Chapter 1: Strange Men
Claire jumps into the melee as soon as the gurneys roll through the A & E doors. She goes with the man in the first gurney into the trauma room to assess the damage. The wound on his thigh has saturated the blue and brown plaid of his kilt.
Kilt? It’s not exactly out of the ordinary to find a man sporting a kilt in Inverness, but this isn’t like the modern ones that she’s used to seeing. As she cuts the fabric away from his thigh, it’s obviously a proper and classic tartan of long fabric intricately folded into place and belted together.
She looks up then and takes in the full form of the man before her. He’s large, ginger, in a peasant top that looks like it belongs in a film set in the 17th or 18th century. His face is striking with sharp, but pleasant features and a square set jaw. Under the smears of dirt and blood that face is oddly familiar. Claire’s gut rolls as she takes in the familiarity and thinks it’s not bloody possible.
“Dr. Beauchamp! We need more hands in trauma two,” Dr. Abernathy calls out.
“Coming!” Claire calls, before barking orders to the junior resident. “Get this wound triaged and disinfected. Check him over for other injuries. I’ll be back to stitch the wound.”
She sweeps into the other trauma room and lets the usual adrenalen take over the unsettling feeling in her gut. All hell is breaking loose. The other man thrashes and fights against the onslaught of nurses, ordelies, and doctors. Claire squeezes between Joe Abernathy and Nurse Mary Hawkins. Joe grips the man’s right arm, while Mary presses what little weight she has onto the man’s thigh. There’s an obvious wound on the man’s side that bleeds through the thick red fabric. Again she notices strange clothes, though these look like they belong in a film about the American Revolution.
“Where the hell did these two come from?” Claire calls above the chaos to no one in particular.
A hand squeezes Claire’s neck before she can even register the crunch of bone on bone. From the corner of her eye, she catches Joe clutching his now gushing nose, but then the fist tightens around her neck. She finally takes in the man’s gritting face and she’d gasp if she could actually get air down her throat. Frank? The man so resembles her ex-husband that for a moment she assumes this was all some convoluted dream.
But then the man is kicking at his remaining captors and swinging off the bed, all while never letting go of Claire. Once he’s on his feet, she’s pulled into his front, like a shield. She wants to ask him what the hell has gotten into him. Why the hell are you even here? A knife appears at her breast seemingly from nowhere as he backs them out of the trauma room. She thinks her heart actually stops for a moment as the threat digs into her scrubs. Not Frank. Frank is many things but not this.
“Where am I?” he breathes into Claire’s ear.
“Raigmore Hospital,” Claire grits out around his fist. “We’re trying to help you.”
“The only help I need from you, Madam, is how to get out of here?”
Staff are trying circle around them, so he switches tactics and removes his hand from her neck to wrench her arms behind her back. She cries out at the pain but then swallows the curses on the tip of her tongue as the knife moves to her throat.
“I will slit her throat,” he warns as a burly security guard inches to advance. “Now, Madam, you will direct me how to get out of this place.”
Claire grits her teeth, but nods. She calls out right, left, through those doors , even as she wants to yell curses and stab him in the bollocks. The crowd follows them all the way to the ambulance bay which has emptied.
“Where the hell am I?” the man mutters, obviously to himself, as Claire feels him craning his neck from side to side.
Then she’s tossed and kicked into the crowd, the knife nicking the side of her neck in the process. Someone catches her, but the only thing she’s fully aware of are the fading of his footsteps and the labor of her own breathing.
Two days later, Claire is left with bruises around her neck and a mysterious Scot recovering on the fourth floor. He’s bloody lucky. The wound on his thigh was deep but had just barely missed his femoral artery. It’s really the fever that’s keeping him mostly unconscious and it seems to be from nothing more than the common cold.
By all accounts he’s a mostly healthy 25 to 35 year old male with some minor nutrient deficiencies that point to an avoidance of vegetables. Then there’s his back, which elicited a string of gasps from the nurses who discovered the mangled scars there. Claire has seen a variety of injuries and the imprint they leave on a person, but she really couldn’t wager a guess on what had left this young man with the knotted scar tissue. It doesn’t match being dragged, or shrapnel, or burns. The criss-crossing lines speak to some sort of pattern repeated over and over and over until the pattern itself is all but lost. There’s a multitude of other scars across this body -- a bullet wound to the shoulder, two healed gashes on either side of his torso. X-rays show some minor ligament damage to his right shoulder probably from a poorly repaired dislocation.
The police have a guard on his room, ready to question him at the first sign of consciousness. She’s already spent a fair amount of time with one of them who collected her statement on the assault.
It isn’t hard for Claire to work her way past the policeman with the excuse of checking his wounds, even though it’s not really her responsibility at this point. She checks his leg anyway, but then settles into the chair by the bed. She studies his stubbled face and the string of light lashes pressed to the fine skin under his eye. His companion resembled her husband, but this man, this face with a halo of copper, has swam in her vision for decades in the aftermath of strange dreams.
“Who are you?”
Claire is a woman of science and doesn’t believe in premonitions or fairy stones. Though that’s where the strange men were apparently found. Joe had filled her in as they had recovered from their injuries. He spoke of how tourists found them at the stones of Craigh na Dun, unconscious. She remembers going there for Hogmanay festivities her first year in Inverness to hear tales of folks disappearing there and then feeling swept up in the ceremonial dance within the stone circle.
The bed creaks and Claire notices him starting to shift, while his head lulls from side to side. She hops to her feet and leans over him.
“That’s it come on back now,” she says.
His eyes flutter open and for a second they focus before his brow furrows at the sight of her. He murmurs, “Mo nighean donn,” like a question and then promptly slips back into unconsciousness.
“I don’t speak gaelic you bloody Scot,” she huffs.
Three more days pass and Claire doesn’t return to his room. Not from lack of curiosity, but because she’s on back to back twelve hour shifts. She sneaks into an on-call room with the hopes of getting a nap, but is woken up 20 minutes in by a text alert. When she sees its from Jeanie, the head nurse on the fourth floor, she quickly opens the message.
Your Scot’s awake. Causing quite the scene too.
Claire trotts up the stairs to the fourth floor and curses herself for even caring. What the hell are you thinking, Beauchamp? A crowd has gathered outside the room. The window looking in shows an agitated Scot tugging at the bed where his hand is cuffed, while he yells back and forth with the policeman. Claire charges through the crowd and into the room.
“Please stop agitating my patient!”
Both men go silent and turn to her.
“Please step back, ma’am,” the young officer says.
“You’re the one that needs to step back.”
“I canna do that, lass. I’m under orders to get answers from him as soon as possible--”
“It’s Doctor Beauchamp, not lass. And maybe you can clarify some things to the man before charging in and barking off questions. He’s been out for a week with probably little idea of where he is. So you can’t exactly begrudge him his reactions. Now leave so I can check on him.”
The young policeman is slack jawed and obviously searching for an argument, but Claire steels her back, practically daring him to try. After a beat he mutters, “I’ll be just outside.” Claire makes sure the door closes behind him and then closes the blinds to hide the Scot from the prying eyes of unoccupied staff.
Claire sighs out a breath before she turns toward him. He stands a bit straighter and she notices the trickle of blood from where he ripped out his IV.
“Why am I shackled to this...cot?” he asks, waving at bed.
“I think I can fix that. But you have to promise not to run.”
He looks her up and down. His face gives absolutely nothing away and she starts to wonder if putting faith in him as a decent person was a mistake. But then he finally nods with a quiet, “aye.”
Claire cracks the door to demand the key to the handcuffs.
“Ma’am, Doctor, he could run. And, and we don’t know what sort of threat he is.”
“If anything of the kind happens, you can hold me personally responsible.”
He acquiesces like a teen with no real leg to stand on and passes the keys to her. Then they’re alone again. He stares back at her with that bloody inscrutable face, but certainly sizing her up all the same. He’s a striking man. Claire’s certain he knows how to use his size to threaten when need be, but there’s something so open about his clear blue eyes that make him almost boyish. She breaks first and clears her throat as she walks closer and then frees his wrist from the handcuffs.
There’s a brush of fingertips against her neck that snaps her a few steps back.
“Sorry, I dinna mean, but your hurt.”
“I’m fine. Parting gift from your redcoat friend.”
“The man you were found with.”
“Randall,” he bites out the name like a curse and feels like a punch to the gut to Claire.
Randall ? She tries to hide the shaky breath trying to escape her lungs. All Claire can see if Frank’s books, ledgers, and papers strewn across his desk as he excitedly tells her of Jonathan Wolverton Randall, an English Captain during the ‘45 Rising, who would have worn a redcoat just like the one the man who held her at knife point wore.
“His. His name’s Randall?”
“Where is he? He canna be trusted--”
“He ran off. Police are searching for him, but so far nothing.”
“How long ago was that?”
He mutters what seem to be curses in gaelic and then asks, “And what of Culloden?”
“Battle? What, you mean the Battle of Culloden? With the Jacobites?”
“Aye, Sassenach, has word not gotten here yet? Or are ye worried for yer safety being English? I can give you my word that--”
“Wait. You’re asking for the outcome of the Battle of Culloden as if it just happened.”
