April 1, 1941
Dear Mrs. Randall
It is with great regret that I am writing you this letter today.
You don't know me and likely know nothing about me. But I feel you have a right to know.
My name is Lorelie, I am like you a nurse for the British Army. Most of my patients are a part of the intelligence division.
I know your husband Frank. We met soon after he arrived and have been seeing each other regularly ever since.
I found out about you by mere happenstance when I arrived at his home to notify him of the impending birth of our child.
He became distraught with what he would say to you.
I need to apologize to you since I did not know of your existence until that moment. It was never my intention to destroy your marriage. But my child needs its father and I will not let Frank go.
He has been to a divorce lawyer and was advised that an annulment would serve you both best.
You should be expecting the documents within the month. Please sign the papers as we wish to marry immediately.
I wish you the best in your pursuit of your own happiness.
Claire sat down hard on her army cot as she read through the letter for the second time that morning.
She had suspected that Frank had been unfaithful, his lack of correspondence since she joined the army only lending to her suspicions.
But now, a letter from his mistress, no not his mistress, from his fiance, the mother of his child. It was as if he had ripped her heart out. How could he be such a callous bastard?
She had given up the pursuit of her parents disappearance for him, stopped chasing the ghosts of the past, and for what? To be abandoned yet again by someone else that was supposed to love her.
The mockery of it all was just too much to bear.
She pulled herself together and gathered the strength that she would need to follow her destiny. A destiny which her uncle had told her about repeatedly as a child.
She would leave the army and return to Scotland, to the stones that had taken her parents from her all those years ago.
It was time to answer the call and chase her own destiny.
But first, she would need to do a bit of research. She needed to find out the precise location and date to travel to. Where would she find her soulmate, one James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser of Broch Tuarach.
Leaving the army was a simple matter. She would take the leave she had earned and simply disappear, never to return.
She bought a ticket on the train bound for Oxford. She would need to make a stop at her uncle's old home to retrieve the necessary items to make the jump to the past.
Uncle lamb had been secreting away coins and treasures from the 18th century for years. All in preparation for her journey to the past.
To say he had been disappointed when she had eagerly accepted Frank's proposal of marriage would be putting it mildly. Her uncle had been outraged that she would so easily throw away a life full of joy that had already been written for her.
But at the time, she was still rebelling against the idea that her future had already been laid out for her.
She simply couldn't understand how she, a simple Englishwoman from the 20th century could ever become a Scottish noblewoman of the 18th century. It was all just too fanciful of an idea to even consider seriously.
But her curiosity got the better of her when Frank's research into Jacobite leaders and specifically the infamous Red Jamie, led them to a small museum in the highlands. They were both taken aback at the painting of a stunning couple. The man was a gorgeous example of an 18th century highland warrior and the woman bore a striking resemblance to Claire herself.
It was impossible to dismiss as pure coincidence after that.
That was the beginning of her own pursuit of what might indeed be fact.
Walking into her Uncle Lamb's house was bittersweet, it was the first time she had been back since his death last fall. She silently apologized to her uncle for ever doubting him as she made her way to her old bedroom. After she had left for University at age 16, her uncle had transformed her bedroom into the storage room for all of his research. He had become obsessed with collecting everything he could find on her destiny in the 18th century after she accepted Frank's unexpected proposal after her 18th birthday. He was determined to convince her that she was making the biggest mistake of her life and the more he pushed for her to believe in her destiny, the faster she pulled away from him.
She knew that she would find the information that she needed in that room. Thankfully, her uncle had been meticulous in labeling everything, so it wouldn't take her to long to find exactly what she was searching for. She walked over to the bookshelf and pulled out an old familiar book. When she was little, she thought it was only a fairytale. Her uncle read it to her every night and was always patient when she would ask questions about the people and places in the story.
She sat down at the desk and opened the handwritten, brown, leather bound book to the first page.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Claire. Her mummy and daddy left her in the care of her uncle Lamb to go on a great adventure. Her mummy wanted to give the little girl everything in the world. Her daddy had found the little girl a prince that she would one day fall in love with. But it would take a great journey to find the prince and the little girl would never see her mummy and daddy again.
Her mummy and daddy traveled to a faraway land and found the little boy that would be Claire's prince at a place called Broch Tuarach. He looked just like his own mummy with curly red hair and bright sapphire blue eyes. Claire's mummy met the little boy, just before his own mummy had died in childbirth. She told the little boys daddy that everything would be okay, he was a strong boy and he would one day find happiness again.
"What was the little boy's name, uncle?" 5 year old Claire asked. It was the same question she asked every time her uncle read her the story, but she loved hearing the prince's name.
"The little boy was named James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, but everyone who loved him called him Jamie." Her uncle answered
"That's such a long name uncle, how come I don't have that many names?" She sighed, exasperated and impressed at the length of the name.
"Because little darling, you are such a little one, you don't need such a long name. Jamie will grow to be a very large man, he needed a name to show his strength." He smiled at her and resumed the story.
After Jamie's mummy died, Claire's mummy gave Jamie a big hug and told him that he was a strong lad, and one day he would meet a beautiful English lass with curly brown hair and golden eyes that would make all of his hurt go away. Claire's mummy and daddy knew they couldn't stay, even though they wanted to watch over Jamie's family to make sure he grew up big and strong. He would be the prince that would love their little girl. But they needed to return to Claire to tell her that they had found her prince.
When her mummy and daddy returned to the stones they wouldn't let them return to their own time. Claire's mummy and daddy were stuck in the 18th century and would never make it back to tell Claire they had found Jamie. Claire's daddy decided to write her a letter and tell her how much they loved her and tell her the story of the young prince. He found a secret place to put the letter to make sure that Claire's uncle would receive it in the future and tell Claire about her destiny. Claire's uncle lived in a house that had been built in 1715 and there was a secret compartment in the wall of the attic. It was the perfect hiding spot to keep something safe until Claire's uncle could find it in the future.
When her uncle found the letter, he used the information in the letter to find Claire's prince. He learned that Claire would follow her mummy and daddy's path and travel through the stones. Her prince couldn't travel to her, so she would need to go in search of him.
But Claire still had much growing up to do and many things left to learn. Her prince would be injured several times, so Claire would need to learn how to heal so she could care for him and keep him strong. Claire would travel the world with her uncle and learn many things and when she reached 22 years old, she would travel through the stones and find her prince. Together they would live a long happy life, filled with many adventures. But in order for this story to come true, Claire must trust and believe in herself, she must not be lured or tricked by the villains that she would meet. She must stay strong and trust that one day her prince would come.
Her prince Jamie was waiting for her and dreaming of the day he would meet a curly haired lass. He needed her healing hands to heal his body and his heart. Always remember that he is waiting for you.
"I love that story uncle, I can't wait for prince Jamie and Claire to meet and fall in love." Claire gazed off dreamily.
"Neither can I sweet, little love, but little Claire has some adventures of her own that are waiting for her before she meets her prince. But right now it is time for bed, little lamb." he ruffled her hair and kissed her on the cheek.
"Yes, uncle," Claire answered as she scooted down and pulled the quilt up to her chin.
Claire wiped the tears from her eyes, remembering how much she loved that story and how she had begun to outgrow it only 5 years later when she was 10. Her uncle had never lied to her and assured her that this was truly a story about her and her prince and that someday all of her dreams would come true. He began to share his research with her, to show her that Jamie really did exist. He had found out when he was born, where he lived, and what year Claire would meet him in his own time. She realized now, that the villain in the story had tricked her, Frank was the villain. But luckily she came to her senses before it was too late. She knew that she would be traveling 198 years back in time to the year 1743, the only thing left to discover was the exact date she was meant to travel back and find him.
She put the fairytale book back on the shelf and pulled out another book, the one labeled Craigh Na Dun. She flipped through the book, searching for something specific. Her uncle Lamb had told her that there were certain times that she could travel safely and if she attempted it at other times, it would likely kill her. It was one of the reasons that she had put her destiny behind her and accepted Frank's proposal. She didn't want to risk death for something that wasn't guaranteed. Frank was right in front of her, offering her love, protection, and a happy life together. A life with Jamie was only a fairytale, something to dream about, but not an attainable reality, at least not until now.
Even though she had dreamed about him almost every night since seeing that painting, she had put those thoughts and that magnetic pull in the back of her mind. That is until she received that devastating letter from Lorelie, the letter that would set her life back on track. The letter that would bring her back to her destiny and finally, unite her with her soulmate. The letter had been a blessing in disguise, one she wished she could have shared with her Uncle Lamb and tell him that he had been right all along.
Claire scanned the pages of the book, searching for the date she was meant to leave. She only hoped it would be soon, she only had 2 weeks of leave before the army began searching for and considered her AWOL and she had already been gone for 7 days. If she couldn't travel by May 5th, she would have to return to her post in the army and wait until the next veil opening.
She was becoming more frantic with each page she scanned, still not finding what she was searching for. She knew from memory that the words she was searching for were likely Gaelic and should stand out to her from everything else written in English. She was beginning to hyperventilate after 10 minutes and was about ready to take a break and start again when the word Samhain jumped off the page at her. There was an asterisk next to the word which uncle lamb would use to mark words that had an otherwise unknown meaning. She marked her page and flipped to the back of the book where uncle lamb was known to list word descriptions.
It only took her a moment to find the word description.
Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the "darker half" of the year.
Traditionally, it is celebrated from 31 October to 1 November, as the Celtic day began and ended at sunset.
This is about halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
She sighed, she didn't have time to wait till October and that couldn't be the right date anyway. Uncle Lamb had always said she would be 22 when she found Jamie and Samhain was after her next birthday. There must be another date, so she flipped back to the page where she found the reference to Samhain. She scanned the page a bit slower until another word jumped out at her. She flipped to the back of the book and looked for the description of the word Beltane.
She sighed in relief as she read the description.
Beltane or Beltain is the Gaelic May Day festival. Most commonly it is held on 1 May, or about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice.
May 1st was only 3 days away. She needed to gather everything necessary for her trip and get to Scotland with in the next 48 hours. She opened the closet and stared at the 18th century styled clothing hanging inside. Wearing all those layers would take some getting used to, but if she was meant to live in the past to find Jamie, it was worth the sacrifice. She pulled both dresses out and noticed a small trunk on the floor behind them. She laid the dresses on the bed and pulled the trunk from the closet. It was locked with an antique padlock, likely from the 18th century. She knew that uncle Lamb had kept all of his keys in the desk drawer and the lock to this was so unique that the key should be easy to distinguish from the others.
She pulled the trunk further into the room and into the light spilling from the window, realizing that it had some substantial weight to it, but nothing she couldn't handle. She walked over to the desk, pulled the drawer open, and retrieved the set of keys lying inside. There was a single antique brass key amongst the several modern keys. There was no doubt in her mind that it belonged to the lock on the trunk. She walked back over and knelt in front of the trunk, inserted the key and turned it in the lock. The lock dropped open and she slid it out of the ring and opened the lid of the trunk.
Inside the trunk, there was a letter on top of very old gold and silver coins and a single black diamond. She pulled out the letter, unfolded it, and began to read her uncle's words.
My dearest Claire
If you are reading this letter, you have come to your senses. Jamie is waiting for you, he needs you. You already know about the wool dresses that I had made for you, but you do not know about the hidden pockets. I had to come up with a way for you to carry your riches with you, since carrying this large trunk through the stones will likely be impossible. Stuff your pockets with as much as you can reasonably carry, you won't need as much once you meet Jamie.
I have found your parents in the past, but they are not your goal. You will eventually find them as well, but you must first seek out Jamie. The two of you will not survive without each other. I don't know how much your parents have shared with him, so you must be cautious. Do not reveal too much about where you are from, not at first. As I have told you all of your life, you have a glass face and reveal everything you are thinking, so stick to the basics and do not attempt to lie.
I have a friend in Inverness that will take you to the stones and tell you what you need to know in order to travel to the right time and how to find Jamie. Her name is Mrs. Moira Graham and she works as a housekeeper for the Reverend Reginald Wakefield. You must go to her, she knows everything and will help you. You must travel through the stones on May 1, 1941. Jamie is injured and in need of your healing hands. Go to him Claire, go find the other half of your soul.
Good luck my sweet lamb.
Now go seek your happiness.
Love forever your Uncle Lamb.
Claire gasped, she couldn't believe her luck. She knew Reverend Wakefield and Mrs. Graham through Frank, she knew exactly where she needed to go. She set the letter on the desk and walked over to the bed to examine the dresses more closely. She immediately found the hidden pockets amongst both of the dresses. She picked up the trunk and began stuffing coins in the pockets, occasionally lifting the dress to test the weight. After evenly distributing all of the coins in both dresses as well as the gold wedding band that Frank had given her, she rolled the dress that she wouldn't be wearing and stuffed it in the trunk. It was much lighter with only half of the coins and would be easy enough to carry with her until she could purchase a horse after traveling through the stones.
