Five o’clock in the morning always came too soon for Jamie Fraser. But at the very least, it was for different reasons than several years ago. Now, he looked forward to waking up.
“Good morning, my Laird,” a cheerful, sleepy female voice said beside him in his bed.
“Mornin’, Sassenach,” he replied, pressing a sweet kiss to the temple of his wife, Claire Fraser.
“Is it morning already?” She asked, rubbing the sleep from her eyes as Jamie turned his nightstand lamp on. He groaned as the light blinded him slightly.
“Aye,” he grunted, “but ‘tis a new day, mo ghràidh,” Jamie swung his legs out from underneath the covers and stretched his tired muscles out of their stiff funk. “Let’s make the best o’ it, eh?”
“As you say,” Claire turned on her own nightstand light and got out of bed, shivering as the slightly cold room bit into her naked skin.
“Though, if I had things my way,” Jamie growled as he came up from behind her, his morning wood pressing into her back, “ye’d be in my bed all the live long day, wi’ no one tae tell us to go.”
“Oh, is that a fact?” Claire’s drowsy attempt at sounding seductive made Jamie laugh.
“Aye, it ‘tis,” Jamie roughly kissed her neck, then headed for the toilet. Claire dressed quietly in her pajamas and house shoes from the night before and headed towards the kitchen. Jamie spent the next ten minutes getting showered and dressed for work while Claire made coffee. She heard movement from upstairs, and a rather tall redheaded girl was soon at the bottom of the staircase, thoroughly disapproving of it being morning.
“Well good morning, darling,” Claire said to her oldest daughter Faith, a ten year old with as much fire and spirit as her father, as well as his early-in-life hatred for early mornings. “Sleep well?”
“Mhmm,” the young girl grunted her own brand of what Claire always called a ‘Scottish noise’. Faith rummaged through the pantry for a box of cereal, and her mother supplied her with a bowl, spoon and the milk carton from the refrigerator.
“Where’s your sister, Faith?” Claire asked as Faith prepared her morning meal.
“‘Prolly still asleep, Ma,” Faith answered with a mouthful of food. Claire gave her a disapproving look, then made her way to and up the stairs towards her youngest daughter’s room. But when she pushed the door open, she saw that Jamie, showered and fully dressed in his uniform for work, was already in there.
“C’mon, a leannan,” Jamie cooed. “Ye canna be late fer school again, Bree.”
“It’s okay if she’s late,” Claire said, and both Jamie and their eight-year-old Brianna shot up to stare at her. “If she doesn’t complete a full school day, as required by Law of the Fraser Household, she can’t stay late to play volleyball with her friends.”
Jamie smirked at this, but Brianna looked as though someone had murdered her cat. Speaking of which, Adso their three-year-old Russian Blue dumpster rescue, sauntered into Bree’s room, jumped onto the comforter, and started kneading lazily, having not a care in the world at what was going on.
“But Ma!” Bree whined, “Lizzie and Malva are gonna be here today so we can go tae the nets! I canna miss out!”
“Then I suggest,” Claire came to stand behind Jamie, her sternest motherly glare on her face, “that you start getting ready for school.”
“Aye, Mam,” Brianna resigned, and her father held out his hand to help her out of bed.
Claire just smiled at their interaction. Between their two daughters, Faith always gravitated towards her, while Brianna leaned on Jamie more. They were two years apart, both with their father’s flaming red hair, and “the blood of the MacKenzie” in them, as her mother in law always said.
Jamie followed Brianna downstairs and helped her with breakfast. By this point, Faith was already dressed and ready for school, sitting on one of the couches with one of her assigned reading books in her hands.
Another 20 minutes went by before there was the sound of honking outside.
“Alright, lassies!” Jamie called out, “Get yerself on yon bus! I’ll be home later tonight.”
“Goodbye, Da!” Faith said.
“Love ye Da!” Brianna chimed in behind her.
Jamie bent to kiss both his girls on the crowns of their heads and watched as they dashed out the door. Not thirty seconds later, Brianna runs back inside and grabs her forgotten coat, smiling sheepishly at her parents before disappearing again.
Jamie took Claire into his arms from behind and inhaled the scent of her hair. Claire sighed contently.
“What’s yer plan fer the day, Sassenach?” He asked.
“Well,” Claire turned around in his arms to face him, “I have to go to the market to find something for dinner. Do you have anything in mind?”
“Mmm,” Jamie hummed, not taking his eyes off her, “yer beef marinade was divine the last time ye made it. Can we have it again?”
“Of course,” Claire smiled, stepping up slightly to kiss her husband. “I was thinking corn and those garlic mashed sweet potatoes you love so much.”
“Och, ye spoil me, Claire,” Jamie leaned his forehead against hers, closing his eyes for a brief moment to absorb the feel of her, “what did I do tae deserve ye?”
“I interrupted your meeting with a certain General Tryon at the right moment,” Claire grinned.
Jamie laughed at this. “Aye, weel… he wasna talkin’ about anything important, anyway.”
“So says you,” Claire chided, playfully smacking him in the chest. “When the General of the FOB requires your personal attention, you give it, Warrant Officer.”
Jamie released Claire and gave her a longing look. “Weel, that’s me done, Colour Sergeant. Better head into work before I’m the one who’s late. We cannae have that now, can we?”
“If you insist,” Claire sighed, handing Jamie his coat and kissing him one last time. “On your way, soldier.”
“Aye, Sergeant,” Jamie quipped, giving her a formal British salute and a bow.
“You’re not supposed to salute me!” Claire laughed. “You outrank me!”
“Aye, yer right. But we’re no’ in Inverness anymore, now are we?” His attempt to wink gave Claire a fitful of laughs as he slipped out the door.
Claire smiled to herself and started her day.
“Morning, Chief!” a voice called out to Jamie as he entered the Scottish Police Academy training centre.
“Ah, Geordie!” Jamie came in and clapped the man on the back. “How’re the bairns?”
“Well, sir, though wee Maxine is most likely developin’ another fit o’ the flu.”
“Och, I ken how that is,” Jamie replied sadly, remembering when Brianna was so sick that she was in hospital for two whole days. “Give Margie my love, will ye?”
“O’ course!” Geordie replied with a slight blush. He always got that way whenever someone mentioned his bride.
Jamie worked as a civilian SWAT member trainer for the Scottish Police Services in Edinburgh. His military background perfectly suited him for the job, and the force didn’t hesitate to hire him when he came around looking for a job. Once he knew his head was on straight after the war, that is.
Today there were no classes for him but the cadets were going to be in the field training on a new class of weapons recently approved by the government for them to use. He figured he’d get some long-overdue paperwork done, then sit in and observe.
“Fraser!” a familiar voice called out to him while he was settling at his desk. One Sergeant Rupert MacKenzie, his boss and distant cousin stood just outside his office door. “Ye got a minute?”
“Fer ye, cousin, always,” Jamie gestured for Rupert to sit in front of him with a smile. “What’s on yer mind?”
A distraught look crossed the sergeant’s face. “Angus called out again, and his class is wi’out an instructor.”
“The flu’s really been goin’ around, has it no’?”
“Aye aye, but no it’s no’ that. Said it was some emergency wi’ his wife and wouldna be in today. Can ye cover fer him?”
“Sure, ‘tis no problem. These papers are important but wi’ no due date. I can put it off, ken.”
“Thank ye,” Rupert stood to take his leave. “Yer a good man, Jamie” He called out. “Never let anyone tell ye otherwise!”
Jamie beamed to himself for a moment before getting up, grabbing his teaching books, and walking towards the classroom in question.
About twelve cadets were already seated when he walked in, but they all stood and got to attention the moment they realized he was there.
“Morning, lads,” Jamie said in a stern voice. “I’m Retired Warrant Officer James Fraser of the Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland. Yer instructor isna here today, so I will be teaching this class. Now,” he opened his teaching booklet, the same one that started off each brand new class of future Scottish police officers’ training. “Ye’ll find today’s schedule on page fourteen of yer training book...”
Claire was usually bored by the end of her day, but that wasn’t the case on days where she went to the local supermarket. She always ran into the usual friends, sometimes her sister in law Jenny, with one of her younger children that weren’t in school yet. But today, she ran into her good friend and fellow soldier Geillis Duncan.
“How are ye, hen?” Geillis said after she released Claire from a tight embrace.
“All’s well on my end,” Claire responded, “how about you?”
“Och, I could complain, but then I’d look a wee bit foolish, no?” Geillis laughed. “Arthur got a promotion at work recently, so while I’m grabbing a few bits and bobs fer the house, he’s taking me out fer dinner tonight!”
“Oh, how exciting! Give Arthur my love.”
“Will do. He wants Jamie to come over at some point for a dram and cards. Ye better be there wi’ him, missy!”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” Claire hugged Geillis once more before finishing her shopping trip. Once she got home, she started preparing for the night’s dinner. The girls wouldn’t be home until later but she wanted to ensure she was available to help with homework.
Two hours later, the meat was in the fridge soaking up the delicious smelling marinade Jamie loved so much, the kitchen was back to its usual spotless state, and all the fixings and side dishes were ready to be popped into a pot at a moment’s notice. Just in time too, as the front door opened and two very tall, redheaded girls came clambering in at once.
“Welcome home, ladies! No, Bree, take those muddy boots off right there at the door.”
Brianna blushed slightly at her mother’s chiding as she slid her bright green Wellington boots off. Faith took off her coat and walked into the dining area, book bag dragging behind.
“Lots of homework today?” Claire came around to her side after washing her hands. Brianna was right behind her.
“Aye, but it’s me own fault. I asked fer some o’ these assignments.”
“That’s because yer a clotheid!” Brianna snided.
“Ye are too!”
“That’s enough, girls.” Claire sighed, rolling her eyes. She didn’t know what it was like to have siblings, let alone sisters, so she couldn’t relate. “Faith, do you need help?”
“No, Mam. I should be able tae handle it. Thank ye.”
Claire kissed her oldest daughter on the head and turned to Brianna. “And what about you? And no, you cannot go out with Lizzie and Malva until you’ve finished your homework.”
“But it isna due until-”
“I don’t care when it’s actually due, young lady, you will finish it before you leave this table. If it’s any consolation,” Claire walked over to the center of the table and plucked an apple and banana out for each girl, a bright smile on her face. “If it’s not due til later, you can spend the next few days until it is due playing with your friends. Understood?”
Brianna grinned slightly, and accepted the proffered fruit. “Aye, Mam.”
With both girls deep into their studies, Claire sat down on the couch with a magazine. Adso came in and plopped himself onto her lap, purring contently.
“Well, hello you. Are you done chasing dust bunnies under your sister’s desk?” Claire asked the cat.
Adso merely snuggled deeper into her lap, acting as though she were talking to the wall. Claire sighed and flipped through the magazine before finding an article worthy of her precious reading time.
“Mam, I’m done!” Brianna called out, and before Claire could say anything to the contrary, she dashed out the door with her boots in her hands. Claire went to the window and saw her wee girl hopping around to slip her boots on and her two friends, Lizzie Weymss and Malva Christie, were waiting for her, both with weathered volleyballs in their arms. Claire knew that Brianna would only be a few blocks away, and if anything were to go wrong, either Mrs. Wemyss or Mrs. Christie would ring the house straight away. Faith still sat at the table, still buried in her work.
“Would you like some help darling? Or perhaps a glass of juice?” Claire asked.
“No thank ye, Mam.” Faith said without looking up. Claire just smiled with pride. Unlike her sister, Faith aspired to be a doctor one day. “A healer like ye were, Mam!” She’d told her once. So Faith was adamant about getting the highest marks on all her schoolwork, no matter how insignificant it might be. She had her heart set on getting into the University of Glasgow’s Medicine program once she finished with her primary studies. And given her current level of concentration, nothing was going to get in the way of that.
Claire looked at the clock and surmised that Jamie would be home from work soon. She heated up the oven, took the meat out of the fridge, and started cooking the already prepared sweet potatoes. An hour later, and the house smelling like a chef’s dream, Brianna and Jamie walked in the door together, Jamie letting Bree go first, and Faith bounded out of her seat to tackle her Da with a bone-crushing hug.
“Welcome home, Da!” Faith said in his chest. Jamie kissed the top of her head.
“Aye, lass, yer gonna crush my heart tae a pulp wi’ a hug like that!” Jamie grunted with a smile, looking up at Claire. “What is yer mam feedin’ ye lot?”
“Well, good thing she wants to be a doctor someday,” Claire smiled. “I’m sure she could fix you right up!”
“Weel, unless she plans on donating her own heart, I dinna see how much help she’ll be,” Jamie helped Faith off the ground, then embraced his wife with his own organ-pulverizing hug.
“Oof!” Claire exclaimed, “and you think your daughter is capable of crushing organs?”
“Aye weel, I’ve had a wee bit more practice.”
“Ah, that’s good to know.”
“Smells mighty fine in here, Sassenach,” Jamie kissed Claire like he needed her oxygen to survive. “When’s dinner due tae be ready?”
At that, the timer went off on the oven. “Right about now,” Claire said.
With the table set, everyone took their places and dug into their meal. The girls talked amongst themselves as Jamie and Claire described their day to each other. Jamie went on about how he had to cover for Angus again, and Claire relayed Geillis’ message for her.
“Ahh, aye, a night wi’ the Duncans sounds like a fine idea. Hadna seen that old coot in a while. A promotion ye say?” Jamie took a sip of his whisky.
“Yes,” Claire said, sipping at her own glass of wine, their plates already practically licked clean. “Geillie was pretty excited about it.”
“I imagine so,” Jamie regarded. “She was always one fer the finer things in life, aye? Hasna changed since the Army, I see.”
“Jamie,” Claire relented, lightly tapping his arm as Jamie stifled a chuckle.
Jamie looked at Claire like she held the sun and the moon in her hands. His mind wandered a bit…
“Welcome to Inverness, Warrant Officer Fraser,” General William Tryon saluted his newest soldier back and Jamie dropped his hand. “I trust you know the lay of the land here?”
“Aye, sir,” Jamie replied. “Grew up no’ too far from Inverness. Highlanders verra rarely leave their home ground.”
“Then you should feel right at home, Chief. Training isn’t scheduled to start for another few-”
“General Tryon, sir?” Called a Englishwoman’s voice from outside his office.
“Oh, do excuse me, Chief. Come on in, Sergeant!”
When Jamie turned around, his heart skipped a beat at the sight of the woman in the doorway.
She wasn’t that tall, but she was well built. Curves in all the right places, and the most beautiful head of rich, curly brown hair, pinned behind her head underneath her uniform cap. The badge on her left arm had a red plus sign on it. Medic, Jamie interpreted. She was a combat medic. And judging by the three upside-down chevrons on her uniform, her rank was apparently Colour Sergeant. This meant he outranked her by two grades.
“I have those documents you requested, sir,” she said after Tryon released her of her salute with his own. Tryon waved her in and she handed the documents to her superior.
“Ah, have you met our newest Chief, Sergeant? This is Warrant Officer James Fraser, of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. First Battalion, I believe?” Tryon turned his gaze to Jamie.
“Aye, sir,” Jamie replied, trying to keep his legs steady under him. And by the looks of the Colour Sergeant, she was attempting to do the same. But unlike Jamie, she has a face made of pure, fragile glass. She looked like she wanted to eat him up right there and was doing all she could to keep her boss from seeing it.
“I have not met him, sir, no.” The woman held out her hand for Jamie to shake. “Colour Sergeant Claire Beauchamp. Your servant, sir.”
Jamie maintained consistent eye contact with the woman as he grasped her hand to shake. “Please tae make yer acquaintance, Sergeant. I expect we’ll be working alongside each other just fine.”
“I expect the same, sir.”
“Please.” Jamie ushered her out of the General’s office, thankful no one was in the hallway. “When it’s just the two of us, it’s Jamie. Just...just Jamie.”
“Well then,” Claire replied, “Jamie...I look forward to working with you.”
Jamie beamed and hid a shy smile. “See ye later, Sassenach.”
The two of them have been inseparable ever since.
A TV news report about a child rescue alert will change the Frasers’ lives forever.
“Jamie!” Claire called out from the kitchen. She could hear him helping Brianna with a last minute math problem on her homework (something she was supposed to finish the previous day). “How do you want your eggs?”
“Over easy, Sassenach,” she heard him call from the hallway, Brianna skipping in front of him with her backpack bouncing up and down her back.
“Did she finish that assignment?” Claire asked, placing three freshly-cracked eggs in the small metal cooking rings she uses for making eggs that weren’t scrambled. She was about to look behind her to face Jamie, but he beat her to it, placing a big, fat wet kiss upon her cheek. She giggled.
“Aye,” Jamie grunted, “though it woulda been easier if she’s come tae one o’ us last night,” he threw their youngest daughter a sideways glance, and Claire could see her cheeks reddening from where she stood.
“I’m sorry, Da!” Brianna cried out, “I got caught up in-”
“I dinna wanna hear any excuses, a leannan,” Jamie said in his most stern fatherly voice, “ye ken yer supposed tae have all yer schoolwork done ‘afore ye go out wi’ Lizzie and Malva. Yer mother and I want ye tae have a braw education. Be able tae get into a good uni. But ye willna do that if yer slackin’ now at yer age!”
Jamie could see that Brianna was on the verge of tears; it always broke his heart when he had to raise his voice at either of his daughters, but Bree always held a special place in his heart.
“Och, mo ghràidh,” Jamie gathered Brianna into his arms; she was about half his height, which meant she would most likely be as tall as he was. Maybe taller. “I dinna like being this rough wi’ ye. But ye need tae take yer schooling seriously, aye?”
“Aye, Da,” Brianna sniffed, and hugged her father once more.
“Breakfast is ready!” Claire called out, and Jamie, Brianna, and Faith (who had been reading a book on the couch this whole time) all gathered into the dining room after fixing their own plates. The Frasers ate in relatively silence, the sounds of soft chewing, the clinking of glasses and silverware, and the television playing in the living room were the only things filling that silence.
While eating, a news segment catches Jamie and Claire’s attention.
“Sassenach, d’ye have the remote?” Jamie asked, his eyes not leaving the telly screen.
“No but I can get up,” Claire set her fork down and got up to adjust the volume. Everyone was now paying attention to the news, the face of a young boy filling the screen.
“Authorities have issued a nationwide Child Rescue Alert for a thirteen-year-old boy from a Lake District estate in Northwest England. His grandparents have indicated to the authorities that the teen, whose identity is being withheld at this time, was discovered missing early yesterday morning and has not been seen since. The police have made a statement urging all of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland to be on high alert. If you have any information as to the whereabouts of this child, please call…”
“Oh, that’s dreadful,” Claire said, returning to the table after turning the volume back down. “I can’t imagine having to go through that.”
“Aye,” Jamie replied grimly, though his eyes were still glued to the telly. He couldn’t get the nagging thought from his mind. The one that told him he should have known that young man. But he shook it off. “Aye, it ‘tis. Ye girls are my heart and soul. Canna bear the thought o’ anythin’ happenin’ tae ye.”
“Nothing’s gonna happen tae us, Da!” Bree said cheerfully, as though to dispel the anguish potentially brewing in her parents’ minds.
Just then, their ride to school sounded its arrival, and the girls quickly gulped down their juice and stole a piece of toast each.
“Except maybe forgettin’ tae come home from school,” Faith interjected with a wry grin.
“Only you would do that, ye bookworm!” Bree chided.
“Alright, alright, enough, you don’t want to be late,” Claire said as she approached. She gave them both extra kisses and tighter hugs, as did Jamie, and they were off.
Claire started clearing off the table while Jamie went to go brush his teeth. She was surprised by a wet, sloppy, toothpaste-encrusted kiss from her husband five minutes later. She laughed out loud.
“I always loved getting kissed by you right after you brush your teeth,” Claire smiled as she savored his kiss, “spearmint always was my favorite toothpaste flavor.”
“Aye, well, good thing we use the same toothpaste,” Jamie smirked, causing Claire to laugh more.
“I willna be home early tonight, Sassenach,” Jamie said glumly, pulling his jacket on, “Angus is still out, so I’m still teaching his class.”
“Who knows, maybe he’ll never come back and you’ll get that promotion you’d had your eye on.”
“Ach, I doubt it. I’d have tae teach more than just that dolt’s class tae even be considered…I’m not a copper, sadly. Just a civilian instructor on the police force’s payroll. Isna up tae them.”
