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Mo Ghraidh (My Love)

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Chapter One

 

June 2005

 

 

Everyone at Broch Mordha Academy was excited about the upcoming annual end of year ceilidh. 

 

The lads were getting excited about asking the lassies to be their dates. The lassies were excited about the opportunity to go dress shopping and dress up for a wonderful night out with their school friends.

 

Almost all the pupils in the school were paired up with dates. Except for Claire, Jenny, Geillis, Mary, Jamie, Willie, Ian, Rupert and Angus. The nine pupils had all been friends since childhood. They grew up together in the small town of Broch Mordha, and had all been close friends throughout both Primary and Secondary school. Every year, the nine friends go to the dance together as a group. 

 

 

 

Claire was busy putting away her history books in her locker before walking home with her friends. She had been held up speaking with her teacher, and asked her friends to meet her out front. Whilst she was putting away her books, Frank Randall suddenly appeared behind her.

 

“Claire.”

 

“Frank. What can I do for you? I really need to be heading home.” Claire stated without turning round to face him.

 

“I was wondering if you would like to accompany me to the ceilidh next week?” He asked nervously.

 

Claire and Frank had been an item for almost two months, until Claire realised that they weren’t right for each other. She didn’t feel the connection with him she thought should be there. He was a really nice lad. They had been quite friendly before, but they hadn’t really spoken since she ended things. She was aware that he wanted them to try again.

 

“I’m sorry Frank, I don’t think that would be a good idea. I’m going with my friends, like always. I’m sure some other girl would be more than happy to go with you though.”

 

“I don’t want some other girl though Claire. I only want you. I know we could have so much fun at the dance together.” He was almost pleading with her.

 

Claire closed her locker over and turned to face Frank. “I’m sorry Frank, I don’t think so.”  

 

Claire moved away from her locker and headed for the exit. On her way down the corridor, her friend Jamie was stood waiting for her. He didn’t look very pleased to see Frank Randall watching them.

 

“Jamie, I thought you were waiting outside?” Claire asked him as she approached him.

 

“I just came to see if ye would be long. The others have started to walk on.” Jamie kept his eyes on Frank as he walked away in the other direction. “Was he bothering ye then?” Jamie asked Claire, referring to Frank.

 

“No. He just asked me to be his date to the ceilidh. I said I didn’t think it was a good idea.” She could tell Jamie wasn’t happy, so she took him by the arm and dragged him out of the school building. “Come on Mr Fraser. Walk me home.”

 

 

 

Claire and Jamie took their time walking home. They very much enjoyed each other’s company and didn’t feel the need to hurry to catch up with the rest of their friends. 

 

“Can I ask ye somethin’ Sassenach?”

 

“Of course. What is it?” Claire asked as they were approaching Claire’s house.

 

“I was wonderin’ if ye wanted to come to the ceilidh wi’ me?” Jamie asked with some hesitation, worried of being knocked back.

 

“We’re already going together Jamie.” She chuckled.

 

“Och, I ken that. I just... I wondered how ye would feel about goin’... as my date, instead of goin’ as... just pals?” Jamie asked shyly as he focused on the pavement they were walking on instead of looking at Claire.

 

“You’re asking me to be your date to the ceilidh?”

 

“Well, aye. I mean... only if ye wanted to. We can go as pals if ye want, I just—“

 

Claire grabbed Jamie’s arm and made him turn to face her. “I would love to be your date Jamie.” Claire said with a wide smile on her face.

 

Jamie couldn’t help but smile back. “Good. Thank ye Sassenach. I’ll make sure we have a wonderful time.” He said as they continued walking up the street to Claire’s house.

 

 

 

When they got to Claire’s front door, she invited Jamie in, but he kindly declined and said he had to get home to help his da on the farm.

 

“Jamie, can I ask why you asked me to be your date to the dance, and not some other girl? I mean... girls are always throwing themselves at you, praying for you to notice them. Why me?” Claire asked him shyly as he walked down her path heading for the gate.

 

“Yer my best friend Sassenach, I was hoping we could be more?”

 

 

Jamie walked away leaving Claire stood at her front door frozen in place with a smile plastered on her face that she was sure wouldn’t fade any time soon. 

 

When Claire’s mother Julia eventually managed to coax Claire in to the house, the first thing Claire did was call her friend Jenny, Jamie’s older sister, and her friend Geillis to tell them that she and Jamie were going to the ceilidh together. Geillis and Jenny were over the moon at the news. It had been clear ever since Jamie and Claire were small children, that there was some sort of chemistry between them. It was only a matter of time that they got together.

 

 

 

 

 

The night of the Ceilidh came, and Jamie had his father drive him over to pick up Claire and take them both to the dance.

 

Both Jamie and Claire’s parents were over the moon that their children were going to the dance together. They also knew that there was a spark between the two best friends. They had all wondered what had taken them so long to act on their feelings for one another. 

 

Jamie had knocked on Claire’s front door and was greeted by her parents. It didn’t take long for Claire to come in to view behind them. She was dressed in a beautiful long, laced sleeved bright red gown that hit the floor. She wore a gorgeous silver necklace with her initials on it that Jamie had bought her last Christmas. The red of her dress matched the red of Jamie’s kilt. He was wearing his Fraser colours with white shirt, and a black waistcoat and an Argyll jacket. 

 

Jamie could barely breathe due to how beautiful Claire looked. Claire felt the same about him. She had seen Jamie in his kilt many a time before over the years, but he looked different to her tonight. 

 

 

 

Claire and Jamie had lots of fun together at the ceilidh. They laughed, they danced, they had a fun night with their friends as well as spending time just the two of them. It was perfect. 

 

As the ceilidh was coming to an end, Jamie had asked Claire is she would be willing to let him walk her home, instead of him calling for his dad to come and get them. She accepted his proposal and they told Jamie’s brother Willie what they were doing. 

 

Jamie and Claire left the school hand in hand and enjoyed a summer nights stroll home. Since it was June, it was still daylight, even at nine in the evening. There was no rush for them to get home, so they took their time walking, enjoying each other’s company.

 

“Thank you so much for asking me to be your date tonight Jamie. I really enjoyed myself.” 

 

“You’re verra welcome Sassenach. I’m glad ye had fun.”

 

 

When they reached Claire’s house, they both sat on the step for a good ten minutes just gazing at each other and holding hands.

 

“Sassenach, I’d verra much like to kiss ye. May I?” Jamie asked nervously.

 

Claire nodded as she smiled at him. “You don’t have to ask me Jamie.”

 

 

Right there, on Claire’s front step, Jamie and Claire shared their first proper kiss. It was slow and gentle. 

 

Claire moved her hands out of Jamie’s grasp and slid her hands up to his cheeks. Jamie in turn, moved his hands to hold on to her waist. 

 

It wasn’t until they heard Claire’s father clearing his throat at the door that they pulled apart. 

 

Jamie stood up immediately and apologised to Claire and her father. Claire couldn’t help but laugh. 

 

“Ye have exactly sixty seconds to say goodnight to my lass Fraser, before I kick ye doon that path.” Claire’s father mocked with a huge grin on his face.

 

“Aye, sorry. I’ll be on my way.”

 

Claire’s father grunted and then made his way back in to the house grinning at his wife.

 

Jamie kissed Claire on the cheek and made his way down the path. “I’m gonna marry ye one day, ye ken that?” He shouted to Claire who was still on the front step.

 

“Really? And what if I say no?” She called back.

 

“Ken what? I dinna think ye will Sassenach.” Jamie said.

 

“No, I don’t think I would.” She said simply.

 

They both smiled at each other and Claire stood there on the front step until Jamie Fraser was no longer in sight.

Chapter Text

Claire’s POV

 

 

June 2008

 

 

Today is Jamie and I’s third anniversary. 

 

It’s hard to believe that we have been together for three years now. 

 

No one at school thought we would make it any where near this long together. We knew though, we both did. We know we will be together for the rest of our lives. 

 

 

 

Tonight is not only our third anniversary together, it is also the night of our last school ceilidh. After the summer, I will be heading off to study medicine in St Andrews, whilst Jamie goes to study to become a P.E teacher in Dundee. 

 

It took a lot of hard work and saving, but Jamie and I have managed to save enough to be able to rent a little two bedroom cottage in St Andrews so we will be able to stay together. Dundee is only about half an hour away, so Jamie will be able to drive back and forth no problem.

 

When Jamie and I first announced we wanted to look for a place of our own so we could live together instead of moving in to the halls of residence, we expected some push back from our families, but they supported our decision. 

 

It’s all very exciting. Jamie has managed to secure a part time job in Dundee as an assistant coach to one of the local schools football teams. He’s really excited about that. I have also managed to get a part time job as a waitress in one of the restaurants in St Andrews. I don’t turn eighteen until October, so I won’t be able to do any bar work until then. 

 

These jobs should be enough to keep us going whilst in school. It will be tricky, working and studying, but we’re both prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure we are together. 

 

 

 

Jamie’s older sister Jenny and I are getting ready for the ceilidh at my place tonight. The plan is for Jamie and Ian to come and pick us up from here to take us to the dance. Ian and Jenny have been dating for almost a year now. The four of us went to Primary school together. Jamie and I could see something between Ian and Jenny since we were little kids, but neither of them admitted to each other of their feelings until Jenny finished school last year. Jamie told Ian that he had better tell Jenny soon about his feelings for her before she met someone else at college. Neither of them have looked back since. They make a wonderful couple.

 

 

 

I haven’t seen Jamie since lunch time, but I’m sure he will have something special planned for us after the dance. He has been saying for months now how he wanted to make this night special for me. To be honest, I don’t need any gifts or extravagant surprises, I just need him.

 

 

 

Time is getting on, and the boys haven’t arrived to collect us yet. I call Jamie multiple times, but he doesn’t answer. I start to send Jamie multiple texts, but he doesn’t respond to any of them either.

 

Jamie, Jenny and I are almost ready. Where are you?

 

 

Jamie? I’ve tried to call you six times now, but you’re going straight to voicemail.

 

 

Jamie?

 

 

Jamie, you’re really starting to worry me now?

 

 

Are you avoiding me?

 

 

Have I done something?

 

 

Has something happened?

 

 

Will you please call me or text me so I know you’re alright!

 

 

Jamie?

 

 

I love you.

 

 

 

Jenny calls Ian, and eventually gets through to him and he says he will be here for us soon.

 

 

 

When Ian arrives, he is alone in the car. No sign of Jamie anywhere.

 

“Where is he?” I ask Ian as he gets out of the car to open the car doors for Jenny and I.

 

“He’s running a bit late. I dinna ken why Claire, he just told me to come and get ye both and make sure ye have a guid time. He says he shouldn’t be too long.”

 

 

 

I’m at the dance, stood in the corner, on my own. Jenny is dancing with Ian. My friend Geillis is dancing with some lad from our religious education class. Mary Hawkins is dancing with the youngest Randall brother, Alex. And Angus is doing everything he can to try and sneak some whisky in to the hall. Most of our group finished school last year and are now away to college, university, or working.

 

 

 

“Where’s Fraser tonight?” Frank Randall asks.

 

“He’ll be here soon. He just got held up.” I say politely. 

 

“Well, in that case... would you care to dance with me? You shouldn’t be sat out here, hiding in the corner like this.” I give Frank a small smile, but decline his invitation to dance.

 

His brother Jack spies Frank and I speaking and I can see him making his way over to us. “Where’s that man of yours tonight Claire? Got a better offer?” He snarks at me. Jack absolutely hates women. It’s obvious he has a crush on Jamie and is annoyed that Jamie will never be with him.

 

“He will be here soon.” I snap at Jack as I push past the brothers to go and get myself another bottle of water.

 

“The dance is almost over Claire! I don’t think he’s coming, do you?” Jack calls out to me. I just ignore him

 

 

 

When the ceilidh finishes, Jenny, Ian and I walk out to the car park to find Jamie casually leaning against Ian’s car.

 

“Jamie? Where the hell have you been? I waited all night for you and you didn’t turn up? Everyone was asking for you!” I stomp over to him and shove him as he walks closer to me.

 

“I’m sorry Claire. Truly. I need to speak wi’ ye though.” Jamie says to me before turning to face Ian and Jenny. “Can ye give us a few minutes and then can ye take Claire home please Ian?”

 

“Aye, we’ll wait in the car.” Ian says with a nod to me.

 

Jamie walks over to the side of the school building. Away from everyone coming out of the main entrance, and away from people heading to their cars in the car park.

 

I follow slowly behind him wondering what the hell is going on.

 

“Claire, I dinna ken how to say this...” he trails off. Not even bothering to look me in the eyes.

 

“What is it Jamie? You’re scaring me. Where have you been?” I try to reach out to him, but he moves himself away out of my reach.

 

“I’m sorry Claire, but I canna do this any more.”

 

“You can’t do what any more?”

 

“This... us. We dinna work any more. I’m sorry. I think we should end things.”

 

I can’t stop the tears from falling down my eyes and my cheeks. “You don’t mean that Jamie. I love you. We love each other. We are starting our future together.”

 

“I’m sorry Claire, we’re done.”

 

With that, Jamie Fraser just turns around and walks away.

 

I call after him, but he doesn’t answer me.

 

“Jamie! Jamie!”

 

I back myself up against the wall. “But I love you.” I say quietly and slide down the wall with my cries calling louder and louder and the tears streaming faster and faster down my face.

 

How could he do this to me? 

 

It’s our three year anniversary.

 

We’re moving to St Andrews in two months. We have a cottage there. Our cottage.

 

We were going to build a life together. Our life. 

 

We were going to get married. Have children. Be a family.

 

How can he just dump me like that?

 

How can he just walk away from me? From us?

Chapter Text

October 2016

 

Jamie’s POV

 

 

Something, or someone rather, wakens me by nibbling on my ear. I dinna need to open my eyes to ken it’s no her. No mo ghraidh.

Rolling over on my side so I dinna need to look at the lass I brought back to my hotel room last night. I take a deep breath and tell the lass to knock it off. 

I ken I had a bit to drink last night after the premiere of “Alexander Malcolm’s” latest movie. I ken I brought this lass back wi’ me when I shouldna have, but I was lonely. Bored. Fed up. I ken it’s no right to treat women they way I do, but for some reason, they dinna seem to mind. I have a bit to drink and bring back the easiest fuck I can find to my hotel room. It’s verra rarely I end up wi’ them clinging to me, wantin’ me to settle down wi’ them and get married and start a family. It’s happened a couple of times, but usually they’re alright wi’ it being a one time thing. 

One thing I never do is bring them back to my one bedroom cottage in Llangrannog, Wales. I dinna bring anyone back to my house. I dinna even think my management team have been in my house yet, and I’ve had that wee place since I came out of the army four years ago. No long before I started my acting career.

 

There is only one lass in the world I would share my life wi’, but I lost her.

 

I move to slide my legs out of the bed and sit up, rubbing a hand over my face to wake myself up a bit more. “Ye can use the bathroom first if ye like, but when I come out of there myself, I want ye to be gone fae this room. Clear?”

I can feel the lass moving back towards her side of the bed and jumping out to go use the bathroom. I take the opportunity to grab my phone and see what messages I’ve missed since last night.

The majority are from my manager, Laoghaire.

 

Where are ye?

 

I’m at the bar.

 

Where did ye go Alex?

 

Alex?

 

Come on Alex, dinna ignore me.

 

Liam said ye left wi’ some brunette lass. Who is she?

 

Alex?

 

Alex???????

 

 

The message about leavin’ wi’ a brunette lass confuses me. I never go wi’ brunettes. Never. I always leave the parties wi’ blondes or redheads. Never brunettes.

The only brunette I could ever get close to was her. Mo ghraidh.

 

I dinna normally face the women I sleep wi’ the next day, but after Laoghaire’s message, I feel like I need to see this woman.

When she finally appears outta the bathroom, I get a good look at her. True enough, she’s a brunette. No the same though. This woman’s hair is a little lighter. It’s a lot straighter too. Her eyes are green. No a golden brown like my favourite whisky. She canna be more than twenty, if she is that. 

As I move past her to make my own way in to the bathroom, I almost shit masel as she turns to speak before walking out the hotel room. 

“Thank you for a wonderful night Alex.” She smiles at me.

 

She’s fucking English! 

Of course she is. I’m in bloody London after all. There was a verra high chance she would be English.

 

“I left my number there beside the bed. Call me if you fancy another round sometime. My name is Geneva by the way.” She winks at me and then leaves my hotel room.

 

What the fuck?!

 

 

 

 

 

After I get myself ready, I head down to the gym for a work out. It’s been a wild few days and I really need to blow off some steam. Preferably no wi’ booze and women. It is only 11am anyway. 

The gym seems quite busy for a Saturday morning. Normally that doesna bother me cause I just go in, do the work out I want to do and then leave. But wi’ the film premiere last night, a few folk are watchin’ me this mornin’. I canna be doin’ with this. 

I head back out of the gym and make my way down to the reception to leave my gym gear there for when I return. A quite run in the park sounds like a better idea to me the day. 

 

Before steppin’ outside, I put on my sunglasses, my baseball cap and I  stick my AirPods in. Hopefully no one will recognise me, and if they do... hopefully they wilna try and stop me for a picture or an autograph.

 

 

 

When I get back to my hotel, I quickly grab my gym bag from a member of staff and take the stairs up to my room. I dinna have to leave for another couple of hours, so I’m in no rush.

As I come out of the staircase door and walk down the hallway to my hotel room, I see Laoghaire casually leaning against my door waiting on me. She looks pissed though.

“Where the hell have ye been Alex? Dae ye ken how much it cost me to get a last minute room here last night because ye didna wait on me?!” She spits out at me.

I just shrug my shoulders in a not bothered attitude and ignore her as I push her out of the way to let myself in to my room.

I made the mistake of sleeping wi’ Laoghaire one night last year after I won my second BAFTA. It shouldna have happened, but it did. Now the lass thinks she and I should be together. I even caught her lookin’ at bridal magazines a few times. She’s made no secret of lettin’ me ken she wanted me to be her groom.

If it was up to me, I’d sack the lass, but I canna. Her da’ is my lawyer and has been a verra good friend to me over the last few years. If I got rid of Laoghaire, I’d probably lose he da as well. 

Whenever we need to stay in hotels, Laoghaire never makes a reservation for herself. She assumes she can just stay wi me. Maybe that’s why I seem to be pickin’ up more random lassies now than I used to, and bringin’ them back to my room?

As I make my way in to my room, Laoghaire follows me in. I’d rather she didna, but we do need to discuss somethin’. Somethin’ I’d rather no think about. 

 

My older sister Jenny passed away a few days ago after a tough battle wi’ breast cancer. I hadna seen or spoken to my sister since the night of my senior ceilidh. No that I attended it, but I saw my sister that day, and also that night as I was leavin’ the house wi’ nowt but a single rucksack, my phone, my wallet and the clothes on my back. 

 

I had just turned eighteen and I was really struggling at that time of my life. 

 

To everyone who knew me or saw me, they thought I had the perfect life. I was what they called in the “popular crowd” at school. I had loads of friends, I was in the school football team and the school basketball team. I was editor of the school newspaper. I also had the most beautiful, smart and funny lass on my arm. I couldna believe my luck when she agreed to be my date to the school ceilidh when we were in third year. She was my world. Sometimes I wonder how I managed it all.

 

 

After the summer, I was meant to go to university in Dundee and train to be a P.E. Teacher. She was heading to St Andrews to study medicine. She was the smartest person I had ever met. I knew she would go on and do great things. 

 

Unfortunately I had my struggles and my demons, and I took the cowards way out, and I left all my family and friends behind to join the army instead. 

 

Today I will be making my way back to Broch Mordha for the first time in eight years to say goodbye to my sister at her funeral in a few days. 

 

I dinna ken if she will be there. I hope so. Even if I canna speak to Her, i want to see her. Even if it’s just a glimpse from a distance. 

 

 

 

 

Since I havena been in touch wi’ anyone from my past, I dinna ken what I’ll be walkin’ in to when I return. I ken it wilna be pretty though. 

 

I had heard from Laoghaire’s father about Jenny’s death. He filled me in on what he knew, but it wasna much. Apparently Jenny had been battling cancer for two years. She stopped treatment when she kent it wasna workin’. She wanted to spend what time she had left wi’ her friends and family. Mainly her husband Ian, and their three children. I didna ken she and Ian were married and had children, but it makes me happy to ken that. I’m sure they made each other verra happy. Apparently it was my older brother Willie, Jenny’s twin, who had contacted Laoghaire’s father to ask him to pass the information on to me. 

 

 

“I don’t ken why ye can’t just fly up the day of the funeral and then fly back that night Alex.” Laoghaire states.

 

She had offered to come wi’ me, but I was adamant I go on my own.

 

“I dinna have any work commitments this week anyway, so I thought I would take my time and drive there and drive back. Give me time to clear my head a’fore I get there.”

 

“I can still come with ye though. Ye shouldn’t be alone at a time like this Alex.” 

 

“I’m goin’ on my own!” I say firmly.

 

 

 

 

Two hours later, I’m checked out of the hotel in central London and starting my journey for home. I plan to drive to Manchester today and spend the night in a hotel there. Then tomorrow, I’ll make the rest of my way up to Broch Mordha. 

 

The funeral isna until Tuesday, so I suppose I could maybe stay in Glasgow or Edinburgh tomorrow night to break up the journey a bit more. 

 

I’ll wait and see how I feel.

 

 

 

 

 

Claire’s POV

 

 

I don’t know how we got to this point. 

 

Jenny was so happy and full of life... right up until the end. 

 

The cancer had definitely taken a toll on her physically and mentally, but she powered through. She was the bravest, strongest person I have ever met in my life. I just can’t believe she’s gone. 

 

 

 

 

It was only six weeks ago the damn stubborn woman was jumping out of a plane to raise money and awareness for cancer research UK. She had managed to raise an amazing £2,225 from the people of Broch Mordha alone. Not bad for a small town in the Scottish highlands. Jenny’s overall total was well over ten thousand pounds. 

 

It wasn’t just locals or friends and family who backed her and supported her, it was acquaintances she had met through her work as a home economics teacher at the school, or fellow patients and their families from the hospital. Some people who donated were complete strangers. It was incredible. 

 

Wee Ian, Maggie and Kitty will probably never remember the amazing things their mother did to raise money and awareness for the disease that took her from us, so it’s up to Ian, Willie and Mary, Geillis and me and Frank to make sure they know how wonderful their mother was.

 

A fighter right up until the very end.

 

 

 

When Jenny sat Geillis and I down to tell us she was stopping treatment, we were both in shock. We were hurt, angry and confused. We wanted to support Jenny and her decision, but we couldn’t understand why she was giving up the fight. At least, that’s what it looked like to us. 

 

We did everything we could think of to try and convince Jenny to resume her chemotherapy treatment, but she refused. It took Geillis and I a few days to begin to understand Jenny’s reasoning. 

 

The three of us were at the park with Jenny’s three children. They were laughing and playing and running around. And then out of no where, Jenny had ran over to join in all the fun. It was the first time in almost a year Geillis and I had seen her with so much energy. For so long she had been so weak and tired from her treatments. It was difficult to watch. 

 

But seeing her like that with her children, it started to make sense to Geillis and I. That was why she decided to stop treatment. She wasn’t giving up. She was just making sure her last few months were spent enjoying what time she had left with those she loved. 

 

It was difficult, but I could see then that Jenny had made the right choice. The children won’t remember much as they grow older, but at least they will know that their mother spent her last few months being the best mother she could be. She was making every second count.

 

 

 

 

It’s her funeral in two days. I don’t know how I’m going to cope. I have to be strong though. I have to be strong for Ian and the children. 

 

When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t face any one. The plan was for us all to meet up at Lallybroch, Ian and Jenny’s home and spend the day together like every other Sunday. I couldn’t do it though. Call me selfish, maybe I am, but I just couldn’t. It’s too hard.

 

Instead of joining all our friends and family, I asked my husband, Frank to take our son and daughter over to Lallybroch and give my apologies. I was planning on staying at home, but I couldn’t do that either. I ended up walking the three miles from my house to my shop in the town centre. The front of the shop is a natural remedies store. I didn’t end up becoming a doctor as planned, but I still wanted to help people and heal them. The back of the store is a florist and out the back, I have a good plot of land with a couple of greenhouses. I’m able to grow my own herbs for the natural remedies store. 

 

Both businesses have been thriving. I’ve put a lot of hard work into making them run as smoothly as possible. My husband has been my biggest supporter. Frank comes from a family where they believe women should be seen and not heard. When I first opened the florist, six years ago, his parents and older brother Jack tried to talk me out of it. Told me Frank would earn enough for our family when he became a teacher. I didn’t take any notice though, either did Frank. He supported my decision from the very start. 

 

Frank and his younger brother Alex are nothing like their father, or their brother. Sometimes, I can hardly believe they come from the same family. That the three brothers were raised the same way, with the same parents.

 

I have to say though, my relationship with Jack has changed a lot over the years since Frank and I were married. I think Jack struggled coming to terms with his sexuality when he was younger. Since both his parents passed, he has been a completely different man. He hasn’t settled down or anything, and he and I still have our issues now and again, but he absolutely dotes on my children. Especially my daughter, which surprises me since I know how much he hated girls when we were in school. My daughter absolutely idolises him as well. They really are quite the double act.

 

 

 

As I sit through in my little office that divides the natural remedies store and the florists, I can hear the door open and closing in the florists. I don’t need to go out and see who it is, because I know exactly who it is.

 

“Ye alright lass? Frank said ye had a migraine. I knew that wasna the case though.” My dad comes in to my office and sits down beside me on the small sofa. “I went by the house, but ye werna there. I kent ye would be here.” He moves closer to me and wraps his arm around me.

 

“I’m fine dad, really. I just... I couldn’t face being around so many people today is all. I just needed some space. It’s been a tough few days.”

 

“Aye, it has that lass. But, Jenny wouldna want ye sat here on yer own. If she was here, she would be kickin’ yer arse all the way up to Lallybroch.” He laughs.

 

I laugh too and nod my head in agreement. “That’s true.”

 

“What is it lass? Dinna tell me it’s nowt, I ken ye well enough to ken that somethin’ else is botherin’ ye.”

 

I remove myself from my fathers arms and walk over to the other side of the small room.

 

“Claire? Tell me what’s wrong.” 

 

“I overheard you and Willie speaking last night.”

 

“Ah. I see.” Dad says as he leans back on the sofa and crosses his arms over his chest.

 

“Do you think he’ll come back?” I ask curiously.

 

“I honestly dinna ken lass. He hasna returned for anythin’ else over the last eight years, has he?” Dad stands and walks towards me and pulls me in for a tight hug. “Dinna worry about him lass. Ye have a loving husband, two beautiful bairns. All yer friends, and me.” He pulls back and smiles down at me. “Jamie Fraser may of been Brian and Ellen’s son, my own god son, but he walked away and never looked back. I doubt we’ll ever see that lad again.”

 

“I don’t ever want to see him again dad. I just... Jenny was his sister, he should be here.”

 

“I ken lass, but we’ve all managed fine wi’ out him. He seems to be doin’ well for himself on his own. Dinna gi’ that lad a second thought, alright?” I nod my head as my dad holds me tighter once again before letting me go. “Come on lass, Frank’s been worried about ye.”

 

 

 

 

When my father and I get to Lallybroch, I walk in the door and it’s like a mad house. Usual Sunday here. I can’t help but smile and think Jenny would be loving this right now. 

 

Willie’s wife Mary and Geillis have all the children in the kitchen baking cakes and loaves. That’s what Jenny used to do with them on a Sunday afternoon. Now it’s up to us to keep that tradition going.

 

 

 

“You alright darling?” Frank asks as he comes up behind me and wraps his arms around my waist.

 

I lean back in to him and smile. “Better now I’m here.”

 

Frank looks at my father. “Thank you for checking in on her Murtagh.”

 

My father smiles at Frank and I before walking in to the kitchen to taste his grandchildren’s baking.

Chapter Text

Claire’s POV

I was hoping this was all just some bad dream. But it isn’t.

Today is the day we lay my dear friend Jenny Murray to rest.

I wasn’t able to get much sleep last night, and because of that, either did Frank. He got up after realising I wouldn’t settle, and he went and made me a cup of tea. We sat up in bed for hours just drinking tea and talking about Jenny and what an amazing woman she was.

After a while, Frank pulled me closer to him and reminded me that Jenny wouldn’t want me laying awake all night feeling sorry for her or her family.

It took us a while, but I finally managed to doze of wrapped in my husbands arms.

 

“Mummy?”

“What is it Bree? We need to get ready to leave for the church soon.” I tell my young daughter.

“She doesna feel well mummy. She says her tummy hurts.” My son Willie informs me as his sister looks like she’s about to burst out in to tears.

I know very well that my daughter doesn’t have a tummy ache, she just doesn’t want to go to the funeral. I can’t say I blame her. The children are quite young, but they’ve never said they didn’t want to go. With Brianna though, I could tell she was struggling.

“Alright my darling.” I say to her as I sit down on the couch and pull her on to my lap. “Me and your father need to go to say goodbye to Aunt Jenny, but why don’t I see if your Uncle Jack can take care of you both, huh?” I ask her and she nods her head yes.

“I want to say bye to Aunt Jenny too though.” Willie cries.

“Alright, you can come with your father and I.” I tell him with a small smile.

I kiss my daughter on the forehead and lay her down on the couch and leave her brother with her to keep her company whilst I make her a glass of juice.

When I tell Frank about her not wanting to come to the funeral, he completely understands, but isn’t keen on the idea of Jack watching her.

“Why don’t I just stay home with her?” He asks me.

I let out a deep sigh and say, “Because you are my husband, and I need you with me today. I need your support.”

“And you have it, you know that darling, but if she’s ill—“

“She isn’t ill Frank, she just doesn’t want to go to the funeral.”

 

I call Jack and he says he is more than happy to watch Bree while we go to the service, but since he’s just came off a night shift, he doesn’t think he could watch her all day. I say that’s absolutely fine, and maybe she will be alright coming to Lallybroch later and spend some time upstairs with her brother and cousins.

 

A little while after I hang up from Jack, Frank is busy getting the children organised when I hear the front back door open. Willie’s wife Mary walks in with an envelope.

“How are ye all this morning?” She asks me as I approach her with a small smile.

“Getting there I suppose. Bree isn’t feeling up to the funeral today, so we’re going to drop her off at Jack’s on the way.”

“Oh bless the wee soul. Is she dealing with things alright? I ken she’s only young, but they dinna half soak everything in like wee sponges.” Mary says.

“She’ll be fine. I think it’s just so raw for her right now. I mean, it’s like that for all of us, but she is just a child. It’s hard for her to get her head around the fact she’ll never see Jenny again. On one hand, I would like it if she came and got to say her goodbyes with everyone else, but on the other hand, I really don’t want to push her and make her uncomfortable.”

Mary nods in agreement with me. “Yer doing the right thing Claire. She’ll be fine wi’ Jack. Willie sent me over wi’ this for ye. It’s payment for the arrangement of lilies ye made for the funeral.”

I wave my hand dismissing the envelope Mary tries to hand over to me. “I told him, it’s an arrangement from ALL of us. I’m not charging for it. I’m just glad I was able to convince him and Ian to go elsewhere for the rest of the funeral flowers. I don’t think I would have coped doing all the arrangements myself. Even with Geillis’ help, it would of been too difficult for us.”

“Ye made a lovely job of them any way Claire. We wanted to give you something for them.”

“Put the money in the collection at the church then, because I’m not accepting it Mary.” She rolls her eyes at me and we head through to the living room to where Frank and the children are.

 

As soon as Willie spot Mary, he runs over to her and wraps his arms around her to give her a cuddle. Mary bends down and kisses the top of his head.

“Where is Uncle Willie?” My Willie asks.

“He’s with your uncle Ian. You’ll see them both at the church though.” She tells him with a soft smile.

Mary walks over to the couch to plant a kiss on Bree’s cheek. “You behave for yer Uncle Jack, alright? And will we be seein’ ye up at Lallybroch later on missy?” Mary asks her.

Bree nods her head, but doesn’t say anything.

“We’ll see how she feels later, won’t we ladybug?” Frank says as Bree quietly nods her head.

“Can I go wi’ Auntie Mary to the church?” Willie asks me.

“No, you’ll come with your mother and I after we drop your sister off with your Uncle.” Frank tells him firmly.

Willie looks to me with his little puppy dog eyes that I can’t say no to. “Well don’t look at me. Your Aunt might have things to do before the church.”

Willie turns to look at Mary who rolls her eyes and tells him to go and get his things as they are leaving any minute. Willie cheers and runs up to his room to fetch his bag with his toys and other things he wants to take to Lallybroch after the service.

 

Once we drop Bree off with Jack, Frank and I make our way over to the church. Mary said she had a couple of errands to run, so she and Willie will just see us in the church. We were planning on sitting together anyway, so it worked out quite well.

“Did Mary say if he turned up?” Frank asked me. I didn’t need to ask who he was referring to because it was quite obvious he was meaning Jamie Fraser. Jenny’s younger brother. My ex.

“She didn’t say, no. But I would imagine if he had turned up, someone would have told us Frank.” I sigh. “As dad said the other day, he hasn’t bothered turning up for anything else, so why would he bother now?”

“His sister has died Claire. Do you really think he would miss her funeral?”

“He missed my entire pregnancy Frank. He missed the birth of the twins. He missed Jenny and Ian getting married. The birth of Jenny’s children. He didn’t come back for Mary and Willie’s wedding either, or when Jenny was diagnosed with cancer. Willie called his manager and left a message with her when my mother died and I was in the coma. I had no idea he did that, but he did and he never returned. Not for anything.” I take a deep breath and continue, “He has his own life Frank, and we have ours. You are my husband. You are the one that stuck with me through my pregnancy. You are the one who stepped up and raised my children as if they are your own. They are your children Frank. Whether Jamie Fraser turns up today, or in twelve years time, he turned his back on all of us.”

“What if he turns up and wants you back? Wants the children?” Frank asks me with a worried look on his face.

“Frank, I love you. Nothing and no one will change that. Willie and Bree are our children.” I reach over and rest my hand on Franks thigh and give it a gentle squeeze in reassurance.

 

 

 

Jamie’s POV

 

Today is the day my older sister Jenny is laid to rest.

I arrived in Inverness on late Sunday afternoon. I went straight to the supermarket with my cap and my sunglasses on and picked up a few things that I would need for the hotel. Once I got to my room, I wasna plannin’ on leavin’ until now.

The hotel was nice and quiet. Perfect because I wanted to keep as low a profile as possible. I didna get in touch wi’ my brother Willie to tell him I would be here.

Honestly, I dinna think I have the right to be here.

Jenny was my sister, but I have been a terrible brother to her these last eight years. She got married and had children and I didna even ken it. She had cancer, and I didna have a clue. I wouldna blame Willie or Ian, or anyone in fact, for no wantin’ me there today, but Willie managed to get a message to me tellin’ the information for Jenny’s funeral. He wouldna of done that if he or Ian didna want me there.

