly.
Claire placed one hand on his cheek and the other on his chest, confirming what her lips had felt, heat. He had a fever, a high one since his cheeks were tinged red. His entire body was covered in sweat despite his shivering. Her best guess at the moment was some kind of infection, though she couldn’t be sure without doing a more thorough examination. He was skinny, smelled, and covered in what Claire assumed to be a mixture of dirt, various bodily fluids, and mold. Clearly, the well-being of his prisoners wasn’t a top priority for Quarry.
Claire turned toward her box on the floor. Reaching inside, she picked up the scissors, planning to cut open the fabric of Murtagh’s clothes to save him the pain of removing them, however, she thought better of it. She wasn’t sure if he would be given new ones, instead, she pulled out a rolled piece of paper. Claire carefully pulled the tattered shirt up to rest around Murtagh’s neck, she placed one end of the rolled paper directly over his heart, and to the other, she brought down her ear. She closed her eyes and listened to the steady beating of his heart. It was a normal rhythm, albeit slightly elevated, nothing she wouldn't expect to find in a patient fighting infection.
“Do you have any injuries?” she asked.
“Och, so now I’m allowed to talk?”
“Stubborn as ever I see,” Claire said, not bothering to stop the smile spreading across her face, “will you answer me, please?”
“Ye still haven’t answered my question,” he responded, shifting positions to get a better view of her. “Answer mine and I’ll tell ye what ye want to ken, what happened to the bairn?”
“She’s at Lallybroch with Jenny,” Clarie told him, noticing how his eyes widened and his lips began to curl. “Brianna Ellen is the perfect reincarnation of her father and just as, if not, more stubborn.”
“A wee lassie, I canna believe it,” Murtagh shook his head with a chuckle, “Brianna Ellen,” he repeated. “And to answer yer question, no, no injuries.”
Claire nodded, acknowledging his answer though she wasn’t happy with it; the fever, chills, and sweats all pointed toward an infection. If it wasn’t from an injury, the cause could be more than she could treat.
“They’re here,” Murtagh said, “your boys, Jamie and Fergus. Last I saw, Fergus was clinging onto Jamie for dear life and–” Murtagh’s words were interrupted by a hacking cough, making him grip his chest and heave through the mucus expelling from his lungs.
“How long has that been happening?” Claire asked, rolling Murtagh gently onto his side before reaching into her box once more to retrieve a clean rag which she then pressed against his mouth.
It took several minutes before Murtagh was able to stop coughing long enough to answer her, “A few weeks.”
Claire drew back her hand and examined the cloth, her heart sinking when she noticed the bloody mucus decorating the white fabric and she tossed the dirty fabric to the side. Just in case, Claire took another clean piece of cloth from her box and tied it around her face, covering her nose and mouth. She picked up the rolled paper, one more placing it against Murtagh’s skin though this time over his lungs. Her fears became reality when she heard the congestion within
She was correct in her earlier diagnosis, Murtagh did have an infection, except this one was deadlier and not very well understood in this time. Claire was once again thankful that Joe had managed to snatch the vials of penicillin currently resting in her medical box, liquid gold, in Claire’s opinion.
“You have tuberculosis–consumption,” Claire began, resting her hand on his shoulder.
“Consumption… So that's it then? Aye, well…” he muttered, readily accepting his perceived fate.
“That’s far from it!” Claire said, her voice raised. “I have some medicine I can give you that will help, from the future,” she whispered the last part. She watched as he nodded, a small fire of hope lighting within his dark eyes.
She pulled out the burlap sack she kept the syringe and bottles of penicillin, more worry about how quickly she was using her limited supply flashed through her mind but images of Murtagh, one of her closest allies and a member of her family, overpowered her worry and she readied the syringe. She drew more into the syringe than the previous doses, thankful that tuberculosis had yet to start building a resistance to antibiotics. Murtagh should be feeling better in a manner of days.
“What in God’s name? Ye’re no’ poking me wi’ that!” Murtagh wheezed at Claire, doing his best to distance himself from her.
“You’ll happily get shot by a bullet or stabbed with a sword but won’t take a tiny prick in the bum from a needle?”
“In my what now? Stay away from my arse woman!” he managed before breaking into another coughing fit.
“Murtagh,” Claire said firmly, gripping his shoulder and looking him in the eye, “if you don’t let me give this to you, you’ll die. Is that really what you want? Is that what Jamie wants?”
Murtagh relaxed significantly at the mention of his godson. No doubt Jamie was fully aware of the precarious health of his godfather and would want him better, no matter the cost. Murtagh had made a vow to Ellen, and then one to Jamie when she died, to protect and stand by him when he grew older and needed his service; Murtagh couldn’t break his vow now, not when Claire and the wee lass, Brianna, were in this time. The Frasers needed him now more than ever. And Claire knew it, reminding Murtagh of his duty to make him relax and calmly let her heal him.
Finally, Murtagh sighed and rolled back onto his side, gripping the thin blanket that separated him from the cold stone floor. He gave her a single nod, closing his eyes and praying under his breath. Claire gently pulled the fabric away from Murtagh’s behind, cleaning a small stretch of skin with alcohol before carefully pushing the needle into the skin and pressing down on the syringe, releasing the antibiotic into his bloodstream.
“You should be feeling better in a few days, but you’re still contagious at this point. I'll speak with the guard and make sure you’re given adequate food and water.” Claire said, placing the contents back into her burlap sack. “Now that that’s done, Murtagh, how is Jamie? Is he okay?”
Murtagh nodded again, rolling onto his back and wincing when his ass hit the floor, “Jamie thought he’d gone mad, seein’ ye as he was arrested. He’s seen ye before and ye never were real. He thought…”
“That I was still gone.” Claire finished.
“Aye,” Murtagh’s dry tongue flicked out of his mouth, “until the lad confirmed that ye were in fact back, with a certain red-headed little lass in tow. Why else do ye think ye’re here, Claire? In the prison?”
“Quarry said you were invaluable to some deal he was making,”
“A deal with Jamie,” Murtagh explained, “many of the folks in here remember Jamie from Culloden, they’ve elected him their leader, Mac Dubh, they’re callin’ him. They look up to Jamie, talk wi’ him about their concerns, they do what he says.” Murtagh paused in his explanation to cough, “Quarry wants to get on Jamie’s good side, have him act as a liaison between the guards and prisoners. When Fergus mentioned that ye were here, Jamie told Quarry he’d only help if he allowed me real medical aid, from a talented healer, a certain Sassenach,”
It all came crashing down at once. Claire was in the prison because Jamie had specifically asked that she be the one to heal Murtagh. Quarry, who was desperate for Jamie’s cooperation, had agreed. Fergus had indeed found his master and together they were plotting; now with Claire in the prison, they were one step closer.
“We’re here to get Jamie out, you too now, Ian is down in the village and Fergus managed to get inside. We just need to find a way to get the three of you out and–”
“I’m too far gone, lass,” Murtagh interrupted her.
“I don’t believe that, and neither does Jamie if he’s going through all this trouble to get you better. I refuse to leave without all of you, and you sure as hell know Jamie won’t leave without you either.”
“I ken,” Murtagh nodded, “he’s a stubborn lad, almost as stubborn as his wife.”
Claire smiled, “Any ideas then?”
They spent the next hour talking low to prevent themselves from being overheard by the guards that Claire was sure were right outside the door. The plan was rather simple, though not without its complications. Fergus, being a child, would be easily overlooked by the guards so it was his job to clear the way. Pickpocketing the keys of the appropriate guard, then later that night, they would open up as many cells as they could to cause distraction, hopefully freeing other prisoners in the process, and in the chaos, Jamie, Fergus, and Murtagh would escape through the waste dump. It wasn’t a perfect plan, the entire thing could fall apart with just a single ill-timed move or mistake, but it was all they had.
Claire left the prison, giving strict instructions to the guards to keep Murtagh well-fed and hydrated if they wanted Jamie’s deal with Quarry to move forward. He would need nutrition and liquid for the medicine she’d given him to take full effect, if not, he would die and the deal would go with him. As Claire climbed down from the cart she’d been escorted from the prison on, Claire felt hopeful, truly hopeful for the first time in a long time. There was no more thought or ideas, now, they had a plan waiting to be enacted.
Claire approached Ian who had been waiting eagerly for her back at the inn with a large smile. Ian stood from his chair and raised a single eyebrow at her gleeful look, “Good news then?” he asked.
“You have no idea,” she told him with a breathy laugh.
It was all finally happening.
They would make their move in four nights, giving the penicillin enough time to work its way through Murtagh’s system to make him more mobile. It also gave Claire and Ian time to dissolve their practice and give the appearance of their departure from the small village of Coigach. Ideally, their departure would keep Claire and Ian from being associated with the prison break, the last thing they needed was for their faces to appear alongside Jamie’s on a broadsheet.
As for Lallybroch, Ian was sure that the house and Fraser lands would be searched following the escape, but not more than a couple of times. It would make no sense in the eyes of the British for Jamie to return to the place where he’d been captured, given up by his own family following his escape. Ian hoped they would assume Jamie had gone south toward Edinburgh or to port to try and gain passage to the colonies. Either way, they would be safe in Scotland, together as a family, free to live their lives.
Their hope and careful planning were how Ian and Claire found themselves camping out in the dark cold forest a few miles away from Ardsmuir, waiting for the upcoming reunion only a few nights away. They kept close to one another, never straying too far from their makeshift campsite as they waited. Ian hunted small game while Claire gathered herbs to eat and for her medicine. She was sure that the men would be hungry and in need of medical attention, she was preparing for both activities as a practicality and a way to keep her mind occupied.