“Well,” Claire walked over towards the front door where Jamie stood, adjusting the lapels on his coat, “it doesn’t hurt to be optimistic. Don’t worry about me. There’s not a lot of housework to do and I don’t have to go to market today. I plan to take it easy. I’ll hold down this fortress until your return, My Laird.”
Jamie just smirked before bowing before Claire. “As ye say, mo nighean donn.”
Claire smiled as she closed the door behind Jamie. She busied herself with the kitchen and did a load of laundry before grabbing her book and settling in for a good few hours of reading.
Around lunch time, she decided she’d read enough and made herself something to eat. She had just sat down with a BLT and a glass of water when there was a tentative knock at the door.
“Who could that be?” Claire took her lunch, wrapped it in some cellophane wrap, and went to the door.
Someone could have ripped the front door rug from beneath her, and she could have fallen flat on her back, and it still would not have been as shocking as seeing the presumed missing boy from telly that morning.
“U-Uh, h-hullo, m-madam,” the child said in an English accent more posh-sounding than her own.
“Hello,” Claire said slowly, wondering if he was alone. He stood there for a tick, shuffling his feet on the heavily-used welcome mat before the threshold. Claire cleared her throat. “May I help you with something? Are you lost?”
“I-Is, erm…well,” the boy stammered. “I’m looking for a…J-James Fraser, ma’am.”
Claire blinked at that. What could this boy want with Jamie? “He’s not home at the moment. He’s at work. But…” she hesitated, not sure exactly how much to tell him. But, teenage status aside, he’s just a boy. What harm could it really do? “I’m his wife. Claire Fraser. Is there something I can do for you?”
The boy swallowed audibly and visibly. “M-My name is William Clarence Dunsany. I’m his son.”
Scratch that. Pulling the rug out from under her and then bashing her skull in with a sledgehammer would have been more appropriate. And it still wouldn’t have been more shocking.
“Oh,” was all Claire could say. What now? Do I let him in? How did he get here? Is he alone? Is he even missing? Did he run away?
“D-Do you know when your husband i-is going to be h-home, ma’am?”
“Erm, no…he, uh…” Claire, not usually a closed-mouthed woman, was utterly speechless. “Why don’t you come inside. It’s awfully cold.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
Claire stepped aside and allowed William to come into her home. She noticed how he was careful to shake off the Scottish rainstorm from his coat outside before stepping through the threshold, then meticulously removing his Wellington boots and leaving them next to Jamie’s own ruddy pair. Wherever this lad came from, Claire thought, lessons on manners were dutifully not skimmed on.
It reminded her of a time where she’d come into contact with another child, though much younger than this one, lost to her family forever.
“See?” Sergeant Beauchamp said to the small child in her lap, “that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“No, ma’am,” said the little girl, whose name escaped Claire at the moment. She finished bandaging the young child’s arm, and smiled down at her. She couldn’t have been more than five or six. Inquiries as to the whereabouts of her parents were still being sought, so all she could do at the moment was keep an eye on her.
“Do you know where my mummy and daddy are?” the girl asked for perhaps the seventh time.
“My men are looking into it as we speak. I’m sure we’ll find them soon. Don’t you worry.” Claire booped the child on the nose, causing the cutest little giggle to erupt from the child. Claire couldn’t help but smile.
“Sassenach!” Jamie called from the outside of the tent that had become her field hospital.
“Miss,” the girl said, her cute button nose wrinkled up, “why did that Scot called you such a filthy name? Does he not like you?”
It took all of Claire’s strength not to laugh; although her and Jamie hadn’t been seeing each other very long, she knew the Warrant Officer long enough to know he was doing anything but insulting her.
“It’s just a term of endearment from that one Scot in particular. I assure you, he’s not insulting me, dear.”
The child seemed to take her word for it as Claire slipped her out of her lap.
“Can you stay here for me for just a second? Don’t get up from this bench, alright? There’s a lot of dangerous equipment in here and I don’t want you getting hurt.”
“I won’t be long!” Claire called out before disappearing with Jamie away from her small, but perceptive ears. “Any luck?”
Claire knew what the answer was before Jamie could say anything. It was written all over his face, despite his talent for being very good at hiding what he was feeling or thinking.
“The lass’ parents were found in the rubble of their home. Both DOA. Dinna ken how the hell she made it out alive…she must not have been home when the bombs went off…”
Claire wanted to cry immediately.
Intelligence had told Jamie’s convoy that a village was the next target to being wiped off the map, but they arrived too late. So, instead of being charged with evacuating the village’s inhabitants to safety, it had become a recovery mission. And while some were still alive and talking, none were walking of their own accord, and nearly six times that were dead.
“Yer gonna have tae contact someone tae take the child, Claire,” Jamie said as gently as he could. Claire was orphaned herself when she was around the girl’s age, so she knew the pain of losing a parent. In that moment, her sympathy and empathy for the child swelled throughout her chest cavity. She prayed the girl still had surviving relatives elsewhere. Like she did.
“I know,” was all she could say. Jamie wanted nothing more than to kiss her pain away, but they were both on duty, and she was his subordinate while on this mission. It would be improper, and against regulations. So all he could do was place a comforting hand on her shoulder and leave.
When Claire walked back into the tent, the girl was already in the arms of their team’s recovery unit. A young woman Claire was very familiar with, fellow Colour Sergeant Annalise de Marillac, specialized in dealing with children and their traumas associated with the war. French in origin, Annalise was very good at her job, always knew the right things to say to children. Claire knew the girl would be in capable hands, despite the devastating news she was about to receive.
“You can go now, Sergeant,” Annalise said gently, the girl nestling her head into the crook of her slender shoulder. “I’ll take good care of her.”
“Thank you, Annalise,” Claire whispered with all her heart, willing the tears brewing behind her eyes to go away.
Later that night, when the camp was well and fully unconscious, Claire snuck into Jamie’s tent, like she did every night she could get away with it. Jamie welcomed his grieving girlfriend into his arms.
“Tell me of yer troubles, mo nighean donn,” Jamie whispered against her hair.
“She’s never going to be the same, that girl,” Claire said softly. “I wish I could have told her the pain would get easier to deal with over time, but Annalise already had custody of her.”
“Aye, I saw,” Jamie muttered, “I personally picked Annalise fer this mission; she’d kent weel what she’s doing wi’ the bairns of this…massacre.”
“Oh Jamie,” Claire propped herself up on one arm to face him. “I can’t imagine my child having to go through what I went through. Or…just the thought of being separated from them, even temporarily. How scared they would be! How-”
“Dinna fash yerself, Sassenach,” Jamie kissed the bridge of her nose and wiped away a stray tear. “Ye’ll make a fine mother…and ye’ll be safe…nothing like this will ever happen tae our children.”
“Our children?” Claire said, amused. “We’ve only been officially dating a few weeks, Jamie. Don’t tell me you’ve already picked out wedding venues and baby’s names.”
“Ye can never be too prepared fer the future, Sassenach,” Jamie smiled, and that caused Claire to smile for the first time in the last 48 hours.
“I…I love you, Jamie,” Claire said hesitantly. She always worried about saying it aloud, not knowing if Jamie would return the favor, or the feeling.
Jamie’s eyes widened, but then softened. “I love ye too…mo chridhe.”
At Claire’s urging pleas, Jamie rushes home and meets Willie, and it’s a conflict to figure out what to do with him.
Claire excused herself to hers and Jamie’s bedroom to call him on her mobile. It took a few rings for him to answer. Oh, how she hated to interrupt him at work!
He was probably teaching a class and most likely would get in trouble with his superiors for having his phone off silent mode, but this was too important. She couldn’t imagine waiting for him to come home to discover he had a son. A son!
“What’s up, Sassenach?” Jamie said when he answered. He only answered like that, short and quick, but still animated, when she called while he was busy.
“You need to come home right now, Jamie,” Claire hissed into the phone, trying to keep her voice, and panic level, low. “It’s…well, it’s sort of an emergency.”
“What’s wrong? Is it Faith? Bree? Och, Christ, are they hurt? Which hospital are they going tae?!”
“No…no, it’s not the girls…it’s something else. Or rather…some-one else. You…you just really need to-”
“Claire, I love ye, ye ken I’d do anything fer ye, but I canna get away from work this day. There’s just too much going on.”
Claire huffed out a breath. She thought if she said it was an emergency that Jamie would drop everything and run. She hated to hit him with this kind of news over the phone; it felt no different than being told your favorite aunt died by text message or Facebook, in her mind. But apparently, she was going to have to be more direct.
“Jamie. A thirteen year old boy showed up at our door just before lunch. He claims…” a deep breath, then, “he says he’s your son.”
There were several seconds that passed in total silence that Claire wondered if Jamie hung up, passed out, or both.
“I- my- WHAT?!”
“See? This is why you need to come home. He says he has his birth certificate on him, so I’m willing to believe him. I promise everything will be explained when you get here, for God’s sake Jamie, I do not want to have this conversation over the phone!”
“Alright, alright…Christ, how the hell am I going tae explain this to Rupert…”
“You’re a clever man, Jamie. I’m sure you’ll think of something. Now, hurry home.” And with that, she hung up.
Jamie’s mind was still racing a million miles a minute after the call disconnected. His heart rate was more or less keeping pace.
A son? A SON? A lad wi’ my blood and bone? How…how the fuck is this possible?
It wasn’t like the child was Claire’s; to his knowledge, she was a virgin when they got married. And not only he bore witness to both Faith and Brianna’s births, but the lad was years older than them. He and Claire were married around the time the boy was born, so…
A Dhia… a startling realization hit him like a tidal wave.
Since this child clearly wasn’t born of himself and Claire’s union, that could only leave one other woman… his heart dropped at the thought. Was she seriously here too? Did she accompany the boy? How did she find me?! He prayed to Christ that she was nowhere near his home. That the boy travelled by himself. A lad of thirteen was more than capable of flying and taking a train alone. But…why? And why now?
More questions than answers, Jamie thought as he headed towards Rupert’s office. He knew that this was probably going to get him harshly reprimanded, but he also knew he couldn’t lie to his boss. If anything, this was going to add a whole new level of headaches to his life at work.
If only he knew…
“Rupert, man,” Jamie said as he knocked on his boss’ door.
“Ah, Jamie!” Rupert said cheerfully, ushering him inside his office. “Pull up and chair, lad. How’s the class goin’?”
Jamie’s heart stuttered a bit. “Ah, weel, that’s the reason why I needed tae talk to ye…s-something’s come up…”
Rupert’s jolly disposition changed in an instant, and he gave Jamie a concerned look. “What’s it? Are ye alright? Is Claire weel? The bairns?”
Before Jamie could stop himself, he said, “it’s one of the bairns. Claire rang me frantic, says I need tae come home straight away. I wouldna be botherin’ ye about it if-”
“Jamie,” Rupert interrupted him. “Yer a good instructor. And a fine man. Ye kent weel ye were the only one tae show up tae work when that bloody flu epidemic was goin’ around. Sure, nobody actually got sick, but it did scare the civilian employee into no’ coming tae work fer ‘health concerns’,” Rupert’s air quotes always made Jamie chuckle, “and there were plenty o’ times when ye coulda stayed home and ye didna. Yer an honorable man, a hard worker, and ye still soldier on. Give Claire my love. Nettie has been meanin’ tae get all us together fer a wee cookout.”
“Och, aye.” Jamie’s grin was strained. It didn’t settle his nerves that his boss was going on about him being an ‘honorable man’ when he’d just lied to him. Well, technically, if what the lad was saying was true, it wasn’t a lie. It was one of his bairns. But he didn’t think Claire’s word alone would be enough to get him home. “Give yer bride our love as weel.”
“Will do! Dinna fash about the class, Fraser. I’m sure the cadets willna complain too much for one cancelled lesson.”
The two men shook hands, then Jamie went back to the locker rooms, threw on his coat, grabbed his keys and dashed out the door faster than one could spell “Culloden.”
Claire was doing her best not to appear stressed or anxious in front of Willie, who prefered that to his full Christian name of ‘William,’ but she was failing miserably. If nothing else, her glass face was giving away every emotion gnawing at her bones.
Willie apparently came to them with papers proving his parentage. His birth certificate was the biggest proof. In the place to document the birth mother’s maiden name, it read “Geneva Caroline Dunsany,” a name that Claire did not recognize. And in the birth father’s place, it read, plain as day, “James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.” It listed other demographics, like the parents’ ages at the time of birth, their occupations, the place where the child was born, et cetera. What caught Claire’s eye was the fact that both occupations for Jamie and this Geneva were both “Royal Army Soldiers.”
“Madam?” Willie asked, “I’m quite parched. May I have a glass of water, please?”
“Oh, of course!” Claire mentally berated herself as she poured the child a small glass, handing it to him with a shaky hand. “I’m so sorry, Willie, forgetting my hospitality like that. I promise I’m better than that.”
“It’s I who should be apologizing, ma’am. I-I know this is quite a shock.”
Claire relaxed. “That would be an understatement, surely. But I know you would not travel all the way to the Scottish Highlands without warning if it wasn’t for a reason.” Claire looked out the window, half expecting to see Jamie’s car, half expecting an unfamiliar vehicle to be inhabiting the drive. “Are you alone, Willie?”
Willie swallowed his sip of water before replying, “yes, ma’am.”
“Even at your age, that’s quite a journey to make on your own. May I ask why you came alone, instead of with a guardian, or your mother by chance?”
Willie looked like he was about to answer, but she heard the rumble of Jamie’s Jetta pulling into the drive at lightning speed. He definitely understood the seriousness of her call to be speeding down the narrow lane leading to their home.
“That would be Jamie, um…your father, I suppose,” Claire said softly. She made him focus on her, eye to eye. “Now, when he walks through that door, he’s going to be in a state to shock. He might be angry, or upset, but if I know my husband, it will never be your fault. None of this is. Just, give him a chance to make the first move, okay?”
Claire could not believe this boy was as polite as he was. She was secretly hoping it would make a good first impression on Jamie.
Speaking of which, the man himself barged through the front door as if it didn’t even exist. He was breathless, panting like he’d just ran a marathon, and his face was red and sheened with sweat. Nervous sweat, Claire could see. She knew the difference between the way Jamie sweat after working out, and when his heart was about to pound right out of his chest.
“Sassenach, I-” Jamie tried to address Claire first, but his eyes fell upon Willie, and all conscious thought seemed to cease in his brain.
The lad was damn near close to the spitting image of him. His eyes were blue and slanted, like a cat’s, and just like his own. His face had all the right angles and depths to it that he had as a lad. Though, his hair was dark, like Claire’s. Despite lacking any of his coloring, there was no doubt in his mind that this boy was, in fact, his son. His own flesh and blood, just as his daughters were. In theory, given his brown hair, he could be conceivably passed off as his and Claire’s son, but at this point, that wasn’t important.
“Hello, sir…” Willie said tentatively. “My name is William Dunsany…”
“Dunsany…” Jamie whispered. Claire observed a million emotions cross his usually stoic face.
“Yes, sir,” Willie replied. “I’m-”
“Would ye excuse my wife and I fer a moment, lad?” Jamie said abruptly but politely. Claire blinked at him, but smiled at Willie before following Jamie into their bedroom. Jamie closed and locked the door behind him.
“He really is the lad from telly this morning, aye?” Jamie whispered.
“Yes, but I think there’s a more pressing matter to discuss,” Claire answered, just as quietly. “He wasn’t lying when he said he was your son. His birth certificate names you as his birth father. His date of birth on the record says the ninth of January, 2003. Which would make him thirteen. Before I say anything else,” Claire took a breath, “I’m not angry that you kept this information from me, though I probably should be, but this is important. How is it that you have a son?”
Jamie’s jaw visibly clenched, but not out of anger. More like anxiety, Claire thought. He blew out a breath through his nostrils before replying.
“Truthfully, I didna ken the lad’s existence until now. Had I’d known, he’d been part o’ our lives. Ye recall my time as a POW, ken?”
Claire flinched at this. “Of course I do. It was the worst time of my life. Not to diminish anything you experienced.”
“Of course, Sassenach,” Jamie grinned but it didn’t reach his eyes. “I ken I havena told ye everything that happened during that time.”
“You actually haven’t told me anything, other than after your release, we vowed never to speak of it. I always assumed it was just too traumatic, and I’ve always respected that.”
“Aye,” Jamie murmured, his eyes now far away from where he stood. “But that’s a discussion fer another time. Right now, there’s a child rescue alert out fer him. The last thing we need is tae be accused o’ kidnappin’.”
“Well, surely they’ll believe him when he says he’s not been kidnapped? He clearly came here of his own free will. Whoever reported him missing didn’t want to let him go.”
“Aye, but it doesna matter. The point is, and I’m not saying this lightly, it could get me in trouble at work. While I highly doubt Rupert or even Dougal would believe any notions that I’d willingly kidnap the lad, my own blood or no’, I just don’t need the headache such a stramash could cause.”
Claire relented. Despite being a civilian employee, Jamie was required to swear the same oath and uphold the moral code every sworn-in police officer does. The lawful thing to do would be to call the authorities and tell them the lad came to him. But the right thing, and the one that she knew Jamie would likely think of, is to send the young man back to wherever he came from. At least until they could figure out what was going on. There were too many balls in the air surrounding this incident.
“I understand,” Claire said, and they walked back out to the living room. Willie was sitting on the couch with his hands folding up in his lap, looking around. Jamie was in awe. Almost like his mother wasn’t-
“Willie,” Claire said gently. “Jamie and I think it would be best if you returned to England until we can get this sorted out. We would love to have you come and visit, but right now-”
“No! No please don’t make me go back! Please, madam, sir, I beg of you!”
This was a side of the boy Claire had yet to see. Though, it wasn’t really saying much as she’d only had a few hours to observe him, when he threw his arms around her and started crying, it startled her. Jamie too, as he took a step back, his eyes widened in shock and dismay.
“If you don’t want me, that’s fine, but please be honest with me! I haven’t lied to you! I-”
“Willie, it’s not that we don’t want you,” Claire soothed, stroking the young man’s hair, “but there are legal reasons why you being here isn’t the best idea right now.”
“Aye,” Jamie stepped up, “d’ye have any other family ye can go to? Or, maybe… where is your mother, lad?”
Willie looked up at Jamie, and the father of two (now three, apparently) felt his heart break into a thousand pieces by the boy’s face alone.
“She’s dead. I belong here. With you! I can work for my supper, I assure you. I don’t have any real skills as of yet, but I can learn! Please, sir, please don’t send me back!”
Willie continued to cry in Claire’s arms, and she exchanged a concerned look with her husband. Jamie’s feelings were all over the place.
What the hell happened to Geneva Dunsany?
Talking with Willie, Jamie remembers how he met his mother. To sort things out, Claire sends the girls to Lallybroch, and she is reminded just how big her family with Jamie is.
Just in case you can’t tell from the banner, this is where shit starts to get dark, y’all. Not as dark as it’s gonna get, but just a heads up. Thanks for stopping by! :D
Willie continued to weep in Claire’s arms for the next twenty or thirty minutes (Jamie lost count after a while). With little to do, he decided to prepare some tea for everyone while contemplating the next course of action. What exactly were they to do next?
As much as he needed to send the lad back wherever he came from, if the thirteen year old was begging to stay (to the point of agonized sobs) it had to be for a good reason. If his own time as a thirteen year old lad was any indication, and had something to say on the matter, boys at that age weren’t known for expressing unnecessary emotions. If they did at all, Jamie thought.
At the same painstaking time, Jamie did not want to discredit, or disregard, the possibility that Willie ran away for his safety. What could have caused him to flee England for Scotland in such a haste? Was he being mistreated at home? Neglected? Or, god forbid, abused? Given who his mother was…
“Willie,” Jamie said, gingerly placing a cup of tea in front of him, and then handing one to Claire. Willie muttered his thanks as he sipped. “Can ye tell us exactly where ye came from?”
“Helwater. It’s a rather large estate in England, sir,” Willie said after he had drained half his tea in one gulp. “This oolong is very good.”
“Och, thank my wife,” Jamie smiled, “it’s her pickin’. I’ll drink anything, sae long as it’s wet.”
This caused Willie to laugh. From the other side of the couch opposite Jamie, Claire noticed that even the way Willie laughed was similar to her husband. The way he throws his head back, and slightly to the side.