 

The past couple of days has been tough. Locking myself in my hotel room and avoiding everyone like the plague. All I’ve been able to think about was the past. Growing up at Lallybroch with my brother and sister. Hanging around with our big group of friends in Broch Mordha. Every time I would think back, my mind wondered to her, Mo Ghraidh.

If things had worked out differently. If I stayed. Would we still be together? Would we be married with children of our own, living in a lovely little cottage in St Andrews or somewhere else? Would I be a P.E Teacher, like I wanted to be? Would I be the husband of a successful surgeon?

I tried my best to push them thoughts away.

I left her. I ruined our relationship. Our future.

I can only hope that she’s happy in whatever life she’s living now.

I ken I’m not, and I wouldna wish that on her either.

 

When I arrive at the church. I sit in the car and watch as everyone makes their way inside. I don’t want to attract any attention. Today is about Jenny, and letting those who loved her say their goodbyes.

I just want to slip in quietly at the back and pay my respects to my sister.

 

When I notice that almost everyone is inside, I climb out of the car and keep my head down. Then, a young lad in the car next to me opens his car door a little to quickly, and his door hits off the side of my car.

“Oh, I’m so verra sorry Mister. I didna mean—“

“It’s alright lad. Really. No harm done.” I tell him with a small smile.

The lad looks familiar, but considering I’ve been away for eight years, I dinna think I actually ken the lad. He only looks about six or seven.

“Willie! For gods sake, what have ye done?” A woman scoffs as she comes around to this side of her car.

“Sorry. I didna mean to, it was an accident.” The lad explains.

“Did ye apologise to...” the woman looks up and notices me. “Jamie?” Mary McNab asks me in shock.

She turns to look back at the lad, and I can see it now, why he looks so familiar. He looks just like my older brother Willie. And, Mary had called the lad Willie. This must be their son.

“Willie, why don’t ye go on up to the church and find yer da, I’ll be over soon.”

“Dae ye ken this man?” He asks her.

“Aye. Well, I used to.” She says as she looks at me like she canna believe I’m actually here. Something obviously brings her back from herself and she turns to the lad. “Dinna start wi’ the million questions Willie, away and dae as yer told, aye?”

The lad nods and dally’s up the path to the doors of the church. Leaving just Mary and I.

“Ye ended up with our Willie then?” I ask her.

“Eh? Oh, um... We’ve been married five years now, aye. Invited ye to the weddin’ but we never heard back.”

“How olds yer lad then?” I ask her, noddin’ my head in the direction of the church.

“Today is about Jenny, Jamie. I am glad you’re here though. Ye coming back to Lallybroch after the service?” She asks, completely ignoring my question as we make our way towards the church doors.

“I wasna plannin’ on it, no. I just came to pay my respects to my sister.” I say politely.

“Willie and Ian would really like to spend some time wi’ ye Jamie. They’ve missed ye, and they’re both really struggling right now. They need as many folk around them as possible.” She pauses for a second and then continues. “Jenny was your sister too, Jamie. Even though ye’ve been gone so long, I can see it in your eyes how much your hurting too.”

 

As we walk in to the church, Mary links her arm through mine and leads me down to sit with the rest of the family. I try to whisper that I want to stay in the back, but she keeps pulling me forward.

When we get to the family pews down the front, I’m shocked to see Claire and Frank sat together holding hands next to wee Willie and my brother.

Frank slides along first, allowing the rest to follow to make room for me. I sit down next to Mary and shake my brothers hand. Claire can barely look at me. No that I can blame her. I can see Frank glancing over to me every now and then. His jaw tightening every time he does. He obviously isna happy I’m here. Well, I dinna care. Jenny was my sister and I have a right to come and say my goodbyes.

In the pew across from us is Ian, his parents and three children, who I assume are my nieces and nephew. And in the pew behind them is Claire’s father Murtagh, who is also my god father, my uncles Dougal and Column and my aunt Jocasta. When Mary and I came down the aisle, I noticed Geillis, Angus, Rupert, Mary Hawkins and Alex Randall were sat in the pew behind us.

The church is practically full. No that I’m surprised. My sister was a popular lass. Even when she was a wee lass, she was always wantin’ to ken what she could do in the community to help. Every man, woman and child in Broch Mordha kent who Jenny Fraser was.

She was one of a kind.

 

Murtagh gets up to say a few things about Jenny and her child hood. Remembering stories from when she was only knee high to a grass hopper. He tells the story of her weddin’ to Ian. Apparently it was Murtagh that walked her down the aisle that day. Murtagh says how he was proud and honoured that Jenny had asked him to be such an important role on her big day. He goes on to talk about the three children Jenny and Ian had. They all sound like wonderful children, and I just hope it isna too late for me to get to ken them. And Willie and Mary’s son too.

As Murtagh comes forward to take his seat again, he gives me a nod of the head in acknowledgment that I’m here. I give him a small smile and mouth the words “thank you” to him. He had some really wonderful things to say about my older sister.

 

Mary gets up next to say a few words about Jenny. The poor lass barely even starts and she bursts out in to tears. It doesna take Willie a second thought before he’s straight up there, holding on to his wife and whispering in her ear. Mary whispers something back to Willie and Willie leads her back down to her seat next to me. He asks me to take care of her and Willie returns to the front of the church to read out Mary’s words himself. I dinna hear too much of Mary’s speech as I have my arm wrapped tightly around her shoulders and let her lean in to me and sob. Mary and Jenny were always the best of friends growing up. Of course it’s tough for her. And Jenny was a just her best friend, she was a sister to her.

 

As we all go to leave the church, Willie and Ian ask me to stand with them, Murtagh, Dougal and Column at the door of the church and thank people for coming. I feel kind of awkward about it, but as Willie reminds me, Jenny was my sister.

To my relief, no one makes any odds to me being here. Everyone seems so happy that I am able to be here.

Well, almost everyone.

As the last few people leave the church, Claire and Frank approach. I shake Franks hand first and thank him for coming. He just scoffs and rips his hand away so he can move on to shake Willie’s hand. I then shake Claire’s hand, but she canna look me in the eye.

“Thank ye for coming Sassenach.”

At those words, she snaps her head up to glare at me. Pure hatred in her eyes. Like nothing I have ever seen before. “Don’t you dare call me that!” She seethes at me. “Mary told me you weren’t coming to Lallybroch after the service. I think you should. You and I don’t need to be any where near one another, but you should be there to support your family. They need you.”

Claire removes her hand from my grip and moves on to Willie. Murtagh pats me on the shoulder and leans in to whisper in my ear. “She’s glad yer here lad, but she’ll just no admit it. I hope the pair of ye will make time to talk a’fore ye have to leave. I’m sure the pair of ye have a lot to discuss.”

“I dinna think Frank Randall will allow me anywhere near Claire. What’s she doin’ wi’ him anyway?”

“Like I said, ye’ve a lot to talk about. I dinna like the way ye abandoned my daughter, but lookin’ back lad, we all missed the signs that ye werna yerself. Maybe if we did, things woulda turned out differently. I dinna blame ye for what ye did lad, it’s the way ye did it. But, yer here now, and that means the world to all of us.” Murtagh pauses for a moment as we both look over to Claire clinging to Frank Randall’s side. “She married him, ye ken?”

I snap my head back to Murtagh. “Randall? Claire married Frank Randall?” I ask him. I canna hide the annoyance in my voice.

Of course I’ve always wanted Claire to move on and be happy with her life, but no wi’ Frank Randall. They guy is a total loser. She deserves so much better than some creep that was always lurking in the shadows watching her.

“Find the time lad. No the day, but a’fore ye leave. Speak to her, I think it will do ye both some good.”

 

As we leave the church and I make my way over to my car, I see Willie and Mary’s lad leavin’ wi’ Claire and Frank. I find that odd, but maybe the lad doesna want to be at the wake, so Claire is taking him some place else?

I find it hard to take my eyes off them, Claire and Willie. Claire’s holding his wee hand and swinging it backwards and forwards and they’re smiling and laughing. I like that Claire is still so close wi’ Willie and Mary, and obviously their child. Ye can see how much the lad loves her, and she him.

Chapter Text

Claire’s POV

 

The car ride to Jack’s to collect Bree was in relative silence. Willie sat in the back and had his headphones on to listen to some music as Frank drove.

“Mary said she didn’t know he was here. No one did, Frank. He just turned up at the church.” I looked behind me to see if Willie was still listening to his music before continuing. “Apparently he doesn’t know who Willie is.” I told him.

“How could he not know Claire? Look at the lad. He has that Fraser look right through him. He’s the spit of his brother Claire. How could he not tell?” Frank snapped at me through gritted teeth. Trying his hardest not to show his frustration in front of Willie. He wasn’t succeeding though.

“Exactly Frank, he thinks that Willie is Mary and Willie’s son.” I said as quietly as possible, praying my son didn’t hear my words.

Frank glanced over to me in shock. “Seriously?”

I nodded my head slowly. “He saw Willie getting out of Mary’s car and just assumed. I don’t think we have anything to worry about Frank. He hasn’t seen Bree, and I’ll make damn sure he doesn’t. He didn’t even enquire about the twins when I spoke to him briefly at the church. He doesn’t care Frank, and honestly, that’s fine by me. The children can’t miss what they never had. We’re their parents Frank, not some ex soldier turned actor who has a tendency to run away from everyone and everything.”

 

As we pulled up to Jack’s, Frank refused to go in and collect Bree. I don’t know what Frank’s issue with his brother is these days, but he needs to snap out of it. His brother has been a great help to me lately when Frank has had to stay back at work late.

Willie wanted to come inside with me, but Frank told him to stay in his seat and reassured him I wouldn’t be long. Willie wasn’t happy at his father telling him no, but he didn’t argue.

 

“How did the service go?” Jack asked me as he let me past him to go in to the kitchen area.

“It was really beautiful. Mary broke down during her reading, so Willie spoke on her behalf. Dad’s speech about Jenny and her life was wonderful as well. It was a lovely service. Jenny would have liked it.” I tell him with a small smile. “Um, Jamie turned up... at the church.” I whispered.

Jack reaches past me to close the kitchen door. “What? Did he say anything about the children?” He asked me.

“No. In fact, he assumed Willie is Mary and Willie’s son. Mary didn’t correct him. She didn’t feel it was her place. I’m actually glad she didn’t tell him. He hasn’t taken any interest in his children before, why should he bother now? Even when I spoke to him on my way out of the church, he didn’t even mention the kids. It was bizarre. Although, I think it’s for the best.”

“Do you want me to keep the children here while you and Frank go to Lallybroch?” Jack asked me.

“No, but thank you. You need your sleep, and I’d rather have the kids close to me. They will be upstairs so there will be no need for Jamie to see either of them.”

Jack nodded and then opened the door for me to go and collect Bree from the living room. She was curled up on the couch watching Frozen.

“How’s she been anyway?” I asked Jack as I sat down next to Bree and kissed her cheek.

“She’s been an angel, as always. She had me in a blonde wig earlier and kept calling me Elsa.” He said with a smile.

“He looked funny, mummy. He wouldna let me take his photo though.” Bree said as she stuck out her bottom lip to pout.

“That’s because of someone from work caught sight of me dressed up like some Disney Princess, I’d never live it down sweetheart.” He told her gently.

“But ye dressed up as Woody last Halloween when Willie was Buzz Lightyear, and ye went out on the streets like that.” She reminded her favourite uncle.

“Yes, and I STILL have people laughing at me for it.” Jack chuckled. “God, the things I do for you and your brother.”

“And we’re very grateful aren’t we madam?” I asked her and she nodded her little head.

As Bree tidied her toys away back in to the toy box that Jack has filled with things for when the kids come over, Jack and I spoke quietly at the other side of the room.

“You know Claire, maybe you should speak to him before he leaves.” Jack said.

“No.” I answered firmly.

“Claire, I think you need to. I think you need to do this for yourself. Get some closure if nothing else.”

“I’ve moved on Jack. I’m married to Frank, and we have a beautiful family. I don’t see what speaking to that man will do except cause more pain and heart ache for everyone involved.”

“Claire, apart from his brother and Ian, I am probably the only other person who knows Jamie Fraser as well as you and—“

“Still in love with him are you? Cause I don’t think you’re his type I’m afraid.” I smirked at Jack.

“No, I’m not. I don’t even think I was back then, but I was infatuated by him. I was obsessed with him. Anyway... what I was going to say was, he’s a kind lad Claire, there was a reason he left the way he did, but you haven’t been able to find out that reason, no one has. Not really. The only person who can tell you why, is him. The Jamie Fraser you and I know would never of abandoned you if he knew you were pregnant. He would of come back for the birth if not before. And he definitely wouldn’t of allowed you to move on and marry Frank and let him raise his children.”

“But he did do that Jack, all of it. So many people have tried to contact him over the years, and he just ignored us all. Ignored me and my children. I love Frank. I’m happy with Frank. I don’t need Jamie Fraser anywhere near my life. He’s here for Jenny’s funeral and then he’ll be gone.”

 

When Jack walked Bree and I to the door, I let Bree out to get in to the car, but I held back for a minute longer.

“If you see him around, please don’t mention me or my family to him. I beg you Jack.” I said to Jack pleadingly.

Jack nodded his head. “I promise I won’t Claire. It isn’t my place or any of my business, but just think about speaking with him yourself. Put your own mind at rest.

I just gave him a small smile and thanked him very much for taking care of a Bree for us this morning.

 

When we arrived at Lallybroch, I was shocked to learn that everyone was still at the cemetery. The house was filled with guest and mourners who didn’t go to the burial. Jenny had asked that it just be her family and closest friends there. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle watching a Jenny being lowered in to the ground. I could barely cope at my mothers funeral two years ago. The fact that Bree was at Jacks, was the perfect excuse for me and Frank not being there.

Frank and I took the children upstairs to play with their younger cousins. Mrs Crook was asked to watch over the children whilst the wake was going on downstairs. Mrs Crook jumped around the chance because she was also struggling like the rest of us after Jenny’s death. Mrs Crook had taken to throwing herself in to her work and looking after the children to try and keep her brain functioning properly.

Mrs Crook had been the housekeeper of Lallybroch since I was a little girl. She was always very fond of Jenny. Jenny loved helping Mrs Crook around the house, especially in the kitchen. In fact, it was Mrs Crook who helped a Jenny decide on becoming a Home Economics teacher.

As Frank spoke to the children, I pulled Mrs Crook over to the side and asked her to call my mobile if either of the children needed me. I didn’t want them wandering downstairs and have Jamie bump in to them. She totally understood where I was coming from and agreed.

 

When Frank and I made it back down stairs, the family was coming back from the cemetery. Jamie included.

As much as I don’t want to see the man, or speak to him about anything really, I’m glad he decided to stay for Ian and Willie. They really need him right now, and not that I know much about Jamie’s life, but I would assume that he needs them too. Jenny was his sister after all.

 

 

Jamie’s POV

 

I dinna ken why I was so surprised, but I just didna really think about the burial all that much to be honest. I was only plannin’ on sitting at the back of the church for the service and then sliding out again quietly.

That didna happen though.

After we walked out of the church, Willie asked me to follow him and Mary back to Lallybroch. They didna accept no for an answer.

When we got to Lallybroch, we met the rest of the family and Jenny’s closest friends and walked over to the cemetery on the land. The cemetery where six generations of Fraser’s are buried, including both my parents.

I haven’t set foot near the cemetery since the day of my da’s funeral, eight years ago.

 

It was tough, but the fact I had my family around me and some of my old friends, it made things slightly easier. No that I deserved it. I treated them all extremely badly, but they havena made any odds to me being here.

 

As we walked back to the main house, I walked back wi’ Ian and Murtagh. I asked Murtagh why Claire and Frank didna come to the burial. He explained that they had to get wee Willie settled, but they should be at the house when we arrive. Ian then went on to say how Claire was especially struggling since Jenny’s death, and he wasna surprised to notice she hadna made it to the burial at all.

“She did say she would try to make it back on time, but I kent fine she wouldna. I dinna mind though, we all deal wi’ things differently. She should be at the house though. If not, she’ll no be far away. Ye gonna speak to her?” Ian asked me.

“Eh? Och, no the day. Maybe before I leave. Although, I dinna really ken what to say to the lass. What can I say? I broke her heart and I have no excuse for it. She deserved better.” I replied.

“Canna argue wi’ ye there bud, she did deserve better. But, she does deserve some kind of explanation. It’s no been easy for her over the years Jamie. She needed ye. Badly.”

“I dinna ken what to say Ian. She’s moved on wi’ Frank. What’s the point in even tryin’ to explain myself?” I asked both Ian and Murtagh.

Murtagh scoffed and stooped right in front of me and turned to face me so we were both stood still close to the main door in to the house. There were groups of people looking over and watching us. “Look lad, she might try and push ye away, but ye canna let her. Ye need to explain yerself. It’s no just the two of ye, ken?”

“Look Murtagh, I’m sorry for runnin’ off like I did, but I dinna ken what good bringing it up after all these years will do.” I told him as I moved past him to walk towards the door.

“Ye coulda phoned her or at least replied to yin of her letters lad. She deserved at least that.” Murtagh shouted over to me.

I stopped on the spot and turned to him. “And what good would that of done? I was a coward Murtagh. I admit that.”

“And ye admit ye got her letters then?” He asked with a curious glare in his eye.

“Aye, I did. She sent me a letter every week for about a year and a half.”

“And ye didna think she deserved a response? An explanation?”

“What could I say Murtagh? I let her down. I broke her heart, and mine for that matter.”

“She sent ye a letter every week for what, nineteen months and all ye can say is ye were a coward? That’s all ye have to say? After all she said in those letters, that’s all ye can say? Ye were a coward?”

“I dinna ken what she said in her letters Murtagh.”

“Eh?”

“I didna open them. I couldna. I kept them though. Eighty two unopened letters from Claire are tucked away in a box and locked away. Like I say, I was a coward.” I let him ken. “Still am apparently.” I said softly and turned to walk away.

 

When I got in to the house, I could feel everyone’s eyes on me. Watching me closely. I didna like it. I came to pay my respects to my sister and her family, I didna want to make the day about me and my eight year absence.

I headed through to the kitchen and poured myself a glass of water. I decided the best thing to do was to make my apologies to Ian and Willie and leave to go back to my hotel in Inverness.

That wasn’t to happen either though. Ian made it clear he wanted me to stay. In fact, he wanted one of the farm hands to travel to my hotel in Inverness to collect my belongings so that I would stay here at Lallybroch instead. I tried my best to turn his offer down, but when his daughter, my wee five year old niece, Maggie, practically begged me to stay, I couldna say no to her. I wasn’t on board wi’ the farm hand going to collect my things though, I told Ian that I would do that myself. He seemed a little unsure as to whether I would come back or no, so I told him that I would take Willie wi’ me. That made Ian a bit happier.

I didna think it would be polite to leave to go to Inverness whilst the house was still so full, but I couldna handle all the stares and whispers goin’ on around me. I decided to take a danner up the stairs to the library to get some peace and quiet. What I didna expect, was to see Claire Fraser sat in the corner of the library all curled up in to herself and crying her little heart out.

“I’m sorry Sassenach. I didna think anyone would be here.” I told her as I turned to leave.

“It’s fine, you can stay. Frank and I will be leaving soon any way.” She informed me as she wiped her eyes and stood up to walk towards the door.

I moved to the side to let her past, but she paused just as she reached for the door handle. She didna turn to face me, but I could tell she wanted to say something.

“I spoke with my dad. He said you never opened my letters.”

“No, I didna. I’m sorry Sassenach, I just—“

“It doesn’t matter, it’s all in the past. Could you do me one favour though?” She asked me as she turned to face me.

“Ye want me to read them.” I said.

“No. I want you to burn them. Don’t open them, don’t read them, just burn them. I’ve moved on Jamie, you should do the same.” She turned and walked out the door wi’out even given me a chance to respond.

 

When it was time for me to head back to my hotel to collect my things, Willie asked if I could take Rupert wi’ me instead since he needed to get Mary home. It had been a long day for her and she was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed.

The journey to Inverness and back was quite refreshing actually. Rupert wasted no time in pluggin’ in his phone to play his new playlist he created the other night. There was some pretty decent tunes on.

He filled me in on what’s been happening in his life over the past eight years. He still hasna found that special someone, but he has fun most weekends looking for her in the pubs and clubs in Glasgow. Apparently Angus lives no too far from him and they both work in a pub in the city centre.

He fills me in on the rest of the group that we were at school with as well. Mary Hawkins has married Alex Randall last year and she works as a nurse in Raigmore hospital in Inverness, whilst he works as a police officer. I was stunned to learn that Alex and Frank’s brother Jack is in the police force as well. He’s a detective sergeant. Geillis is apparently back living in Broch Mordha working as a florist in town. She had spent some time in Glasgow and Edinburgh after leaving school, but came back home a few years ago.

Two people he neglected to mention was the third Randall brother and his wife, the love of my life.

“What about Randall and Claire then? How long was I gone before he made a play for her? He always made it clear he wanted her back, I didna think for a second she would though. He made her miserable. They werena well suited at all, and I doubt that’s changed.” I say making my strong feelings known.

“Look pal, ye ken I love ye, but I love Claire tae. It’s no up to me to fill ye in on her life and what she’s been up to the last eight years.”

“But ye’ll tell me about everyone else?”

Rupert just shrugged his shoulders and changed the subject so that I was telling him about my time in the army and then why I decided on the drastic career change to acting.

There is still a lot of my past I’m no ready to discuss, so I keep the topic short, sweet and to the point. The army was what I felt I needed at the time of joining up, but after four years, I needed to get out. It was a good for me any longer and I needed a complete change. Acting was a way for me to become someone else completely when I was playing a role for three or four months at a time on a film, or even longer if I was working on a tv show. It’s a career that suits me just fine these days. The public attention, I could do wi’out sometimes, but usually the fans are harmless.

 

When we got back to Lallybroch, my aunt and uncles, along wi’ Angus and Geillis were gettin’ ready to leave.

As soon as I walked in the door, I was attacked by my nephew wee Ian and my niece Maggie trying to climb all over me. I couldna help but laugh and play along wi’ them. Falling to the ground and letting them jump all over me.

They just lost their mam. Their da had his own grieving to do, so instead of heading back home to Wales on Thursday as planned, I decided to stay here at Lallybroch and help Ian out wi’ the bairns.

To hell wi’ what Frank Randall thinks, Ian is my brother, and he needed me. As much as I hate to admit it, I think I needed this too. Being here wi’ my family. Healing together.

Chapter Text

Jamie’s POV

 

A week after my sisters funeral, I decided that it was time to be heading back to London to sort out a few things with my manager Laoghaire, about work.

There were no contracts or commitments for the time being, but as much as Laoghaire was wanting me to send in audition tapes for a few roles in different movies coming up, I declined. I just wanted to make sure she knew that I wasn’t looking for any work at the moment. I needed time to grieve for my sister. Mourn the fact that I wasted eight years that I could have spent with her, but I didna.

The plan was to head back to my place in Wales for a couple of days after my meeting wi’ Laoghaire, before coming back to stay at Lallybroch for a while.

 

I really enjoyed my time wi’ Ian and the kids, and I think the kids really liked me being around. It was a hard and confusing time for all of us, but we kept pullin’ each other through.

It would be easy for me to just pack up and go home and not look back, but I didna want to. I made that mistake before, and I wasna gonna do that again.

The loss of both my parents so close to one another was too much for me to handle. The heartbreak and anger of it all caused me to make one of the biggest regrets of my life. I wasna about to let grief do that to me again. I only just got my family back, I couldna lose them again.

 

“What time is yer flight to London then?” Willie asked me as he, Ian and I sat and drank our mornin’ coffee after gettin’ the rugrats fed and watered.

“I dinna need to leave here until three.” I respond.

“Ye definitely coming back this time Jamie?” Ian added.

“Aye. I’ll be back in a few days. I just have some work to deal wi’ and then go and check on the house and that. I’ll be back on Friday evening. I promise.” I told them, tryin’ to emphasise as much as I could I would in fact be coming back. I didna blame them for having their doubts though.

 

I hadna seen much of anyone since the funeral. Murtagh popped in a few times, urging me to speak wi’ Claire. Willie popped in most mornings before work to help Ian and I get the bairns up and ready for the day. Jocasta had popped in a few times too, but Claire never came round.

Ian or Willie would take the kids to her place for a visit, but she never came here. I guessed it was because I was here, but no one had told me that was the reason, but I was pretty sure. Wee Ian had also made a comment about how he missed his Auntie Claire on Sunday when she didna appear at the house. He said that she always comes around on a Sunday. The lad had also mentioned how he missed playing wi’ Willie on the Sunday as well. That’s when I realised that Mary and the lad hadna been around much either. Willie said Mary was busy wi’ work, and that’s why she hadna been over in a few days. She did call Ian though, quite often.

What was strange though, was that Willie never seemed to mention his son. And when I tried to ask about the lad, Willie or Ian would just change the subject. It was the same if one of the bairns mentioned him, they would try and steer the topic of conversation to something completely different.

Maybe I just needed to prove to my brother that I was committed to bein’ part of this family again. Maybe he didna want the lad gettin’ too close to me, for me to just up and leave again in a few months time. I didna blame him when I thought about it like that. I just wished that I would get the opportunity to get to ken the lad, like I was wi’ Jenny and Ian’s bairns.

I’d only spoken to wee Willie briefly at the funeral last week, but he sounded like a braw lad. He reminded me so much of Willie when he was a lad. Same curly mop like me and my brother, except wee Willie’s was brown, just like his Da’s, whilst my hair is red, like my mothers. Wee Willie’s got blue eyes, just like me and his da. The lad’s definitely got that Fraser look about him. I didna see much of Mary in him, but I suppose I was only face to face wi’ the lad for a few moments. I’m sure when I see him again, I’ll be able to see where he takes after his mother.

 

“Ye gonna go see Claire a’fore ye leave?” Willie asked me as we washed and dried the breakfast dishes.

“Wasna plannin’ on it, no.” I told him truthfully.

“Jamie, I’m beggin’ ye to go and speak wi’ the lass. Ye’ve got no idea what ye’ve missed all these years. The pair of ye’s need to speak Jamie.”

“She doesna want to speak wi’ me, and I dinna blame her Willie.”

“None of us blame her, Jamie, but it’s no just about ye two.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“If ye wilna speak wi her, at least promise me you’ll read the letters she sent ye.”

“I canna. She told me to burn them. I dinna think I want to read them anyway Willie. I dinna think I could stand to see in her words how much I broke her heart, how much she hated me.”

“Read them Jamie. I dinna ken what she wrote exactly, but I ken that there is something in them letters that ye really need to ken. It’s no my place to tell ye, I just need ye to trust me on this Jamie. Yer a good lad, and ye deserve the truth. Ye just need to be open to it.”

 

After Willie left for his work, I wandered out to the stables to speak wi’ Ian who was busy mucking out.

“Ye gonna just stand there catchin’ flies, or ye gonna gi’ us a hand?” Ian joked as I stood at the far end of the stables.

I walked past the three other lads and headed to the far end of the stables to where Ian was. “Willie wants me to speak to Claire before I go.” I told him, wanting to get his take on the idea.

“Right.” He said simply.

“Well, what dae ye think?”

“It’s up to you.” He shrugged.

I let out a deep sigh. “What is it that ye’s arna tellin’ me?”

“What?”

“Willie, Murtagh. Even Rupert and Jocasta have been at me to speak wi her. Willie just told me to read her letters if I wilna speak to her.”

“That’s no a bad idea.”

“Ian. What do I no ken?”

Ian left his rake up against the wall and ushered me back to the front of the house.

“Look Jamie. There is something ye should ken, something that Claire wrote to ye about, but ye didna respond. For years we all thought that ye just didna care, but when ye said that ye hadna opened her letters, we all kent that ye needed to speak to her about what she wanted ye to ken. Jamie, put it this way... she sent ye a letter every week for well over a year. It’s important.” He explained to me wi’ a serious look on his face.

“If it’s about her gettin’ the gether wi’ Randall and gettin’ married, I dinna think I can stomach readin’ about her falling in love wi him.”

“I dinna think he would be mentioned in the letters Jamie. They got the gether about six years ago, I think. He kept houndin’ her to marry him, but she kept refusing. They were only married three years ago Jamie. And I’ll tell ye somethin’ else, she doesna love him. She might say she does, but she doesna, and he kens that fine.”

I didna ken what to say to any of that. Why did she marry him, if she doesna love him?

“How big is this thing that everyone else seems to ken, but me?” I asked him, wondering what I should do next.

“It’s big Jamie. That’s why everyone is so happy yer back, why everyone wants ye to speak wi’ her. If it was my place Jamie, if it was Willie’s place, we would tell ye ourselves, but we love Claire. It needs to come from her. If not from her mouth, then from her letters.”

“What ward does she work in? Is she at Raigmore? Does she work in a medical practice?”

“Eh? What ye gan on about?”

“Claire? Where does she work? I need to speak to her.”

“She’s no a doctor Jamie. She has a shop in town.”

“What? She’s a shop keeper? She was gonna be a surgeon. What happened?”

“Things changed after ye left Jamie. She opened a florist six years ago. She also has a natural remedies store connected to it. She’ll be workin’ now actually.” Ian said as he looked at his watch. “Fraser’s Florist. It’s on the Main Street, canna miss it.”

 

On my drive down to the the small town, I couldna believe what Ian had just told me. She started goin’ wi’ Frank six year ago, married Randall, even though she doesna love him three year ago. She opened her florist six years ago. Was that a coincidence? Did he stop her from finishing medical school? Was he the reason she isna the surgeon she always dreamed she’d be?

When I walked in to the shop, the wee bell rang above the door to announce a new customer. Both Claire and Geillis were stood behind the counter filling in what looked like some paperwork. There seemed to be no customers in the shop, but I did notice a few people looking at the plants and flowers outside.

As soon as Claire clocked that it was me stood in front of her, she scoffed and made her way to what looked like an office, calling back to Geillis to take care of the customer. She couldna even acknowledge me properly.

“Claire please.” I called. “I just want five minutes wi’ ye.” I said. She didn’t answer though, she just slammed the door shut.

“Give her some time Jamie. I heard ye were gan home the day. Yer coming back though, right?” Geillis asked me with some real interest.

“Aye. I’ll be back.” I called, loud enough that hopefully Claire would hear me.

I bid goodbye to Geillis and left the shop, gutted that I hurt Claire so much, she couldna even stand to be in the same room as me for a five minute conversation.

 

As I walked over to my car, I saw a small red headed girl fall off her scooter in the middle of the road. She started crying over her scraped knee. There was a bit of blood, but nothing major.

I jogged over to the lass and managed to lift her on to the pavement, out of the way of moving traffic. Luckily, there was none going about as she fell.

As I looked her over, I was startled to see she only looked about seven or eight. Where were her parents?

“Ye alright lass?” I asked her as she kept sobbing her wee heart out. She nodded, but didna speak. “Look lass, I ken ye were probably told no to speak to strangers, but I want to help ye. I need to ken where yer parents are lass, so I can take ye to them.” I explained to her, but she still didn’t speak. “My names Jamie lass. Jamie Fraser. Ye dinna need to tell me anything about ye, but I need to ken where I can find yer mam or yer da.” I told her.

“Fraser?” She questioned, and I nodded yes. “My name’s Bree.” She sobbed beside me as she clung on to her wee knee.

“Well, it’s nice to meet ye Bree. Now, yer parents?” I asked again, and she turned to point at the florist. Ah, she must be Geillis’ wee lass. I didna ken Geillis had a kid. Canna imagine it either, but hey, I’ve been gone eight years. People change.

“Yer mam works in the florist?” I asked her, and she nodded her head. I asked her if she would be okay to walk over to the florist, but she said no. Her knee hurt too much. I asked her if it would be okay if I carried her to her mam, and she said aye.

 

I gathered the lass gently in to my arms and carried her and her wee scooter over to the florist. There was a gentleman coming out of the florist as I was heading towards the door. He kindly held the door open for me and I carried the lass inside and called for Geillis. She came through from what I assume was the wee natural remedies store.

“Claire. It’s Bree!” She called and Claire came running through from the office.

“Oh my god, what on earth happened sweetheart?” She asked the lass as she took her from my arms and sat her down on a chair next to the counter.

“I was out the front on my scooter, and I fell.” The lass sobbed. “My knee hurts mummy,” she said, and I looked over to Geillis, who just stood there watching calmly. Too calmly if ye ask me.

“I told you to stay around the back in the private area. I only checked on you five minutes ago. What the hell Bree?! How many times do I have to tell you, you do NOT play out on the street.” Claire shot at the wee lass and then turned to me. “And you have been told time and time again not to engage with strangers.”

Before I could open my mouth to speak, the lass got in there first. “I’m sorry, but my knee was sore and he came to help me. I didna speak, but then he said his name was Jamie Fraser. I thought if his name was Fraser, he wouldn’t be a stranger because he’s family.”

I looked at the lass and Claire, and then turned toward Geillis who was backing away. Somethin’ about this set up just didna sit right wi me.

“I’m sorry mummy.” The lass said to Claire and reached over to wrap her arms around her and pulled her in for a hug.

Mummy? Claire was the lass’ mam?

“I know baby. And I’m sorry I was so short with you, but you scared me Bree.” Claire let out a sigh and looked at her daughters knee to see what the damage was. “Alright, lets get you all cleaned up and then I’ll take you home. Since I can’t trust you to stay out of trouble for a few hours, and I can’t take the day off, I’ll ring your uncle Jack and ask if he can take care of you until I can close the shop.” Claire stood up and went to the office to grab the first aid box, when she came back through, she made it clear that I should go.

I couldna move though.

The lass, Bree. She has red hair like me. Her eyes, they look like my mothers. There is no way this lass is Claire and Frank’s. She’s obviously Claire’s, but she’s definitely not Frank’s.

Ian said that there was something Claire and I needed to talk about, and it was big.

Have I really missed the fact that I’m a father? Is this lass mine and Claire’s?

“What age are ye lass?” I asked her.

Bree looked up at me and smiled. “Seven. I’ll be eight in February.”

“Bree!” Claire snapped at her. “Just because someone has a familiar name, it doesn’t make them any less a stranger.”

“I’m no a stranger though, am I Claire?” I asked her with a strong bite in my tone which would hopefully let her ken that I worked it out. We have a child.

“Bree, this is Jamie. He is you Uncle Willie and Aunt Jenny’s younger brother. He left here before you were born. He’s also you grandfather’s god son. Jamie’s father and my father were cousins.” Claire informed the lass.

It was obviously too much information as I could tell the lass was struggling to follow. “So, if Jamie is Grandda’s god son, does that make him your god... brother?” Bree asked her mam. “So Jamie’s my uncle then?”

“No sweetheart. Jamie’s just Jamie. Any way, you won’t be seeing him again.” She told Bree. I gave Claire a stern glare warning her no to push me.

“Why not?” Bree whined.

“Well, he’s a busy man. He has a life elsewhere. He only came home to say goodbye to Auntie Jenny. He’s leaving today apparently.” Claire turned to me. “Speaking of, shouldn’t you be getting ready to leave?” Claire asked me.