By the end of the day, Ian had managed to catch, skin, and prepare several squirrels, rabbits, and a snake for food. Claire had a bag full of plants she was sorting by purpose next to the fire as Ian cooked his bounty. Once Jamie, Fergus, and Murtagh had been collected, they wouldn’t stop until they reached Lallybroch. Ian wanted to put as much distance between them and Ardsmuir as quickly as possible, stopping for supplies would only increase the chance of a run-in with Redcoats on their search for escaped prisoners. It was best to be cautious and head straight for home.
Finally, the night of the break was upon them, Claire’s imagination had been running wild all day for in a matter of hours they would be reunited after seven years. Jamie would meet his daughter for the first time and Claire couldn’t wait to see the look on his face, to compare their similarities as they stood side by side instead of images in her mind. The impending sense of happiness made the day drag, she hadn’t slept the night before or much since she’d left Murtagh at the prison. But that night, Claire was sure she would sleep soundly wrapped in the strong arms of her husband.
When the sun began to set, Claire and Ian made their way to Ardsmuir from their campsite with the growing darkness to cover them. They waited a couple of miles away from the prison, horses, and cart ready to go the moment the trio appeared. Claire had cleared a spot in the back for Murtagh who she was sure would be too weak to ride a horse, Claire and Jamie would sit in the back with him while Fergus sat upfront with Ian. Now, all they had to do was wait.
The sun had been gone for hours and the moon was high in the sky when Claire’s anxieties got the best of her. She began pacing around the cart, waiting for any sign that their plan had indeed been a success. Her steps quickened and strides shortened when the telltale sounds of gunshots could be heard in the distance.
“Should be any moment now,” Ian assured her, gripping the reins tighter in his hand.
“What if they couldn’t get out?” Claire asked, stopping in her tracks to eye her brother-in-law. “What if they got shot? The prison’s security will only increase and we won't have another chance.”
“Ye worry too much, Claire, I’m sure all is fine,” Ian told her with a smile and nod.
“You don’t know that…'' Claire mumbled, resuming her path around the cart.
After an hour and still no sign of her boys, Claire began to think the worse. They should have been here by now, Claire thought, they were only two miles away. They should have been able to make that distance in no time, even in Murtagh’s condition, Claire had planned and timed for every possibility.
One of them had to be hurt, that was the only explanation. Claire knew that none of the men would abandon another, either they hadn’t escaped or were forced to stop due to injury. Claire was about to saddle her horse when Ian raised his gun pointing toward the trees where the snapping of twigs could be heard. She moved closer to Ian and the cart, ready to jump on in case of danger.
She let out a cry of happiness when through the dark Fergus’ small figure emerged.
“Fergus!” Claire shouted, running toward the boy and wrapping her arms around him. She held him tight, pressing his head against her chest as she squeezed him. “You’re all right!”
“Sassenach, if ye’re no’ careful ye’ll crush the boy to death.”
Claire held her breath, raising her face from Fergus’ curls to stare at the space before her. It was too dark to make them out, but seconds later, Jamie and Murtagh could be seen. Despite the grin on Jamie’s face, they both looked absolutely awful. Jamie looked skinner, less bulky, than he had since she’d seen him just a month prior. While Murtagh’s color looked slightly better, she couldn’t get a full picture in this dim light.
“Jamie,” Claire released Fergus and made her way over to him.
Jamie gently leaned Murtagh against a tree, meeting Claire halfway he wrapped her closely in her arms, rubbing his nose into her hair as she collapsed in his embrace and began to sob.
“Dinna weep, mo nighean donn, dinna weep, dinna be troubled, Claire, I’m here, I’m here,” he rubbed his hand on her back in soothing circles,
his tears were dripping into her hair,
“we’re here, together, Sassenach, and I’m no’ lettin’ ye go ever again. Hush now,” he soothed.
Her world narrowed in, the only thing she could see, feel or hear was Jamie, not that she would be able to recall his words later on but she heard him nonetheless. She felt his hand against her back, his chin on her head, and his chest against her face. She noticed nothing else in the world except the giant Scot holding her tightly in his embrace.
“I’m here, Sassenach, we’re together again,” he repeated, placing a kiss to the side of her forehead as she clung to him. “We’re together and nothing else matters at this moment except us. Ye did it, Claire, ye returned to me, by God's good grace ye came back to me.”
Yes, Claire and Jamie are finally together again! All we need now is wee Brianna and the Fraser family will be complete. As I've been hinting there's major drama ahead for our lovely couple but I'm pleased to report that you're going to get quite a few chapters of bliss out of these two before it all starts to awry.
Once again, guys, this is a long fic. I've planned out years of their lives which will involve some time jumps so please if you have questions at all let me know and I'll do my best to answer/explain.
Thanks for reading, commenting, kudus giving, and enjoying, y'all are amazing. Stay safe!
I'm back with a new chapter! I'm reading the books for the first time, just finished Voyager, and they've made me want to write again. If you haven't read them, you should, you won't be sorry.
I know I promised a few chapters full of bliss for Claire and Jamie– and there will be plenty– but there's a few bumps with the bliss. I'm sure you'll all enjoy them though.
As always, thanks to my beta Albatross1013, couldn't have done this without you!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The crippling throbbing in her head was the first thing Clarie noticed when she awoke; a stabbing pain in her temples with an intense pressure radiating down to the back of her skull making her feel like a volcano about to explode. The second thing she took note of was the pain throughout her body, her face burned and was raw, her neck and limbs stiff from the current position she was laying in, her back aching with each jostle of the cart as they moved down the bumpy unpaved road.
Why the hell was she on a cart?
She groaned quietly to herself, trying to piece together the last few days to try and make sense of what was happening. That’s right, she and Ian had readied the cart in the woods, prepared to lug all three of the recent prison escapees in case of injury.
“Jamie!” she shouted, launching herself into a sitting position, breathing heavily with the sudden effort.
“I’m right here, Sassneach, ye’re all right,” he assured, scrambling from where he’d been next to Ian to rest beside her. “Take it easy,” he said, lowering her body to lay flat against the wooden bed, “ye’ve been asleep for hours now, dinna push yerself too much.”
“The lass passes out from crying herself hoarse and gets treated better than the man with consumption, aye, that seems fair,” Murtagh grumbled to her left.
Claire closed her eyes once more, not bothering to take note of the hushed, hissy conversation Jamie was having with his godfather in Gaelic. Her Gaelic was rusty, not having heard it for several years made her forget most of it, but she was able to pick some meaning of what they were saying: Claire, girl, heaven, injury, a vague threat of throwing Murtagh off a cliff, maybe? She wasn’t sure about the last part but whatever was said between them resulted in Murtagh relaxing beside her and closing his eyes to rest.
“I cried myself to sleep?” she asked, slowly cracking open her eyes to see Jamie’s smiling face looking down at her.
“Oh, aye,” Jamie nodded, “ye cried into my chest for a while– my shirt was soaked through– and then ye just fainted.”
She did in fact remember crying hysterically into Jamie’s firm chest. She remembered feeling safe, loved, and an intense relief that came with being reunited after so many years apart. It was almost unbelievable to see him staring down at her with strong concern, if it wasn’t for the pain throughout her body she may have even said it was all a dream. Just months ago, dreams had been the only hope she had for seeing her husband, but now, he was before her in the flesh, she could reach out and touch him and he would reciprocate.
She did just that, reaching toward him with her palm outstretched, cupping his cheek, and bringing him down to close the distance between them so she could kiss him. He responded eagerly, his lips moving in perfect time with hers with just the right amount of force. Jamie lowered himself onto her, his forearms resting against the cart to keep his weight off her, hovering above her body as they kissed. Claire moved her arms to wrap around him in every effort to bring him closer and she may have succeeded, Murtagh groaned in disgust as the couple bumped into him. Suddenly, Jamie flung himself off of her as a hard object made contact with his head.
“What in God’s name?” Jamie cursed, rubbing the back of his head and twirling around toward a laughing Fergus and shrugging Ian.
“Wasn't I, milord!” Fergus howled out between laughter.
“Be lucky Jenny isn’t here wi’ us, she would have done much worse,” Ian said with a laugh of his own.
“I ken it,” Jamie nodded, rubbing his head, turning back to Claire and helping her into a sitting position once more, bracing her back against his chest for support.
“What’s going on?” she asked, looking from Jamie to Fergus and then Ian. Fergus stopped laughing the moment her eyes landed on him, he turned around on the cart’s bench and stilled himself, focusing his attention on the road before him. Ian shrugged once more at the boy’s behavior and gripped the reins harder in his hands. “Don’t tell me nobody knows?”
“We’ve barely made it a few miles from Ardsmuir,” Jamie explained, “the redcoats haven’t yet had time to send dispatches of our escape, we’re safe, for now anyway.”
“We haven’t come across any patrols, which is just as well,” Ian said from the front. “Though I dinna think it will be long before they send the garrison after us.”
“Is it worth going through all that trouble for a few escaped prisoners? I mean, that’s the whole point of Ardsmuir, right? It’s in the middle of nowhere, they knew those who escaped wouldn’t have anywhere else to go so far from home, it’s just an empty moor for miles around unless you count the sea.” Claire pointed out.
“For anybody else, Sassench, I’d reckon ye’re right, the treatment in Ardsmuir was terrible but better than bein’ outside by yerself for miles in the moor wi’ no food or water or shelter but–”
“You’re not just an ordinary prisoner,” Claire finished.
Jamie nodded, “I’m a well-known convicted traitor, an outlaw when we first marrit and again when ye returned,” he smiled sadly, “Christ!” he tsked, “I just realized, I’ll have to go back to hidin’ my hair.”