His slanted eyes slam shut and crease heavily, and the throaty tone of the laughter itself seemed to mirror his biological father’s. She didn’t know whether or not something like a laugh was genetically inherited, but this could have proved the case.
“If you don’t mind me asking, Willie,” Claire began hesitantly, “what exactly happened to your mother?”
Jamie gave Claire a side-eyed look, but she ignored her husband. If they were going to figure out what to do with him, they needed all the information the lad could give to make an informed decision. At least, that’s what Claire told herself.
“She was executed for treason to the Crown,” Willie said simply, as if Claire had asked him what color his eyes were.
Claire shuddered, but Jamie just sat there, frozen solid. His mind revamped its feverish thinking.
“If ye dinna mind, Willie,” Jamie said slowly, “Mrs. Fraser and I need tae speak in private again. Are ye good while ye wait, lad?”
“Yes, sir, thank you,” Willie replied, and the couple retreated to their room once more.
“Treason to the Crown?” Claire asked, alarmed. “I didn’t think such things were carried out anymore.”
“They’re no’ exactly publicised as they once were, Sassenach, but aye. They still do happen. The only people ye hear about it from are the families of those traitors.”
“I suppose so.”
“As much as I’d love fer him to stay wi’ us…”
“No, you’re right…it would be a trifle hard to keep him safe with a child rescue alert out for him. And since we still don’t know exactly why he’s here, it’s our word against whomever his guardians are. But, oh Jamie, we can’t just kick him out! He might be older than the girls, but he’s still a child. He can’t be on his own.”
“Christ!” Jamie momentarily panicked, remembering their daughters. Who were due home from school any moment now. “What o’ the girls? How are we gonna explain this tae them?”
“I had a thought about that. Why don’t we call your mum and tell her to pick them up? She knows discretion when its necessary.”
“Aye, true,” Jamie sighed in relief.
Ellen Fraser had been a godsend to Jamie when he first became a father. His own father, while well alive and present in his life, was a volunteer firefighter for the British Crown, and therefore wasn’t home as often as he might like to be. He frequently took on missions to help the allies of the British Forces. Once the summertime came though, Brian Fraser usually took the whole summer off as holiday to spend quality time with his children and grandchildren.
“Da isna supposed tae be home til closer tae Hogmanay, but Mam will surely have no problem keepin’ the girls at Lallybroch. I’ll ring her.”
“Okay, thank you, love,” Claire kissed Jamie on the cheek as he pulled out his mobile.
As she closed the door behind her, she heard Jamie say, “Hey Mam! Gotta wee favor tae ask ye…”
“Is everything alright, ma’am?” Willie asked when Claire came back to the living room without Jamie.
“Yes, all is well,” Claire replied. “We, erm…Jamie and I have two daughters…and we’re not exactly sure this is something we can explain just yet. It’s a developing story, so to speak.”
The guilt was written all over the young man’s face. “I understand…and am so sorry, ma’am. Truly, I am!”
“No no, Willie, really, it’s not your fault. Please, don’t cry. Jamie and I just think we can sort this out better without our daughters asking lots of questions. Especially if we can’t answer them all.”
Willie did not cry this time, but looked up at Claire. “How old are they? Your daughters?”
“Well, Faith is ten. And her sister Brianna will be nine in November.”
“Just by their names, they sound like wonderful young ladies.”
Claire smiled at this. She didn’t think she’d ever get over Willie’s tenacity for sheer kindness. “Yes, they are. Though, as their mother, I might be slightly bias.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that. At least you’re here for them.”
The note of sadness in his voice, and the swift glance of hurt passing across his young face, struck a cord in Claire’s heart. Who knows what terrors and horrible things this poor boy must have had to go through with his mother being condemned as a traitor to the Crown. But before she could offer any condolences, Jamie reappeared from the bedroom.
He wiggled the mobile in his hand and looked at Claire. “Mam intersected the girls’ bus to get them. So, they’ll be at Lallybroch fer as long as we need.”
“God bless Ellen Fraser.”
“Sláinte mhath,” Jamie beamed with pride, downing the rest of his tea in one swallow. “Willie and Mary are there wi’ the boys already, so the girls willna be lonely.”
“Oh good,” Claire said, “Brianna has grown rather partial to baby Alex.”
“There’s another Willie?” The thirteen year old piped up. Claire and Jamie smiled.
“Aye, lad. My older brother is also called Willie. He and his wife have three boys o’ their own.”
“I would very much like to meet them one day,” Willie said with longing.
Jamie gave him a sincere pat on the back. “In time, ye will, lad.”
Claire watched them for a moment, awestruck. She was raised by her Uncle Lambert Beauchamp after the sudden, untimely deaths of her mother and father, and she enlisted in the Royal Army two days after her eighteenth birthday, so she didn’t really feel the sense and security of “family” until she married Jamie, who had plenty of family to spare for all of the Scottish Highlands it seemed.
Losing herself in thought, Claire reflected on that family.
Jamie Fraser was the youngest of three children, born to Brian Fraser, retired accountant and current volunteer firefighter, and Ellen Fraser, who was a nurse while Jamie and his siblings were growing up.
Ellen MacKenzie Fraser was the oldest of seven children, born to Jacob MacKenzie and Anne Grant. Therefore Jamie had lots of cousins, aunts and uncles surrounding him growing up. His Uncle Colum died when he was Faith’s age of a rare muscular disease, without marrying or having children.
Brian Robert David Fraser, only had one brother, Arthur, and they both had three children with their respective wives. Alinda Fraser, Brian’s sister-in-law, was also a nurse and worked with Ellen as the children were growing up. Jamie always had lots of fun playing with his cousins Michael, Authur Jr., affectionately called “AJ”, and Lilliana, whom everyone called Lily. Lily and Michael were now married with children of their own, while AJ committed himself to missionary work for his local church, and therefore had no plans to settle down. Claire couldn’t remember the last time she saw the cousins on Brian’s side of the family.
There was Jamie’s older brother, also called Willie. His wife Mary and him had three lively, rambunctious boys: Sammy, Carson, and Alex. The youngest had been named after Jamie’s second name, Alexander. Then there was Jenny, Jamie’s older sister, her husband Ian, and their five children: wee Jamie (also named after his uncle) Margeret (or Maggie), Katherine (called Kitty) wee Janet (named after her mother), and wee Ian (three guesses who he was named after). And the Murrays were the only ones who had no plans to stop having children anytime soon.
“We’ll stop makin’ bairns when the good Lord tells us to!” She remembered Jenny proclaiming when Jamie asked her if ten children would be enough, causing everyone to laugh.
With Ellen’s siblings, Jamie’s Uncle Dougal had four daughters. His Aunt Janet, whom Jenny was named after, had no children by birth but adopted a son when he was a baby. Auntie Flora had six children (Claire was not about to try and remember all their names), and Auntie Jocasta, or “Aunt Jo” as she was more affectionately called, had three daughter with her husband Hector, the oldest being around Jamie’s age. Between the MacKenzies and the Frasers, not including the Murrays…
“I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a big family,” Willie said, bringing Claire back to the present. “Are the Frasers a large family?”
Jamie’s pride in his family shown through on his face. “Ye dinna ken how big it is.”
“You won’t send me back, right? At least…not right away…I…” Willie swallowed, “I want to at least get to know you,” his eyes pierced right through Jamie’s soul. “If nothing else, I want to know the man my father is.”
Claire looked outside, and noticed the sun started it’s slow descent beyond the clouds. “Well, you definitely won’t be going anywhere tonight. It’s getting late. You’ll have supper here, and I can set you up in one of the girls’ rooms for sleep, since they won’t be back tonight.”
“A fine idea, Claire.” Jamie kissed Claire on the cheek as he got up. “Willie, would ye like tae help Mrs. Fraser in the kitchen?”
“I’m, erm, not a very good cook, sir,” Willie said nervously.
“Oh, I don’t know about that. I’m sure you’re much better than Jamie,” Claire grinned cheekily as she bent over to say to him only, “if Jamie cooked every night, we’d be eating fried eggs and haggis every day!”
“Haggis is verra good fer the bowels, and ye ken it weel, Sassenach!” Jamie grumbled in faux annoyance.
“What’s a haggis?” Willie asked, causing Jamie and Claire to laugh.
Dinner was a quiet affair. Too quiet, if you’d asked either Fraser sitting across from each other at their table. Willie was sitting to Jamie’s right, where Brianna would normally sit. Jamie and Claire were so accustomed to their evening supper being loud and filled with the talking heads of their daughters, that they didn’t know how to feel about not having anything to say in their absence.
Usually, Faith and Brianna would spent the first half of dinner talking about their respective days at school, highlights of each individual class, shenanigans with their friends, upcoming field trips and their various after school activities, and then Jamie and Claire would talk about what Brianna liked to label “marrit talk.”
But with just Willie at their table, Jamie and Claire were hesitant to speak of their daily life. It just didn’t seem right to them; they knew they’d be excluding Willie in their conversations, seeing as how he dropped into their lives out of the clear blue sky.
“These potatoes are fantastic, Mrs. Fraser,” Willie said with enthusiasm.
“Well, they’re in part thanks to you, lad,” Claire said with a smile. “You did a fine job of peeling them for me.”
After supper, and without having to be asked or told, Willie helped Jamie and Claire clean up. While Claire was helping Willie get settled into Faith’s bedroom for the night, Jamie’s mind kept wandering back to one particularly dark night.
The night he met his mother. Geneva Dunsany.
Starved of the sun, Jamie no longer knew what day it was. Wherever he was being kept was void of all light, man-made or otherwise, so he couldn’t tell the time from any exposed sunlight. He knew that when his convoy was ambushed, it was a Wednesday, but that could have been days or weeks ago. He was certainly hungry and thirsty enough to think weeks could have gone by.
He was tied to the same chair he originally woke up in. Blood, both fresh and dried, caked most of his body and clothes. Or what was left of his uniform; he could feel he still had his tan undershirt on, but his uniform jacket, socks and steel-toe boots were missing from the ensemble. An annoyingly fresh wound somewhere atop his head dripped steadily into his eyes. Or, at least, the eye that wasn’t swollen shut. Some of the cuts and bruises along his body ached when he tried to move. Breathing was a chore, too. Did they break some of his ribs?
Why was he here? What did the enemy want from an infantryman? What about his men? Were they even alive? And Claire…oh his sweet, beautiful Sassenach. He vowed to her when the war was done, they would wed and swear away their lives as soldiers for the rest of their existence. He remembered her telling him how much she would love to live in the Scottish Highlands to which he was from. Memories like those kept him sane and mentally stable on days like these.
A giant metal door opened and the room flooded with light from some unknown source. The illumination burned what remained of Jamie’s waning vision, like someone poured lava directly into his retinas. The door remained open, but no one entered. Not yet, anyway.
“Bring his head up,” called a voice. A Englishwoman’s voice?
Jamie’s head, previously lulled to its side from fatigue and stress, was forcibly jerked upward by a strong grip on his hair (so his patrol beret was missing too). He gasped and sputtered at the sudden, sharp pain.
“You’re going to answer some questions for me,” the woman’s cool tone enunciated. “Or it’ll be much harder for you to leave.”
“Unless ye plan on untying me yerself, I cannae rightly leave on my own anyhow,” Jamie replied with equal coolness. “Must be yer first day, then, lass.”
A biting force bashed his across face, as if the woman’s hand was made of molten glass. He grunted in pain but nothing more. He was harder than most to break. No lassie was going to get him.
“Do you take me for a fool, Warrant Officer Fraser? Or do you always talk down to women who outrank you?”
His heart stuttered at that, but he didn’t show it. Of course, if she was new, she wouldn’t have taken the time to learn about her captive. And outrank? Was she in the Royal Army too? If that was the case, she was in a world of trouble when Jamie got out of here.
If…he did…he pushed that depressing thought out of his mind. He had her right where he wanted her.
“Ahh, I see. So it ‘tis yer first day in the Royal Army. Here’s some advice then.” Jamie drew his head up to face the voice as best he could; his vision still wasn’t as sharp as it could be in the dark.
“Ye havena indulged me in the pleasure of knowing yer name. And fer all I ken, yer a civilian. Therefore, per Royal Army regulations, I am of no obligation tae show ye any respect until ye announce yerself and yer rank. And, under that same regulation, if ye happen tae outrank me, then I shall show such respect. However, if I happen tae outrank you, then there are harsh punishments fer disrespecting a Warrant Officer of Her Majesty’s Royal Armed Forces. But I thank ye fer showing me the respect ye think ye deserve, by addressing me by my formal rank and name. Madam.”
The breathing of the person grew heavier, more rapid. Score one fer the captive, Jamie thought smugly. The woman slapped him across the face again.
“Courting yerself wi’ tantrums willna erase that I’m right. If ye do, in fact, outrank me, then it would be in yer best interest tae introduce yerself. Otherwise, yer no better than the terrorists we’re here tae fight.”
The breathing grew hotter, as if she was getting closer to his face.
“How would your family at.. Brock Toorack… feel about you blatantly disrespecting a female officer of the Army, hmm?”
Jamie’s blood ran cold, but just for a split second. He laughed loudly, as if his unknown captor had just told a hilarious joke.
“I think they’d be more concerned that ye canna even pronounce ‘Broch Tuarach’,” his sly tone allowed him to say his hometown with the perfect amount of his Scottish accent, “than the fact that ye ken where they live.
“I’m no’ the first soldier tae come out of the Fraser bloodline. They ken the dangers o’ me going to war. I have tae say though, my five year old niece coulda had me beggin fer mercy had she been the one holding me as a POW, in the time ye’ve sat here flappin yer gums about, Christ, I dinna ken what!
“Nae, lass…yer no officer. Yer no’ arrogant enough, and ye have none o’ the trainin’ on how tae properly interrogate captives. Otherwise, ye wouldna had yer lackeys beat me up. Ye’d have done it yerself.”
“Jamie?” Claire’s soothing voice, the ever-present balm to his war-battered soul since his return from war, snapped him out of his flashback daydream.
“Willie wanted to say goodnight to you…if that’s alright.”
The two of them made their way towards Faith’s bedroom. It seemed odd to see another child in her bed, Jamie thought, but it would be odder still were that child not of his blood.
“Sleep tight, laddie,” Jamie didn’t know what would be an appropriate show of affection, so he ruffled the kid’s hair a bit. This caused Willie to giggle, which warmed Jamie’s heart. “Claire and I sleep in the bedroom all the way at the end of the hall, to yer left. The loo is the second door on the right towards that end. If ye need anything at all, dinna hesitate tae find one of us.”
“Thank you sir,” Willie said, fighting a yawn. “Goodnight to you both.”
And with that, Jamie and Claire left the boy to sleep.
“A son?!” Ellen Fraser said over speakerphone on Claire’s mobile. Jamie and Claire had stepped outside to call her, so as not to disturb Willie while he slept. This call wasn’t just to tell her the news that she had another grandchild, but to see how Faith and Brianna were doing.
“Aye, Mam,” Jamie said, as he absentmindedly sucked on a lollypop. It was how he managed to quit smoking years ago, at Claire’s suggestion. The oral fixation had done wonders to keep him smoke free. “He’s thirteen now.”
“Blessed bride, I’ve had a thirteen year old grandson this whole time and ye didna think tae tell me til now?!”
“We didn’t know about him, Ellen,” Claire said. “Jamie especially. Do you really think he would have hidden a child of his from anyone?”
“No, o’ course not. Och, yer faither’s gonna have kittens when he hears the news! How’s the lad? What’s he like? What does he look like?”
“Mam, ye canna teel Da about this just yet…it’s a…verra complicated matter we’ve stumbled upon.”
“Ellen, I think it has to do with his time as…as a POW in the war…” Claire said, and Ellen gasped slightly on the other end.
“Oh…” It was widely known among the Frasers, MacKenzies and Murrays that Jamie did not talk about his time as a prisoner of war. From what Jamie allowed Claire to tell the family on his behalf, it was too traumatic and he would be having nightmares about it for the rest of his life. But now…
“Sawny,” Ellen said, getting Jamie’s attention with not only her serious tone of voice, but his childhood moniker. “I ken that time is a verra dark place fer ye. But…if this child is connected to it…yer eventually gonna have tae talk about it. If nothing else, we should ken who his mam was.”
“No,” Jamie said abruptly. “Mam…please…not now…”
Claire heard Ellen sigh as Jamie walked away, his sucking on the lolly becoming more intense.
“Ellen, would you mind keeping the girls for a few more days? I have reason to believe wherever this boy came from in England wasn’t a safe place for him. You should’ve seen it. He cried in my arms for almost a half hour when we told him he had to go back!”
“Ye believe he’s being mistreated?”
“I can’t say for certain, but to me, he paints himself as a reasonable child. He’s been nothing but extremely polite and considerate, profusely apologizing for disrupting our lives. I think it’s reasonable to assume that he didn’t come all this way from what sounds like a well-to-do English estate to the back country of the Scottish Highlands for kicks. This isn’t a vacation for him. This is life altering.”
“I ken what yer sayin’, lass. And o’ course the girls can stay. Ye ken they’re always a joy tae have around. Especially since Willie, Mary and the boys are planning tae leave at first light.”
“Why were they there in the first place?”
“Station wagon needed it’s regular tune up, and the engine had been makin’ an awful racket! I ken I could’ve called Jamie as ye lot are closer, but Jamie isna the one who runs a mechanic shop in Cranesmuir.”
Claire could hear the amusement in her mother-in-law’s voice. Willie made a handsome living owning and running “Fraser Auto Works” in Cranesmuir, which allowed his wife Mary to stay at home with their three sons. It was closer to the old MacKenzie manor called “Leoch.” While it takes Willie a good forty-five minutes to an hour to travel from the shop to Lallybroch, Jamie and Claire built their house within walking distance of the three-story manor where Jamie and his siblings were raised.
“Fair enough,” Claire said with a laugh. Jamie was walking back towards their front porch.
Taking a walk helped Jamie’s mind to open up to the places he always hated to go. The boy’s last name was Dunsany, which meant he definitely was Geneva’s son. Which meant that…on that fateful night…yes…there would be no doubt about it. Though, just looking at the lad, would there ever be?
He was torn, conflicted to his very core. Of course he wanted the lad here. If for nothing else, sheer selfishness. Any child of his needed to be in his life by right. Jamie was the sort of man who coveted the children he sired. His father had taught him that lesson not long after he started gaining an interest in women.
But if he was being honest with himself, he worried for Willie’s safety. He knew what kind of person his mother was. The worst of the worst scenarios were going through his mind while he unwrapped another lolly from his pocket. He always tended up eat more suckers when he was stressed, just like he always smoked more cigarettes. Popping the treat into his mouth, his mind was in overdrive thinking.
A child’s upbringing has a lot to do with their adult influences, he reminded himself. He doubted that Geneva was born the evil monster she was when he met her, therefore she had to have had influence from her parents or other prominent adult members of her family. If Geneva’s parents were the ones raising Willie, then there was definitely cause for alarm.
But then again, maybe Geneva was the evil monster she was all those years ago. At this point, with her dead, Jamie will never know.
On the flip side, as much as Jamie wanted Willie to stay with him and never leave, there was the small matter of the child rescue alert out for his supposed disappearance. Why would it be considered a kidnapping if Willie swore by leaving Helwater of his own free will? And where did he get the money to fly all the way to Scotland?
At this rate, it didn’t matter. Willie would be staying with Jamie and Claire until they could get this sorted out. One phone call to Rupert should solve everything without too much trouble. He made his way back towards the house, where Claire was still on the phone with his mother. She had the phone to her ear when he walked up the five-step stairway of the wrap-around porch.
“Alright…of course…thank you again Ellen…mhmm…give the girls our love…uh-huh…buh-bye,” Claire tapped the red button on her mobile screen to end the call and looked up to Jamie.
“What else did Mam say?” Jamie asked, sitting beside Claire and wrapping an arm around her.
“Her usual tone of discretion, and that she wouldn’t say anything to the girls until we have the all-clear.”
“What’s the story?”
“That Gram missed them so much that she kidnapped them for a few days. Not like either of our daughters would say no to that. I’m sure if they had it their way, they’d live at Lallybroch permanently.”
“Aye, until Da came home, then his old, creeky arse would have them helpin’ wi’ chores. They’d be beggin’ tae come home straight away.”