She ran downstairs to fetch her suitcase, brought it back up, and emptied the contents onto the bed, replacing her modern clothes with the second 18th century style dress. Along with the coins, there were some ancient medical devices in the trunk, which would come in handy if her future husband was indeed as accident prone as uncle Lamb had made him out to be.
It was still early enough in the day that she could catch a train to Edinburgh. She would find an inn once she arrived and make the last leg of her journey to Inverness in the morning. She made her way back downstairs, made sure the house was secure, and said goodbye to the house and her uncle one last time.
She practically ran to the train station with her small amount of luggage in tow. She arrived with an hour to spare before the next train to Edinburgh would depart so she found a small cafe that was just down the block from the train station and bought herself some lunch. She thought for a moment about what she would miss most from this century and decided that a big juicy cheeseburger and chips along with a tall cola were in order. She succumbed to the flavors of the burger, knowing without a doubt that it would be the last one she ever had. Well, the last one until she could figure out a way to make them in the 18th century.
She finished her lunch and made it back to the train station just in time to give the conductor her boarding pass. She climbed aboard, and found her private compartment, as long as there were no unforeseen delays she should arrive in Edinburgh by 6 pm. Then in the morning she could leave Edinburgh and board a train to Inverness that would take roughly another 4 hours.
She knew that the next few days, well at least until she could find Jamie would be draining so she decided to get as much rest as she could and what better to do on a train than sleep. She closed her eyes and drifted off, dreaming the same dream that she always had.
She awoke at the base of the standing stones, confused and out of sorts. Men shouting and gunshots could be heard nearby. She scrambled to her feet and looked around, she knew immediately that she had traveled to the past. She scrambled down the hill, losing her footing as she reached the edge and tumbling end over end till she reached the bottom. Her face and dress were both covered in dirt, but she was uninjured. She ran away from the sounds of battle, toward a stream that shouldn't be too far away. But once there she came face to face with a man that she loathed, no this man was not Frank, but one of his ancestors. It was a man even more vile than Frank, one she should definitely avoid.
But before she could make her escape the man noticed her and pressed his sword to her throat. His rotten breath on her face made her want to vomit as he hissed at her, demanding to know her name. But she wouldn't give it to him, she didn't owe the poor excuse for a man anything, let alone her name. She remained silent and racked her brain for a way to escape his filthy grip. She turned her face away from him and gritted her teeth, trying to suppress the urge to vomit on him.
He was spouting foul words at her, calling her a whore and pulling at her skirts. If she didn't think of something soon, this despicable monster would likely violate her. She hadn't even given herself to Frank yet, there was no way she was going to let his ancestor be the first to have her body. That was something she was saving for Jamie, her beloved Jamie who she had yet to meet. As she struggled against his hands, squeezing her thighs together in an attempt to ward him off, his body suddenly crumpled to the ground in front of her.
She looked up to see a dirty highlander looking at her inquisitively. Even though he smelled almost as bad as the redcoat, and looked even dirtier, she grinned at him. Her future husband was a Scot and hopefully, this man could help her to find him. The man tipped his head to the side then asked 'What are ye doin' out here all alone, lass?'
She nearly cried at how thoughtful the man sounded, 'Oh thank God you came along when you did, this vile beast was about to rape me.'
The man looked down at Frank's ancestor then back up at her, 'Aye I can see that, now back to my question, why are ye out in the woods all by yer self and what is a Sassenach doin' alone in Scotland?'
She sighed, 'Oh, right. Well, in all honesty, my husband abandoned me for another woman. My uncle brought me to Scotland when I was a child and I always loved the country and the people. I came to make a new life here. It's true that I am an outlander, I do apologize for that, but thankfully that is only on my father's side of the family. My mother was a Scot and raised me to love and embrace my Scottish heritage.'
The man had made a sound in his throat, she wasn't sure what it meant, but he didn't rebuff her or question anything that she had said. Then he offered her his hand, 'Come wi' me, I canna leave a lass alone in the woods with men like the captain lingering about, even if ye are a sassenach. Besides, I need to get back to my godson, I was looking for someone to help heal him when I found ye. Yer not verra big, but ye might be able to help hold him while I fix his arm.'
He grabbed her by the hand and pulled her back up the hill and away from the stream. He released her hand when he realized that she was willingly following him.
She perked up, 'I'm sure I can probably help with that, I am a healer after all. I have seen many mangle men and helped to fix them as well. What seems to be wrong with him if you don't mind my asking?'
The man turned and looked back at her inquisitively, 'He fell off his horse and now his arm is out of sorts.'
She grinned, 'I think I can fix that, it sounds like he either broke his arm, or it is dislocated.'
The man furrowed his brow, 'Dislocated?'
She shook her head, 'I only meant it is likely out of joint.'
The man turned and started walking up the hill again, away from the standing stones at Craigh Na Dun, 'Och, aye, tis definitely out of joint. But ye mean to say that ye can fix that?'
She nodded then realized he couldn't see her with his back turned to her, 'Oh most definitely I have put a dislocated shoulder back in joint a time or two. It takes a bit of strength and determination of course, but I have plenty of that. I am stronger than I appear, I have to be in my line of work.'
The man snorted and started to say something...
The train jolted as it came to a screeching stop, jerking her from the dream. She rubbed her blurry eyes and looked around, taking a moment to remember where she was. She peered out the window to see the train station just up the line and the announcement come over the speaker, "Now arriving in Edinburgh, please dinna forget yer luggage when ye depart from the train."
She stood up, straightened her clothing, and gathered her luggage from below the train seat. She opened her cabin door and waited as other passengers passed her by. She stepped out when there was a break in the flow of people and followed along to disembark from the train.
She stepped down off of the train and took a deep breath, inhaling the fresh air that was so different from the city and had no telltale reminders of the war that England still carried within its' borders. She ruminated for a moment, the smells of this century were certainly something she would not be missing once she made her trip through the stones. Surely she would miss some of the modern conveniences, the convenience of traveling by train certainly was among the top points and modern toilets of course, but for the most part, those were things she could do without and be perfectly happy. No, this time did not fit her, she belonged in the past and the faster she could get there and find Jamie, the happier she would be.
She walked to the ticket counter in the train station and inquired about the first train to Inverness that would be leaving the next morning. The ticket agent informed her that the first train would be leaving at 9 am the next day, but she was welcome to purchase her ticket now. Claire didn't hesitate, she wanted nothing stalling her escape from Edinburgh. She bought the ticket and walked to the nearest inn which happened to be right across the street from the train station and rented a room for the night. When Claire asked about a place to find a hot meal, the innkeeper informed her of a quaint little diner just two blocks down that served a full Scottish breakfast 24 hours a day.
Claire placed her bags in her room and went in search of the diner. She wasn't particularly in the mood for breakfast at this hour, but going to the diner for dinner would give her an idea of how good the breakfast would be in the morning. When she was seated she looked over the menu and was pleased with the selection of not only the Scottish breakfast but several other selections of traditional Scottish cuisines. She eventually settled on a bit of haggis with a side of neeps and tatties and a cup of cock-a-leekie soup to start.
When her food was at last delivered after only about 10 minutes of waiting, she thoroughly enjoyed her meal, moaning in delight with almost every bite that she consumed. The meal reminded her of her mother's cooking when she was a little girl and it nearly brought a tear to her eye when she realized she truly was an honest to god, dyed in the wool Scot, no matter how posh her accent sounded. She ate every bite and leaned back in the booth, overly stuffed, but happy beyond measure.
After enjoying another glass of mulled wine, she decided to drag herself back to the inn and crawl into bed. She hoped that she could pick her dream up where she left off. She was never able to do so before, but perhaps if she concentrated hard enough the scruffy man that rescued her from captain Randall would finally take her to the place where she would see if his godson was the man she had been searching for. She never put much stock into dreams foretelling the future, but for some reason, this reoccurring dream felt real enough that she longed to meet the mysterious godson of her odoriferous rescuer.
Jamie didn't know how he had found himself in this situation. He had written to Murtagh to have him meet him at the port after he returned from France, but somehow his murderous uncle had found out about his return. All he wanted to do was go home to Lallybroch and see his family again. After being away to university for so long, he longed to see his father and sister and had no intention of accompanying Dougal back to Leoch. Even if his father was still a healthy man and capable of being Laird of Lallybroch for several more years, eventually that would be Jamie's responsibility and he had no desire to be Clan chief of Clan MacKenzie.
He had heard the whisperings amongst the men and he knew that if his feet took him to Leoch, one of the brothers would have him killed. If he denied Colum he would be killed by Colum, but if he accepted, he would be killed by Dougal. There would be no way out of it if he found himself entering those castle walls. His only option was to sneak away in the night with Murtagh and move away from MacKenzie lands as fast as possible and make his way home to Lallybroch. But for now, while all eyes were upon him, he just had to bide his time.
Thankfully the men decided to bed down in the forest for the night, there were two guards posted which would hinder any escape attempts for the night. But there was still time and several miles ahead before they found themselves on MacKenzie lands. Jamie spread out his bedroll and laid down in a rather soft layer of leaves, drifting off to sleep rather easily. As he lost consciousness, he hoped he would see her in his dreams once again.
There she was, his angel, coming in the door with Murtagh as all the other men stood around arguing about how to fix his arm. She looked over at him and seemed to recognize him, although he knew they had never seen each other before. He would never have forgotten such a beautiful face or those expressive honey gold eyes.
The old healer had told him when he was a lad that he would find his love in a woman with curly brown hair and honey colored eyes, but he never guessed that she would be so beautiful. He didn't hear what she had shouted at the men, but suddenly Dougal was stepping out of her way as she purposefully marched over to him. She knelt down in front of him and gently took his fist in her hands. 'This is going to hurt, but only for a moment. Do you trust me?'
He grinned at her, even though the pain in his shoulder was excruciating. 'Aye, wi' my life, Sassenach.'
She smirked at him and took hold of his elbow, quickly twisting and shoving his arm until it made a crunching sound and popped back into place. Then she leaned in and whispered, 'Outlander am I, hmm. We'll see about that.'
He couldn't believe his ears or his eyes, this angel was flirting with him and didn't even take offense to the use of the word that had slipped from his lips without thought. She had the loveliest accent the slightest bit English but there was a strong hint of a soft Scottish highland lilt to it as well. He longed to know more about her, where the uncommonly melodic accent came from as well. Not to mention, she apparently knew a least a bit of the Gàidhlig, how much was yet to be determined. She was truly a rare woman and at that moment, Jamie knew he was willing to do anything to have her as his own.
He watched as she demanded that Angus hand over his belt so that she could bind his arm against his chest. Then the rest of the men left the little cottage to go and ready the horses, leaving just the two of them alone in the cottage. She turned and looked up at him as he drowned in her whisky colored eyes, 'So, Mr. MacTavish is it, where are you taking me?'
He could hardly think straight as her lovely floral scent invaded his senses, but somehow he managed to give her a coherent answer, 'Likely to Castle Leoch, though I dinna wish to go there myself.'
Then the angel hummed, 'Well, perhaps we can run away together, what do you say about that, Mr. MacTavish?'
All Jamie could do was grin like a fool, until Murtagh returned inside and announced it was time for them to leave. Jamie placed a hand on her back and escorted her outside. With help from Dougal and Murtagh, Jamie mounted his horse and before he knew what was happening, Dougal had hoisted the angel up in front of him. As the men started to take their leave, Jamie held back so that he and the angel would have a bit of privacy to chat. He leaned down and whispered in her ear, 'So, if ye dinna want me to keep callin' ye Sassenach, how about ye tell me yer name, lass.'
The angel giggled so sweetly it was like chimes in the wind, 'Oh, yes well I guess that would be helpful, wouldn't it. My name is Claire, but I rather like the way you call me Sassenach, so it is your choice what to call me Mr. MacTavish.'
Jamie grinned, 'Sorcha, tis a lovely name Sassenach.'
She turned and grinned up at him, 'So now I am light, well I guess it is also the translation for my name, so as I said, call me what you wish.'
Jamie grinned, he had never before met a sassenach who had the Gàidhlig, 'Oh, I must admit that I have many things that I wish to call ye, but if I am to call ye by yer name, ye must use mine as well, ye can call me Jamie.'
Claire turned around so fast, he thought she would knock them both out of the saddle. Her eyes were wide as she peered up at him, 'Your name is Jamie? Of course, it is, but it's not MacTavish, I should have recognized you, but you are so much younger than you were in the painting at the museum. Your name is James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, isn't it?'
Jamie couldn't believe his ears, how did this woman know who he was? He opened his mouth to ask her but before he could say a word...
He was rudely awoken, jolted from his dream by Dougal shouting that it was time to wake up and get back on the road. Jamie slowly stood up and stretched his long body, making him seem even taller than he was. He gathered his bedding, rolled up his spare tartan, stuffed it in his saddlebag, and attached his bedroll to the back of the saddle. He made his way into the woods, craving some privacy from the men to relieve himself in peace. After dreaming of his angel, he yet again had a cock stand as hard as a brass rod and didn't relish the thought of dealing with it anywhere near the other men.