“Tsk. If ye think I’m goin’ anywhere until ye speak to me properly and give me the answers I deserve, yer wrong Sassenach.” I told her firmly.

 

Claire decided to close the shops early. Geillis offered to take Bree back to her place and offered to pick Willie up from his friends later on. I guess Claire was supposed to be watching Willie later on then.

 

Claire showed me in to the office after locking up the doors so we wouldn’t be disturbed.

There was silence for a good five minutes before I could find the words to speak to her. I had so many feelings. I didna ken what to say or do for the best.

“I’m a Da?” I asked her. “I have a daughter? We have a daughter?”

Claire shot her head around so fast to face me that I thought it would come clean off. Then, she burst out in to a laugh. “No Jamie. Frank is a dad. You... you are nothing more than a sperm donor.” She spat out at me.

That... that cut me. Deep.

“Does she ken Frank isna her da.”

“He is her dad, Jamie. If you’re asking me if she knows he isn’t her biological father, then no. She doesn’t. And she never will know. You... you had your chance Jamie. You didn’t get back to me, you didn’t come home.”

“I didna ken about the bairn Sassenach!” I threw back at her.

“I sent you letter after letter. It isn’t my fault you didn’t open any of them. The only person who stopped you being a father, is you Jamie. You are the only one to blame. Not me, and certainly not my husband.” She spat at me before turning her back to me. “I need you to just leave Jamie. Go back to wherever the hell you’ve been hiding these last eight years. I’m not saying never come back. I would never come between you and your family, but please, just stay away from mine.” It was like she was begging me to stay away.

I walked closer to her and gently turned her around by her shoulders to face me. “Sassenach, I swear to ye, if I knew there was a chance that we were havin’ a child, I’d never had gone. If I’d read yer wee letters, I woulda come straight back, I need ye to ken that. I need ye to believe me.” She nodded her head, but refused to meet my eye. “Sassenach, please dinna keep my daughter from me. Our daughter.” I pleaded wi’ her, but she shook her head and stepped away from me.

“Bree is mine and Frank’s daughter Jamie. I’m really sorry, I am, but you’re too late. I can’t disturb, not just Bree’s life, but Frank’s. I won’t.”

I nodded my head in understanding.

As much as I hated it, I needed to accept the fact that Frank Randall was raising my daughter. Due to my selfish and self destructive behaviour eight years ago, I missed out on the chance of having my own family wi’ Claire.

“Can ye at least tell me a bit about her. If a canna be a father to the lass, I would still like to ken about her. Please Sassenach.”

Claire still didna meet my eye, but she spoke. “Brianna Ellen Fraser. Bree. She was born on the second of February 2009. She weighed 5lbs 11oz. She was so small. So tiny when she was born, but...well, as you can see, she takes after you and your mother, height wise. She’s a happy child. Always up to mischief. Plays the innocent little princess in front of her uncle Jack though.”

“Jack Randall?” I questioned.

“Mhmm. She loves him. He’s so good with her. She’s close with Frank to, but there’s just this bond between her and Jack. It’s adorable. He isn’t the man you would remember. He and I get on quite well these days. The kids love him.”

“Kids?” Does she and Randall have another child? I didna ken how I would cope if I knew she had more kids wi’ Frank Randall.

“Bree. I meant Bree loves him.” Claire paused and cleared her throat. “Listen Jamie, I am sorry you can’t be a father to Bree, but I refuse to disrupt my families life just because you’re here now. I can’t do that. Bree needs stability. That’s what Frank and I can provide for her. Love, happiness, a home, stability.”

“I understand Claire. I dinna like it, but I made this mess for myself.” I walked towards the door and then turned back to Claire. “Why Brianna? It’s an awful name for a wee lass is it no?” I chuckled a little.

“I named her after your parents. Brianna, after your father Brian, and Ellen, after your mother.”

“And Fraser. Is that—“

“My name was changed to Fraser when my dad adopted me after marrying my mum. Your name isn’t on her birth certificate. Her name is Fraser because that was my name.”

“But ye didna change it to Randall? Frank hasna adopted her like Murtagh did you?”

“No. He wanted to. Still does actually, but I said no.” She told me as she stared down at the ground.

“Can I ask why?” I asked curiously.

“You can.” She stated, but gave me a look that told me she wasn’t going to answer.

 

When I got home to Lallybroch, I ran inside to find Ian in the living room wi’ Willie and the bairns. Mary was in the kitchen helping Mrs Crook prepare lunch.

I asked Mrs Crook to watch the bairns for a moment whilst I spoke to Mary and the lads.

I couldna keep the smile from my face. I have a daughter. A daughter that couldna ken I’m her da, but I wasna gonna let that stop me gettin’ to ken her and be part of her life.

If what Ian said was true, and Claire doesna even love Frank, maybe me bein’ here and gettin’ to know Brianna would make Claire realise she shouldna be stuck in a loveless marriage. Maybe I could get them back. Claire and our daughter. It wouldna be easy, but I could be patient. If it meant gettin’ Claire back, and finally bein’ a father to my daughter, then I would do whatever it took.

“I spoke to Claire.” I told them.

“And..? Ian asked.

“I have a daughter.” I announced to my family. “Brianna Ellen Fraser. Christ, she’s a bonnie wee thing.” I told them wi’ a huge grin on my face.

“And what else?” Willie probed.

“And nothin’. Claire wilna tell the lass about me and asked me to stay aw—“

“What else did she tell ye Jamie?” Ian asked me.

“Nothin’. She wouldna have told me about Bree if I hadna met the lass myself and put two and two the gether. Took a bit a time mind you. The fact no one told me Claire had a daughter, and when the lass said her mam was workin’ in the florist, I assumed she was Geillis’ daughter. But she isna. She’s mine and Claire’s.” I told them, feelin’ proud that there was living breathing proof of mine and Claire’s love. “Oh, because Claire and I were talkin’, Geillis took Bree. She told Claire she’d pick Willie up tae. I dinna ken if Claire or Geillis called ye to tell ye.” I said to Willie and Mary.

Willie dropped his head to his hands and then slammed his hand down on to the kitchen counter hard.

“What the hell Willie? The bairns are in the next room.” I snapped at him.

Willie took a deep breath as Mary came towards me. “Look Jamie, it’s no really our place to say this, but we canna stand back any longer.” She said to me and then turned to look at Willie and Ian, silently askin’ for their approval. They both nodded. “Wee Willie isna mine and Willie’s wean Jamie.” She took a deep breath. “His name is James William Fraser. He was known as Jamie up until a couple of years ago when he decided he wanted to be called Willie, like his uncle.”

I looked between the three of them, confused as to where this was all goin’.

“Willie is Bree’s twin brother Jamie. He’s yer son.”

 

Willie’s my son?

I have two children?

Why didn’t Claire say anythin’ about the lad when we spoke about Bree?

 

“Jamie? Ye canna leave.” Mary told me softly.

“Oh, dinna worry. I’m no goin’ anywhere.”

Chapter Text

Claire’s POV

 

As soon as Jamie left the shop, I felt like I could suddenly breathe again.

I started pacing the floor of my office though, replaying his entire visit in my head again. My chest started to close up again. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t think straight.

Everything just went... dark.

 

I’m not sure how long I was out, but I came round to my dad gently shaking my shoulder and calling my name. When I opened my eyes and they adjusted to the light, I saw I was lying in the floor of my small office.

I must have collapsed.

“Claire, lass. Are ye alright? What happened?” Dad asked me as I sat up slowly.

“I’m not sure. Jamie was here and we... and then he left and then I... and now I’m...” I stutter out, not making any sense.

“It’s alright a nighean. I’m here. Everything’s going to be okay.”

I move to climb up on to the small couch I have in my office. Dad joins me and pulls me close to his side. “It’s not going to be alright. I’ve messed everything up, dad.” I sit forward and put my face in my hands.

What the hell have I just done?

“What happened? Geillis rung me to say she had the kids, but ye hadna came to collect them. Last she seen ye was here wi’ Jamie. That was a couple of hours ago.”

“What?” I turned to face my dad and then slouched back on the couch. “I need to speak to Jamie. Can you collect the twins from Geillis please? I’ll come by as soon as possible. I need to see him before his flight. If I’ve missed him already, I really need to get his number.”

“No lass. Ye need to get to the hospital and get looked at. I came in here to find ye passed out on the floor in the middle of yer office after speaking to Jamie bloody Fraser!”

“Dad, I’m fine. I think I was just mad at myself and then I panicked and collapsed.”

“Fine, if ye won’t go and get checked out, ye tell me exactly why I found ye the way I did. What did he say?”

“It wasn’t what he said. It was more what I didn’t say.”

Dad cocked an eyebrow at me. “Ye still havena told the lad about the twins? Claire—“

“He knows about Bree. She fell of her scooter outside and he carried her in. It took him a while, but then the penny dropped that she was ours.” I paused for moment or two to take a deep breath. I just knew my dad wouldn’t react to this next part in a positive way. “I didn’t tell him about Willie though.”

“Ye what?!” My dad barked at me.

“Dad, listen... I didn’t want him knowing about Bree, but he worked it out. He saw Willie at Jenny’s funeral and just assumed he was Willie and Mary’s son. I haven’t corrected him. And before you say anything else... I know I did the wrong thing. He deserves to know, and that’s why I need to see him. I need to tell him about Willie before anyone else does.”

 

Dad decided to drive me to Lallybroch himself. He didn’t want me passing out behind the wheel of my car. On the one hand, I was grateful for him being there to support me, on the other hand though... I could tell he was disappointed in me and my actions. I was disappointed in myself too to be honest.

Jamie had his reasons for leaving the way he did. He had his reasons for not contacting me. He obviously couldn’t open my letters. I don’t know why not, but surely it means something that he didn’t just throw them away in the first place. He’s kept them for eight years.

 

When I was telling him about Bree, why the hell didn’t I tell him about Willie? I have no answer for that. I genuinely don’t have a clue why I neglected to tell him about our son.

 

When we pulled up at Lallybroch. It took me a good five minutes or so to actually get out of the car.

He’s going to hate me.

He was so... understanding to the fact that I wasn’t prepared to turn Bree or Frank’s life upside down just because he’s turned up after eight years, but I still should have been honest with him about Willie.

 

Just as I was about to knock on the front door of the house, Jamie comes rushing out the door and pushes me back in to my dad.

“What the hell Jamie?!” I cried out.

“Sorry Sassenach. I was just on my way to come see ye actually.” Jamie told me. He looked stressed. Maybe he didn’t take the news of Bree as well as I thought.

“Right, well... um... there’s something I really need to discuss with you. I should have told you earlier, but I didn’t and I don’t know why... and then I thought you might of already left... but you’re still here. Can we go inside maybe?” I rambled on, yet again.

Jamie stepped aside to let me and my father in to the house before he followed us in.

My dad offered to come with me to speak with Jamie, but I insisted that I was fine. As I walked over to the staircase to make my way up to the library for some privacy, I heard my father tell Jamie about him finding me collapsed at the shop. Jamie promised to look after me and not cause me any more stress than he already had.

The way he spoke with my dad, it was like the Jamie I knew all them years ago. My best friend who would do anything for me. The guy I fell in love with because he was so kind and considerate and loving.

I shook my head trying to rid my brain of my thoughts of Jamie and I when we were younger and in love, and made my way up the staircase to the library down the hall.

 

I stared out the window, looking over the estate. I had a lot of good memories from this place. Even before Jamie and I were together, we were best friends. I was best friends with his sister Jenny too. My dad and Jamie’s father Brian were cousins. I practically grew up on this estate with the Fraser’s.

 

“I ken Willie’s my son. Our son.” I didn’t hear Jamie come in to the room. It wasn’t until he spoke and I saw his reflection standing just behind me in the window.

I turned to face him and I started to cry. Jamie pulled me close to him and held me as he whispered to me in Gaelic, trying to calm me down.

“I’m so sorry Jamie. There is no excuse for me not telling you about him. I don’t know what to say except I’m sorry.” I cried into his shoulder. I didn’t pull myself away from him though, even though I knew I should have.

Jamie kissed the top of my head. “It’s alright Sassenach. I canna blame ye for wanting to protect the bairns. I dinna expect for ye to let me just walk in to their lives as if nothing has happened. I ken I need to earn yer trust back, and I ken that it wilna be easy, but please let me try Sassenach. If I canna be a father to them, please just let me be in their life some how. I canna just walk away from them Sassenach.”

At that point, I did pull myself away. “Like you walked away from me you mean?” I said, barely louder than a whisper.

I couldn’t look at him. I just stared at the ground, wishing for it to swallow me up so I didn’t actually need to hear what he had to say, but if I really was going to let Jamie Fraser be a part of my children’s lives, we would need to speak about what happened between us. It wasn’t going to be an easy conversation. Far from it. The man shattered my heart and I didn’t even know why.

 

Jamie walked over to sit on the little couch near the window. I didn’t follow him, I was stuck in place. It wasn’t until Jamie began to speak, that I managed to put one foot in front of the other and join him. I kept some space between us though. I sat at the far end of the couch from him to ensure we didn’t get too close. Ulthough, really I should have sat on the arm chair opposite him, or even one of the many hand crafted wooden chairs that Jamie’s father made when we were younger. The library was filled with at least six of them dotted around the room.

“Claire...” Jamie took a deep breath and started tapping the side of his thigh with two of his fingers. A sign that I knew very well. He was anxious and nervous. Struggling with how to put his thoughts in to the correct words for me to understand. “Claire, I didna want to leave ye. Christ, I was so in love wi’ ye. But ye deserved better than who I ended up being back then. Ye deserved better than what I could give ye.”

“And that’s what I don’t understand. You were so in love with me, that you dumped me without any kind of warning. You were so in love with me, that you just left me in the middle of the school grounds and kept walking away without looking back as I called after you. You were so in love with me, you took off that night without a word to me, and the next thing I know, you’re down in England doing your initial training for the bloody army. The bloody army Jamie! I didn’t even know you applied. You must of had your plan to leave for quite some time and didn’t bother telling anyone.”

“Sassenach—“

“You didn’t tell me.”

Silence fell between us, and I could tell Jamie didn’t know what to say next.

“We had a plan, Jamie. We had our whole lives mapped out for such a long time. And then you just... you just left me here. Did you really not love me any more?” I don’t know why I asked him that. Did I really want to know the answer to that?

“Of course I loved ye. I wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of my life wi’ ye and building a home, our careers and a family wi’ ye.”

“Then why leave? Why just disappear in the night without looking back? You broke me Jamie. I was distraught after you left me. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next.”

“All I can say is I’m sorry. So verra sorry for doing what I did. It’s been my biggest regret. I never meant to hurt ye, ye need to believe that. I thought by leaving, I wouldn’t be able to hurt ye.”

“You still haven’t told me why, and I’m sorry, but I can’t sit around here all day. I have two children to get home to.”

“Our children. Christ, I canna believe I’ve got twins. A son and a daughter.” Jamie paused and I could see the smile tugging at the side of his mouth. I couldn’t help but smile myself, but when I caught myself, I shook my head to try and get my brain to focus on the fact that he’s been absent from our lives for eight years with still no explanation. “I canna just walk away from them Claire. If I canna be a father to them, I need to be somethin’ else. I swear to ye, I’ll no fight ye for them, but I do want to get to ken them Claire. I want them to ken that I’m here and they can come to me for whatever they need.”

“I don’t want you anywhere near my children until I know why it is you left in the first place. I can’t have them getting attached to you and then you just walk away again. I refuse to put them through that Jamie. The balls in your court, it always has been.” I told him firmly.

Jamie didn’t say anything, he just stared at me in silence. I took a deep breath and then stood. “I have to get back to the children. I’ll tell Ian to give you my number and you call me when you decide what it is that you want to do.”

“I told ye what I want Claire. I want my children in my life,” he told me softly.

“And I told you that will only happen if you open up and tell me the truth. My children need to come first here. I need to know you won’t just get bored and disappear on them like you did me.” I didn’t give him a chance to answer, I just walked out of the library and headed downstairs to find my father.

 

I found my father in the living room with Ian.

“How did it go lass? Get the answers ye needed?” My dad asked.

“Nope. Balls in his court. I won’t let my children anywhere near him until he tells me why he left in the first place. I can’t let him do to them what he did to me. They don’t deserve him just swanning in and out of their lives when it suits him. I need to know he’s serious.”

“Fair point. Canna argue wi’ ye on that Claire.” Ian said. “I’m sorry about us telling him about wee Willie. He was just so excited about Bree, we thought—“

“I know, it’s fine. I should have told him myself. I guess I was just afraid, I don’t know.” I took a deep breath and went to sit next to my dad on the couch. “Do you know why he left?”

“Sorry. He hasn’t said and I haven’t pushed it. I figured that you should be the person he explains himself to. I’m sure he will Claire. He’s determined to get to know the kids and be in their lives in whatever way you will allow him.” I let me know gently.

“Right.” I looked at the clock and noticed it was four o’clock. “Doesn’t he have a plane to catch or train or something?”

“The lads staying Claire. Said he can take care of business over the phone, but he needs to be here for the kids.” My dad told me.

I didn’t even know what to say to that. What could I say? Jamie is some big movie and television star now. There is no way he is going to stay here at Lallybroch just so he can get to know the children. Not if I can’t allow him to be a proper father to them. Frank is their father. The only one they’ve ever known. I can’t see Jamie sticking around and watching Frank be a father to his children.

I did everything I possibly could to let Jamie Fraser know he was going to be a father. It isn’t my fault he didn’t open any of my letters. I am sorry he’s missed out on the twins being born and the first seven, almost eight years of their lives, but that isn’t my fault.

No one knows that I know this, but when I stopped writing to Jamie, my dad and Willie went down to Harrogate to speak to Jamie in person. I overheard Willie speaking to Jenny about it one day. Apparently they got to Harrogate and had actually managed to arrange a time to meet Jamie at a small cafe close to his base, but he didn’t show up. They waited two hours before deciding he was a lost cause and the children and I would be better off without him.

 

The rest of the afternoon was a nightmare after collecting the kids from Geillis’. The whole ride home, Bree kept asking questions about Jamie and wanted to know why I hated him so much. If only she knew how much I loved the man because he gave me her and her brother.

I tried my best to put thoughts of Jamie Fraser to the back of my mind, but it didn’t help with Bree wanting to know more about the man who helped her earlier in the day, and Willie became curious about Jamie after Bree described him and he realised it was the man that he briefly met at Jenny’s funeral. Apparently in the brief time Jamie spent with the twins, he made quite the impression on them. Surely that was a good sign? All it did was bother me though, and I don’t know why.

 

I invited my dad in for dinner, but he kindly declined and said he was going out with Jamie’s uncle, Dougal, for a drink or two. That meant they would be out most of the evening and I would probably get a call around closing time to go and collect their drunken arses.

 

Whilst I was preparing dinner, the kids were still gushing about the big, tall red head who had recently arrived in town.

“So... if Jamie is Uncle Willie’s brother, does that make him our Uncle too?” Willie asked me as I set the table fore our meal.

“I asked her that earlier. She said no. I dinna understand though, ‘cause she also said that Jamie is Grandda’s son.” Bree answered before I got a chance.

“He’s your Grandda’s godson. Like your Aunties Mary and Jenny are your god mothers and your Uncles Willie and Ian are your godfathers. Jamie is just... well, he’s just Jamie.” I took a deep breath before continuing. I didn’t want to disappoint them, but at the same time, I didn’t want them getting used to Jamie being around. “Jamie is a busy man. He has a life, travelling between England and America for his work, he won’t be sticking around here for much longer.”

 

I tried my best to steer the conversation to anything else before Frank came home from his teaching conference in Inverness. He had been gone since Sunday evening, and with everything happening today, I haven’t managed to call him to explain about Jamie knowing about the children. This is something I knew he wouldn’t take well. He wasn’t exactly happy when he heard Jamie was sticking around at Lallybroch for a little while after Jenny’s funeral.

 

Dinner was quiet. For whatever reason, Willie didn’t have much conversation for his dad. Something I have noticed quite a bit over the last few weeks. Frank insisted it was nothing to worry about, Willie had just been upset with him because we weren’t taking our annual October break away down to London this year due to Frank’s various teaching conferences during the school break.

 

“How was the conference, darling?” I asked Frank as we cleared away the dinner dishes in to the dishwasher.

“Ah, you know... usual. Boring”

“Well, do you think you could maybe skip the one on Friday? I think it would be good for us to get away for a couple of nights, just the four of us.” I suggested.

“Has something happened Claire?” Frank turned toward me and frowned.

“Yes.” I said simply. “But I’d rather speak to you about that when the children are asleep.” I took a deep breath before continuing with the next part. “Jamie’s staying. I’m not sure how long for.”

I could tell Frank wasn’t happy hearing that piece of information. He turned his back to me and grunted in annoyance.

“Look, I’d really prefer to discuss this when the children are in bed, but can you please just think about coming away with us this weekend? We’ve all been through so much, and it would be nice to just spend some quality time, just the four of us. It will be good, especially for you and Willie.” I told him as I reached out rest my hand on my husbands shoulder.

Frank turned to face me and smiled. “Of course. I’ll go and look up some flights and see if I can find us somewhere nice to stay. Why don’t we stay longer than just the weekend? Make it a slightly early birthday celebration for you. I doubt you want to celebrate your birthday here with everything that happened with Jenny, but there’s no reason why the kids and I can’t spoil you when we’re away.”

Frank pulled me in to his arms and I slid my arms up and around his neck before kissing him. “That sounds wonderful.” I said with a genuine smile on my face.

 

When the children went to bed, Frank and I sat in the living room with a large glass of red wine each, as we discussed our plans for our mini break away. Instead of staying right in the centre of London this year, Frank suggested we book a small cottage in the middle of no where instead. It meant that we would have the peace and quiet to just chill and relax. Do some fishing with the children and just have some time for ourselves. But, if we wanted to head in to London for shopping, or if the kids wanted to go to the cinema, or bowling or something, then we could do that too.

 

Once I was sure both the children were asleep, I began to tell Frank about Jamie knowing about the children being his. He didn’t seem surprised, but I could tell he was worried.

“Frank, I promise you nothing will change. I love you. You are my husband. You are their dad. Nothing changes that. The kids don’t know, and they never will. Jamie has made it clear he wants to get to know them both, but I made it perfectly clear that you are their father and he won’t change that. Whatever happens going forward Frank, it’s on our terms. Not Jamie Fraser’s. Alright? I did tell him the ball was in his court. I meant that I need him to be honest with me about why he did what he did. I need to know he won’t hurt the kids like he did me. If he does tell me the truth and he gets to know the children, he won’t be their father Frank.”

Frank didn’t say anything at first. He just nodded slowly.

When he eventually did speak, his voice was croaked and his mouth was all dry. “Do you want to be with him?”

“Excuse me?”

“Fraser. Are you going to take the kids and run back to him?” Frank’s voice was so small, I could barely hear what he was saying.

“Of course not Frank. How could you possibly think that? We are a family. I love you. How could you possibly think that I would tear our family apart like that? He left me Frank. And yes, for a long time I was heartbroken and devastated, but you saved me Frank. You loved me, and you took my children on as your own and...” I trailed off. Confused as to why he could possibly think I would leave him. “Frank, I will never leave you. I love you.”

“But you never wanted me to adopt the twins as my own legally. It’s like you were always waiting for him to return. Now he has...

“Claire, I can’t lose them. Their my children, I can’t lose them.” Frank pleaded with me with tears in his eyes.

“You won’t lose any of us darling. I promise. Nothing has changed when it comes to us and our children.” I tried my best to reassure my husband, but I couldn’t help but think that I shouldn’t of had to reassure him at all.

Did he really not trust me?

“Look Frank, I’ve told Jamie that he can’t just expect to walk in here and be a father to them. They have a father. He wasn’t too happy, I will say that, but he accepts it. He doesn’t have a choice. He just wants to get to know them.

“I’m not sure what his plans are, but I was thinking that maybe he could see the children on a Sunday after church when we all go to Lallybroch. That way you and I will be there too, and it doesn’t make any difference to the children. Jamie will just be hanging out with them like he would with the other kids.

“The children asked me if he was their Uncle. Maybe, if you agree, they could call him Uncle. If you don’t agree, that’s fine, he will just be Jamie. I was just thinking because they call Willie and Ian Uncle that...”

“Are you sure you don’t want to tell the children he is their real father?” Frank asked me curiously.

“No.” I said firmly. “I don’t want to keep going round in circles Frank. Jamie had his chance, and he blew it. He knows that now. He’s just trying to make things right. We are our children’s parents. You and me, not him.”

“Do you want the children to call him Uncle?” Frank asked me with a slight hesitation in his voice.

“Honestly? I think it would make sense to them. This whole situation is already complicated. I don’t see what the harm would be, but like I said Frank, it’s you and I that make these decisions. Together. Not Jamie.” I answered simply.

“Alright, Uncle Jamie it is then.”

 

Frank didn’t say any more, and I didn’t push. I could start to feel a divide between us, and I didn’t like it.

All these years, Frank had been my rock. Stood by me and supported me through everything. Made me feel loved and wanted, but now... I could feel us slipping apart. I hated it. I just wanted to curl in to my husbands side and have him tell me everything would be alright, but I knew he would just pull away from me.

All of this because Jamie Fraser returned.

Chapter Text

Jamie’s POV

 

I. Was. FUMING!

To hear from my sister in law, Mary, that Claire and Frank we’re taking my children away on holiday. Claire hadn’t mentioned anything about a holiday when we spoke. Mary was under the impression I knew all about it, but I didn’t.

Claire told me the ball was in my court. She knew I wanted to get to know the kids. She knew I was sticking around for a while purposely to get to know my children, even if they wouldn’t know I was their biological father.

I didn’t call her straight away, because I knew she would need to speak with Frank. As much as I wanted to call her and arrange to meet up with her and explain myself properly to her, I knew she would much appreciate some space to talk with Frank. I thought I was doing the right thing in giving her a day or two. I didn’t realise that whilst I thought I was giving them some space to discuss things between themselves, they were planning a last minute holiday with my children.

After Mary told me about the little getaway the Randall’s had planned, I tried to call Claire, but she didna answer. I left her a couple of voicemails and sent at least four text messages asking for her to contact me. She didna though.

I went down to her wee shop to see her, but Geillis was working herself.

“Wi it bein’ the school holidays and all, she’s taken some time off. I mean, ye saw wee Bree the other day. Claire only had her back turned for five mins and the lass takes off out the front on her scooter and falls in the middle of the bloody road. She’s just lucky she only had the one of them here wi’ her, canny imagine how much trouble the pair of them would get in to the gether.” Geillis laughed.

 

Geillis refused to gi’ me Claire’s address. I could understand, but I really needed to speak wi’ her before she took off wi’ the weans. I didna have a problem wi’ the holiday as such, I was just disappointed because it meant I probably wouldna be able to speak to Claire or see the kids until after they returned.

All I wanted was to speak to Claire and tell her my side of what happened all them years ago, so that when they returned, I could see my weans and get to know them. A new start. A fresh start.

 

Claire eventually called me back and told me that she and Frank were taking the weans on a wee short break, and she would come and see me when they returned on Wednesday. I told her I didna have an issue with them goin’ away, I was just disappointed that I wouldn’t have a chance to explain myself properly before they left. I was hoping she would find it a good idea for us to speak before she left, and that would hopefully give her more of a chance to relax and enjoy her wee holiday. And by doing that, it could maybe be a fresh start when they returned.

She didna agree though. She told me that she would see me when she returned, and then once we have spoken, she’ll decide if I can see the twins or not.

It was heartbreaking, but I had to accept that I have a lot of making up to do when it comes to Claire and our children. I just had to be patient.

 

I decided that whilst Claire and the kids were away, it would be the perfect time for me to go back to London and have a wee chat wi’ Laoghaire, and let her ken my plans for stayin’ in Scotland a bit longer. She doesna need to ken the details though. I’m sure Claire wouldna be happy if I started tellin’ random people of our children. Especially when the twins don’t even ken I’m their real da. It would also give me a chance to head to my own house in Wales, and get things sorted there. It would also give me a chance to read all of Claire’s letters before speaking with her next week.

 

The plan was to fly down to London on Friday morning. Have a meeting with Laoghaire in the afternoon before travelling to Wales for the weekend and then return to Lallybroch on Monday evening.

I didna expect to run in to Mr and Mrs Frank Randall and “their” two children on the same flight as me down to London.

“Uncle Jamie!” Bree cried as she ran towards me. She swung her wee arms out and wrapped them round my waist and hugged me tight.

“Bree, get back here now!” Claire snapped at our daughter. “Leave Jamie to find his seat in peace. Come and sit next to your father please.”

“Bye Uncle Jamie.” Bree said as she turned to head back down a couple of rows behind me to sit next to Frank. Her wee face was full of disappointment.

Just as I got seated, I could sense Claire stood next to me. I looked up at her and she stood with her arms folded across her chest.

“What the hell are you playing at?” She hissed at me through gritted teeth.

“Excuse me?”

“On the same flight as us. Why Jamie?” She asked accusingly.

“Well, for starters... I didna ken ye’s were flying down to London, never mind being on this exact flight. Ye never did tell me where ye were goin’, remember?” Claire rolled her eyes at me, but I just ignored her. “Secondly, I have some things to sort out down south, and I figured since I wouldn’t be seein’ ye until next week, I thought it would be the perfect time for me to go and get things organised. I’ll be back at Lallybroch on Monday evening.”

“Fine. Well, have a nice weekend and I’ll see you when I get back.” She said dryly before turning to walk back to her seat.

I grabbed her arm and gently pulled her back to me. I tugged on her wrist to bring her closer so I could whisper something in her ear wi’out anyone else hearing. “Why is our daughter calling me Uncle?”

“Well, she’s certainly not going to call you daddy, is she?” Claire hissed in my ear before pulling back. She must of seen the hurt on my face, because she came closer again to continue. “It just made sense to them to call you Uncle Jamie, since that’s what they call Willie and Ian. If you would prefer they just called you Jamie, I’ll speak to them about it.”

“Nah. It’s fine. As long as that’s alright wi’ you Sassenach. I dinna want to cause any trouble for ye and Frank.” I answered softly. What else could I say?

“It’s fine. The kids are the priority in this situation. Frank is their father, but once you and I speak properly, and if we can come to some kind of arrangement that suits us all regarding the children, I don’t see any reason as to why you shouldn’t get to know them and they you. I need to know that I can trust you though Jamie. I need to know that my children can trust you. That, you won’t let them down and just take off out of their lives like they mean nothing to you.”

Before I could reassure her of anything, the flight attendant came over to ask Claire to find her seat. I turned my head to watch her walk back a couple of rows, and slide in to the aisle seat where she sat next to Willie. He looked over at me and flashed me a huge grin that reminded me of me when I was younger. When I was happy and full of life. I havena been like that in a long time. I smiled back at my son and gave him a wave.

 

 

After my meeting with Laoghaire, which was a waste of time by the way, I had a text come through from Claire. She asked if it would be possible for she and I to meet somewhere quiet in London so we could talk. Apparently she and Frank had discussed it may be better to sort things as soon as possible before us all being back up in the Highlands next week. They think it would be a good idea to sort things out before the twins run in to me again. I wasn’t opposed. This was exactly what I wanted to happen in the first place. I wanted to speak with Claire before she left Broch Mordha, so that when she and the children came home, it could be a fresh start.

 

I couldn’t think of anywhere in London that would give Claire and I the privacy we really needed, so I decided to check into a suite in one of my favourite hotels in the city. Not really ideal having Claire come to my hotel, but at least we would be alone. We wouldn’t get that in some small café somewhere. Especially in London. Unfortunately I don’t blend in as much as I would like. Claire and I certainly didn’t need anyone interrupting us for a selfie or an autograph. I didn’t want to draw attention to the British press either. The last thing we needed was pictures and false stories hitting the front pages of the papers and magazines.

 

Claire came to my hotel suite after she and Frank had dinner wi’ the kids. I’m no sure where they’re staying, but I ken it’s some place outside of the city.

 

Claire was wary as she stepped in to my suite. She looked beautiful in her light denim jeans and her long sleeved cream top. With it being the Autumn, Claire wore a matching grey woollen hat and scarf and a pair of grey slouch boots. She looked verra casual, but I’ve never seen her look so beautiful.

“Ye look—“

“Don’t Jamie. Can we just get this over with?” Claire cut me off as she walked past me to the lounge area of my suite.

 

I invited Claire to take a seat at the dining table that sat next to the window. Sitting there gave us a wonderful view of the city. Due to the evening getting a bit later, it was getting dark outside, which only made the view of the city better with all the lights.

“How are the bairns?” I ask, as I sit down opposite Claire at the table. I poured us both a glass of whisky.

“They’re alright, I suppose. They really miss Jenny. Frank and I are hoping this little break will be good for them.” She answered.

“Were they close wi’ Janet then?” I asked curiously. Even though I was estranged from my sister for such a long time, I always kent she would be a wonderful mother to her bairns. I was just curious as to how she was wi’ my weans.

“Very.” Claire said simply. “It wasn’t very often that the children didn’t see Jenny and Iain. If for some reason we couldn’t get to Lallybroch, or Jenny and Iain couldn’t come to us, the twins would go in to complete melt down. It would take Frank and I hours to calm them down.” Claire took a sip of her whisky before continuing. “I’m very lucky, so are the children, to have all these people around us to love us and support us. Jenny and Iain, Willie and Mary... they were all there for me right from the beginning. Geillis was too, whilst she was around. Even when she left, we spoke on the phone at least twice a week without fail. There was also Mary and Alex, and of course Frank. Even Jack. God, how those kids just adore Jack. Especially Bree. As much as the twins love everyone in their life, Jenny was their favourite aunt, and Jack is definitely their favourite uncle. Although, Willie does like to follow his uncle Willie around the place when he can.” She chuckled.

“I’m glad ye and the bairns have that Sassenach. I should of been there myself though. I canna apologise enough for no bein’ there when ye needed me. When my bairns needed me.” I said softly.

“Stop apologising Jamie. Just... just please tell me why you left like you did. I don’t want to be going around in circles. I just... I need an explanation. I don’t want to keep the children from you. I never have. I just need to make sure that you’re ready to be a part of their lives. No matter how big or how small a role you might play. I just need to know we can trust you.”

“Aye. Ye can trust me Sassenach. I ken me saying’ that doesna really count towards anythin’ but I promise ye, I’ll never walk away from ye or the bairns again. I understand ye dinna want to tell the bairn I’m their true father, that’s fine. I mean, it hurts, but I brought that on myself. I accept that. I just want a chance to get to ken my children, and for them to get to ken me. I want to be a part of my children’s lives. I want them to be able to come and talk to me about their worries, or their problems. I want to play sports wi’ them. I want to take them riding. Teach them how to cook—“

“Then you know what you have to do Jamie.” Claire sighed. “You need to tell me why you left me out of the blue and I ended up being a single mother.”

Chapter Text

October 2007

 

Claire Elizabeth Fraser had been thinking about becoming a doctor ever since she was a young girl. She took all the right subjects in school and worked damn hard to get the grades she would need to go on and study medicine. She hadn’t quite decided what kind of doctor she wanted to be. She just knew she wanted to help and heal people the best she could.