Claire laughed. “True enough, but I doubt they’ll be there til Hogmanay.”
“Nah,” Jamie sighed, “just long enough fer us tae settle this matter.”
“What are we going to do, Jamie?”
“The lad has a place tae sleep fer now. I say we do the same, and when I go into work tomorrow, I’ll see about discussing this problem with Rupert. He kens discretion as well as Mam does.”
“If you tell him Willie is in fear for his safety, do you think he can get the child rescue alert removed?”
“Dinna ken about that, Sassenach, but at the verra least, it could be handled internally.”
“I like the sound of that.”
“Come along, Sassenach.” Jamie stood, helping Claire to do the same. He took the hand he was holding, kissed the knuckles, and pressed it into his chest just enough for her to feel his heart. “Let’s get some sleep.”
When Jamie went to work the following day, he skipped the locker room and classroom and headed straight towards his boss’ office. As he predicted, Rupert was in shock at Willie’s introduction into the family, but also reverent at keeping it a secret for the time being. He looked into the child rescue alert records, confirmed that there was indeed a kidnapping notice for one William Clarence Dunsany, and made the move to have it cancelled.
“It’ll take some time, gotta verify the information is accurate, but with the way I described things, shouldna be a problem.” Rupert said.
“Thank ye, Rupert,” Jamie breathed.
“This is verra interestin’.” Jamie leaned closer into Rupert’s desk, listening. “The person who filed the report can remain anonymous, but this time it wasna the case. The lad’s own grandmother, a Louisa Dunsany, reported him missing. Doesna say what evidence she has tae support the kidnappin’ theory though.”
“Ye think she’ll come lookin’ fer him all the way here?” Jamie asked, a spike of trepidation in his voice.
“I dinna ken, but,” Rupert was using his laptop to do an internet search. “Hellwater is a good five hour drive from here, longer fer loo and petrol stops. If Willie came by aeroplane, it wouldn’t have taken him more than two hours tae arrive from Manchester, which is the closest airport, to Inverness. The fact that Willie had tae find out on his own who his faither was… tells me his folk didna tell him. Which meant they might have intended it that way. It’ll take them a wee think tae connect the docs, provided ye dinna contact them yerself.”
Jamie shuddered at the thought of meeting the people responsible for raising Geneva Dunsany, but for Willie’s sake, he’d do just about anything for him like he would for Faith or Brianna.
“I dinna ken what tae do next. He’s at home wi’ Claire now, safe and sound.”
“Ahh, that’s good. How’s Claire handlin’ this? She dinna mind ye havin’ a bairn from another lass?”
“Nae,” Jamie said as he stood, following Rupert towards the entrance of his office. “She might be the jealous type, but no’ when it comes tae children, and the circumstances they came from.”
“Aye, aye. Good thing.”
Jamie got through his work day with relative ease, and was greeted by Willie before Claire could even get up off the couch.
“How was your day at work?” Willie asked.
“Och, just fine. And how was yer day, lad?” Jamie ruffled his hair, making Willie giggle like he did the previous night.
“Mrs. Fraser has been teaching me how to play cards.”
“Not poker, if you must know,” Claire got up to kiss Jamie on the cheek.
“Certainly hope not, Sassenach. Wi’ yer glass face? Heh, everyone in Scotland would ken what yer hand is!”
Claire playfully swatted him in the chest as Jamie and Willie laughed.
Three days had gone by with Jamie still trying to figure out what to do. Though, in his defense, he’d grown to feel like Willie had lived with him from birth. He fit in so nicely. He would help Claire with whatever she asked him to do, and even when she didn’t ask, he was always there to lend a hand. In the evenings, Jamie and Willie would sit together and do whatever was on the lad’s mind. Tonight, though, they were playing chess. However, the master player that Jamie was was nothing compared to Willie’s own skill. He was about to lose his fourth game in a row when there was a knock on the door.
“I wonder who that could be at this hour,” Claire said, feeling an uneasy dread in her stomach churn around.
“Stay wi’ him, Sassenach,” Jamie sternly said, motioning with a hand for Claire to sit with his son.
Jamie slowly walked to the door, and looked out the wee peephole. He didn’t recognize the people at the door; he reached for the sheathed dirk hidden in a flowerpot beside it.
“Who goes there?” Jamie announced in his most authoritative voice, his accent coming in strong.
“Good evening, sir. My name is William Dunsany, and I have my wife, Louisa, with me. We’re looking for our grandson, Willie.”
The Frasers and the Dunsanys are at a hostile standstill on what to do with Willie.
Expect ch 6 later today since I promised ch 5′s release days ago to the wonderful folks on Tumblr and never went through with it. Y'all deserve it! Thanks for stopping by!
Jamie’s heart sputtered in his chest, racing at a feverish rate. Claire gasped slightly. In the corner of his eye, Willie started clinging to Claire like someone was threatening his life. This alarmed the red-headed Scotsman.
“I have eyes on ye through the keekhole. Show me ye have no weapons on ye. Empty yer pockets, leave the contents at the door.”
“Now look here, sir,” the woman, Louisa, pitched her voice to a high note, displaying an angry expression on her face. Or so Jamie saw through the peephole. “We know you have our grandson. We know you kidnapped him. Please just give him back and we won’t have to get the police involved!”
Jamie huffed out an annoyed breath through his nostrils. “I am the police.” In a way, it was true. While he had no authority on arresting people or enforcing the laws, everyone at the local precinct knew Jamie and his moral character. He would use that to his advantage if the need arose.
“As the homeowner, I have the right tae have ye weaponless ‘afore enterin’ my home. If yer armed, it’ll be me ringin’ my colleagues. It’ll be my word against yers. Yer choice.”
Silent as a lamb, Jamie held his breath, keeping his peripheral vision on Claire and Willie. But, sure enough, the older couple before the threshold showed that their pockets and handbags were void of anything that could cause him or his family harm.
“All empty? You see? Now, please, sit, let us in!” William Dunsany said, though Jamie could hear the heat in his voice.
Slowly, Jamie slipped the dirk back into its scabbard in the flowerpot and slowly unlocked the door. He opened it slowly, preparing for any kind of physical attack. He learned early on in his military training that just because someone wasn’t armed, doesn’t mean they were incapable of killing you.
“Willie!” Louisa exclaimed once the door was opened, but before she could go inside, Jamie put an arm out to block her path. The look of shock on her face angered him.
“I didna give ye permission tae enter my home, unless yer accustomed tae unlawful trespassin’.” Jamie said coolly. “Would ye be so kind as tae take a step back, please?”
Mrs. Dunsany looked as though Jamie had just backhanded her across the face. Her husband didn’t look any better.
“So you did kidnap him!” Louisa spat, while taking the step back Jamie had instructed. “And you have the nerve to keep him from us?! How dare you!”
“I didna kipnap anyone and ye damn well know it!” Jamie spat back, struggling for control over his anger. “Willie came here o’ his own free will. What I want tae know is, why the hell ye’d file a kipnappin’ case wi’out the evidence tae back it up!”
“Now look here, sir,” William said. “What evidence we have is no one’s concern but ours. Seeing as you have the boy, clearly safe and sound, please just let us take him home where he belongs.”
“From what Willie has told me and my wife,” Jamie said, gritting his teeth. “He clearly belongs here. Wi’ his biological father.”
The Dunsany’s blinked. Louisa spoke first.
“You can’t be his father! His father’s name is-”
“James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser,” he said slowly, as Claire slipped him Willie’s birth certificate. He then withdrew his wallet from his pocket to show the aging couple his driver’s license, which bore the same name and his smiling face. Far from the angry scowl he now displayed.
“Aye, I am his father. Whether ye like it or no, British law dictates that because I am listed on the birth certificate, and…if what he says is true, his mother is dead, I am entitled tae primary custody o’ him. Since yer…lovely daughter,” Jamie did all he could not to spit the words out, “didna care tae tell me I had a son, I didna ken he existed until now! How can I kidnap someone I didna ken existed?!”
That shut the Dunsany’s up real quick. Claire stepped forward.
“I was the only one home when Willie showed up, and-”
“You’re English?” Louisa exclaimed. “Did your parents not make sure you wed someone who wasn’t…well, such a savage? I mean-”
His resolve snapped. Jamie lashed out.
“She is my wife and ye will speak o’ her wi’ respect, especially in her own house!”
“Yes, I did marry a Scot, and happily so,” Claire replied indifferently, as if Jamie hadn’t said anything. “However, I don’t see the topic of whom I married relating to anything regarding Willie.”
“The next time yer wife open her mouth, if she says anything of insult tae my wife again, I shall pick her up, throw her over my shoulder, and toss her out in the gardens. Do ye want me tae do that, sir?” Jamie and William were now staring each other down, the taller, red-headed man still inside the house, the shorter, older, graying man standing on the doormat.
“Mr. Fraser?” a small voice called from behind Claire.
It was as if the Dunsany’s forgot the whole reason they were here. With one final glare, Jamie allowed the couple to enter the home. Louisa all but threw herself at Willie, startling everyone in the room, even William.
“Oh, my darling Willie!” Louisa was all but sobbing at this point. “Are you well? What happened to you?”
Willie glared at his grandmother. “Don’t be foolish. You know what happened. I do not wish to return to Hellwater. I want to live here, with my father. And, as he so plainly stated, he has rights.”
“But, Willie,” William tried to reason, and the tone of his voice reminded Jamie of the time his mother was talking to Faith and Brianna when they were young enough to still need breastfeeding. It annoyed him. “You don’t know what that even means! Scotland…well, it’s very far away from Helwater. You can’t just take an omnibus back and forth whenever you like, it’s a very long journey! Why, it took your grandmother and I five h-”
“I know very well how far away Scotland is from England, especially the distance from the estate to Broch Mordha,” Willie said with dignity, and Jamie was impressed at how well he pronounced his hometown’s name.
“But there are legal things we need to sort out!” Louisa pleaded, trying to reason with the lad like he was four, not thirteen. I can see why he wanted to leave, Claire thought. “Please, Willie, come home with us, and we promise we can work something out between you and the Frasers. Please!”
“No! I don’t want to go back! I don’t! I won’t!” Willie started to get upset again, on the verge of tears, and he thrust himself into Claire’s arms. The look on Louisa’s face indicated some sort of betrayal, but Claire paid her no mind.
“Willie, lad,” Jamie stepped forward, finding his calm center once more, “yer grandparents are right.” The heads of the Dunsany’s whipped around so fast, Claire thought they would snap off. “As much as I would love tae have ye here fer good, there’s the law tae consider. I do have rights, true, but we still need tae take it up wi’ the court system.”
“But I don’t want to!” Willie’s voice was now at least two octaves higher than normal. “You don’t understand, sir. It’s horrible! You see how they talk to me. Like…like I’m a child! I might still be young, but I’m not a child anymore! Not a baby! Plus-”
“That’s enough now, Willie, come along and we’ll get your things-” Louisa started.
“Now, young man-” His grandfather attempted to interject.
“I SAID NO!”
“ENOUGH!” Jamie’s booming voice silence the entire house. You could hear a pin drop as loudly as a mobile ringing.
Claire sighed, frustrated. “We’re clearly not getting anywhere with this.”
Rubbing the space between his brows, Mr. Dunsany nodded. “I’m incline to agree.”
“How about this,” Claire stood up, letting go of Willie, who sunk to the floor. “Emotions and tensions are so high right now, you can taste them. We’re not going to be able to discuss this like level-headed adults anytime soon. Since Willie has already gotten accustomed to being here, why doesn’t he stay here until we can all collect ourselves. It’ll give all of us a chance to think logically about the next steps. You are welcome to come back whenever you’re ready. Sound fair?”
The Dunsany’s huddled into themselves to quiet discuss the matter. Jamie walked over to Willie, who was still sitting on the floor.
“Dinna fash yerself, a chuisle,” Jamie soothed. “We’ll puzzle this out.”
Willie smiled at him as his grandparents turned back around to face the Frasers.
“I suppose that is something we can agree to. For now,” William Dunsany said. “We’ve a room about a ten minute drive from here. Feel free to bring Willie back to us if he becomes…troublesome.”
Claire furrowed her brows as Mrs. Dunsany gathered her purse, her husband opened the front door, and the two of them made their exit.
“I’m not troublesome,” Willie’s voice held the most sadness the Frasers had ever heard. “Am I?”
The big, tear-filled eyes broke Jamie’s heart. He invited him to sit on the couch next to him. “I can say this much, lad. In the days ye’ve been in our home, ‘troublesome’ is the last word I’d used tae describe ye. Yer a blessing. And I hope tae have ye fer as long as I can.”
“Well, in that case,” Claire said with a sigh, standing up, “you can’t sleep in Faith’s room forever, sadly. We have a few choice for you in the way of bedrooms. Why don’t you come with me and we’ll pick out a place for you, yeah?”
Willie smiled and followed Claire towards the stairs. Jamie smiled after them, pulled out his mobile.
“Jamie, a chuisle!” Ellen’s cheerful voice was a cooling balm on his ravaged nerves and sore ire. “How’re things, lad?”
“Mam,” Jamie began, taking a deep breath before continuing. “I think it’s time to bring the girls home. To meet their brother.”
Faith and Brianna finally meet Willie. It allows Jamie and Claire to reflect on the vow they made to each other all those years ago.
As promised! Though, I apologize for it being a wee late in the day. Hope you enjoy! Also, it goes without saying. I was a paramedic, not a lawyer. There’s a distinct possibility that all the legal stuff that is mentioned in this series is utter garbage. Pretend it’s legit for the series though, alright? :) Also, obligatory, poorly written NSFW heads up. Thanks again for stopping by!
Jamie and Claire were on pins and needles awaiting the return of their daughters from Lallybroch. Neither of them knew what to expect; they’d never been in a situation like this. Never thought they would have to be in such a predicament.
“Mam said she would be bringing them home around three,” Jamie told Claire.
“I imagine they’re eager to come home,” Claire sighed. Jamie could see she was nervous and took her into his arms. She breathed in her husband’s warm scent as his body conformed to hers.
“I can sense yer agitation, Sassenach,” Jamie implored. “Are ye worrit the girls willna like him?”
Claire exhaled sharply. “Honestly, I don’t really know why I’m nervous. I have no doubt that the girls will welcome him, and I find no reason to suspect Willie won’t like having sisters.”
“Weel, initially…” Jamie added, a sly smirk on his face. “It willna always be his favorite thing, havin’ sisters. I ken I didna always like havin’ Jenny around.”
Claire playfully slapped at her husband’s arm, laughing. “My point is… I think it’s just the situation itself that’s got my nerves on edge. I never thought I’d have to introduce our children to a sibling I did not bore myself.”
A look of fleeting guilt swiped across Jamie’s face. Claire stomped that feeling out right away.
“Do not blame yourself, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. It is not your fault you didn’t know he was your son. Or that he was alive. You’re doing right by him now. That’s what matters.”
He didn’t meet her eyes.
“Jamie…” Claire perceived another issue. “Jamie what is it?”
He took a deep breath, trying to steel his own nerves. This would take more courage that he believed he possessed. “I ken ye dinna ken my time as a prisoner of war…but I think ye might understand all this better…if you knew…the whole truth.”
Just as he was about to say more, a key was inserted into the front door and the internal locking mechanisms made noises. Both their hearts skipped a beat as the door opened, revealing Ellen, Faith, and Brianna Fraser.
“Aye, there they are!” Jamie exclaimed, a big smile splitting his face as he opened his arms wide for his daughters. “Welcome home, mo chridhe!”
“Hi Da!” Faith said happily, accepting her father’s warm embrace. Brianna was right beside her in their father’s arms.
“I trust they gave you no trouble?” Claire asked her mother in law as they exchanged their own embrace.
“They may be Frasers, but they’re nothing like their faither was at that age!” Ellen laughed, causing Jamie to shoot a sly grin her direction.
“How are ye, Mam?” Jamie bent down to kiss his mother on the cheek while Claire gathered her girls in her arms.
“Och, weel, ye ken yer brother was over tae fix the van? Needs a few new bits and bobs here and there, but it’s still runnin’!” Ellen pumped a fist in the air, causing Jamie to chuckle.
“Ye ken ye can getta better machine fer half the cost o’ fixing yer ancient one?”
“Ye wound me, Sawny!” Ellen fained insult by placing a hand over her heart. “That van has history! I cannae and willnae give it up if I can help it!”
“As ye say,” Jamie rolled his eyes at the use of his childhood moniker, but still hugged his mother in the process. She bid her son’s family farewell and shut the door behind her.
“Mr. Fraser?” A small voice called from above. Willie was standing just at the level of the stairs. The girls turned around and eyed him with wild abandon.
“C’mon down, lad.” Jamie extended his hand towards him with a warm smile.
Slowly, Willie came down to join the rest of the Frasers. Claire spoke first.
“Faith…Brianna…your father and I like you to meet…your brother. Willie.”
Nobody spoke for a good solid few minutes. Jamie’s heart beat wildly fast, frantically wondering if he should say something to encourage interaction.
Faith beat him to it.
“Hi Willie!” She exclaimed, taking his hand. “My name is Faith. I’m ten. How old are you?”
Her eyes went wide. “Wow! That’s amazing! Here, you want to come see my book collection?”
“Nae, he doesna wanna see that!” Brianna groaned dramatically, taking Willie’s other hand. “Willie! I’m Brianna, and I’m nine. It’s nice tae meet ye! Never had a brother ‘afore. Come see my train collection! That’s far more interestin’ than books.”
“Aye, says me!”
“Now now, lassies,” Jamie soothed. “Ye can all play together. Faith, why don’t ye bring some o’ yer favorite books into Bree’s room, and ye can both show off yer toys, aye?”
The children agreed this was a good solution, for Brianna all but dragged Willie away from the living room, while Faith made a mad dash for her bedroom to gather some books. The whole time, Willie had a smile on his face that neither Jamie nor Claire had ever seen before.
It was the end of another hard mission where Claire had very little to do in the way of medicine, and the recovery team did most of the heavy lifting. Literally, since almost everyone in the latest string of village bombings were dead.
She was never one to cry, but tonight, she needed to either cry her heart out, drink herself into oblivion, or risk violating regulations by sleeping with Jamie til neither of them could breathe.
“I’m tired,” she said into Jamie’s bare chest. He brought her closer to his body, his warmth thawing the icy tendrils in her war-hardened veins, his heart beating out a soft, soothing lullaby.
“Then sleep, mo nighean donn,” Jamie kissed her temple.
“That’s not what I meant.”
A pause, then Jamie sighed. “Aye…as am I. But what else can we do? This is the job we signed up for, a ghràidh. It would be treason to walk away.”
“I know,” she sighed herself, burrowing herself further into his blankets. “I’m…I’m just so tired of watching people die. I’m supposed to be a medic. How can I call myself that when all I do on missions is count bodies?”
She eventually did cry. And she didn’t care who heard her. Her heartbreaking wails and sobs echoed throughout Jamie’s tent. All he could do was hold her, whisper his Gàidhlig heart’s words into her hair, and pray to God to ease her pain.
“Sassenach,” he said sometime later, after Claire had calmed. “When yer contract expires, did ye opt in fer severance?”
“Yes,” Claire said. “I don’t know a soldier with two brain cells to rub together that wouldn’t. £25,000 for honorable service, plus an additional grand for each year of said service? No strings attached? I guess that’s the goal of the British Army. They can’t take care of you after you get out, but they can buy your forgiveness for almost killing you on the job.”
Jamie laughed. “Aye, aye, that’s true. But, no, what I meant was…when we get out. Both of us…will ye want fer me?”
Claire sat up and looked at him. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I?”
“Weel…I ken ye get out about four months ‘afore I do, and…I want tae marry ye, Sassenach. I want us tae have a life away from the hell that is the Army and this damned war. I want tae go back to the Highlands, close tae my family. And I want ye by my side. Yer mine…mo nighean donn. Mine…now and forever.”
Overcome with lust and need, Claire threw herself on top of Jamie, straddling his hips. The moan that came from his throat only encouraged her further. She grabbed his hair and pulled his lips to her, hungry with desire. It was fortunate that they were both already naked, so when Jamie slid home inside her, the rest of the world melted away.
They breathed each other in with each thrust of their hips. Jamie grabbed at her breast, holding on for dear life as his release edged closer and closer. Claire gasped in euphoria, her own climax driving her to insanity. They came at the same time, and despite the demand to cry out their satisfaction audibly, it was drowned out by hushed whispers of breath, heaving chests and racing hearts.