“Ye just said it’s only been five days.”
Claire lets out a shaky breath and swallows down a sense of panic. A sense that everything she thought she knew was about to be turned on its head.
“What year is it?”
“Damn ye, woman--”
“What year is it?”
He swallows as his brow furrows and then, “1746.”
“Today is the 21st of April 2019.”
“Two...two thousand and nineteen?”
He staggers then and slumps onto the bed. He starts to scan the room. His breath quickens with every detail he seems to take in and Claire can make out the tell-tale signs of a panic attack coming on. She quickly comes around leaning slightly towards him as she tries to catch his eye.
“Hey, look at me. What’s your name?”
“I’m Claire. Now I want you to take a nice deep breath with me.”
She took a deep breath in and then blew it out, urging him to join her. She can hear the rattling of his breathing as he tries to match her. She whispers soft encouragement as they breathe until his sounds less and less labored.
“Now, I want to check the wound on your thigh. Is that all right?”
He nods after a beat, but she can feel him tense as she pushes his hospital gown out the way. It's obviously irritated from whatever swift movements he had made before her arrival, but none of the stitches had been torn.
“Did,” he starts and then clears his throat. “Did ye stitch me up?”
“You’re a healer?”
“Suppose you could say that. You need to rest this leg and I need to put your IV back in.”
“What was in your arm. It’s medicine. It’ll help you heal. Now lie down.”
Claire expects a fight and she sees a flicker of fear across his otherwise impassive face. But then he rolls into the bed and lies down as he’s told. She makes quick work of gathering a clean needle and hooking him back up to the IV.
All the while she can hear her own heart pounding in her ears and flush settling over her face. She thinks she tells him to rest before she staggers out and down the hall. Images of Frank and non-Frank swirl her vision mixed in with the words 1746 and the man named Jamie’s face. She finds an empty restroom and leans against the counter there, palms pressing into the formica.
Chapter 2: Strange Sounds
Thank you for the reviews & kudos for the last chapter.
Everything is so bloody loud. There’s a constant hum and chirp from every single strange device, even the odd torches in the ceiling. It doesn’t help the fitful bouts of sleep Jamie doses in and out of. Questions swirl in his head -- What happened after Culloden? Was Scotland even still Scotland? But he didn’t dare ask any of them. He was smart enough to know he couldn’t draw attention to his situation because who knows what they might do to him if he starts harping on about fairy stones. Locked up as a madman? Or worst? He couldn’t risk that except with maybe the healer.
Claire. He thinks it’s been a day since he’s seen her. Other women come in to check his IV, bring him food, and help him to what they call the toilet, which is still mostly a mystery. They all wear the same strange trousers Claire wore and he’s never seen women is such clothes. When he brings up the image of Claire, his mind stills and his chest losenes. Mo nighean donn. He’s seen those features, that frame of wild hair as long as he can remember in hazy dreams set in foriegn buildings not that different from the one he sits in now.
It doesn’t seem she told anyone of what he told her. The lad guarding his door and the one auld lass who gave him something called a psychological evaluation make no mention of it between their onslaught of questions.
What’s your name?
Where do you live?
I’m, uh, in between homes.
There’s programs I can connect you with. Help you find housing, but they’ll need some ID from you.
I can find my own way.
What happened to you at Craigh na Dun?
The man. In the redcoat. He attacked me.
Do you know him?
He thinks the wound gives him an advantage with his current captors since Randall was obviously not nearly as injured as himself. He hopes they see him as an innocent in the matter and let him go. Then he can figure out how to find Randall and get back home. If there’s even a home to get back to. He can’t help but think of the march to Culloden, to a battle he knew they would lose. A battle he wanted no part of but had no choice but to follow given his situation. How many were lost? What of Murtagh? Lallybroch?
“Hello there, laddie.”
Jamie finds the woman who had introduced herself as “Dr. Gillian Edgars, Lead Staff Psychologist.” He still has no real idea what most of those words mean, but there’s a presence about her that says she knows how to control a room when it suits her. She’s a beautiful woman, though probably older than his mam would be if she were still alive. He thinks her hair may have once been as red as his, but now has dwindled into a reddish blonde mixed in with streaks of white. She wears a tight skirt that barely covers her knees and hides nothing of her shape from men’s eyes. He can’t help but think for a moment of Claire’s round bum in her strange trousers.
“Ye have more questions for me?” Jamie asks.
“No. No more questions. Though, I think we both know there’s things ye’re no’ saying. But nothing ye have said gives me grounds to keep ye here. I believe the police would say the same, though they’ll want a number to contact ye at.”
“Aye. Ye’re phone number. Ye do have a phone, don’t ye?”
She says it as if she already knows the truth of it -- that he has no notion of what a phone is.
“I lost it.”
“At Craigh na Dun?”
“Well, we may be able to find ye one to take.”
“Are ye releasing me?”
“Seems so. The doctors want to keep ye a couple more days, but I suspect ye’ll be released soon.”
“Good luck to ye, Mr. Fraser.”
A day and a half later, Jamie’s given a pair of trousers and a shirt that matches the ones he’s seen on all the women tending him. The material feels weird on his skin and the fit more constricting than he’s used to causing him to shift his hips. Someone calling herself a social worker brings him a wee rectangular device going on about minutes being paid for the first month and a walking stick made of metal. There’s papers for him to sign with a quill made of a smooth material he’s never felt before. Then one of the women, Nurse Hathaway he hears her called, returns his sporran and shows him the way out.
He halts at something called an elevator as he sees the metal door open on it’s own volition. He swallows but follows Nurse Hathaway into the metal box. He readies for a fight when the box lurches and he’s certain they’re moving. He takes in the strange glances at the few other people with them and forces himself to stand straight and still. A part of him wants to ask about the wonder of it. It must be some sort of pulley system, but how does it run? It’s possibly only seconds before the doors are opening again and Nurse Hathaway is ushering him out. She continues to guide him until they’re at another door made of metal and glass, that sunlight shows through.
Then he’s left outside. There’s so much noise. Things squawking and roaring. Strange carriages hurry past him. People in all sorts of dress pass by, some in nothing more than what looks like a shift. Some notice him with questioning or even inviting looks and others pay him no mind at all. The buildings surround everything on the road and even though he’s outside, it feels like there’s no air to breathe.
It’s Claire’s voice and it anchors him. He takes in a deep breath like she showed him and then feels a hand on his shoulder. He looks at her then. She wears the worry on her face clearly as the bag on her shoulder. She’s so bonny -- hair in a messy bun, ivory skin.
“I’m all right, Sassenach. There’s just…” he gestures vaguely at the things going on around them and has no idea how to articulate the reality of it all crashing down on him.
She lets her hand drop from his shoulder and crosses her arms over chest, as if she doesn’t know what else to do.
“Do you know where you’ll go?” she asks and he knows the answer is a resounding no , but doesn’t want to say so. He apparently doesn’t have to voice it, because then she’s cocking her head in a follow me gesture as she says, “come on, then.”
He should walk away, but then he’s following her before he can think too much of it. She takes him into an odd stone structure filled with those strange carriages and he follows until she stops at a small black one. She helps him into one side and then she pops into the other seat in front of a strange circle. She reaches across him and then pulls a strange strap around him. He wants to protest but then watches her do the same to herself before she places a key into a lock and twists it. The beast comes to life with a rumble and Jamie grips at the ledge in front of him. Then they’re moving as he watches Claire use the circle to control the movement.
“How? How does it work?” Jamie asks as they exit onto the road.
“Well, there’s a device called an engine that uses petrol to give it power.”
“I don’t understand anything ye just said, but I’ll take your word for it.”
“I don’t have the best language to explain it properly. For me it’s just normal.”
Jamie nods and notices his stomach start to turn as he watches the scenery fly by him. He swallows down the bile trying to rise up and he starts to feel like he’s on a bloody boat.
“Do you think me mad?” he asks around the sour feeling in his mouth.
“I’m not sure what I think.”
“But you dinna tell anyone what I said.”
“No, I didn’t.”
He watches her falter and shrug. She finally replies with an,”I don’t know,” but he can tell it’s not the complete truth. She has her motives that she obviously isn’t ready to share and he decides not to pressure her for it. He already owes her his life, he’s certain of it, so he can’t begrudge her her own secrets.
He groans and curls forward as his guts seem to swim and swirl. “I’m gonna be sick.”
She mutters a curse and then reaches behind her seat. She shoves a strange, crinkling sack with the words “thank you” plastered in red letters in front of him.
“We’re almost there. Just use this if you need to vomit. You get motion sickness?”
“If that’s the same as being sea-sick then, aye.”
He swallows down the sickness and tries to focus on his breathing. “Will ye tell me what became of Scotland? After Culloden.”
“It remained under Britsh rule. Still is, but Scotland is still Scotland. As much as the English tried they couldn’t completely rid the Scots of their traditions. Especially here in the Highlands.”
“And the King?”
“We actually have a queen now. Though her power is really just in name. The Royals no longer make political decisions. We have something called a parliament and a Prime Minister that leads the country.”