“Well,” Claire shrugged, “they don’t call you the Dunbonnet for nothing.”
“The what?” he looked at her confused.
“Jamie… there’s so much we need to talk about, I have so many things to tell you.”
“And ye will, Sassenach, I promise, but no’ here and no’ now. Soon, aye?”
“Aye,” she responded, lying her head back against his hard chest as he wrapped his arm around her, resting his cheek on the top of her hair.
The next few hours they spent in almost complete silence, everybody too mentally and physically exhausted to carry on a conversation. Jamie spent the majority of the day glued to her side, always within arms reach even as she tended to Murtagh who slept roughly during the journey, thrashing about with moans of pain. His improvement should have been more pronounced by now, Claire thought, touching the back of her hand against his sweaty forehead. The fever was still present though definitely at a lower temperature than it had been at the prison. She decided he needed a second dose of penicillin, instructing Ian to pull the cart to a halt on the side of the road to reduce the swaying.
Claire readied the shot and from the corner of her eye could see all three men, Ian, Jamie, and Fergus watching her in curiosity and fascination. Ian and Fergus had seen her burlap roll but had yet to see the contents, they were always absent when she’d dosed her previous patients, though her patients hadn’t been aware of her movements either. Each patient had been given firm instructions to keep their eyes shut–except for Quarry– to reduce the number of people who had seen her with advanced medicine. Not wanting to undergo another witch trial, Claire did her best to minimize the showing and usage of advanced knowledge and technology.
She pushed the plunger slowly, waiting for a teardrop of penicillin to rest on the needle before pulling down Murtagh’s breeches and cleaning a spot of skin with a cloth soaked in ale. Murtagh had yet to move, remaining unconscious during her prep work and Claire hoped he would stay that way. It would be terribly inconvenient if he awoke with the needle in his arse, he would no doubt thrash and potentially injure himself and her in the process.
“Is she–?” Ian asked, trailing off as she readied the needle above the firmness of one of Murtagh’s buttcheeks.
“Sassenach, dinna tell me ye mean to bugger him,”
“It’s not buggering,” she defended, carefully injecting the penicillin through the needle into Murtagh’s system, the conscious men wincing as she removed the needle. “It’s the best way to get medicine into his system, his improvements should have been better by now… unless it’s not consumption and I’m treating the wrong illness.” Claire paused in thought.
There were only a handful of other diseases it could be with the current symptoms: pneumonia, bronchitis, or a common cold to name a few, though she ruled out the latter due to the bloody phlegm. In any way, all should have responded to the penicillin so why wasn’t he getting better? Eighteenth-century germs should be no match for antibiotics, they had yet to build up an immunity, she could cure syphilis with a single shot with how strong the drug was. She shook her head, tuberculosis made sense so she would stick with that until another symptom made her think otherwise, she would just lower the dosage of penicillin but increase the number of shots; every three hours should do the trick.
Claire rolled her burlap sack and handed it to Jamie who held it warily, mindful of the sharp needles inside and the precious medicine inside. He placed it into her medical box and secured the lid before turning to look at her as Ian flicked the reins and the cart jerked into movement. “Dinna even think about usin’ that on me,” Jamie told her, wrapping his arms around her shoulder to pull her close, “I’d rather die than let ye stick me in the arse wi’ that thing.”
“My love, you don’t have any say in the matter,” she said, looking up at him as she rested her head against his chest. “I’ll heal you in any way I see fit.”
He snorted, “Oh, is that right?”
“Your body is mine to treat,” she said, snuggling into his embrace.
“Aye,” he nodded affirmatively, “I gave it to ye years ago and it still belongs to ye.” He kissed the top of her hair and she closed her eyes, letting the secure warm embrace of her husband and the gentle movements of the cart lull her back to sleep.
She was awoken sometime later by Jamie’s gentle shaking, they were stopping to water the horses and he thought she may like to stretch her legs, which she did want to do. Claire walked to the river’s edge as Jamie and Ian led the horses to the stream a few yards from her. She knelt and gathered the cool water in her hands before carefully splashing her face to clear the grime and dirt that had collected over the past couple of days. She couldn’t wait for a nice warm bath, she missed the on-demand showers of the future but the tubs at Lallybroch would do nicely considering the Scot she got in exchange for modern amenities.
They rode at a medium pace, not too slow to lag behind and not too quickly to keep the horses from exhaustion. Fergus kept his place by Ian while Jamie alternated between sitting with her next to Murtagh and walking at a brisk pace beside the cart. The freedom to stretch his legs, to feel the open dirt below his feet, and the ability to choose his method of travel, he cited when she questioned him. Though he had only been in Ardsmuir for a month, it was enough to make him miss the outside world and the freedoms it provided.
Claire had just given Murtagh the fourth dose when she decided another treatment in tandem with the penicillin was needed; willow bark tea and yarrow would do wonders for the fever as well as relieve any pain, however, she didn’t carry either herb in her medical kit. Ian was unwilling to stop in a town, though he was sure they were traveling faster than the news of their break, he wasn’t willing to take the chance. Jamie was uncomfortable with sending Claire alone to the apothecary, preferring to keep her close to him after their long separation and Fergus wouldn’t know what to look for.
She didn’t know their exact location, just that they were heading south toward Lallybroch on a seemingly unending dirt road. Claire tried to recall one of the maps Reverend Wakefield had found of Scotland during the eighteenth century. Ardsmuir was at the tip of the highlands with Wentworth near England, if she remembered correctly, Leoch was between Lallybroch and Ardsmuir. Claire was well aware of the events following the failed uprising, clans had been chased from their ancestral lands, unarmed, and banned from wearing kilts. The MacKenzie's couldn’t have been an exception, however, it was highly unlikely, Claire reasoned, that all the MacKenzie's had abandoned their land, it was a chance they would have to take.
“We’re near Leoch, aren’t we?” Claire asked Jamie who was walking beside the cart.
“Aye, we are,” he confirmed, “why?”
“We need to go, I need medicine for Murtagh and I’m sure they’ll have it.”
“Claire,” Ian said, not taking his eyes off the road before him, “Leoch is in the opposite direction, we’d be going off course, that kind of detour would keep us from home for a couple of days– away from Jenny and the bairns, away from Brianna. Besides, the castle is bound to be filled with redcoats.”
“But we’re closer to Leoch than Lallybroch, right?” She looked to Jamie for support who had remained silent since his initial confirmation.
Ian sighed in defeat, factually, Claire was correct, though he wasn’t happy about it in the slightest to admit it. “Technically… aye, it is.”
“Then we’re going,” she announced firmly, “I’m afraid Murtagh won’t make it to Lallybroch in his current state, he needs rest, exercise, good food, and a stable bed, things he can’t get on a moving vehicle.”
“The redcoats?” Ian asked.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Claire said.
“She’s right, Ian,” Jamie said, finally speaking in support of his wife, “if Claire thinks that’s where we should go then we’re goin’.”
“Is e droch ghluasad a th ’ann, a bhràthair,” Ian said, speaking in Gaelic fully knowing Claire wouldn’t be able to understand his protests. (It’s a bad move, brother)
“Tha sinn a ’dèanamh mar a tha mo bhean ag ràdh,” Jamie responded in kind before hoisting himself back onto the cart and smiling at Claire, “We’re goin’ to Leoch, Sassenach.” (We’re doing as my wife says)
“Good,” she huffed, folding her arms and staring daggers at the back of Ian’s head.
She knew Ian was just looking out for them but was angry nonetheless that it took Jamie’s input before he was willing to accept. Thankfully, Jamie was still a supporter of his wife, though through principle or his ill-wish to anger her she wasn’t sure, but she would take it. Jamie was an anomaly, it was rare for a husband to support his wife in such a way, most women being subservient to their husbands. Their relationship had never taken that particular custom and Claire was thankful that aspect hadn’t changed.
“I am not the meek and obedient type.”
“I don’t think anyone would ever make that mistake, Sassenach.”
Though wary and confused, Jamie would follow her anywhere, without a doubt. He knew better than to argue with her when she set her mind to something– and vice versa– and he’d kept his promise by never raising his hand to her again. They fought, of course, every couple did, though not as violently as Claire and Jamie could get. He was the perfect husband despite his fragile temper and backward opinions on some subject manners, much better than Frank.
Claire snickered at the thought, time ran parallel so Frank would still be in Paris dealing with the passport she’d stolen and subsequently burned upon arrival in Scotland. Served him well, she thought. Claire couldn’t deny that he was a good father to Brianna, because he had been, but now it was Jamie’s turn. The only conflict Claire felt was whether or not to remind Brianna of Frank should she forget, he had been her father for the first five years of her life and he’d been kind. She wanted nothing more than for Jamie and Brianna to develop the father-daughter relationship they both deserved, they complimented each other in numerous ways, Brianna truly was a little carbon female copy of her father. She couldn’t wait for them to meet.
It was another hour before they reached the town of Cranesmuir, memories flooding back as they neared: her friend Geillies Duncan, the little boy Jamie helped rescue from the pillory, the witch trial. Claire’s stomach dropped and bile rose in her throat as Jamie pulled on his cloak in an attempt to hide his hair. If memory served Claire correctly, he was known as Jamie McTavish to the citizens of Cranesmuir, but one or two were bound to know his real identity. Claire wanted to circumvent the town on their way to Leoch but Ian insisted that if they were going to go off course they were taking the shortest route.
Jamie and Claire both kept their heads down as they moved further into the town, neither one wanting to be recognized by the inhabitants. No such luck, it seemed, as less than a quarter of an hour later Claire’s head shot up at the sound of her name.