Hands explored skin with reckless abandon as their bodies became one being, their heartbeats in sync, slowing at the same rate together. The pair fell asleep in that position until the morning formation horns went off, signaling another day’s grueling work of dealing with the war’s casualties.
Jamie has a sinking feeling things are about to get a lot worse for Willie and his girls.
Thanks for everyone’s love so far! Enjoy!
By the end of the next week, Willie and the Frasers had settled into a calmer routine. The girls still had to go to school, but given Willie’s predicament, he couldn’t yet enroll himself. Though, that was the end goal. Willie wanted nothing more than to live with his father, and, whom he supposed would be his stepmother and stepsisters. But he had a feeling such terms would not be used; Jamie had expressed as much to him the previous night.
“I’ll fight wi’ all my strength and might tae have ye here, lad. Ye belong wi’ us, Willie. Yer one o’ us.”
So while Jamie was at work, Willie would help Mrs. Fraser with whatever she needed. They would go to market together, which turned out to be Willie’s favorite activity. Though, he did not enjoy Claire explaining his presence to her friend, Geillis, who looked at him like he had grown a second head. He doubted that was her intention, but it didn’t make him feel any better.
Willie also learned that he enjoyed helping Mrs. Fraser in the garden, cleaning house, making dinner plans, and when all the chores were said and done, they would quietly enjoy each other’s company.
Claire started wondering when Willie would get bored with her and her menial chores, but the lad never complained. He appeared happy to accompany her wherever she needed him. He would always tell her how beautiful she looked that day, no matter what she looked like.
Maybe it has nothing to do with me and my day’s activities and everything to do with the fact that he doesn’t have a mother anymore, Claire thought somberly. If he ever did…
Claire could only speculate on what Willie’s life was like before his mother was arrested and executed for treason. While she knew Jamie was close to becoming comfortable enough to tell her, the anticipation of learning her stepson’s past was maddening.
The last thing she would do was complain, though. She had always wondered what it would be like to have a son. Jamie had expressed each time she was pregnant that he would be honored to pass on the “good Fraser name,” and said he hoped she was carrying a boy. But it would never come to be. If Jamie was ever disappointed, he never showed it. Thinking back, Claire started to wonder if, maybe, his time as a prisoner of war had influenced his demeanor. It couldn’t have, she reasoned, he didn’t know Willie existed. It was a nice thought, though.
According to Ellen, raising sons and daughters was challenging. Ellen always felt like she was harder on big Willie (it’s what Claire was now calling her brother-in-law in her head) and Jamie than she was Jenny when they were children, but they all turned out to be “fine citizens.”
“Despite it being prolly harsh tae say, ye have tae raise lads a wee bit different than lassies.”
She supposed her mother-in-law was right. But in the meantime, she was content with just having the lad close by. She hoped she would be good enough for the boy to consider her his stepmother. Or, something akin to a prominent mother figure in his life.
Meanwhile, Jamie’s nerves hadn’t cooled off since the confrontation with Willie’s grandparents. Harsh exchange of words aside, it had been a whole week since the Dunsany’s had agreed to let Willie stay with him and Claire.
However, they had made no attempts to contact him nor them. No word of inquiry about his well being, no whisper of their plans on custody. In fact, when he went to Rupert about his rights, he basically told him it was one-hundred percent legally up to him.
“If his mam put ye on the birth certificate as his Da, that entitles ye tae take the lad as yer own, and no court will object, nor will anyone accuse ye o’ any crimes. He’s yers, Jamie.” Rupert had said. “The only thing that would stop ye is if his grandfolk bring claims that ye arena fit tae raise him. And even then, they’d need some strong evidence tae prove it in court. Being as yer lasses are braw as solid steel, I ken it would be a fool’s errands tae make such a claim.”
While his superior’s words brought some comfort, the fact remained that this was Geneva’s own parents putting him on edge. He greatly worried they would pull something very daft to keep Willie from him. Sure, any accusations they could allege would hold up in court as well as wet toilet paper, but the trouble and headaches that would come with it was something Jamie did not need.
One thing was certain to Jamie though. If the Dunsany’s really cared about their grandson, truly put his well being at the top of their priority list, they would let him go. Allow him to live his life how, and where, he chose. And if Jamie legally had the final say, he could have more leverage than he knew what to do with.
It did not sit well with him, though. The other shoe was bound to drop, and he had a sickly feeling in the pit of his stomach that told him things were about to go from bad to worse.
He didn’t know where he was being taken. All he knew was that after so long, he was free.
No longer at the clutches and mercy of his captor. No longer submissive to the enemy’s plans for him. If there ever were any. No longer a prisoner of war. He was going home. Or, most likely, the base equivalent of home.
He recognized all the men that surrounded him on that rescue black hawk. They were combat medics. And they were all part of Claire’s medic regiment.
Dimly, he knew why she wasn’t there with him. By this point in their relationship, their superiors had managed to turn a blind eye to the fact that they were sharing housing no matter where they were, having sex almost every night they could get away with it. Given it was a war zone, it wasn’t uncommon for people to make strange bedfellows. Rank and subordination status be damned. That being said, because of Claire’s closely intimate relations with Jamie, she couldn’t be there on the chopper. She was too close to this situation; it could cloud her judgement in saving his life. Which could get them all killed. Jamie always considered her to be a wise woman; her missed presence backed up his beliefs.
“Patient’s vital signs are stable, no severe trauma found, we’re three minutes from the LZ, over,” Jamie vaguely heard one of the men say into their helmet mics. Truthfully, until he had Claire back in his arms again, he wasn’t all there.
Those three minutes were the longest in Jamie’s life.
The moment he was assisted onto the landing zone, he heard her voice. Like an angel who was sent to deliver him from his transgressions.
He looked up and saw her running directly towards him, like she was escaping a raging fire hot on her heels. He slowly started walking towards her.
He paid for his slow movements when he ended up on the ground, flat on his back, with his Sassenach on top. She had her arms tight around his neck, sobbing into the clean t-shirt one of the medics provided him when he was rescued.
“Mo nighean donn,” Jamie whispered hoarsely into her hair. He gripped her tighter. Almost as if, were he to let go, she’s disintegrate to dust.
“Oh Jamie,” Claire sobbed, her voice muffled into his chest. “I was beside myself with worry. You have no idea! I’m so glad you’re back. I’m never letting you go.”
At this, they both cried. People surrounded them and pulled them to their feet, but didn’t dare try to separate them.
Jamie allowed himself to feel his emotions of being back at base, his Sorcha in his arms.
But deep down, he knew…just knew, the actions he partook in during his prisoner status would come back to haunt him with a vengeance.
“Have we all finished breaking our fast?” Claire asked everyone at the dining room table.
“Aye, Mam!” Brianna said, milk dribbling down her chin as she proudly showed off her polished parriage bowl.
“Bree, wipe your face, ye look like an untidy gomeral!” Faith rolled her eyes.
“Lucky me, I dinna have tae eat like an animal tae be a gomeral!” Brianna shot back.
Willie laughed as both girls stuck their tongues out at each other. Jamie did too.
“That’s enough, ye twa,” Jamie said, still chuckling as he finished his coffee. “What’s the plan today, Sassenach?”
Claire stopped what she was doing in the kitchen to stand by his side. “Well, it’s been two weeks since young Willie came to stay with us. I was thinking about making some inquiries as to his schooling. What do you say, Willie?” Claire looked up at the lad, who looked like Claire just told him Christmas was actually today. “Would you like to help me get you registered for school?”
Willie looked around at everyone at the table, and it was all smiles.
“I’d love that very much, ma’am.”
“Wonderful!” Jamie said, getting up from his chair. He was about to place a kiss on Claire’s cheek when there was a knock at the door.
Everyone was immediately on edge again. Willie came to stand beside Claire, Faith and Brianna huddling beside them in support, while Jamie went to the door.
“Scotland Yard, open up!” a crude voice called from beyond the threshold.
Jamie’s heart skipped a beat. He heard Claire gasp audibly.
“We ‘ave an arrest warrant fer a James Fraser! If ye dinna open up, we will be forced tae break the door down!”
“Arrest?!” Claire hissed, her eyes bulging out of their respective sockets.
“What does that mean?” Willie asked, but Jamie hushed him.
“Christ,” Jamie said, a wave of nausea and lightheadedness made his vision swim. He made his way towards the door and opened it. Several armed policemen blocked the path out of the house. In his peripheral vision, even more police cars were crowding his driveway, blocking their cars.
“Are ye James Fraser?” the ring leader, it seemed, asked in a brisk, no-nonsense tone.
“I am,” came Jamie’s coarse reply.
“Place yer hands behind yer back, sir. Yer under arrest fer the kidnapping and hostage keeping of William Clarence Dunsany.”
The second Jamie started to comply with the officer’s demands, the rest of the family started shouting their protests.
“You can’t do this!” Claire bellowed. “He’s innocent, this is his son!”
“Dinna take our Da, please!” Brianna cried.
“I came of my own free will! He didn’t know I existed before I showed up! I wasn’t kidnapped!” Willie shouted as the tears flowed freely.
“Enough,” Jamie said calmly yet coldly, just loud enough to silence everyone. He looked directly at Willie. “Dinna fash, a chuisle. This isna yer fault. Look out fer yer sisters and Mam in my place, aye?”
Willie’s eyes grew wide, but then hardened into seriousness as he nodded.
“Sassenach,” Jamie now looked at his beloved wife just as the men were placing tight handcuffs around his wrists from behind. “Keep the girls out o’ school fer the day. And call Ned Gowan.”
Just as Claire was about to protest more, he shook his head rapidly.
“Claire. This isna the place tae fight this. We’ll have our day ‘afore the magistrates. Take care o’ the children. Let me handle this, aye? I love ye, Claire.”
“Alright, Mr. Fraser, let’s go.”
And with that, Jamie was led away in handcuffs to an awaiting police car, door already ajar for his entrance.
The second the door shut, Claire ushered all the children towards the upstairs playroom. She dug out her mobile and dialed a number she knew by heart now.
“Why, if it isn’t the illustrious Claire Fraser!” Claire never knew how much the cheery old man’s voice sounded like angel wings flapping around.
“Ned, we have a big problem!”
In that instant, Ned Gowan’s usually-jolly disposition turned harder than diamonds. “I am yer servant, madam. Tell me yer troubles.”
“Jamie has just been arrested by Scotland Yard for kidnapping and taking a hostage. But it’s not true. The person he’s accused to taking is his own son. I have all the evidence right here to prove it.”
With help from Ned Gowan, Jamie puts a plan in motion. Willie tells Claire exactly what happened before he came to Scotland.
Again, side note: former paramedic, not a lawyer. Potentially faux legal garbage spewed throughout the series. Lol. Thanks for stopping by! :D
Jamie hadn’t been sitting in a cell alone for more than a few hours before a guard approached.
“Yer lawyer is here tae see ye,” the gruff man said with no emotion.
Jamie internally sighed with relief; Ned Gowan was here. Claire had to have called the old solicitor the moment he was led away from the house. He stood so the guard could affix handcuffs back on his wrists.
The short walk to one of the interrogation rooms was followed by incredulous stares from people who knew him. People who trusted him. He imagined they were misjudging his widely know moral character, but he didn’t care. This whole mess had to have a misunderstanding. Or just blatant lies. Either way, Jamie was confident the matter would be sorted.
Jamie sat down in a chair while the guard secured his cuffs to a metal loop welded at the center of the table. Less than five minutes later, a shorter, stout man old enough to be his grandsire walked in with several folders in his arms.
“Ned,” Jamie breathed with a smile.
“Ah, Jamie!” Ned came around and patted Jamie on the shoulder while setting the folders down between him and where Ned would sit. “I’d say it’s great tae see ye, but given our current surroundings…”
“Aye,” Jamie grumbled, “going out on a limb, but I take it that’s why ye’ve graced this dank cellar wi’ yer presence?”
“Ye’d be correct, my dear boy,” Ned smiled, placing his glasses atop the bridge of his nose and settling down. “Claire called me the second ye were taken away. Told me the whole story. I went by yer house tae gather documentation fer yer case.”
“Is there even a case, Ned? Do I no’ have rights as Willie’s father?”
“Aye, ye do, but the whole reason yer here isna ye being the lad’s Da. The charge sheet, as it stands, reads kidnapping and holding a minor hostage with or without a demand for ransom.”
Jamie made an irritated Scottish noise deep in his throat. “O’ course they’d do that.”
“And, who would ‘they’ be?”
“The lad’s grandfolk.” Jamie leaned in, as if there were people listening in on the other side of the door. He proceeded to tell Ned all that had transpired from the moment Willie arrived at his house until now.
Ned blew out a breath. “Och, aye. It shouldna be hard tae get this case thrown out. And…given what ye tell me, I trust ye have an alibi fer the days the lad traveled to Scotland?”
“Aye, I was at work,” Jamie said with renewed confidence. “And I have several colleagues who can attest tae me being there, my superior Rupert included.”
“Ah, yes, the famous Rupert MacKenzie!” The men shared a chuckle. Being his cousin, Jamie knew exactly what Ned was talking about. “How’s his family, then?”
“Braw, tae my knowledge. Nettie and the bairns are weel.”
“Ahh that’s good tae hear.” Ned cleared his throat before continuing. “Now, given all we’ve discussed, there’s some good news and some bad. And, wait, before ye say ‘give me the bad news’, it willna make sense without the good news first.”
Jamie nodded, motioning for Ned to get on with it.
“The good news is, there’s enough evidence tae prove that ye were, in fact, nowhere near any of the places Willie was taken from when he left England. Which means that, provided yer willin’, yer able tae countersue fer falsifying a police report and, by extension, defamation of character. I would also strongly advise ye tae submit to a paternity test. Ye canna go wrong wi’ more ammunition at yer disposal, aye?”
“Aye,” Jamie smiled. “Aye, that’s a braw plan. Now, what’s the bad news?”
Ned’s own grin faded. “I spoke with William and Louisa Dunsany’s lawyers while at yer house. They’re filing tae have yer rights taken away as Willie’s father, which would grant them full custody. Plus, they’re filing a temporary restraining order against ye and Claire.”
Jamie’s heart skipped a beat at that. “Did they take the lad back?!”
“Nae, I’m afraid.” Ned took a deep breath before going on. “Willie volunteered tae return tae England until this…mess… is settled.”
Jamie sat back in his chair, stunned.
“I ken he feels guilty. Told Claire and I as such on more than one occasion.” He leaned in towards Ned. “But none of this stramash makes sense, Ned. The whole time Willie was wi’ us, those two didna ever bothered tae contact him. Didna inquire as to his well being, didna ring or stop by… we told them they were welcomed to. The last thing they said tae us was, ‘call us if he becomes troublesome’.” Repeating the words made Jamie’s blood boil.
“Do ye believe the lad’s being abused?” Ned asked, seriousness taking over his voice.
“Nae,” Jamie sighed, “but I do think that Willie got tired o’ being treated like a child. The lad’s thirteen. He doesna need tae be spoken to like he’s still a wee bairn at his mother’s breast. Ye shoulda seen it, Ned. In the short time the Dunsany’s were at the house, talkin’ tae Willie…I woulda left meself were I in his shoes.”
Ned took all this information in. “Be that as it may, I canna rightly use that information in court. However, I will take yer statement and start building yer case. Unfortunately, until ye sign a sworn statement wi’ yer alibi, I canna motion for ye tae be released just yet. Sit tight, lad. We’ll get this mess cleaned up.”
“Thank ye, Ned. Truly.”
Jamie was led out of the interrogation room and back to the holding cell he was previously in. He wanted to be angry, stomp his feet and cause a ruckus at the sheer unfairness of this whole situation.
But, instead, he sat down on the lump that the jail considered a mattress and bided his time. Willie was worth his patience and resilience. If he could survive what the boy’s mother did to him, he could, and would, survive this too.
There was a bigger prize at the end of the road.
Claire had been crying off and on that whole day. Almost immediately after Jamie was taken into custody, Willie had announced his intentions to return to his grandparents.
“Willie, are you sure? You’re safe here, you know that, but I won’t stop you if you believe that’s best,” Claire tried to reason.
“I’m sure, ma’am. I do not wish to leave at all, but until this is all over…I think it would be best if I wasn’t here. I know it’s been said before, but I can’t help but feel Mr. Fraser…erm, my father, is in jail because of me. I should have known my grandparents would have acted this way.”
“It will never be your fault, Willie. Trust in that. Would you like me to call your grandparents?”
Willie shook his head, trying to hide the tears building up in his eyes. “No, thank you. I need to do this on my own. Please know that, no matter what happens, you will always be family to me.”
Claire hugged him before giving him the cordless landline phone from the kitchen. Within an hour, William and Louisa Dunsany had arrived and picked Willie up.
Faith and Brianna were beside themselves with grief, seeing their father hauled away to jail like some common criminal, but they were strong girls. They took it upon themselves to distract one another with a few games of shinty in the front yard.
The sounds of laughter and clinking of study, wooden sticks could be heard from the living room as Claire tried to distract herself with cleaning. The echoes of happiness made her feel some semblance of normalcy once more.
She knew her husband almost as well as he knew himself. She believed he wouldn’t do anything reckless to get himself into more trouble. If he was going to be patient, she could too.
A few hours later, she was in Willie’s room tidying up. In the process, she managed to knock over the suitcase he had traveled with. And it dawned on her that he didn’t bother to pack anything before leaving.
“What on earth,” she said to no one. She looked through his luggage and found a note attached to a old plane ticket.
The same plane ticket he used to travel to Scotland in the first place.
Please ring me at the number below anytime after nine o’clock tonight. There are some things I’d like to tell you. And thank you for everything.
Long after the girls had gone to bed, Claire had received a phone call from Jamie at a undisclosed number.
“Sassenach…och it’s sae good tae hear yer voice.”
“How are you holding up, my Laird?”
“Weel enough. Canna be released until the papers are drawn up swearing my alibi, but that’s alright. I dinna mind. This place is actually quite clean fer a prison cell.”
That caused Claire to laugh. “Only you would make light of your apparent criminal behavior.”
Jamie snorted. “If ye canna laugh about anything, ye’ll never be happy wi’ yer life.”
“I’m sure you heard about Willie leaving?”
“Aye, Ned told me. We’re workin’ out a plan o’ action. I can countersue the Dunsany’s fer falsifying a police report and defamation of character, but they’re suing me fer my paternal rights. It’s gonna be a battle, Claire. So much fer no’ fightin’ anymore wars.”
“This might be a war, James Fraser, but it’s one that actually matters to us. Not some Army general in a luxury hotel somewhere in Glasgow.”
Jamie laughed at this. “My time’s up, Sassenach. I must go. I’ll see ye soon enough, a ghràidh. I love ye.”
“I love you too.”
Claire looked at the clock, saw it was after nine, and dialed the number Willie left for her.
“Hello, Willie. How are you doing?”
“I’m well enough, thank you. Though, I miss you, Mr. Fraser, Faith and Brianna terribly.”
“I know you do. And we miss you too. The girls were so looking forward to teaching you how to play shinty. Though, be warned, Brianna likes to cheat.”
The laugh on the other end lightened Claire’s heart.
“We have matters to discuss, I believe,” Willie’s tone was serious now.
“Yes, I believe we do. What is it you wanted to talk about? The girls are in bed, so I have all the time in the world.”
She heard the lad take a deep breath before speaking. “I want to tell you what happened that led me to finding you and my father. I…I think you deserve to know.”
He couldn’t take it anymore. The constant degrading and belittling had him wanting to scream. Or worse.
And, of course, the shocking details of his mother’s ultimate demise didn’t help the situation. He was surprised he hadn’t gone mad yet.
Willie decided enough was enough. He would start making plans to leave Helwater, or die trying.
He called the only person he believed could be discrete.
“Aunt Iso? I need your help.”
It took two days, but with his Aunt Isobel’s help, and the help of one of her friends, they managed to secure his birth certificate from his grandmother’s safe.
Looking at the document, he spotted who was listed as his birth father.
“James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser,” Isobel said. “With that many names, he must be Scottish.”
Willie kept looking at the document. It showed that this James Fraser was a soldier in the British Army at the time of his birth, but nothing more is mentioned of the man.