When he finally returned to their makeshift camp, he looked around at the men in the group and realized that these were all the same men that occupied his dream last night. It was the first time he had dreamed of meeting her, so perhaps their time to meet was drawing nearer. He usually dreamed of her on her own as she was covered in blood, tending to mangled men who had been wounded in battle. Or sometimes she would be in some exotic place, like those described in the books he had read at University. He thought perhaps it could be near the ruins in Athens Greece in a few of the dreams and maybe the pyramids at Giza in others. It was always in a location that was familiar to him only from the descriptions he had read. But he had never dreamed of her in the highlands of Scotland before, the thought of that gave him hope that he would meet her soon.
He took another look at the men that were scattered around camp and realized they were all wearing what they had been wearing in his dream. Then he looked down at his own attire and noticed he was wearing the same clothing as well. Perhaps being with the men had influenced his dream and it meant nothing at all that they were all there. Perhaps having them close enough to smell their stink is what caused them to all take part in his dream.
He set the thoughts of his dream aside for the time being and focused on a way to escape from Dougal's men and make his way back to Lallybroch. They still had several days ahead of them before he had to worry too much and right now being amongst the men afforded him a bit more protection against the redcoats than he and Murtagh would be able to handle on their own. He hung toward the back of the group and listened as Rupert and Angus exchanged rude jokes about the whores they had been with. He rolled his eyes at their obviously made up stories, but having no experience in the matters himself, chose to remain silent on the subject.
As the day dragged on, Jamie looked around and realized they were near Inverness. He longed for a hot meal and a proper bed, so he nudged Murtagh's boot with his own, "Do ye think we could get Dougal to stop down in Inverness for the night. I have no' had a proper meal since I left France."
Murtagh shrugged, "I dinna ken, ride up and ask him yer self."
Jamie rolled his eyes, "Fine, a good help ye are anyway."
Jamie kicked his mount in the flanks and rode up quickly past the other men, "Dougal, we are but an hour's ride from Inverness, what say ye to stopping for the night and having a hot meal. I ken I could use the rest and I'm sure the rest of the men are hankerin' for a woman."
The riotous shouts from the men drowned out Dougal's reply, but when they died down, Dougal shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes, "Appears as though the men agree wi' ye. Get back in line, we're headin' to Inverness."
Jamie rode back toward Murtagh at the back of the group with a satisfied grin pasted on his face, "So ye got yer wish then lad, I suppose Dougal longs for the company of a woman under him tonight as much as any of the other fellas."
Jamie turned and trotted along beside Murtagh, "I dinna ken if he does or no' but the men certainly didna object to the idea. But ye ken me, I dinna wish to bed a whore, I am waiting for the one that is meant only for me. The one that my da and the healer told me that I would meet someday. I dinna wish to dishonor my wife by laying wi' a whore before I even meet my wife."
Murtagh rolled his eyes, "I dinna dispute yer sense of protectin' yer virtue, but do ye truly believe that ye are gonna meet a curly haired, honey eyed, sassenach and marry her?"
Jamie grinned, "Aye, I do. I have even dreamed about her. In fact, I dream about her almost every night, her vision is what has kept me sane and loyal to her all these years. I willna be swayed to change my mind, I will wait for my angel to grace me with her presence. I am saving myself just for her and no matter how many trollops that Dougal tries to force into my lap, I willna take any of them to my bed. But enough of that, I wanted to speak wi' ye on another matter entirely."
Murtagh raised his eyebrows, "Och, Aye, and what might that matter be, then?"
Jamie slowed his horse a bit more and lowered his voice to barely above a whisper, "We need to get away from the group, ye ken as well as I do what will happen if I go to Leoch. I need to make my way home to Lallybroch and we need to break away from the men before we step foot on MacKenzie lands."
Murtagh nodded, his brow furrowed in concentration, "Aye, I ken. I've been thinkin' on it myself. I think that our best chance will be leavin' tonight, we are close enough to the fairy hill at Craigh Na Dun that we can make our way there tonight after the men are all abed. They willna even ken that we have snuck away. The men are too superstitious to go anywhere near the fairy hill, they willna believe that ye would have any reason to go there either. We can sneak away in the middle of the night and hide out in the abandoned cottage near the base of the hill for a full day to throw them off of our trail. We can leave early the next morning, just after the first light. Tis big enough that we can even hide the horses inside wi' us if need be. We will only need to stay long enough for them to lose our track and leave us behind."
Jamie rubbed his chin as he thought over the plan, "Tis a good plan, but how long do ye think it will take before they move on and quit lookin' for us?"
Murtagh shrugged, "I dinna ken, lad. But unless ye got somethin' better, I think that we must try. We canna risk ye going to Leoch, ye ken ye will be a dead man, one way or the other if ye set foot inside that castle."
Jamie nodded, "Aye, I ken. I will think on it some more. We need to have another plan in case we canna make that one work to our advantage."
The men fell into a companionable silence as they rode on toward Inverness. During the rest of the ride there, Jamie went over several options for his escape in his head. But no matter what he thought of, the outcome was always the same, perhaps Murtagh's plan was the best one after all. However, it would take some careful planning to guarantee that neither of them would be guarded tonight.
He knew all of his kinsmen held their whisky well, but perhaps if he could convince them to spend their evening with some of the whores the town had to offer, they would be otherwise engaged when he and Murtagh made their escape.
It wasn't too much longer that the men found themselves riding into Inverness in search of stables for the horses, a warm meal and a comfortable bed. Jamie had a bit of coin in his sporan and directed his efforts toward Rupert and Angus, they would be the most likely choices as guards and harder to convince to spend their own money on whores.
The men stabled their horses for the night and walked as a rowdy group toward the nearest inn. Jamie told Murtagh of his plan, so they split up, each man choosing a victim. Jamie said that Angus would be easier to convince so he let Murtagh at him, while Jamie chose to take on Rupert. Jamie jogged to catch up with Rupert, "Hey, Rupert, I heard ye and Angus talkin' about getting a whore once we got here."
Rupert glanced over at him inquisitively, "Aye, but I dinna have money for such a thing. But there is a sweet little lass, by the name of Morág that I would love to plunge my cock into, why do ye ask?"
Jamie blushed to sell the embarrassment, "Well, ye have been kind of a clot head these past days. I thought it might help ye to have a release and relax a bit, quit taken' yer frustrations out on the rest of us."
Rupert grunted, "Well when a man has to deal wi' the likes of you lot, what do ye expect. Guardin' and cattle thievin' take a lot out of a man."
Jamie nodded as he trudged along beside Rupert, "Aye, I ken. I'm willin' to make a sacrifice for the good of the rest of us. I have a bit of money from my time in France, I'd be glad to pay for yer whore if ye lay off a bit."
Rupert slapped him on the back hard, "Aye, I'll take ye up on that. No man in his right man would turn down a free whore, gi' me the money lad, I dinna trust ye to remember this after ye have had some whisky."
Jamie grinned and pulled 2 schillings out of his sporan, handing over to Rupert gladly, "Here Rupe, spend the whole night wi' the lucky lass."
Rupert made a sound of approval deep in his throat as he snatched the money from Jamie's open palm, "I'll be sure to spend it well."
Jamie slowed down, allowing Rupert to get ahead of him and cast a glance over toward Murtagh and Angus. Murtagh gave Jamie a quick nod, indicating that he was successful with convincing Angus as well.
The two men held back a bit and watched as Rupert and Angus excitedly headed down the road past the inn and straight toward the brothel. Murtagh grinned under his scruffy beard, "Angus didna take much convincing, I told him I wanted to buy him a whore for his help with fetchin' at the port and he gladly accepted."
Jamie slapped him affectionately on the back, "Good, we shall make our escape tonight. I would like to be home by my birthday but if we are to stay in the cottage at the base of Craigh Na Dun till that morning, perhaps the fairies will see fit to gift me wi' a pleasant day and an unhindered escape from the MacKenzies."
Murtagh glanced over at Jamie, watching as the tension practically melted from him, "Aye, I hope yer right about that lad."
As soon as she arrived back at the inn, she trudged up to her room, locked the door, and fell straight into bed. As always her dream returned to her, but surprisingly there were new details this time, it started at the stones again, just like always but went a bit further into the dream this time.
'Come, follow me, lass, my godson is waiting for me in the cottage. We must make it back before the other men take it into their own heads to fix the lad's shoulder and end up doin' more damage than good. Perhaps if yer as strong and determined as ye claim to be, ye might be able to help the lad without harmin' him.'
Claire scampered along behind him, her feet deftly missing large tree roots sticking up out of the ground and fallen branches that crossed their path. She didn't see a clear path ahead of them, but the scruffy man seemed to know exactly where he was going with a clear destination in mind.
He took her hand and pulled her along when they started to climb another small hill, she could smell the peat smoke from a chimney ahead and wondered if they were getting close. As they climbed a bit higher up the hill, she could see the smoke swirling from the top of a cobbled stone chimney rising out of a thatched roof. With every step they took, more and more of the scene ahead revealed itself. There were roughly twenty or so horses milling about around the cottage, munching the grass down to the root.
The scruffy man spoke Gáidhlig to the horses, urging them to move out of his way. Claire decided to keep quiet and follow the man's lead. As the horses moved out of the way, the door to the cottage was slowly revealed. The scruffy man grunted as he pushed the last horse back from their path and pushed the door open. Several masculine voices spilled out from the cottage, they seemed to be arguing about something, but with so many voices talking over each other it was difficult to make out what had caused the disagreement.
The scruffy man reached back, grabbed Claire by the upper arm, and drug her unceremoniously into the cottage and pushed her in front of him. Before her stood a man that she had never seen in her dreams before, he was a large bald, intimidating man, that smelled just as foul as her rescuer. But this man had an air of authority about him. She knew she was in the 18th century and women were expected to keep quiet until spoken to and were rarely shown equal respect as a man, so she remained silent and let the bald man evaluate her for a moment.
Suddenly he took his leering eyes away from her body and settled them on her scruffy rescuer and asked in Gáidhlig, 'Where did ye find the lass, Murtagh'
Hmm, she thought to herself, so that is her rescuer's name, very Scottish indeed.
Murtagh answered the bald man in the same language, 'The lass was havin' words with a certain Captain of Dragoons who we're all acquainted wi'. He was demanding to ken the lass's name, but she wouldna answer him. Stood there stubborn as an ox while the man pressed his sword to her throat. I dinna ken who she is Dougal, but I couldna leave a poor lass to fend for herself with scum like Randall wandering about, now could I?'
The man Dougal, stroked the short stubble on his chin, 'No, I suppose ye couldna. But we dinna have time for this, we need to figure out how we're going to fix young Mr. MacTavish's arm.'
Claire's eyes grew wide at the last statement, she had remained calm through the Gáidhlig discussion about her, not showing any emotion or revealing the truth that she understood every word exchanged, but the mention of someone being injured, made her think it might be Jamie they were talking about and it knocked her off balance. She jerked her head around, right and then to the left and noticed a man sitting near the hearth, with the only light in the room coming from behind him, his face was cast in shadows, but she knew in her heart that the man was her Jamie.
She made to walk over toward him and was stopped in her tracks by Dougal grasping her arm tightly 'Where do ye think yer going lass?'
She stuck her chin out in defiance and brought herself to her full height and yanked her arm out of his vice grip, 'I'm going to help Mr. MacTavish, Murtagh told me that there was something wrong with his arm and I came along to see if I could help.'
Dougal stepped back and hissed in Gáidhlig, 'A sassenach, Murtagh ye brought a sassenach into our midst, what were ye thinkin' man?'
As she waited for Dougal to move and let her pass, two men walked toward the man known as Mr. MacTavish, one was a large burly man with a big round belly and the other was short with an unusually large head. The smaller man went to Mr. MacTavish's back and grabbed him tight by the shoulders while the large burly man grabbed a hold of Mr. MacTavish's arm and began to wrench it in what would surely be a most painful manner. Before she could think, Claire was shouting at the men, 'Stop, you'll break his arm if you do it like that.'
The men all startled at her sudden outburst and she moved to walk over to Mr. MacTavish, and just as he started to look up her ...
She was ripped from the dream in a cold sweat and her heart pounding. She looked over at the clock on her nightstand and noticed that it read 4:00 am. She wiped the sweat from her brow and climbed out of bed to go to the attached bathroom and get a glass of water. As she sipped the cold water she thought back on the dream, 'What the Hell was that, why did I wake at that moment? I have been eager to see his beautiful face for so long and just as I'm about to see it, I wake up,' she thought to herself. She finished her glass of water and returned to bed to try and capture a few more hours of sleep. She laid down in bed, pulled the quilt up to her chin, closed her eyes, and drifted off easily, but no more dreams came.
Claire woke quite early the next morning, the anticipation and excitement for what lay ahead of her had her crawling out of bed at 6:00 am. She had left all of her modern clothing behind at Uncle Lamb's house, so she never even changed out of her clothes from the previous day before falling into bed the night before. She went to the bathroom, took a look in the mirror, and pulled her unruly curls into a messy bun. She was anxious to return to the little diner down the road and dig into a traditional full Scottish breakfast.
