Jamie Fraser groaned as he opened his eyes, blinking to adjust to the light of the afternoon sun. His headache was splitting, and he instantly knew something was wrong. Where was he? More importantly, where was –
He rose to his knees and whipped his head around to search for his daughter. He remembered holding her hand, how far could she have gotten?
They had been travelling back to Lallybroch from a trip for supplies. Jenny had disapproved, as his leg was still healing, but he had needed to do something to feel useful. Perhaps he was a fool to leave the priest’s hole, let alone Lallybroch, as a wanted man but he couldn’t sit around any longer while his family suffered.
He had gathered Faith, cropped his hair close and settled a cap on his head to detract from attention. The journey had gone smoothly enough, but on the way back Faith had slipped from his grasp and run up the hill toward –
Craigh Na Dun. The stones. Christ.
Jamie shakily got to his feet. He had to find her. The one thing he had been able to promise Claire before she crossed was that their lass would be safe. He had wished for time to fetch Faith and send her through the stones to safety with Claire and the bairn. He never expected to be around to care for her after Culloden, instead trusting his sister and best friend to see to her wellbeing.
But fate had intervened and allowed him a second chance. He had lost Claire, but still had a piece of her in Faith. Just like she would have from Brian in her own time. That she may be safe, she and the child.
“Faith…” Jamie stuttered. He couldn’t be without his daughter, the person he had left to keep him whole. It was his job to protect her. As long as he lived. Head pounding, Jamie took shaky steps around the stone. Had she passed through and left him behind? What would his wee daughter do by herself in a strange time? All the stories Claire had told him of 1948, and he still could not picture it. Jamie had whispered the memories as tales in Gaelic to Faith as she fell asleep, but she would never be prepared for the uncertainty, the danger of the time…
“Faith!” His voice was growing stronger, and he was able to project it over the hillside. Faith. His darling… the last piece of his heart.
“Da –” he finally heard the weak voice and ran toward it. He dropped down next to his four-year old’s prostrate form.
“Mo nighean,” Jamie cooed. “Are ye alright?” Praise God, she had not passed through, he thought. Even if she had… landed… in Claire’s time, she would have been at risk. Alone. She had no reason to seek her mother there. Jamie had occasionally allowed her the vague assurance that Mam might be back one day. But truthfully, he didn’t expect it. He would rather she stay safely in her own time than risk herself here. Even if it killed him to be apart from her.
Jamie put an arm around Faith’s shoulders and one under her knees as he pulled her into his lap. She was growing like a weed, he noticed as he rocked her. And Claire was missing it. Faith’s solid head hit his chest as she let it lull against him.
“What happened, Da? The screams… hurted my ears,” she whispered.
Jamie frowned. Screaming? He had heard something as he chased his daughter up the hill, but assumed it was the pounding of his own heart. The hypnotic look in her eyes as she turned and ran away still stuck in his mind. Of course she would have the same pull to the stones Claire did. But he had stopped her in time. Surely.
He scooped Faith up and started the way back down the hill. They could sort it out better away from the shrill noise, which he could hear now that his wee one was in his arms and his head clear of panic.
Her rattling cough brought Jamie into focus. “Mo chridhe?” he asked soothingly, trying to wipe the fear from his brow. The cough had been consistent since her early birth in the chaos of Paris. Not his fault, Claire had insisted. But the guilt weighed on him all the same. One more way he had failed his young family.
“Breathe, chuisle,” he whispered. “Easy.” Claire had taught him and Jenny how to identify the herb used to ease Faith’s constricted lungs, but he had left the rest in the saddlebag with Donas. Her symptoms usually increased after she had exerted herself. Asthma, Claire had called it. And little to be done for it in the 1740s.
Jamie increased his gait to reach the stubborn horse at the bottom of the hill. “Dinna fash, Da’s got ye,” he cooed to Faith as he tucked a lock of her brown curls behind her ear. He stopped suddenly. Donas had been hobbled right there, he thought. Though it was hard to hear with the noise of the…
Jamie looked up in shock as a shiny object rumbled past high in the sky. He could never have pictured it, but the thing looked as close as he could imagine to what Claire had described as an aeroplane. Something that wouldn’t exist for more than 150 years from his own time.
Faith was rasping by now, and her medicine in 1747, whenever they were. Jamie took off in a run toward Inverness. His frantic mind conjured the memory of Claire seeking the lights of her own time.
Emerging through the woods, Jamie stumbled upon an expanse of hard rock stretching as far as he could see. It must be the road Claire had mentioned. He kept running, trying to avoid jostling Faith in his hurry. He figured he had run five minutes when another rumbling started behind him. Was everything in this time so damnably loud?
A shrill noise echoed from the strange carriage that approached, and it stopped within a few paces of Jamie. The man that sat inside gave him a curious look.
“Ye seem in a hurry,” the man said. “In need of a lift?”
“Aye,” Jamie croaked. He eyed the apparatus cautiously. He wasn’t sure about its absolute safety either, but Faith needed help soon.
The man reached across the seat of his carriage and released the door handle. Jamie caught the way of things and opened the door the rest of the way. He sat carefully in the seat, tucking Faith into his lap. Her eyes were closed and her breath was coming in wracking gasps.
“Is your girl alright?” The stranger asked as the carriage lurched into motion. “Headed to the hospital, then?”
Jamie nodded. He felt the bit queasy from the speed of the carriage, but paid it no mind in his fear for Faith.
“What’s with the get-up?” the man asked. “I suppose your kilt blends in well enough these days, but the lass’s fashion looks about 200 years old, does it no?”
Jamie hesitated. He likely couldn’t trust this man with much. But, if he had the opportunity to learn the year, he had to take it.
“She likes to play dress up now and again,” he said lamely. Just before he could ask a daft question about where they had landed in time, Jamie noticed a wee book stored in the pocket of the carriage’s door. Shifting Faith gently, he plucked it into his hand.
1948 Morris Minor, it read. “Your carriage,” Jamie began. “It’s new, then?”
The stranger turned his head to look at Jamie quizzically. “Aye, only about a year,” he said. “What did ye say yer name was again, Lad?”
“McTavish,” he said almost automatically. “Malcolm McTavish.” He nearly couldn’t breathe. He heard the older man make a similar introduction. Reverend Something. I didn’t matter in that moment. Nothing else did.
C l a i r e.