“All I need is a name,” Willie affirmed. “I can find him from there.”
“What is it that you plan to do, exactly?” Isobel asked.
“I want to find my father. Aunt Iso, I can’t stay here. You know that. You know how bad it is here! Will you please keep helping me? I…I need freedom.”
Isobel contemplated the scenario. She was rather good at being discrete, and if she didn’t say anything, her parents would never know. She was certain the boy would leave some kind of note behind for them, saying exactly where he was so they didn’t think he’d been kidnapped or anything. And in any case, it wasn’t like he was moving permanently. He just wanted to go see him. Provided the man was even still alive. A lot can happen in thirteen years.
“Alright,” Isobel said with a smile. “What’s next, dear nephew?”
The two of them went to Isobel’s house and spent the next several hours combing through the internet, looking for any signs of life from this James Fraser. Or anyone who could point them in the right direction. After no such luck, Isobel made a last ditch effort and contacted a family friend. Someone who was in the Royal Army. But before she could dial the number, she smacked her head at her ignorance.
“Of course!” Isobel exclaimed. “Everyone has a Facebook page, don’t they?”
“Brilliant!” Willie gushed, pumping a fist high in the air.
Bringing up Facebook’s front page, Isobel typed the name “James Fraser” into the search box. And her jaw dropped when it yielded hundreds of results for people all over the world with that name.
“This is hopeless,” Willie conceded glumly.
“Well, Willie, you couldn’t really expect there to be only one man with such a common name. But, let’s see what some of the top results say. I highly doubt there’s more than one man with that long a name.”
Another hour went by while Isobel combed through the results. Willie was starting to doze off before-
“EUREKA!” Isobel yelped.
“What is it?!”
“I found him!”
Willie stared at the screen, his jaw dropping six feet below the floor.
James Fraser was a tall man with long red hair with what appeared to be his wife clutched to his side in his profile picture. It looks like they had gone sightseeing in another country. They were both beautiful people, and all smiles, the reflection in his sunglasses showing he was the one taking the picture.
Below his name, it indicated that he was married to a “Claire Beauchamp Fraser,” was a former infantryman in the Royal Army, originally from Broch Tuarach, and currently lived in Broch Mordha.
“He IS Scottish!” Isobel recited happily. “Somehow I knew it.”
“You know more than me, Aunt. All I was told was that my father was a bad man and that’s why he’s not in my life. But…looking at this picture…and all these others…”
They sifted through all the photos that James publicly posted, which wasn’t a lot of them. For every photo of him was at least two or three photos of a mountain top or wide green pasture, lochs and lakes. With every photo that he was in, if he wasn’t smiling as big as he could, he was making some silly face to the camera. Almost all of the pictures featured Claire, acting just as happy and silly as her husband. There was no evidence that suggested they had children together, though.
“I refuse to believe he’s a ‘bad man’ until I find him. And meet him. In person.” Willie declared.
“Sometimes people can paint themselves in a different light from who they actually are,” Isobel stated, not bothering elaborate on who exactly she was speaking of.
But that didn’t matter to Willie. He now had enough information to find his biological father. Or, at least, get close enough to ask the locals of Broch Mordha. Hopefully without raising suspicions; he didn’t want to let James on that someone was looking for him.
With more help from Isobel (and at the risk of her getting into major legal trouble) Isobel acquired her father’s credit card information and booked a one-way flight for Willie from Manchester to Inverness two weeks after finding this information.
Willie just prayed that his father even wanted him. Assuming he was alive.
“My mother never spoke of my father when she was alive,” Willie said in finality. “And she never spoke of her time at a soldier, but…well…”
“Take your time, Willie, I’m here,” Claire said, but her voice was full to the brim with emotion. Her eyes had been slowly leaking tears that now streamed down her face. She was thankful, in that moment, the girls were already asleep.
She was also thankful that Jamie never deleted his Facebook account. He had talked about its “uselessness” so much. Most of the pictures on there were from their time as newlyweds, photos from their honeymoon in Jamaica, many years old. He had never posted pictures of the girls. But he never got around to deleting it. Claire tried not to imagine how much harder it would have been for Willie to find them had Jamie actually followed through with his complaint.
“I know she did bad things. I don’t know what they were, but she always acted like she knew it…that…that she did things that one shouldn’t be proud of. But…I can tell that whatever bad she did with the Army…she was proud.”
That got Claire’s attention. And not in a good way.
“I plan to put all of this in writing in case I have to appear in court. From what my grandparents were saying, they might be trying to keep me away from you and my father. I don’t want that.”
“Willie, you’re such a brave young man. And it’s smart of you to prepare your own defense. But let us handle this, okay? Let Jamie and I worry about what’s going to happen. Our family lawyer is very good at what he does. This too shall pass.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’m going to bed now. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, love.” And with that, they hung up.
Later that night, Willie would cry himself to sleep, but not out of sadness this time. Out of happiness, for his own mother had never used such loving terms of endearment towards him.
Jamie is taken aback when he’s visited by the last people he’d ever expected.
The calm before the storm, fam. Brace yourselves. Thanks for stopping by!
For being locked up on false charges, Jamie was surprised how well he was treated while in jail. It had only been a day or two, and while he was forced to have to surrender his civilian clothes for an blue and gray jumpsuit, he was fed well, treated with respect, and more or less left alone. He was wondering if word had spread of his unwarranted capture and Rupert, or another colleague of his, had made it clear exactly who they were dealing with. The thought made him smile.
The morning of the third day in the clink, instead of receiving his morning meal of plain parritch, stale toast and a glass of milk, he was informed that someone had posted his bond.
He was free to go.
“But, who?” Jamie had asked the guard.
“Funny enough, they wish to meet with you before you leave,” the guard said as he affixed cuffs onto his wrists and ankles for escort. Brux, was his surname, Jamie remembered. Nice, brawny bloke, but Jamie respected what he did for a living. They had unspokenly come to an understanding in his short time being incarcerated.
“They?” Jamie inquire further. “Meanin’ more than one?” Brux had shut the large metal prison cell door behind them and they were walking towards the outtake department.
“Aye,” Brux grunted, trying not to appear like he was enjoying Jamie’s companionable chat. “A man and lass, about yer age. They paid yer bond and wish tae have a word.”
“I dinna ken I even had one. Hadna been ‘afore a judge yet.”
“Dinna ken about that, sir, just doin’ what I’m told. Ye ken it weel, eh?”
“Aye,” Jamie grunted as they made their way towards one of the nicer, private interrogation rooms within in the prison. Just as Brux had said, a man and woman were seated next to each other, facing towards the door.
Jamie’s jaw dropped; he knew the man sitting there like the back of his own hand, and he never expected to see him again. The woman, however, was unfamiliar to him. No matter, he thought, guess I’m tae make a new friend today.
Brux opened the door for him and released the shackles from his person. The man and woman stood upon his entry.
“Good luck, Warrant Officer Fraser,” Brux added, making sure no one saw the friendly pat on the back. “God speed, mo charaid.”
Jamie merely nodded in reply, but did not take his eyes off the man in front of him.
“John!” Jamie exclaimed.
“We always find ourselves meeting in the strangest of places, don’t we Jamie?” John Grey said with a warm, friendly smile. “It seems things have not changed since we got out of the Army.”
Jamie laughed aloud, graciously accepting a fierce, body-encompassing hug from his brother in arms. Major John Grey was a welcomed sight indeed for the retired Warrant Officer of Her Majesty’s Army.
“It is so good tae see ye!” Jamie slapped John on the back. “How’ve ye been? Ye said yer out now?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so. About seven months after you got out, I was injured in the line of duty.” John lifted his right pant leg to reveal a horrendous patchwork of criss-cross scar work, evidence that he had had multiple surgeries. “The surgeons had to contemplate taking my leg, but by the grace of God, I was spared such a fate. Was granted the ability to medically retire.”
Route clearance technically wasn’t in Jamie’s job description as infantry, but the lads who were called “canaries” were tied up on another more critical mission, so when his commander asked for volunteers, he didn’t think any harm would come to him. Especially since Claire had told him to stop being “so reckless” while on missions. In the months they had been seeing each other, she had been more of a personal doctor rather than a girlfriend. And he could understand why she was irritated with him.
“We leave in an hour. Gear up!”
“Yes sir!” the men called as they disbanded.
Within thirty minutes, Jamie was sitting next to that same commander in their M1114 armament carrier humvee. Major John Grey.
“First time out on the road, Major?” Jamie asked.
“I must confess it is, though not my first mission,” the Major replied, “I hope you don’t think less of me as your commander…”
Jamie grinned. “Warrant Officer James Fraser, sir.”
“Well, Warrant Officer Fraser, I look forward to making it back to base in one piece.”
“Sláinte mhath!” Jamie said.
Their mission was simple. As the grunts told it, go out before the important people and make the roadside bombs go away. Jamie preferred being in the safety of any armored vehicle rather than walking the streets with nothing but his own body armor and an M-4.
Jamie and the Major spent a good portion of the convoy swapping stories. Jamie was partial to talking about his family, and the major boasted his well-deserved achievements during his military career thus far. Jamie enjoyed hearing about other soldier’s experiences.
It didn’t take long for Jamie and John to form a strong bond. That bond only grew when Claire met the Major, and the three of them would spend a lot of their off time in each other’s company, laughing and sharing jokes.
When Jamie was taken as a prisoner of war, John had wasted no time and spared no heedance in using his officer status to locate him. Claire and John had formed their own bond in their grievances during Jamie’s abrupt absence.
However, it was John’s persistence and tenacity that got Jamie away from his captors and back into the hands of allies. Jamie would never forget John’s actions that day.
And because of the Major’s actions, John William Grey is the only soul alive who knows every excruciatingly cruel details of Jamie’s time as a prisoner of war.
“Oh, John, I had no idea. Verra sorry tae hear it.”
“Don’t be, my friend. It was a good thing. My brother was insistent that I apply to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. And, well, with twelve years of service already under my belt, I took the enemy fire as a sign that it was time to move on. I’m grateful to be alive, and to still walk. Though, Scotland’s cold days tend to wreck havoc on my nerves and muscles.”
Jamie laughed some more. “Aye, weel, ye get used tae that.” He looked to John’s left to see the woman standing there, patiently waiting for her turn to do or say anything. John seemed to catch onto this.
“Oh dear, where are my manners? I hope you don’t think the Army has turned me into some kind of mannerless brute!”
“Weel, they could try, but I dinna think it would’ve stuck,” Jamie said, not taking his eyes of the woman. He couldn’t place it, but now that she was up close, she did looked familiar.
“It’s alright, sir. John can space out from time to time when he’s catching up with old war colleagues.” From her speech alone, she was English, like John Grey. Well mannered, poised, but lacking a typical high-born Englishwoman’s sense of asinine self-importance. “My name is Isobel Dunsany. I’m Willie’s aunt and-”
“Geneva’s sister.” Jamie took a step back, his body going stiff and his face becoming a harsh line of self-defense.
Sensing his growing agitation, Isobel quickly added, “You are welcome to think whatever you like about my late sister. More than anything, she probably deserves it.”
At this statement, Jamie relaxed a bit. But only a bit.
“John, what’s going on?” Jamie sat down, his heart hammering. “The guard told me my bond was posted. I didna even ken I had one, considering I hadna faced a judge yet.”
“And you would have never had to done on such a set of rags,” John gestured towards Jamie’s jumpsuit in disgust as he and Isobel sat down across from him, “had things been done right the first time.”
“What do ye mean by such?”
“He means,” Isobel said, “that my parents are making a right damn fool of themselves with this mess. And we’re here to set it right.”
Jamie eyed her suspiciously. The very thought of being in the same building as Geneva’s own sister, a woman who grew up alongside that monster, was unsettling to him. Being within breathing distance made him want to vomit.
“James,” Isobel said kindly. “I know you are probably thinking the worst of me, purely because Geneva was my sister. And you have that right. But I implore you, sir. I only want to help Willie. He’s now the only nephew I will ever have. We…have a special bond. What he’s been going through with my parents is not right. The boy deserves to be with his father.
“Besides…I’m partly responsible for everything. I’m the one who helped Willie find you. I’m the one who stole my father’s credit card to buy his plane ticket to Scotland.”
Jamie blinked. “You?”
“Me.” Isobel took a deep breath. “I should have known my parents would have attempted such an outlandish fool’s errand trying to keep him from you. But I was blindsided. Willie was…gosh, I had never seen the boy that happy since he was a baby. All he could think or talk about around me was you. He couldn’t stop talking about his father. Wondering about his father. Worrying about his father and his wife. He would constantly ask me if the questions he had prepared for you were appropriate. Willie…he really wanted you to like him…”
By this point, Jamie had tears in his eyes.
“I dinna like him, Isobel. I love him. And I would do the same fer him as I would my daughters. Because he is my child. A chuisle. It means ‘my blood’ in the Gàidhlig. Blood that comes from relation. From love.”
Now it was Isobel’s turn to shed tears. She pulled a handkerchief out of her pocket and dabbed the corners of her eyes with them.
“I have never trusted anyone in this world more than I have my nephew,” Isobel said. “He had so much faith in his belief that you were a good person. That you were not the monster my sister and parents made you out to be.”
“Wait…what d’ye mean ‘monster’?” Jamie’s face was torn between anger and hurt. “What…what did they say about me?”
Isobel looked at John. Jamie pressed on.
“Isobel…I’m asking ye, not John. What was said?”
She swallowed visibly, and took a deep breath.
“Jamie,” John interrupted, “I think that’s a story for another time. Right now, we have more pressing matters at hand. Willie’s grandparents are doing some extremely questionable things to ensure you lose your right as his father. Think about it, what could they possibly be hiding that would cause seemingly rational people to take a child away from his parent? Especially a parent that wants him, and can give him a loving, safe home?”
That is something Jamie hadn’t considered before. At that time, he stood and stretched the kinks from his back, his spinal column audibly popping and cracking in different places.
“Aye well, yer right John. These are more pressin’ matters. However, the most pressin’ o’ them, is the fact that I havena seen my wife and daughters in three days, nor have I slept in my own bed wi’ her. If ye dinna mind, I’d like tae go home now.”
John smiled as he stood, helping Isobel out of her chair. “Of course, a good goal as any. I’ll leave you to it then. Will you require a ride home?”
“I’d be verra much obliged, John,” Jamie said, a guard coming over to unlock the door and escort them out. He was given his civilian clothes back, changed quickly in the bathroom around the corner, signed a release form, and for the first time in three days, breathed in the free Scottish air around him. Jamie looked at John. “Looks like I’m indebted to you again, sir. Fer savin’ my life.”
“Well, we’ve been indebted to each other so many times in that vain, I’ve lost count, tell the truth.” John chuckled. “We are veterans of war now, our past debts from our time in the service are bygones, but never forgotten. Just like our comrades who weren’t as lucky to come home as we did. If you ever need anything, please don’t hesitate to call upon me.”
“Me as well,” Isobel said, taking Jamie’s hand into hers. While he felt he should have been appalled at the thought of touching Geneva’s sister, her hands felt warm, small in his own. Smooth, like she did delicate things with them for a living. It reminded him of his Sassenach, and how much he couldn’t wait to hold her in his arms again.
“I mean it, Jamie. Willie living with you and Claire is truly what’s best for him. I started this endeavor on his behalf. I feel I should see it to the end. Besides…” another deep breath, “there was something very broken about my sister that I don’t think any mere mortal could have comprehended. I will forever be more sorry for the things she did to you, than I will ever be for her death. And if that makes me a horrible person, then so be it.”
Jamie nodded his head in earnest, and he brought her in for a gentle hug.
“Thank ye, Isobel. Yer a kind soul.”
John went to go fetch his car. Jamie and Isobel waited in silence for him to come back. The drive to Jamie’s house was relatively quiet too, save for the low tones of soft jazz coming from the car’s stereo system. Jamie didn’t mind the silence; he never thought he’d take for granted how beautiful his home country was, so he spent the ride admiring her lochs and mountains, vast skies and winding roads.
When the house came into view, he took a sharp, involuntary intake of breath.
“Home sweet home, eh?” Isobel smiled.
“Aye. ‘Tis indeed.”
“Before you go, Jamie, a word please?” He looked at Isobel and she took the hint that this conversation needed to be between him and Jamie, so she politely excused herself out of the car.
“What is it, John?”
“I know your time as a POW was a horrendous one, but…you really need to tell Claire.”
Jamie’s heart skipped a beat.
“Do you?” John glowered at him. “I can’t believe that after over ten years of marriage, your own wife, a fellow combat veteran at that, still doesn’t know about your time with Geneva and her cohorts. She needs to know. Not just because of everything currently surrounding Willie, but because she will get it. She’ll understand, and she won’t make you feel pitiful about it like civilians tend to. Open up to her about it. Let her take care of you for once.”
Jamie wanted to fight it, wanted to say he didn’t know what he was talking about and he had no business telling him what to do with his own marriage. But deep down, he knew John was right. He usually was when it counted. It had saved his life more than once.
Jamie relented. “Alright.”
Jamie comes home, and through him, Claire finally learns the truth of his time as a prisoner of war.
Heads up guys, this is probably one of the worst chapters in this series. Throwing up a TW for rape, nudity, and torture, very NSFW, because yeah. It’s gonna be rough. If you want to skip the nasty parts, they’re all separated and in italics. Thanks for still being here, and if you’ve been in a similar situation, there is help. You are not alone <3
The moment Jamie walked through the door was heaven. For both him and Claire.
The girls immediately tackled their father to the ground with tearful hugs and kisses, from all parties. Claire waited patiently for her turn at the main man in her life.
“Now, run along and play, my beautiful girls. I need tae speak wi’ yer ma, aye?” Jamie told their daughters gently. They were smart girls; they didn’t need to be told that Jamie needed to have a serious ‘grown up talk’ with their mother. They nodded, gave their parents one last kiss, then disappeared into their rooms.
When Jamie took Claire into his arms, she could feel the tension in his shoulders on top of the relief of being home.
“Talk to me, my Laird,” Claire said softly in his ear, causing Jamie to shiver slightly. “Tell me your troubles.”
Jamie sighed into her hair, relishing in her warmth.
“I think it’s time I told ye the true tale…of…” he cleared his throat. “Of what happened during our time apart in the war.”
Claire took a step back from him, her eyes wider than an owl’s.
“Jamie, are you sure?”
“Aye,” Jamie smiled weakly. “Aye, ‘tis time. Wi’ everything that’s happened, ye need tae know. And I need to be able to open up to ye, Sassenach. I trust ye wi’ my life. With the girls’ lives.”
“Jamie, I never doubted that you trusted me, if that’s your reasoning…you and I both saw horrific things during the war…I felt it was your story to tell. And that you would tell it when the time was right.”
Jamie chuckled humorlessly. “I ken, mo nighean donn. I ken it well. But that doesna matter now.”
He led her to the dining room table. After he pulled out her chair for her and she seated herself, he unlocked a cabinet tucked away in the back of the dining room, pulled out a bottle neither of them had seen in years, along with two glasses, and proceeded to pour a healthy dram in each.
“You bought this bottle of Glenfiddich before you enlisted, right?” Claire asked as she sniffed the contents of her glass. She admired the bottle, labeled Grand Cru, as if he’d just brought it home from the market that day.
“Aye,” Jamie did the same, enjoying the hit of vanilla oak and sandalwood that attacked his sense of smell. “The day I turned eighteen… I didna want to touch it until I felt it was sorely needed.” He brought the glass to his lips and took a swill. Pear sorbet, white grape, and sweet brioche filled his senses with a luxurious, aged taste of Scotland. The taste of his homeland.
“And you believe now is the right time?”
“Aye. This isna going tae be easy fer ye to hear, Sassenach. Just as it isna gonna be easy fer me tae say…but I dinna want tae keep ye in the dark any longer.”
Claire took another drink of her whisky. “I’m all ears, Jamie Fraser.”
Like with all ambushes, nobody ever sees them coming.
And this one was no exception.
Doing their usual perimeter check always came with risk, no matter how routine things may seem nor the duration of their checks. They were out in the open, far enough away from camp for their shouts to go unheard, and armed to the teeth, ready for whatever trouble might come their way.
And the instant you let your guard down, is when something usually goes wrong.
Jamie and his men were all thoroughly trained on how to deal with ambushes, provided they survived the initial attack. He knew that some of his men wouldn’t survive an ambush. He knew that he could potentially perish in such an attack.