She bounded down the stairs to the lobby, waving happily to the innkeeper as she practically ran out the front door. She found herself skipping down the street and realized that she hadn't been this happy since before she met Frank. She stopped in her tracks just outside of the diner and reflected on her life over the past 4 years. It was only now that she realized what a damper having Frank in her life had been. He had nearly snuffed out the light inside of her and hadn't her mother taught her that her name meant light in the Gáidhlig language. No, Frank would never be a darkness in her life again, she would allow her light to shine through.
According to the stories her uncle had told her, Jamie would help her to bring out that light. Hell, he was already giving her a reason to shine with happiness and she hadn't even met the man yet. She grinned from ear to ear and whispered to herself, 'Wait for me, my prince, I'm coming to you, I will find you.'
She walked the few more steps that brought her to the door of the diner, walked in and took a seat in the same booth that she sat in the night before. When the waitress approached with the menu, Claire was already prepared to order, "Good morning, I'd like to order a traditional full Scottish breakfast like my mother used to make, can you tell me does it include square lorne sausage, link sausages, fried egg, streaky bacon, baked beans, black pudding and/or haggis, tattie scones, fried tomatoes and mushrooms, and toast?"
The waitress laughed, "Aye, it does, comes with black pudding instead of the haggis, but for a sassenach, I wouldna expect yer mam made all that for ye."
Claire giggled, "Well when yer mam is Scottish herself, it tends to happen. I would like to order that please, along with a cup of coffee."
The waitress rolled her eyes, "Yer accent is no' so bad, considering yer half Scottish yer self, I'll put that order in and be right back wi' the coffee."
Claire smiled, and thanked her in Gáidhlig, "Mòran taing!"
The waitress's eyebrows rose as she smiled back at her, "'S e ur bheatha."
When her food arrived, Claire dug in and ate every last bite, just like the dinner she had eaten the night before. When she was finished, she wondered if Mrs. Graham would be willing to make her some bannocks to take along with her through the stones. It would be the easiest thing to carry with her and it would keep for quite a few days till she could make it back to Inverness to buy more food. She mentally added it to the list of favors she would need to ask the old housekeeper.
Claire finished her last cup of coffee, left a rather generous tip for her waitress, and made her way back to the inn to collect her belongings before heading to the train station. She still had roughly 30 minutes before the train arrived so she wandered around the station looking for a good place to sit and just watch people. People watching had become one of her hobbies very early on when she would travel the world with her uncle.
She noticed with every village or new civilization they visited that people were different, but all fundamentally the same. Certainly, their experiences and surroundings helped to shape them into unique people, but under it all, they all had the same needs and desires. The same drive to fulfill those basic human needs of nourishment, rest, and a need that was not so apparent to someone so young as Claire, companionship. People always seemed to be drawn to others, it was unnatural to want to be alone. Human's needed to interact with each other to remain, sane functioning people, without it they would go mad.
As she watched the people milling about the train station, she realized that she was about to have an entirely new experience herself. She would get to experience what every scientist and historian could only dream of. She would get to witness people and civilizations from two hundred years in the past, where others could only speculate how life would have been, she would get to be part of it. The excitement got the better of her and she could no longer sit in contentment as she became restless. She got to her feet and made her way to the loading platform where she would await her train for the next 10 minutes.
The nervous energy coursing through her body would not allow her to stand still as she shuffled from foot to foot. To anyone else, it probably looked like she had to use the bathroom, but nobody seemed to notice the wild haired sassenach who couldn't stand still, waiting for the train.
Finally, the train pulled into the station, and Claire took a step back to make room for the passengers to disembark. Once they had all moved past her the conductor called for all those traveling to Inverness to step up with their boarding passes at the ready. Claire dug in her coat pocket and pulled her boarding pass out, then moved to stand in line and wait for her turn to board. She noticed that the conductor grinned widely at her as she handed him her boarding pass, she briefly wondered why until he handed it back to her and remarked, "I see you are happy to be traveling to Inverness, I hope you enjoy your trip, Ms. Beauchamp."
She realized she had been grinning and smiled even brighter at the man, "Thank you sir, I am sure that I will have a lovely time once I reach my final destination."
The conductor nodded at her and gestured for her to climb up into the train and find her seat. She found her seat near a window, she didn't have a private compartment like the last train, but that was fine with her. She had no intention of sleeping for this last part of her journey to Inverness, she would take this time to inventory what else she might need to bring with her into the 18th century.
The medical kit that her uncle Lamb had prepared for her, already contained enough penicillin tablets to treat a whole army for several years as well as two syringes, and a dozen hypodermic needles that could be boiled and cleaned. She had her regular stitching needles with over a thousand feet of catgut thread for tying sutures. He had included 4 rolls of cotton bandages, a scalpel and bone saw along with her book on useful plants. She silently thanked her uncle for insisting that along with Scottish history, early medicine and herbology be a part of her university curriculum. She was extremely well prepared for her trip into the past, and only had to be hyper-vigilant and not get caught with any future tools and risk being accused of being a witch.
She found her mind wandering back to Jamie repeatedly and hoped that she wouldn't have to long to wait after she traveled to the past before they finally met. Uncle Lamb didn't know if her parents had actually told Jamie about her, but she had hope that they had. She hoped that some how when he saw her that he would know her, and not just who she was but what they were meant to be to one another. She thought about what she might say to him once they finally did come face to face. Would their initial meeting be like that of her dreams, would his godfather whose name she had just learned the night before, lead her to him. Would his shoulder be out of joint so that when they meet she could show him her medical skills right from the beginning? She had so many questions rolling around in her head that she barely noticed when the train came to a halt and the conductor announced that they had arrived in Inverness.
She looked around at the other passengers standing up and retrieving their luggage, it seemed as though she had been on the train a mere few minutes instead of hours. She shrugged, pulling her luggage along behind her and followed the other passengers out of the train and onto the loading platform. She took a deep breath and centered herself, she needed to find a phone and give Mrs. Graham a call. She stopped at the ticket counter and asked for directions to the nearest phone and was directed to a far wall opposite the ticket counter.
She thanked the ticket agent and made her way to the wall of payphones. She picked up the phone and asked the operator to connect her to the Reverend Wakefield's residence. Luckily Mrs. Graham was the one who answered, "Reverend Wakefield's residence, how may I help ye?"
Claire cleared her throat, suddenly very nervous to speak to the old housekeeper, "Mrs. Graham, is that you?"
"Aye, tis me, who is this?" The housekeeper asked.
Claire looked down at her hand gripped tightly on the handle of her suitcase, "It's Claire Randall, my Uncle Lamb left me a letter that said I should call you when I arrived in Inverness."
Mrs. Graham gasped, "Aye, tis about time for ye to make yer journey is it no'? Where are ye then, I'll come and get ye?"
Claire sighed in relief, "Yes, I guess you know more about it than I do. I just arrived at the train station and I am hoping you can answer my questions."
Mrs. Graham answered excitedly, "Aye, I am on my way and I will do my best to answer any questions that ye may have."
Claire closed her eyes and sent up a quick prayer that she had someone in her corner, "Thank you, Mrs. Graham, I'll be waiting for you."
Ten minutes after they ended the call, Mrs. Graham had pulled up in front of the train station to pick up Claire. She climbed out of her car and opened the boot for Claire to put her luggage inside. After her luggage was safely locked in the boot, Mrs. Graham gathered Claire into a motherly hug, "I dinna ken what happened between ye and Frank, but I ken that ye were no' meant to be wi' him. Frank is still close wi' the reverend so I willna be takin' ye back to the manse. I'll be takin' ye to my home and we will get ye prepared. We have the rest of today and tomorrow, to gather everything ye will need. I will drive ye out to Craigh Na Dun tomorrow evening, ye will travel through at precisely midnight."
Claire sighed as she melted into her embrace, "Thank you, Mrs. Graham, I have no idea what I am doing and I appreciate having you here to help me through this."
Mrs. Graham pulled back from the hug, "Ye ken more than ye think, Claire. I'm here to help guide ye, no' to tell ye what to do. If ye decide no' to travel, that is entirely yer choice and no one can hold that against ye."
Claire looked up into her friend's eyes, "Thank you Mrs. Graham, it's not a choice not to travel, I'm just afraid that I might mess something up. How am I supposed to find Jamie once I get there, what do I say to him? I have all of these questions rattling around in my head and no way to sort them out."
Mrs. Graham guided her to the car door and opened it for Claire to climb in, "I will help ye to sort through them, now let's return to my home and prepare ye for yer journey."
Mrs. Graham walked around the car and climbed into the driver seat, "Now, I imagine that Quentin provided all that ye would need for yer travels, did you remember to bring the gem?"
Claire reached into her pocket and pulled out the black diamond, "Yes, this was in the trunk with all of the coins, but I'm not sure why I would need a single black diamond."
Mrs. Graham smirked at her, "That my dear provides safety as ye travel through the stones. If ye dinna carry that wi' ye, the stones might take yer life. Tis important that ye keep that wi' ye, which is why I have a locket that will keep it safe around her bonnie neck."
Claire's eyes grew wide, "Oh, I didn't know about that part, I guess I'm glad that I brought it with me then. Is there anything else that I need to have with me or anything special that I need to do in order to arrive there safe?"
Mrs. Graham looked over her shoulder as she pulled into traffic, "Och, Aye, ye need to think of yer lad. If I am right and I usually am, when it comes to the business of the stones, ye have likely been dreaming of him, have ye no'?"
Claire turned and gaped at her, "Yes, I have, for a long time actually, but just last night there was more to the dream than there ever has been before. But what does that mean, why do I dream of him, but can't see his face?"
Mrs. Graham chuckled, "Tis because yer not supposed to see his face yet, likely when ye sleep tonight he will finally be revealed to ye. Yer lad has likely been dreaming of ye for a while too, but he has kent what ye look like since he was a lad. His dreams are a way for him to peer into yer life and get to ken the person that ye are."
Claire grinned at the thought, "He knows me, I have wondered, that's rather comforting."
They drove the rest of the way in silence as Claire realized her anticipation was causing the nervousness and she was eager to meet her future husband. As they pulled into the driveway of a little cottage Claire thought of something she needed to ask, "Mrs. Graham I was hoping that perhaps you could let me make some bannocks to take with me since I don't know how long it will take me to walk back to Inverness. I was also hoping you could help me figure out a way to carry my trunk full of belongings with me since it will be difficult to carry it till I can purchase a horse."
Mrs. Graham patted her hand as she climbed out of the car, "Come inside a caraid, I already have plenty of bannocks, dried meat and fruit as well as cheese prepared for yer journey. I also have a large leather satchel that ye can place everything ye need to take wi' ye in. Other than those few things, ye should have everything ye need, besides a bit of information and an ancient map to help ye get to where ye are going."
Claire threw her arms around Mrs. Graham and pressed a kiss to her cheek, "Thank you so much."
Mrs. Graham opened the boot, "I dinna think ye will need the map since ye are meant to meet yer lad soon after ye arrive on the other side."
Claire sighed, "Yes, that is another thing. In my dreams I come across one of Frank's ancestors, somehow I know he is an evil man that I should avoid. But then Jamie's godfather, Murtagh comes to my rescue and eventually leads me to Jamie. But my question is, how do I make sure that I avoid Frank's ancestor, or is that meeting necessary to lead me to Jamie?"
Mrs. Graham shook her head, pulling Claire's luggage from the boot of her car, "The dreams are no' as much premonitions of what will happen as a guide to where ye will be and who ye will meet. When ye travel back, it might no' go as it does in yer dreams. It might be completely different than what ye are expecting. Tis fine to let the dream lead ye but the important part to take away is the lessons ye learn in the dream."
Claire's shoulders slumped a bit, "So I might not meet Jamie that first day at all then. How will I know what to do and where to go once I get there?"
Mrs. Graham handed Claire the luggage, "I dinna ken how to explain why it is, but when ye get there, ye just follow yer instincts, yer heart will tell ye what ye need to do and where ye need to go to find Jamie. Ye might meet him on the first day and ye might also need to have patience and follow yer heart to him. Now let's get inside and get everything transferred over to the satchel. Then we will have some lunch and go over some important history that ye will need to ken before ye go back."
After several hours of transcribing important events into a couple of journals, Mrs. Graham thought Claire had all the knowledge she would need to take with her back to the 18th century. They had a light dinner before retiring to bed. The day had been tiring for Claire and it made her wish that she had taken the time on the train trip from Edinburgh to Inverness to sleep. But now that the day was over, she was that much closer to meeting Jamie. She pulled her clothes off and climbed into the shower to wash away the stress of the day. She washed her hair and body, rinsed of then stood unmoving in the stream of hot water until it began to run cold.