He nods taking in the information and has some understanding of what she means from his schooling in Paris. He breathes through the nausea as she turns into a little cobble driveway. She stops the carriage in front of a wee cottage made of stone with ivy growing up the side. He tugs at the strap across him with a frustrated noise until she aids him and it slips easily free. He bolts from the carriage and tries to steady himself on his feet while he wills his stomach to settle.
Claire appears at his elbow and guides him as he limps toward the door with her. They come into a small foyer and he watches her hang her bag on hook. He follows suit and puts down his sporran on the wee table there.
“I can get you some ginger tea. It will help with the nausea.”
He follows her into what he assumes is the kitchen based on the crockery on the shelves, but he can't say he recognizes much else. She moves about easily pulling out a tin from a cupboard and then takes a strange kettle to a spicket. With a twist of a knob water rushes out. He wants to ask about it but instead settles himself on a stool at the tall table in the center of the room. He continues to watch her put the kettle down on a wee plate of some sort and then pulls down a mug. She turns to him and he holds her gaze.
“WIll yer husband be home soon?” he asks.
“We decided not to be married anymore.”
“Is it so easy to break a vow in this time?”
“He broke our vows. I asked to be released from mine.”
Her voice has more bite to it than he’s heard directed at him. He sees a flash of hurt scitter across her eyes.
“I dinna mean to upset you. Though, I dinna think it’s proper then for me to stay with ye.”
A bemused smirk appears on her lips before she says, “worried about protecting my virtue?”
“Aye. Yer reputation.”
“You don’t have to worry about that.”
Steam begins to whistle from the kettle and she turns to pour the tea. She’s quiet as she sets the mug in front of him and he sips at in silence. His eyes occasionally drift to her face and he wants to ask what her husband did to her.
“Do you want me to take you back to Craigh na Dun?”
The question startles him and he feels a flush wash over his chest as he realizes he’s scared to leave her.
“No’ before I deal with Randall.”
“He could be anywhere. There are people looking for him. It doesn't have to be you.”
“Aye, it does. He. He owes me a debt.”
Claire purses her lips and her fine finger traces the grain of the wood on the table before them. The debate within might as well scroll across her face. When she’s made her decision, she looks him straight in the eye.
“What’s his full name? Randall’s?”
Jamie thinks of her reaction when he first mentioned the name to her. How that glass face lost all color.
“People call him Black Jack. Otherwise known as Captain Jonathan Randall.”
Claire lets out a shaky breath and plops down across from him.
“Ye know him.”
“Of him. My ex-husband. He’s a historian at Oxford. While we were married one of his side projects was compiling a family tree going back to the early 1700s. His name is Frank Randall. Jack Randall’s descendant. He looks just like him. It’s why. It’s why I don’t think you’re mad.”
“Was he cruel to ye? Frank?”
“No. Frank isn’t violent if that’s what you mean. Though it’s pretty obvious black Jack was. Is.”
“Aye. There is a devil in that man that canna be swayed.”
“What did he do to you?”
“Ye’ve seen the scars? On my back?”
So he tells her of the day he met Captain Jack Randall. About Jenny and the 100 on top of 100 lashes within a weeks time. The charges placed on his head as it suited the English and how he never got to go back home because of it. He tells her of the last memory he has of his sister, her resolve weakening, ready to go in the house with Randall to spare his life. He feels the failure twist his guts. He can’t mention the rumors of Jenny having his bastard child, or how his father dropped like a stone at his second flogging. He certainly doesn’t mention Randall’s offer of sparing him the second flogging for use of his body or the lad whose screams he heard in a brothel in Paris years later.
Jamie looks up to her then. Her eyes seem both apologetic and angry, but she doesn’t break his gaze.
“You’re lucky to be alive,” she says.
“For a moment I didn’t think I was. Randall wanted to break me and I wouldn’t let him. So, he flogged me until I couldn’t even hold up my own weight anymore. I dinna even remember it stopping. Eventually I just woke up in a cell on my stomach in more pain than I thought possible.”
“This isn’t the world you know. Jack Randall may not even be in Inverness anymore. I don’t even know how bad his wound was, so he very well might have bled out somewhere. Finding him won’t be easy,” she huffs out a sigh. “I’m friendly with this one inspector who might be willing to help.”
“I don’t mean to involve ye in this.”
“Because you’ll need a guide. And as I’m the only one who knows the truth of where you’ve come from I seem like the best option.”
He knows it’s not the only reason. But her face steels as if daring him to question her. He only nods and can’t help but smile at the beauty in her resolve.
“Ye’re a rare woman, Sassenach.”
Chapter 3: Mo Ghille
Disclaimer: I don't own etc.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Claire hovers in the kitchen and watches a pot of pasta boiling. She doesn’t have much in the house, lives on take away really, but is weary of how much Jamie’s 18th century stomach can handle. In the background she hears the shower running and can’t help but recall his awestruck grin as she showed him how it worked.
She’d spent the better part of the afternoon out collecting some clothing essentials for her surprise houseguest, while she left him to rest on her sofa. She came home to find him there with various books strewn around him and Adso, her cat, curled in a grey ball on his stomach. He’d greeted her with a crooked smile and asked about the “wee cheetie” as he scratched the creature’s ear. His face had faltered at the name with a blink of his eyes and a scrunch of his brow.
“How’d ye come up with such a name?”
She’d shrugged at the question, reluctant to mention dreams from childhood of a red-headed toddler chasing a cat and gleefully screaming out “Adso!”
“Suppose I heard it somewhere. Can’t remember really.”
He had quickly changed the subject to the bawdy novel he had come across, with a scandalized expression on his face and questions about the legality of such a publication. Claire couldn’t help the flush of her cheeks at his discovery, even as she laughed and made a quip just as bawdy that left him slack-jawed.
She smiles now at the genuine innocence of his expression, but also silently curses Joe Abernathy and his insistence of passing on his raunchy novels to her.
“I have to say, that’s a most glorious contraption, Sassenach.”
Jamie’s voice cuts through her thoughts and she twists to look over her shoulder at him. Her own jaw slackens at the sight of him shirtless with the new plaid pajama bottoms hanging low on his hips. His red locks are a shade darker when wet and curl loosely around his face.
She swivels back to the pasta. Jesus Christ, Beauchamp, get a grip on yourself. She blows out a breath that she hopes he doesn’t notice and goes about draining the noodles.
“Why do you call me that? Sassenach?” she asks, pulling some spinach, garlic, and butter to mix with the pasta.
“I mean no offense. It only means ye’re English. An outlander. Though, in a way, suppose I could be called the same now.”
Claire nods but keeps her focus on tossing the ingredients together and assures him she’s not offended, just curious. She dishes out their dinner. He’s already seated himself at the island and she joins him. She watches him examine the food before taking tentative bites and scolds herself as her eyes drift down to his broad chest.
“Is it okay?” she asks.
“Oh, aye. I believe I remember something similar from when I was in Paris.”
“You lived in Paris?”
“For a short time as a lad. For my schooling. My Da insisted I have a classical education if I was to be the kind of man who deserved the title of Laird. Though at sixteen I certainly thought myself a man already. I like to think I know better now. Not that it’s likely I’ll ever be Laird of Lallybroch.”
“My family estate. My home.”
“You must miss it.”
“Aye. Don’t ken if I’ll ever get back there. Even if I could get back to my time I’m still a wanted man and a traitor now to boot.”
“Did you join the Jacobites because of Randall?”
“No. I really hadn’t much care for who was king or no’ but my uncle thought differently. And I dinna have much choice but to follow him. Actually ended up in Paris again with him as he tried to get in Prince Charlie’s good graces.”
“How long has it been? Since you’ve been home?”
“Over seven years now,” he says. “You didn’t grow up in Scotland.”
“It’s that obvious” she teases.
“Just a wee bit.”
“No. I only moved here two years ago. After my divorce. I didn’t grow up in any one place, really. I was born in Oxfordshire, but moved to live with my Uncle Lamb when I was five. After my parents died. He’s a retired archeologist and we never lived in one place for more than a year.”
“I’m sorry about ye losing yer parents as such a wee lass. My mam died when I was still a lad in childbed.”
“I’m sorry, Jamie.”
“Dinna fash yerself. I didn’t mean to bring up such a sad subject.”
“Dinna fash yerself,” she says with a bit of a smile and her worst Scottish accent.
He laughs and then returns to his pasta. She smiles with him and lets herself enjoy the hearty sound of his laughter. She thinks she must be going mad, sitting in her kitchen with a perfect stranger claiming to be from the 1700s as if they were old friends. As if they could be something more. But the conversation is easy and light with simple questions about the hospital, nurses, and such. He confesses he’s never met a female physician and asks about how common it is. At first he only comments with a decidedly scottish noise.
“Do men no longer provide for their women?”
“ Their women? We are our own people, you know?”
“I’m dinna mean to offend ye. I ken well women have their own power in the world and with their husbands. Their families. My sister made sure I never doubted it, but--”
“Sometimes husbands provide for their wives. Sometimes wives provide for their husbands. Most of the time they’re both working to provide for each other. We’re equals and we each have a choice in what we want from our lives.”