Ian paused the cart as Claire tried to pinpoint the person who had called her name. It took a few moments, but standing across the road stood an elderly woman whose hands were clasped in prayer and tears welling in her eyes.
“Misses FitzGibbons?” Claire asked, shocked by the woman’s appearance.
“Aye, lass, aren’t ye a sight for sore eyes. Jamie! Is that you laddie?” Mrs. FitzGibbons proclaimed in shock when she noticed him. Jamie nodded, tilting his head so she could see his face. “Thank Christ!” the older woman exclaimed, making the sign of the cross. “I thought ye were dead, the both o’ ye,”
“Not quite,” Claire said, “It’s quite convenient that we would run into you, we could use your help,” Claire began, moving out of the way so Mrs. FitzGibbons could see Murtagh, who just so happened to be her nephew.
“I see…” she nodded, understanding the situation right away. “I live on the edge of the town,” she began, pointing east, “ye can stay with me and recover, I’ve only a few errands to complete and then I can join ye.”
“Can you get some willow bark and yarrow?” Claire asked.
Mrs. FitzGibbons nodded, “I’ll get some other herbs as well, aye?”
She gave directions to her residence and sent them on their way, seeing from their faces and demeanor they were trying to stay hidden. It was a small cottage on land barely close enough to the main town to still be considered part of Cranesmuir. It resembled many of other homes nearby, though Claire was sure the thriving garden was all because of Mrs. FitzGibbons. It wasn’t long before their host returned, smiling in their direction with her arms laden with baskets. Fergus, at the behest of his father , was sent forward at once to assist the elder woman.
Ian and Jamie carefully carried Murtagh into the house and set him down on a pallet in front of the hearth in the main room. Claire began making tea with the herbs Mrs. FitzGibbons had bought while Ian and Jamie settled the horses and secured the cart. Fergus, in the meantime, was helping with whatever task he could, refusing to sit still while everyone else labored away.
“Such a fine young man,” Mrs. FitzGibbons said, squeezing Fergus’ chin in her hands. “Who is this boy to ye, Claire?”
“My son,” Claire told the woman proudly, “Jamie and I adopted him in Paris.”
Fergus tensed at her words but said nothing.
“Och, aye,” Mrs. FitzGibbons nodded, “Jamie always had a habit for pickin’ up strays, the two of ye must be proud of yer boy, he’s so kind.”
“We are.” Claire smiled.
“The horses are away and the cart is hidden,” Jamie announced as he and Ian entered the house, “Mrs. FitzGibbons, my brother-in-law, Ian, Jenny’s husband.”
“Pleasure to meet ye, Madam,” Ian extended his hand to her, “we canna thank ye enough for given’ us shelter.”
“Think nothin’ of it!” Mrs. FitzGibbons responded with a wave of her hand, “I was always fond of the Fraser’s, Claire and Jamie especially,” she smiled at the couple, “I’m pleased to see the two ye wi’ a family our yer own.”
“We have a daughter as well,” Jamie said with a smile, his chest puffing with pride, “Brianna is wi’ my sister at Lallybroch.”
“Brianna…” Mrs. FitzGibbons pronounced slowly, rolling the r in her Scottish tongue, “No offense to the two of ye but that’s an awful name for a wee lass. Ye ken it means a disturbance aye?” she asked the last part in a whisper.
“No,” Claire shook her head, looking at Jamie, “I didn’t.”
Jamie shrugged unapologetically, “She’s named after my Da, ye ken?”
“I remember Brian,” Mrs. FitzGibbons nodded, “yer grandsire,” she said to Fergus, “was such a bonnie lad, smart too, like his son. In my opinion, it was no surprise that Brian Fraser and Ellen marritt, they were a match made in heaven, straight by God.”
“Amen,” Jamie agreed as Ian nodded.
“Now,” Mrs. FitzGibbons started, motioning for all four of them to take a seat at the dining table, “ye’re welcome to stay as long as ye did, ye’re family, after all,” she added before continuing, “There’s only three of us here, really, we’ve plenty of room.”
“Who do you live with?” Claire asked.
Before Mrs. FitzGibbons could answer, the front door opened behind them, causing all four of the Fraser-Murray’s to turn their heads in the direction of the sound.
“I’m home, Grannie,” a very familiar voice said, making its way toward them. “What the hell are ye doin’ here ye Sassenach bitch?” the voice shrieked , spotting Claire.
Standing before them was none other than Laoghaire, the granddaughter of Mrs. FitzGibbons and Claire’s enemy, the woman who had tried to steal Jamie away and get Claire killed.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” Claire said, closing her eyes and cursing further under her breath.
Of course, I had to include Laoghaire, but don't worry, she's not THAT much of a problem. She's only around for a couple of chapters so we won't have to deal with her for long. Now, I love bashing Frank– he's the main villain in my other story– but you can't deny he was a good father to Brianna. He cared about her deeply and loved her like his own, which is why Claire is unsure if she should let Brianna forget him entirely. She's conflicted and we'll see this resolved later on.
I think I'm finally back to getting a chapter published for this fic at least once a week, took me a while but I'm finally there. Reading the books has got my juices flowing and making me wish I'd read them ages ago.
As always, thanks to my beta Albatross1013, couldn't have done this without you!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The commotion was over just as quickly as it had begun, Laoghaire was pulled out of the house by Jamie and her grandmother while Fergus, who had jumped in front of Claire, eased slightly once the woman was removed. Fergus had grown in the seven years since she’d left, Claire noticed, he was almost as tall as she was, another year or two and he would tower over her. His back was as straight as a rod, his good hand resting on the dirk he kept in his belt with his attention focused entirely on the door where Laoghaire’s shrieks could still be heard.
Ian walked cautiously to the window, peering out to see what was happening in the yard. Claire put a comforting hand on Fergus’ shoulder, jumping at the touch, startled by her sudden movement. She gave him a reassuring squeeze before joining Ian at the window to try and make sense of what was going on. They were shouting in Gaelic, that much she knew, too fast for her to be able to pick out any words. Jamie’s face was beet red, his body shaking with repressed fury as he yelled at the blonde. He looked as if he wanted to slap her, he probably would have if Mrs. FitzGibbons wasn’t standing between the two trying to keep the peace.
“Jamie always said she was a shrew,” Ian said softly, “Jenny said the lass was well enough, though I dinna ken where she got that assessment.”
Claire snorted, “At least she’s sanded off her horns, hm?”
Ian chuckled at the joke, looking from the action in the front to grin at Claire, “If this show keeps on, the entertainment alone will have been worth the stop, havna seen much comedy since the uprising.” It was Claire’s turn to laugh, a hearty chortle escaping her mouth as she shook her head at Ian.
“Should I go outside with milord?” Fergus asked, joining them by the window, feeling the door no longer needed to be guarded.
“No, stay here,” Claire told him, watching as Jamie drew a pointed finger at Laoghaire’s face, matching her high shrieks of protest with his own deep baritone yells. A groan from behind grabbed Claire's attention, Murtagh, she had completely forgotten him in the chaos. Claire turned from the window and rushed over to the pallet just as Murtagh began flinging blankets off his chilled form, she could hear his teeth chattering from feet away.
“Blankets stay on,” she told him, replacing the covers and doing her best to tuck them under the pallet, hoping to wrap him in.
“‘Too hot,” Murtagh mumbled, trying once more to remove the covering but too weak to be successful.
“Fergus,” Claire said, turning to Fergus who looked at her with tight eyes, “hand me the kettle, please, and get a glass,” she instructed the boy, not trusting Murtagh enough to leave him to his own devices for even a minute. The tea was ready, the yarrow having steeped nicely and the water still a temperature to soothe Murtagh’s throat and warm him. Fergus poured the hot liquid into a glass, handing it to Claire who with one hand rose Murtagh’s head and with the other carefully tilted the cup to his lips. Murtagh, too weak to protest or delirious enough to obey her, opened his lips dutifully and drank the liquid.
Yarrow was a versatile herb used to treat illnesses and symptoms from a simple fever to dysentery and was known for soothing stomach pains. The herb should give Murtagh physical comfort while the penicillin did its job inside his body; once his lungs were clear and the fever broke, he would need exercise, food, and water before being on his way to full recovery. Claire had every hope that he would, refusing to believe that there was even the possibility that he wouldn’t get better. Jamie would be crushed if anything happened to his godfather, her husband would probably curl into a ball and implode at the loss. Besides, Murtagh was her kinsman at this point, she would do anything to see him well. It wasn’t long before Murtagh began to settle, falling into a restful sleep as the yarrow worked its magic on his body. He would be all right, Claire assured herself, he had to be.
Jamie, Laoghaire, and Mrs. FitzGibbons were still outside, though the shouting had lowered to raised voices, “What’s she been saying?” Claire asked Ian who was still by the window, Fergus had retired to the table, his head on his arms as he rested.
“This and that,” Ian said with a shrug, “she’s not too pleased ye’re here though, but then she was reminded by her grandmother that this wasna her house, that shut her up mighty quick.”
Claire nodded in appreciation, if anyone could rein the girl in it would have to be her grandmother. They were standing in the kitchen, Ian leaning against the wall and Claire starting dinner when the pitter-patter of tiny feet drew their attention toward the back of the house, revealing a little girl from the darkening light.
“Ma!” The little girl shouted, seeing the strangers in front of her and being scared as a result. She was Laoghaire’s daughter, no doubt, the blonde hair was a dead give-away and her face resembled her mother greatly. Laoghaire and Mrs. FitzGibbons rushed into the house at the girl's cries, followed by Jamie whose lips were pursed , his eyes heavy with exhaustion.