She dragged her tired body from the shower, brushed her teeth, and combed her fingers through her wet hair before wrapping it in a towel. She would allow the curls to dry naturally in the towel as she slept. She pulled on the pajamas that Mrs. Graham had provided for her when they arrived at the house and climbed into bed, pulling the quilt up to her chin and curling on her side. She fell into a deep sleep as soon as her eyes closed and was drawn into a dream.
She was back in the cottage again and had just started walking over to the man sitting by the fire, the man that she now knew was Mr. MacTavish. She placed a hand on his shoulder and suddenly felt a shock shoot up her arm, then travel all through her body. Mr. MacTavish looked up at her and she almost swooned at the lovely cerulean blue of his gorgeous eyes. She knelt down in front of him and took hold of his hand, warning him that what she was about to do would hurt. She asked if he trusted her and the cheeky bastard grinned at her and answered 'Aye, wi' my life, Sassenach.'
Normally she would be offended by such a remark but somehow Mr. MacTavish made the derogatory term sound endearing so instead of getting angry, she decided to flirt with him. She looked up into the beautiful pools of blue and smirked at him, 'Outlander am I, hmm. We'll see about that.'
He seemed shocked that she knew what the Gáidhlig word meant, but only for a second. It really was too bad that this man's name was Mr. MacTavish, it would have been to easy if this beautiful Adonis of a man had turned out to be her Jamie Fraser. She finished binding his arm after one of the other men begrudgingly gave up his belt and watched as the rest of the men walked outside. She wasn't to keen on staying in the company of these men that were so suspicious of her, but perhaps the friendly Mr. MacTavish would be of some help in finding her own Jamie.
She turned and looked at him, asking where they were going and he seemed to be lost in thought. He answered her and said they were likely going to Leoch and from the sound of it, he wasn't to keen on the idea either. So she suggested that they run away together. He didn't answer, just stood there grinning at her and his smile was so beautiful she couldn't help but grin back at him. Suddenly their moment was disturbed when Murtagh returned and told them it was time to go.
They mounted on his horse and Mr. MacTavish asked for her name so he wouldn't have to keep calling her sassenach. After she gave it to him, he whispered Sorcha, her name translated in the Gáidhlig. He seemed to like that she knew her name translated to light and offered up his name in return. When he said his name was Jamie she snapped her head around and gaped at him, she knew at that moment, that she had found her Jamie Fraser. She couldn't raise her voice above a whisper when she asked if he was James Alexander, Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser...
Before he had a chance to answer, she was woken up by her alarm. She woke up grinning, she had seen his beautiful face. He was so much younger than the painting at the museum, he looked so young and innocent. She crossed her fingers and prayed that she would be meeting her very own soulmate in less than 24 hours and now she knew who to search for.
It took hours for the rest of the men to drink enough whisky to either pass out or lose all sense of security regarding Jamie or Murtagh. But with Angus and Rupert out of the way and spending the entire night at the brothel with their complimentary whores, it was simple enough for Murtagh and Jamie to slip out of the inn unnoticed. They stealthily returned to the stables, quickly saddled the horses and led them away on foot to try and cut down the noise the horses would cause with a rider on their backs. Once they were far enough away, they mounted up and rode like the wind itself was chasing them all the way to Craigh Na Dun. In the wee hours of the morning, while it was still dark out, they found the little abandoned cottage, just where Murtagh said it would be. They dismounted and hobbled the horses, deciding it would be safe enough to leave them outside at least till first light.
The men figured that their tracks would be too difficult to follow in the middle of the night and nearly impossible after the other people in the village began milling about. With Dougal's men so far away in Inverness, they logically had no reason to believe they could be spotted but chose to forego a fire none the less. The two of them removed their bedrolls from their horses and spread them on opposites sides of the cottage on the cold dirt floor. As Jamie stretched out on his back to relax, he looked up and noticed that a section of the roof was missing, allowing him to stare up at the stars. The view of the heavens brought a sense of peace over him that Jamie didn't completely think was possible in their current situation. But at that moment, he felt that all was right in the world and he was right where he was meant to be.
He allowed the peace to soothe him into a deep sleep, and as he drifted off he hoped that his angel would come and visit him in his dreams again.
He was knelt down next to a stream filling his flask with water. Unfortunately, he had drained the last of the whisky from it not long after their escape from Inverness, so water from the stream would have to do, to quench his thirst until they reached Lallybroch. A startlingly loud clap of thunder drew his attention and he nearly dropped his flask in the stream. He stood up and looked around to make sure the horses hadn't been startled from the thunder and run off. But Murtagh was standing near them, rummaging in one of the saddlebags and neither Murtagh nor the horses seemed to notice the thunder.
Jamie shook his head, thinking that perhaps he had imagined the whole thing. He knelt back down next to the stream to finish filling his flask when a strong wind blew his curls into his face and he heard the thunder again. This time, however, the thunder seemed to be even closer and caused a strange tingling sensation to shoot through his body. He stood again, replaced the cork in his flask, and shoved it into his sporan. He looked at Murtagh and the horses again, but they still remained unfazed. As he was about to take a step in their direction, something up on the fairy hill caught his attention. He immediately turned and began walking toward the fairy hill, his feet seeming to carry him further up without him even thinking about it. It was as if the stones on top of the hill were drawing him closer, calling to him, the tingling in his body becoming stronger with each step.
The closer he got to the top of the hill the more violently the wind swirled and blew around him. He drew his sword, feeling like he must defend himself against an unknown and unseen threat. Something felt strange, but he couldn't quite decide why or what it was that caused that feeling. When he reached the top of the hill, he walked around each stone, which stood more than 10 feet tall. After circling one stone, he moved on toward the next, repeating the process until he had examined the area around each stone. The tingling sensation seemed to be drawing him toward the center stone, it was much taller than the others, standing at approximately 20 feet tall.
As he walked closer to the center stone, the tingling became almost unbearable as the wind whipped so violently that it almost knocked him off of his feet. He peered up at the stone and noticed a large crack down the center, slightly big enough to let a small woman or child pass through it. The crack of the stone and the strange weather gave off an almost ominous atmosphere about the place. If he hadn't been so mesmerized by the feeling in his body, he likely would have run far away from this place, never to return.
He reached up to touch the stone, his arms moving of their own accord when suddenly there was a bright flash of light right at the center of the tallest stone and another ear splitting roll of thunder. Jamie was thrown backward, landing flat on the ground on his back when the lightning struck and there was now a slight weight on his chest.
He laid still for a moment, trying to gather the strength to stand when the weight on his chest began to groan and move about. His eyes snapped open as he looked down at what was laying on his chest, realizing that it was a person that had knocked him back. Then he heard her voice, 'Oh, bloody Hell that was violent, why didn't anyone think to warn me about that.'
Jamie gasped, he recognized that voice, it was the voice of his angel. He quickly wrapped his arms around her before she could disappear, much to her objection. He leaned down and whispered against her curls, 'Tis alright Sassenach, I've got ye now. No one will harm ye as long as I'm wi' ye.'
Jamie woke with a start as Murtagh kicked the bottom of his booted foot, "Time to wake up lad, we need to get the horses inside before anyone sees them. I'll leave that to ye while I go find us some breakfast."
Jamie grumbled, "Aye, alright, ye dinna have to be so gruff about wakin' a man up. I'll get the horses, go on wi' ye then, go fetch us a rabbit or two."
Murtagh grunted then turned and left Jamie alone in the cottage. He sat up and thought back on his dream for a moment. This last one was strange, none of his other dreams had seemed so real, let alone had they taken place where he was currently located. He had a feeling that he needed to walk up to the top of the hill and take a look around in the daylight. He decided that he would head up just before sundown so as not to be seen by anyone who might be passing by and have a look around. Perhaps the fairies truly would gift him with something precious for his birthday tomorrow.
After bringing the horses into the cottage, and building a fire in the hearth. Jamie sat down on his bedroll and thought back to his childhood. He remembered that his father had become friends with an Englishman, that of course was strange enough. But the truly fascinating part of the whole thing was that the Englishman was married to a Scot and she was from a clan in the highlands who were not known for their love of the English.
The man had helped his father around the farm after his mother had died, suggesting that he plant potatoes every other season, to give the fields a bit of relief from constantly planting grain and drawing too much nutrition from the soil. His suggestions had proved valuable over the past few years since the English had placed levies on the farms. The lady, his wife, he remembered her name had been Julia, used to tell him and his sister stories of faraway lands and a beautiful curly haired lass that would help to save Scotland.
Jamie always loved the stories of the curly haired lass, but before long, Jenny no longer wanted to listen to them, so Julia would walk to the mill pond with Jamie and tell him more stories about the lass. She told him how the lass would have eyes the color of honey and skin like ivory. She would have the most beautiful singing voice and best of all, she would love Jamie more than anything in the world. Julie told Jamie that he would have to work very hard to become a big strong man because the lass would need his protection. She said the lass would be stubborn and set in her ways, but Jamie should welcome the challenge and not reprimand her for it. She told him that to have such a strong spirit was a rare thing and the lass, could love or hate fiercely and Jamie definitely would want her love.
Julie told him that the lass was faraway learning how to take care of him and mend his wounds because Jamie was a little boy that loved to get into trouble and that usually meant injury of some sort. Julia had told him that the curly haired lass would come to him on a very important day and she couldn't explain how, but somehow Jamie would know when that day had come. She said that he would need to protect the lass from the very first moment he met her and she would need his complete trust if he wanted her to be honest with him. For the lass had a fantastical tale to tell, but everything she would say would be the truth, no matter how mad it made her sound.
She said if Jamie could trust in everything she had to tell him about the curly haired lass, the two of them together would be a great team and would live a long happy life together with many bairns. A few days after Julia had told him the last bit, she and her English husband had gone away on a trip to Paris and had never returned.
Murtagh walked back into the cottage as Jamie was musing over his childhood acquaintances and sat down across from him with a strange smirk on his face, "What are ye thinkin' about lad? I have no' seen that look on yer face in a long while. Not since ye were a lad at least."
Jamie shook his head, "Do ye remember that strange couple that stayed at Lallybroch just after mam died?"
Murtagh furrowed his brow and stroked his scruffy beard, "Aye, ye mean the Englishman who had a Scottish wife?"
Jamie looked at him thoughtfully, "Aye, tis who I mean."
Murtagh leaned forward to get a better look at Jamie's face, "What about them?"
Jamie made a noise in his throat and made up his mind about mentioning the memories to Murtagh, he had never repeated what Julia had said about the lass to anyone before and he worried that Murtagh would think him mad for believing in a fairy story. "The lady, Julie, she used to tell me stories of a curly haired lass. She said I would meet the lass one day and that she would be my wife."
Murtagh scoffed as he turned his attention to placing the rabbits on spits to roast over the fire Jamie had built. "Dinna tell me ye believed her, she was just makin' up stories to comfort ye after yer mam died, lad."
Jamie shook his head, "I dinna think they were just stories, Murtagh."
Murtagh looked up at Jamie, the serious tone in his voice making him stop and pay attention to the lad, "Why ever no'?"
Jamie sighed and murmured, "Because, I dream about the lass, I have almost every night since Julia and Henry left."
Murtagh furrowed his brow but kept his attention on Jamie, "That is just yer mind keepin' the story alive, it doesna mean tis true."
Jamie leaned forward to make sure he had Murtagh's full attention, "That may be true if I had only dreamed of the lass as a wee bairn, but she has aged in my dreams just as I have in life. Lately, I dream of her as a beautiful strong willed woman with a mouth like a sailor. I've had dreams these last few nights that she is coming to me, I think I may have a bit of the sight, at least about her. I truly believe she is comin' to me, Murtagh. I believe she is coming through the fairy stones and I think it is to happen tonight."
Claire climbed out of bed and dressed eagerly in the only modern clothing she had brought with her, a bit loose from the days of wear. Then she strode out into the hallway and toward the smells of eggs and bacon cooking in the kitchen with determination and joy in each step. Mrs. Graham couldn't help but notice the look of delight that Claire wore on her face as she sat down at the table and rested her chin in her hands. "Appears as though ye have come to terms wi' yer destiny, there lass, I take it ye had a good night's rest."
Claire hummed with happiness, her cheeks pinking a bit, "Yes, I must say that I am rather excited about tonight. I wish the hours would go by faster so I can finally hold him in my arms."
Mrs. Graham chuckled as she turned her attention back to the sizzling bacon on the stove, "Did ye happen to see yer lad's face in yer dreams last night, then?"
Claire giggled like a schoolgirl, "Oh, yes and I must say that he is quite breathtaking, a God of a man if I am to be honest with myself. He has the most striking blue eyes, like none I have seen before, filled with such mirth and playfulness. I am excited to get to know him, not just his name or what he looks like but the true person behind the stories. Just from speaking with him in my dreams, he seems to be a very interesting person, indeed. I didn't think it was possible, but I think I might already be in love with him, does that sound completely crazy to you?"
Mrs. Graham turned off the stove and turned around to look at her appraisingly, "No, lass, not in the slightest, ye two are soul mates and are destined to be together. I believe from my own experience that love, at first sight, does in fact exist."
