Willie sat there for a few minutes, taking in the site of the two couples, one older, and one much younger in comparison.
The Dunsany’s were boring their gazes into him with pleading looks of desperation, as if they were willing him to disregard the Frasers and choose them via telepathy.
The Frasers were seated comfortably within each other’s arms, smiling. But they weren’t smug or egotistical grins. They were ones that said “whatever you want, lad. We’re here for you, always.”
When he looked back at the Dunsany’s, all he could feel was resentment, shame, and the indignity harm they had caused throughout his life. Flashbacks of his grandfather telling him of the wicked man that was his father, that abandoned his mother upon finding her pregnant. That his father didn’t care about him, or why else would he not be in his life? He believed his grandmother when she said she didn’t mean harm, but her actions proved otherwise. Not just to him, but to the Frasers. They went through way more trouble than it was worth, all in the name of not losing their daughter again. Whatever that meant, Willie thought. But in reality...who was to say Louisa or William Dunsany wouldn’t do something worse him or the Frasers in the future?
When he looked back over at the Frasers, he felt the complete opposite. Warmth. Happiness. Love. He could see himself playing many rounds of shinty with Faith and Brianna on an unusually hot Scottish summer’s day, catching Briann cheating and threatening to steal her train set while she slept, to which Faith managed to score the winning point. He imagined Mrs. Fraser readying a platter of cold drinks and snacks to keep their playing well fueled until supper time. He imagined Mr. Fraser would gather all three of them around a fire to read to them before bedtime, or patiently showing him how to repair some structure on the house. The thought of both Jamie and Claire telling him “I love you,” before kissing him goodnight…
He had never doubted that his grandparents loved him. But...they never showed it either… and somehow...that made all the difference in the world.
“I wish to go home with my mother and father,” Willie proclaimed to the magistrate.
The wind was knocked out of Claire because she clung to Jamie’s arm like a breathing apparatus. The tears couldn’t be stopped from Jamie’s eyes.
While the Dunsany’s were devastated by Willie’s declaration, the lad couldn’t help but notice that they didn’t look surprised either. They had to have seen this coming, no?
“Grandmother, grandfather,” Willie addressed the Dunsany’s for what would most likely be the final time. “Please know that...while there is nothing any of us can do to change the past...I hold no ill wish towards you. And I hope you feel the same about me. Because...” he looked up at the magistrate, who nodded for him to continue. “Because I never want to see you again. Your actions...have ruined what little faith I had in you.”
Louisa and William were now holding onto one another, the former weeping silently. If either of them had anything to say, they would take it to their graves.
“Aye,” Jamie stood up and came towards Willie, Claire right beside him. He turned to face his son’s grandparents. “There will always be a part of my heart that holds resentment. Yer daughter was a wicked demon...I’ll forever pay fer her actions in the form of nightmares...That wee part...will always hate ye tae the very marrow o’ my bones.
“But I dinna hold ye in contempt outright. Willie...my son...has made his choice. My final wish is fer ye tae leave us be. Peacefully. Forever.”
The Dunsany’s lawyers whispered something in their ears. The lawyer looked up at the magistrate, who nodded back, and the three of them exited the court room without another word. It would be the last time Jamie, Claire or Willie would ever see them.
“By the power extended to me by Her Majesty The Queen, and with the Blessing of the Crown, I declare one William Clarence Dunsany-”
“Fraser,” Willie boldly interrupted the magistrate, who just blinked. Jamie held his breath. “My name...is...William Clarence...Fraser.” He looked up at Jamie, who’s eyes were glistening blue orbs, shiny with tears.
“Aye,” Jamie looked up at the magistrate. “If it pleases the court...we’d like tae have the lad’s surname changed. To reflect his true family, ye ken.”
The magistrate, all too happy to get this over with, declared that, “William Clarence Fraser shall reside in the full and permanent custody of his biological father, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, and his stepmother, Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Fraser.”
The paperwork signed, notarized, and copied, the three of them walked out of the court room, Jamie and Claire swinging Willie from his arms down the steps towards their car.
“Where are we going?” Willie asked from the back seat. Jamie was driving and Claire was sitting next to him in the passenger seat.
“We need to go pick your sisters up from your Grannie’s house,” Claire said, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
“I...I have a grannie?”
“Aye, ye do,” Jamie said with pride. “And she’s been waiting a long time tae meet ye, lad.”
“Do you know if Big Willie and his family are there today?” Claire asked Jamie.
“I dinna ken, but I’m sure we’ll find out, won’t we?” Jamie turned right and made his way up the long drive to his childhood home.
When the five story white stone building started coming into view, Willie gasped. “It’s humongous!”
Jamie laughed. “Aye, and that’s only the main manner. There’re lots o’ lofts and cottages about surroundin’ it.”
Claire had text Ellen to let her know the good news, and to make sure that everyone at home would be waiting outside for their arrival.
Sure enough, when Jamie’s car pulled just outside the main archway, the same one Jamie and Claire got married under, Ellen Fraser was waiting with her granddaughters.
The girls didn’t bother waiting until Willie was out of the car; they tackled him before Jamie could breathe a word of reproach.
“Welcome home, Willie!” Brianna exclaimed.
“We’re so glad tae have ye back, bràthair!” Faith shouted.
Jamie walked up to his mother and gave her a warm hug.