The moment that first bomb explosion went off, his fear of coming home in a pine box draped with a Scottish flag could become a reality.
Of the seven men that went out with Jamie, only four were taken alive.
Like Jamie, the surviving men were locked in separate dark rooms. Each of them were interrogated separately. Tortured and beaten for information.
It wasn’t until Jamie knew that a woman was the one leading the ambush that things took an interesting twist.
Eventually, after an unknown amount of time of being locked away, sitting in his own blood and filth, he heard the voices of his men being freed.
Maybe they had given up and were letting them go.
Until she came back for him.
“You’re an interesting character, Warrant Officer Fraser,” she had said. “I think you and I could have an even more interesting conversation.”
Jamie knew where “those” kinds of conversations went. And at this point, he didn’t care what happened to him. He was tired, hungry, hurting all over, and to top it off, he was bleeding, had pissed and shat himself from not being able to properly relieve his bowels and bladder, so his uniform was a soaking, stinking mess.
“I’d rather ye just kill me and get it o’er wi’, if it’s all the same tae ye,” Jamie spat, the ache of fatigue leaving the marrow of his bones and coming out through his voice.
The woman laughed. “Leave? Now? Oh, but we’re just starting to get to know one another!” She stopped laughing abruptly. “I meant what I said that first day you were brought here. I know where your family is. I know where they work, where your nieces and nephews go to school, your precious family’s ancestral estate…I am working with some very powerful friends. All I do is say the word…and they’re all dead by suppertime tomorrow.”
Jamie’s heart raced, but he would not give in.
“Go ahead. Try and annihilate my family. Try and bring terror tae my family’s place of school, work, or homestead. And when they’re done wi’ the lot o’ ye…I’ll personally make sure they’re given a semi-decent wake. Ye have my word.”
The woman paused for a moment, her breathing the only thing Jamie could hear aside from the pounding of his own heart.
“Let’s see…Colour Sergeant Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp…am I correct? That is her name and rank, yes?”
If Jamie’s heart was going to stop at any point, now would have been the perfect time. He felt it skip a few beats before returning to a regular, if not rapid, rhythm.
“My sources tell me you’ve grown…quite fond of her…planning to marry her once you’re out, yes?”
“Ye leave the Sergeant out o’ this, ye filthy Sassenach. This is betwix ye and me,” his words bit harder than an icy Scottish breeze beneath his favorite kilt. His use of the word “Sassenach” was anything but the one of warmth and love he used for his beloved Claire.
The woman laughed. “Ah, so there’s your button. You know, fraternization is against regulation. Heavily, in fact. I’ve seen high ranking, thoroughly decorated war heroes be stripped of all those awards and medals for having a relationship with someone…out of their league.”
“Our superiors know about our relationship. We’ve been sharin’ a tent and cot fer some time now…I highly doubt ye’d be givin’ anyone brand new information, lass.”
She was clearly running out of options, given the annoyed huff of breath Jamie heard. But the next thing he felt was his whole body jerking and convulsing with the pulse of an electric current. Everything went black.
“When I awoke,” Jamie said, “I was clean. Someone had come in and cleaned away all my filth. My uniform was most likely taken tae a burn pit, and while I was still tied up, I wasna in that dank room anymore…”
Claire could fear the tears brewing behind her eyes. “What happened then?”
Jamie took another drink of his whisky. This was his third; enough to make him feel something, but nowhere near the amount he needed to be truly drunk.
“I was in a bed that rivaled our own, Sassenach. In comfort and homeliness.”
The bed was soft and comfortable. The sheets were pure Egyptian cotton, smelling like fresh lavender, just begging to be inhaled for a good night’s rest. Jamie could feel bonds against his wrists and ankles, but they weren’t biting into him anymore. Looser, but not loose enough for him to slip and made an escape.
There was a warm light that illuminated the room. It reminded him of the Laird’s bed chamber at Lallybroch. When his parents were preparing to go to bed, his mother would have a small glass of wine on the nightstand and whatever book she was reading in her lap, and his father would have a dram and the evening news playing quietly on the telly close to his side of the bed. The room would be bathed in a warm, almost golden hue from their twin nightstand lamps, offsetting the bold blue fleur-de-lis wallpaper surrounding them.
“I see you’re finally awake,” the woman’s voice called from the doorway.
Seeing his captor for the first time was the shock Jamie did not see coming.
She was young. Almost young enough to not be old enough to buy alcohol, let alone enlist in the British Army. There was no way in Hell that this lass was an officer. Though Jamie had already suspected that. She sounded young, and acted even younger. A spoiled bairn, more than anything.
She was dressed in nothing but a peach-colored negligee, her undergarments revealing that she might be young, but her body was that of a grown woman. Her breasts were so much larger than than the rest of her torso, they barely fit into the black brassiere holding them. Her arse was barely contained in the tightly stringed black panties adorning her hips and mound.
“What are ye doing, lass?” Jamie asked frustratedly.
She ignored his annoyance and climbed into the bed next to him. “We clearly got off on the wrong foot. I’d like to start over. I should have properly introduced myself.”
She extended a hand towards him, but instead of expecting him to shake it, she started to move them slowly underneath the borrowed shirt, feeling every inch of his belly, chest, and flanks.
“My name is Corporal Geneva Dunsany. And I believe we can help one another.”
“The brazen besom had plans…of that I was certain,” Jamie said darkly.
“Given the predicament we find ourselves in now, I can probably guess what happened next,” Claire replied, with equal grimness.
“It was how she got tae that point that…led to what happened…”
“What do you mean? She threatened you, right?”
“Nae, Sassenach…she threatened you.”
“Here’s what I propose,” Geneva said, not bothering to stop her touches. “Make free of your body to me. And I will let you go. You will not be subjected to my interrogation, nor will you be required to submit to my cohorts. While you’re not their type, they tend to have fun in…other ways…”
“Ye can go straight tae Hell wi’ yer offer, Corporal,” Jamie said, and he spat directly in her face. “Ye canna get tae my family either. Ye willna get the chance.”
“Maybe not,” Geneva replied as she wiped his spittle off her face, her rage clearly showing despite the coolness of her voice. “But I already told you I know about Claire. Your…Sassenach…as you called her. My informants tell me that is considered an insult among the Scots. Why would you insult a woman you love to her face? Oh…is that a kink of hers? Does she like it when you abuse her? Does it get her off?”
“Ye feckin’ bitch!” Jamie knew he was losing his composure, but he didn’t care right now. He writhed and thrashed in his confines. Geneva just laughed.
“Good good! Get angry, James! The sex is so much better when they’re angry. And when I’m done with you, Claire won’t have anything left to claim as hers. I’ll make sure of it. Of course…that’s assuming… she survives her own personal ambush…”
“I’ll have ye killed fer this, ye heathen.”
Geneva’s eyes darkened. “You won’t get the chance. See, I was told to get whatever I could out of you, however I choose. But they didn’t tell me it had to relate to our mission.”
Before Jamie knew it, what little clothing he had on was torn away with a blade he didn’t know she had. He was naked in a flash, and before he could spit out another curse at her, she was sliding his embarrassingly erect cockstand up into herself. She moaned as he felt himself pierce her core. She threw her head back and laughed. He cried out at the sudden intrusion.
“Oh no, James, you lost the privilege of enjoying this when you spat in my face!”
She grabbed him by his auburn short and curlies, another scream escaping from his throat. She rode him like the animal she assumed him to be. She was not gentle about it either; every time she came back down, she sat on his balls in just the wrong position. Enough to make it hurt more than it should.
Still tied to the bedpost, he couldn’t defend himself when she brought the blade down towards his body.
It didn’t stop there.
Jamie stood up and removed his shirt. Claire gasped.
She had seen her husband naked many times throughout the course of their relationship. His body was a map of beauty and eloquence to her, scars and all. She knew every scar’s location, and could guess as to how he had obtained them. But the puncture wounds, slash marks, cuts and burns that littered his chest, abdomen, flanks and back…she thought they were injuries he had sustained when his convoy was ambushed.
In reality, it was much, much worse.
She touched each one of them deliberately. As if she were seeing them for the first time. In a way, she was. Now that she knew their true origins.
“She…” the tears were starting to gather at the corners of her eyes.
“Aye…” Jamie didn’t flinch as his wife touched each reminder of how his son was conceived. He swore to himself, despite his ordeal, he would never fear his wife’s touch.
“But, wait a second…when the medics were bringing you back…they said you weren’t injured…”
“That’s because I told them not to say anythin’…I…I was ashamed, Claire.”
Geneva could’ve done any amount of torture to him.
She could have tied him naked and inflicted third degree burns to his entire body. Cut of his fingers and toes, scooped out an eyeball, ripped his hair out from their very falicles. She could have castrated him and brass plated his bollocks to a plaque with his name on it for the world to see.
But the action of taking his body without his consent, over and over again, and the painful manner she went about it…he would have chosen death.
Each time she thrusted herself upon his cock, she would inflict some kind of injury. A laceration here, and small stab wound there, little more than shaving nicks were peppering his chest and sides. Without losing her rhythm, she would light cigarettes and smoke, just to press their lit cherries into his skin. But not the uninjured parts that were left. Oh no, she shoved their hot tips right into the aching cuts, as if she were lighting him on fire. He couldn’t hold it in any longer. He screamed with all the strength he had left. In addition to all the pain he felt before she walked into the room, the most painful part was when he felt his balls clench as he came inside her.
But it wasn’t pain.
It was shame.
“After she was done, she cleaned me up, forced down some wine that tasted like benadryl, then…I slept…” Jamie took another long drink of the whisky before putting the bottle away in the cupboard. Though, he might not have bothered; it was almost empty.
Claire had been silently crying as Jamie recounted the agonizing memories of being brutally raped. “What happened after you woke up?”
“She didna keep her word. She…didna stop either…it was as if she wanted tae make sure I went back tae ye spent dry, my balls unable tae maintain its supply o’ seed after each…encounter…
“After the last time, if I remember the timeline correctly, she got up and left. Didna clean me up either, like she always did. No matter how much o’ a brute she was in bed, she would always clean us both. She just got up…and left. Some time passed ‘afore I heard shoutin’. That’s when yer men burst intae the room. I begged them tae keep the matter betwix’ us lads. Naturally, as war brothers often did, they swore on their lives that it would be me tae break that seal, if I so chose. But…”
He took a deep, cleansing breath before going on.
“They cleaned me up, and brought me fresh clothes. I was rescued…back in yer arms within a few hours. And I never saw Geneva Dunsany again.”
Jamie could see that his wife needed comfort after such a hard telling. And he welcomed her embrace. After all that he had suffered, he had never felt more safe within her arms. They held each other for a few minutes longer.
“I had no real notion that something would come o’ it…but a bairn?” Jamie sighed into Claire’s hair. “The thought of a child coming from that…time…didna occur tae me. I didna think tae ask her if she was…weel…my point is…had I kent about Willie…that I had a son, this whole time…”
“I know, Jamie,” Claire said in his place, seeing that he was getting frustrated. She placed a hand over his heart. He held it close with his own as they held each other’s gave even closer. “Willie could have had a very different upbringing. He would’ve been a Fraser much sooner.”
Jamie just smiled. “That’s the thing o’ it, Sassenach. He is my son. Blood of my blood, bone of my bone. As are you. And Faith, Brianna. He will always be a Fraser.”
He bent low to kiss Claire, his lips warming at the touch of hers.
“Come, mo nighean donn. I think ‘tis time tae get the girls and enjoy the rest o’ the day as a family.”
Jamie takes the next few days off from work, and while he tries to give Rupert an explanation, the good man that his cousin is tells him to “sod off” and “not tae show yer face back at the station until yer ready.” Jamie smiles ear to ear as he hangs up his mobile.
His daughters were already outside playing shinty as the rare Scottish sunshine dances across their bouncing, laughing red heads. His hearts warms at the sight as he sits down next to Claire. He was just about to pick up the telly remote when the girls come barging in.
“Da!” Faith exclaims, breathing hard, “Uncle Ned is here!”
“Weel, ye better invite the auld buzzard in, a leannan,” Jamie says as he sets the remote down. Claire is at the front window, watching the old man give Brianna a bone-crushing hug.
“I wonder if he’s brought news of Willie,” Claire says in a small voice.
“I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?” Jamie replied as he meets the aging lawyer at the front door.
“Jamie, lad!” Ned says with enthusiasm, patting the man on the back. “And yer loving bride! Good tae see ye back at home!”
“Good tae be home, Ned,” Jamie laughs as Ned gives Claire an equally bruising hug of her own. “Please, do come in.”
The three adults settle themselves at the dining room table. Claire notices Ned is setting up a few manilla folders in front of him.
“What’s all that? Files for Jamie’s case?” She asks.
The smile is at once removed from the old man’s face as he settles his glasses atop the bridge of his nose. “I wish it were that simple.”
Claire and Jamie brace themselves for potentially more bad news. They clasps hands under the table.
“I did some record digging within the British Army archives. Within these files, I have every detail of former Corporal Geneva Dunsany’s life after she left Jamie to rot in that wretched dungeon.”
Jamie stiffens next to Claire, who also tenses. She has a feeling the girls won’t be back inside for a while, so she doesn’t bother going to tell them to stay away for a while.
“How bad is it, Ned?” Jamie asks, nervous.
Ned swallowed visibly.
“Ye might want tae consider verra carefully how much tae tell Willie about his mother’s past. It’s rather gruesome.”
Jamie and Claire learn about what happened to Geneva after she parted ways with Jamie.
I've decided to release the rest of the series here early. Happy Tuesday! :D
I did my best to minimize the impact of this chapter, as it was slated to be as heavy as the last one. Mostly because I struggled with it. Throwing up that TW signal for mentions of rape and abortion. We’re now two chapters away from the end! Thank you so much to everyone who’s been reading this and giving it their love! Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!
Jamie had himself braced against Claire in the form of holding hands under their dining room table. All but ready for whatever Ned Gowan had to say about what became of Geneva.
What he expected to happen to her before her death, and what actually happened to her were worlds apart.
Ned proceeds to tell Jamie and Claire that Geneva was a double agent for the enemy of the Crown.
“I figured as much,” Jamie said gruffly. “The Crown doesna execute wi’out good reason, especially nowadays. With their own soldiers.”
“Aye,” Ned replied, “aye but Geneva did a verra good job of weavin’ a web of lies and deceit in her wake tae keep the truth to herself. Teelin’ her superiors within the British ranks about her dealing wi’ the enemy...weel, ye ken how that went.”
“I’m guessing it became a lot harder to hide once she found out she was pregnant?” Claire asked, not bothering to keep the bitterness out of her voice. At this point, nothing could make her feel any sympathy for the woman who raped her husband.
“Oh yes, verra difficult.” Ned cleared his throat. “When it was discovered though, her cohorts turned on her. Tried to...weel, savin’ yer presense, Mrs. Fraser...induce...”
“They tried tae kill my son in the womb,” Jamie spat angrily.
“Obviously, given there’s a healthy, sturdy lad wi’ yer resemblence walking God’s green earth, Jamie, that didna come tae pass. But her troubles didna end there.”
“Truthfully,” Claire said, “I hope she suffered.”
“Claire,” Jamie began, but his wife wouldn’t let him finish.
“Are you seriously expecting me to feel any kind of sympathy towards Geneva? She threatened everyone and everything you love, including me, and then proceeded to rape and torture you, and for what?! What was even the point?”
“I may have an explanation fer that, though…” Ned looked at Jamie, “I will say, it canna be confirmed as fact.”
“At this point, it doesna matter. I’d like tae think what I went through and Willie’s birth has some meaning to it. Go on, Ned.”
“Weel, according tae some who kent the family, Geneva was sent off to military school to prepare her tae wed a family friend. Someone who, oh, how did that put it… ‘help her clean up her act’.”
“An arranged marriage?” Claire scoffed. “That’s hardly a reason to commit the crimes she did.”
“Aye true, but I dinna think we’re talkin’ about someone who’s reasonable,” Jamie grumbled.
“Oh no, unreasonable coulda been Miss Dunsany’s middle name if ye permit me tae say,” Ned chuckled humorlessly. “I dinna ken whether she was just disagreeable about the marriage or what, but close family friends suggested that she refused tae be bedded with someone not of her choosing.”
“That’s all great and wonderful, Ned, but d’ye ken about her original mission? Why the hell did she have me tied up in the first place? Was she really workin’ fer the enemy or was she just a sociopath wi’ no inhibitions?” Jamie fidgeted with Claire’s wedding ring with one hand, and his other was tapping out a rhythmic tattoo on his leg. He always did that when he was anxious.
“She was confirmed tae be a double agent fer the enemy. Records show her coming close tae being declared a deserter during critical mission times. Her cohorts didna hold back when they were brought ‘afore the military judicial court system. Their mission was mostly intel gatherin’, and the like...none of them ken what she was really up to wi’ Jamie until she became pregnant.”
“And they confessed to the forced abortion? However failed it was?” Claire inquired.
“Aye,” Ned responded, “in exchange fer lesser sentences, they named Geneva as the primary conspirator, claimed she was the one who organized and planned the intial ambush and after they extracted whatever information they could from their prisoners, all were tae be let go. It was originally supposed tae be a one day thing.”
“Except I was held against my will fer almost two weeks,” Jamie bit back, the venom in his voice tasing sour on his tongue.
“They were questioned about her whereabouts during that time, and all claimed she told them not to disturb her while she was ‘working’.”
“That mission wasna even a mission at all,” Jamie said. “It was just a perimeter check. The same one we do every day while deployed.” He thought about it for a moment. “She had to have been watchin’ us fer some time. She kent a lot about me...and Claire...than I care tae admit. If the story about her supposed arranged marriage is to be believed...she was lookin’ fer a way out. Getting knocked up by some random solider might’ve put whoever she was supposed tae wed off.”
“That is the theory, but again, it isna confirmed. And canna be submitted in court, I’m afraid.”
“I dinna care about that. She’s already dead.” Jamie got up to pour glasses of water for everyone at the table. While he did that, Claire got up to check on the girls. It was a short break but a sorely needed one; the topic at their table was heavy enough to stifle the air around them.
With everyone hydrated now, Jamie pressed on. The sooner he got this over with, the better. “I take it the British Army sent her home after she told them about her pregnancy?”
“In a way,” Neg said slowly. “She was declared ‘unfit for duty’ and honorably discharged. Sent back home tat Helwater.”
“Honorably discharged?!” Claire shouted. “That’s barbarous!”
“Aye, tis, but given where she is now, that didna last long.” Ned took a deep breath before continuing. “When she came home, she broke the news tae her family. Claimed a soldier raped her.” Before Jamie could angrily react, Claire kept him grounded.
“I guess that’s what Isobel meant when she said ‘monster’,” Jamie gritted.
“At least Geneva’s sister isn’t anything like her,” Claire said.
“Indeed,” Ned went on, “in any case, her family did the best they could with ensuring she had proper medical and neonatal care during her pregnancy. And on the ninth of January, 2003, William Clarence Dunsany was born as a healthy lad of seven pounds and nine ounces.”
Despite all, the thought of Willie being born healthy brought Jamie some relief. No matter who his mother was, the lad was still his son. He cared for him like he’d known him his whole life. Like Claire was his real mother.
“The lad developed ahead of his peers. According to family friends, Geneva did her best to be a good mother. However, when they learned that there was a name attached to his birth father, William and Louisa Dunsany started pushing to have charges pressed and child support enacted. Apparently, no one save the doctor and his nurse were present fer the birth and she gave them yer name.
“Naturally, Geneva fought against this, else they learn the truth of Willie’s conception.”
“And naturally,” Claire said, her bitterness returned, “William and Louisa just went with it. Didn’t bother to suspect their precious daughter could do anything wrong.”
“It wasna said but aye, I believe they believed she was truly a victim.”
Jamie sighed, gripping Claire’s hand tighter.
“Let’s move on. How long from the time Geneva was arrested tae her execution?”
“Not as long as ye might be thinking,” Ned said. “Of course when she was arrested, it was a shocking blow to her family. And during the trial, she was forced tae confess everything she did. Sadly, Jamie, ye werena the only victim of her...ministrations.”
“That also doesna surprise me,” Jamie commented.
“I’m surprised you weren’t brought in for questioning yourself. As a witness,” Claire added.