“It’s all right, Marsali,” Laoghaire said, scooping the child into her arms and rocking her gently. The comforting motions of a mother, Claire could understand that, after all, she’d spent many nights similarly holding Brianna.
“I hope you don’t mind,” Claire said to Mrs. FitzGibbons as the elder woman’s attention lifted from her great-granddaughter to the guests in her kitchen, “I’ve started dinner”
“I’ll take care of that, lass,” Mrs. FitzGibbons said, taking the wooden spoon from Claire's hand and motioning for her to sit, “ye’re tired, I'll make supper.”
Claire sighed in relief, her cooking skills had not improved with time in the future, Frank had stomached the meals, refusing to cook for himself, but she knew very well he didn’t enjoy them. She sat next to Fergus who had fallen asleep at the table, he was just as exhausted as the adults. He’d been in Ardsmuir too, granted, it was only for a week but it was still a large strain on the teenager. Knowing he was fast asleep, Claire took the opportunity to examine Fergus’ stump. The wound had healed nicely, it was a miracle Fergus hadn’t died from infection given the state of medicine and isolation of Lallybroch.
“They cauterized it with a kitchen knife,” Jamie explained, seeing Claire eye the stump, her head jerked in his direction, “there was… a lot of blood,” he sat across from her, Ian joining and sitting to the left, “Jenny and Mary MacNabb put the knife in the hearth’s flames, they had to use the leather gloves in order to hold it. Jenny did it, Fergus, thank God, had already fainted from the shock and blood loss.”
“Where were you?”
“In the cave,” Jamie told her, regret evident in his voice, “he was attacked by soldiers, I was able to get him to the house but had to go back, I couldna risk stayin' in case they showed up.”
“Did they?” She addressed the question to Ian.
Ian nodded, “Aye, they did, replaced the whisky Fergus had been transporting at the time and a bag of coins to buy our silence. We had no choice but to accept,” Ian added at Claire’s cross look, “the raids stopped for a while after that.”
“That’s why I turned myself in, made the plan wi’ Jenny,” Jamie said, “if Fergus hadna been vistin’ me… he’d still have his hand.”
“Och, dinna fash, brother,” Ian said, placing a hand on Jamie’s shoulder, “he’s a man of leisure now, even more so now that Claire’s back.” They chuckled at the inside joke.
“Weel,” Mrs. FitzGibbons said, placing bowls in front of everyone at the table, Laoghaire and her daughter joined the group as Jamie shook Fergus awake, “if ye’re tellin’ stories, we’ve got one o' our own to tell.”
It was a sad story, though common to Scotland following the failed rising of the Stuarts, heartbreaking because they knew those affected but not shocking to hear. Following Collum and Dougal’s death, Hamish, only eleven at the time, was head of the MacKenzie clan. The MacKenzie’s were devastated by the loss of their laird, war chief, and the majority of the men who had joined Dougal in battle. By the next year, the clan had dwindled to half of their number, more lives lost to famine and sickness. Hamish, now twelve, was forced to swear an oath to the King and forced out of Scotland, taking the majority of who remained at Leoch to Nova Scotia, the rest scattered throughout Scotland.
Laoghaire, who had married the year before Culloden to Hugh MacKenzie, wasn’t included in the migration. Mrs. FitzGibbons, herself too old to make the journey with the rest of the clan and with nobody at Leoch to serve, retired to the village of Cranesmuir with her granddaughter, Hugh died in battle, leaving them alone and poor. Leoch was now left to ruin, the redcoats had forced the inhabitants out and made sure no one returned, meaning there was no one to care for the castle. It was abandoned, as far as Mrs. FitzGibbons knew no one had stepped foot inside since Hamish had led the clan out. The MacKenzie’s, like many of the highland clans, once large and powerful, were destroyed.
Laoghaire had quickly remarried to Simon MacKimmie, Marsali was born a few years after and he supported them well, Mrs. FitGibbons explained as Laoghaire nodded absentmindedly. Simon didn’t spend much time at home, spending the majority of his time working at a mill and drinking in taverns, meaning it was mostly the three women who lived in the house.
“Ye’re welcome to stay as long as ye like,” Mrs. FitzGibbons said, finishing her story, leaving the group glum and depressed. Claire couldn’t tell what Jamie was thinking, the MacKenzie’s were his family and blood, finding out what had happened to them left his face stoic. He might still be processing or already knew much of what they’d been told, either way, he remained still and emotionless.
“Thank you, Mrs. Fitz,” Clarie told the kind woman, “but we really only need to stay until Murtagh is better, then we’re going back to Lallybroch.”
“What ails him?” Mrs. FitzGibbons asked.
“Consumption,” Claire said, looking at Laoghaire and Marsali, “it would be best if you kept her away from him, she’s young and could easily catch it.” Laoghaire didn’t look pleased with Claire telling her what to do but nodded anyway, she would be compliant as long as Marsali’s heath was involved.
They ate the rest of their meals in silence, Claire having finished first, collected the broth from the stew and carefully fed the liquid to Murtagh. Once supper had been cleaned, they prepared for bed. Ian was given the couch since his leg made it hard for him to bend down, leaving Claire, Jamie, and Fergus on the floor. Mrs. FitzGibbbons had offered her bed to Jamie and Claire, she could stay with Laoghaire for a few nights but the couple had hastily declined, they didn’t want to impose more than they already were.
Claire slept on the ground closest to Murtagh, in case he needed care during the night with Jamie behind her and Fergus bringing up the rear. Despite his age, Fergus clung to Jamie heavily, relying even in sleep on the protection Jamie’s presence offered. It took Claire hours to fall asleep, though she felt at ease with Jamie’s arm wrapped around her waist she wasn’t sure if sleeping was a good idea given her proximity to Laoghaire. She missed Brianna as well, they’d been separated for over a month now, going on two, and she ached for her daughter. This was the longest they’d ever been apart. Claire slept fitfully, dreaming of Brianna and the reunion of father and daughter.
Three days had passed and there was still no improvement in Murtagh’s health, in fact, he’d gotten worse. The herbs in combination with antibiotics should have healed him by now, instead, the pains in his stomach increased and his pulse was erratic, sometimes slow, and at other times beating so fast it was hard to count. Claire was at a loss. The symptoms clearly pointed to consumption, the sounds in his lungs left her no doubt, but the emerging problems left her confused. While consumption could cause stomach issues, they shouldn’t make him groan in pain, unable to consume anything, consumption certainly wouldn’t leave him jaundiced either.
It was on day four when the convulsions began, Claire awoke in the middle of the night to Murtagh’s body jerking beside her, she yelped in surprise, jolting the rest of the house awake. Claire had been busy that night, her attention split three ways trying to simultaneously care for Murtagh, stop Ian and Jamie from holding the man down all while trying to convince Mrs. FitzGibbons that her nephew was not possessed, only sick, so the priest she wanted to fetch would be no good. Once the convulsions had stopped, Claire did a complete examination, the episode had left Murtagh unable to speak, saliva flowing freely from his mouth. She had cried out in relief when he showed no signs of having a stroke, there would be nothing she could do if he had.
The next day, Ian, Jamie, and Fergus were by the stream watering the horses while Mrs. FitzGibbons and Marsali were out on errands when Claire noticed the stench of musty urine. She was alone and had just changed Murtagh’s bedding, leaving no obvious cause of the smell. Claire walked around the cottage, trying to find the source of the disgusting odor, and followed her nose outside, around the house where she spotted Laoghaire huddled over a table.
“What are you doing?” Claire asked, walking closer to Laoghaire, the smell increasing as she approached.
“Nothin’!” Laoghaire shouted in reply, turning around swiftly and blocking Claire’s view of her work.
Claire narrowed her eyes, “It’s not nothing, you’re clearly hiding something.”
“Mind yer business, ye witch!” Laoghaire snapped.
Claire, not having time to play Laoghaire’s game, pushed the woman aside and gasped at the scene before her. On the table was a mortar and pestle filled to the brim with mashed goo and a plant with a long green stem covered in reddish spots and small white flowers at the tip. Sure enough, as Claire leaned closer to the plant her suspensions were confirmed.
“Oh, my God,” Claire took a deep breath, turning to Laoghaire, “this is hemlock, surely you know that?” The look on the woman’s face showed that she did in fact know that, not so much as a flicker or regret crossed her features. “You’ve been poisoning him, you’re killing Murtagh!”
“No, I’m not,” Laoghaire said matter of factly, “ye are. Ye’re the one supposed to be healin’ him, if he dies, it’ll be yer fault, at least, that’s what Jamie will think.”
“What the hell are you babbling about? Jamie would never think I killed Murtagh.”
“Aye, he will, he trusted ye to heal his godfather but when he dies under yer care,” Laoghaire shrugged with indifference, “he’ll be angry wi’ ye.”
“Why? Why would you do such a thing? Murtagh never did anything to you!”
“His life is the price I’m willin’ to pay for Jamie.”
“This is all about Jamie? You’re still trying to take him from me?”
“He was mine!” Laoghaire shouted, advancing on Claire, “He was mine! I was supposed to wed him, if ye hadna stolen him from me I’d be marrit to him instead of Simon. He would be Marsali’s father, we’d be happy.”
Before Claire could react or even comprehend what she was doing, she slapped Laoghaire, leaving a bright red mark on the woman’s pale skin. Turning from the stunned Laoghaire, Claire swiped the rest of the plant that had yet to be crushed into the mortar and hurried to the nearby river. She hurled the bowl and its contents into the rushing water and rushed back to the house. Now that she knew what was ailing Murtagh, she could help him.