She was very much interested in surgery, but she didn’t feel that being a surgeon would be a suitable occupation when she wanted to have a house full of her and Jamie’s children. Of course she knew Jamie would support her to no end if she did decide on becoming a surgeon, but she didn’t want to have children and miss out on seeing them grow.

Claire had her eye on doing a pre med course in St Andrews. She would be applying to pre med courses all over the country, but St Andrews was the University she really wanted to attend. Claire was worried how her family, and Jamie, would react to her wanting to be so far away, but they all supported her. Especially Jamie.

 

 

Jamie Fraser knew he wanted to teach. He just wasn’t sure between teaching English, Modern Languages or Physical Education.

After helping out in the P.E. department during his free periods, Jamie had decided that he definitely wanted to teach P.E.

Jamie did his research and decided that he was going to try his very best to get in to either the University of Stirling, or the University of Dundee. That way, if Claire managed to secure a place in St Andrews, they could go on the next journey of their lives, together.

 

With the help of Jamie’s parents, Ellen and Brian, and the help of Claire’s parents, Julia and Murtagh, Jamie planned a little trip down to St Andrews for him and Claire to check out the University during the October break. It was also coming up to Claire’s seventeenth birthday, so the trip would be a lovely way for them to celebrate.

The plan was for Jamie and Claire to travel down to St Andrews on the Wednesday, and then travel back on the Sunday before school started back on the Monday. There was no rush for them to get there though, because Murtagh had organised for the tour of the University to take place on the Saturday morning, Claire’s birthday. That would give the loved up couple plenty of time to take in the sights in and around St Andrews.

To Jamie’s surprise, his parents had managed to organise a little tour of Dundee University on the Friday afternoon. Apparently the University of Dundee was having an open day. Brian thought it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Especially if Jamie and Claire would be close enough to the area any way.

 

How they all managed to keep the plans a secret from Claire, she will never know. She was positively delighted when Jamie arrived to collect her on the Wednesday morning. Well, she wasn’t delighted to begin with, considering Jamie arrived at the back of eight in the morning. Claire was not a morning person.

It wasn’t until Claire realised that they were heading south, that she started to brighten up and got all giddy with excitement. Jamie still hadn’t revealed the full plan to her, but he did explain that he and their parents had been organising this little trip away for them both for the past few weeks.

 

The drive down to St Andrews didn’t take much longer than a couple of hours. Jamie didn’t see the need to stop on the way down, but as soon as they arrived in St Andrews, Jamie found a little café for the two of them to stop at for a coffee and a bite to eat before looking for the hotel they would be staying in for the next few days.

Both Jamie and Claire’s parents clubbed together to help out with the cost of some decent accommodation for the pair. Jamie assured them that they would both be fine staying in a caravan for a few nights, but Murtagh was adamant that his daughter would not be spending the cold autumn nights in a caravan.

 

 

Claire and Jamie enjoyed a wonderful few days away, just the two of them.

Jamie enjoyed a tour around the University of Dundee and even enjoyed a friendly game of footie with some of the lecturers, present students and some other prospective students.

Claire had stayed with Jamie for the tour around the campus and the campus grounds, but when Jamie was asked to join in on a few games with the sports department, Claire encouraged him to go on whilst she did some shopping and exploring around the city. Jamie was reluctant to let Claire go off on her own, but she assured him she would be okay.

They met up later in the afternoon and explored part of the city together before finding a lovely little pub to enjoy some dinner before heading back to St Andrews.

Claire loved how excited Jamie was at the prospect of possibly attending Dundee Uni. The way he spoke about the school, the courses and the lecturers, it was just as passionately as she spoke about her hopes and dreams of attending medical school. She was just so pleased that Jamie had found something that he was as equally passionate about.

She just prayed that they would both be able to attend the schools they wanted. She couldn’t even begin to think about being separated from Jamie. She couldn’t imagine anything worse.

 

Jamie had woken Claire at 6.30 on the Saturday morning. Her seventeenth birthday.

Obviously, Claire was not amused.

She still had no idea about her surprise tour around her university of choice. Jamie had made her think that he was attending the open day in Dundee, but organised to stay in St Andrews so that Claire could get a feel for the place she was determined to make her home when she finished secondary school.

After a lovely fully cooked scottish breakfast, Jamie took Claire on a wee stroll down by the beach. It was late October, but it was an unusual dry, but cloudy day.

Jamie had timed their morning out perfectly. They arrived at the University just in time for Claire to get her tour of the place she wanted to begin her medical career.

As soon as they arrived at the gate, and Jamie told her why they were there, Claire couldn’t help the tears from falling from her eyes, right down her cheeks. Jamie wiped them away gently before pulling her close and holding her tight.
“Happy Birthday, Mo Ghràidh.” He said softly in her ear.

 

Claire couldn’t believe that she had a boyfriend so thoughtful and as kind and loving as Jamie Fraser. The thought and care that went in to this surprise for her birthday was breathtaking. She started to feel really guilty that all she did to celebrate Jamie’s birthday, was a trip to Inverness for the day. A meal at their favourite restaurant in the city, and then they went to the cinema. She couldn’t even remember what film they went to see, because they couldn’t keep their hands and mouths away from one another long enough to watch the film.

 

That evening, they had dinner delivered to their hotel room. Jamie had wanted to take Claire out for a meal at a restaurant he’d seen good reviews about online, but after the wonderful surprise of a private tour around her preferred school, Claire just wanted to spend the evening in the privacy of their hotel room.

“I can’t believe you organised all this Jamie.” Claire gushed with tears in her eyes again, as Jamie held her close as they lay on the couch in their room.

“It wasna all me Sassenach. Our parents helped a great deal.” Jamie responded as he ran his hand through his girls wild curls.

“When you said we were coming to stay in St Andrews for a few days, I never expected for us to go on a private tour of the university Jamie. I was just excited to come away with you, just the two of us. God, I never dreamed... thank you Jamie. This has been the best birthday ever. I just wish I came up with something better than a day in Inverness for your birthday.”

Jamie gently turned Claire’s face so he could catch her mouth with a soft kiss. “My birthday was perfect Sassenach, because I got to spend the day wi’ you.

“Now, we leave to go home tomorrow, but dinna fash mo ghràidh, I’ll let ye sleep in till at least eight. Nae rush to get hame, is there?”

“Eight?! I don’t think so Mr Fraser. You made me get up super early on MY birthday. And, since this is my birthday weekend, I think I should be able to sleep as much as I like. Especially if I have to be up early when we return to school next week.” Claire rolled her eyes.

“Check outs at ten, mo ghràidh. I dinna fancy havin’ yer da murder me because you decided to sleep in, and he gets billed for a late check out.”

“Check our is at noon. I was there when you checked in, remember? And anyway, dad knows me well enough to know that I like my sleep. I’m sure he wouldn’t care if we had to check out a little late.” Claire smiled as she snuggled closer to Jamie on the couch.

“Hmmm. Whatever ye say Sassenach. If yer no awake by ten, I’ll wake ye myself. That should be plenty rest enough. Breakfast finishes at ten, so I’ll need to get ye fed somewhere else if ye plan on sleepin’ in. Mind it’s Sunday, so I doubt there will be much open.”

“I’d rather sleep than eat. You know that.”

 

The next morning, Jamie awoke at five thirty. Not unusual for Jamie Fraser to be up so early. Growing up on a farm, it was easy for him to wake any time between four thirty and six.

Jamie decided to head out for a run after his morning glass of water. Claire was still sound asleep, and he knew that she would stay that way until lunch time if she had her way. He left her a note saying where he would be, on the off chance she would wake. He knew it would be highly unlikely though.

When Jamie arrived back up at the room around nine, Claire was still sound asleep. In the three hours he was gone, he ran eight miles, came up to the room to quickly shower and change before heading back downstairs for some breakfast, and had a lengthy discussion about rugby with one of the other guests staying in the hotel.

Jamie sat up on the bed beside Claire whilst he drank his hot coffee and read his sports magazine.

He would glance over at Claire’s sleeping form now and again, and he couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have this beautiful, smart woman in his life. He couldn’t believe that she even looked twice at him, never mind stay in a relationship with him for over two years.

In some ways, they were complete opposites, but they fitted together just perfectly. He couldn’t wait to spend the rest of his life with this woman.

He could see it. Them married shortly after Claire finished her pre med course. He didn’t want to wait until she was finished medical school. He couldn’t wait that long to call her his wife. No, the wedding would happen some time between her finishing her pre med course, and starting medical school. Maybe a year or two after Claire found a position she was happy in at a hospital, they would start to build on their family.

Jamie wanted twelve children, but he knew that to be an unrealistic number given Claire’s career choice. He could see himself and Claire living happily ever after with three children, two wee lassie’s and a son to carry on the Fraser name. He could see them living in one of the cottages on Lallybroch grounds. Not all too far away from Raigmore Hospital, if that’s where Claire wanted to work from, and they would have all their family close by. He could see their future perfectly.

 

Ten o’clock, on the dot, with Claire still not risen from her bed, Jamie gently gave her a wee shake and whispered in her ear. “It’s gone ten now Sassenach. Ye need to get up.”

When she begged him for five more minutes, Jamie said no, and waved a hot mug of coffee under her nose.

“Ye need to get up Sassenach. Drink the coffee, have yer wee shower and then get yerself in gear. Ye canna be sleepin’ the whole day away. I’ve been up since half five.”

“More fool you.” Claire grumbled as she sat up and carefully took the mug from Jamie.

 

As Jamie thought, it was difficult to find somewhere to get Claire breakfast, since it was a Sunday. Luckily, there was a Morrisons supermarket. “That will have to do.” He thought.

Claire was still cranky at being woken before she was ready, and wasn’t in the mood to eat anything substantial. To Jamie’s annoyance, Claire opted for a hot chocolate and a blueberry muffin.

“Ye need more than that Claire. What about just a wee breakfast, aye?”

“This is a “wee” breakfast.” She responded sharply.

Jamie rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t help but be amused at his girlfriends attitude. She was always the same when someone would wake her before she was ready.

 

They were back on the road just after eleven. Jamie had decided on taking a de tour to Stirling, so they could see what the place was like. Of course, with it being Sunday, the castle would most likely be closed, as well as the Bannockburn visitor centre, but if they liked the city, he and Claire could possibly come back over the Easter break and visit the touristy sites.

Claire wasn’t overly thrilled at the idea of a trip to Stirling. Not that she didn’t want to go at all, she just didn’t see the point in going if they couldn’t get in to the places they really wanted to see.

“Why don’t we just slowly make our way home? We could take a scenic route. Maybe call in at a petrol station or service station and get some sandwiches and things for the trip?” Claire suggested.

“But we’re this far down Sassenach. It would be a shame to just head home now.” Jamie explained, but he could see the boredom on Claire’s face.

“I ken it’ll no be as exciting as if it were a weekday or whatever, but come on. I’m sure we’ll still have fun. Neither of us have ever been to Stirling before. I’m sure we’ll find somewhere nice to enjoy a nice lunch. Ye canna be full after yer wee muffin.”

“Fine. But I’m going to take my time going around the shopping centre then, and you better not complain.”

Jamie couldn’t help but smile fondly at his still cranky girlfriend.

 

They walked around the city centre hand in hand. They spent a good few hours shopping. Claire had found a small bookstore in one of the back streets and spent a good hour or so browsing. She ended up leaving the store with three new books about medicine.

They even found a nice little chip shop cafe on a street corner. They both enjoyed a fish supper each and declared they couldn’t even think about food for the rest of the day. The food was cooked fresh and they thoroughly enjoyed their meal.

“When we move to St Andrews Sassenach, I promise to bring ye here one Sunday a month for a wee fish supper.”

“If we move Jamie. It’s a very big if. I might not be accepted. We need to be realistic and think about all our options.”

“Believe me Sassenach, ye’ll get in no bother. Everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. I ken it.”

 

As they walked back to the car park, Jamie’s phone rang. It was Murtagh.

“Hey Murtagh. Dinna fash, we’re just leaving Stirling now. We dinna plan to be hame for a good few hours yet though. We want to take our time on the road before school starts back tomorrow.”

“It’s no that lad. Ye need tae... Christ Jamie, ye need to get yer selves back here as soon as ye can lad.” Murtagh explained with a wobble in his voice.

“What is it Murtagh? What’s happened?” Jamie begged down the phone. Obviously it was something serious.

“Just get yer arse home lad. Ye’s need to come home. I’ll see ye when ye’s get here.”

 

The drive back to Lallybroch was done in a haze. Jamie and Claire didn’t know what they would be walking in to when they returned home, but they knew it wasn’t good.

As Jamie drove the three hour car journey home, Claire kept calling and texting her parents to ask what was going on. All they would tell her was they needed to come home.

It was the longest car journey the pair had ever made.

What started off as a wonderful few days away to celebrate Claire’s birthday, was now ending in panic and fear as to what was going on at home.

“It must be bad if they wilna tell us anything, Claire.”

“Don’t worry until we know there is something to worry about. Maybe they just want us home. Maybe they think we’ve been away long enough.” Claire tried to reassure Jamie, but she knew that whatever was happening at home, was big. Big enough that no one would tell them until they were safely at home.

 

As soon as they arrived back at Lallybroch, Claire and Jamie jumped out of the car and ran inside. They stopped in their tracks as they saw Jenny curled up against Julia Fraser, crying her wee heart out. Willie was sat in the corner of the living room with tears streaming his face, though he made no sound.

“Wh...What’s happened? Where’s Dad?” Claire finally asked her mother. Her voice was croaked and shaking.

“He’s upstairs with your Uncle Brian, sweetheart. Jamie, come and sit down love.” Julia said softly.

Jamie took another look around the room and bolted up the stairs to find his da. Claire ran after him, but she was too slow. By the time she reached Jamie, he was down on his knees on the floor howling. Claire got down on the floor beside him and pulled him in to her arms to rock him slowly. Jamie didn’t resist, he relaxed completely in to her and continued to sob.

“Can someone tell me what’s happened?” Claire asked firmly.

“It’s yer Auntie Ellen, lass. She suffered a stroke this afternoon. She passed a couple of hours ago.”

 

 

October 2007 - January 2008

 

The weeks and months following Ellen Fraser’s death was just unimaginable. Not only for Brian Fraser and his three children, but for the whole of Broch Mordha.

Ellen Fraser was an extremely popular member of the community. She wasn’t just a farmers wife, or a mother. She was a friend. She was family. She was someone people didn’t hesitate to turn to in their time of need. Ellen Fraser was never one to turn anyone away when they needed her help.

The whole of Broch Mordha was in mourning.

No one would have ever expected Ellen Fraser to suffer a stroke out of no where, and pass away shortly afterwords.
She was a strong, fit and healthy woman. How could this have happened? Why did it happen?

 

The grieving process was only made all the harder on the Fraser family, when Ellen’s two brothers Colum and Dougal, made an appearance up at Lallybroch to find out what the hell happened to their sister.

The brothers had been estranged from their sister for the past twenty years. They didn’t approve of her relationship with Brian Fraser, much less her marriage and choice to have a family with the young farmer.

 

Murtagh and Julia had tried their best to keep the brothers away from the grieving Fraser family, but it was no use. All the plans that Brian and his children had made for Ellen’s funeral were completely thrown out and changed to suit both Colum and Dougal instead.

Brian didn’t have the strength to argue or fight the men on their actions. Brian’s main priority had to be his three children.

Jamie didn’t want to take any of Colum or Douglas shit though. This was the first time he had ever met his Uncles, and he had to say, they weren’t making a very good impression on him.

Jamie was furious that his father just let the brothers take over his mothers funeral, after practically ignoring Ellen for twenty years.

 

Jamie didn’t return to school until early November, but his mind was anywhere else.

Claire and their group of friends did everything they could to try and help Jamie come to terms with life without his mother.

Jamie had felt guilty at the fact that he wasn’t there when his mother needed him. He was struggling to come to terms with the fact that whilst he was off enjoying a weekend away with Claire, making plans for their future, his mother was dying.

Of course every one around him tried to reassure him that there was nothing he could have done if he was with her any way. That wasn’t the point though, he didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to his Mam before she was taken to the morgue.

He didn’t even feel like he got to send her off properly at the funeral, because Colum and Dougal had changed things to how they wanted them.

 

Jamie was having a hard time being around his father and his siblings. Mainly because he felt he let them down by not being there. Of course none of them felt like that, but they couldn’t help Jamie come to terms with what happened, no matter how hard they tried.

 

Jamie had spent his mornings out on the farm, helping his da with various chores before school every day. After school though, instead of returning home, he would spend most of the afternoon and early evening with Claire and her parents. Brian didn’t mind. He knew his son was struggling, and he knew that he was safe and looked after by Murtagh and Julia. It was clear to Brian that Jamie just had to be with Claire.

 

As Christmas came around. The first one without Ellen Fraser, everyone in the Fraser family struggled.

As usual, Murtagh, Julia and Claire went by and spent Christmas with the family.

Ever since Claire was small, she always remembered her Christmases at Lallybroch to be filled with fun, love and laughter. This year though, all that was felt, was the loss of Ellen Fraser.

Jamie and Claire had spent much of the morning upstairs in the library, after opening their presents with the family.

Christmas dinner was always cooked by Ellen and Julia. This year, Jenny was stepping up to help Julia in the kitchen.

Ever since the passing of Ellen, Jenny took it upon herself to step up to the plate and try her best to take care of her father and brother, like her mother had done.

Brian had felt guilty. His daughter shouldn’t feel like she had to step up so quickly after her mothers passing. She needed time to grieve as well. Jenny didn’t pay any attention though, and insisted she was fine.

Julia took good care of Jenny in the kitchen, and did her best to be there for Jenny is she needed her, without crowding the lass too much.

After opening the presents, Willie had gone off to exchange gifts with Mary McNab and spend a couple of hours with her, before he needed to be back home for his dinner.

It wasn’t usual for the Fraser kids to be allowed away from the house during Christmas Day, but since it had been an unusual time for them all, Brian knew that they needed their friends around them at a time like this. When Willie had asked if he would be able to visit Mary for a few minutes, Brian quickly agreed and told him to take his time. Jenny and Julia were planning on dinner around 3pm.

 

Brian and Murtagh had spent most of the day waiting patiently on their wonderful Christmas dinner and just had a good old chat in the living room after the kids went off and did their own thing.

Brian had admitted to Murtagh how worried he was about Jamie. It had been just over two months since Ellen passed, and the lad wasn’t coping any better. It appeared the only person he would speak to properly, was Claire.

“It’s just gonnae take time, but the lad will come round. He just... he just needs to ken we’re all here for him when he’s ready to talk.” Murtagh assured his cousin.

“It’s just so difficult to see him struggle so, and there is nowt I can dae to help him.” Brian tearfully responded. “I got another letter from his guidance teacher from school. She wants to see me when the school goes back. Apparently he’s falling behind a great deal in his school work. Hasna even handed in any homework for the last four weeks. If he doesna turn things around, he may well have to resit this year. I dinna think he could cope wi’ that Murtagh. Especially if Claire goes off to uni and he’s stuck here for a year wi’out her.”

“Dinna think like that Brian. We’ll get him focused on his schooling. We’ll get him to see a therapist or something. Did his guidance teacher no already suggest such? Maybe that will help him. He wilna be like this forever, it’s just so raw. For all of us. But, Jamie was close wi’ his Mam. It’s gonna take time for him to deal wi’ his loss.”

 

The family all sat down to Christmas dinner at three o’clock as planned.

Brian sat at the head of the table, as usual. Willie sat to his left, whilst Jamie sat to his right. Jenny sat in between Willie and Murtagh, whilst Claire took her seat beside Jamie, and Julia sat beside her daughter. Ellen’s chair lay empty at the other end of the table, but Jenny insisted the place still be set for her.

It was the first Christmas they spent without Ellen, but they all did their best to make sure she was remembered.

Christmas was always one of Ellen’s favourite holidays to spend with her family and loved ones.

 

 

Usually, the Fraser’s celebrated Hogmanay by hosting a party at Lallybroch for all their friends and family.

This year though, things would be extremely different.

Brian wasn’t really in the right head space to organise a party as extravagant as their past Hogmanay parties. He knew that all their friends would completely understand if they chose not to host a party this year. And they did. No one expected the Fraser’s to host such a gathering after only losing Ellen a couple of moths before.

Jamie was relieved his father had decided to not go ahead with the annual get together, but Jenny was adamant that things should go on as normal.

“Mam wouldna want us to no ring in the new year with our loved ones. She would be expectin’ us to keep goin’ as usual.” She cried to her father and Murtagh just a couple of days before the New Year.

“I dinna think I could cope wi’ so many folk here lass. No so soon.” Brian tried to reason with his daughter.

He could tell she was hurt and disappointed, so Brian decided to speak with both Willie and Jamie to see what they wanted to do. Brian wasn’t too keen on the idea, but if his children wanted to host the party that their mother loved so dearly, he wouldn’t say no. But if either of the lads weren’t keen on the idea, it wouldn’t be happening.

Brian sat down with all three of his children, and discussed the idea of the Hogmanay party. He made his own feelings on the party clear, but he didn’t want to take away from the children, so the decision was theirs.

He could understand Jenny’s reasoning for wanting the party to go ahead, but it didn’t mean that Brian had to like the idea himself.

It was Willie who spoke first. He agreed that it was too soon after losing Ellen, but he could understand where Jenny was coming from. He didn’t want to hurt his sister by saying she couldn’t do something she wanted to do to honour their mother.

Jamie made his feelings clear on the subject, stating that there was no way in hell he would be attending a party in their home so close after losing their mother.

The way he spat his words towards his older sister caused an argument between the two and soon after Brian managed to stop the pair, Jamie took off out of the house.

Claire, who had heard the heated exchange from the kitchen, quickly ran out of the house after Jamie to make sure he was okay.

“It isna right that she wants to celebrate the New Year when our mother isn’t even cold in the ground yet!” Jamie spat as he saw Claire approaching him.

“Jamie, I can’t even begin to imagine how you feel right now, but I do know that everyone has different ways of coping with grief. I think keeping busy, and trying to continue your mothers work is Jenny’s way of coping.” Claire said softly as she ran her hand soothingly up and down Jamie’s back, trying to calm him.

“I ken that Sassenach. But Jenny’s no Mam, and she never will be.”

“Jamie, if doing this helps Jenny, I don’t see the harm. It’s been a tough couple of months for you all. Maybe she’s just wanting to ring in the New Year with the people who have been supporting you through this difficult time. If anyone deserves a happy new year, it your family.

“You don’t have to be part of it. You don’t need to be here unless you want to. You can come to mine and we can ring in the new year together. Just us two. If your dad or Willie don’t want to be at the party either, they can come to mine too. I’m sure my parents wouldn’t mind being here with Jenny.”

Jamie thought about what Claire had suggested, and decided to run it by his family.

Maybe he had been to tough on his sister. Jamie had been so wrapped up in his own grief lately, he didn’t stop to think about how his sister was dealing with her own.

Claire was right, people grieve differently, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of your mother.

 

It was decided that the party would go ahead, but Jamie wouldn’t attend at all. Willie would stay with Jenny, and Ian and Mary would be there for her too. Murtagh and Julia had agreed to attend as well to keep an eye on the kids, but Brian decided to only stay for the first wee while. He didn’t want to ring in his first new year without his wife alone, but he didn’t want to be crowded around by all their friends either. Brian decided that when he had enough of the party, he would make his way to Claire and Jamie, and the three of them would ring in the New Year together.

 

It was difficult for Brian ringing in the New Year with only Jamie and Claire. As much as he loved them both, and as glad he was to not have to be surrounded be a hundred other people, he just wished that he could have rung the New Year in with his other two children and Murtagh and Julia. They were the only people left in the world that he truly cared about.

Jamie and Claire certainly felt the absence of the rest of the family. They knew it would be difficult anyway without Ellen, but it just seemed so foreign for the family to be split as such. But unfortunately, it just had to be this way.

 

 

New Year’s Day was celebrated much like Christmas Day.

Jenny helped Julia with the food in the kitchen. Willie spent part of the day with Mary. Claire and Jamie spent most of the day either in the library just sitting in silence or wandering in the cold outside.

Ian came up to the house for a wee while to check on Jenny. After the bells the night before, Jenny got a little emotional. Understandably so.

After New Years dinner, Jenny and Julia saw to the dishes. Claire had offered to help, but Jenny just shooed her away and told her to keep an eye on Jamie, who was a lot more quiet and withdrawn than usual.

Jamie and Claire lay in the floor in the library each reading a book. Claire had noticed that Jamie hadn’t flipped the page over in about half an hour.

Claire moved closer to Jamie and softly ran a hand through his hair.

“What’s wrong my love? And don’t tell me you’re fine, because I know you’re not.”

“It’s... it’s nothing Sassenach.” Jamie sighed.

“It is t nothing Jamie. And I don’t think it’s just grief either.” Claire put her book down on the floor and moved even closer so that she could wrap her arm around Jamie’s waist. “Please talk to me Jamie. I can’t help you if you don’t.” She pleaded quietly.

“It’s nothing for you to worry about Sassenach. I promise.” Jamie gave Claire a small smile before placing a soft, but lingering kiss on her forehead. “I love ye Claire.”

“I love you too, Jamie.”

 

The next day, Jamie went down to the village to visit Claire. He had mentioned about his lack of enthusiasm for school since his mothers passing, but he didn’t quite tell her how badly his coursework was suffering.

Brian had mentioned that Jamie’s guidance teacher wanted to see him when school started back after the holidays. Jamie got a little nervous because he knew what was coming. His guidance teacher had told him the same as what was in the letter Brian received.

“I know you’ve been through a lot James, but if you can’t keep up and turn things around with you classwork and actually do your homework that’s been assigned, you may have to repeat your final year. Is that what you want?”

Jamie decided that he needed to turn things around. It wasn’t fair to have his father stress so much about him and his schooling, when Brian had more than enough of his own problems going on.

Jamie needed to speak to Claire and see if she could help him come up with a way to get back in to the swing of things with his school work. He knew his mother would be rolling in her grave if she knew that he was slacking with his schooling.

 

“How long have you known that you may have to repeat?” Claire asked. The hurt was evident in her voice that Jamie hadn’t confided in her sooner.

“The last week of term.” Jamie took a deep breath before continuing. “Look Sassenach, I need ye to help me, if ye can. I ken ye have yer own studies and that, but please, I’m beggin’ ye Sassenach. I canna do this wi’out ye.”

“I suppose there is time to turn things around but... what if it’s too late Jamie? What if you’ve missed so much, you have to repeat? There’s no shame in that, you have been through a lot. No one would blame you for losing your way a little. I just... I just fear that you will be annoyed at yourself and end up throwing your second chance away as well.”

“I’m no repeating Sassenach. I canna. You’ve worked too hard. We’ve planned too hard Sassenach. I canna stay here another year whilst yer off moving forward in St Andrews. I need to be wi’ ye.”

“Jamie, you know that of you did repeat this year, I wouldn’t leave you.”

“What?”

“I wouldn’t leave you. I couldn’t leave you.” Claire took a breath of her own before moving closer to Jamie to take a hold of his hands in hers. “If you choose to repeat this year, I’ll find a job or something.”

Jamie went to interrupt her, but she moved a finger to his lips to stop him.

“I love you Jamie, and if you’re staying, so am I. I can take a gap year. Get a job and earn some money for us to go off to uni the following year.”

“I canna ask ye to do that lass.”

“You’re not asking. We’re in this together. This isn’t just your life Jamie, it’s our life. Our future. We get through this together, no matter what.”

“Christ, I didna think I could love ye anymore than I already do. Dinna fash lass, I’ll fix this. I’ll stick my heid down and do all I can to make sure that we both go off to university together after the summer. I’ll no have ye wasting a year because of me Sassenach.”

 

Claire and Jamie spent the afternoon planning out a study schedule for Jamie so he could try and catch up as much as possible before school started back the following week. He knew he had a lot to make up for, but the fact that he didn’t want Claire staying in Broch Mordha because of him and delaying her own future in the process, that gave Jamie some extra motivation to finish the school year with Claire and their friends.

 

By the time dinner time came around, Claire and Jamie had a solid plan in place, and Jamie had already started on some of the homework he had neglected to complete and hand in back in November.

As Claire and Jamie sat down to a meal with Murtagh and Julia, Jamie’s phone rang.

“Excuse me. It’s Willie.” Jamie got up from the table to answe his phone. “What’s up Willie? I’m just about to sit down to dinner.” Jamie said down the phone to his brother.

“Jamie, it’s da. Ye need... ye need to get Murtagh take ye to Raigmore. It’s... it’s da.”

Jamie didn’t even respond to his brother. He shouted on Murtagh and asked him to drive him to Inverness.

Julia and Murtagh sat in the front of the car whilst Claire sat in the back with Jamie. She held on to his hand tightly and rubbed her thumb over his knuckles to try and keep him calm.

As they were just arriving in Inverness, Willie had phoned again.

“It was a heart attack Jamie. Jenny’s in the ambulance with da. Ian and I are following in the car. We’re almost there. Where are you?” Willie had asked as his voice cracked with fear.

“We’re no too far away. A few minutes maybe. How... how did it happen?”

“I dinna ken Jamie. He was sat in the living room goin’ through some old pictures of him and Ma, and them the next thing he was on the floor clutching his chest. Jenny was wi’ him. She called an ambulance straight away and then called me. I was out a bloody walk getting some air. I shoulda been at home.” Willie cried.

“It’s no yer fault Willie. We couldna have seen this coming. He’s a tough guy, Willie. Strong. He’ll pull through. He has to. God wouldna be so cruel to take both our parents before their time.” Jamie was trying his best to reassure his brother, but Jamie was quietly falling apart inside.

He already felt guilty about not being there when his mother passed. Now he felt guilt because his father suffered a heart attack and he wasn’t home. Poor Jenny was there with him all on her own. The lass must of been terrified.

 

By the time Jamie made it to the hospital and found the cubicle where Brian was taken, the fear and guilt was growing more and more. He never got the chance to say goodbye to his Mam. He was praying that god wouldn’t be so heartless as to take the only parent he had left.

 

All three Fraser kids were kept in the waiting room along with Murtagh, Julia, Ian and Claire whilst the medical professionals worked on their father.

As soon as Jenny saw the doctor coming towards them, she knew. She clung on to Ian for dear life and sobbed her wee heart out, just as she had a couple of months before when her mother had passed.

The doctor asked for the Fraser children to follow him to the family room where they could talk properly. It was with an unspoken agreement that Murtagh would go as well.

Jamie couldn’t take in what the doctor was saying to them. As soon as he heard the words, “We did everything we could, but we were unable to save him. Brian died a few minutes ago. I’m sorry for your loss”, Jamie backed himself in to the wall behind him and quietly slid down and brought his knees up to his chest.

He didn’t cry, but he didn’t speak either. He was numb.

His father was dead.

His mother was dead.

In a space of just ten weeks, Jamie’s whole world came crashing down around him, without any warning.

Chapter Text

Claire’s POV

 

“You blamed me. That’s why you left.” I said simply.

I always thought that may be the case. Even though I was one of the few people Jamie confided in after his mothers death, I was the reason he wasn’t home when she got sick. We were living it up in St Andrews and planning our future together. Falling in love with one another all the more, if that was even possible.

“Blamed ye? Blame ye for what Sassenach?”

“It was because we were away for my birthday that you missed being with Ellen when she needed you.” I took a deep breath. I couldn’t even look at Jamie. This was something I had always felt guilty about. “It’s my fault you didn’t get to say goodbye to her. I always knew you would end up resenting me for it.” I said softly.

Jamie came over to me and crouched down beside me and took my hands in his. I should have pulled back, but it felt so good to be touched by him.

“It wasna yer fault Claire. It was no ones fault. It wasna even an accident, it was just... unfortunate. Unexpected.”

“Jamie—“

“If I remember rightly, it was you that wanted to head home instead of exploring Stirling. If I had of done as ye suggested, we would of been home to at least say goodbye, but we couldna of kent what was gonna happen. Mam was fit and healthy. There was no reason to ever think that things could of turned out the way they did.

“I didna blame ye Claire. I never have. I had my own feelings of hurt and anger and guilt. It took me a long time to finally realise that there was nothing that could have happened differently. I just pray my Mam kent how much I loved her.”

I gave Jamie a small smile to reassure him that of course his mother knew how much he loved her. “I felt guilty for a long time Jamie. Is still do.” I said, barely louder than a whisper. I could feel the tears starting to trickle from my eyes and down my cheeks.

“Why Sassenach? Ye have nowt to be guilty for—“

“About Brian as well as your Mum. You were with me when your mum passed. You were with me when Brian had his heart attack—“

“Claire, I need ye to listen to me when I say you have nothing to feel guilty about. If any one is guilty of my fathers death... it’s me Claire.”

I asked Jamie what he meant by that, but he just turned away from me, got up and walked over to the other side of the suite. I could tell he was crying, but I wasn’t sure how to deal with him in this situation.

My first instinct was to go over to him and hold him in my arms and tell him everything was alright, but Jamie and I don’t have that sort of relationship now. We haven’t had any kind of relationship in eight years.

Jamie collapsed on to the couch and cried his tears in to his hands.

It was a heartbreaking sight.

I have a husband, I shouldn’t really be doing this, but I couldn’t help myself. I found my feet carrying me over to where Jamie was sitting, and I sat down beside him and pulled him close to me.

“Brian had a heart attack, Jamie. That wasn’t your fault.” I told him as I rubbed his back to try and soothe him and calm his breathing.

 

 

 

January 2nd 2008

 

The morning of Brian’s heart attack, Brian and Jamie had yet another argument about Jamie’s schooling.

These wee arguments were getting more and more often due to Jamie’s refusal to open up to his da, or anyone else about his feelings.

Of course, Brian could understand why his son was struggling so. He could even understand why he was reluctant to focus properly on his schooling, but he knew that if his son had to repeat the year, it would destroy him. All his friends, and Claire would be moving on with the next part of their lives and futures come summer. Would Jamie really be happy staying at Lallybroch another year to repeat his final year of secondary school?

 

“I just dinna want ye throwin’ yer life away, son. Either would yer Mam. Ye’ve worked so damn hard, ye canna just give up now.” Brian tried to reason with his son.

“What dae ye expect me to dae da? I... I’m trying my best here.” Jamie shot back in a fit of anger. The Fraser stubbornness coming out in full.

“Yer best?” Brian scoffed. “If this is yer best lad, I’d hate tae see yer worst.

“Yer mother would be really disappointed in ye lad if ye didna at least try.”

 

Jamie ended up storming off and heading down to the village to see Claire. It broke his heart to think that he was disappointing his late mother, and his father.

He knew his da was right. He just wasn’t sure how to turn things around. Claire was good at this sort of thing. He knew if anyone could help him sort his life out, it would be her. He would just need to be honest and tell her how bad things had gotten at school.

He thought Claire would have been mad with him for letting his studies get in such a state, but she wasn’t. She was so supportive. Even told him that she would take a gap year if need be, so that they could still go off to uni together.