He takes it in with a nod and Claire wonders if he could handle a woman providing for him.
“God help the poor man who ever underestimates ye, Sassenach.”
They share a smile and his eyes light up with humor and mischief. She thinks maybe he could handle it.
After dinner, she makes her sofa as proper of a bed as she can and then excuses herself to her bedroom. She stares up at the ceiling and lets herself notice the pull deep in her belly that wants nothing more than to curl into the solid length of his chest.
Randall’s hand squeezes her throat, callous fingers digging into the delicate skin, as he holds her to the ground with a knee to her gut. Her heart pounds and she can barely breathe. She claws at his arms and face, but he still manages to cut at the laces of her bodice until he can rip the gown open to expose her. She screams with every ounce of power she has.
Then there’s a pulling and the fingers dig into her neck even as they lose purchase. But then they’re thrown off and new arms are pulling her up--
“Claire,” a scottish burr fills her room and hands are clutching her upper arms as she tries to catch her breath. Her eyes clear and blue ones stare back her. Jamie. She lets her head fall into his bare shoulder and takes in the citrus smell of her soap. She feels one hand rubbing circles on her back and the other cradling the base of her skull. He shushes her and then murmurs in gaelic. She melts against him as the nightmare releases it’s last hold on her.
“Ye all right, lass?”
Claire nods and pulls away. Their eyes catch for a breath. She notices how his drift to her lips and then lower. He shifts suddenly and turns his head away from her, seemingly noticing how she only wears a thin tank top that does nothing to hide the curves of her breasts.
“I’m sorry I woke you,” she says as she pulls her sheets higher up her chest. “Thank you for checking on me.”
“Of course. I’ll head back to my bed then.”
She watches him go, closing the door behind him, and then flops back against her pillows.
In the morning Claire teaches him how to use the stove to make oatmeal and then leaves him to head off to her shift at the hospital. During a break she manages to get a hold of the inspector she knows. To say they’re friendly is a bit of an overstep, but he at the very least seems to tolerate her more than he does most. She met him when he came into the A & E a year ago in need of stitches to a cut above his eye, while the suspect who gave him the wound was being tended to by Joe in the room nextdoor. He agrees to meet them tomorrow afternoon, despite the irritation in his gruff voice.
So the next day, they sit in an empty interview room at the local police station waiting for the Inspector. Claire watches Jamie pace the cinderblock room from her seat at the table. His limp has improved but he fights not to scratch at the tingly skin fusing back together and taps his fingers against his thigh either out of discomfort or impatience. Probably both. He finally pauses to lean one arm against the wall near the small window in the room. She admires the fit of the black jeans and simple white oxford he wears.
“All right, lassie, what’s so important ye call for a private meeting with me?”
The Inspector breezes in with his attention still focused on the writing pad in his hand as he closes the door behind him. Claire starts to explain their need for word of a man in a redcoat, but then she catches the ashen faces of the Inspector and Jamie as they hold each other’s gaze.
Jamie mutters something in gaelic and then asks, “Murtagh?”
“Mo ghille,” Inspector Fraser gasps and then moves to Jamie. He pulls the younger man into a tight embrace and speaks what is clearly gaelic into Jamie’s ear.
Claire rises from the table, crosses her arms around herself, and feels like she should look away from whatever reunion she’s stumbled upon. They rear back then from their embrace, but still hold on to the others arms.
“How?” Jamie asks.
“When ye dinna arrive at the Moor I tracked ye to the stones and... Four years I’ve been searching for ye.”
“Four years? I’ve only just arrived not but a week ago.”
“A week?” Murtagh grunts out something between a laugh and a curse. “Bloody stones.”
Claire watches the relief loosen Jamie’s brow and shoulders. He’s apparently not all alone in this world and she finds a twinge of jealousy coil up her chest.
Translations (per google translator):
Mo ghille - my lad
Time discrepancies: I always thought one of the major plot holes in the books was the fact that for Claire time in the 20th century seemed to run congruent to the time in the 18th century. However, Gellis goes through the stones 20 years after Claire but arrives several years before she does. So, I’m going with the stones having no rhyme or reason to it’s time line and spits people out as it pleases.
Jamie can’t stop staring at his clansman. His shoulders sink in relief as he takes in this familiar, loyal face, and gives Murtagh’s arms a squeeze. Murtagh somehow looks completely different and completely the same from when Jamie last saw him on the road to Culloden Moor. He still wears his beard as he always did, but his hair is clipped short and beginning to show slivers of silver. He’s in a similar state of dress as himself, but with a sleeved waistcoat over his white shirt.
“I canna tell ye how good it is to see a familiar face,” Jamie says.
“Aye, it ‘tis. Are ye well?”
“Healing. Thanks to Claire.”
Jamie nods to her then and gives his godfather the okay to speak freely in front of her. Murtagh steps away to acknowledge her, thank her for the debt they now owe her. Jamie can see the question in the quirk of her eyebrow and he finally introduces the man she knows as the inspector as his godfather.
“You fought at Culloden?” she asks.
“Aye, Jamie and I both fought with the Mackenzie’s of Leoch during the rising. But Jamie never made it to the moor.”
“Dougal, my uncle, sent me ahead of the men to track the English.”
“I thought ye dead, lad. I was already wounded and could barely lift my dirk, so I snuck off to find yer body. To take ye home where ye belonged. How did ye end up at the stones?”
“Randall. He intercepted me on the road and we happened to fight our way there.”
“Randall? He’s here?”
“Aye. Though we don’t ken where.”
“I ken now why ye thought to reach out to me, lass. If he’s able to adapt to this time he’ll only find new horrors to inflict on people.”
“So, how exactly do we find someone that doesn’t technically exist?” Claire asks.
“How do ye mean he doesn’t exist?” Jamie asks.
“Things are verra different here,” Murtagh says. “No one exists here or does anything without a record of it. A record that can be easily accessed from anywhere. No’ just by the people who created it.”
“So, how did you end up as an inspector without a record yourself?” Claire asked.
“Wife?” Jamie can’t help but smirk at the thought of it.
“Aye. Tisha. She’s the one who found me at the stones. Actually saw me come through. She runs the inn there at Craigh na Dun. She’s good with the wee computers too and knows people who can create a record for you. If ye wish to stay.”
“Do ye think there’s anything to go back to?” Jamie asks.
“For us? The odds arena good. I have books ye can read about what happened after Culloden. If ye went back and were caught, ye’d likely be executed.”
Jamie nods and is certain he’ll never see his home again. He glances away, first at the floor as his jaw clenches, and then to Claire. He can practically see the, I’m so sorry, Jamie, scroll across her glass face. Though she has a way of not making him feel pitiful about it. He wonders if he could make a life here. If he could adapt to it all. If Claire would want him to. He can feel Murtagh watching them and cuts his eyes back to him. Jamie catches his smirking at them.
“When can I meet yer Tisha?” Jamie asks as he puts away the sadness and uncertainty.
“Tonight. Ye’ll come for dinner. Ye too, Dr. Beauchamp.”
“Thank you Inspector,” Claire says.
Tisha Buchan Fraser seems to be the complete antithesis of the Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser Jamie knows. She’s cheery, loud, and affectionate. But the way Murtagh’s face softens when Tisha greets him at the door with a kiss reveals a look Jamie has only seen glimpses of when Murtagh’s recounting stories of his mam.
“And this must be yer Jamie,” Tisha says, already squeezing Jamie’s frame to her much smaller one. “I’ve heard so much about ye, I feel I’ve ken ye for years.”
“I wish I could say the same, but I look forward to getting to ken the rare woman who made a husband of my godfather.”
“Ye didn’t say he was such a charmer,” she says with a wink.
She then embraces Claire with the same enthusiasm. Jamie can see the startled amusement in Claire’s face, but then Tisha is ushering them all into the dinning room.
She fills everyone’s plates with a slice of beef and potatoes, and their glasses with rich red wine. It’s the first drink beyond water that Jamie has had and it glides down his throat and into his veins like a warm blanket. He notices how the wine brings a bit of rosiness to Claire’s cheeks. He can’t help but recall the feel of her nose against his shoulder and the spanse of her back beneath his palm. She catches him looking and he quickly turns back to his food.
Tisha fusses over everyone before she finally joins them at the table near Murtagh. She seems a lovely woman, buxom with straight dark hair and matching eyes that show a playfulness that can easily make Murtagh blush.
“How did you end up running the Inn here?” Claire asks.
“Well, my family has a long history with the stones, but my mam started the bed and breakfast when I was a lassie. Then I took it over about 15 years ago. My great-granny was a bit of a pagan. A Druid. Read tea leaves and such. Even did ceremonial dances at the stones in secret for years. Mam made sure she passed down her stories and traditions. Even claimed to see someone pass through the stones in the late 60s. I never completely believed the stories until I saw Murtagh here just appear out of thin air.”
“I suppose it would make you question things,” Claire says.