Hemlock didn’t have an antidote, now or in modern times, all Claire could do was try and get the poison out of his system while treating the symptoms. She forced syrup of ipecac into Murtagh’s mouth, ready with a pot to catch the resulting vomit. When the rest of the house returned, Claire opted not to tell them about Laoghaire. The woman had locked herself in her room, and Claire was afraid of what Jamie would do to her if he knew, though she would deserve it.
Claire stayed up with Murtagh all night, forcing water and milk into his body to flush his system. By the dawn of the following day, Murtagh’s fever had finally broken and the convulsions stopped completely, lulling him into a deep sleep. Ian, Jamie, and Fergus slept blissfully unaware of the situation as Claire sat at the table with a cup of tea in her hands in the early morning light. Mrs. FitzGibbons was awake not long after, silently nodding to Claire in greeting as she began the work of meal preparation.
“I’m goin’ out, Marsali is still asleep,” Laoghaire told her grandmother, trying to hide her bruised face in the hood of her cloak, not bothering to look at Claire as she left.
Mrs. FitzGibbons sighed, watching Laoghaire depart before speaking softly, “I didna hear him come last night.”
“Who?” Claire asked, looking up from her tea.
“Simon,” Mrs. FitzGibbons shook her head, “I ken he was here, he left the mark on the lass’s face.”
Claire tensed, Simon McKimmie had not left the bruise on Laoghire’s face, she had, “He hits her?”
“Oh, aye, the bairn too,” Mrs. FitzGibbons said with a nod, “he doesna come home verra often, thank the Lord, but when he does…” she trailed off, “weel, it’s obvious when he’s made a visit. It seems he only comes to beat the girls and sleep a bit before he leaves again.”
Suddenly, Laoghaire’s ravings made sense, she blamed Claire for her situation, not knowing what else to do. If Claire hadn’t married Jamie, he and Laoghaire probably would have been wed, Claire hated to admit. Jamie could be rough at times but he would never beat a woman senseless and he would certainly never lay a hand on a child. They would be peacefully married, Laoghaire and her daughter wouldn’t be repeatedly abused. Despite Laoghaire’s actions, she felt sorry for the woman. Claire knew what it was like to live in a loveless marriage, Frank had his flaws, but he had never been abusive.
Claire kept silent and focused her attention back on her drink.
Later that day, Claire pulled Jamie out of the house away from prying ears to speak with them, Ian followed without invitation, “You have to do something about Simon,” Claire told him once they were a sufficient distance away from the house.
“What about him?” Jamie asked.
“He hits them, Laoghaire and Marsali,”
“Oh,” Jamie simply said, sharing a knowing look with Ian, “there’s nothin’ we can do, Sassenach. It’s none of our concern what happens in someone else’s marriage bed.”
“Did you not hear me? He hits his wife and daughter.”
“We heard ye fine,” Jamie told her, crossing his arms, “but as I’ve said, we canna do anythin’ about it.
“Well, why not?” Claire questioned, looking from her husband to her brother-in-law.
“What would ye have us do?” Ian asked instead of answering her question.
“I don’t know! Talk to him or something,” she suggested.
“Claire,” Ian started but stopped, turning to Jamie, imploring him to explain the situation.
“Sassenach,” Jamie stepped forward and put his hands on Claire’s arms, rubbing them up and down to calm her, “if we talked to Simon– which we have no business doin’– he could up and leave.”
“Let him!” she shouted, “They would be better off without him.”
Ian shifted, “Ye’re not understandin’ what we’re sayin’,”
“He supports them,” Jamie began, “if he left, they would have nothin’. Laoghaire has no skills to make a livin’ and Mrs. Fitz has a hard time liftin’ a chamber pot, besides, she has no job now that the Leoch is gone.”
Claire froze, finally understanding what they were saying.
“They’d have no money for food, no medicine if they fell ill, no clothes for the bairn, and no protection from the crown or thieves wi’out a man in the house,” Jamie continued, “they would be less bruised but starved and cold.”
“We have to do something,” Claire said stubbornly.
“There’s nothin’,” Jamie shook his head.
“You stood up for Rabbie.”
“And his father kicked him out, they have no one. What would you have us do, sister?” Ian asked. “We canna take them wi’ us, Simon could fight if we tried and wi’ ye, Brianna, and Jamie back we’re tight on food as it is.”
“And Laoghaire would never let us take Marsali wi’out her.”
“There’s really nothing we can do?” Clarie asked hopelessly.
“No, not unless you want to condemn them, it’ll be hard and they’ll be miserable, but they’re alive,” Jamie said.
Claire spent the rest of her day with a pit in her stomach, feeling both anger and sadness for Laoghaire McKimmie.
It was another week before Claire declared Murtagh well enough to travel. He was still weak, but could finally sit and walk a short distance by himself. Laoghaire had stayed clear of Claire, whether it was from fear of being struck again or the secret Claire harbored she wasn’t sure, but she was thankful nonetheless. Claire was happy to be going home, she couldn’t wait to see Brianna, at the same time, she was sad to leave her friend. Mrs. FitzGibbons had been a welcome sight and a perfect hostess, they spent their days talking about everything and nothing, sharing tips for herbs and medicines.
Murtagh was sitting up in the cart. Having already said goodbye to his aunt, he was barking orders at Ian and Jamie who both looked as if they wanted to throttle him. Fergus was currently wrapped in a tight embrace by Mrs. FitzGibbons as Claire stood next to them, waiting for her turn.
“I’ll miss ye so, Claire,” Mrs. FitzGibbons said, releasing Fergus and replacing him with Claire in her arms.
Claire returned the embrace, “I’ll miss you too,” Claire smiled.
“Ye take good care of them, aye?” Mrs. FitzGibbons turned to Jamie who nodded.
“Aye, I will.”
Claire left Jamie and Ian to their goodbyes and did one last check on the cart to make sure everything was present and secured. From the corner of her eye, she saw Laoghaire at the door, holding a crying Marsali in arms. The little girl had taken a strange and intense liking to Fergus during their stay. Fergus, though kind to the child, had done his best to shake the little pest with little result.
Claire took a deep breath and closed the distance between them, “I won’t tell anyone about what you did,” Claire assured Laoghaire.
Laoghaire only scoffed in response.
“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry,” Claire said, “I don’t regret marrying Jamie, I’d do it again, but I’m sorry for whatever pain it’s caused you. I never meant to harm you, I’d just fallen in love.”
“I dinna want yer apologies or yer pity!” Laoghaire spat. “There’s nothin’ ye could ever do or say to make it right.”
“I’m sorry,” Claire said again, turning away from the two girls and over to the cart where it waited for her.
“Ready, Sassenach?” Jamie asked, helping Claire into the cart.
“Let’s go home,” Claire nodded to him as Ian flicked the reins and they began riding away. “You have a daughter to meet.”
I can say with 100% certainly we're done with Laoghaire, no more random encounters or acts of hostility from her. Marsali's fate, however, is up in the air, we may see her again later way way WAY down the line. Murtagh is completely healed and back to being a nuisance to those he loves– dinna fash any longer on his account.
I'm happy to stay that we're only a single chapter away from Jamie and Brianna finally meeting, I couldn't be happier with the progress we've been making. Some light angst in the next chapter and then it's nothing but smooth sailing from there– mostly, anyways.
Thanks for reading guys, stay safe out there!
As always, thank you all for reading and for the amazing work my beta Albatross1013 does for me.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Claire had forgotten just how unpredictable weather in the Scottish highlands could be. It was the beginning of October and by all accounts, the weather should have cooled: the winds picking up, and the morning mist taking longer to dissipate. It would begin to rain soon, then the liquid would become solid and Scotland would become a winter wonderland. Claire already knew that Bree would enjoy the snow as she had in Boston, she would have an incredible amount of fun with her cousins and newly acquired brother, maybe she would teach them to make snowmen and snow angels. Jamie could even join them. In true highland-warrior fashion, he seemed immune to the cold. He could play for hours in the snow with his daughter, a sight Claire couldn’t wait to see. Except here, snow wasn’t just a turn of the weather or a new landscape to play in, it was a struggle to survive; a struggle people spent the rest of the year preparing for it.
For now, however, the air was still humid and the sun blazed down upon them, the sweat sticking to her bodice making the fabric damp. She shifted uncomfortably under the gown as the cart bounced beneath her. Fergus and Murtagh were snoozing in the mid-afternoon sun while Ian focused his attention on the road and talked with Jamie about numerous things: the tenants of Lallybroch, potential maneuvers in case the raids started again, repairs to be done around the house in preparation for winter, and other points of interest that Claire paid no mind to. She was happily basking in Jamie’s presence, leaning against him with her head on his shoulder and his hand in her lap.
They hadn’t managed to procure time alone since his escape from Ardsmuir over a week before, going from hours on the road to sleeping on the floor in a crowded house. She desperately wanted some alone time with her husband, to restart the connection they’d been deprived of for six years. She wanted to run her hands along his body, feel his bare skin against hers, she had half a mind to force Ian to pull over so she could drag Jamie into the heather and make love. Ian, however, would do no such thing, Claire sighed with a twinge of resentment. Her brother-in-law was unwilling to stop, pushing the horses and his tired kinsmen in the cart to make up for the time they lost in Cranesmuir.
At least they weren’t walking.
Claire sighed, closing her eyelids and squeezing Jamie’s hand to feel him, to remind herself that he was sitting next to her and not a figment of her imagination. He kissed the side of her head in response, nuzzling his nose into her brown hair before returning his attention to Ian once more. Fergus’ body stretched slowly as he began to rouse from his nap, sitting up and smacking his lips with sleep, rubbing his eyes as the pupils adjusted to the sunlight. His gaze floated around them, taking in the passing trees and taking stock of the people shoved in the cart, making sure everyone was present and accounted for.