“In regard tae that,” Ned supplied, “the judicial court within the military ranks believed they had enough evidence where witnesses werena necessary. Especially since Miss Dunsany confessed. While she tried to pin some of her actions on her cohorts, well, let’s just say those men had more postulated alibis.”
Jamie snorted at that.
“Geneva was subsequently convicted of war crimes and treason to the British Crown and spent a year in prison before being executed. She, of course, was stripped of her honorable discharge status and all that came wi’ it.”
“How?” Jamie questioned, his morbid curiosity getting the better of his judgement. “How...exactly...was...”
“She wasna hanged, if that what yer asking...nae, I believe it was...” Ned flitted through the papers in his files before extracting one and skimming through it. “Lethal injection.”
Jamie let out a low whistle.
“I thought execution was outlawed in the UK,” Claire implored, her brows knitting together. “Don’t get me wrong, what they did wasn’t unjustified...but...weren’t they breaking laws?”
“Nae Sassenach,” Jamie said, but he wasn’t looking any her or the lawyer. “The military has verra different ways of extending justice. All legal in the eyes of the Crown. If it was just desertion or a war crime as the result of an accident, she most likely woulda been exiled from the British Isles...but when ye commit war crimes on purpose...weel...”
“There’s no redemption from that.” Claire concluded grimly.
Jamie leaned closer to Ned. “How much does Willie ken about all this?”
“Well, as ye can imagine, nae a word of Geneva’s actions during her time in the Army were brought tae light until her arrest and trial, and while he’s undoubtedly learned some gruesome details about his mother’s past-”
“Does he ken about his conception?” Jamie bluntly stated, looking Ned directly in the eyes.
“To my knowledge, aye. He does.”
“Oh, that poor child!” Claire exclaimed. “I’ve tried to imagine how hard this must be for him...and the story that his grandparents must have told about you!”
“Aye,” Jamie growled. “I’m sure they didna paint me in my best light.”
“But still...no matter what they told him about you...he still wanted to find you. He still wanted to know who his father was. That speaks volumes, Jamie. He’s a wise young man.”
“Braw, bonnie, strong, canty, and...and brave.” Jamie couldn’t help himself. He was proud to have a son to add to his family. He was proud of his son for his bravery, traveling such a long way to find him. He’d never stop thanking God for Willie’s existence, no matter how they came to be.
“What’s next, Ned?” Jamie asked after a few moments.
“Well, the court date fer custody and the countersuits, etcetera, etcetera, is scheduled fer two weeks from today. I expect tae be representing ye, aye?”
“Aye,” Jamie smiled.
“We wouldn’t trust anyone else for the job,” Claire chimed in, giving the old man a hug.
“And ye’ll be joinin’ us fer dinner tonight, Ned,” Jamie insisted. Ned tried to refuse, but the Frasers wouldn’t hear of it.
It was a good idea, something everyone needed. Ned had an immense knowledge of fantastical Scottish lore and spent most of dinner sharing stories with the girls about legendary sea monsters in the lochs, love sonnets about mermaids and kelpies, and none of them could stop laughing at the way Ned tried to animate voices as he told his stories.
Despite the lightness of the event, it was a bit somber for Jamie. Deep down, the red headed leader of his household could hardly wait for the day when all three of his children were under his roof, safe and sound.
The court date arrives, and Jamie steps up to defend himself more than he’s ever in his life.
Thanks again for all your love on this series.
Disclaimer: I’m fairly certain 95% of the legal/courtroom stuff in this chapter is completely made up. Just an FYI :)
Mornings always were the worst for Jamie. And while today didn’t see him rising before the lark at five o’clock, it was still early enough to make him groan at the sound of his alarm clock’s blaring bark.
Claire stirred by his side as she awoke, and he could all but feel the nervous energy flowing through her.
“Today’s the day,” Jamie whispered in her ear, causing her to shiver.
“Are you as nervous as I am?” Claire asked. “Though, I don’t really know why I’m so nervous. It won’t be me upon that stand. And, it’s not like we’ve done anything wrong. We’re only there to defend ourselves, with a clean cut case against the Dunsany’s.”
“Aye,” Jamie replied, throwing back the covers and getting out of bed. The morning chill that accompanied them in the room at the early hours of dawn was not lost on his bare bollocks. “That doesna make it any less dauntin’, Sassenach. I think it’s the atmosphere o’ the courtroom itself. Makes yer heart race and spine tingle wi’ anxiety and worry, even if ye havena done wrong.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Claire dragged herself out of bed. Jamie could see the gooseflesh prickling over the vast expanse of gloriously white skin. The urge to warm her up with his own naked body heat was intense, but he pushed the feelings away.
“Would ye like the first shower, a nighean?” Jamie asked, throwing a pair of boxers, his robe and house slippers on.
“Only if you don’t mind.”
“Nae. I’ll start a pot, get the girls up. Mam says she has many a plan fer them today.”
“Good,” Claire called out as she brought the shower to life from their bathroom. “Maybe they’ll come home and be too tired to ask questions!”
Jamie chuckled as he heard the shower curtain rip back, then forth, as his wife stepped into the shower. What he wouldn’t give to join her this glorious day, but there were more pressing matters at hand.
Jamie and Claire agreed that while the court proceedings would require their presence, Faith and Brianna were best looked after at Lallybroch. Ellen MacKenzie Fraser was once again all too happy to have her granddaughters all to herself for a day.
“Claire and I canna thank ye enough fer this, Mam,” Jamie had said on the phone the previous night. “I ken it’s a wee bit short notice, I shouldna have waited sae long, I-”
“Och, dinna fash, mo ghille,” Ellen had cooed, “sometimes I wish ye’d just drop ‘em off wi’out any warning! Those are the days I live fer. I feel I dinna see the girls as much as I’d like, aye?”
Jamie smiled at the memory, and for the millionth time in his life, thanked God that his family didn’t lose her when she painfully miscarried what would have been his younger brother, Robert Fraser, in 1988.
He made his way towards the kitchen and started the coffee brewing process. He opened the front door just enough to grab the morning edition of “The Inverness Chronicle” without subjecting anyone outdoors to a unwelcomed view of his undergarments.
He set the paper on the kitchen counter, with the intention to skim through it before their appointment. Before he could pour himself a cup for himself and his wife, a sleepy redheaded ten year old emerged from her room.
“Ach, g’morning, a leannan,” Jamie said to Faith, kissing her lightly on the crown of her head. “Ye sleep alright?”
“Aye, Da,” Faith grumbled between a failed-to-suppress yawn. Jamie’s heart melted at the sound; he always found his daughters to be at their most adorable when they were waking up. Just like when they were but wee bairns in their mother’s arms.
He momentarily wondered if Willie would be just as adorable when waking up. Or, did he miss that part of his life? A small flash of anger passed through his gut at the notion of missing the critical years of his son’s life, and was gone just as quickly as it came.
The coffee machine whirled and beeped, signaling its completion. Jamie was just pouring coffee for the adults in the house when Claire emerged from the bedroom, hair wrapped in a towel and her bathrobe hugging her curves. Brianna was right beside her, walking with her eyes closed. If Claire hadn’t had a firm grip on her arm, Bree would have walked right into a wall.
“My girls,” Jamie called with a prideful smile. The beautiful wife, his amazing daughters, they embraced him with so much love, he could feel it with his every heartbeat.
“Are ye gonna bring our brother home, Da?” Brianna asked innocently. When Jamie looked down, he could see the pleading in her eyes. It broke his heart; she missed Willie.
“Aye,” Jamie answered the bravest he could, kissing her on the forehead. “I shall do all in my power tae being yer brother home wi’ us. Though, it might take some time.”
“I hope those bastards dinna try tae keep him from ye, Da,” Faith said with some bite to her words, “it’s no’ their right, blasted Sassenachs.”
“Faith Roberta Julie Fraser!” Claire cautioned sternly. “You know better than to use such language!”
“Dinna fash, mo chridhe,” Jamie interjected calmly, then turned to eldest daughter. “Who told ye that, a ghràidh?”
Faith smiled up at her father. “Uncle Ned.”
The grown-ups rolled their eyes at each other with a faint, amused grin on their faces; while Ned was exceedingly good at his job, he wasn’t one for discretion when it came to his “nieces.” Especially Faith, as she prided herself on being one of the “adults” despite only being ten. Plus, Ned had a soft spot in his heart for Jamie’s children. He had a hard time denying them their wishes.
“Weel, dinna repeat anythin’ the auld man said tae yer Grannie. She willna tolerate such atrocities bein’ spoken in her presence.”
“Aye Da,” Faith said as Claire kissed her on the head.
A few more hours had passed before Jamie and Claire were ushering their daughters out of the car just before the threshold of Lallybroch, Ellen waving a good luck hand in their direction, and eight o’clock saw them standing as the magistrate entered the courtroom.
Ned Gowan was seated in between Jamie and Claire at one table facing the magistrate’s podium. The table to their left sat the Dunsany’s, their lawyer, and Willie. Jamie couldn’t help but steal glances at his son’s direction; he was dressed in his Sunday Mass best. A neatly trimmed dark blue suit complete with a black tie fitted perfectly at the base of his throat. Jamie had a feeling John taught him the etiquette of wearing a proper three-piece suit.
Jamie was the first witness called to the stand, by Ned himself.
“Please state yer full name, date and place of birth fer the magistrate’s records,” Ned asked him.
He expected the Dunsany’s lawyer would be questioning him too, but he was ready. He plan to lay down everything he had to offer.
“James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. Born the 1st of May, 1980, and I am from Broch Mordha, Inverness-Shire, Scotland.”
With written affidavits from Rupert and several colleagues from the police station, documentation supporting his claim that the Dunsany’s committed fraud and defamation of character, and the paternity test results proving he was, indeed, William Clarence Dunsany’s biological father, he proceeded to tell his side of the story. While he spoke, Ned would occasionally get up and provide the court with documentation proving Jamie’s story was factual.
He was asked about his time as an infantryman for the British Army, and how he’d come to meet the late Geneva Dunsany. Recounting all the gory, traumatic details of his ordeal, he was suddenly very thankful he told Claire of his time as a prisoner of war. He was also thankful to Grey for his insistence on the matter.
A room full of strange and unknown men and women hearing it wasn’t as taxing on his mental state as he feared. It definitely helped his confidence when people in the courtroom were now looking at him with genuine sympathy and sorrow, and throwing dirty glares at the Dunsany’s table.
Next, he told the court that the day Willie showed up at his house, with a suitcase and plane ticket in his name, his wife was the one who received him and offered him a place to stay “out of the goodness of her heart” and “without judgement, bias, or ill-intent.”
Given there was documentation proving that Geneva Dunsany never saw nor spoke to Jamie again after his time as a POW, Jamie could not possibly have known they had conceived a child together by means of rape. There was also documentation submitted that proved while Geneva declared Jamie the father on Willie’s birth certificate, he was never notified of the birth, as was required by law.
The Dunsany’s lawsuit of taking away Jamie’s rights as Willie’s father, on the grounds of kidnapping and taking a hostage, was immediately dismissed with no chance of appeal.
At cross-examination, the Dunsany’s lawyer did all he could to try and dismantle, discredit, and disprove Jamie’s story. They tried to paint him as the monster William, Louisa, and Geneva claimed he was to Willie. But to no avail. Anything they had to say couldn’t be back up on paper. Most of their questions were objected by Ned and sustained by the magistrate.
“Weel, I think this court has heard all it needs tae,” the justice said to everyone, and no one, in the room. “Mr. Fraser, is there anything else ye’d like tae say ‘afore yer excused?”
“I do, my Lord,” Jamie sat up as straight as he could and faced his son, making such direct eye contact with him that it made the Dunsany’s visibly uncomfortable.
“Willie. I dinna ken if anyone’s ever told ye this. But...I’m sorry. I’m sorry fer the loss o’ yer mother.”
Quite a few eyebrows went up at this, and more than that gasped in surprise. But Jamie ignored them; he had a point.
“But make no mistake, lad. It’s no’ ‘cause I’m sorry fer her sake. Fer yers. A lad needs a mother as much as he needs a father, if not more so. I willna stand here and lie, say some mess about how she was a good woman and mother. I’m under oath, ye ken.”
That caused everyone in the room to chuckle lightly. Everyone, except William and Louisa Dunsany, that is.
“I canna take back those years I wasna around. I canna go back and change how ye came into the world. But I can make it right now. If ye’ll let me.” Jamie looked up at the magistrate, and the wigged man nodded.
“Ye may step down, Mr. Fraser.”
Jamie returned to his seat and was immediately embraced by Claire.
“My Lord, I now call Louisa Dunsany to the witness stand.” Ned sounded, and a look of panic shown on both the Dunsany’s faces. It appears that the older couple was expecting her husband to be required to testify. Jamie internally praised Ned for once again showing his legal prowess.
The older woman slowly got up and made her way towards the witness stand, swearing her truthfulness on the same Bible that Jamie did not too long ago, and took a seat.
“Will ye please state yer name, date and place of birth fer the magistrate’s records?” Ned asked.
“Louisa Annabel Ludwig Dunsany, born June 23, 1957 in Trafford, Greater Manchester, England,” Mrs. Dunsany replied. Jamie could see the tiny beads of sweat gathering at her hairline as she spoke.
“Thank ye fer that, Mrs. Dunsany,” Ned went on. He took off his glasses, and brought both index fingers to his lips. A momentary pause, everyone in the room holding their breath.
“I only have one question fer ye this day, Mrs. Dunsany,” Ned began, but didn’t elaborate for another good minute.
“Objection!” called the Dunsany’s lawyer. “Question should be elaborated on!”
“Sustained,” the magistrate replied, “Mr. Gowan if you could please ask more elaborate open ended questions, thank you.”
“O’ course, My Lord,” Ned answered with the cheerfulness of a man who had just been told he’s won the lottery. Facing Louisa, he started again. “Mrs. Dunsany, I have been practicing law fer nearly 30 years. I have defended innocent and not so innocent clients, with all kinds of different rhymes and reasons as to why they were summoned to court in the first place. This is the first time in my judicial tenure where I have been called to defend a man from a couple who appear to want nothing more than to keep his own child away from him.
“If I kent nothing more about Jamie Fraser, I do ken this much: there isna a bone in his body tae suggest that he would bring harm to any child he sired. I mean, if that were the case, his wife wouldna still be marrit to him and his daughters would most likely be in the care of someone else.
“The man sitting behind me fought fer his country, his Queen, and the Crown, wi’ honor. He almost didna make it back from that war alive, thanks tae yer daughter, and yet still continued to thrive to the best of his ability, marrit the love of his life, and brought into the world two wonderful wee lassies.”
“So, fer the life of me,” Ned went on, “I canna rightly understand why, upon yer grandson discovering he, in fact, does have a father, and a father that wants him, why ye would deliberately interfere with that? Especially after he’d said many time that he wished tae live wi’ Mr. and Mrs. Fraser. AND! On top of that, ye go through great, and illegal lengths, tae defame and defraud an honest man, make his life more of a hell than it’s already been, all in the name of...what? Keeping his son from him? None of this adds up. None of this makes sense, Mrs. Dunsany. Help me understand: why?”
By the time the aging lawyer was done speaking, Mrs. Dunsany was in tears. Jamie, however, was practically bouncing in his seat with excitement. The jig was up. Either Louisa was about to make some wild and horrid confession that she and William Dunsany had ill intent towards Jamie as the father of their grandchild and wanted to make his life as miserable as possible, all in the name of their late daughter’s honor (for whatever that was worth) or...she had nothing. No reason or explanation behind their actions. And it would reveal just the kind of people her and her husband really were.
“It was never my intention to cause Mr. Fraser any harm,” a tearful and, for the first time, somewhat remorseful, Louisa Dunsany said. “My daughter’s death was something of a shocking revelation to my family. None of us knew what she had done while she was in the service of the Crown. I know she was angry with her father and I for trying to arrange a marriage for her, but we never believed she was capable of…
“And despite knowing everything she told us about Willie’s conception, and her time overseas, was a lie...I was in denial. I knew that if Willie’s father, whoever he was, ever came looking for him, he would be within his rights to take Willie away from us. And I didn’t want that! I didn’t want to lose the smallest bit of Geneva that I had left! But, Mr. Fraser,” Louisa made eye contact with Jamie for the first time, and she was met with an icy, heart-stopping glare.
She didn’t waver at the sight though.
“It was never my intention to cause you harm. To bring turmoil to your family. I know how painful it is because my own family was torn apart by Geneva’s death. You have to believe me!”
Silence fell upon the courtroom. Not knowing what else to do, Jamie innocently raised his hand.
“Mr. Fraser,” the magistrate said, “if you have something to say in response, please step forward. Please note, that you are still under oath, and that anything you say can be used against you while this court is in session. Do you understand?”
“I do, my Lord,” Jamie replied.
Jamie stepped forward with Ned standing right beside him. He faced Geneva’s...no...his rapist’s mother. He would not feel any fear. He would not give Geneva’s ghost the satisfaction of being afraid. Those days were over.
“Mrs. Dunsany...I canna stand here and tell ye I ken what it’s like tae lose a child. As a father, ‘tis my greatest fear. I’ve seen war, I’ve seen death, and felt the pain o’ it all… the suffering...my wife can speak o’ the same as she’s a war veteran herself...but tae even think about havin’ tae put one of my daughters into the ground, cold as Death himself...I meant what I said tae Willie. I am sorry fer the loss o’ his mother.
“That being said, I will also no’ lie and say that I understand the meaning behind yer actions. If Willie had expressed his desires tae find me, and wanted tae live wi’ me, that wouldna have changed anything. We coulda worked this out like adults. You, me, my wife, and Mr. Dunsany. I wouldna have kept him from ye, unless it was the lad’s desire. Ye couldna even trust me enough, no’ as his father, but as a human being. Ye degraded my character, dragged my good name through the mud, over this...silly notion that I would dishonor yer wishes, were that the case. The only reason I am still employed by the Scottish Police Force is because my good character and name are just that strong.
“What Geneva did tae me,” Jamie’s jaw clenched as the demons from his past tried to invade his mind, but he stomped them out. They did not have the floor in this court room today. “She brought her demise down upon herself. The Crown delivered justice tae me that day. There is no forgiveness there. For there was no reason fer it. I willna grieve fer my enemies. Geneva Dunsany made herself my enemy. Given what I and my family has had tae suffer, at yer hand...ye made the monster she became. However...that is something I willna hold over my son’s head. What’s done is done. Now, all we can do is move on.”
“Thank ye, Mr. Fraser,” the magistrate said. Claire could see that despite the wigged man’s stoic face, he was on the verge of becoming emotional. Jamie came to sit back down beside her, and they gripped each other’s hand tightly.
Ned stood again, facing the magistrate.
“My Lord, the Fraser family are not an avaricious people. They dinna seek monetary compensation fer their woes, nor are they pressing any charges against the Dunsany’s. All they are asking is fer the young William Dunsany tae be given a choice. With whom does the lad wish tae live with. It is their desire that he reside with them, but will respect any choice he makes of his own free will, without any influence from either side.”
The magistrate didn’t even have to blink before saying, “I feel that would be most appropriate here. I call forth William Clarence Dunsany to the witness stand.”
Willie shakily stood up and made his way towards the front of the court room. After he swore his oath of truthfulness on the bible that his father and grandmother touched, he was seated. The magistrate turned his chair to face him.
“Hi, William,” the old wigged man said, with an earnest smile. “Or, rather, I’ve been told you prefer Willie, to distinguish yourself from your maternal grandfather. May I call you such?”
“Yes, you man, my Lord,” Willie said. Jamie smiled a bit.
“Alright, Willie it is.” The magistrate cleared his throat. “Within my power as magistrate of this court proceeding, I believe it is in the best interest of everyone present here that you choose where you wish to reside. After all, you are the only one who can live your life, and you should be able to live somewhere free of worry and strife. The choices of your future permanent residence sit before you. Please, take as much time as you need, and if you wish to speak with anyone for advice in private, you may call upon either Mr. Gowan, or your grandparents’ lawyer.”
Willie say in the wooden booth, and took a good, hard look between James and Claire Fraser, and the parents of the late Geneva Dunsany.
Chapter 13: Finale
This was the hardest work I’ve done for this fandom. Hoping for lighter fics in the future lol. This is the final chapter. One last BIG thank you for all your love on this series!
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.”