 

Jamie never imagined that the last conversation he would have with his da, would be an argument over school.

 

 

Present Day

 

“If I hadna argued wi’ da that morning, he might still be here the day.” Jamie spoke so softly, I could barely hear him.

“You can’t know that Jamie. And, you aren’t to blame for your father’s heart attack. He was a mess Jamie. He was grieving his wife—“

“And worryin’ about me, Claire. He struggled them last couple of months because I was so wrapped up in my own grief, I didna stop to consider how anyone else was coping or dealin’ wi’ things.

“I pushed everyone away Claire. In the end, I lost you because I couldna handle the guilt and the shame I felt about what had happened.”

I don’t know why, but I kissed Jamie’s temple. I just needed him to know that I was there. That he wasn’t to blame for anything.

“Why did you leave?” I whispered. “You obviously planned it beforehand.

“I knew you were struggling Jamie. I knew you were grieving, but it was you that made all the plans for us moving to St Andrews. It was you that was insistent that we were going. You managed to do the unexpected and turn things around at school. You had our entire future mapped out for us, and then out of no where, you broke up with me, left me in the middle of the school grounds crying my eyes out, and you just... you left me. You left everyone Jamie.” The tears just spilled out of me. There was nothing I could do to stop them. If I’m being honest, I didn’t want them to stop. I wanted Jamie to see how much he hurt me. How much his actions of eight years ago still affected me.

 

Nothing could have prepared me for what Jamie told me next.

He had planned to join the army when he felt so lost and confused about everything. He thought that joining the army would give him a purpose and help him deal with what had happened.

He knew he had the love and support of me and his family, but he didn’t believe he deserved it. He thought we would all be better off without him.

I would be better off without him.

 

The same day I got my unconditional letter from St Andrews, offering me a place, Jamie got a letter from the army centre in Inverness, inviting him to a fitness group support session to help him prepare for his fitness test.

Jamie saw how excited and happy I was to be accepted to the University I had dreamed of attending for so long, and he realised that he didn’t want to be apart from me. He wanted us to go and live the life we planned, together.

I even remember how different he was around that time. He was... happier. He was really looking forward to us moving and starting our lives together. That’s why it was such a shock that within a matter of four weeks, Jamie had left me in tears in the middle of the school grounds, and left me.

I never saw it coming. No one did.

 

Turns out, the main reason for Jamie Fraser leaving me, was down to my husband. Frank.

 

“He said ye deserved better than me. And he was right. I was thinking the same thing. That’s why I applied to the army in the first place.” Jamie informed me as he stood facing away from me.

“Jamie, when did Frank say that to you?”

“He didna say it to my face. I overheard a conversation between him and Jack. Funnily enough, Jack was tellin’ Frank to stay away from us both and let us be.

“Jack said that it was obvious I wasna myself, and he couldna blame me after losing my parents they way I did. Frank just kept goin’ on and on about how I was lettin’ ye down and how I would just drag ye down if I kept goin’ the way I was. He said that I would end up ruining yer life like I was ruining my own. And I couldna deny what he was sayin’. He was right Claire. I couldna be the man ye needed.

“So, instead of withdrawing my application wi’ the army, I just... left. I thought I was doin’ ye a favour Claire. It broke my heart to leave ye like that, but after hearing Frank say all that stuff I knew to be true myself, I couldna see another way. It’s been the biggest regret of my life though Claire. That’s why I never opened yer letters. It’s why I couldna come back until now. I was a coward Claire. I dinna want to be that scared wee lad any more though. I want to prove to ye that I can be the man ye do deserve. I want to prove I can be a good influence on our children, Claire. I’m beggin’ ye to give me one last chance. Please Claire.”

 

I could understand why Jamie left. It didn’t make it any easier though. Especially learning that the man I married, the man I slept beside every night, the man my children called daddy, was one of the main reasons Jamie had left in the first place.

Yes, Jamie was struggling, but I refuse to believe that he and I wouldn’t of been happy together.

Jamie wasn’t holding me back. We loved each other. We were supposed to build our future together.

What the hell did Frank Randall know about mine and Jamie’s relationship?

 

I was even more confused after listening to Jamie, than I was when I first stepped foot in that hotel.

How was I supposed to move forward now?

How was I supposed to return to my husband after learning what he said all them years ago? I couldn’t just pretend I didn’t know. Pretend that what he had said didn’t affect my life. Jamie’s life. Our children’s lives.

 

“So. When did you and Frank get the gether then?”

Chapter Text

Thank you guys so much for all the feedback and comments on this fic. I really appreciate hearing what you all think.

I’m afraid I am going to take a wee break from writing for a wee while due to my health. Nothing serious, but I’ve just had a diagnosis for something and it’s gonna take me a wee while to get my head around.

I have a fair few chapters already written for this fic, so it is my plan to keep posting what I have already written, but it may not be as frequent as I’d like. I hope you all understand.

Kirsty X

Chapter Text

Claire’s POV

 

“So. When did you and Frank get the gether then?”

I looked up at Jamie in shock. After everything he just told me, he really wanted to discuss my relationship with Frank?

“Why, does it matter?”

“Of course it matters Claire. I need to ken how long I was gone before he managed to slide his way back in to yer life like that.”

“It really wasn’t like that Jamie. W-he... we were friends. He was there for me when I needed him.” I was getting so warm, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Jamie had noticed and quickly helped me up from my seat and guided me over to the window and he opened it to let some air in to the room.

“Are ye alright Sassenach?” He asked me with a pinch of panic in his voice.

I nodded yes, but couldn’t speak. The fresh air was helping, but I didn’t want to talk and upset myself again.

“I think I should go, Jamie.”

“Seriously? Yer goin’ back to him? The man that made me believe that I was a good enough for ye. The man that wasted no time at all in jumpin’ in to yer bed as soon as I left.” Jamie spat his words out at me. I could understand his hurt and anger, but I couldn’t get in to any of this right now.

As much as I wasn’t looking forward to returning to Frank and pretending everything was fine, I had two children that I had to put first. I had to get back to them.

“It isn’t just Frank waiting for me, Jamie. The children as well...”

“What happens now, Sassenach? Ye gonna let be a part of our children’s lives? Cause I swear to ye, I’ll no walk away quietly if ye say no.” He informed me sternly.

I took a deep breath before turning to face him, feeling a bit better from the air coming in through the open window.

“I’m sorry for how Frank’s words made you feel, Jamie. But, the bottom line is you still left me. And I understand you were grieving, we all were, but you honestly can’t blame me for moving on with my life when you left me. You gave up any right to have any kind of opinion on my relationships or my marriage when you decided to leave me behind.

“As for the children. I won’t stop you from getting to know them, but my condition still stands, Jamie. I can’t have them finding out you’re their biological father. I’m sorry, but as far as they are concerned, Frank is their father. I understand your issues with Frank, but he has only ever done right by me and the children. He is a wonderful father to them.”

“Do ye love him?”

“What kind of question is that?” I shot back at Jamie. My temper was starting to rise. “Of course I love him. He’s my husband. I wouldn’t of married the man if I didn’t love him.”

“Okay, yer right. I’m sorry. Of course ye love him, Sassenach.”

I nodded my head and then turned to pick up my handbag and phone off the couch. “I better be off. I’ll call you when I get home and we can arrange for you to see the kids. I’m sure you have your own things to sort out with work and things.”

“All done. I’ve decided to not take on any further projects at the moment. Right now I need to be home to help Ian wi’ the bairns. And obviously I want to spend some time wi’ the twins as well.”

I gave Jamie as small smile as he walked me to the door.

“Can I ask ye one last thing, Sassenach.” I nodded my head for him to go on. “I ken ye love the man, but are ye IN love wi’ him? There is a difference, ken?”

I was so shocked by Jamie’s question, I couldn’t answer him. “I’ll call you next week. Bye, Jamie.” I opened the door as quickly as I could and took off out of the hotel as quickly as my feet would carry me.

 

The whole journey back to the little cottage me and my family were staying in, I couldn’t get Jamie’s last question out of my mind.

Of course I loved Frank. He was my husband. He saved me and supported me when I really needed him. He always put me and the twins first. He was a wonderful father. But, Jamie was right. There was a difference between loving someone and being IN love with someone.

I never questioned my feelings towards Frank when we were married. I had my doubts and reservations before we were married, but that wasn’t because I didn’t love him, it was because I was scared of committing to someone again.

I just didn’t know what to think of all this now. I completely understood why Jamie ended up leaving. I just wish that he felt comfortable enough to talk things through with me properly before he left. Maybe things could have been different. Maybe we still wouldn’t be together, but maybe we would still have been at least friends, and he would have known about the twins from the start. Maybe he could have been the dad I knew he wanted to be.

But, none of the what if’s or maybe’s mattered. What’s done is done. We just need to find a way to move forward now. The most important thing is my children.

 

“Alright darling? How did things go with Fraser? Did you get the answers you needed?” Frank asked me as I joined him in the living room as soon as I got back to the cottage we had rented for our little break away.

“I suppose so.” I said softly.

Frank reached over to pull me closer to his side and he kissed the top of my head. “Do you want to talk about it? Have you made a decision?”

“There isn’t really anything to discuss. But, yes. I‘be agreed he can see the children, but only as an Uncle. Their our children Frank. Jamie being back doesn’t change anything.”

“You sure about that, Claire? I can’t lose them. I don’t know what I would do if I ever did.” Frank pleaded with me. It broke my heart that Jamie being back made him so uncertain over everything.

“I told you darling, nothing changes. You won’t lose us. You are my husband and the twins are our children. Always.”

I settled in to Frank’s side a little more after he smiled at me. He offered to pour me a glass of wine, but I refused. I just needed to be in my husbands arms. I didn’t want either of us to move.

 

It wasn’t long after Frank and I made it to bed when our bedroom door swung open to a very tearful Willie.

“What is it sweetheart?” I asked as I pushed back the covers to let him jump in to the bed beside me, but he didn’t move from his spot at the door.

“I had a bad dream.” He cried as he wiped his tears away.

“Oh darling. Come on, you can sleep with your father and I tonight, but only because you had a bad dream, alright?”

Willie shook his head fiercely. “No, I want Daddy to tuck me in and tell me a story.”

I looked over at Frank who was straight out of his side of the bed as soon as Willie asked for him. I guessed Frank was right, and all that was wrong with Willie these past few weeks were disappointment that we weren’t going to be having our annual October holiday.

“Come on then Willie.” Frank smiled as he took Willie’s hand that looked oh so tiny in Frank’s. “What story do you want?”

 

I must have fell asleep not long after Frank left with Willie because I don’t remember much after that.

 

When I woke, I could hear the rain pouring down outside. It was meant to be dry and Frank was planning on talking the children for a walk in the woods later, but the change of weather put a spanner in the works.

I turned myself over and discovered my husband was not beside me. I did think maybe he stayed with Willie to make sure he was alright, but when I managed to tear myself out from under my duvet and venture to the kitchen for a very large mug of coffee, I saw Frank asleep on the sofa with a blanket draped over him.

I felt a sudden pang in my chest. Something was off. In all the time Frank and I have been married, we’ve never slept apart. Save for him being away on trips for work, or one of the children needing us.

Did my going to see Jamie last night really upset him that much? It was him that suggested I go to him to try and sort things out before we headed home. I would never have gone if my husband didn’t suggest such a thing.

 

I poured two mugs of coffee and took them over to sit in the coffee table across from the sofa that Frank was asleep on.

I gently patted my husbands shoulder to waken him gently. “Frank, wake up darling. It’s morning.” Frank was a fairly light sleeper, so it never took much to waken him. “I made you some coffee.” I pointed towards the coffee table as he sat up rubbing his eyes. “It’s raining out, so I would prefer you didn’t take the twins to the woods. They could easily slip or—“

“I understand, Claire. We’ll do something else. Maybe go swimming at the leisure centre or go bowling or something.” Frank suggested as he took a couple of sips of his coffee.

“I’m sure the kids will love it.” I said with a bright smile.

 

When Frank went off to get himself and the twins ready for a fun day out, I was left with my thoughts as I sat at the kitchen table cradling my second mug of coffee of the morning in my hands. This coffee hadn’t been touched though, and I could feel the mug getting colder. I was too distracted to do anything about it though.

 

Thoughts of what Jamie had said last night wouldn’t leave my brain. Frank should never had said what he did about Jamie all those years ago. He had no clue what was between Jamie and I. No one really understood how intense our relationship really was. But, we were just kids back then. I knew Frank was in love with me then, maybe he was just saying those things out of jealousy because I was with Jamie? But that was still no excuse. What he said impacted everyone around us. Not just Jamie.

 

But then Frank appeared in the kitchen with our children. All set for a fun day of swimming and bowling and possibly a cinema treat. They were all smiling and excited for the day ahead, and for a little while, I almost forgot what Frank had done.

The only question I had floating around in my mind was the same question I had the whole way back from Jamie’s hotel last night.

What now?

How do I ask my husband about something he said eight years ago? Something he may never intended anyone to hear. Something he didn’t think would cause Jamie to actually leave.

 

“You alright Claire?” The sound of my husbands voice snapped me out of my thoughts. “You seem... distracted. Thinking about Fraser again?”

There was something in Frank’s voice that I couldn’t quite place what he meant. Was he accusing me of something? Was he annoyed I went to see Jamie last night? Was he getting insecure again, thinking I’d leave him?

It was then that I thought back over all the conversations Frank and I had since Jamie returned. He had asked me more than once, most recently last night, to not take the children from him. Telling me he couldn’t lose them. I assured him we weren’t going anywhere. That I wasn’t going anywhere, but he didn’t mean me. It was the children he couldn’t lose...

 

 

Jamie’s POV

 

So. I finally told Claire why I felt I had to leave.

Before returnin’, I never dreamt I would return to find her married to Frank bloody Randall and them raisin’ my bairns the gether.

Of course, Claire was right when she said I had no right to an opinion on her marriage, but I couldna help it.

If she’d moved on wi’ anyone else but bloody Frank Randall, it woulda been a tough pill to swallow, but I woulda accept it, but the fact she married him... it just doesna sit well wi’ me at all. Especially hearin’ that all our friends and family dinna even believe she’s in love wi’ the guy anyway.

She deserves so much better than some loser who was obsessed wi’ her back in secondary school. It was borderline creepy. She canna expect me to believe that he didna plan on movin’ straight in on her after I left. I hadna seen the guy in eight years, but I was damn sure it woulda been somethin’ to that effect.

 

I think I was just strugglin’ to digest the fact that I had just informed Claire that her husband was one of the reasons I ended up leavin’ her behind wi’out so much as an explanation or a goodbye, and she just went straight back to him.

I did kinda hope she would have time to think all what I said through, and she woulda picked up the bairns and come straight back to me, leavin’ that mad bastard behind, but she didna. Wishful thinkin’ on my part I suppose.

 

I had trouble gettin’ to sleep, and in the end, I just gave up.

All I could think about was Claire layin’ next to that sorry excuse for a man. Him holdin her in his arms. Making love...

I needed some sort of distraction.

My usual way of finding some kind of distraction was to got out to the nearest bar and get rat arsed on as much whisky as I could and bang whatever blonde was desperate enough to allow herself to be used like that.

I didna want to be that guy anymore.

No that it was me... that was Alexander Malcolm.

I didna want to be him anymore. I wanted to be Jamie Fraser again. The Jamie Fraser everyone knew and loved, not the coward I was before I had left, but the lad I was before. The man I was supposed to be.

I had a reason to be a better man again. I had a reason to prove myself.

Even if Claire wouldna take me back... I was the father of two wee bairns. They might be turnin’ eight in a few months, but they’ll always be my wee bairns.

 

If I ended up bein’ “Uncle Jamie” the rest of my days, it will tear at my heart a little, but at least I would still be in their lives.

What I really needed to do, was get myself back home and open Claire’s letters. I need to ken when she found out she was pregnant. How she found out. I needed to ken everything.

The fact she wrote me for a year and a half, I prayed to god that she wrote every detail of her pregnancy in them letters. As much as it hurt to ken I wasna there for her or the bairns at that time, I still wanted to ken everythin’. How was the mornin’ sickness? What cravings did she have? Was it a difficult pregnancy? How was the birth?

The questions that kept swimming around my mind though were... Did Frank Randall help her during her pregnancy? Did he take her to appointments? Was Frank Randall there when my bairns were born? How old were they when he first held them in his arms?

 

As soon as the sun came up, I checked out of the hotel and made my way back to Wales.

I hadna been in the house in a fair while due to working in projects over in the states and also Australia.

There was plenty I should of been doing as soon as I got to the house, but all I could focus on was dumping my bag as soon as I got in the door and finding that wee box filled wi’ my memories of my relationship wi’ Claire, and all the letters she sent me.

 

It didna take me long to find the box. I kent fine well where I had left it.

I sat down on the couch and opened the box slowly. I kent it would be difficult to go through this box after so many years, but I never thought I would get so emotional over it.

As soon as I opened the box completely and saw all these memories staring back at me, I fell to pieces.

How the hell did I let Frank bloody Randall get in to my head and make me walk away from my own family? Claire and our children?

Chapter Text

6 Hillview Crescent
Broch Mordha
2nd July 2008

 

Jamie,

It’s been two weeks now since you left. I’ve written... god, I don’t even know how many letters now. None of them seemed to say what I needed them to say though, so I never posted them. I’m not even sure if I will send this one, but I need to try and find some way of communicating with you. You won’t answer my calls or texts.

Jamie, I know the last eight, almost nine months haven’t been easy for you. They haven’t been easy on any of us, but to lose both your parents in such a short amount of time... it’s heartbreaking, Jamie.

You have so many people back home who love you and miss you terribly. Myself included.

I’m still not sure why you decided to leave, but I am begging you to please come home. I love you, Jamie.

I know it won’t be easy, but we can get through this, I know we can. We can do as we planned and move to St Andrews and start our life together. The way we planned. It isn’t too late.

Please just think about coming home Jamie. Think about coming back to me, please.

All my love,

Your Sassenach

X

 

 

6 Hillview Crescent
Broch Mordha
6th August 2008

 

Jamie,

It’s been almost seven weeks since you left me Jamie. Seven weeks since you ripped out my heart and stamped all over it before walking away and leaving it to rot.

It’s been five weeks since I sent you my first letter. I haven’t heard anything back from you though.

I don’t even know if you’re receiving these letters, but I have to hope. Hope is the only thing I have left right now.

Jamie, if you are receiving my letters, I need you to either please call me or write back. Text, email, letter... just anything, please. There is something you really ought to know. I would rather tell you face to face, not in a letter, so I am asking you to please get in touch. It’s very important that you do.

All my love,

Your Sassenach

X

 

6 Hillview Crescent
Broch Mordha
29th August 2008

Jamie,

It’s been ten weeks since I last saw your beautiful ocean blue eyes and your fiery red hair.

Ten weeks since you last held me in your arms.

Ten weeks since I last hear you tell me you love me. I don’t for a second think that you don’t feel that way any more, Jamie.

Anyway... since I can’t seem to get in touch with you any other way... I have to write this in a damn letter. This isn’t the way I imagined telling you this news, but you haven’t given me any other choice.

I don’t even know if you’re getting these damn letters, but I have to believe you are. I have to believe you will read this one and come back. If not for me, then for our children.

Our children Jamie.

I’m pregnant.

I had a scan yesterday and they told me I’m expecting twins. We’re expecting twins.

I know this wasn’t in our plans, well... not yet at least, but it’s happening and I couldn’t be more excited to have your children Jamie. I only wish you were here with me to enjoy this news.

There is so much I want to tell you. So much I need to tell you, so I’m asking again, please come home. Our children will need their father. They’ll need you, Jamie.

All my love,

Your Sassenach.

X

 

6 Hillview Crescent
Broch Mordha
21st October 2008

Jamie,

Today is the first Anniversary of Ellen’s death.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you all day, my love. Wishing I could be with you just to comfort you and hold you and make sure you are alright.

I can’t imagine the pain you must be feeling today, but if it’s any comfort at all, know that I love you and I miss you.

I don’t want to make you feel bad for not being here, but at the same time I think you should know that both Willie and Jenny have found today particularly hard. Especially since you are not here with them.

I truly hope that some day soon when you’re ready, you will pick up the phone and call them, or come home.

We miss you Jamie.

All my love,

Your Sassenach.

X

 

6 Hillview Crescent
Broch Mordha
25th December 2008

Jamie,

Merry Christmas my love.

I know by the time you get this letter it will be some days later, but I wanted to wish you a Happy Christmas all the same.

The pregnancy is going well, except I feel like a beached whale. I am ginormous and I can’t even see my feet, never mind tie my shoe laces. Luckily I have Mum and Dad to help me out with such tasks. Another good thing about being at home is that I can get away with wearing my slippers all day, every day, unless we need to head in to town.

I will tell you something James Fraser, these children of yours want to hurry up and make an appearance. I’m not sure how much longer I can take this to be honest. It’s just so... uncomfortable. Especially at night when I’m trying to sleep. I have to thank the lord that I’m heavily pregnant during the winter. I can’t imagine how tough it must be for women to be this heavily pregnant during the summer heat, (when we get any).

I just really wish you were here Jamie. I feel like you’re missing out on so much.

Jenny and Willie have both been great helps though. In fact, Willie is coming round in the next few days to set up the cribs for me. Of course dad said he would do it, but Willie insisted it would be better for him to do it, then we knew the babies wouldn’t collapse to the floor in the crib during a nap. Of course dad didn’t take too kindly to that comment, but he eventually came around.

Anyway... I will write you again next week.

All my love,

Your Sassenach.

X

 

6 Hillview Crescent
Broch Mordha
2nd January 2009

Jamie,

I can’t believe it’s been a whole years since your father passed away. I can’t even begin to imagine how you must be feeling today, but I hope that you are alright and have plenty of people around you to support you. I will be thinking of you today. I always do, but you are in my thoughts especially today.

I really wish I knew how you were. I want to know that you’re alright and you’re doing well. I know your training must keep you busy, but it would be good to hear from you sometime, if not see you.

I miss you Jamie. Especially the closer it gets to the twins being born. Hopefully it won’t be long now.

The pregnancy overall hasn’t been that bad compared to other expectant mothers stories I’ve heard, but I just want our babies out of me so I can hold them in my arms and see their little faces.

I’m glad I decided not to find out the gender of either of the babies, it will be a nice little surprise. But, oh Jamie, you should see their nursery. We’ve kept the colour scheme just a natural magnolia, but one of the walls has this really cute teddy bear wallpaper that my Mum found online. It’s adorable Jamie. I think you would like it. We have the two cribs set up beside each other, with a little gap in between with a rocking chair that Ian and Willie made for me. The work everyone has put in to this nursery is really quite overwhelming.

I really do wish you would come home.

 

The other night, there was a small get together at the village hall to raise funds for a new roof for the library. Frank was there and he had a little too much to drink. He told me he was in love with me and then tried to kiss me. I pushed him back of course and asked him to leave me alone. He has been a wonderful friend to me these last few months, as you know. But that’s all we could ever be. Friends. You are the person I am meant to spend the rest of my life with.

You’ve been gone for six, almost seven months now Jamie, but I don’t care. I love you. I always have, and it will never not be true. I just need you to come back to me.

I’m not asking you to leave the army. If this is what you want to do. If this is where your heart is, I won’t try and stop you from following your heart. But I’m carrying your children Jamie. Our children. This isn’t me trying to guilt you in to coming back, I just need you to know how I feel.

Please get in touch soon. I would hate for you to miss the birth of our children.

All my love,

Your Sassenach.

X

 

6 Hillview Crescent
Broch Mordha
15th January 2009

Jamie,

Everyone says I should just give up. Stop writing to you. But I can’t Jamie.

I refuse to believe that there is no hope for us.

I am going to continue to write to you once a week, like I have done since July, until I get some kind of response from you.

We are about to become parents Jamie. Two little lives are going to be dependant on me for at least the next eighteen years. It’s a scary thought, especially being so young myself. But, these children, our children were created from a place of love, and I can’t wait to meet them.

 

Willie and Jenny surprised me yesterday. They came and brought me up to Lallybroch for some lunch. Ian was there and so was Mary. It was nice spending some time with them all, but you were definitely missed. Especially when we spoke about the babies.

Willie and Ian had been working hard on one of the guest rooms. The one next door to your bedroom. They’ve turned it in to a nursery, Jamie. Can you believe it? I certainly couldn’t. They told me that if I ever wanted to have some space from my parents, me and the children would be welcome by the house any time. Oh Jamie, it was so sweet and so thoughtful. The Nursery is similar to the way we decorated the one at home. Jenny had said it would help to keep the children settled if their room didn’t look too different to the one at home.

I think you would be really proud of how Willie and Jenny have been with me these last few months. We’ve always been friends, but after you left, I didn’t expect them to want to be around me as much, but they were always checking in on me. Even before they knew I was pregnant. They’ve been truly wonderful to me, and our children are so lucky to have such family around them to love and support them.

All my love,

Your Sassenach.

X

 

6 Hillview Crescent
Broch Mordha
9th February 2009

Jamie,

I’m so sorry it’s been a couple of weeks since my last letter, but I send some good news.

Congratulations, you are now the father of our twin son and daughter.

James William Fraser and Brianna Ellen Fraser.

James is obviously named after you and Willie. I wanted to honour your parents as well, somI named our daughter after them. I hope you don’t mind.

We never really discussed children’s names. Not seriously any way. We both thought we had a few years yet to decide, but turns out god had another plan.

Oh how I wish you were here to see them both Jamie. They are so like you in many ways. Although, I think our little Jamie will grow up to look more like me with his dark hair, but Brianna has your fiery red locks. They are just so beautiful Jamie.

If you want, let me know and I will send you some pictures of them. I was going to send you my scan pictures, but Mary and Geillis reminded me that I don’t actually know if you’re receiving these letters or not. I will send some down though if you want. They really are as cute as buttons Jamie. I can’t believe we made them. Us. They are just so damn perfect and precious in every way.

All my love,

Your Sassenach.

X

 

6 Hillview Crescent
Broch Mordha
20th June 2009

Jamie,

Well my love, today would be our fourth anniversary, if you were here with me and our babies, but you’re not. Everyone is telling me to give up, but I can’t, Jamie.

I love you.

I won’t beg you to come home. Not any more. It isn’t worth it, is it?

If it means anything to you though, Happy Anniversary soldier.

All my love,

Your Sassenach.

X

 

6 Hillview Crescent
Broch Mordha
2nd July 2009

Jamie,

Well, it is a year ago today since I sent my first letter to you after you left.

I honestly thought that telling you I was pregnant would bring you back to me, but it didn’t. Not once did you write me or call me to ask how the pregnancy was going. I poured my heart in to these letters every single week, but for what? Nothing. Just more heartbreak and silence. You didn’t even come home to meet your children. Our children. That in itself should just make me want to stop and move on like everyone says I should, but I can’t.

I love you Jamie, and I miss you.

Please, I’m not asking for myself, I’m asking for my children. They don’t deserve to grow up without a father.

All my love,

Your Sassenach.

X

 

6 Hillview Crescent
Broch Mordha
18th October 2009

Jamie,

Jenny and Mary organised a night out for my birthday. Since it falls during the week, they planned it for last Friday. My parents very kindly offered to watch the children. It was the first time I’d been away from them for more than an hour. It was strange, and I worried the whole night, but I knew Mum and Dad would take good care of them.

I had a good night with friends. Even Geillis, Rupert and Angus came home for the weekend just to celebrate with me. Of course Geillis has already me the twins, but the next day I invited Rupert and Angus over to see them. God, you should have seen them with them Jamie. Angus was so awkward to begin with, but then once he held little Jamie in his arms, he got really comfortable. I got really quite emotional watching two of our oldest friends holding our children for the first time. I just wish you could have been here too.

Frank was there too, obviously. We’ve been getting closer lately. Nothing romantic, but I know that what he wants. I’m just not ready. He’s a wonderful guy, and he’s fantastic with the twins, but... I don’t see a future with him. I’ve only ever seen my future with you. It’s getting more and more difficult now though. The longer we’ve been apart...

I know I should just move on, but it isn’t that easy. Willie told me I should start by not writing to you anymore, but I can’t not tell you what’s happening.

The twins are growing up so fast Jamie, you wouldn‘t believe they’re only eight months old. Especially Brianna. I can just tell she’s going to take her height after you and your mother. She’ll be towering over me in no time.

You’re missing so much Jamie, and it breaks my heart. Not only for me, but for my children. They really don’t deserve any of this, do they?

Claire.

 

6 Hillview Crescent
Broch Mordha
4th November 2009

Jamie,

Frank kissed me last night. After he treated me to dinner and dropped me home, he kissed me, and I let him.

For a while I felt really guilty, like I was doing something wrong. Being unfaithful to you or something, but I wasn’t, was I? I’m a free agent. I can kiss who I like.

Why does it make me feel so twisted inside then?

I should hate you Jamie Fraser. Hate you for leaving me with no explanation. Hate you for ignoring your own children, but I don’t. And it makes me so angry at myself for even thinking about you in any way.

You’re not coming back. That’s quite clear.

My children really do deserve better.

Claire.

 

6 Hillview Crescent
Broch Mordha
3rd December 2009

Jamie,

I don’t even know why I’m even writing to tell you this. It’s not like you actually care.

Frank and I have decided to give things a go between us. He has been a truly wonderful friend to me. All through my pregnancy, even after the kids were born.

I’ve known his feelings for me for some time, but I wasn’t quite ready for anything new. My priority has always been the twins. That will still remain the same. Another reason why I’ve grown quite fond of Frank, he completely understands that the children come first. He’s so supportive and patient with me. I can tell the kids love him too.

Like I said, I don’t know why I’m writing you this, but maybe it’s a way of getting closure for myself from us, I don’t know.

All I do know is that I’m ready to move on. I’m ready to find happiness for me and my children. Frank is that happiness.

Claire.

 

6 Hillview Crescent
Broch Mordha
21st January 2010

Jamie,

This is my last letter to you.

It’s time for me to really put myself and the twins first and move on... properly.

I wish you all the best for your future in the military and I hope you really do have a wonderful life.

You will always be my first love Jamie, but it’s time to say goodbye.

People have been telling me for well over a year to let you go, but I couldn’t. Do you know what finally made me see the light? See that it truly is time to close the door on our relationship?
Brianna said her first word.

Da.

Not only did she say Da, but she said it to Frank.

It got me really thinking, and of course they would assume he is their father. He’s been there the whole time, Jamie. Without meaning to, he’s become their dad.

It just feels... right.

I mean it when I say I hope you have a wonderful life. And I want to thank you for giving me two beautiful children. They’re not even a year old yet, but I just know they are going to grow up to be two incredible human beings. It’s a shame you’ve chosen not to be part of their lives.

That’s your loss, Jamie.

Claire.

Chapter Text

Jamie’s POV

 

I felt terrible.

Reading all of Claire’s letters. Her beggin’ me to go back to her. Tellin’ me she loved me even though I treated her unforgivably.

She kept writing to me, even though she never got a response, she kept writing. She kept sending me letters and told me about my children. Our children. She went in to great detail in some of her letters about her pregnancy and how she was dealing wi’ it. She told me about all our friends and family being there for her. Even Jenny and Willie set up the bedroom next to my own as a nursery for the twins. I missed it all and I have no one to blame but myself.

How she never gave up on me long before she did, I’ll never know.

As much as I hate Frank Randall, I canna fault the guy for bein’ there for my family when I wasn’t.

I guess he ended up bein’ right after all... Claire did deserve better than me.

 

When I got back to Lallybroch on the Monday, I wasna much company for anyone. Ian had asked what was wrong, but I couldn’t go in to detail about it all. The man just lost his wife, the mother of his children. The last thing he needed was me turning up again just as miserable as I was before I left eight years ago.

“I read Claire’s letters.” Was all I said. “Every single one of them.”

I knew no one knew what was in the letters apart from Claire, but I think everyone who was around her in that time would guess what she had said.

 

As much as I loved Claire, I knew it was a fair for me to come back after all this time and expect a happy ever after wi’ her. I had to accept that she was wi’ Frank, and they were happy together. I had to accept that he was my children’s Da. All I could do was allow them to continue on as they have, but do my best to try and build some kind of relationship wi’ my bairns as their “uncle”.

 

Claire, Frank and the bairns came home on the Wednesday. I hadna seen them, but Claire sent me a text to say they were home and she would contact me to arrange something for the weekend.

That didna happen though.

As much as I wanted to call her or go round to her wee shop and see her to try and work something out, I couldna. I had to be patient and let her come to me. She was their mother, and she was the one who had to be in charge of the situation.

It just disappointed me that I caused her so much hurt and heartbreak. When I left, I honestly thought I was doing the right thing by her, that she deserved so much better than me, but when I came back after all them years apart, I began to wonder if I made a mistake. I still loved her. And she had my children. A part of me started to believe maybe I could make things right, be the man she needed. The father our children deserved, but after reading her letters... every single one of them, I realised that maybe I was right to leave. She seems happy wi’ the life she has now. It might not include me, and she might not have the career she always wanted, but she seemed more than happy wi’ the way her life turned out. It wasna fair of mr to try and disrupt that too much.

I just had to be grateful she was allowing me to know my children, hopefully.

 

It was Monday, Claire’s birthday. I sent her a wee text to wish her a good day. She responded wi’ a thank you and a promise to get something arranged for me and the kids, the weekend had got a bit hectic for them as they were getting the kids ready to go back to school.

I spent part of the afternoon in town, just exploring the place again after so many years away. There was a new café open just across the street from the secondary school. It had a really decent menu for adult and kids and it looked reasonably priced as well. I noticed there was a wee soft play area inside, so I thought I would check the place out. See if it might be somewhere to bring the bairns some time. No just my own kids, but Jenny and Ian’s kids too.

It wasna really touristy season, so most of the people in town were locals and knew me as Jamie Fraser, more than Alexander Malcom the actor. I had to admit that it was nice to be somewhere where I didna have to pretend to be someone else.

No body hounded me for a selfie or an autograph, it was good. Peaceful.

I had been in the wee café around half an hour when I noticed Jack Randall come in. He did a spot me, which I was grateful for. He went up to the counter and ordered a black coffee and a slice of carrot cake to take away. It wasna until he turned to leave that he spotted me sitting near the door.

“James Fraser. I heard you’d come and gone.” He said wi’ a great big grin on his face. I knew the guy had a thing for me back in School, but I did my best to ignore the lad. He was a bully back then. Always pickin’ on folk he thought were beneath him. Mainly the girls. But apparently he was in the police force now, and even Claire said he had changed a lot since school.

“Jack.” I nodded curtly. “Had some things to tend to, but I’m back now.”

Jack pulled out the seat across from me and sat himself down. “How long are you planning on staying?” Jack asked as he took a sip of his coffee.

“Dinna ken yet. As long as Ian needs me I suppose. I’m in no hurry to leave again though.”

“I’m sure you aren’t.” He smirked.

It had been so long since I’d been in his company and I didna ken quite how to take him. Before we could say anymore, I saw a familiar mop of curly brown hair come running in to the café. It was wee Willie.

As soon as he spotted me and Jack, he came bounding over.