“Aye. Though you seem to know something about that with how yer so willing to help our Jamie here.”
Jamie catches the flush in Claire’s cheeks deepen while she opens her mouth to respond, but she can’t seem to manage a reply. Jamie clears his throat and eyes move back to him.
“I understand, ye have the means to give me a record of a life here if I wish it,” Jamie says.
“Aye, Between me and Sheena, my little sister, we could set you up. She works for the police in Edinburgh, tracking pedophiles on the dark web. She’s met many an unseemingly but relatively harmless sort that owe her quite a few favors. It’ll probably require a trip down there though to get the documents from her that ye’ll need.”
“I’m due a trip to Edinburgh to visit my uncles’” Claire says. “You could join me.”
“Aye. Thank ye, Claire.”
He smiles in appreciation as he holds her gaze. She smiles too, just a small acknowledgment, and finds himself eager to head to Edinburgh with her.
“Well then, we’ll need to think through a backstory for ye,” Tisha says. “Supposed it would be easy to say ye were a soldier for a time. What other skills do ye have?”
Jamie opens his mouth to speak but find he can only shrug. His brain stutters, suddenly blank. What skills would even still be useful?
“He’s always been good with languages. And horses. Would do well tending and training them for one of those large estates,” Murtagh says. “Police work is an option too.”
“All right, then. I’ll ring Sheena tonight and get things started for ye.”
“And tomorrow I’ll ask to be made aware of any police reports with a description matching Jack Randall. Suppose that’s the best way to get a lead on him,” Murtagh adds.
Dinner continues on with light prattle about the day Tisha found Murtagh at the stones and the brash orders she gave the disoriented 18th century Scotsman.
“He kept asking if I’d seen a red-headed lad. Demanding I tell him where he went. I said, yer in no state to be chasing after anyone. And his body finally gave out in him and he collapsed. So I got him taken to hospital and passed myself off as his girlfriend. He woke up all surly and complaining about every wee thing-“
“How’d ye think ye feel if ye woke up with wee needles in yer arm and all yer clothes gone?”
“Oh hush,” Tisha scolds but then carries on with her story of bringing a home a less than grateful Murtagh.
Jamie only half listens. In 1746 he may have been an outlaw and a traitor to the crown, but he was also educated, worldly, with a keen mind groomed for leadership. What can he be here? Offer here with nearly 300 years of history and advancement to catch up on?
Claire excuses herself to head home after the plates are cleared and the third glass of wine is offered. Jamie offers to walk her out and follows her toward what he now knows is a car. Her shoulder brushes against his and he keeps his fists tight in his pockets so as not to reach out for her.
“I’ll drop by the clothes for you tomorrow,” she says as she turns on her heel to face him. “And I’ll be in touch with Murtagh to organize the trip to Edinburgh.”
“Thank ye, Claire. Ye’ve done more than ye needed to and I won’t forget it.”
She smiles and he thinks there’s a rebuttal on her lips.
“Take care of yourself, Jamie. I’ll see you soon.”
He watches her go.
The wee house has gone quiet and dim as Tisha has retired to bed. Jamie sits with Murtagh in a sitting room with a dram of whiskey. It’s wonderfully familiar and there’s something warm about the idea that not everything has changed even as he takes in all the strange devices that litter the room -- television, a speaker that somehow sings out these old scottish ballads, even though he doesn’t recognize most of them.
“I have something to show ye,” Murtagh announces as he rises to gather a group of papers, which he passes to Jamie. “It’s Lallybroch.”
Jamie stares down at the strange portrait of his childhood home. It's in greys, whites, and blacks, but it’s clearly Lallybroch. On the back of the smooth paper is written what he assumes is the year the portrait was made -- 1945. Over two-hundred years after he last saw it and it’s practically the same.
“It still stands?”
“Aye. And in the hands of a Murray for generations.”
Murtagh nods and shift the papers to a family tree that starts with Jamie’s mam and da. He wants to cry at the sight of Jenny’s name next to Ian Murray’s and the long list of their bairns and their bairns’ bairns, and on and on.
“She married Ian.”
“Aye. A William Murray owns it. But he’s the last of the Murray line. I went there to see if ye had made yer way back there. When he heard I was a Fraser, he took me for a distant cousin and gave me these documents. I’ll take ye there when yer ready.”
“Thank ye. I needed to know.”
“Aye. Let’s get some rest.”
I'm so appreciative of the response to this story. Thank you for all the comments and kudos.
Chapter 5: Not Brothers
Her cottage feels incredibly quiet without the presence of a large Scotsman taking up space there. Claire has missed that steady presence of another person -- someone to share a meal with, whose skin she can burrow against after a bad day. She misses the early days of her marriage when she was just starting her residency and Frank was finishing his dissertation. She misses how easily she could distract him with a flash of thigh as she propped herself a top of the books and papers sprawled on his desk. It seems so long ago now. Eight years they were married before she stumbled across the elicit text messages from some twenty-two year graduate student.
She plops down on the sofa, still made up as a bed for Jamie, and Adso follows her, butting her hands with this head. She scratches his ears with one and pulls her mobile out with the other. There’s a text from Gillian Edgars that simply says: Just found out ye left with Mr. Fraser. Didn’t see ye as the kind to take yer work home with ye.
In her two years at Raigmore Hospital, she had gotten to know Gillian as an accomplished woman who never seemed fazed by much. Though Claire supposes there was no room for her to be. To be a single mom in the 1970’s all while pursuing her doctorate in a field that mostly didn’t want her there was not an adventure for the faint of heart. Claire can’t call her a close friend, but she can’t help but look up to her as another woman in field still mostly dominated by men.
Was only helping him get to some relatives.
Of course ye were. Though I couldn’t blame ye if ye had less than honorable intentions towards the lad.
Claire rolls her eyes, but can’t help the smirk curving against her lips.
Claire takes the clothes for Jamie, as promised, the following morning before her shift. Tisha answers the door in a fluffy bathrobe and a mug of tea in her hand. Claire cranes her neck to see if Jamie is anywhere to be seen. She thinks she’s discreet as she passes the bag to Tisha, but she immediately calls her out.
“Oh Jamie’s no’ here, love. He went to the shops with Murtagh. Ye could come in if ye like?”
“No, thank you. I need to get to work. Take care.”
She escapes quickly and goes on about her day-to-day life. Mary and Joe notice that she’s distracted and coax her out for a couple of pints. But what can she really tell them? That there’s 18th century Scotsman that fills her with curiosity and want and that it’s all completely mental?
She thinks of Frank often. Remembering the heady experience of first getting to know each other, the hope of starting a life together, but then the failures and disappointments when it became evident children wouldn’t be a part of that life. She knows that’s when it soured, when they both got bitter. She doesn’t want to go through that again, but she still can’t help the grin that lights up her cheeks whenever she pictures Jamie’s awed and bewildered face.
It takes a week before everything is in place to set out to Edinburgh. She doesn’t see Jamie in that time, but becomes his first phone call when she speaks with Murtagh to make arrangements. As she drives there now she recalls the bewilderment in his too loud voice as he spoke into Murtagh’s mobile.
“Ye can hear me through his wee device?”
“Yes, Jamie, I can hear you.”
“How’s it possible?”
“Still seems like magic to me lad,” Murtagh says. “Eventually ye give up on trying to understand it all.”
Claire pulls into the drive of Murtagh and Tisha’s house next to the Craigh na Dun Inn at four in the afternoon. Her heart speeds and she can’t help but roll her eyes at herself. Jamie comes out the door with a rucksack over his shoulder as she steps out of the car. He gives her that crooked smile and a decidedly Scottish noise in greeting. Claire can’t help but smile back as she notices that pull low in her belly return.
Tisha hovers behind him in the doorway like a mum seeing her child off to the first day of school. Claire thinks she can hear Murtagh mutter something in the background until Tisha disappears in the house with a hollered, “safe travels.”
“Hello,” she says. “Ready?”
She helps him put his rucksack in the boot with hers before they situate themselves in the car. She hears Jamie take a deep breath as he looks wearily around the car.
“Here,” Claire says as she passes him a bottle of Dramamine and a thermos of ginger tea. “The little bottle is medicine. It should help with your motion sickness.”
She instructs him on dosage and orders him to ask for breaks if he needs it since they’re looking at over three hours in the car. He gulps at the three hours but nods. She starts the car then and begins to make their way to the A9.
She tries to distract him with questions about the last week with Murtagh and Tisha. He excitedly tells her of all his discoveries -- toothpaste, microwaves, mobile phones. He talks about having his photo taken and going to Tesco’s.
“It doesn’t seem possible. Anything ye could want all in one place. Not having to plant and harvest it all yerself.”
Eventually she asks about his family. He weaves tales of growing up at Lallybroch and then of Brian Fraser and Ellen MacKenzie’s frowned upon romance. He looks wistful with playful eyes and a lopsided grin as animates the tale of their escape from her family’s home to marry in secret.
“It sounds like they loved each other very much,” Claire says as she thinks of the stories she never knew about her parents. That they never had the chance to tell her.
