“ I love you ” Claire cried “ Jamie, I love you. ”
“ And I, you. ” He whispered against her lips. A single tear escaped, rolling down his cheek.
This was it, he must say goodbye to her now, goodbye to their future, and all of the plans they had for it. He must tear his heart out, he would live without his heart to see her and the bairn safe, safe in another century, safe in another man's arms. He knew he would die on that bloody moor and there would be no safe place for her and the bairn, not here, not in this time.
He slowly walked her backward toward the tallest stone, standing ominously in the center of the circle of standing stones at Craigh Na Dun. He turned her slowly away from him, his chest pressed tight to her back in their last embrace. He began to raise their joined hands as they got closer to the stone. “ If only it could all be different ” He breathed into her soft curls and closed his eyes against the pain of losing her.
Just as their fingers touched the stone, everything suddenly went dark and his body felt as though it was being ripped apart in every direction. He could hear the screams, he felt and heard his own screams ripping from his chest, then suddenly everything stopped, no sound, no sensation, he was bodiless and then just as suddenly as the ripping sensation began, he was ….. nothing.
He wasn't sure if he had fallen asleep or if he had only swooned, but he felt as if his body had suddenly been torn into a thousand pieces and was just as suddenly coming back together. His head felt like he had been in a fog as he started to come back to himself and feel whole again.
He could smell the wet grass and dirt and it felt as though he was laying on the ground, this didn't come as surprise since he experienced the sensation of falling.
However, something strange had definitely happened. He could feel his body tense when he heard familiar voices all around, voices he should not be hearing. A voice that sounded like Dougal and another that sounded like Angus, but it could not be, could it? No, it could not be that, they were both dead, he had killed Dougal himself only hours ago and Angus had died at Prestonpans months ago. None of this was making any sense to him, unless ..... well unless he was dead, touching the stones must have killed him.
He couldn't think clearly with his mind so muddled, he was sure he was only confused, dreaming perhaps, but surely, he must have died when he touched the stone, it was the only possible explanation for what he was feeling and hearing.
He recalled Claire telling him of the screams inside the stones, she thought them to be the souls of those who could not make it through to the other side. He had heard the screams and the agony and felt it all himself. Did his actions and choices kill Claire, the bairn, and himself, surely this must be Purgatory, it was certainly what he deserved if his actions led to their deaths.
Everything was so dark, he couldn't see a thing, then he realized that his eyes had been closed. However, before he could open them, he felt as though he was being lifted off the ground by many hands. As he peeled his eyes open, he became aware that he was being roughly carried into a cottage. Rupert and Angus were settling him onto a stool in front of an eerily familiar, bright, warm, burning hearth. As they stepped away from him, he became painfully aware of a sharp pain in his right shoulder. Surely you don't feel pain, smell grass, dirt, the foul sweat of the men around you, or feel the warmth of a fire if you are truly dead.
Something strange was indeed happening here, but if it wasn't that he had died, what could it possibly be. He thought of everything that had happened since he touched that dreadful stone and came to a sudden realization that he was alive, “ What has happened? What is going on? ” He tried to stand but was held down by a large hand on his uninjured shoulder.
Rupert spoke up “ Ye must a' hit yer head too, lad? ” he chuckled “ Do ye no' remember? Ye fell off yer horse when the Red coats shot ye, looks like ye knocked yer shoulder out of joint too. ”
He was still alive but this didn't make any sense, he wasn't on his horse when they touched the stones, and there weren't any Redcoats about. They had left Donas hobbled at the base of the hill before walking up to the top. Moreover, why, or a better question would be, how are all the men here?
His thoughts were cut off when the door burst open to reveal Murtagh stalking in, dragging nine other than Claire unwillingly behind him.
It was at that moment that understanding came over him and he realized what likely had happened. God or the faerie’s in stones or whatever powers were responsible for the magic on that Godforsaken hill had heard the wish of his heart. His wish for everything to be different.
They had been given a second chance. They were starting over where they had first met. It would be easier this time, this time they both knew what the future held for them. They could make different choices, choices that didn't lead to torture, pain, separation, and death.
“ What is it ye have there, Murtagh? ” Dougal asked.
“ A Sassenach wench, Dougal, by her speech. ” Murtagh replied.
“ Eh, a bonny one, Sassenach or no. ” Rupert growled.
“ C’mere, lass ” Dougal stated as he stood to walk toward her “ What’s yer name lass? ”
“ Claire ….. Claire Beauchamp ” She thought It would be better off if she used her maiden name, no use in leading them back to Frank. If they planned to ransom her, she would not do anything to help them.
“ Where did ye find this lass? ” Dougal asked Murtagh
“ At the foot of Craig Na Dun. She was havin’ words with a certain captain of dragoons wi’ whom we chance to be acquainted, ” Murtagh added “ There appeared to be some question as to whether the lady was or was no a hoor. ”
Dougal looked her over with a lecherous leer. Jamie had forgotten how they had treated her, peered at her in mistrust, and talked to and about her during those early days. He didn't like it, he didn't like it one bit.
“ I see. So what was the lady’s position on the matter? ” Dougal asked.
“ She said she wasna. The captain himself appeared to be of two minds on the matter, but inclined to put the question to the test,” Murtagh answered as he shrugged.
Rupert spoke up with a chuckle “ We could put it to the test ourselves. ”
That was too much, Jamie had heard enough, “ We dinna hold wi’ rape, do we, Dougal?”
At his sudden outburst, everyone turned their heads in Jamie's direction.
“ Do ye ken the lass then, Jamie, ye seem a bit protective over someone we just met? ” asked Dougal
He quickly realized his mistake and had to conceive of something quick or they would both be dead in no time at all. “Aye, I remember her. She healed some of my scratches during my time in France when I was a soldier.”
France, who is this man does she know him? Claire thought. She needed to get closer to him so she could get a better look at his face, she never forgot a face and usually recognized voices as well. She knew some Scottish soldiers during the war, but she could not place that deep soft voice.
Dougal’s eyebrows rose in a surprised expression then he said “ Is that so? ” he then turned and directed his attention back to Claire “ Well then ye should be able to fix the lads shoulder, aye? ”
Claire did not know what was going on or why she was there, but something was telling her that she had better play along if she knew what is good for her. After being shot at and nearly raped, she no longer assumed she was on the set of some movie. “ Of course. I can, it is not that difficult really. You only have to get the bone of the upper arm at the proper angle before it will slip back into the joint. ”
Claire stepped closer to the man sitting on the stool and knelt in front of him, looking directly into the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen. No, she had never met this man before, she never would have forgotten such a striking face or eyes the color of the ocean. Focus Beauchamp, she thought. Fix his bloody arm, so they will let you go. “ This is the worst part. ”
Jamie smiled sweetly back at her “ I remember from the last time ye fixed it Sassenach. ” However, he saw no recognition in her eyes at his smile or the familiar endearing nickname, only more confusion shown on her face.
What is he going on about, the man must be delirious with pain. Oh well, better to just fix his shoulder and be done with it. Claire thought to herself.
She looks lost and confused, does she not remember him, did she not remember them together, did she not remember their love. His heart broke a little at that moment when he realized she had no memory of the last three years. He alone would suffer from the memory of what they had, what they had lost.