“Hi.” He waved at me before turning to Jack. “Uncle Jack, I really need to speak to ye. It’s important.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be with your father, where is he?” Jack asked as he looked out the window to the street.

“At work, but—“

“You crossed that busy road all on your own? Willie, what in gods name were you thinking?! You know not to walk off without an adult present.” Jack snapped at the lad. I could see Jack’s frustration, but I didna think snapping at the lad would make things any better.

“What’s wrong lad, ye alright?” I asked him as calmly.

“Aye, I’m fine. I just really need to speak to Uncle Jack. Alone. I was sitting on the steps at the school when I saw ye come in, that’s why I cam over. Sorry Uncle Jack, but I need to speak to ye.” The lad pleaded.

Jack smiled at Willie and told him to go and get a milkshake and then they would talk.

“But, it’s October. Mummy says it’s too cold for milkshakes.”

“I won’t tell if you won’t. Go on.” Jack sent him up to the counter with some money. “I want change.” Jack called after him and Willie turned to giggle at Jack.

It was clear to see the good relationship Jack had built wi Willie. And it was clear something was bothering Willie and I was glad he had someone to turn to. I just wished it was me.

 

Willie got his milkshake. A large one, and returned to give Jack the little bit of change he got after adding all the extra toppings.

Jack got up to leave wi’ Willie and take him back over to Frank at the school I presumed, but before they reached the door, Willie turned back and came to stand in front or me and looked me up and down. It was... strange.

Nothin’ could have prepared me for what the lad was to come out wi’ next.

“So, do ye really want me and Bree to tall ye Uncle, or so ye want us to call ye dad?”

Jack and I just looked at one another, no kennin’ what to say or do for the best.

Chapter Text

Wee Willie’s POV

August

 

“Alright my darlings, are you all set for your first day back at school?” Mummy asked us me and Bree ate some coco pops.

Bree just huffed. She isna much of a morning person. Mummy can be like that sometimes. I get up really early in the morning and I don’t mind.

Me and Bree were going in to Primary four, but this year we were being split up in to different classes. Daddy said it was so we would get to know more people and make new friends. I didna like the idea much, but Bree thought it would be good.

 

It was Mummy that took us to school. Same as every Monday morning. Daddy would take us in the rest of the week, but he had meetings at his school on a Monday morning. Daddy is a history teacher at the big school. Everyone says he’s the best teacher at the big school.

On the days Daddy takes us to school, Mummy picks us up, but on a Monday, Uncle Alex or Uncle Jack will pick us up and take me to Daddy’s school to wait for him to finish work and they take Bree to her swimming lesson.

I liked spending a Monday afternoon with Daddy because it was just the two of us. He would sit and mark some of the big boys and girls school work and I did my own homework, but he would always help me and talk to me so I didna get bored. It was my favourite part of the week.

 

This Monday was not my favourite day...

It was Uncle Alex that picked me and Bree up from school and brought me to Daddy. Daddy met me outside like all the other Monday’s, but this time, instead of taking me to his classroom, he made me sit at a table on the stage in the hall.

“But Daddy, I want to come wi’ you.” I cried.

“I promise, I will try not too be long, but I need to concentrate and I will get things done a lot quicker if you aren’t distracting me.” Daddy said.

“But—“

“No arguing, Willie. Wait here and behave. I’ll come and check on you in a little while.” Daddy ruffled my hair before he went off to his classroom down the hallway.

 

He did come back to check on me. Two times. But he didna come to check on me in a wee while and I was starting to get hungry. So... I packed up my school books in to my bag and I went to find Daddy in his classroom. His door was open just a little, and I heard him talking to someone. A girl. I knew her. It was Sandy.

Sandy was from America and she moved here with her mummy and daddy a while ago. She sometimes looked after me and Bree when Mummy and Daddy went out together.

I didn’t know why Sandy was there because she left school. But then I heard Daddy saying that he had to go.

“I’m sorry Sandy. I wish I could stay longer too, but I need to check on Willie and get him home. He should of had his afternoon snack ages ago, he’s bound to be hungry by now.”

“Okay, but promise me you’ll meet me tomorrow for lunch. I’ve really missed you these last few weeks.” I heard Sandy say.

“I know darling. I missed you too, it just wasn’t easy getting away, but I promise I will do better.” Daddy told Sandy before he kissed her. It didn’t look like a friendly kiss the way he kissed my Aunties, it looked like how he used to kiss Mummy.

I knew that Daddy wouldn’t be happy if he saw me watching them, so I snuck off quietly back to the hall.

What did it mean that Sandy was there?

Why was Daddy kissing her like that?

 

 

September

A couple of weeks after I saw Daddy and Sandy kissing in his classroom, I saw it happen again. Daddy had left me in the hall again when he was working in his classroom. I asked him if I could go to Mummy’s shop or go to Uncle Jack’s house, but he was annoyed with me for some reason and told me to stay where I was and behave.

Daddy didn’t come to check on me though. Not one time. And again, I was getting hungry. I had no water left in my bottle either, and I really needed a drink. When I went to Daddy’s classroom to ask him for some juice and a packet of crisps, I heard Sandy’s voice again. I couldn’t hear properly what she was saying, but I knew it was her. She had an unusual voice because she was from America.

I saw her and Daddy both stand up from behind his desk. Sandy was doing up the buttons on her blouse and Daddy was pulling his trousers up.

What were they doing?

Again, I didn’t want to get in to trouble, so I went back to the hall.

 

The next Monday, the same happened again. He left me alone in the hall when he went to work. I knew he was with Sandy again though.

I snuck off to see what they were doing, and they were kissing again, but this time Daddy wasna just kissing Sandy’s mouth, he was kissing her neck too.

I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew that Daddy was doing something wrong. You don’t kiss other girls like that.

I ran out of the school and I saw my Uncle Jack walking past the school gates. I shouted on him and ran over to him.

“Uncle Jack! Uncle Jack!” I shouted and he turned to come over to me.

“Alright buddy. Where’s the fire?” He laughed.

“It’s daddy. He’s doing something bad.”

“What do you mean he’s doing something bad? Did he give someone the wrong mark?” He laughed again.

“He’s kissing Sandy. On her mouth and her neck. I thought you only kiss your wife like that?”

“I’m sure you misunderstood Willie. Your Daddy loves your Mummy, I doubt he would do such a thing.” Uncle Jack said as he tousled my hair.

“It isna the first time I seen them Uncle Jack. Last week I saw them getting up from the floor. Daddy was pulling up his trousers and Sandy was buttoning up her blouse—“

“Where are they Willie?” Uncle Jack asked me as he grabbed hold of my shoulders.

“Daddy’s classroom.”

Uncle Jack picked me up and ran in to the school with me in his arms. He left me in the hall before he went to find Daddy, but I could here him shouting. Soon, Sandy came running through the hall. She looked all red and couldna look at me. Her hair was a mess too. She always had her hair done nicely though.

“What the hell Frank?! Your son is right down the corridor. He says this isn’t the first time he’s caught you two. He came running out of the school... do you even care what could of happened to him if I wasn’t passing?”

I knew Daddy was talking back, but I couldna hear what he said.

Uncle Jack came back and took me home. He asked me not to say anything to Mummy because it was all just adult stuff, but Daddy would talk to me about it later.

He didn’t.

Daddy ignored me when no one else was around. When other people like Mummy or Bree were there, he tried to talk to me, but I didn’t want to speak to him, so I didn’t.

 

October

 

Auntie Jenny died, and everyone was upset. Daddy spent a lot of time with Mummy and looked after her. I thought he was back to normal, but I heard him on the phone to Sandy the day after Auntie Jenny died. He said he couldna be wi’ her because he had to be at home with us. He said he would rather be with her though.

I wanted to tell Mummy, but she was so upset about Auntie Jenny, and Daddy was the only one who could keep her calm.

Mummy could tell that I wasna happy wi’ Daddy, and she asked why, but I couldna tell her what I saw or what I heard. Daddy told Mummy it was because I was upset at our October holiday being cancelled. I was upset about that, because I heard Daddy on the phone to Sandy saying he was taking her away for a romantic weekend. He told Mummy he was working.

When Mummy said we were going down to England for a break, me and a Bree were really excited, but Daddy wasn’t. Maybe he wanted to stay here with Sandy? But, when we were away, Daddy said he was sorry and he didna mean to hurt me or Mummy. He said that Sandy was just a silly girl with a crush and he should of handled it better. He said I would understand more about crushes soon enough.

We had a good holiday and I was happy with Daddy again.

But then the first day of school happened after the October holidays.

Uncle Alex picked me up from school and took me to the big school. Daddy waited outside for me like usual and we walked in to the school together. He didn’t leave me in the hall like before, he took me to his classroom and it was like it used to be.

But then he got a message on his phone and he told me he had to see one of the other teachers. He gave me some water and a packet of sweets and a kiss on top of my head before he left.

He was gone for some time, so I went to find him. It was a big school. Bigger than mine, but I found him upstairs in one of the art classrooms. He was speaking to Sandy. Again. They weren’t kissing, just talking. But then I heard him say something strange.

“I can’t lose them Sandy. They’re my children. I’ve practically raised them since they were born. That Scottish redhead has been no where near them their entire life.

“If he thinks he can just waltz back in here and take my family... he’s wrong. Oh, he can take Claire if he wants her, but he’s not getting my children. I’ll make sure of that.”

“But will you be able to get them though? If she does go back to this guy, will you have any rights if you’re not—“

“I AM their father Sandy. Maybe not biologically, but they’re mine. Not his. He showed no interest in the twins before, why start now? No, he isn’t taking my children from me.”

It was then I saw Sandy move closer to Daddy and she kissed him and he kissed her back.

So Daddy lied to me. He was still seeing Sandy. And what was that he said about the red headed Scot? So was Daddy not really mine and Bree’s dad?

I went back to Daddy’s classroom and got my bag and walked out the front door of the school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn’t want to be near Daddy. Not that he was really my Dad anyway.

I sat on the steps trying to think of how to get to Mummy at the shop, but the shop was too far away from the big school and she would be really upset with me if I walked there.

I just happened to look across the road, and I saw Uncle Jack going in to the milkshake café.

I could go and tell him what I heard. He would tell me if it was true.

 

When I got to the café, Uncle Jack was sitting with Uncle Jamie. I hadn’t really spent much time with him, but he seemed like an ok guy, but this was something I had to talk to Uncle Jack about.

He wasn’t happy that I crossed the road on my own, but I had to speak to him. He gave me some money and sent me to get a milkshake, so I got the biggest Milky Way milkshake I could get with cream on top and some flake and Carmel sauce. Uncle Jack was paying, so why not?

As I waited on the milkshake being made, I watched Uncle Jack and Uncle Jamie talking. I couldna hear much, but I started to wonder if Uncle Jamie was the red headed Scot Daddy was talking about.

Jamie had just come to town after a long time away, and he knew Mummy really well, but Mummy wasna so happy to see him home for some reason.

When my drink was ready, I walked back over to them and then me and Uncle Jack walked to the door, but I turned around and went back over to Jamie. I looked him over and I could see it. He looked a LOT like Bree. Same red hair. Same shape of the eyes, kinda like mine too. It would make sense. People did always ask where Bree got the red hair, and people always asked me why I looked like my Uncle Willie when he wasn’t my real uncle. Maybe this was why?

“So, do ye really want me and Bree to call ye Uncle, or do ye want us to call ye dad?” I asked Jamie. He and Uncle Jack looked shocked at my question.

Neither of them said anything, so I turned to Uncle Jack.

“I just heard Daddy tell Sandy about the red headed Scot that was really mine and Bree’s dad. Is it true? Is it him?” He didn’t say anything, just looked over at Jamie with his mouth hanging open. I turned back to Jamie and sat down across from him. “Is it? Are you my real Dad? Daddy said that he hasn’t been around in years. You just came back to town, and ye’ve red hair. Ye look like Bree too and it would make sense why I have a look of Uncle Willie, no?”

Jamie still didn’t say anything. It was Uncle Jack that spoke first. “Willie, buddy, where’s your father? Frank?”

“In one of the art classrooms talking to Sandy.”

“Alright. Are you okay to come with me and we’ll go and get your sister from swimming and Jamie can pick your Mum up on the way, that alright? We’ll then go up to my place.” Uncle Jack said.

“I dinna think ye should just take the lad.” Jamie finally spoke. “What happens when Frank canna find him?”

“Trust me Jamie, please. Just, go and get Claire and I’ll get Bree and you and Claire can both talk to them. Frank won’t think for a second that’s where you all are. There’s something I need to tell Claire. Something I should have told her months ago.”

“Are you going to tell her about a Sandy? Won’t she be mad that I didna tell her myself? I don’t want Mummy to be upset wi’ me.”

“I promise your mummy won’t be upset with you Willie, alright? You’ve done nothing wrong.” Uncle Jack told me as he gently pushed me out of the café. Jamie followed us to the car park down the road.

“Who’s Sandy?” I heard Jamie ask Uncle Jack.

“An ex student of Frank’s. Apparently he’s been doing a lot more than teaching her history. The girls barely eighteen. He promised me it was over... obviously not.”

Chapter Text

Claire’s POV

When I saw Jamie pull up outside the shop, my heart began to race. And not in a good way.

I know I promised him some time with the children at the weekend, but things just got so hectic at home, trying to organise everything for their return to school today. He said he understood, so why was he here looking like he was about to murder someone?

Probably me.

“Sassenach, ye need to come wi’ me. Now!” He was stern and serious. I’d never seen him like this before.

“What they hell Jamie?! I have a work day, and I need to go and collect Bree from swimming soon. I can’t just go with you. Especially when you’re in this state. I don’t like it.”

“Sorry Sassenach. I didna mean tae scare ye, but you and I need to get to Jack’s. He has Willie and he’s away to collect Bree. I said I’d come get ye and we’d meet him at his place.” He was speaking so fast, it was hard to keep up.

“Jamie, calm down. Just tell me what they hell is going on?” I asked as I walked closer towards him. Geillis had left about an hour ago, and I was due to close up in ten minutes.

“It’s wee Willie. He-he ken’s Frank’s no his Da, Claire. He asked me if I was. We need to go, Claire. Come on!” Jamie shouted as I tried to take in what he just said.

How the hell did Willie find out? Frank and I were very careful not to talk too much about Jamie when the children were around. Why wouldn’t my little boy come and speak to me first?

“Oh god. How did he find out?” I asked quietly as I could feel my world crumble around me.

“Well if ye come wi’ me, ye could ask him yerself Sassenach.”

 

I locked up the shop as quickly as I could before jumping in to Jamie’s car and driving over to Jack’s place.

Why was Willie with Jack though? He’s supposed to be at school with Frank. How does Jamie fit in to this? How did he know? When did Willie ask him?

There were so many questions I needed to ask, but I couldn’t find the words. I never told my children about Jamie because as their mother, it’s my job to protect them. I knew Jamie would never hurt them, at least, not on purpose, but I had to protect them from any kind of hurt or heartache, but here I am almost eight years later and my son know’s the truth.

How?

 

When Jamie and I arrived at Jack’s place, Jack had just pulled in to his driveway. He and the kids jumped out of the car, but Willie couldn’t look at me. Have I hurt him that much that he can’t stand the sight of me anymore?

Jack opened up the front door and let the kids in first. He sent them in to the living room to play for a little while, so he, Jamie and I could speak in the kitchen.

I just wanted to see Willie. See if he was alright. Did Bree know? She didn’t seem as upset as her brother. Maybe he didn’t tell her then.

 

“I was in the café across from the school. Jamie was there and we got to talking. Next thing, Willie comes running in saying he needed to speak to me. God Claire, I was so angry with him for crossing that damned road all on his own, I didn’t see how upset he was, not straight away.

“I sent him up to the counter to get a milkshake and when he came back, he just... out of nowhere, asked if Jamie was his father.” Jack rushed out to tell me. I could see that he was panicked.

“So, what? Are you saying you and Jamie were talking about our... situation and he overheard?” I asked angrily. It was the only explanation I could think of.

“No. He... he overheard Frank talking to someone at the school.” Frank let out a deep sigh and rubbed his hand over his forehead before continuing. “Frank apparently mentioned a red headed Scot. From what Willie said, on the way to pick up Bree, he didn’t even think it was Jamie until he saw him sat in the café. Neither Jamie or I have admitted anything to him Claire. It’s up to you.

“There is something I need to speak to you about first before you speak to the twins.” Jack turned to Jamie and asked him to step in to the living room with the twins. I actually forgot Jamie was there for a second because he hadn’t uttered two words.

Jamie stepped out of the kitchen, and for a second I wanted to ask him to stay, but I wasn’t sure if that was for my own sake, or if I just wasn’t ready for him to be around the twins alone yet.

He was gone before I could say anything, so I prayed to god that he wouldn’t speak to them about any of this. Not yet any way.

 

“We need to call Frank.” I told Jack as I pulled my phone from my bag, but Jack placed is hand on mine and asked me not to. Whatever he wanted to speak to me about, he didn’t want Frank here to know about it. “But if Willie ran out of the school to find you at the café, Frank will be worrying wondering where he is.” I said as I abruptly moved my hand from Jacks. “The twins are his children too Jack. He should be here.”

“Claire, please just...” he trailed off deciding to say something else. “Willie found me and a Jamie at the café almost an hour ago. That’s almost an hour his “son” has been missing from right under his nose, and he hasn’t even called you. Why not? Surely that would be one of the first things he should do if he came back to his classroom and Willie wasn’t there and he couldn’t find him for an hour.”

I didn’t like where this was going. “Where was he? Why was Willie alone long enough to just walk out of the school like that Jack?”

“Good question.” Jack mumbled.

 

I started pacing the newly tiled floor Jack had just had laid a few weeks ago. I thought I knew what was coming, I just hoped it wasn’t true.

But it was.

Frank was sleeping with another woman whilst he was meant to be taking care of our son. Apparently this wasn’t the first time, but to make things a million times worse... Willie had seen them together. Not having sex, thankfully, but apparently he told Jack he saw them kissing, more than once. He even saw Frank pulling up his trousers and his bit on the side re doing her shirt!

“Why the HELL didn’t you tell me, Jack? If you knew... if Willie told you what he saw... why not come to me. I would have had Willie come and stay with me at the shop if that’s what Frank was getting up to.” I ran my hands over my face before sitting down on a stool before I collapsed. “I can’t believe that he would put shagging some tart before taking care of his son!” I snapped. “What the hell was he thinking?”

“Claire... I truly am sorry, but when I spoke to Frank about it after Willie told me, he begged me not to tell you and he assured me that it was over. He promised he wouldn’t do it again. Claire, if I thought for a second that he would go back on his word, I would have told you.”

“All I care about are my children. Poor Willie. He must have been so confused.”

“He was, but, I think he’s more worried about if you’ll be angry with him because he didn’t tell you himself about Frank.” I snapped my head up at Jack in confusion. My heart breaking for my little boy. “I told him you wouldn’t be angry with him, but I think he feels guilty. I told him that he has nothing to feel guilty for. This is all on Frank.”

 

I had no words. Not only did my seven year old son discover his father cheating with another woman on more than one occasion, he overheard Frank saying he wasn’t his real father.

My poor baby.

I couldn’t hold back any longer. I ran towards the kitchen door to open in and ran down the hallway to the living room to wrap my arms as tightly as I could round my baby boy.

“I am so sorry baby. You should never of had to witness what you did. I’m so sorry.” I whispered in my little lads ear, still unsure of what his sister knew.

“Are ye no mad at me then? I did want to tell ye Mummy, but Daddy told me not to. He said there was nothing to tell anymore because he wasna seeing Sandy.” Willie cried into my neck.

I pulled back as soon as I heard the name. “Sandy?” Willie nodded. I looked over to Jack. “Sandy? As in my husband and I were just at her eighteenth birthday party last month? Sandy, as in my husbands ex student. Sandy, as in my children’s babysitter?” Jack didn’t answer, but he slowly nodded his head to say I was correct.

Fuck sake Frank!

What the hell are you playing at?!

 

I looked over at Bree sat on the couch next to Jamie. She was showing him some of the drawings she had done for Jack the last time she was here. He seemed really interested and quite happy chatting away with Bree, but I couldn’t help feeling embarrassed at the fact I was just telling Jamie a few days ago how happy and in love I was with Frank, and now he knew that Frank was sleeping with another woman. Not just another woman, but a pupil he used to teach.

This was all I needed right now. And as pissed off at Frank as I was for sleeping around with his ex student whilst he was supposed to be taking care of our son, I had to focus on the fact that Willie now knew Jamie was his father. I had to focus on trying my best to explain things to my seven year old twins.

How the hell is this happening?

 

I asked Jack to keep an eye on the kids and I asked Jamie to come with me to the kitchen. We should have really discussed what to do on the way over here, but my mind was racing and I didn’t even know where to begin. I was grateful when Jamie gave me that time for silence, but now I really wished we had spoken in the car.

 

“What dae ye want to tell them, Sassenach? You’re their mother, I’ll follow your lead.” Jamie said softly as I closed the kitchen door behind us.

“I honestly don’t know. They’ve only ever known Frank as their father.” I sat down on the same stool I had before and rested my face in my hands. “Oh god. This is just such a big mess.”

Jamie came over and rubbed his hand over my back. I knew he was only trying to comfort me, like he had so many times before, but this felt different. I couldn’t have him touching me or try to soothe me. I had to concentrate on working out the best way to tell my children that the man they have called a Daddy since they could talk, isn’t actually their real father, but the tall red haired stranger that just came back to town is.

“I think we just tell them the truth, Claire. You and I were together for a long time, and we loved each other verra much, but I left town before I knew ye were pregnant. Ye tried to reach out to me, but I didna ken about the bairns until I came back for Jenny’s funeral.” Jamie could feel me tensing at his touch, so he moved away from me, but stood in front of me so I could see him.

“They’re only little Jamie, they won’t understand. I barely understand. I don't want to hurt them.” I cried.

“I ken lass, but Willie already kens, and the sooner we actually go out there and tell Bree and answer their questions about the situation, the better.”

I knew Jamie was right, so I nodded my head and slowly pulled myself up from the stool I was sitting on.

Before I opened the door to the living room, I took a few deep breaths. Nothing can prepare you for tearing down your children’s world. All I could do was be honest with them and make sure that they are loved.

 

Jack offered to leave Jamie and I with the kids in private, but before I could tell him he didn’t need to leave because it was his house, Jamie had thanked him and Jack was telling the kids he would see them later for a trip in to Inverness for some tea and a treat at the cinema. Bree was really excited, but Willie kept quiet.

I silently thanked Jack before he left. I sat down on the sofa next to my daughter and pulled my son up to sit on my knee. He was getting a little big for this, but I needed him close to me and I needed him to know that I wasn’t angry with him for not telling me about Sandy. He needed to know that whatever was going with Frank and I now, it wasn’t his fault.

Jamie sat down on the arm chair across from us on the sofa, and I could tell he was itching to finally tell the children that he was their real father, but he managed to contain himself and let me take the lead, which I appreciated greatly.

“Alright my loves, there is something that I need to speak with you both about.” I said as brightly as I could so that I wouldn’t worry Bree.

“What is it Mummy? Is it about why Willie won’t speak? He hasna said a word to me since Uncle Jack picked me up from swimmin’.” Bree glared at her brother.

“Well, Willie overheard something this afternoon and now I need to talk to you both about it. It’s something I probably should have told you both a long time ago, but until recently, I didn’t think there was any need.”

“Just tell us. Is Jamie really our Da? He looks like Bree, and daddy said our real daddy had red hair.” Willie said softly as he kept his eyes firmly on Jamie.

I could see the look of shock on Bree’s face. She opened her little mouth to say something, but quickly closed it when she realised she had nothing to say.

“It’s true.

“Jamie and I were together for a long time when we were in school. We had actually planned to move away to attend University together. Well, not the same university, but we—“

“Sassenach, yer ramblin’.” Jamie said with a small chuckle. That didn’t make me feel any less nervous.

“Sorry.” I turned back to Bree and adjusted Willie on my lap so he would look at me too. “Jamie had already left town when I discovered I was pregnant. We had already broken up and I was unable to find him to tell him about you both.” I left out the part about sending all my letters because I didn’t think it would do any one any good to bring that up. “Your daddy, Frank, he was a really good friend to me back then. He helped and supported me throughout my pregnancy with you both and he was still there to help the three of us after you were born.

“A few months after you were born, Frank and I decided to give a relationship a go. We cared for each other very deeply, and it just made sense. Bree said her first word a couple of weeks before you Willie, but you both said the same thing. Your first word was “Da”, and you both said it to Frank. It made sense to me why you would think he was your daddy, he was the one who was there from almost the beginning.

“I encouraged you both to think of Frank as your father because I believed that you deserved a father to be here for you and love you unconditionally. That was Frank.

“We broke up for a little while when you were very young, but we soon got back together because we were both miserable apart. During our brief time apart, Frank was very much still involved in your lives. As far as I was concerned, he was your father. I wouldn’t have kept you from him or him from you.”

“Is that why we dinna have Daddy’s name? Because we’re no really his?” Willie asked me curiously. I realised that neither Frank or I had actually discussed the name thing with the children.

“Well, you were both born before Frank and I got together. We didn’t get married until three years ago and I just decided not to change your last name to Randall. Not because Frank isn’t your father, but because... well, I just didn’t. You were both born before me and your daddy married, so you were just always Fraser.”

Bree seemed to be taking in a little what I was saying, but Willie just turned to focus his gaze on Jamie once more.

“His name is Fraser. Is that why me and Bree are Fraser too? Cause he’s our real daddy?” Willie asked as he kept his eyes straight on Jamie.

“No darling. My name is Fraser too. That is why you and your sister are named Fraser, because it’s my name, not because it’s Jamie’s.”

“Does this mean that Daddy isn’t our Daddy anymore?” Bree whined.

“Sweetheart, Frank always has been, and always will be your father, alright? But, now that Jamie’s here, he would very much like to get to know you both better, but there’s no pressure. We will take things at your pace.” I assured them.

“Ok. But it’s a little confusing having two Daddy’s.” Bree said as she walked over to stand in front of Jamie.

“I ken lass. I dinna want to take Frank’s place. He’s done a wonderful job helping yer Ma raise ye both. I just want the chance to ken ye is all, if that’s alright wi’ you and yer brother?” Bree turned back to look at Willie who shrugged his shoulders.

“Ok, but I canna call ye Daddy, so I’ll call ye Da, if that’s okay?” Bree asked Jamie who was welling up with tears by this point.

“Aye lass. That’s fine wi’ me.” He answered her before looking over to me. I just rolled my eyes at him. So much for doing things my way.

Willie stood up from my lap and went over to Jamie. “Daddy made it sound like ye didna want me and Bree when we were bairns. What’s changed?”
“Yer Ma told ye Willie, she couldna find me to tell me she was pregnant. I need ye to ken lad, if I kent she was expectin you and her sister, I woulda been back here in a heartbeat.” Jamie reached out to touch Willie’s cheek, but he shied away from Jamie’s touch.

“Can ye phone Uncle Jack and ask him to come and get me and Bree now?”

“Of course darling.”

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. My son looked deflated. Like he had the life sucked right out of him. Frank certainly had a lot to answer to when he got home.

 

I had been at Jack’s place for almost forty five minutes when my phone rang.

Frank.

Apparently he left the classroom to go and fetch some snacks from the vending machine and came back to find Willie gone.

Pffft.

“Both the children are with Jack. He’s taking them to Inverness for the night. They’ll be home tomorrow sometime.” I explained as calmly as I could.

“How the hell did Jack get them? Willie is supposed to be here with me Claire, when did Jack take him?” I could tell my husband was getting agitated. Good. That’s exactly how I was feeling. Amongst other things.

“Willie found Jack in the café across from the school about, oh, almost two hours ago Frank.” I left the living room and took the call in to the kitchen, away from Jamie and the kids. Jack would be back any minute to collect the children. “Get your arse home now. I’ll be back soon.” I hung up.

 

Jack arrived to take the kids. They had some spare clothes here anyway, so Jack quickly packed an overnight bag for them and they were soon ready to go.

I hugged both my children tightly before wishing them a good time and saying goodbye.

Once Bree ran to get in to the car, I pulled Willie back in to my arms. “I promise everything will be alright, sweetheart. Just remember that no matter what, Frank and I love you very much. So does everyone else around you, alright?”

Willie nodded his head that was hung low before he looked up to me. “I’m sorry I didna tell ye about Daddy and Sandy.”

“It’s alright. You have nothing to apologise for, alright? It’s us adults who have messed up, but I promise we will make thing right.” I kissed his head after he smiled at me. It was then I knew that maybe things will actually work out alright.

What I didn’t expect was for Willie to run over to Jamie and wrap his little arms around Jamie’s waist like his sister did before she jumped in to the car. “Bye Da. See ye later.”

 

Jamie and I stood there on the street waving like a crying mess as Jack drove away with the kids. Our kids.

 

 

It was a quiet drive back to the shop so I could get my own car before returning home.

“I’ll give you a call tomorrow and we’ll sort something out about you and the children. I promise, Jamie.”

“Och, Dinna fash about me, Sassenach. Just focus on the bairns, aye? And... I’m sorry about what Frank’s done to ye. Ye deserve much better than that.”

I saw red then. “You, James Fraser, have absolutely NO clue about my marriage or my relationship with my husband, so just keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself, alright?” I snapped before getting out of his car and legging it to my own.

 

By the time I arrived home, Frank’s car was in the drive. I pulled up behind him and took several deep breaths before walking inside my house.

Frank was pacing the living room floor when I entered.

“You promised me Frank. You said you would be discreet.”

Chapter Text

Claire’s POV

 

“You promised me Frank. You said you would be discreet.”

“What’s he said?” Frank stopped pacing to actually turn himself round to face me.

“Who? Jack or our son, because apparently they both knew you were sleeping with a fucking eighteen year old! What the hell Frank? She was your fucking student! She IS our children’s babysitter!” I spat at him before walking towards the window. I couldn’t look at him. Not in that moment. “Did you fuck her in our bed?” I whispered.

“Oh, don’t be ridiculous Claire.”

“Sorry, I’m the one being ridiculous, am I?” I practically yelled. “She’s practically a fucking child Frank! You seemed more than alright about screwing her in your classroom whilst our seven year old son was just down the corridor!” By this point I was beyond angry. What Frank chose to do in his own private time, that was up to him, but when it affects our family, our children, it’s unforgivable.

“Look, what did Willie say? What did he see? I never meant to leave him for as long today.”

“You didn’t mean to leave him for as long? He had left the school, found jack and been with me, all for almost two fucking hours before you realised he was missing! I trusted you. You’re his father, you’re supposed to take care of him! Not-not dump him in a room somewhere so you can piss off and have a good shag!”

“I can explain Claire, please—“

“Don’t.” I could feel a Frank coming up behind me. His reflection in the window showed he was about to reach for my shoulder. “Sleeping with Sandy is something we can discuss later. What made Willie run off today was something he overheard you saying to Sandy when he came looking for you.”

“What did he hear?”

“That you aren’t his and Bree’s real father. Th-that some red headed Scotsman was.”

“Aaah. Shit!” Frank decided to take his frustrations out on the sofa by kicking its leg.

“Exactly. We decided together that the twins didn’t need to know. They needed love and stability, which we could provide. You begged me not to take them from you.

“I’m not saying you’ve lost them Frank, but if you have, it’s down to you, not me.” I said calmly as I turned to finally face Frank again. “And there’s something else you should know... Jamie was in the café when Willie went to find Jack. He didn’t click at first, but then some how, it hit him. He looked at Jamie and realised that he looked like Bree. Wondered if he was their father, so... he asked Jamie.

“Jack sent Jamie to come and get me from work, Jack took Willie and went to get Bree. I told them the truth. You gave me no option, Frank.” I watched as Frank sank down on to the couch and slammed his face in to his hands. “I didn’t want to let Jamie back in. Not if I could help it, Frank. I know you didn’t either. But you need to accept that he’s back in now. That’s all down to you.” I walked by him heading for the stairs to go up to my room. “Oh, and they’re both calling him “Da”.” I didn’t wait for a response or a reaction, I just headed up the stairs and packed an overnight bag for myself.

Frank and I certainly had more to discuss, but that would need to wait till later. I had to get my head around the fact that Jamie was now going to be a proper fixture in my children’s lives. Whether he liked it or not, he had to step up and be the kind of parent they needed. I wanted to believe that he would, but I was still learning to trust the man again myself.

 

I was so hurt and angry as I packed up my things. I was aware Frank had relations with another woman. I just... wasn’t aware that said woman was really no more than a child. A child who had been babysitting my children for well over a year. Possibly closer to two years, actually.

Was she sleeping with my husband all that time?

I shook the thought from my head. I didn’t want to know.

 

After packing some clothes and some pyjamas in to my overnight bag, I went to the bathroom to pack some essentials. Toothbrush, toothpaste, skin care products.

 

When I came downstairs, Frank was sitting on the third step from the bottom, making it difficult for me to get past him.

“Frank, please. Let me past.”

“We need to talk about this Claire. It isn’t what you think. I love you.” He said as he eventually stood to let me past with my bag.

After I passed him, I turned to face him. I could still feel the tears on my face, but I was too wound up to wipe them away. “As far as the children are concerned, they now know that Jamie is their biological father. We don’t have to lie or pretend about that any more.

“How Willie came to find out such a thing, I am so not happy about it. We always made a point not to discuss it when the children were around. Surely you knew that if you were gone for some time, he would come looking for you. He had done so before, right?” Franked kept his head low, but he nodded. “It’s done now. We just need to find a way to make all this work. For the children. They’re the priority here. Not you. Not me, and not Jamie.”

“I understand. But, we still need to talk about Sandy, Claire. She doesn’t mean anything to me. I love you. Surely you know that.” He was pleading with me, and I almost felt sorry for him.

Almost.

“Not tonight. I’m... tired. I need a break.” I said softly.

“Are you coming back?”

“This is my home. My children’s home, so yes. I will be back, ju-just not tonight. I need some space and some time to myself.” Frank nodded in understanding, so I turned and headed towards the door after grabbing my car keys.

“I do love you, Claire. I always have.”

“I know.” I said softly. More tears starting to fall from my eyes. I turned back to look at my husband. The man who had always been there for me when I needed him. My tower of strength. Always. “I just can’t give you what you need. Maybe I should have just let you go after the accident. Maybe us staying together wasn’t a good idea.”

Frank moved from the spot he seemed to be rooted in, as he came towards me and took a firm grip of my hand. “We stayed together because we love each other, Claire. That hasn’t changed. Not for me any way.”

I removed my hand from Frank’s grasp, gently. “Maybe love just isn’t enough any more.” I shrugged.

“Please don’t say that, Claire. I love you. I need you.” He pleaded again.

“But you don’t need me, Frank. I can’t give you what you need, hence Sandy.” The tears from Frank’s eyes were falling just as hard and fast as mine were. “I think we just need to take the night to really think about what we want to do next. Whatever it is though, it has to work for the twins as well. I don’t want them being unhappy. I don’t want you and I to be unhappy, Frank.” Frank turned his head away from me and stared blankly at the wall beside us. “Children won’t be at school tomorrow. I’ll have Jack bring them home to me. I’ll have a chat with them to see how they’re processing things, but I’ll leave them with Dad and I’ll come by tomorrow evening so you and I can talk. Hopefully we will have figured out what it is we actually want.”