Claire sighed, "But that's just it, I haven't actually seen him yet, only dreamed about him. So how can I truly be in love with him and not just the idea of him? It is all just so confounding to me that I'm having a hard time believing my own heart and mind. I suppose I will know soon enough, I have just over 12 hours before I make the jump to the rest of my life."
Mrs. Graham took some plates down from the cabinet, dished eggs and bacon onto two plates, and brought them over to the table, "Aye, ye will soon find out, but dinna disregard what yer heart is trying to tell ye. I have learned myself that the heart is rarely wrong."
Claire picked up her fork, stabbed a piece of scrambled egg, and brought it halfway to her mouth before mumbling, "Yes, I suppose you are right. I ignored what my heart was telling me when Frank proposed and then again when it was screaming at me not to go through with it when we were married. I guess it is about time that I started listening to my heart and following the sage advice that it has been trying to give me all these years."
"I guess now I am happy when I listened to my heart about sleeping with Frank before he left for intelligence training. Do you know that we had been married a week when he got the order and my excuse for not losing my virginity to him was that I didn't want to be stuck pregnant and alone? He actually agreed with that logic, which it turns out was for my benefit in the long run. Now when I am with Jamie, I won't be comparing it to anyone else."
"God, the thought of doing that frightens me as well, I don't know how to be with a man. What if I'm not any good at it, what if I'm awful and he doesn't want to do it again after the first time. I don't know if I could live with myself if he were to reject me."
Mrs. Graham reached across the table and placed her hand over the fist that Claire had laid next to her plate, "Yer an intelligent lass, ye ken the way of things from yer studies at University. If not in practice, ye ken in yer mind how to please a man and how he can please ye. Ye must be honest wi' yer self and wi' him to make this work. Dinna be afraid to ask for what ye want or to ask him for what he wants. The best advice that I can offer ye is to always communicate honestly wi' one another. Without communication, there can be no trust and without trust, there can be no love and without love, marriage is just an obligation. Ye dinna want to travel 200 years into the past for something as mundane as an obligation. Ye can find that in this century wi' any bloke walking down the street."
Claire sighed, "Yes, I know you are right, that is something I will have to work on. The only person I ever trusted with my whole heart and mind was Uncle Lamb, and well now you, I suppose. If Jamie and I are truly meant to find and complete each other, perhaps it won't be as monumental of a task as I am making it out to be. I just have to remind myself to trust in my heart and to trust in him. God, is it natural to be this nervous when faced with meeting the love of your life for the first time?"
Mrs. Graham chuckled, "I dinna ken lass, I didna ken who my first love would be beforehand. Ye have a rare gift before ye, ye already ken the lad's name, what he looks like and what ye are meant to be to one another. I suppose it must be a bit overwhelming to be sure. But wi' that knowledge should come a bit of peace, ye dinna have to constantly question where the relationship will lead or if one of ye will make a mistake will that be the end of it. Ye already ken from our research, what yer life will be like, tis now up to ye to make yer own choices on the matter and follow what history has dictated for ye or blaze a new path. But regardless of what decisions ye eventually do make, the choice will be yers."
Claire looked at Mrs. Graham with admiration, "Thank you Mrs. Graham, you have no idea the calming effect your words have had on me. I think after I finish breakfast I might take a walk. I need to clear these traitorous thoughts from my head and recenter myself to listen to my heart again. I don't want to put blame on Frank, but he always had me second guessing myself, with my choice in clothing to what words I would let leave my mouth without thinking. I basically had to tuck my true self away in a little box in my head to please him, it's time I let myself out again and take control of who I am without trying to please anyone else."
Mrs. Graham nodded in agreement, "I noticed that when the two of ye would visit the manse and it always made me sad to think of how much he was suffocating the light out of ye. I am glad to see that light shining brightly again. I think a walk is just what ye need to find yer self, the woods at the back of the property will afford ye some privacy and peace to be yer self once more."
Claire furrowed her brow, "Mrs. Graham, what do you mean to see my light shine again, did we meet before I came to the manse with Frank?"
Mrs. Graham smiled brightly, "Aye, lass. I kent ye as a wee lass, ye were about 7 years old when Quentin brought he to Scotland to visit me. He had done a bit more research into yer destiny by that time and he kent that I kent of the stories of the standing stones from our time at University together. He said that my knowledge about them would be invaluable to ye and it would be best coming from me instead of second hand from him. Ye were such a sweet intelligent child and I was honored to be a part of yer life, even if for such a short time."
Claire looked at her apologetically, "I wish I could remember you from back then, I'm so sorry that I didn't recognize you when I returned with Frank."
Mrs. Graham patted her hand in a motherly fashion, "Dinna fash about that lass, it had been 14 years since we had seen each other and we only kent each other for a week when ye were 7, I didna take any offense to it. Though I was shocked to see that ye had married Frank not a month before that. But I am glad ye have come to yer senses now and let that wretch of a man fall to the wayside."
Claire rolled her eyes, "Well, I'm not so sure it was coming to my senses as being forced to see what was right in front of me. His mistress wrote me a letter, she said she was pregnant with his child and Frank would be divorcing me or asking for an annulment since we never consummated the marriage. I always had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that he was doing something like that, but I never let myself believe it. I don't know if it was naivety or blind trust, but it took reading that letter to bring my heart and mind to an agreement with one another and chase the destiny I had always known was before me."
Mrs. Graham smiled, "Well, whatever the reason, tis a good thing it led ye here, now dinna let those eggs get cold. Eat yer breakfast then go for that walk, ye will be wanting to take a nap when ye return, ye have a long night ahead of ye."
Claire grinned sheepishly, realizing she was still holding the first fork full of eggs in the air halfway to her mouth, "Yes ma'am."
Mrs. Graham cleared her already clean plate from the table, took it to the sink, and left Claire alone in the kitchen to tend to her garden at the back of the house.
Claire finished her breakfast in silence, her mind drifting to what her first meeting with Jamie would be like. She mechanically took care of her plate, returned to her room and slipped on her shoes, then made her way outside. She waved at Mrs. Graham as she walked past her and toward the edge of the forest. She had quite a lot to think about as she walked and cleared her mind of all the burdens she had carried with her for so long.
She thought about the divorce papers that Frank was supposedly sending to her and chuckled quietly, he would certainly be shocked when they were returned and marked as undeliverable because she had suddenly gone missing. She thought about the letter that Lorelie had written her, that she had abandoned on the pillow of her cot. She had gone straight to her captain's quarters to request 2 weeks of leave due to a family emergency and had not returned to her cot before leaving. She vaguely wondered if one of her fellow nurses had noticed the letter and come to the conclusion that she had gone to see Frank in London and confront him.
She shook her head, realizing belatedly that she had inadvertently left Frank in quite a bit of hot water. He would likely be suspected of her sudden disappearance when she didn't return from leave. He also wouldn't be able to marry his precious Lorelie without her signature on the divorce papers. She wondered if he would be accused of murdering her, without a body present, it was unlikely. Well, it was too late to think about all of those things now. She didn't have the time, the fortitude, or the wherewithal to even consider what would happen to Frank or his feelings toward her for leaving him in such a predicament. He had created this mess after all, so why should she be the one left to clean up after him yet again. It was time that she reminded herself that she was not responsible for Frank's actions or feelings.
It was time that she move on with her own life, putting her wellbeing and feelings ahead of all others. It was time to chase her destiny and welcome into her life the only man that had truly ever mattered to her. It was time to push the contended thought of Frank from her heart and give her whole heart over to the care of James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, her future husband, her future everything.
She finally returned to Mrs. Graham's cottage a little after the noon hour and found a letter on the kitchen table.
Claire, there are some sandwiches in the refrigerator, help yourself. I had to go to the manse to take care of my daily chores for the reverend. I will return this evening and we will finish preparing your bags for your journey. After you eat, lie down, and get a few hours of rest, remember it is going to be a very long night and you will be grateful for the rest once we reach the stones.
Claire smiled to herself, set the letter down, opened the refrigerator, and pulled out two ham and swiss sandwiches on pumpernickel bread, her favorite. She brewed a pot of tea and sat down at the table to enjoy her lunch, feeling lighter after her walk in the forest than she had in a very long time. She finished her lunch, relishing every bite, making sure to memorize the flavors. She was almost certain she would never again taste this combination of flavors and was happy to indulge this one last time.
She cleaned up the mess from her lunch, quickly and thoroughly washing the dishes and returning them to their rightful place in the cabinets. Then she strolled down the hallway, eager to return to her dreams and hoping to talk to Jamie a bit more, to hear that lovely burr of his deep voice until she could hear it for real.
She removed her shoes and clothes, wearing only her undergarments to bed, not wanting to dirty the bed linens anymore than necessary with her three day old clothes and climbed into bed. It was a bit warm so she laid down on top of the quilt, not bothering to pull it back and cocoon herself in the sweltering heat. She laid back, hands clasped over her abdomen, and stared up at the ceiling willing sleep to take her. Her mind didn't seem to want to shut off, so she resorted to counting sheep, which also proved to be fruitless. She turned and looked at the clock on the bedside table and realized she had been lying there for an hour unable to rest.
She decided that perhaps a hot shower would relax her enough to rest and got up to make her way to the attached bathroom. She turned the water on, to an almost scalding temperature, tied her hair up in a high bun to keep it out of the water, and removed her undergarments. She stepped into the shower and allowed the water to wash over her body, erasing the rest of the 20th century from her skin and mind. After 10 minutes of standing in the water, her body felt relaxed enough to try and sleep again. She shut off the water, pulled the curtain back, stepped out of the shower, and wrapped a big white fluffy towel around her body.
She crawled into bed, still wrapped in the fuzzy towel, not even worrying about putting her bra and panties back on, laid her head on the soft goose down filled pillow, and curled on her side. She was asleep in minutes as a new dream enveloped her.
Mrs. Graham turned off the main road onto a dirt road, Claire recognized it from the visit she and Uncle Lamb had made when she was a child. The narrow road led to the fairy hill called Craigh Na Dun. They drove to the base of the hill, Claire pressing her nose to the glass, trying to get a peek at the stones that unfortunately remained hidden from her vantage point. Mrs. Graham stopped the car, placed it in park, and cut the engine. Both women climbed out of the car, looked around to make sure nobody was around to see what they were about to do, and slowly began climbing the hill.
Claire could feel the anticipation bubbling up in her chest, it was almost enough to make her vomit, but she retained control of her bodily functions and pressed on, marching further up the hill. At about halfway up, the tops of the stones became visible and she sucked in a breath with the realization of what she was about to do. She didn't realize that her steps had faltered until she felt Mrs. Graham's hand on her elbow and heard her asking if she was alright and if she wanted to continue.
Claire nodded and pressed on, marching more purposefully up the hill, climbing ever closer to the summit, to her destiny. After a few minutes more she found herself at the top of the hill, staring up at the cleft in the center stone, gasping for breath. Her lungs felt constricted as she attempted to take in oxygen, she quickly realized that she was hyperventilating and sank to her knees, resting her head on the ground in front of her, to try and calm herself.
After a few moments of deep breaths and Mrs. Graham stroking her back reassuringly, Claire sat up and carefully raised to her feet. She turned and asked Mrs. Graham what time it was and was relieved when she said it was 2 minutes to midnight. She gathered her thoughts, mentally went over the list of things she was bringing with her, and decided she was as prepared as one could be for such an undertaking. She gave her friend a long hug goodbye, released her, turned, and faced the stone, raising her hands in front of her and stepped forward.
As her hands came into contact with the stones, everything went dark, darker than the night had been. There was no light, no shadows, no sounds, no wind, just simply nothing. Then suddenly she felt something moving beneath her and heard a deep groan. Her eyes popped open, searching the darkness for something tangible to land on, she heard herself complain about the trip through the stones then something forcefully wrapped around her shoulders and tightened.
Then she heard his beautiful velvety voice, 'Tis alright Sassenach, I've got ye now. No one will harm ye as long as I'm wi' ye.' and she melted against him, no longer feeling the urge to fight.
She sighed in contentment and whispered, 'I am finally home, thank God, I have found you.'
She laid her head comfortably against his strong chest and felt him press a kiss to the top of her head before he murmured, 'And I, ye mo nighean donn.'
She woke with a start, sitting up abruptly, eyes wide, trying to remember every detail of the dream. This one had been so different from the last, they were no longer in the cottage with the other men but just the two of them were right there on the fairy hill. This dream felt more tangible than any of the others and it gave her renewed hope that she would encounter Jamie within moments of traveling through the stones. All of her fears of having to search for him dissipated and were replaced with hope that this dream would come true.
She heard Mrs. Graham moving about in the kitchen, likely preparing dinner. She scrambled out of bed, anxious to share her latest dream with her friend. She pulled her 18th century dress, corset, shift, stockings, and stomacher out of her suitcase and carefully put everything on like she had practiced countless times when she was much younger. She pulled the hair back from her temples and pinned it at the back of her head, leaving the rest hanging loose past her shoulder blades. She looked in the full length mirror, finally recognizing the woman that peered back at her and smiled to herself. This is who she was meant to be, what she was meant to look like.