Claire gave him a smile when his eyes landed on hers and he looked away immediately, settling his interest on the conversation between Jamie and Ian instead. Claire shook her head, resigning herself to deal with that later as she snuggled further into Jamie’s embrace. It wasn’t long before Murtagh joined them in consciousness. Though much better, his body was still healing and needed copious amounts of sleep and rest. His hunger, in accordance with his ability to complain, increased each day, and while this annoyed the rest of the group, Claire saw it as progress.
“My back is achin’ somethin’ fierce, can we pull over, Ian?” Murtagh asked, rubbing his lower back.
“Nay,” Ian shook his head, “we’ve some distance to make up, Lord kens what Jenny must be thinkin’ by now wi’ how long we’ve been gone. We’re no’ stoppin’ for some time yet.”
Everybody groaned, not happy with hearing that they would be stuck in the back of the uncomfortable cart for several more hours. They were tired, hungry, hot, dirty, and their muscles stiff since they had not made camp the night before, instead, continuing their journey with only the moon to guide them. Ian was eager to get home, having left a newborn baby and a very stressed Jenny behind. Claire wanted to get back to Brianna, of course, she missed her daughter and was awaiting the meeting between her and Jamie, but she would willingly put off the reunion just a little longer if it meant a dip in a cool stream.
“Ye’re goin’ to kill us at this rate, no better than the damn governor,” Murtagh told Ian with a frown.
“One less mouth to feed then,” Ian simply said, the hint of a smile on his lips.
Murtagh muttered a coarse word under his breath in Gaelic, making Jamie and Fergus laugh.
“How did you make it to Ardsmuir anyway?” Claire asked, ignoring the loud wheezing sounds coming from Jamie and Fergus.
“How did I get to Ardsmuir, hm?” Murtagh took a moment to think before he began.
Much like Jamie, Murtagh had planned to die at Culloden, he had no reason to believe he would survive the battle but by some miracle, he had. He didn’t remember much, he said, he remembered standing on the moor waiting for their signal with Jamie, remembered charging onto the field and taking down a handful of redcoats with his sword and dirk before it all went black. He awoke sometime later with a crippling headache but otherwise unscathed, the moor had been blanketed with fog rendering the time of day hard to pinpoint but he knew it was day, there was too much light to be nightfall.
He’d been buried in a small pile of bodies. Rising slowly to assess his location, deciding it safe enough with no English in sight, he had begun his search for Jamie. The last time he’d seen Jamie was during battle, flashes of red hair making him certain of the identity, he had been close as they fought. Not finding his godson in the nearby carnage had made the panic and despair rise in him; he had no reason to believe that Jamie was alive, Murtagh explained, just a flicker of hope that quickly diminished the longer he searched with no tangible results.
It wasn’t long before Murtagh gave up all hope, spotting an English patrol a few yards away, masked by the fog, he had decided to turn himself over. Jamie was dead and Claire was gone, he had nothing to live for. He’d thrown himself at the feet of the English soldier, taking the man by surprise. Murtagh, who had somehow managed to keep hold of his dirk, handed the blade to the soldier.
“Make it quick,” he had said. His eyes had been closed, saying a quick prayer as he waited for the dirk to pierce him, yet, it never came. The soldier had decided to spare Murtagh’s life, whether it was from mercy or tiredness he didn’t know. Instead of being slain with his kinsmen on the field, he had been taken prisoner by the English patrol and penned with a small group of men with a similar fate.
“His Majesty will want to make an example out of some of you, eh?”
They were taken directly to Ardsmuir, forced to walk the many miles on foot with little nourishment and water, some died from their injuries and others from the shock.
Murtagh, still consigned to death, had put off the action when he arrived at Ardsmuir, seeing it his duty to make sure of Jamie’s fate and deliver the news concisely to the Murray’s. His oath to Ellen and Jamie made him owe Jenny Fraser Murray that much. He spent the next several years trying to piece together what happened to Jamie, interviewing as many newcomers as he could. He had not managed to get a precise answer, some said that they had seen Jamie die, others said he had lived, a few men even claimed that Jamie was alive and living at Lallybroch. He’d dismissed the latter as an impossibility.
“I had just about given up,” Murtagh said, “almost a decade in that Hell hole and I had nothin’ to show for it, I was ready to die,” he nodded resolutely.
“Well, obviously you didn’t,” Claire said.
“Obviously,” Murtagh agreed, “I was wi’ the consumption though I didna ken it at the time. I felt awful and Quarry was no willin’ to let me see a physician, though I would have refused if he had.”
“What happened?” Fergus asked, entranced by the story, his eyes wide with excitement.
“Jamie came,” Murtagh said, smiling at his godson at the memory. “It was the first time I’d smiled since, weel, maybe since Paris. I didna believe it at first, thought my mind was maybe playin’ tricks on me, but he was there.”
“Aye, I was,” Jamie said with a smile of his own, “and pleased to see ye again, a ghoistidh.”
“I felt compelled to live again, with Jamie back, but my body had other ideas. Then, o’ all the wee possibilities, a French laddie grabbed and latched onto to Jamie in the cell, refusin’ to let go.”
“Scared the shite out o’ me,” Jamie laughed, looking at Fergus fondly, “I didna hear him comin’ at all.”
“It was, even more, interestin’ when he said that ye were back, Claire, not only back, but in the village below wi’ Ian to break us out. The rest… weel, ye ken the rest.”
She did know the rest. Jamie had accepted Quarry’s proposition to be the ambassador between the prisoners and staff on the condition that Murtagh be treated by the Sassenach healer in the village. Desperate to close the deal, Quarry had accepted and a few days later, found himself short three inmates. Overall, Claire reasoned, nothing was truly lost of the matter except for Quarry’s pride, she had strong reasons to doubt that Jamie acting as an ambassador would have even worked. Sure, those that had fought alongside him at Culloden would follow him willingly but she’d heard from passing conversation that there was a strong protestant population thrown in with the Catholics; there was no way Jamie could have overcome decades of warfare between the two religions.
“I still canna believe you traveled so far to come and get me,” Jamie said, giving her a knowing look.
Her eyebrows raised in surprise, “You would have done the same for me.”
“Aye, I would have,” he replied with no hesitation.
They settled into a peaceful silence, Ian gave his full attention to the road as Murtagh gave him directions from behind. Ian, having been married to a stubborn woman unwilling to relinquish control for two decades, took Murtagh’s gruff attitude in stride. Fergus leaned heavily against the side of the cart and dangled his good arm over the side, letting the air blow the limb up and down as they moved. Jamie settled next to Claire, their sides pressing into each other practically melting their body into one large mass.
“Sassenach,” he began slowly, “tell me of my daughter, what is she like?”
Murtagh decided to leave Ian alone to pay attention to Claire’s answers, he was just as eager to meet the wee lass as Jamie was, he turned in his rooted position to hear the description clearly.
Claire smiled at the question, “She’s fierce, stubborn, hard-headed–”
“Och, she’s definitely a Fraser then,” Murtagh interrupted with a large grin
“That she is,” Claire said with a laugh, “she’s got blazing red hair that burns in the sun, slanted blue eyes and besides her stubbornness, she’s the sweetest little girl I’ve ever met; overly compassionate–especially toward animals– sensitive and the uncanny ability to speak her mind.”
“That’s from ye then,” Jamie said resolutely, “I ken when to hold my tongue, ye though, Sassenach,” he shrugged helplessly.
“I do, too!” she said, playfully shoving his shoulder with her own. Jamie and Murtagh both laughed at the statement. “It’s so good to hear your laughter again,” she looked between the two men, “both of you.”
“I canna remember the last time I truly laughed,” Murtagh said.
“Nor can I,” Jamie agreed, “tell us more.”
Claire did tell them more, starting from Brianna’s birth until they’d journeyed through the stones, Jamie found the story of Brianna shouting ‘No’ as Claire had tried to force peas in her mouth when she was three particularly funny. “Aye, they learn that one fast.” he had said. Her voice was hoarse and her throat dry from talking and laughter by the time they finished. Murtagh went back to sleep as Jamie resumed his position as Claire’s pillow unquestioningly, her head resting on his shoulder once more. She was content, they were content, their family being close to whole and proper reunification just a few days away. Maybe sooner, if Ian continued at this pace.
“Why don’t you walk along the cart?” Claire suggested as she saw Fergus twitch for the hundredth time in the corner of her eye, “The movement will help you settle.”
He ignored her, opting to stare at the rolling ground instead.
She eyed him questioningly, why was he indifferent toward her? It didn’t make sense. He loved Brianna, that much was clear, he’d already accepted the little girl as his sister and had settled into his role as big brother, letting her follow and help him with his chores. He would protect Brianna with his life, yet, he wouldn’t look at her mother, look at their mother.
“Fergus,” Jamie said with a stern tone, “go and walk lad, give yerself somethin to do.” The boy nodded, obeying Jamie as he hopped over the side of the cart and began to walk beside them.
When he was sure Fergus was out of earshot, he turned to Claire, “Has he been treatin’ ye like that long?” Jamie asked in a whisper, having noticed Fergus’ actions as well and just as confused by the boy’s behavior.
“Since I came back,” Claire told him, frowning when she realized that it wasn’t quite true. Fergus, at first, had been ecstatic at her return, crushing her in a tight hug and practically refusing to let go. She could have sworn his dark eyes had been misting with unshed tears. His happiness had only increased after meeting Brianna and during their dinner, until the ill-fated conversation, that was, Claire realized. His attitude had changed after finding out about the stones, learning that Claire and Brianna were both from the future, from a safer time.