I wasn’t prepared for what was to come out of my husband mouth in response.

“You want Jamie back, don’t you?” Frank was still staring at the wall.

I reached up with my hand and turned his face to look at me. “No. He hurt me too much. You were there, Frank. You know what he did to me. I can’t forget any of that, but I have to let him be part of the children’s lives. It’s what they seem to want.

“I just don’t believe I’m enough for you any more. And I don’t want you to argue with me on that, because I knew deep down that it’s true.

“Since Jamie has been back, you’ve been begging me not to take the children away from you. You said you couldn’t lose them. You didn’t say anything about me though, Frank.” If I thought my tears were coming hard and fast before, it was nothing compared to this. “Willie even heard you say that Jamie was welcome to me. Do you know how heartbreaking that was for our son to hear? How heartbreaking that was for me to hear?” Frank moved closer and tried to pull me closer to him by my waist, but I moved out of his reach. “I’ll see you tomorrow evening. Probably after I have dinner with the children.”

Frank nodded and I just turned and left.

As soon as I got in to my car, I completely broke down.

Was this the end of my marriage?

The end of the family Frank and I had built together?

 

I don’t recall how long I just sat in my car and cried my heart out before I was able to calm down and start the engine.

I probably shouldn’t have been driving since I don’t actually remember the drive to my Dad’s place. I just seemed to be on auto pilot. I didn’t even take in any of my surroundings as I got out of the car.

Maybe if I did, I wouldn’t have gotten such a shock when I entered my childhood home to find Jamie Fraser sat on the couch in the living room with my Dad, drinking whisky and looking at old photo albums of my children.

 

“What the bloody hell is he doing here?” I snapped at my Dad.

“Look lass, the puir lad just needed someone to talk tae.” Dad responded.

“He has a family.” I scoffed.

“Aye, and last time I checked, Murtagh was my family too.” Jamie answered as he stood from his seat on the couch.

I just rolled my eyes. I definitely didn’t need to be faced with Jamie Fraser right now. I especially didn’t want him playing “besties” with my own Dad.

“Ye alright lass? Jamie told me what happened. The twins seem to have taken it well though, eh?” Dad asked, still sat in his comfortable arm chair, sipping his whisky.

“I’m fine.” I said shortly. “I’m going to bed. See you in the morning, Dad.” I said as I turned to walk down the hall to my old bedroom. The room that now consisted of two twin beds for my own children to have sleepovers with their granda.

 

Before I managed to securely lock myself away from both my Dad and Jamie, I felt someone pull at my arm to turn me to face them.

Jamie.

I pulled my arm free from him and demanded to know what the hell he was playing at.

“Have ye finally left the bastard then?” Jamie asked as he eyes my overnight bag.

“Frank is still my husband, and you know nothing about our marriage Jamie, so please don’t start.” I sighed. “I’m too tired and drained to talk, much less argue with anyone. All you need to know is that the twins are alright, and you will be part of their life. You just need to keep to your word and not break their hearts like you did mine.”

“I wilna let them down Claire. Or you. No again. I swear it.”

I nodded in acknowledgment of his vow. “I’ll have the children come to Lallybroch at the weekend for you to get to know them better and so you can all spend some time together. Good Night Jamie.” I turned to close my bedroom door, but Jamie out a hand up to stop me.

“You and I used to be best friends Claire. Ye ken I’m a guid listener, so if ye ever need my ear, or my shoulder to cry on, ye ken where I am.” Jamie reached up to tuck a curl behind my ear. As he brought his hand down, he grazed his thumb against my cheek softly. “Mo nighean donn.”

“Thank you, but I don’t really think that’s appropriate, Jamie. We need to learn to do parent, but that all we are. I am definitely not your brown haired lass. I’m just the mother of your children. The girl you left behind—”

“And I will regret that for the rest of my life, Sassenach. Especially knowing that my actions left ye to live a life like this. Wi’ him. Frank Randall. Ye deserve better than him, Sassenach. Ye deserve better than to have yer husband sleeping wi’ another lass behind yer back. Our children deserve better.”

“Like I said Jamie, you know nothing about my marriage to Frank. But your right, my children do deserve better. So did I. I deserved better than you, Jamie.”

“Yer right, ye did. But Frank isna better than me. I’d go as far as to say he’s worse. I would never cheat on ye Claire. I would never have taken another woman to bed if a I had you at my side.”

I let out a deep sigh. My head was splitting with all this now. “Look, not that it’s any of your business, but I knew Frank was sleeping with another woman.” I informed Jamie.

He was taken aback by my comment. His brows furrowed in confusion. “Eh? And ye didna say anythin’ to the guy? Just let him get on wi’ it? Havin’ sex wi’ a lass that’s no much older than a child?!” Jamie hissed. I could tell he was trying to keep his voice down and his anger in check.

“I told Frank that he should find someone to give him what I can’t.” I sighed.

“What?”

“I didn’t know he was sleeping with Sandy, but I knew he was seeing someone. I told him to.” I shrugged before finally closing the door.

I had obviously left Jamie in some kind of state of shock, because it took a few minutes before I heard him walk away from the door.

As soon as I heard him walk away, I let out a deep breath and climbed straight in to bed.

I just wanted to forget this day had ever happened.

Chapter Text

Jamie’s POV

 

When I woke up, I wasna sure if it was a dream I was livin’, or a nightmare.

My children, were a dream.

They now knew I was their real father, and they both seemed verra interested in gettin’ to ken me better.

And... they both called me Da.

I couldna believe it.

And the way Willie had called me Da, so casually after throwing his wee arms around my waist to say goodbye, it was just everythin’ I could have dreamed of and more.

I didna ken my children all that well yet, but I was fairly certain that it woulda took Willie a fair bit of time before he warmed up to me, and the idea of me bein’ his true father. Fortunately for me, he seemed to adapt quite quickly to the news.

I kent there was still a long way to go wi’ my relationship wi’ the twins, but the fact that they now knew I was their father... it was a huge step in the right direction. I just had to keep them as my main focus, but I couldna help wonderin’ about Claire.

 

Claire... she made me feel like I was livin’ a nightmare.

I kent I’d let her down. I let everyone down, but her more than anyone. It was gonna take time and patience for her to trust me again, but I was determined. No only because I wanted her trust for myself, but it was important to our children to know that they had two parents that were able to trust and rely on each other. Co parent.

But, I still wasna sure if that meant I had to share whatever parental responsibilities Claire would grant me, wi’ Frank.

 

The dirty bastard has been cheatin’ on her. Sleepin’ around wi’ another lass, and I mean lass because apparently she’s just turned eighteen.

What the hell was he thinkin’.

I ken I have a long way to go before I can win any awards for father of the year, but I would never just abandon my seven year old son to go and fuck around wi’ a teenager.

Apparently Frank had done this more than once, and he only left Willie down the bloody corridor.

Did he really think Willie wouldna discover the pair of them?

 

Christ. It made me so fucking angry that he was the man raising my children.

Of course, that was all my own fault. I kent that. And I was angry at myself almost as much as I was angry at Frank bloody Randall.

 

Claire though... she deserved so much better than this. So much better than him.

 

One thing she said was sticking in my mind. She told him to start seeing someone else.

Why on earth would she do such a thing?

 

Ever since I’ve been back, almost every conversation we’ve had, she’s told me that she loves him. If she loves him, why tell him to take a lover? If he loved her, why would he agree to it?

It didna make any sense.

 

Just as I poured myself a cup of coffee, my phone started to ring.

Murtagh.

“What’s wrong? Is it Claire? The bairns?” I asked in a rush of panic.

“They’re all fine lad, but I need ye to do me a favour.”

“What is it?” I asked curiously.

“Well, yer Uncle Dougal has gotten himself in to quite a pickle at the pub last night. He’s just rung me to ask if I can go and collect him... fae the police station.” I rolled my eyes. Dougal always was one to get in to a fair bit of bother when there was drink involved. Apparently his dependency on alcohol was gettin’ worse. “I need ye to come by the house and just stay here till I get back. Claire hasna appeared fae her room yet, and I dinna want her here on her own.”

As much as I wanted to check in wi’ Claire and make sure she was alright, I kent she needed space from me. “I dinna think she would want me there, Murtagh. Can ye no call Geillis, or even Willie could go and sit wi’ her till ye got back.” I suggested.

“Naw lad, I would prefer it if it was you. She would tae, she just wouldna admit it.” I stayed silent on the other end of the phone. I really wanted to help her through all this mess, but she made it clear that her marriage tae Frank was none of my business. “Jamie, ye broke my daughters heart, but dae ye really think I would let ye in to my house wi’ her here if I didna think it was what she truly wanted? She needs ye Jamie. I’m sure you need her just as much. I’m beggin’ ye lad. Just be here for my lass, will ye?”

I rubbed my free hand over face and round my neck. “Aye.” I sighed. “I’ll be down presently.” I said before I hung up.

 

Ian and the bairns still werena up. It was still really early in the mornin’. I decided to leave a note next to the kettle to explain where I am. Ian would definitely see the note there when he got up to make his coffee.

 

The whole way down to the village, my heart was poundin’ so hard in my chest. I kent Claire wouldna be happy to see me there, and wi’ Murtagh havin’ to leave to sort out Dougal, I wouldna have him there to try and explain to her why I was there.

I kent this would all just cause another argument, but Murtagh was sure it was I that Claire would really want there wi’ her. I couldna think why though. I treated her so terribly. I needed to fix things, but it would take time.

This just wasna a good idea.

It was too late though. I had arrived and parked my car on the street, directly across from Murtagh’s house.

 

As I walked slowly up the front path, I remembered the day I asked Claire to be my date to the school Ceilidh.

She had asked me why I wanted to ask her, out of all the other girls in school, why did I want to go wi’ her as my date. I told her she was my best friend and I hoped that maybe she could be more.

I smiled at the memory as another one sprung to my mind.

Our first kiss.

 

“Oi, ye comin’ in lad or what? Sooner I can get goin’, the sooner I can get back.” Murtagh shouted from his front door. I looked up at him, still smiling. “What’s got ye grinnin’ like a Cheshire Cat then lad?” He asked me.

I shrugged my shoulders. “Just rememberin’. Claire and I had our verra first proper kiss, right here on these steps.” I commented.

“Aye. I remember that too.” Murtagh grumbled. “Anyway, in ye go. Kettles just boiled and ye can help yerself to whatever foods there. I shouldna be too long. Hopefully.”

 

I waved him goodbye before I headed straight to the kitchen to see what I could rustle up for breakfast. Somethin’ I kent Claire would enjoy and she could eat it whenever she got up.

 

There wasna all that much choice in Murtagh’s cupboards. Or the fridge for that matter. Things were definitely different now that Claire’s mother, Julia had passed away.

Ian and Willie didna give me the full details, but they did tell me that it was an accident. It was as if they expected me to just ken the full story.

Sometimes when they would talk about things, it’s like they forget that I wasna actually here, so I dinna ken half of what they’re talkin’ about.

 

Claire took her mothers death hard. Understandably. So did Murtagh.

 

Apparently after the death of Julia, he started hangin’ around wi’ my Uncle Dougal more. They were never all that close. In fact, I remember the arguments the pair used to get in to around the time of my mothers death and her funeral. So, how they were the best of buds now... I had no idea.

Misery loves company... I guess?

 

I decided on pancakes. But there was no flour, so I decided to make them wi’ oats instead. I actually preferred them that way, but I kent Claire preferred them made wi’ flour. She would still eat them though.

 

I dished out two each on to a plate for Claire and myself. I topped the pancakes wi’ some blueberries and strawberries I found in the fridge.

 

Just as a I went to re boil the kettle to make myself another coffee, one I would actually get to drink, I heard a door open from down the hallway.

Claire.

 

“Dad, could you make me a coffee please? I just need to call Jack quickly and see how the twins are.” She called as she rounded the corner.

As soon as she saw me stood in the kitchen, her eyes widened in shock and she turned herself around to find her Da.

“Dougal got himself in to a spot of bother, Sassenach. Yer Da just wanted someone to be here for ye since he had to leave. He’ll be back soon though.” I told her.

“Hmm. When is that man never in trouble?” She mumbled. “Alright, so why did my father decide that you were best for the role of babysitter?” She raised a brow at me and crossed her arms over her chest.

“I’m no a babysitter, Sassenach. Ye can do as ye please, dinna mind me. I’m just here for the free coffee and scran.” I smiled at her.

“Fine. Mines a coffee. And I’ll take one of your pancakes too. I’m VERY hungry this morning.” She informed me with a serious glare. “And I’ll have my breakfast in the living room, thanks.”

“I’ll leave it on the coffee table for ye then.”

“Thank you.” Claire nodded before heading back down to her bedroom. Presumably to call Jack since she was already dressed.

 

Claire’s POV

 

I couldn’t believe it when I woke up to find eighteen missed calls on my phone, and twenty seven text messages.

All from Frank.

Ugh.

I actually thought that he would give me the space I asked for. The space I so desperately needed to try and figure out what I wanted and needed to do about my marriage. What would my children want? I needed to make sure that their happiness and well being came first.

The fact that Frank was reluctant to give me space to breathe, I wasn’t sure if there was any point in trying to salvage my marriage. I very rarely asked my husband for anything, and this rare occasion that I do, he completely ignores my request.

Did he really think that I would respond to any of these calls or messages before I was ready to?

 

I could hear Dad rustling around in the kitchen. He wasn’t much of a breakfast person unless the kids were staying. Dad’s eating habits had certainly been getting worse since my mother died, but I was pleased that he would be eating at least something this morning. I knew it wouldn’t be anything fancy or even remotely exciting since Dad very rarely had enough food in his cupboards or fridge, but by the sounds of it, he was making an effort to prepare something for us both.

 

I hadn’t called or text Dad last night to let him know I was coming to stay, I just turned up unannounced. I knew he wouldn’t mind, but I guessed that he had some idea I would be turning up at some point, since Jamie had turned up to speak with Dad about what had happened yesterday.

Luckily, after Jamie left last night, Dad came in to check on me and he didn’t seem to know anything about Frank and Sandy.

Jamie must have left that part out.

I needed to text him later on to thank him for not saying anything. I don’t think I could handle if my father knew how Frank had been sleeping with a teenager. The same teenager who usually babysat the twins if Frank and I were spending the evening with our friends and family.

When I suggested Frank find someone else to give him what I couldn’t, I never dreamed in a million years he would choose one of his students. I never would have believed that he would have been so desperate for a quick fuck, he would just abandon our son in the school when he was supposed to be taking care of him.

I don’t think I will ever be able to forgive Frank for doing that to Willie. And then he made our son lie to me, keep his disgusting little secret. No wonder Willie was so out of sorts. He must have been so confused about everything.

 

When I appeared out of my room for breakfast, I called down the hallway to Dad that I was just going to quickly ring Jack to see how the twins were doing, but when I turned the corner to come in to the kitchen, I never thought for a second I would find Jamie Fraser stood there boiling the kettle instead of my Dad.

My first thought was that Jamie had the same idea as Frank. Not give me the time and space I needed. But then he informed me why he was there, and it made sense.

As angry as my dad was with Jamie for leaving and not coming back, he was still Jamie’s godfather, and he loved him dearly and took his responsibility seriously. Of course if it ever came down to it, Dad would always have my back.

 

But, ever since Jamie returned, he and Dad have been in contact quite a bit. Especially after Jamie finally learned about the twins. Dad was always trying to get me to speak with Jamie and sort things out once and for all, and I wanted to, especially for the twins’ sakes, but Jamie broke my heart. It wasn’t something I could just easily get over.

Jamie didn’t just break my heart. He broke my trust as well. He needed work damn hard for me to learn to trust him again, and I am willing to try and meet him halfway, but everything is just such a big mess right now. I honestly don’t know what to do for the best.

Obviously Jamie needs the chance to build a relationship with the twins, but I also need to work out what I’m going to do about my marriage and make sure the children aren’t unsettled too much by what us adults choose to do next.

 

It wasn’t until I returned from calling Jack and speaking to the twins from my bedroom, that I realised I was wrong about Jamie.

He had left my pancakes and coffee on the small coffee table in the living room like he said he would, but he remained in the kitchen eating his own.

Wow.

Jamie was here as a favour to Dad, but he really was trying to give me as much time and space as I needed.

I was really grateful for that.

 

After a good hour went past, I was still sitting in the living room, reading through all of Frank’s messages he had sent last night, and some that he had sent this morning. I had a lot of thinking to do, but my mind kept running back to the fact Jamie Fraser was in the house as well. Still sitting quietly in the kitchen.

I had actually forgotten for a while that he was there to be honest. It wasn’t until he knocked on the door frame to the living room to ask me if I wanted another coffee, that I remembered he was actually here.

He had brought me my second coffee of the day through to me and took away my breakfast dishes and left me by myself again.

I didn’t want to be alone though.

I wanted Jamie to sit down with me and just talk nonsense like we used to when we were younger. Or sit and watch some crap tv together. Just anything so that I wasn’t alone with my thoughts of my husband screwing a teenager in his classroom.

It wasn’t fair of me to ask Jamie to sit with me though. I couldn’t send him mixed messages like that. It wouldn’t be fair to him.

I decided to call Geillis instead, but since she was running both shops on her own today, she was a bit too busy to listen to my problems.

I thought about calling Mary, Frank’s sister in law, but I wasn’t sure what I could possibly say to her. She and her husband Alex were under the impression Frank hung the moon. Thought him such a sweet and gentle man. Would go out of his way to do anything for any one. And it was true. It was a large part of why I fell in love with him. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for me or my children. Still, there was no way I could talk to Mary about the Sandy situation. She would never believe me if I told her Frank was having an affair with his student.

I could easily talk to Jack about all of this. I knew he would understand and give me the advice I really needed. Even though he and Frank are brothers, I knew Jack would tell me what I needed to hear. The fact he was currently in Inverness with my children though, I couldn’t call him for this kind of chat.

Ian and Willie had enough on their plates without my marital issues being thrown at them as well. I knew Willie’s wife Mary would only be too happy to talk with me about Frank, but did I really want another person knowing what was going on?

So that brought me back to Jamie.

My childhood sweetheart. My first love. The biological father of my children. The man who abandoned me and never looked back. One of the few people who knew about Frank’s affair with his student.

 

Before I plucked up the nerve to go and sit with Jamie in the kitchen, I quickly sent off a text to my Dad, asking how long he would be. The fact he was in Dougal’s company, meant he could be home anytime between now and midnight.

He text me back straight away saying he could be some time, but if I needed him, he would come straight home. I told him I was fine, but he was to text me when he was on his way home. I made out it was so I could make him something to eat. In reality, I just didn’t want him hearing the conversation I was about to have with Jamie.

 

“You really don’t need to hide in here all day you know.” I said to Jamie as I sat down across from him at the kitchen table.

He looked up at me from his phone and smiled. “Just wanted to give ye some space. I didna think ye would want me of all people here this mornin’, but Murtagh wouldna take no for an answer.”

“I can imagine.” I responded.

“He’s just worried about ye. I told him no to fash though, ye’d be fine. Ye always are.”

“Not so sure about that.” I mumbled.

 

After a few minutes of awkward silence, and Jamie not knowing where to look, I finally decided to open up.

“Suppose you’re wondering why I told Frank to find himself a lover then?” I asked Jamie as I fidgeted nervously with the edge of the table cloth that lay over the table.

“A bit curious, aye. But, like ye said Claire, it’s none of my business.” Jamie answered.

“Things must be serious.” I commented. Jamie just gave me a questioning look. “You’ve been calling me Claire a lot lately. Think you’ve only called me Sassenach a couple of times in the past twenty four hours. You only call me Claire when something’s wrong, or we need to talk seriously.” I reminded him.

Jamie nodded slowly. “It’s just... I really want to give ye the space ye need. This is all a lot for us. More so for you and the bairns.”

“A lot for you too though. I bet you never imagined you would be coming home to say a final goodbye to your sister, and then learn you’re the father of twins.”

“No exactly, naw. But it’s a welcome surprise. I just wish I was brave enough to open yer wee letters at the time. I woulda came home sooner.” He gave me a look with his dreamy blue eyes that told me he needed me to know he would have come home straight away.

I did know that, but it was in the past now. We had to find a way to move on now.

“Anyway... After the accident—“

“Aye, what was this accident? Willie and Ian had mentioned an accident that killed Julia but... it was like they thought I kent all about it. I wasna here, so I dinna actually ken what happened. Were ye there?”

I looked at Jamie in confusion. He did know about the accident. Willie had called his manager to let him know what had happened. Begged for Jamie to come back. He and Dad thought that if I heard his voice, I would finally wake. “You know I was there. The accident that killed Mum, was the same accident that caused me to be in a coma for two weeks.”

I could tell by the shocked look on Jamie’s face that this was all news to him. “Wh-what?! Ye-ye were in a coma?! What the hell happened?” His voice was trembling.

He had no fucking clue what I was talking about.

“You had no idea?”

“How would I? I wasna here, Claire.”

I leaned forward to rest my folded arms in the table. “I was sure you knew, Jamie. I-I overheard Willie saying that he had called your manager to pass on a message to you. When you didn’t come back, everyone just assumed you didn’t care.”

I could see the wheels turning in his brain. Jamie started to shake his head slowly in disbelief. “Claire, if I had of gotten any sort of message about you or yer Ma, I would of come home. I would have been here for ye. Especially if...”

“It doesn’t matter, Jamie. It was two years ago.” I tried to reassure him, but I could tell he was trying to work out why he didn’t get the message.

I was kind of curious to know the answer to that myself. Especially when Dad, Willie and Ian had all contacted Jamie’s people to leave messages for him. It made me wonder what else hadn’t been passed on.

“If it isna too difficult for ye Claire, can ye tell me what happened?” He asked me carefully.

I nodded yes, but decided to make us both some tea first.

 

“I was fourteen weeks pregnant. Started to bleed. Thought it was just normal at first because I bled a little when I was a little earlier in my pregnancy, but this was different. Eventually I told Mum, and she was adamant she was talking me to the hospital to get checked out, just in case. As soon as we got in to the car, I knew there was no hope this baby would survive. I was having a miscarriage.

“About five minutes from the hospital, a van came out of nowhere and slammed in to Mum’s side of the car. She was killed instantly apparently. I survived, obviously.

“I don’t really remember much, but when I woke up in the hospital, I was told I had been in a coma for almost fifteen days. Frank and Dad had been by my side the entire time, taking turns with staying with me and being there for the twins.”

I could tell Jamie wanted to speak, but he managed to hold his tongue until I was finished.

“I knew straight away that I had lost the baby. No one had to tell me, that I was already aware of, but Mum... I had no idea. For the first few hours after I woke, I kept asking for her. I was desperate to see her. Eventually Dad told me she was gone.

“I feared I missed the funeral, but by some stroke of luck, the undertaker couldn’t organise the funeral for three weeks after she died. It was quite a busy time apparently. So, I did get to be there for that at least. It was... horrible. I basically woke up from a nightmare and went straight in to living a real life one without Mum. I was devastated. I was grieving the loss of my unborn child, and my mother. It wasn’t fair.”

I looked up at Jamie, and I could see his eyes filling with unshed tears.

“I was heartbroken, Jamie. I couldn’t... I couldn’t be the wife my husband deserved. I loved him, I really did, but I couldn’t... I was scared of... At first both Frank and I thought it was just the grief. I didn’t want to have sex because I was grieving, and he was fine with it. He didn’t care, all he cared about was me and making sure I was alright.

“Weeks turned into months and I just... I told Frank to find someone else who could give him what I couldn’t. It didn’t matter what we did to try and salvage our intimate relationship, or spice things up a bit, I just wasn’t interested in having sex. At all.

“Of course Frank refused. Said our marriage was more than just sex, and I agreed. That’s how I knew this would work. I loved him, and he loved me. I just couldn’t give him what he needed. What every man needs, whether they admit it or not.

“A couple of months after I first suggested it, he came to me and asked if I was sure. We agreed that he was to be discreet, and I didn’t want any details. I didn’t want to know who or when. All I wanted was my husband to be happy.

“In all honesty, the fact it was supposed to be just sex, I assumed he was seeing a prostitute.” I hit my hand of the table, making Jamie jump a little. “I didn’t actually think my husband would go out there and have a full blown affair. And with a fucking child! His fucking ex student!” I shouted. “I don’t think we can fix this.” I whispered.

In no time at all, Jamie was up and out of his chair and crouched down in front of me and pulling me in to his arms.

I was angry and upset, but I cried all my tears last night. I had nothing left to give anymore.

Jamie rubbed his hand soothingly up and down my back, and instead of pushing him away, I melted in to his embrace.

“I’m so sorry ye went through all that, Claire. I’m so sorry I wasna here for ye.” He whispered in my ear.

I gently pushed him back a little so I could see his face. “Jamie, why do you think you never got that message? I mean Willie definitely did leave one.”

“I dinna ken, Claire. But I will find out.” He said firmly. I could tell he was really annoyed that the message hadn’t been passed on to him.

“Jamie, did you know about Jenny’s cancer? Before you found out she died, I mean.” I asked him gently.

I always found it strange how he never returned to see his sister when she was battling such a horrible illness. We all expected him to at least come and see her at least once, but he didn’t. The fact he never got the message about my accident and my mothers death, it made me wonder.

“Nah. It was my solicitor that told me of her death and gave me the details of the funeral. Dinna ken how he found out though. Maybe he was there when Laoghaire...” Jamie trailed off on his words. Turned away from me and stood up to look out the window like he had just realised something.

“What is it Jamie?” I asked.

“Dae ye ken who Willie spoke to? When he called about her accident, who did he speak to?”

“I’m not sure exactly. I only overheard him saying he called. I’m sure he said your manager, but I didn’t catch a name.”

Jamie hastily grabbed his phone from the kitchen table and started scrolling through his contacts until he got to Willie.

“Brother. Can ye come by the house later after yer finished work? I need to speak wi’ you and Ian. It’s important.” Jamie asked. His shoulders were all tense and square. His jaw was clenching like I’d never seen before. He was furious.

I didn’t hear what Willie had answered, but it was obvious he had agreed. Jamie also asked if Mary would be able to watch the Murray children so the three of them could speak without interruption.

 

When Jamie hung up the phone, he chucked it down quite forcefully on to the table before taking a few deep breaths.

“What else have I missed?” He muttered.

“Eight years is a long time Jamie. You missed a lot, but by the sounds of it, it wasn’t all your fault.

“You should maybe invite my Dad to your little meeting later, too. I know he tried to contact you a few times as well after you left the army.”

Jamie nodded his head in agreement, and then we just sat there in silence for a good while.

Who would be so cruel as to not tell Jamie about his own sisters cancer. It seemed whoever this person was, didn’t want him any where near his old life.

Why though?

Chapter Text

Claire’s POV

As soon as Dad came home from helping Dougal MacKenzie, Jamie asked him if he would join him later on at Lallybroch to discuss some things. He didn’t go in to any details, but Dad could tell from the sound of Jamie’s voice that it was serious.

Jamie had left right after dad returned, and I agreed to call him tomorrow to arrange something between him and the children. I still had to speak to them when they got back from Inverness with Jack, and I also had to go home and face my husband and discuss what we were going to do about our marriage and the future of our family.

 

It wasn’t the sex that bothered me. It was what I wanted him to do. I couldn’t give that to him. It was just something I wasn’t interested in anymore.

It was the fact that it was an affair. It wasn’t just sex, my husband was having an actual affair.

Not only an affair, but he was having an affair with an eighteen year old girl. An eighteen year old who babysat our children. An eighteen year old who was his student last year.

What the hell was he thinking?

Clearly thinking more with what was in his pants, and not his head.

He had opened up to her and told her personal and private things about us. Not just about our marriage, but our whole lives together. Our children.

How could he do that?

How could he just abandon our seven year old son somewhere in the school to go and meet her?

He says our children mean everything to him. Clearly not.

And now Willie knows that.

 

Jack arrived at Dad’s house with the twins just before dinner was ready. He had text me throughout the day to let me know how the children were and what they were all doing with the time they had in Inverness.

Last night, Jack had taken them to see a film at the movies. I can’t quite recall which one, but it was definitely something animated. I was a little distracted when Jack was filling me in on the film because I just kept thinking of how a Frank very rarely took the children to the cinema, and when he did, it was very rare that he would actually let the children decide what they wanted to see.

This morning after breakfast, they spent some time in the city doing some window shopping. Well, until Jack decided to spoil his niece and nephew rotten at their favourite toy store on the way back to the car.

Jack had then taken the children for some lunch at the bowling alley before they had a couple of games. Of course Jack had let them both beat him and he played the part well of a gracious loser.

Apparently the twins both had hotdogs with onions and loads of tomato ketchup and a plate of chips between them, whilst Jack tucked in to a stacked cheeseburger with extra bacon. The children were amazed he was able to eat it, plus chips and onion rings. The children were talking about Jacks strange eating habits since they came in the door.

Frank would never have encouraged such unhealthy eating whilst out for the day with the twins. He did the very odd time, but only as a special treat, but mostly he would try and find a nice little café where they could have a sandwich or a baked potato or something. Frank was definitely not fond when he came home from work to find me dishing out chicken nuggets and chips for the children’s dinner. That’s what children eat though. I wasn’t prepared to put food down in front of my children that I knew fine well they wouldn’t eat. There was nothing wrong with my children’s diets any way. They were both healthy and happy, and that’s all that mattered.

After the bowling alley, the twins managed to persuade Jack to take them swimming at the leisure centre. Jack hates swimming. He has done ever since I’ve known him in school. When we did swimming in PE at secondary school, Jack had an excuse every single week as to why he couldn’t join in with the rest of the class. It was always strange to me because I always thought Jack wasn’t afraid of anything. Apparently I was wrong.

However, whatever it was that prevented Jack from ever going swimming, it wasn’t an issue anymore. Well, it wasn’t as big an issue. It wasn’t very often the children would ask Jack to take them swimming because they knew he just wasn’t really keen on swimming, but whenever they did ask, he willingly agreed. I had spoken to him a couple of times about it and assured him that the children would be fine if he declined to take them, but he was never one for letting my children down. I really admired him for that.

To this day, I have no clue why Jack isn’t too keen to be in the water, but if the children ask, he is more than happy to take them. I don’t think Jack actually does any swimming himself, I think he just goes in to keep an eye on the children. They know not to go too far from Jack when they’re in the pool.

 

“Mmmm, Turkey Dinosaurs and Turkey Princess Crowns.” Jack commented as I dished out the children’s dinner. “Well aren’t you two lucky?” He said to the children.

“I made a lasagne for myself and Dad. He isn’t back yet and there is plenty. Would you like to join us?” I asked Jack as I sat the children’s plates down in front of them.

“Ah, normally I wouldn’t refuse a wonderful offer like that, but I expect the three of you have some things to discuss.” He responded and the children looked really disappointed. “I’m off work on Sunday though, so why don’t you two and your mummy come over to mine after you’ve been to Lallybroch, and we can sit and watch a film and pig out on sweets and popcorn, hm?” Both the children cheered in agreement and I couldn’t help but smile.

“I guess that’s settled then, but we can’t stay too late on Sunday evening. You both have school the following day.” I said seriously. They both just rolled their eyes at me. Something I knew they had to have inherited from me. I was always rolling my eyes at someone or something. In fact, I did it so often, half the time I didn’t even realise I was doing it until Frank or Dad pointed it out to me.

 

Jack kissed the twins’ heads goodnight before I showed him to the door.

“If your dad doesn’t make it home before you head to see Frank, text me and I’ll come and sit with them and get them ready for bed.” Jack offered kindly.

“Thank you, Jack. But Dad shouldn’t be too long. He knows I need to see Frank after dinner.”

“Will you let me know how things go?” I knew Frank probably wouldn’t. For some unknown reason, Frank didn’t wish to contact Jack unless he had to.

“Of course.” I thanked Jack again for taking care of the twins and his offer to be a sounding board for me during this difficult time.

 

During dinner with the children, neither of them really mentioned Frank. They did however speak non stop about Jamie. They must have asked a million questions about this new man in their life. The father who didn’t know of their existence until a couple of weeks ago. The father they knew nothing about until yesterday.

I had expected a lot of anger or disappointment and even a lot of resentment from my young children because of the secrets and lies I’ve told them over the years, but they just took everything in their stride.

I supposed it was because they were only children, and they just seemed to suck everything in like little sponges. It was us adults that was handling the situation all wrong and confusing matters. Maybe we should take a leaf out of the children’s book and just relax a bit more. Try and sort everything out calmly.

 

The main question they had for me about Jamie, was when they were going to see him again. They were desperate to spend time with him and get to know their new Da.

It made me smile to see how happy they were when they spoke about him. They had only met Jamie maybe three times, but they were both really intrigued to find out more about this new red headed giant that had come to town, and was their real father.

 

Turns out they didn’t have to wait long at all. Just as I finished washing our dinner dishes, Dad arrived home with Jamie in tow.

As soon as he came through the door, the children were up on their feet and running towards him to hug him hello.

Jamie didn’t even bat an eyelid as he picked both the children up at the same time in each of his arms. He held them quite close and kissed the sides of their heads. I could tell it was no strenuous task for him to lift both children like that. Jamie was a very large, strong man. He could handle it.

“Mummy says we’re too big to be carried like this now.” Bree informed him.

“I’m no surprised, a leannan. Yer Ma, as strong as she is, she’s only a wee thing. Ye’ll both be towering over her in no time.” Jamie told them as he let them both back down to their feet.

“Dae ye think so?” Willie asked in amazement.

“Oh aye. Definitely.” Jamie smiled across the room at me.

 

Dad and I left Jamie in the living room with the children whilst we had a little chat in the kitchen before I had to go and meet Frank.

“Sorry to just turn up wi’ him lass, but he was really strugglin’ up at Lallybroch. I thought he would maybe be better of here wi’ me. And the bairns.”

“It’s fine, Dad. I just... I really need to get going. Will you be alright? Will Jamie be alright?”

 

Dad assured me they would all be fine, so I got myself ready and drove back to my own house to speak with my husband.

I had text Frank after dinner to let him know I would be round as soon as Dad got home to sit with the children.

He hadn’t responded though, but I assumed this was him getting back at me for not returning his calls and texts for the last twenty four hours.

 

I wasn’t expecting to walk in my front door to find my husband dragging a half naked eighteen year old down the staircase and telling her to leave as quickly as possible.

I shook my head in disbelief and turned to shut myself in the downstairs bathroom. As far as I was aware, both Frank and Sandy were too distracted to even realise there was anyone else in the house.

I wasn’t upset to find a half naked girl in my marital home with my husband, but I was angry.

He knew I would be coming round after dinner. I had even sent him a text to let him know a rough time I would be round.

Was he that pre occupied with Sandy that he didn’t even realise the time, or even check his phone?

 

It was a good job I didn’t bring the children home with me.