She left the room and went to join her friend in the kitchen. As she entered Mrs. Graham gasped and covered her mouth, tears threatening to spill from her gray eyes, "Och, my dear, ye look wonderful, like ye have been plucked right from the pages of the history books. Yer mam would be so proud, ye ken those were her dresses that she brought wi' her when she first traveled through the stones from her time, and they fit ye like a glove.
Claire blushed and looked down at herself, just now coming to the conclusion that her mother had not been from the 20th century, but from a time she was about to travel to. Had she been born in the time she was meant to, she would have been wearing dresses like this her whole life, it was no wonder she felt so comfortable in them. She carefully sat down at the table, quickly learning how to sit in all of the layers. It was a bit difficult to maneuver the dress at first, but she quickly got the hang of it.
They ate dinner, chatting about Claire's latest dream and this and that, but never touching on anything too serious. All the pertinent conversation had already been discussed, this chat was only meant to relax and enjoy each other's company one last time before they were separated by centuries.
When they were finished with their late dinner, they packed all of the food stuffs in a second leather satchel that Claire would carry with her. After Claire's last dream, she wasn't entirely sure that she would need all of it, but then again, she didn't know what provisions Jamie would have with him. He also might not be expecting her, so having her own supply of food would never be seen as a bad thing.
They packed everything in the car and headed toward Craigh Na Dun at a quarter after 11:00 pm. The anticipation causing butterflies to erupt in Claire's stomach as they got closer to the hill. She recognized the dirt road from her dream and knowing she couldn't see the stones, resisted the urge to press her face to the window. Claire would have barreled out of the car before it came to a complete stop if it hadn't been for Mrs. Graham's grip on her arm. "Slow down, lass, ye have half an hour before ye can travel, no need to hurry."
Claire huffed, she was through with waiting, she just wanted to be held tight, safe in Jamie's arms on the other side of that rock. She leaned back in her seat, impatiently waiting for the car to roll to a stop and for Mrs. Graham to cut the engine. After the car had been turned off, she sat for a minute to calm herself, it would do no good to travel through the stones all worked up. It would be especially disappointing if she went through and Jamie was not waiting there for her with open arms. She reminded herself to calm down and realize that the dream may not mean anything and reality could be anything, least of all what she was expecting it to be.
When she finally felt her heart start to slow, she climbed out of the car and joined Mrs. Graham at the back of the car to retrieve all of her worldly possessions. When she had both bags slung across her body, they began the careful trek up the hill. They climbed cautiously, being mindful of their limited visibility and the possibility of obstacles along the way. They reached the summit with 15 minutes to spare and Mrs. Graham took the time to remind Claire to trust in her heart and hold nothing back. After they both cried tears of joy and loss, they wiped their eyes and prepared to say their final goodbyes.
They hugged tightly holding onto one another for a few minutes before Mrs. Graham pulled back, stroked Claire's hair, and told her it was time to go. Claire kissed her friend on the cheek, squeezed her shoulders, and told her that she loved her and would never forget her. Then she turned toward the stones, raising her hands, she took the two steps toward them and let the buzzing, screaming, blackness envelope her as her hands came into contact with the cold granite slab.
Jamie and Murtagh stayed in the cottage all through the day to avoid being spotted, only going out to relieve themselves and take the horses for a short walk. But as soon as the sun sank beyond the horizon, Jamie climbed carefully to the summit of the fairy hill, there was no moon to light the way, so the climb was slow going as he was not familiar enough with the hill to know where obstacles would lay in his path. He practically had to crawl on hands and feet up the hill, feeling his way all the way up. As he reached the summit, his hand came into contact with one of the large granite stones that created the outer circle of standing stones at Craigh Na Dun. The unobstructed stars overhead cast a bit more light on top of the hill then in the forest below, softly lighting the fairy stones and the grass below them.
Jamie was determined to stay there the whole night on top of that hill if need be. He could feel the certainty of Claire's imminent arrival in his bones and he wasn't about to let the night pass without finding out for sure if the stones would deliver his angel to him or if Murtagh was right and it was all just wishful thinking.
He climbed onto a bent tree trunk, leaned back, crossed his arms over his chest, and positioned himself with the best view of the cleft in the center stone. He wanted to make sure that if Claire came through the stones at any moment during the night, he would know immediately. He leaned his head back against the trunk of the tree and decided that he could afford to rest his weary eyes for a bit while the darkness of night descended and replaced the light of the sun.
He only had his eyes closed for a moment when a loud sound like the clap of thunder and a strange wind woke him from his rest. He looked around, taking a moment to familiarize himself with his surroundings in the dim light of the stars above. He sat up and climbed down off of the tree, then silently walked around the circle and searching for any disturbances in the earth. He looked down off the hill toward where the horses should be, where he and Murtagh had hobbled them at dusk, just before Jamie had left the safety of the cottage to climb the fairy hill. The horses stood motionless, completely undisturbed by the sound that had so abruptly awoken Jamie.
He shook his head and thought perhaps the sound had only been a dream. He walked back over to the tree with the bent trunk and began to climb up and reclaim his position when, for some strange reason, he had an urge to move closer to the tall stone in the center. He looked around and contemplated staying laid back on the tree and ignoring the nagging feeling, but in the end, he followed his instincts and walked closer to the tallest stone. The wind had picked up and began to swirl violently, but still, Jamie was drawn to the giant monolith.
But first, he walked around each of the outer stones, assessing them for any possible dangers, sword drawn, not quite sure what he expected to find. When he had made a full circle around the last stone, he looked up toward the center stone with the cleft splitting down the middle. The stone looked ominous and the cleft made it appear as if it had been struck by lighting. Jamie again felt a pull toward the tallest stone and slowly began to walk towards it when suddenly there was a bright flash of light and another ear splitting roll of thunder. Jamie was thrown backward and knocked out when the lightning struck, after a moment he came to and noticed that there was a slight weight lying on his chest.
He laid still for a moment, trying to gather the strength to stand when the weight on his chest began to groan and move about. His eyes snapped open as he looked down at the weight on his chest, realizing that it was a person that had knocked him back. Then he heard her voice, 'Oh, bloody Hell that was violent, why didn't anyone think to warn me about that. It wasn't at all like that in my dream.'
Jamie gasped, he recognized that voice, it was the voice of his angel. He quickly wrapped his arms around her before she could disappear, and to his surprise, she didn't fight him, but melted against him, nuzzling her face into his chest. He leaned down and whispered against her curls, 'Tis alright Sassenach, I've got ye now. No one will harm ye as long as I'm wi' ye.'
Claire looked up toward the sound of his voice, not being able to make out his features in the near pitch black of the night and whispered, "Jamie, is that you?"
Jamie chuckled as his hand lazily rubbed circles over her back, "Aye, lass, tis me, have ye been searching for me, then?"
Claire blushed and ducked her face, though she didn't know why, it was much too dark for him to see her reaction to his words, "Well, yes actually I have been searching for you and it appears as though I have now found you with very little effort."
Claire struggled against his hold, "Jamie, let go so I can sit up. I can't move while you are squeezing me so tight and you shouldn't remain on that cold wet ground any longer."
Jamie reluctantly released her from his grasp and allowed her to roll off of his chest. She sat in the damp grass next to him, peering down in the direction of his face, but still unable to make out anything but a shadow in the relative shape of a man. He pushed himself up so that he was sitting next to her and reached out to take both of her hands in his. Jamie was used to the degree of darkness that the night offered and could clearly see her face under the light of the stars. He leaned toward her, lowering his voice so that even if there were other people around, she would be the only one who could hear him, "I have been waiting for ye mo ghráidh, for a verra long time."
She giggled, "Oh, Jamie how can you already be calling me your love when we met only moments ago."
He sat up straighter, tipped his head down bashfully, and rubbed small circles into the back of her hands, "I have been in love wi' ye for so long mo ghráidh, that it just feels natural to say it to ye. And I guess that I should have remembered that ye understand the Gáidhling perfectly well before uttering such foolishness."
She reached out, hoping her hand would land on it's intended mark, then released a breath when it touched the high point of his cheek. She gently stroked his face, mesmerized by the slight stubble that grew there and tickled the skin of her palm, "It's not foolish, Jamie, a bit premature in our relationship perhaps, but never foolish."
Jamie instinctively leaned his face into her soft touch and closed his eyes to absorb the moment, a soft moan escaped his lips at her tender touch. Jamie opened his eyes and stared longingly straight into hers, "I have longed to kiss ye for so long mo chridhe, May I?"
"Yes," the word breathlessly escaped her eager lips.
He cupped her face, leaned forward, and tentatively pressed his lips to hers, allowing his tongue to dart out and taste her lips. She tasted of a sweet summer rain and lamb stew. He pressed his tongue gently until her lips parted, allowing him entry. Their tongues danced effortlessly together, shy at first but becoming a bit more bold as the seconds passed. They pulled away, panting with a need for oxygen. Jamie pressed his forehead to hers, "Tis no' enough Sassenach, I need to see ye. Will ye come down to the cottage wi' me, so we can see each other properly?"
She quickly nodded, then after a second realized that he likely couldn't see her any better than she could see him, "Yes, of course, I will follow you anywhere James Fraser."
Jamie released his hold on her hands so he could rise to his feet, then he leaned down and recaptured her tiny hands in his, bringing her to stand up with him. He leaned close to her ear to whisper his instructions, "Be mindful, lass. There are fallen limbs, roots, and rocks about that ye could trip over and harm yer self on. I can carry ye, but I would just as soon that we both make it down the hill in one piece."
She smiled, "Lead the way, soldier, I can't see a bloody thing so I am putting blind trust in you and your abilities."
Jamie squeezed her hand in reassurance and carefully led the way down the hill, deftly avoiding any obstacles that could cause havoc.
They arrived at the cottage door a few minutes later, but before Jamie opened the door to allow her to enter, he pulled her tight to his chest and placed a soft kiss at the crown of her head, "I am so grateful that ye have finally come to me lass, I have waited my whole life to hold ye in my arms like I now am."
Claire smiled against his chest as her arms laced around his waist and held him impossibly closer, "There is nowhere else that I would rather be my love. Now open that door and take me inside so I can get a better look at my future husband."
Jamie's brows rose at her last declaration, the lass certainly was bold and never held back what she was thinking. "Husband am I, that's awfully presumptuous of ye, is it no', Sassenach?"
Claire giggled, "Aye, I suppose it is, but then again I have dreamed it for so long that it just feels natural, don't tell me you haven't dreamed the same thing."
Jamie grinned into her curls and murmured, "Aye, I have, many times and I canna wait to make it so. Come, let me introduce ye to my godfather."
Claire pulled back and peered up in the direction of his face, "You mean to tell me that Murtagh is in there?"
Jamie looked down at her with obvious confusion written on his face, but her expression was filled with apprehension, "Aye, he is. How do ye ken his name, lass?"
Claire swallowed audibly, "Are the other men in there as well? I don't really trust everyone else, quite yet."
Jamie shook his head, "Nah, tis only me and Murtagh, we left the others behind in Inverness the night before last. They willna ken where we are and so long as we are careful, we can keep it that way. But I would like for ye to answer my question."
Claire relaxed her shoulders and sighed in relief, "Good, I am not ready to face the formidable Dougal MacKenzie, just yet. As for your question, the simple answer is that I have dreamed of them. I dreamed I met you after Murtagh founding me being attacked by Black Jack Randall himself. I'm glad that I'm not related to that worthless piece of flesh."
Jamie chuckled as he moved a stray curl to tuck it behind her ear, "I dinna ken about Dougal being formidable, and Randall is a despicable man for certain. But I'm grateful that is no' how we met and that I was here on this side to catch ye."
Jamie released her from his embrace and took a step forward to push open the door. The cottage was dark inside except for a slight glow from the dying fire in the hearth. A soft snore came from the far wall and Claire deduced that Murtagh must have fallen asleep already. She turned and stretched up as far as she could toward Jamie's ear, "Perhaps the introductions can wait until morning, but I must ask, where are we going to sleep?"
Jamie gazed down at her in amazement, "Yer a bold one, are ye no'? I suppose since ye dinna have a bedroll that ye must sleep next to me on mine. Tis next to the wall on this side of the hearth. We best make sure to wake in the morning before Murtagh or we are likely to give him an apoplexy in the morn if he finds us sleeping together."
Claire rolled her eyes, "There is nothing wrong with sleeping next to each other, we can share body heat and keep each other warm. Besides, it's not as if something more is going to happen with Murtagh less than 10 feet away."
Jamie made a gruff sound in his throat, "Aye, I suppose ye are right about that. Fine, I'll lay down first then ye can tuck in beside me. I'll cover us both over wi' my plaid to keep out the cold."