Why would that make him upset? Claire thought he would have been interested in the information, curious about the future as any teenage boy would have been. Instead of bombarding her with questions, he’d simply gone silent. Interacting with her only when necessary and the rare times he did choose to follow her command, it was always with an air of annoyance, nothing like the eager little boy she’d met and subsequently fell in love with in Paris. But then again, she argued, Fergus wasn’t a little boy anymore.
He had gone to war, killing a man at Prestonpans and traveling with Charles Stuart’s army through Scotland and into England. He had then lost the only mother he’d ever known and lived in harsh times, threatened constantly by starvation, illness, and raids from the Crown, he lost his hand and his beloved lord in the span of a few days. No wonder he was cynical and angry at the world, Claire supposed her reemergence had not helped matters, instead, adding an unknown factor into the equation.
She understood his behavior to a certain degree and a certain amount of teenage angst to take into consideration, but she also knew she couldn’t live like this, they couldn’t live like this, not if the happy family life she’d been imagining was to come to fruition. No, they would need to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible. Claire bit her tongue to keep from confronting the boy, instead, watching as he silently stalked beside the cart to keep his body entertained. She would have to wait for the perfect moment to talk with him.
The moment, it turned out, came only a couple of hours later when Ian decided they could spare a quick stop, the horses needed rest and his legs ached. They didn’t bother to unload the cart, knowing they would probably be traveling through the night again. Murtagh started a small fire as Jamie helped Ian with the horses, Fergus walked through the heather toward the nearby stream, Claire followed at a distance. She waited until he was at the riverbed, his hands cupping the cool water and cleaning his face of the dirt that collected on his semi-hardened features.
“Are you all right?” she asked, stopping a few feet behind him with her arms crossing.
He hesitated, debating whether he should answer, “Oui,” was all he said in a low voice.
“I know something’s wrong, you’ve been acting weird since that first night. I thought it was because Jamie was taken but now he’s back and you’re still acting strange, only toward me, though.”
He stayed silent.
“Fergus,” she tried again, “you know you can tell me anything. I know a lot is going on right now and–”
“You couldn’t possibly know!” he shouted, whirling around toward her, making her step back in surprise. She hadn’t been expecting an answer let alone one delivered with a mixture of ferocity and coldness. “You don’t know what it was like! You weren’t there when Milord came back, he almost died– he wanted to die, but Auntie Jenny made him get better. You weren’t there when he lived in a cave, not when I lost my hand and not when they took him away.”
“I was there,” she said, “I watched them shove him in a cage and take him.”
“You didn’t stop them,” he pointed out, “You couldn’t possibly know so don’t say you do, you were gone, back to your husband and perfect life while we were here, suffering. You…” he paused, trying to find the right word, “You putain!” he yelled, his body shaking with fury.
She stood there, shocked by his words and his behavior, he had never spoken to her like that before, she didn’t know how to respond.
He ran a hand through his hair, a habit he picked up from Jamie and cursed under his breath, uttering obscenities in a blend of Gaelic and French. He turned away from her, took a deep breath, and kicked a rock into the water, making the surface break into a ripple.
“You weren’t there,” he whispered, so low she wasn’t sure if he’d actually spoken.
She rushed forward, grabbed him by his arm against his protests, and began to drag him back toward the group. He struggled against her, he may not have wished to go with her and he was certainly not happy by the prospect, but he would never hurt her. Seeing no other way to break free without causing damage, he was her unwilling passenger.
“We’re leaving,” she announced once they emerged from the heather and were in sight of the men.
“Sassenach, what in God’s name-?” Jamie asked, seeing the equally frustrated and angry pair.
“In the cart,” Claire said, shoving Fergus toward the bed, “you,” she turned to Jamie and Ian who stood bewildered by the fire, “get the horses.” The men shared a look, the three of them seemingly decided that now was not the time to pick an argument with the determined woman and did as she asked, putting out the fire and harnessing the horses.
“I didna ken ye were so eager to get back home,” Ian said, trying to break the tension.
“We’re not going to Lallybroch, Ian, we’re going to the stones,” she told him.
Ian shook his head, “That’s in the complete opposite direction! We’ve made too much progress to turn back now, no, we’re goin’ home.”
“We’re going,” Claire said slowly, “to the stones or I swear Ian I’ll tie you up and drive us there myself.”
Ian looked to Jamie for support, urging him to take control of his wife and see the absurdity of her demand. Jamie looked between the two, caught in the middle of sensibility and his very angry wife who looked ready to rip the balls off any man who disagreed with her. He doubted the usefulness of his to her would save him.
“Weel… it’s only a few miles off, Ian,” he said after few moments.
“Good God, man!” Ian shouted in disbelief.
“Ye must truly be a dafty to argue wi’ her when she’s like this,” Murtagh agreed, getting into the cart without further question.
Ian, his opinion once again ignored by his family and forced against his will to travel further away from home, altered between silence and indignant mutterings under his breath. The rest stayed silent, Claire and Fergus staring angrily at the other making Murtagh and Jamie uncomfortable. Jamie tried everything he could think of to make Claire relax, he asked more questions about Brianna, tried to make her laugh, and uttered bits of random knowledge as they passed through the highlands.
Nothing worked, Claire stayed quiet and fuming with Fergus in a similar matter, his arms crossed against his chest. Jamie knew without question that if one of them had a sword in their possession they would have rammed the other one through by now.
The sun was just beginning to set as they came to a stop at the bottom of Craigh na Dun. Jamie hated the fairy hill, a feeling of unease washing over him as he stared up the grassy knoll toward the standing stones. Claire jumped from the cart, grasped Fergus by the arm once more, and began to tow him up the incline.
“Stay here,” Jamie told Ian and Murtagh, quickly moving to follow his determined wife, to see what was going on and make sure she didn’t leave him, again. By the time they reached the top they were all breathless, Jamie hunched down to gather his breath as Claire’s chest heaved with the effort of her movements.
She didn’t pause to break though, instead, she dragged Fergus closer to the stones.
“Claire, stop!” Jamie yelled, rushing forward, prepared to grab them both if necessary.
Much to his surprise, Claire and Fergus stopped in front of the tallest stone in the middle.
Still gripping Fergus tightly, she asked, “Do you hear anything?”
The boy struggled against her movements, his height, and strength no match for the determined woman.
“Fergus, answer me!” she demanded.
“No!” he shouted.
“It’s not as strong as it could be,” Claire said, answering Jamie’s unasked question, “but there’s still a calling.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about but let me go,” Fergus said, continuing to try and get away from her iron grip.
“Stop for one second and listen to me!” Claire yelled, Fergus stilled in response. “Not everyone can go through, Fergus, Jamie can’t, and neither can you. You can only go if it calls to you– it’s an incessant buzzing sound, like bees; if you don’t hear it then you can’t go,” she took a deep breath, “I didn’t want to leave you, Fergus, or Jamie but I didn’t have a choice. We’d already lost one child and if I had stayed, given birth to Brianna here we both certainly would have died. I knew what was going to happen, the fall of the highland clans and the years of famine.”
“She told me,” Jamie said, moving to stand closer to them, “I sent her back, for herself and the bairn.”
Fergus looked up at Jamie, a shadow of betrayal flickering in his eyes.
“You have to believe me,” Claire said in a low voice, no longer angry but desperate for him to understand, “if I had thought for even a moment that you could have gone through with me I would have brought you. But I didn’t have a reason to think that, I wanted you safe and the best place for you was at Lallybroch.”
“Aye, lad, it’s true.” Jamie agreed.
“Fergus, I’ve never said it before and I’m sorry for it,” her voice softened, “you are my son just as Brianna is my daughter. You do know that, right?”
Fergus nodded slowly after a few seconds, his body relaxing in Claire’s grip.
“I don’t care what you do, who you become, or where you go, you’re mine– you’re ours. You understand?”
“She’s right,” Jamie said with a smile, “and I think it’s time we’ve made it official,” he paused for a moment, rubbing his knuckle over his chin, “Fergus Claudel Fraser, aye? How does that sound?”
Fergus’ eyes went wide as he looked between Claire and Jamie, stunned, his earlier hesitance, and anger replaced with shock at their words, “Do you… do you truly mean it, milord?”
“Dinna call me that anymore, mo mac, instead, ye can call me Da , ” Jamie told him, his smile widening at Fergus’ surprised look.
“Da,” he repeated slowly, seeing how the word sounded to his ears. He turned to Claire, his face reddening and his body beginning to shake, “I’m so sorry I was angry with you.”
Claire held him in a hug as he fell into her embrace, “It’s okay,” she assured him, resting her chin on the top of his curly hair, “there’s nothing to forgive.” Jamie joined the pair, his arms large enough to wrap securely around them both. They could finally be a family now that all doubt had been erased, all that was missing was their daughter.
“What shall I call you?” Fergus asked Claire, sniffling slightly as they pulled apart.
“I don’t know,” she confessed, “you can call me mama, if you want, Bree does.”
He wrinkled his nose in distaste, “I’m not a bairn,” he pointed out, taking the time to think, “What about Maman?”
“Maman,” Claire repeated with a smile.
Maman would do just perfectly.
Fergus is back to being the happy, optimistic little rascal we all know and love him to be. Kudos to that one person who got the situation completely right in their comment! I can officially say the next few chapters are almost entirely fluff with only a tiny weeny problem to deal with. Brianna is reunited with her brother and mother next chapter and meets Jamie for the first time– I'm so excited for this one.
We never find out what happened to Murtagh from Culloden to the scene with Jamie in Ardsmuir in the show and in the books... well, it's not important. I thought it would be kind of nice to give Murtagh a backstory during that time since he's going to be pretty heavily involved with the Frasers and their journey.