 

After what felt like a lifetime locked away in the bathroom, thinking about the end of my marriage, I took a deep breath and opened the door when I couldn’t hear anything.

There was no sign of Frank in the kitchen or dining room, so I made my way towards the stairs when something to my right, in the living room caught my eye.

Frank was sat on his usual arm chair with his shirt off and his trousers and pants down at his ankles. His head was pressed back against the chair and his eyes were closed. Obviously enjoying himself as his eighteen year old tart was kneeling between his legs and sucking him off.

Yup. My marriage was definitely over.

 

I stood in the door way with my back to them and my arms crossed over my chest.

“Don’t mind me. I’ll just collect some more of mine and the children’s things and be out of your way.” I reached behind me to close the living room door without having to face either of them.

 

I had managed to pull down the big family suitcase we had from on top of mine and Frank’s wardrobe. This would be big enough to pack enough clothes for us for maybe a couple of weeks. I was certain that Jack wouldn’t mind coming by the house on his next set of days off to collect anything else the children and I would need.

I was just so desperate to get out of that house as soon as possible, I wasn’t even packing things properly. I was just throwing anything and everything from my drawers and wardrobe in to the suitcase.

After I finished in my room, I headed to the get some clothes and toys for the twins.

That was when Frank had appeared at the top of the stairs and met me in the hallway.

 

“Please Claire, let me explain. You can’t go.” He pleaded with me, but I didn’t answer him. I couldn’t even look at him.

This wasn’t the man who took care of me and my children. This wasn’t the man I fell in love with and agreed to let him be a father to my children. This wasn’t my husband. This was some stranger I didn’t want to know.

I barged past Frank to get in to the children’s bedrooms to get some of their things, but everything I flung in to the suitcase, he took straight out.

“You can keep doing that Frank, but I’m still leaving. With or without our things.” I told him as I continued to grab some of Bree’s things.

Frank came towards me and put his hands on my waist to turn me to face him. I shook him off me as hard as I could. “Let go of me!” I snapped.

“Claire, please. I didn’t invite her here. She just turned up.” He said.

“Couldn’t turn her away, no?” I asked. “Christ Frank, you knew I would be over here this evening to talk. I even text you to tell you I would be over soon.”

“You did?” He asked. “I didn’t get the message, sorry.”

“No, you were too busy screwing a fucking child in our bedroom. And don’t say you weren’t. That room stinks of sex.” I spat out at him in disgust.

Some how I had managed to throw everything back in to the case and leave the room before heading in to Willie’s room to grab some of his things.

Of course, Frank followed.

 

“Claire, it was your idea for me to find someone else, not mine.”

“Yes. For sex Frank!” I screamed at him. “For the one thing I couldn’t give you.

“That’s not just sex Frank... you were having an affair with her. You told her private things about you and I and our family. About our children, Frank. Do you understand the difference?” I could barely breathe at this point. I had to sit down on my sons bed and try and focus. Focus on what I needed to do, but Frank’s hovering over and around me wasn’t calming me any. If anything, it was really irritating me and making me extremely angry. “I assumed you were seeing a prostitute.” I muttered softly.

“Claire I—“

“Don’t. Don’t embarrass either of us any more than you already have.

“You want to be with Sandy, fine. I’ll get in touch with a solicitor and start divorce proceedings—“

“No—“

 

“Yes. You told that skank that Jamie could have me. Willie heard you. Clearly you don’t love me as much as I thought you did. As much as you say you do.” I told him.

“I do love you Claire, but you make it impossible sometimes. You’re still in love with him. You say you’re not, but you are. Do you know how hard it is to play second best to someone who just walked away and abandoned you with two children to raise on your own? He never came back Claire, not once in the last eight years did he come back, yet you’re still in love with him.”

“I do have love for Jamie.” I admitted. “He was my first love, Frank. He is the man that gave me my two beautiful children. I will always love him for that, but you... you were the man I married. The man I fell in love with unexpectedly and allowed to raise my children as his own. The man I wanted to build my home and family with. Clearly that home and family is gone.”

Frank sank down next to me on Willie’s bed and tried to reach for my hand, but I pulled away.

“I think you’re a little mixed up Claire.” I turned to look at Frank, wondering what the hell he meant. “I think you have love for me, but you’re not in love with me. I don’t think you ever have been. I think you’ve always been in love with him. Now that he’s back, and now the twins know the truth, I expect you will just go running in to his arms and being the happy family you always wanted.” Frank was speaking softly. I could tell he was upset, but I couldn’t decide if he had a right or not.

I know I’ve made some mistakes, especially when it comes to what I though was best for my children, but Frank was having an affair. He left our son alone so that he could go off with this young girl when he was supposed to be taking care of Willie. I couldn’t forgive him for that, and I knew that Willie couldn’t either.

 

“I’ll speak to the children tomorrow after school and see if they want to continue to spend time with you. Bree probably will, and I would never stop her. You’re still their father Frank, whether Jamie Fraser is around or not, I won’t deny you helped me raise them.

“Willie on the other hand... I can’t say one way or the other. You really hurt him Frank, and I refuse to force my son to be in your company if he doesn’t wish to be. If he chooses not to see you anymore, you can’t blame me for it Frank, you need to take responsibility for that yourself.”

“Of course.” Was all he could mumble without looking at me.

I stood up from the bed and closed the suit case before lifting it off the bed. “If they do decide they still want a relationship with you Frank, they will be supervised visits until I’m sure I can trust you to take proper care of them. I don’t want them being left somewhere whilst you go out seeking some girl for a quick fuck and whatever else you get up to.” Frank looked up at me and I could tell he was going to protest, but I shot him a look to show him how serious I was and he didn’t answer me, he just slowly nodded his head. “Obviously the three of us can’t really stay at Dad’s place, it just isn’t big enough, but as soon as I find somewhere, I’ll let you know.

“I would have actually preferred me and the children stay here and you leave, but after what I saw earlier, I don’t really want to be in this house any more, especially with the children. Speaking of which, the children won’t be back in this house. Am I clear?”

“What if they want to spend the night with me, I can’t just take them to hotels every weekend.” Frank laughed.

“They will never be spending nights with you Frank. You won’t even see them every weekend. Jamie’s back, remember? He wants a chance to get to know his children, and they want that too. It isn’t just working out time with the children between you and I. Jamie’s involved now too. Again, the fact the children now know he is their real father, that’s something else you need to take responsibility for. You can’t blame me for it.”

I didn’t wait for a response, I just wheeled the heavy suitcase out of my son’s room and tried my best to take it down stairs without having to ask Frank for help.

He followed me down with some distance between us. And he did offer to help me, but I said no. I had to get used to doing things in my own now. Doing everything on my own now.

 

By the time I got home, the children were both tucked up in their beds and Jamie was reading them a bedtime story.

The bedroom door was slightly open, so I stood in silence and watched as Jamie read to them for the very first time. He was a complete natural with them. I always knew he would be a wonderful father. I only wish that he and the children hadn’t lost the last eight years.

 

After a few minutes, I tip toed back through to the living room and collapsed on to the couch with a deep sigh. Dad came over to me and handed me a very large glass of whisky.

“Take it ye’ve left him then.” It wasn’t a question and I looked up at my dad to see him looking over at the large family suitcase I left in front of the window.

“Yup.” I said as I sat up properly and took a sip of my drink. “I need you to get in touch with Ned Gowan so I can start divorce proceedings.”

“Divorce? Christ lass, what’s he done? And dinna say nowt.” Dad warned me. I could tell he was getting angry, even though he didn’t have a clue about anything between Frank and I and what had brought us to this point. “Ye love that man more than any of us can understand, so why out of no where are ye stayin’ here wi’ the bairns and talkin’ of divorce?”

“Can we talk about it tomorrow? I just... need to breathe.”

Before dad could argue with me, his phone went off.

“It’s Dougal.” He said with a disapproving grunt.

“Just take it. I’m fine. The kids are fine.” I assured him.

 

Dad reluctantly accepted Dougal’s call and then came back a couple minutes later as he put on his jacket.

“He’s down the pub making a complete arse of himself again. Dae ye mind if I go and get him hame safe, or dae ye want me to stay? I dinna mind lass.”

“Just go, Dad. I’m fine. Honestly.” I assured him.

Dad came over and kissed my cheek. “Alright lass, call me if ye need me, aye? And I changed my bed sheets. Ye can sleep in my room, I’ll take the couch.”

I didn’t get a chance to argue because Dad wouldn’t allow me to. He picked up my suitcase and dumped it in his room before quietly leaving the house to go to the pub to see Dougal. I knew not to expect him back any time soon. It was probably a good thing he offered me his room. He wouldn’t disturb me when he eventually came back.

 

About an hour after dad left, that was when Jamie came through to the living room.

“Where’s yer Da, Sassenach?” He asked as he sat down next to me on the couch.

“Pub. Dougal called. I expect I’ll see him sometime tomorrow. Morning, Afternoon, it’s anyone’s guess really.” I chuckled and so did Jamie.

“How did things go then?” I knew he meant with Frank, but I didn’t want to think about the man, never mind talk about him.

I shrugged my shoulders. “Not as well as I hoped to be honest, but...” I shrugged my shoulders again and finished what whisky was in my glass. “I don’t want to talk about it, if you don’t mind?”

“Of course. Sorry, tis none my business anyway.” He answered.

 

I got up and poured Jamie a small whisky, and myself a glass of water. “Kind of is your business. Kind of.” Jamie looked at me with a confused expression on his face. His forehead was showing all his cute wrinkles. “He was raising your children, I suppose you do have a right to know some of the details, I just don’t wish to talk about it or even think about it tonight.”

“Ye dinna have to tell me anythin’ ye dinna want to, Sassenach.”

“I know.” I desperately wanted to change the subject, so I asked how things went at Lallybroch with Dad, Willie and Ian. Dad and I didn’t really get a chance to talk about it before I left to go back to Frank’s.

Jamie let out a sigh. “It was... tough.” He said as he rubbed his free hand, which wasn’t holding his glass, over his neck. “I’ve missed so much. So many letters and messages... I think my manager has been purposely not passing on things, though I dinna ken why.

“Dinna get me wrong... the letters you sent me yerself when ye found out he were pregnant... that was all on me for no’ havin’ the guts to open them. I’m sorry Claire.”

“It’s alright, Jamie. It’s done now, and you’re here now. That’s all that matters. But, why would your manager keep things from you? Especially messages coming from your own family?”

“I dinna ken.” He answered softly. “I will find out though. I swear it. I’ve missed so much, and I take full responsibility for it, for no comin’ back sooner, but she needs to take responsibility for her part too.”

We fell in to a silence, and I could tell Jamie was just about to announce his leave, but I didn’t want him to go. I was enjoying his company, even just in silence.

“Were they not for settling tonight? The twins? You were in there a while.” I chuckled.

He smiled at me. A big smile that reached his eyes and I could see just how happy he was being here, spending time with his children. “Aye. They’re a lively pair, are they no?” He laughed. “Bree insisted on showing me all her toy dolls she has here, and then Willie wanted to show me his wee farm yard set Jenny and Ian bought him last Christmas. Two wonderful kids you’ve got there, Sassenach.”

“Two wonderful kids we have there, Jamie.” I corrected. “Even though you just got here, they’ve always been yours. They are both like you in so many ways. In fact, if you stick around a little while longer, I’ll show you.”

 

Jamie and I continued to talk about anything and everything except Frank and this Laoghaire woman, Jamie’s manager.

 

After a while, when I was sure both the children would be sound asleep, I took Jamie by the hand and lead him in to their bedroom. I whispered to him to keep the door open a little so we could see.

I took him over to Willie’s bed first. There is no denying Willie is a Fraser. He is the spitting image of Jamie’s older brother Willie when he was this age. But when our Willie is fast asleep in a peaceful slumber, he looks exactly like Jamie, but without the red hair.

“Christ. He normally looks so much like Willie.” Jamie whispered his comment as he stared at our little boy.

“Mhmm.” I agreed before I took his hand to show him over to Bree.

I bent down and kissed her little cheek and gently rubbed my finger over the spot I just kissed. The corner of her lip turned up in to a beautiful little smile.

“Christ, Sassenach. She smiles in her sleep. Ye used to say I did that.” I could hear the excitement in Jamie’s quiet voice and I couldn’t help but smile.

I went back over to Willie and kissed him goodnight too before Jamie and I left them to sleep peacefully.

 

“Christ. I canna believe we actually have two children Sassenach. Two amazing kids, Claire. What did we do to deserve such, eh?” Jamie asked as we headed back to the living room.

I wanted to say it was because we loved each other, but I quickly stopped myself, unsure if that would have been wise or not. Instead I just smiled at the look of love and awe Jamie had for our children.

Chapter Text

Jamie’s POV

 

I couldna believe how much I had missed over the last eight years I had been away.

Of course I kent that there would have been a lot that I missed out on, but part of the reason I stayed away for so long was because I didna ken if any of my family or friends would ever want to see me again after the way I treated Claire. How I treated all of them, and just upped and left wi’out a word.

 

When I left for my training for the army, I did get Claire’s letters, but it was my own stupid fault and grief that caused me not to open a single one. I didna want to read about how I broke her heart. I already kent it.

After all these years, I could still see her there in the school car park cryin’ her wee heart out, beggin’ me no to leave her. Beggin’ me to tell her what was goin’ on. It was somethin’ I would never be able to get out of my mind for the rest of my life.

Claire was, and still is, the love of my life. I will never forgive myself for the way I treated her. The way I just ripped her heart out and trampled all over it before leavin’ wi’out a proper explanation. My only defence was I thought I was doin’ the right thing. I thought she deserved better. Frank Randall had even said so to his brother, Jack. If other people could see it, then I was sure I did the right thing.

But I didna.

And that’s somethin’ I need to live wi’ for the rest of my life.

Missing out on seein’ Claire’s body grow and change as she grew our children inside her. Missing out on the birth of my two children. Missing out on the perfect family I had always dreamed of for Claire and I. That’s all on me. I take full responsibility for that.

 

The other stuff though...

 

Things that my family had been tryin’ to get in touch wi’ me about over the last few years since I left the army and became “Alexander Malcolm”.

Ian and Willie had admitted that they did all give up in tryin’ to reach me no long after Claire stopped writing her letters.

I had guessed as much. And I accepted that my family giving up on me was all my own doing. But, I was sure they were all better off wi’out me anyway.

 

I kent Jenny and Ian were married. I even kent I had a nephew named after me, “Wee Jamie”.

But there was so much that I didna ken about. Things that my family were verra much under the impression I did ken about. Things that devastated my family greatly because I never even picked up the phone or sent a letter or an email.

The news of Jenny’s other pregnancies.

News of my sister giving birth.

News of Willie and Mary’s weddin’. They had sent an invite, but I never received it.

News of Willie and Mary’s struggles to have a child of their own after a tough miscarriage.

News of the car accident that took Julia Beauchamp Fraser’s life, and left her daughter, the mother of my children, in a coma for two weeks.

News of when and where the funeral of Julia would be.

News of Jenny’s cancer.

That was the one that got to me the most.

 

As soon as Jenny arrived home after receiving her diagnosis. I was the one person she wanted to speak to about it.

She had called the number she had for my manager, Laoghaire. Apparently all of these messages had been left wi’ Laoghaire, but for some reason, I never got a single one of them.

When I left the army, I was still screwed up, but I was in a better place than I had been when I first left home.

If I kent that my family were tryin’ to get in touch wi’ me again after I had left the army, there is no doubt in my mind I would have returned their calls.

I would have wanted to hear about my nieces and nephews. I would have wanted to support my brother and sister in law when they were goin’ through such a horrific time in their lives. I would have been back here in a heartbeat if I kent Claire was in a car accident that left her in a coma. I definitely would have been here to say my goodbyes to her Mam. Julia was like a second Mam to me. I hate that I wasna here to say goodbye, or be here to support Claire and Murtagh.

But, to find out my sister reached out to me after her first cancer diagnosis, and that message was not passed on... it made me so angry. I was furious. Why was I not made aware of my sisters condition?

My whole family, including my sister, thought that I kent about her diagnosis, and I just didna care enough to come back.

 

Jenny had fought hard. Did all the treatments that were suggested to her, and she beat it. She beat the cancer. But sadly, it returned.

Again, she had called my manager and had begged Laoghaire to get me to return her call. Ian said that Jenny had told Laoghaire about how the cancer had returned and Laoghaire, like always, assured Jenny that the message would be passed on.

It wasna. None of them were.

Jenny had called again when she decided she wanted to stop the treatment. She wanted me to ken so that I could get my arse back home and spend some time wi’ her before she passed.

I didna get that opportunity though.

 

It was Willie that had called the day after Jenny had passed.

Apparently there was a big family discussion about whether they should bother or not, but Ian was adamant that they at least tried.

Thank god they did.

 

It wasna Laoghaire who answered the call this time though. It was her father.

Thank Christ for small mercies.

I dinna ken what Laoghaire was doin’ at the time of Willie’s call, but I was glad it was her father who got the call. He passed the message on to me straight away.

We even sat down and discussed it before I decided to come.

In all honesty, I was reluctant at first. I wasna sure if the family would really want me there since we hadna properly communicated in eight years, but Clyde assured me that Willie seemed desperate. Willie had told Clyde that Jenny would really want me there, as did the rest of the family.

 

It just... it made me so bloody angry, to then later learn that my family had been tryin’ to reach me. They had tried to get in touch wi’ me to let me ken important things that was happenin’ in their lives.

How could Laoghaire be so cold as to not pass on those messages?

How could she be so heartless as to not tell me about my own sisters cancer.

Twice.

 

I was grateful that Murtagh had invited me down to his place to spend time wi’ the bairns. I was apprehensive as to how Claire would feel about it. I was tryin’ to give her as much space as possible. Especially now that things had come to a head between her and Frank and she was now livin’ at her Da’s wi’ the twins. She didna bat an eyelid though when I walked through the door.

The kids were all over me. As soon as they saw me walk in the door, they were jumping up to give me cuddles and clung on to me for dear life as I carried them both back through to the living room.

Claire then left to go and speak to Frank and collect more things for her and the kids. It was just Murtagh and I wi’ the twins, and it was one of the best nights of my life in a long time.

It really got to me as I started to realise just how much I had missed out on wi’ my own children. They didna seem to be fazed by the whole situation though. To my amazement, they just took it all in their stride that they had another father. Someone other than Frank Randall.

They continued to call me Da, which gave me the most wonderful warm and fuzzy feelin’ in my bones. They asked me to join them on the couch wi’ snacks as they watched their favourite cartoon show. The Simpsons. I had to laugh to myself. That was one of our favourite shows when we were growing up too.

To now sit here with my own children and watch it, my wee lad and my wee lass, it was everything.

 

It was after the second episode that Murtagh told the twins it was now time to get ready for bed.

I was pleased to see how both of them got up wi’out any arguments and kissed both Murtagh and I Goodnight and went and got themselves ready for bed.

After they were dressed in their pyjamas and brushed their teeth, they both came running down the hallway to ask if I could read them a bedtime story.

I thought my heart was about to burst.

I looked over to Murtagh who just gave me small smile and jutted his head in the direction of the kids’ bedroom.

“On ye go lad.” He said to me. “Yer bairns want a story from their Da.”

I smiled at my godfather and then got up from my seat and followed my children down to their room. The room that, once upon a time, belonged to their mother.

 

My daughter was verra persistent in showing me all her wee toy dolls she had. And then that made Willie decide to show me the wee farm set he got for his Christmas from his Aunt Jenny and Uncle Ian.

When I finally got them to climb in to their beds, they couldna decide what story they wanted. I ended up reading some short story about Snow White and the seven dwarves to Brianna and then I read another short story about dragons to Willie.

They eventually fell asleep, and I just sat and stared at them both for a few minutes before I managed to drag myself away.

 

When I returned to the living room, I was surprised to see Claire sat alone and Murtagh no where to be found.

Apparently he went out to find Dougal. Claire wasna expecting him back any time soon.

We sat together on the couch and enjoyed some conversation. Mainly about the children to be honest.

 

A wee while later, Claire took me by the hand and led me down the hallway to the twins’ room to see them sleep.

As I looked at our son, deep in slumber, he looked just like me. Usually my wee lad was the spitting image of my brother, but laying peacefully asleep, ye could tell he was my son. It was truly a wonderful sight to see.

Claire then took me across the room to see Bree. Claire bent down to kiss our daughter on the cheek and then gently ran her thumb over the same area. I could see the corner of Brianna’s mouth flick up a little in to a wee smile.

Claire used to tell me all the time how I smiled in my sleep. I couldna help the love and pride I felt as I saw myself in my two children.

 

I sat and had a quick cuppa tea wi’ Claire before I left her to enjoy a rare evening of peace.

 

On the way home, I was determined to make sure my children and their mother had everythin’ they needed and more. I had a lot of making up to do. With everyone, but my two children had to be my priority.

 

Ian and Willie had agreed to let me refurbish the empty cottage next to the one that Willie and Mary stayed in.

My reason for wanting it before was so that it was somewhere for me to stay when I came back to town. Somewhere hopefully Claire would allow our children to stay over sometimes when I was home, but I realised that there was no way Claire and the twins could continue to live comfortably in Murtagh’s two bedroom house. It just wasna practical.

I ken the twins had their own room and two really comfortable beds, but there was no way I was goin’ to allow the mother of my children to sleep on her fathers couch for god knows how long. What kind of man would I be if I didna look after Claire? What kind of example would that set to my children if I just allowed them to live like that?

No. The cottage would be refurbished, but not for me. It would be done for Claire and our children. I was certain that Ian wouldna mind me crashing at the house when I came back to town. Maybe I could even stay in Willie and Mary’s guest room sometimes too.

 

The next day I left a few messages for Laoghaire to call me back as soon as possible. Unfortunately she never returned any of my calls. I must have called her at least twenty times. I think I left about eight messages.

I didna go in to details as to why I needed to speak wi’ her so badly, but I made damn sure she kent it was important she get back to me.

 

There wasna all that much needing done to the three bedroom cottage as Ian and Willie had workmen in to to do quite a lot of the work whilst I was down South. All that really needed done now was the painting and decorating.

I spoke wi’ both Ian and Willie about my idea of letting Claire and the bairns move in to the cottage. They both agreed, but were shocked when I filled them in on how Claire had now left Frank and was stayin’ at Murtagh’s. Obviously I didna go in to detail about Frank’s extra marital affair with a child, but I made sure they knew that there was no way she would be returning to him. Not if I could help it anyway.

There was no way I would allow my children to be raised by that so called man any longer.

 

Claire had mentioned last night she was goin’ to be speaking to Ned Gowan about starting divorce proceedings. I was glad that she was taking things seriously. I did have my fears that she would run back to Randall in a few days, but thankfully, she seemed to be certain that he wasna goin’ to weasel his way back in to her life.

Unfortunately she was leaving it up to the twins whether they wanted to continue to see Frank, but she assured me that they would be supervised visits and they would never be stayin’ over at his place.

I was annoyed at first, but then Claire also went on to say how she was going to speak to Ned about getting my name on the children’s birth certificates. She also wanted to make a shared custody agreement between us.

I was so happy wi’ everythin’ Claire was sayin’. I never dreamed she would be this open and willing this quickly. I was sure it would take me months if not years to get her to trust me again. I think it was the children and their reaction to the news of me being their true father that has helped her to make these decisions. The same steps I wanted to take, but I didna want to push Claire too hard too fast and risk losing her and the children from my life completely.

 

Three days had went by, and I still hadn’t heard from Laoghaire, so I decided to give Clyde a call instead.

Apparently his daughter had taken off on a much needed break away the other day, and he hadn’t been able to get in touch wi’ her since. He promised me to get her to call me as soon as he spoke to her next. All I could do was thank him. It wasna his fault his daughter had been interfering in my personal business. Clyde had always been such a good influence in my life since he became my solicitor almost five years ago. It wouldna be fair to take my issues wi’ his daughter out on him. I kent that when he found out what she had done, he would be furious wi’ the lass. I just wanted the chance to have it out wi’ her myself before feeding her to her da.

 

It was also Claire’s birthday, and Mary had managed to convince her and the children to come up to Lallybroch for a family celebration, but Claire was a little reluctant to come in the end since it wasna that long ago that we lost Jenny. It ended up being Ian that went down to the village and getting her and the kids in to the car and bringing them back to a Lallybroch.

The twins were excited to see me again. I was tryin’ my best to give Claire the space she needed, but in the few days since I saw my children, I spoke to them every mornin’ Before school and every night before bedtime.

The novelty of seein’ their Da soon wore off when they decided to take off upstairs to play with their cousins instead. I canna say I minded though. I was just so happy to see how close mine and Claire’s children were wi’ Jenny and Ian’s brood.

 

After the family meal that Mary and Willie kindly prepared for us all, I decided to take Claire for a walk around the grounds. Just the two of us. The twins were quite happy watchin’ a Disney film wi’ Ian and their cousins. Murtagh and Willie saw to the tidying up whilst Mary went to make up the twins beds for them to stay overnight so Claire could have a decent nights sleep at Murtagh’s.

Of course Claire tried to argue she was fine on the couch, but Ian had insisted the bairns stay wi’ us the night. They got really excited and Claire didna really have the chance to say no.

 

On our wee walk around the estate, I decided to take her down to the wee cottage I had been busy on the last few days.

After a good discussion wi’ Willie and Ian, I decided to leave the house wi’ a neutral colour scheme throughout. That meant that Claire could decorate or accessorise the way she wants to. The only rooms in the house that I really did any work on in a decorating sense was the two smaller bedrooms. The twins rooms.

Since I didna ken my children all that well yet, I had to take as much direction and advice from my brothers as they could give me. It devastated me that they kent my children so much better than I, but again... that was all my own doing. This was my way of at least tryin’ to make up for my mistakes. Providing my children and their mother wi’ a nice home was the least I could do.

Willie’s bedroom was decorated wi’ three painted navy walls and one wall was decorated wi’ wallpaper that looked like the inside of a space ship.

The painted walls were decorated wi’ various planets and the ceiling, whilst still white, had some of them wee glow in the dark star stickers. Apparently my son had a keen interest in outer space and rocket ships and such. Both Willie and Ian were certain he would love it.

Brianna’s room was decorated in pinks and lilac’s. It was a more simple and plain room, decor wise, but I made sure there was plenty fairy princess and unicorn accessories throughout her room. Just as Murtagh had suggested to me.

Everyone who had seen the rooms were certain the twins would love them, but the closer Claire and I got to the cottage, the more terrified I got that she would think I was overstepping and hate the idea.

 

“Why are we going to the cottage? Hasn’t it been laying empty for the past year?” Ian and Jenny had been renting out the cottage to one of the old farm hands, but after he married last year, he and his new bride had decided to move down to the central belt instead of stayin’ here in the highlands.

“Aye. But we agreed that I could do up the place so I had my on my way! Place to stay when I came to town. Somewhere the bairns could stay wi’ me, if ye allowed it that is.” I answered Claire as I unlocked the front door.

“That sounds wonderful Jamie.” She replied as she walked through the front door.

I turned on the lights after I entered behind her. She could see all the new furniture that I had delivered here for the living room.

“Wow Jamie. The place looks incredible.”

“I’m glad ye think so, Sassenach. I’ve decided to just keep my room up at the house for the time being. I want you and the bairns to move in here.” I told her.

Claire whipped her head around suddenly and glared at my like I kent she would. She was a proud woman, but she needed to accept that they were my children too, and I needed to do my bit in providing a suitable home for them.

“No. I don’t need your charity Jamie!” She snapped.

“It’s no charity, Sassenach. It’s me providing for my family.” I tried to reason wi’ her.

“I’m not your family Jamie.” She scoffed.

“The children are, Claire. They are my children. It is up to me as their father to provide them wi’ a suitable home. This is it. And since you are the mother of my children, it is my responsibility to make sure you are taken care of too.”

“I am not your responsibility, Jamie!” She snapped again.

“Aye, ye are. Whether ye like it or no Claire, I care about ye. I wilna allow my children, or their mother to live like cramped sardines in her Da’s house.

“Even if ye just take the cottage until ye find somewhere suitable for you and the bairns. Please Claire... just think about it, aye?”

She didna answer me. But she took herself a wee dannar round the cottage to have a wee peek at what work had been done. She seemed impressed wi’ the new fitted kitchen and the new flooring that had been out down.

But then, she saw Brianna’s bedroom, and I could see the tears that sprung to her eyes as soon as she opened the door and turned on the light.

“Oh. My. Goodness.” She said before turning to me. “Did-did you do this?” She asked slowly.

“Aye. Dae ye think she’ll like it?” I asked.

Claire turned to walk around our daughters bedroom and looked at all the little things I had added to make the room a bit more personal for our wee lass. “I think she’ll love it, Jamie.”

 

I gave Claire a few moments alone in the room and I waited for her in the room next door. The one I had decorated for Willie.

 

As soon as she walked in the door, she covered her mouth wi’ both her hands and looked around at our sons newly decorated space ship room.

“Dae ye think Willie will like this room?” I asked as she continued to walk around and have a wee look at the work I had done the past few days.

“He will love it, Jamie. They both will.”

I took a few steps towards Claire and slowly turned her by the waist to look at me. “So, will ye move in then? For the bairns, Claire. Please.”

I was relieved when she started to nod her head slowly in agreement.

 

Claire and I must have spent the next hour in the cottage. I explained to her about all the work that Ian and Willie had organised to get done to make the cottage a bit more modern, and then I explained they helped me decide how to decorate the twins’ rooms. I told her she could decorate the rest of the cottage as she saw fit, and the wee garden out the front was for her to do whatever she wished. The back garden was to be kept as is so that we could put in a wee slide and a swing set for the bairns. She seemed to really love that idea.

 

“So... when will the place be ready for us to move in then?” Claire asked as we slowly walked back towards the main house. The lights were on in the cottage next door, so it was obvious Mary and Willie had went home.

“Whenever ye want, Sassenach. Maybe in a day or two. I just finished up some of the decorating this afternoon. Dinna want the bairns inhaling too many paint fumes.”

“And you’re sure you wouldn’t rather keep the cottage for yourself, Jamie? You’ve done so much work to it. It’s your place, I don’t want to take your home from you.”

“Ye’re no, Sassenach. It’s important to me that I ken that both my children and their Mam have a roof over their head and somewhere proper to lay their heads at night. I canna imagine Murtagh’s couch is all that comfortable?”

“It’s alright for a night, but any longer than that, it can be a literal pain in the neck. Dad’s been wonderful and offered to take the couch the odd night so I can get some sleep in a comfortable bed, but you’re right... the children deserve an actual home. Thank you Jamie.”

 

Time was gettin’ on, and all the bairns were in their bed fast asleep. Claire and I went up to check on the twins and make sure they were settled.

They were fast asleep.

Claire and I both gave our sleepin’ children a goodnight kiss. Claire had left wi’ Murtagh no long after that.

I had been so busy the last few days workin’ on the cottage, I almost forgot that it was comin’ up to the ninth anniversary of my Ma’s death.

Usually I would spend the day getting piss drunk at the nearest bar I could find and hookin’ up wi’ whatever blonde I could find to go back to my hotel.

This year would be different though. I would be wi’ my family. What was left of it anyway. But, I had my two children. My wee blessings.

The day would be tough, but as long as I had my family around me, I was sure I would be alright.

 

When I woke up on the twenty first of October, the day after Claire’s birthday, the anniversary of my mother’s death, I felt sick.

But then my bedroom door swung wide open and two wee Rugrats came runnin’ over to jump on me.

My bairns.

The three of us had a wee bit of a wresting match on the bed before I finally managed to talk them in to goin’ for a shower and gettin’ ready for the day. To my amazement, they didna argue at all, they just went and did as I asked straight away.

When the three of us went down stairs, Ian was in the kitchen cookin’ up a storm. The twins went straight to the kitchen table and poured themselves a glass of milk each.

“How are ye doin’, Jamie? Canna be an easy day for ye, but we’re all here for ye.” Ian assured me as I poured myself a coffee.

Once I kent the twins were settled and would be busy knockin’ in to their Scottish cooked breakfast, I asked Ian to keep an eye on them. I had somethin’ I had to do.

I needed to go and pay my respects to no just my Ma, but my Da and sister too. I needed to apologise for my behaviour over the last eight years. I needed them to ken that I was determined to turn my life around and be the man they raised me to be. Be the father my children need. And hopefully in time, be the man Claire deserves.

I kent that both my parents would be ashamed of the way I had let my grief and guilt take over me. My sister needed to ken that if I kent what she was goin’ though, I would have been here for her.

 

As I got closer to the cemetery, I noticed there was someone already there. Crouched down in front of my parents headstone, laying some flowers.

Claire.

When I got through the gate, I held back a little. I could hear her speakin’ to them, but I couldna quite make out what she was sayin’. It was a private moment and I didna want to intrude.

It wasna until she stood up and I could tell by the way she held her arms across her stomach that she was cryin’. A lot.

When it got to the point where she cried out loud like she was in pain, I couldna just stand back, I had to get over there and hold her.

And I did.

 

She didna fight me off like I half expected her to do. She turned herself in my arms and gripped the front of my jacket tightly in her wee hands as she continued to howl.

“Shhh, Mo Ghràidh. It’s alright. It’s alright.” I whispered in to the top of her head.

The more I tried to soothe her in Gaelic, the more she relaxed in my arms to the point where she was sobbing softly.

I pulled back just a little and wiped away her tears wi’ my thumbs.

“I’m sorry.” She said through her quiet sobs. “I should go and give you some privacy.”

“Ye dinna have to go anywhere, Mo Ghràidh. No on my account.” I told her as I held her tight in my arms.

 

After a wee while I decided I could come back and pay my respects later on in the day. I needed to make sure Claire was alright before I took her back to the house. Before the kids seen her. I didna want them to worry about her.

 

We decided to take the long way back to the house. We walked side by side, and I had my arm wrapped around Claire’s shoulders as she snuggled in tight to my side and wrapped her arm around my waist.

Not goin’ to lie, it felt pretty amazing to be like that wi’ her again.

 

“You did it again.” She said out of nowhere as we slowly approached the front of the house.

“Did what, Sassenach?” I asked in confusion.

“Called me your love.” She whispered quietly.

I slid my hand down her back and gently turned her to face me. “That’s because ye are, Claire. But I apologise if it made ye uncomfortable. I didna mean to. I ken ye’ve got a lot goin’ on right now and it’s no my intention to try and distract ye, or try and impose in yer life more than I already have.”

“I know that.” She answered softly before she slid her arms up and hung them around my neck. “It was nice, Jamie. I always did like it when you called me that. Especially in Gaelic.” She said.

We both stood there in silence and smiled at one another. My arms wrapped around her waist, as her arms were wrapped around my neck.

It was never my intention to try and kiss her, but when I saw her staring at my lips, I couldna help but bend my head down towards her. I could feel Claire reach up on her tiptoes.

Was this really happenin’? We’re we really goin’ to kiss?

Just as my lips were about to brush against Claire’s, we were interrupted wi’ someone screeching my name.

My other name.

“Alex?!”

Fuck!

What the bloody hell was Laoghaire doin’ here?