“Ye won, a ghràidh,” Ellen said in Jamie’s ear. “Cuir sìos do ghàirdeanan, mo shaighdear.” (Lay down your arms, my soldier)
Jamie clung to his mother as Claire rubbed his back. It really was over now. No one and nothing would ever come between him and his family again.
When his children came back up to them, Ellen was the first to speak to Willie.
“Welcome tae Lallybroch, young Willie,” Ellen said with tears in her eyes. “My name is Ellen Fraser. I’m Jamie’s Mam. I’ve heard a lot about ye, mo ghràidh. We’re honored tae have ye here wi’ us.”
“Hello, Mrs. Fraser,” Willie said, bowing politely towards her.
“Och, heavens no! We canna have ye addresin’ me sae formally! Yer kin, laddie! Like my granddaughters, ye’ll be callin’ me ‘Grannie’.”
Willie smiled. Then looked up at Jamie. “If she’s ‘Grannie’...what should I call you? And your Mrs. Fraser?’”
Claire stepped forward. “Well, I’m English by birth, so you can call me ‘Mum’, if you wish. As for your father...”
“Da,” Jamie said proudly. “Ye can call me Da, lad. Just like yer sisters.”
“Mum...” Willie pointed to Claire, then averted his finger towards Jamie. “...and Da. I like it.”
“In this family, we dinna acknowledge ‘in-law’ or ‘step’ statuses. We’re all family. We’re all kin. I hope ye come tae see us as such, just as we see ye as our blood.”
“A chuisle,” Ellen said. “It means ‘my blood’. Ye typically say it tae a bairn, one that’s related tae ye, but in this case...yer a bairn tae me auld eyes!” Everyone laughed at this. “Now, let’s all go inside fer a cuppa and some supper, aye? Faith! Brianna! Thig agus ith!” (Come and eat!)
As the years went on, Willie Fraser thrived in his new home. He loved having sisters, though, as Jamie suspected, not all the time. He took up the room he’d had when he first came to see Jamie, and he made it into his own. He enrolled in school with Faith and discovered that he quite liked schooling in Scotland. The structure of learning in this country was less strict, allowing freedom and creativity to come naturally. He remembered his grandparents had been trying to send him to one of England’s many boring boys-only boarding schools, and that was the last thing he wanted.
And just as he had dreamed about once, his parents were everything he could have imagined.
While granted, when he was in trouble, they did not spare the old figurative rod (Jamie especially), but they loved harder than any punishment they could inflict. Claire was the kind of mother he wished he had been born to. But the lad tried not to dwell on the past.
John Grey and Isobel Dunsany came to visit frequently. Claire was thrilled to meet Isobel, having already known John from her time in the Army. And having his Aunt Isobel around helped improve Willie’s overall mental state. A small reminder that not everyone from the Dunsany family were people with horrible intentions.
It wasn’t too long before Claire, Isobel, Geillis Duncan, Jenny Murray, and Mary Fraser (big Willie’s wife) were having girls’ nights out a few times a month. Jamie was so happy for Claire; he knew she needed a night out every so often. She worked so hard to keep their home functional for everyone. Just like he would occasionally go get a pint with the lads from the station at the pub down the street. Though, those days became fewer and farther between with Willie living with them now.
Not that Jamie minded; a lot had changed since his days in the British Army. He was a happily settled family man. He preferred to put in an honest day’s work, and come home at the end of the day to his loving bride and their three children.
As the children grew older, they all developed into their own personalities, complete with their own desires and dreams of adulthood. Faith, ever mindful of her life’s goals, still wanted to pursue being a doctor. Brianna, though still years away from university life, had her heart set on becoming an engineer. Willie’s goals, however, were the most striking to Jamie and Claire. And the most immediate to fulfill.
“MI5?” Jamie inquired, his brows furrowing hard into his face. He, Claire and Willie were all sitting in the living room talking about Willie’s university and, eventual work, goals.
“Da, what happened to you...with...with my birth mother...think about it! The only reason it wasn’t considered a national security threat was because her only target...was you. But imagine if it wasn’t...imagine what she could have done had she broadened her horizons...Da...she was capable of committing espionage on a global terrorism scale.”
That dropped Jamie’s heart right down to his toes. He hadn’t thought about Willie’s biological mother in many years...but the lad was right. If she wanted to cause some real harm to the country...she could have done it. Easily. If what Jamie remembered about her was still accurate.
“I don’t want what happened to you to ever happen to anyone else...I did some research on the matter. Had the military not been involved, and this was a civilian matter...MI5 would have been the government entity involved in stopping someone like Geneva.
“I want to become part of MI5 someday. If I can perform one action that can save the life of another person...then it will be worth it. Maybe...what happened to you, Da, won’t be in vain.”
Jamie stood up, and gathered his son into his arms. The lad was almost as tall as him now.
“Yer very existence is my heart’s blood. Yer life, and what happened tae me...it’ll never be in vain...Ye wouldna be here, betterin’ the lives of me, yer mother, and sisters, if I hadna gone through what I did. But nae bother on that, lad. If that’s what ye wanna do wi’ yer life...yer mother and I will be right behind ye.”
“We’re so proud of you, Willie!” Claire said as Jamie stepped back. Claire wrapped her arms around their son.
Both Jamie and Claire blinked.
“Sorry...but... if I’m to be taken seriously as an adult...I can’t have everyone keep calling me ‘Willie’. So...my name...is William Fraser.”
“That it ‘tis, William,” Jamie smiled, wrapping an arm around Claire’s shoulders, who brought William into their shared hug. “That it ‘tis.”