“Aye. I asked my Da once how he knew my mam was the woman he’d marry and he said the first time he saw her he just knew . Said I’d know it too.”
When she glances at him, he stares openingly at her with an intensity that makes her shift her thighs and blink her eyes back to the road.
“It’s a very romantic notion,” she says.
“Suppose it is,” Jamie says, his voice a soft rumble. “What was it like for ye growing up as ye did? Moving about from place to place?”
Lonely. Exciting. Claire never knows how to answer such a question. She was very privileged with all the opportunities and experiences, but she never had time to really find her place, save for Uncle Lamb and Charlie. Charlie saw to her formal education, while Lamb shared his excitement over different artifacts and cultural finds, telling her stories of the people who would have used them as if they were bedtime stories.
“In many ways it was amazing. How many English girls can say they got to ride an elephant at eleven?”
“An elephant? Truly?”
She tells him of Nepal, Egypt, and Israel while he sips his tea. She tells him the barest bone details of Charlie and her Uncle Lamb, and how they both really raised her. She describes Charlie only as Uncle Lamb’s assistant as she’s unsure how Jamie’s sensibilities will react to two men calling each other husband.
Eventually she pulls to a stop in front of a three-story terraced house in Granton just a couple miles from the Harbour. Jamie is quick to get out of the car and she follows, stretching as she makes her way to gather their things from the boot.
“Yer wee medicine and yer tea, helped greatly Sassenach, but my wame is still verra happy to be out of that thing.”
“Well, I hope your wame survives Uncle Charlie’s curry.”
“It’s a dish from India filled with different spices. Don’t worry, I asked him to leave some chicken plain in case it’s too much for you.”
“I think we’ve spent half our time together with you minding my stomach.”
She wants to think of some retort, but then she hears Charlie’s voice from the door as he calls her name with his irish lilt. Claire smiles and takes in the familiar figure. He’s always been striking in a way that’s not that different from Jamie, except with a rounded nose and nearly 70 years on his once sturdy frame. It was always a nice juxtaposition to Lamb’s lanky, even boney body. Charlie always made her feel safe and was a constant even in Lamb’s most flighty moments.
“Hi there, dearie,” Charlie says and pulls Claire into a hug. He whispers into her ear, “that’s quite the Scotsman you’ve brought with you.”
“Don’t start,” Claire whispers back.
Charlie gives her one last squeeze before extending his hand to Jamie, who damn near bows out of respect.
“Lamb! Get down here. You’re niece is here!”
Claire hears his mutterings at being ordered about before she sees his body coming down the stairs. She frowns at how frail he looks, but offers him a smile when he pulls her in to kiss her cheek.
“Hello, love,” Lamb says as he takes her in. “And this must be the Mr. Fraser you mentioned.”
Lamb nods to Jamie hovering in the doorway. Claire looks back at him, who seems to hesitate for a moment, but then straightens his back as he extends his hand to Lamb.
“I appreciate ye allowing me to stay here, Mister Beauchamp. Yer Claire has been verra kind to me and I will not forget it. Or your kindness now.”
Lamb shares a bemused looked with Charlie before he turns back to Claire and Jamie.
“Not at all,” Lamb says. “Let’s eat!”
Lamb and Charlie all but interrogate Jamie as they eat with seemingly benign questions meant to size him up. What sort of work do you do? How’d you meet Claire? Luckily Jamie has practiced responses in between his sputtering attempts to tolerate the curry. I just got back from a deployment in Afghanistan, so I’m searching for work now. She stitched me up after I was attacked. Lamb and Charlie share practiced glances in silent communication with each answer or quiet gesture, especially any directed towards her. She wonders if Jamie picks up on the quiet, long-standing intimacy of it.
Claire does what she can to steer the conversation to catching up with her uncles, particularly asking after Lamb’s health. He brushes it off, as he always does, with a muttered fine , but then Jamie asks about his work as an archeologist. Lamb comes alive asking after Jamie’s own interest in the subject and sharing some of his own discoveries over the years.
As the plates are wiped clean with the last pieces of naan, Lamb invites Jamie to his study to see some of his best finds. Jamie eagerly nods, but gives a brief glance to Claire as if asking if she minds. She smiles in response and the duo makes their way up the stairs, parrying back in forth with questions and responses.
Claire catches Charlies eyes across from her. He wears a wistful smile and then gives her wink. He hops up then and begins to collect the dirty dishes. Claire follows suit and helps him to the kitchen. They easily fall into a rhythm of filling the dishwasher, then washing and drying the pots and pans stacked in the sink.
“Is he keeping up with his meds?” Claire asks.
“With my daily reminders,” Charlie says. “Though, when he heard you were bringing a man with you he seemed a little more eager to be mindful of his health.”
Claire laughs but shakes her head. Despite Lamb’s penchant for lack of convention, he’s oddly warmed by the idea of theoretical grandchildren.
“It’s not like that.”
“Oh, isn’t it? You’d have to be blind to miss the way the lad looks at you.”
Claire huffs and focuses a little too intently on scrubbing the pan the curry had simmered in. She recalls the look Jamie gave her in the car and then the one while eating with Murtagh and Tisha. Her wame rolls.
“I’m just helping him. He doesn’t have many people left.”
“Right. And I spent my best years as your uncle’s assistant because I had such a great love of archaeology.”
Charlie playfully bumps her shoulder and takes the pan to dry.
“How did you know you wanted to stay with him?”
“Didn’t feel like a choice really. The minute I heard his wit, his intelligence, I was arse over elbow, never to come back to my senses again.”
“And when he was unfaithful?”
“Neither of us were keen on monogamy at the time. But we always knew what the other was doing.”
“I don’t think I could share someone like that. Especially not after Frank.”
“Well, I don’t think you’d have to worry about that with your Scot.”
“He’s not my Scot.”
“I believe that’s still up for debate, dearie. You know we just want you to be happy.”
“Who says I’m not? I love my job, I love my little cottage. I have a few good friends--”
“I’m not saying you need someone else to be happy, but I know you’ve had a lonely life--”
“It’s true, you did. We should have settled down somewhere. Let you have a normal life. We just didn’t know how, but fell too much in love with you to let you go. I just don’t want you to let what happened with Frank keep you from finding someone else.”
Claire feels her eyes glaze with tears and she leans into Charlie. She feels his arm wrap around her shoulders while he lays a kiss to the top of her head. A throat clears behind them and then they turn to see Jamie, hovering at the base of the stairs.
“Mister Beauchamp said he needed to retire to bed,” Jamie explains.
“I’ll go check in on him,” Charlie says before bidding them both goodnight.
Claire and Jamie watch him trot up the stairs before turning to look at each other. She’s certain he can see the remnants of tears in her eyes and she wonders exactly how long he’d been hovering there. But then he makes a quick glance back to the stairs before coming close to her. He leans in conspiratorially with a pensive brow.
“Yer uncles. They are no’ brothers, are they?”
Claire lets out a small laugh, and then says, “No. They are not brothers. Does that bother you?”
“Nah,” he rumbles as his brow loosens. “I’ve had occasion to be acquainted with men who prefer the company of other men. I dinna see it as something for me to judge. It’s plain they love each other.”
He sighs then, leans against the counter but stays close to her. His eyes roam over her face, as if taking in every detail. His mouth hangs open in hesitation. She wonders what he sees. The beginnings of the crow’s feet around her eyes? The swirling in the pit of her stomach? The urge to grab his shirt and pull him into her?
“I dinna ken if it’s proper for me to ask, but I feel I have to know. There’s something here, I think. Between us, I mean. And I wonder if ye feel it, Claire?
She swallows and lets out a shaky breath. Christ, does she want this man.
“Yes. I feel it.”
Chapter 6: Witnesses
Thank you to everyone hanging in with this story. Sorry updates are so slow but once I started posting I seemed to hit a wall of writers block. But I have drafts of two more chapters done and a fair outline of where this is going. So I can't promise fast or regular updates, but it hasn't been abandoned. Thank you for the comments and kudos. Hope everyone have very happy holidays.
Jamie lets a small smile show, even though inside he’s beaming and wants nothing more than to pull Claire’s lips to his to learn every texture of her. To learn any and every little thing that may please her. She holds his gaze and there’s something so vulnerable, maybe even a wee bit scared in her eyes.
“So what do we do then, Sassenach? Can I court ye?” he asks and she lets out a closed-mouth giggle in response. “Are ye laughing at me?”
“Yes, sorry, it’s just being asked to be courted is a bit adorable.”
“Adorable? Ye don’t much flatter me.”
“Courting is just a very antiquated term. People date, which I suppose is similar, but the intentions behind it can vary.”
“And what would it mean to date ?”
“A variety of things. A nice dinner, drinks. Different outings to get to know each other. Affection. Kissing. Or...more.”
He hums, but puts the “or more” aside for the moment, and then brings up his fingers to trace her cheekbones and her jaw. She leans into the touch, eyes fluttering and her breath quickens.
“Can I kiss ye now?”
