He could hear the footsteps on the porch. A quiet step the lass had, no doubt something she too inherited from her father, but alas he was trained in Fraser characteristics. He knew, like him, she couldn’t sleep.
He found himself brought back to a night a whole lifetime ago. In France, in an Abbey, with a woman who was just as stubborn if not more.
“Lass I can hear ye thinkin’ from a mile away.” His voice was soft as he opened the door. She stared at him for a moment before wiping a tear off her cheek. Walking towards the banister, his jacket cascaded over his shoulder in a well trained movement.
“I’m sorry…” She started but he could hear the small crack in her voice.
“Dinna fash, lass. I ken what ye’re going through…” A small smile crept onto Brianna’s face. “Weel, maybe no’ so much, but I do think I ken just a wee bit what is goin’ on in that head o’ yers.”
Brianna took a few steps and sat on the bench just across from him. “You do though.” She tugged her shawl tighter across her body. “I mean… You know my parents. You were with them for most of their marriage.”
“I was.” Murtagh replied, holding his breath for a moment. “I was with them through it all.”
“Mama told me what happened- to Da. Black Jack..” She spoke softly, but still it was a knife in his gut, but she continued, “Da even told me some about it.”
“I was there. It was Claire and I who came up with the plan, to rescue Jamie.”
“Mama didn’t go into much detail..”
“I suspected she wouldna do such a thing. It was violent, bloody.” He turned so he was facing away from her and leaned against the railing clutching it until his knuckles went white. “If Randall handa died at Culloden, I would have killed him with my own bare hands.”
He heard a small chuckle behind him. “I’m sorry, it’s not funny- it’s just, Randall seems to have that effect on everyone.”
He turned to see Bree with her hand over her mouth, stifling another nervous laugh.
“Tis funny now, but then.. It was something else.”
“I wish they had let me go with them… I need to see Roger.” Brianna’s voice rose and he could see the fire in her eyes. The lass was a woman on a mission- just like her mother had been once. These lasses, he thought, Ellen yer boy did well.
It was his turn to laugh and as Brianna’s eyes threw him daggers, he couldn’t help but remember the same look across Ellen’s face, nearly 30 years prior.
“What’s so funny?”
“Ye dinna ken her, but ye look like yer grandmother Ellen so much. So much so it takes my breath away.”
He crossed his arms and turned around to face Brianna again. “Everyone keeps saying that. I wish I could have met her.”
“Ye would have loved her and she would have loved you. Ye are a Fraser no doubt- the hair, the stubbornness, the wit in ye.”
“Aunt Jocasta said you were always around Ellen-”
“Aye. I loved her, but she chose yer grandsire Brian.” He took a seat next to her on the bench and placed a hand on her knee.
“Did you mind?”
“At first I did, mind ye. I wanted the woman for myself. But then I saw the two of them, standin’ there in the Castle Leoch, and the way she looked at him… She never looked at me like that.” Murtagh gave Bree’s knee a small squeeze. “I knew she was going to marry him. They ran off and eloped. She had to get away from her brothers- Dougal and Colum, ye ken?”
“Mama told me- they killed Dougal, and mama helped Colum-”
“Yes. Yer mam, Christ, that woman is somethin’ else, but that’s beside the point lass.” He took a breath and felt Brianna rest her head against his shoulder.
“She loved Brian, so I was willing to let her go. And I am very glad I did. She gave me Jamie. And because of Jamie- I was given Claire and I was given you, lass.” His voice cracked at the end, a tear falling down his face.
“I deserve this- all of this. If I hadn’t have come back, I wouldn’t be where I am, Mama would be safe, Ro-” He could hear the crack in her voice, “… It’s all my fault.”
“Listen, Brianna,” His voice thick on the Highland lilt of her name, “It is no’ yer fault. Christ, yer just like yer mother was in France. I told her the same thing.”
He felt her shift closer into his side and wrapped his arm around her, aligning her to his frame.
“Ye are Claire’s daughter nay doubt in my mind. She was stubborn as a mule that one, but listen, she rescued Jamie. Physically, and saved his soul as well. Ye think it’s yer fault because of how much ye love this man, this... “
“Aye. This Roger. If there’s one thing ye inherited from yer mother, it’s her strength and ability to care for her family. I can see it in yer eyes. And I ken ye harbour some ill feelings towards yer Da right now, respectfully so. But he’s a man of his word. He will bring him home.”
“I said some awful things to him. I didn’t mean them.. Well I did in the moment but I didn’t really mean them…”
“Aye, lass. That is how ye are Jamie’s daughter fer sure, saying things in the heat of the moment. He kens that, deep down, he kens ye didna mean it. He surely said somethings too that he didna mean.”
“I just, a flip was switched in me.”
“I ken, Brianna, Ye had another father for so long. And Jamie is verra different from Frank I gather.”
“Very.” Brianna laughed at that.
“Frank and Jamie are two very different men, but I can tell ye, they both loved ye. Jamie loved ye so much- he sent yer mam back to him, to see ye safe. He was willing to give up his life so ye stood a chance.”
“I think ye do, but ye realize, he’s doing that again. As I said, ye have a right to be angry wi’ him, but he’s going to rescue this lad of yers. Once more, he’ll see to it that ye both are safe. Not just the two of ye, all of ye- Claire, Roger, you, the bairn.”
“Once more?” She raised a brow at this.
“Black Jack. He broke Jamie. No’ just his body...I thought,” He turned his face to stare at the landscape covered in moodnight, “I thought we werena goin’ to be save him, Black Jack broke his soul as well- yer mam was the one to heal him. I ken ye need her here, but she needs to be there for Jamie as well. He’s a bloody outright fool sometimes, but he does what he does because of how much he loves his family.” He took a breath as Brianna sat up to look at him.
“I saw the look on his face as he was leavin’. I had only ever seen it once more, when he was ridin’ off wi’ Claire to send her back. He’ll do whatever it takes to see ye and Roger safe. Dinna doubt that.”
“They’ll be alright, won’t they?”
“Aye, lass. They will. Yer ma’am will save them. If there is one thing I have learned in all my life, it is that Claire Fraser is no’ a woman to cross. She’ll save them both: Roger and yer Da. Don’t worry...There’s no other woman who can do what she can do.”
A tear rolled down her cheek and he reached up and wiped it with his thumb.
“I don’t know what to call you, you’re kind of my Uncle but you’re also about as close to grandparent I’ll ever get in this century.”
“Mphmm.” He let out out a Scottish grunt of amusement. “Ye can call me whatever ye like, lass. Whether it is Murtagh, Uncle Murtagh, or so help me, Grandda too, if it suits ye.”
“Grandda, huh?” A smile that echoed Ellen’s crept across her face from ear to ear. “I like the sound of that.”
“I do too, lass. Come here.” He pulled her to his chest, embracing her small form against his, saying a silent prayer to Ellen above.
“I promised to watch over Jamie- but dinna fash, I will watch over all of them, until my last breath.”