Its tentative at first -- just a brush of lips on lips, but then her mouth opens in invitation. He feels her tongue seeking out his and his chases after hers as it retreats. Jamie isn’t sure how much time passes. All he knows is the ragged mingling of their breaths and her arms snaking around his waist and up to grip his shoulders. She pulls herself flush against him and he feels the roll of her hips against the beginnings of the cockstand straining against his denim breeks. The sensation jolts through him with a gasp and he pulls away, creating space between their bodies.
“Sorry,” he gasps and gestures with his eyes to his crotch.
“You don’t have to apologize for that. We could continue this up in my room?”
“No. I will not dishonor yer uncles by taking ye here without even having their blessing to pursue ye.”
He feels her laugh and then watches the shake of her head as she mutters, “Bloody, 18th century, Scot.”
She brushes her lips against his, but pulls away before he can pull her close again. She heads to the stairs and looks over her shoulder as she tells him goodnight.
At breakfast the next morning, there’s a tension in the air that wasn’t there before. Claire seems to flush ever so slightly whenever she looks at him, which isn’t often. Jamie wonders if she’s spent as much of the night as he did imagining just what could be encompassed by more . Even Claire’s uncles seem to notice it as they share sly smiles, but they don’t seem displeased.
Jamie and Claire have to leave quickly to make it in time to meet Sheena at something called a coffee shop. He takes the wee medicine and then watches her as she drives. Her arms are like rods connected to the steering wheel, but her cheeks look slightly raised as if containing a smile.
“Yer not upset with me, are ye?” Jamie asks.
“No, of course not. Though we probably need to talk properly about...this thing between us.”
“Ye mean my intentions toward ye?” he asks and then she laughs. “Ye keep laughing at me like that I might start getting the wrong impression.”
“I’m sorry. But you’re very different from the men I’m used to dealing with. People’s sensibilities about relationships and sex are very different from what you’re used to.”
He hums and then, “so tell me more then about what it means to date? Ye said people’s intentions vary.”
“Yes. Some people date because they’re looking for a life partner. Someone to eventually have a family with. Others aren’t really looking for anything that serious. They just want to enjoy themselves. Have some companionship, sex, without the commitment.”
“Ye mean like with a whore?”
“No. There’s no money involved. I mean, yes, some men may go to prostitutes, but it’s illegal, so typically two willing adults just find each other.”
“With no care to what it might do to the lass’s reputation?”
“Women aren’t beholden to some mythical ideal of virtue, anymore. Mostly. It’s very different in this time.”
“So ye keep saying.”
“Well I need you to understand. I’m not likely to act the way you expect a woman to. I won’t be some meek and obedient wife to do as you please when you please.”
“Ye wouldn’t be you if ye were meek and obedient, Sassenach. I dinna claim to know how this is supposed to work. In my time courting leads to marriage and wives are meant to obey their husbands. That’s how it’s been on and on for generations. But I can see it isn’t so anymore. They’re partners. Equals .”
“They should be. Yes.”
“Then it’s what I hope to build towards if ye wish it.”
Jamie listens to her sigh as she pulls the car to a stop in front of a row of buildings.
“It almost sounds like you’re proposing.”
“I just want to be clear that I dinna just want companionship and...erm, sex ,” he tries to hide the flush creeping up his neck at such forward language.
“I don’t just want that either.”
“Then maybe what we wish isn’t so different.”
She turns to him and lets a small smile show.
“Perhaps. Look, we’re already a bit late so let’s pause this and go meet Sheena.”
Jamie nods and follows a step behind her as she exits the car and walks towards the coffee shop. As he follows her into the shop, it's easy to pick out Sheena, already seated at a table near the door. Her features are much like Tisha’s, though she’s a bit leaner and her demeanor is practically dour in comparison.
She greets them briskly and doesn’t offer any pleasantries. She pulls various documents out from something he’s learn to call an envelope. She shows them something called a driving license and a passport with the wee photo Tisha had taken of him days ago. It's so odd staring down at his own motionless face. She goes on about a credit history, work history, school history, a national identification number. His head spins with each new phrase as he tries to piece together what any of it might mean. It makes the whole notion of dating a woman born centuries after him seem simple.
“I used Tisha’s address for the documents. When you find your own place you’ll have to change everything over. Any questions?”
Jamie stares up blankly. It’s unthinkable how many bits and bobs people need just to live.
“We’ll help him figure it out,” Claire says.
They immediately go to spend the rest of the day with Claire’s uncles and then ready themselves to head back to Inverness the following afternoon. Lamb and Charlie are warm to him and welcome him back anytime. He and Claire don’t get a moment alone again until they’re on the road. He wonders if now is the time to continue their talk. He wonders when he’ll be able to kiss her again. He’s about to bring it up when her wee phone starts to ring. Its hooked on the little vent that blows out air and he can see Murtagh’s name light up the screen, which still seems more like magic than science. Claire pushes something on the steering wheel.
“Hi Murtagh. Jamie’s here too.”
“Are ye on your way back?”
“Yes, we should be back by four.”
“Good. I came across a lead on Randall. A woman made a report a few nights ago about a man kidnapping her and demanding she take him to Fort William.”
“Fort William? You mean in Lochaber?” Claire asks.
“He was looking for something familiar,” Jamie says.
“Most likely,” Murtagh says. “She left him at the ruins of the garrison.”
“How’d she get away?” Claire asks.
“When she couldn’t answer his questions about the garrison he roughed her up, tried to rape her but he couldn’t. Well, he couldn’t stay…ye know...”
“Are you saying he couldn’t maintain an erection?” Claire asks.
Murtagh clears his throat through the wee speaker and confirms with a rough, “aye” and then continues, “He knocked her out. When she came to he wasn’t in sight, so she fled.”
“Do ye think he’s still there?” Jamie asks.
“Could be. I thought ye two could meet me there.”
“Aye. We’ll be there,” Jamie confirms as he catches Claire’s eyes. She gives a sharp nod and taps her finger against the wee screen to redirect them to Fort William.
Jamie can still feel the looming walls of Fort William despite the crumbling half walls that appear in his vision as they approach what’s left of the garrison. The outline of the foundation is still intact, but the only part that truly stands is the east tower. His heart beats a little faster with each step and can practically feel the first bumpy ride through the gates, the sting of his raw back as he’s tossed to the floor of a cold cell.
“I’ll take the tower. Ye two keep searching the ground,” Jamie says, already walking away.
“Do you really think that’s the best idea?” Claire asks.
He doesn’t turn back and he hears her call his name. But then he hears Murtagh’s voice, “let him be, lass. It’s something he needs to do on his own.”
Jamie trusts Murtagh to keep Claire safe and away as he wishes. Their voices fade as he begins the climb up the stone steps. They’re uneven and steep, but sturdy enough. He remembers his escort up these stairs to Jack Randall’s study. As he comes to the hallway, he can almost catch a whiff of his father’s scent like he did when they met for the last time. His chest tightens, as it did then, as the shame creeps up the back of his neck.
Yer a braw lad, son!
It’s the last thing his da ever said to him in this dingy damned English fort before he’s pulled into Randall’s study. The door is no longer on its hinges. A large desk is still there but he cannot say if it’s the same one or not. He can picture Randall there, his calm, cool voice as he makes plain his offer to spare him the second flogging.
Give over to me your body. And there’ll be no second flogging.
His wame rolls just as it did that day as he thinks about the notion of being buggered to save the raw welts on his back. The bile rises and it's almost as if he’s still shackled, at that man’s mercy. He still wonders what would have happened if he had agreed to Randall’s offer. Would it have been worth it? Would his father still be alive?
He walks further into the room. It’s the most quiet he’s heard since waking up in the hospital. His footfalls, even his breathing, echo off the stone walls. But then he hears the whimpers. The words are barely intelligible but as he comes further into the room, he sees the naked backside of a young lad laying on the floor. He’s trying to drag himself upward with one arm, but only falls back to the ground in a heap of long, lean limbs.
Chapter 7: The Young Man
Claire tightens her jacket around her as she and Murtagh walk what’s left of the courtyard in the center of the ruined fort. There’s an obvious replica of a whipping post in the center for the weekend tours. She imagines Jamie tied there and the fresh cuts on his raw back. A shiver runs down her spine as she pictures his limp form hanging there from his wrists.
“He was flogged here, wasn’t he?”
Murtagh nods and continues to lead the way. They walk side by side and she notices the pensive crease in his brow.
“I ken the lad fancies ye,” he says, but makes no move to look towards her. “I think ye ken it too. He’s only ever known lassies. But the lad needs a woman . Ye’d make a good match for him.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“He’s a braw lad. He’d have made a great Laird. But he’s more tender than he lets on. Like his da.”
“You’re worried I’m going to hurt him?”
“Ye may not mean to. But I’ve learned women are different in this time. Ye’ll be expecting different things from each other.”
Claire opens her mouth to defend herself but then she hears Jamie calling her name. He’s trotting towards them and then gestures for them to follow.
“There’s a lad upstairs. He’s in need of doctoring.”
She doesn’t hesitate to follow him and easily slips into the mask of doctor, ignoring the inviting shape of the body leading the way. She shakes Murtagh’s words and Jamie’s from earlier from her mind. She takes in the dim room, lit only by the fading sun in the one arched window.
The lad is littered with bruises across his body as he lays in a crumpled heap on his stomach. Jesus Christ. He’s whimpering barely audible phrases, no more, please, and curls himself in a tight ball, save his one arm that appears dislocated. Jamie’s jacket is draped over his hips but he appears completely naked otherwise.
“In the boot of my car there’s a first aid kit. I need one of you to go get it,” Claire orders.
Murtaugh steps up with an “I’ll go” and then grasps the keys as she passes them haphazardly.
Claire crouches next to the young man, practically a kid really, and peers down at what she can see of his face. She guesses he’s probably sixteen or seventeen judging from the patchy stubble and facial features he hasn’t quite grown into. He flinches away as she reaches towards him and she snaps her hand back.
“My name’s Claire. I’m a doctor. I can help you with your shoulder, but we’ll have to touch you.”
“You, not him,” he says.
She can feel Jamie hovering behind her and glances over her shoulder. His jaw is tight, hands in fists, and eyes cold. It’s like he’s looking through her, like he’s somewhere else. She’s certain that look isn’t directed to the boy, but he doesn’t know that.
“What’s your name?”
“Matthew, this is Jamie. He won’t hurt you,” she turns to give Jamie a pointed look. He blinks and swallows, tries to soften his face. “Any aggression you see is towards the man who did this to you. Not you.”
“Aye, lad,” Jamie says, shaken out of his stupor. “I give ye my word none of us here will harm ye. Claire here has a good touch. Let her help ye.”
Matthew looks over his shoulder at them. His eyes scan back and forth between them. His breath is ragged and his face tear stained.
“You can fix my shoulder,” he says, his south London accent evident, and lays his head back down.
“Okay. I’m going to need you to sit up,” Claire says and makes a move to help.
“I’ll do it,” Matthew says as he inches away from her.
He twists himself up into a seated position with a sharp intake of breath and pained groan. Once he’s settled himself he nods to Claire. She talks him through each step before she makes any move to touch him. She tells him exactly how she’ll need Jamie to hold him steady. Murtagh arrives with her kit somewhere in the middle of it all.
Matthew only flinches once as Jamie approaches him. After that it’s quick work to shift the bone back into its joint. Jamie moves immediately away but stays crouched on the floor near Claire.
Claire strips off her jacket and then whips the thin sweater over her head, leaving her in only a camisole. She feels Jamie shift suddenly at what is probably practically naked to him, but stays focused on making a makeshift sling out of the sweater.
“I can help with the cuts and check for other injuries, but you need to go to hospital.”
“Why are you even here?” Matthew asks.
Claire pulls her jacket back on and turns to Jamie. The anger still simmers there in his eyes, making him somehow look older, more weary. Dangerous, even.
“I’m searching for the man who I’m thinking did this to ye.”
“You with the police?”
“Aye,” Murtagh says, but keeps his distance. “I am.”
“I’m not making any report and I’m not going to hospital.”
Claire begins to protest, but Murtagh’s voice overrides hers.
“I willnae make a proper report and we willnae make ye go anywhere, though ye’d be keen to listen to Dr. Beauchamp.”
Claire nods and she feels Jamie begin to shift, restlessly.
“I ken how vile of man he is,” Jamie says. “He damn near killed me. Manipulated my sister into giving herself over to him to spare me. We don’t mean to make ye do anything ye do not wish. We just need to know where he might be.”
“I won’t have to give a statement? Testify?”
“No. I only wish to find him. And end him.”
Claire’s eyes snap to look at Jamie. Somewhere in her mind she knew this was leading to an execution, but she can’t help the scowl on her face knowing he’d so easily murder someone. She realizes the face she’s seen since coming to this room is the face of a soldier, a highland warrior. Someone who has certainly killed if it was deemed necessary.
“Promise?” Matthew asks.
“He left maybe 30 minutes ago. Didn’t say when he’d be back, but told me to be gone before he does.”
“Good,” Jammie mutters with a nod and hops to his feet. He turns to Murtagh as he says, “we’ll wait for him here. Catch him off guard.”
“So you’re just going to wait and execute him?” Claire asks as she comes to stand with them.
He looks over to her hands on his hips as he blinks at her question. His brow scrunches as he turns more fully to her.
“Did ye really think this was a mission of mercy, Sassenach? Ye think that’s the first lad he’s left broken, bloodied, and buggered? No. I’ve seen him with a wee laddie not more than eleven. He doesn’t deserve mercy.”
She squeezes her eyes shut at the image, but then sucks in a breath. Jamie’s jaw is clenched tight as steel as if daring her to say more.
“I’m not saying he does. But there are laws. Structures in place to try and punish him.”
“Aye, I know about yer laws. I’ve been reading about them and yer history. Seems to me laws can still be used to suit the needs of those welding the power.”
“But what if you’re caught? Arrested? Or what if he finally kills you?”
“Then I’ll die knowing I’ve done all I can to honor the people I left behind.”
“Aye. Now, let’s get the lad down to yer car and get yerself someplace safe.”
He moves before she can say anything else and she scowls into the back of his head. She watches him and Murtagh help Matthew back into his trousers. They move to help him onto his feet.
“Watch his shoulder,” Claire snaps and then jumps in to instruct them how to properly support his shoulder. Matthew shrugs out of their grasp as soon as he’s on his feet, but allows her to steady him.
Claire walks him down. She can hear Jamie and Murtagh scheming behind her as they also make their way to the ground and towards where they left their cars. Claire internally mutters about stubborn men as she helps Matthew into her car. She doesn’t say anything to Jamie or Murtagh, though she thinks she feels Jamie’s eyes on her. She doesn’t look to see if she’s right. She just gets in her car and pulls away, but catches Jamie’s figure in the rearview looking after her.
Claire manages to convince Matthew to go the A & E at Belford Hospital after agreeing to a story of being a victim of a hit and run. As soon as they’re seen in the cramped room by the local doctor, Caire begins listing off all the tests he should order and explains Matthew’s general condition.
“I have done this before, Dr. Beauchamp.”
“Sorry. I’m obviously just a bit shaken after witnessing such a horrible accident.” And trying to keep my mind off two Scots liable to get themselves killed tonight.
She keeps Matthew company as he waits in between different scans and pokes and prods of the nurse or doctor. She learns he’s been on his own since he was fifteen and works in a factory.
“I was so stupid,” he says during one lull. “I should have known when he took me there.”
“You couldn’t have known.”
“I just thought it was some weird kink. And I was fine with that. But he didn’t want me to be fine with it. He wanted me afraid.”
Claire swallows and tightens her jacket around her middle.
It’s after 9pm when they discharge Matthew and Claire drops him off at his flat. She watches him disappear into the building and finds it hard to just drive away. She sighs and shifts the car into drive and tries not to think about what the boy will do tomorrow.
It’s an hour drive back to Inverness, so she stops at a little inn and rents two rooms. She texts Murtagh to let him and Jamie know in case the idiots survive the night and want the second room. It’s a frilly little room with flowers plastered on the walls and the duvet.
She strips out of her jacket and then plops on the bed to stare up at the stucco ceiling. She thinks of Jamie and her guts twist. She tries to reconcile the awed boyish eyes to the steely ones she saw in the fort. Tries not to envision either losing the light behind them.
A light tapping echoes against the wood of her door. She hops off the bed and moves to the door, heart speeding up at the prospect of seeing Jamie. As she cracks the door she has no time to see who it is before it’s thrown open and her to the ground from the effort. She hears the door slam closed and then looks up to see Jack Randall smirking above her.
“Hello, again Madam.”
Claire scrambles and looks towards the door, but then all she can feel is the sting of her hair nearly being pulled from her scalp. Then her back is to his chest and she readies to scream. He tugs again on her scalp and then that damn bloody knife is at her neck again.
“Try to scream again and you’ll be dead before you even get a sound out. Tell me, why would a high bred English woman lower herself to the likes of a savage Scot?”
“That savage has never held me a knifepoint.”
He chuckles. Matthew’s words, he wanted me afraid , ring in her ears. She tries the mask speed of her pulse and breathing as she steels her face as if daring him to do his worse.
“And what pray tell have you let that savage do to you? Hmm?”
“Fuck you, you fucking bastard.”
“Oh but she has the mouth of a whore. I’m sure Mister Fraser won’t be long. He’s certain to have figured out by now that I won’t be returning to Fort William. And I need you to deliver a message to him.”
“Stay and tell him yourself. Or are you afraid?”
“You have no notion of true fear. It’s a shame we don’t have the time to enjoy ourselves properly. I believe I could show you well what that means.”
“Like you showed that young man?”
He makes a humored noise.
“You tell Mister Fraser he and I will meet again but not tonight. Maybe not even next year. But I’ll always be there. Looming. Waiting until one day we’ll complete the masterpiece we started seven years ago. And in that moment, he will surrender to me. You tell him that.”
“You’re a monster.”
“I know well what I am, madam.”
Fingers tighten again in her hair and she is flung forward until her head collides with the edge of the TV stand. Then everything goes black.