Jamie moved away from her, toward the location where he had indicated his bedroll would be and lowered himself to lie on the ground. She stood stock still in the doorway watching as Jamie made himself at home in the little abandoned cottage. Finally, after staring at him for a few moments, his voice full of teasing, broke in to disrupt her thoughts, "Are ye gonna come and lay down then, or are ye gonna stand there all night and stare at me?"
She shook her head as if to dispel the thoughts from her mind, "Oh, yes of course. I forgot what I was doing for a moment there."
Jamie pointed at her two satchels, "Ye can set those next to the door, no one will mess wi' them."
Claire did as instructed then silently strode over and lowered herself onto the bedroll next to Jamie who had laid back, his arm raised and folded under his head. She laid her head in the crook of his raised arm and chest, fitting just right.
She tipped her head up, and thinking Jamie was already asleep, whispered against his clavicle, "I love you too, Jamie. Goodnight my love."
She startled when Jamie dropped his arm away from his head, wrapped it tight around her waist and pulled her closer, "I love ye too mo ghráidh, hush now and get some rest. I've got ye, no one will harm ye while I'm here."
Neither one of them got much sleep, both to overcome with excitement and a lifetime of longing finally coming to fruition. Every little movement or adjustment of a sleeping limb from either of them would cause the other to rise to consciousness. After a while, they both laid there, awake, listening to Murtagh's soft snore and the sounds of nature outside of the cottage. Jamie's hands, mindlessly stroked up and down Claire's rib cage as she drew patterns over his chest with her index finger. Both of them had been stuck in their own minds as thoughts and questions raced through their heads.
Jamie was the first to break the silence, "What it is between us, when I touch ye or hold ye in my arms ...
Claire lifted her head to gaze up at his face, barely illuminated from the dying embers, but enough that she could make out his smile and finished the sentence for him, "It's unusual, not many people find this. I know that it's something rather special, we had a bond across time and now that we are together ...
Jamie grinned and pulled her tighter to his side as her hand rested over his heart, "Tis stronger than anything I have ever kent, like a tether, drawing us toward one another. Our souls werena complete until ye came through the stones to me."
Claire grinned and buried her face in his chest, "Yes exactly."
Jamie's hand resumed the gentle massage over her ribs as he stared up through the hole in the roof at the stars in the night sky and contemplated all that had happened in the past few hours, "Will ye tell me where it is ye come from?"
Claire looked up at his face, and tried to play coy "What do you mean?"
Jamie made a distinct sound in his throat, "I ken the stories of the fairy stones, though I dinna believe ye to be a fairy, I do think that ye came from another time. In my dreams of ye, the people dress differently than they do here or rather now I suppose. I have seen women wearing trousers, dressing as men do now. I have dreamed of ye working to heal the sick and injured, healing men so mangled it makes my wame twist. I have dreamed of things of which I canna even begin to describe for fear that I might sound like a mad man. Will ye tell me about yer time, then?"
Claire remained quiet for a moment, trying to decide how much to tell him, and all the while Jamie waited patiently for her response, he could tell that she needed a moment to find the right words.
Claire thought of what Mrs. Graham had told her, she had said that in order for their marriage to work they needed trust. With that thought foremost in her mind, she decided to throw caution to the wind and tell him everything, allowing him to stop her if he became too overwhelmed.
She pulled her arm under her so her weight rested on her elbow and so she could raise up a bit and rest her head on her hand. She looked down at his eager face and grinned, "Well, it is going to sound fantastical for sure, but since you asked, I will tell you. Stop me if it gets to be too much or if you have a question about something. I will try and answer to the best of my abilities. Will that work for you?"
Jamie turned on his side and pulled his arm under him to rise up and face her head on, "Aye, that sounds like a good plan to me, there isna a need for secrets or lies between us, but I willna ask ye more than ye are ready to tell me, can ye agree to that?"
She smiled and leaned forward to place a kiss on the tip of his nose, "Yes, I can agree to that, though there is nothing that I need to keep hidden away, I will tell you anything you wish to know."
Jamie nodded as a silent acknowledgment and waited for her to continue.
She took a breath and settled in to begin her story, like most Scots, she could tell a story for hours, but she would try and stick to the important facts and leave room for him to ask questions when he was curious about something.
"I'm going to start at the beginning, without it, not everything that I have to tell you will make sense. If I get to long winded, feel free to stop me."
Jamie grinned, "Aye, I'll stop ye if yer mind begins to wander."
She rolled her eyes, "Alright, here it goes. I was born in the year 1918 and when I was a little girl, about 5 years old, my parents went on a trip and left me in the care of my uncle Lamb. I wasn't aware where they had gone at the time, but eventually, I learned the truth about it and that their trip was all about what my future was destined to be."
"My mother's name was Julia and my father's name was Henry and they traveled through the stones to another time, just like you saw me do tonight."
Jamie's eyes grew wide, "I kent them a long time ago when I was a wee bairn. Julia told me the stories of the curly haired sassenach that was meant just for me."
Claire grinned, "Yes, they went back in time to find the man who was meant to be my soulmate. They left a record of when they had traveled to, along with the name of the man I was meant to marry."
Jamie whispered as his hand came up to rest over his own heart, "That man is me."
She placed her hand over his, "Yes, Jamie that man is you, are you going to let me tell my story or would you like to take over?"
He clamped his gaping mouth shut so she would continue.
She giggled at his childlike response, "Anyway, my uncle found the record of their adventures and began telling me the story of a Scottish prince who lived at a place called Broch Tuarach. He told me that the prince looked just like his mum, with her curly red hair and sapphire eyes. He told me how my prince was waiting for me to come and save him. When I was younger I thought it was just a pretty fairytale to help me come to terms with my parent's disappearance. I will tell you about my parents later, I'm already getting distracted. Anyway, I began having dreams not long after they left. I would dream of red curls and kind eyes, but I could never see your face. I would dream of a little red haired boy running through fields of heather, climbing trees and swimming in lochs."
"I grew up in the care of my uncle who was a nomad, we traveled the world in search of historical artifacts, and he taught me how to live rough. He said I was learning lessons that would help me to take care of my future husband, to take care of you. But by the time I was 17 I had decided that the stories he told me about you, were only stories, something to dream about, but nothing that could ever truly happen to me. So when I was 18, I attended university to learn about Scottish history, herbs, and healing, all of the things that uncle Lamb said would be important to me one day. I met a man who was kind to me and made me promises. Eventually, he asked me to marry him and I accepted, out of a fear of being alone for the rest of my life. I liked the feeling of being wanted and desired."
Jamie bristled and his lips pressed into a tight line, but he didn't say a word.
Claire swallowed the lump in her throat. "I married him almost a year ago after I graduated from university. But he had joined the army, the intelligence division, where no one could know of his whereabouts, least of all a wife. I was going to be left all alone, so I refused to have sex with him. I didn't want to end up pregnant and alone. He shipped off to his post a week after we wed and I decided to join the army as well, but I wanted to learn more about healing, I felt as though it was what I was born to do. So I became a combat nurse, that would explain the dreams you had about me healing mangled men. There was a war in my time, one like you couldn't even imagine. So many men lost their lives, they were still losing their lives when I decided to come here. And it was for nothing more than another tyrant trying to take more than what he deserved."
"Sorry, I seem to keep getting distracted. Back to what I was saying before. I haven't seen Frank since that day he shipped out to London and I received only a few letters from him over that time. I hadn't thought of him in so long that it felt strange to call myself someone's wife. Then a few weeks ago I received a letter, it was from a woman. She turned out to be his mistress, he had been having sex with her since he first arrived in London and she was pregnant with his child. That letter is what caused me to come and find you, to realize I had been trying to fill a void in my heart and soul with someone who simply did not fit. I decided that it was time to follow the destiny that my uncle had told me so much about. I figured it would turn out one of two ways, either I would find out that my uncle had made everything up to soothe the wounded heart of an orphan or that everything he had told me was true and I would find the love of my life, but only if I was ready to let my head listen to what my heart already knew."
"After I read through the letter that Frank's mistress sent me, I decided to come straight to you. But I had to first stop in Oxford at my uncles house. Over the years, my uncle had gathered knowledge and items I would need to make my journey to you. He had always said that I would find you when I was 22 and now I realize that I have been following my destiny all along. Frank might have derailed me for a time, but I found my way back to you right when I was supposed to."
Jamie's face was unreadable, which caused Claire to worry that she had revealed too much to soon, "Are you alright, Jamie, talk to me, please tell me what's wrong."
Jamie had been staring at her, but he was not seeing her, his mind was in the future, thinking of her married to another man, lying with another man and it made him angry. He brought his focus back to her and tried to keep his voice calm, but the words came out in a low growl, "Are ye a maiden no more then?"
Claire's eyes got wide, that was not what she had expected him to focus on from everything she had revealed. She looked at him, studied his face, and realized that he was barely holding his anger in check, and still waiting for an answer from her. She cleared her throat to speak up and looked down, focusing on his chest, her voice squeaked when she opened her mouth, "I am still a maiden, I have lain with no man. Even though I told myself that you were just a dream, I knew in my heart that you were real and I couldn't give myself to anyone but you. You will be the first and only man that I lay with James Fraser. My heart and soul have always been yours and my body will be as well. But I will not lie with you until we are wed properly, in a church, in front of a priest with a dress and a ring. I was hoping that we could find my parents and they would be there, but I don't yet know where they are, so that is not a deal breaker for me."
She looked up to see his reaction and was shocked to find his mouth hanging open as he gaped at her. She suppressed the urge to giggle and placed a hand tentatively on his chest. "Are you alright my love, was it to much, too soon?"
Jamie shook his head, dispelling the thoughts of incredulity from his mind and gave her a smoldering grin, "Nah, it wasna too much, I'm alright, I just canna believe how much faith ye had in us finding one another and becoming one. I mean, my God, ye traveled 200 years through time to find me, that canna have been an easy feat to accomplish."
Claire furrowed her brow in confusion, "Didn't you have faith that we would find each other? You said you have loved me for so long, that you have been waiting for me your whole life. Did you not save yourself for me as well?"
Jamie allowed his grin to get brighter, "Aye, I did save myself for ye, it has always been ye Sassenach, no other has turned my head or stolen my heart. I am a virgin just as ye are, mo calman geal. We will wait until we are wed properly to be together. There is a church near Lallybroch where we can wed as soon as the banns are read, if ye find it to yer liking. I canna wait to take ye home to Lallybroch to introduce ye to my father and my sister Jenny."
Jamie laid back down and Claire lowered herself to cuddle against his side, resting her head on his chest, "I don't know what Lallybroch is, but I can't wait to go there and meet your family."
Jamie tapped his finger on her nose, "Lallybroch is what we call my home, ye said yer uncle told ye about Broch Tuarach, tis the same place. The local people call it Lallybroch due to the tower that is on the estate, it leans a bit."
Claire nodded in understanding, "Awe, and Lallybroch means lazy tower, makes perfect sense. But I don't know about getting married so soon, shouldn't we date for a bit before we worry about that?"
Now it was Jamie's turn to be confused, "What do ye mean by date?"
She rolled her eyes, reminding herself to try and use terms that he would be familiar with, "Oh, it means to court, shouldn't we court each other for a while before you propose marriage?"
Jamie lifted his head to peer down at her, willing her to turn her gaze toward him so he could see her eyes, "Sassenach when a man courts a woman, he is intending to marry her at the conclusion of it. If ye wish me to ask for your permission to court ye, since yer parents are no' around for me to ask yer father, ye would be wanting me to ask for yer hand in marriage."
Claire hummed in understanding, "Oh, well then don't you think you should ask instead of just assuming?"
Jamie chuckled quietly, "Aye, I did assume didna I, I assumed we were already courting when ye agreed to let me kiss ye. But if it will ease yer mind, aye, I'll ask ye properly, in the morning, after we get some rest. Now close yer eyes and go to sleep, mo chridhe. We will have a long day of travel ahead of us tomorrow and we need at least a small bit of rest."
They realized their plan didn't go as they expected when they were both being awoken by the gruff voice of Murtagh, "What's this then, who is the lass, Jamie, and what's she doin' wrapped in yer plaid wi' ye?"
Claire kept her eyes shut, not ready yet to face the grumpy countenance of Murtagh. She was sure that she knew about his personality from her dreams, but that had not taught her how to handle a grumpy, surprised Murtagh first thing in the morning. She felt Jamie awaken behind her as his arms tightened around her middle, and he hummed into her hair. Other than that, Jamie didn't make any other move to rise or answer Murtagh, so the man became insistent and attempted to get Jamie's attention again. "Oy, I'm talkin' to ye lad, wake up and tell me, what's the meaning of all this."
Jamie grumbled and began to stretch his long body, but made no move to release her, she waited silently for him to take care of Murtagh. He pressed his hips forward as he stretched and drew her closer to him and she could feel his morning desire for her. She suppressed the giggle that threatened to escape her lips when Jamie moaned in her ear at the sudden friction against his nether regions.
She could hear Murtagh grumbling, awaiting an answer from his godson and she knew Jamie could as well when he whispered into her curls, "Dinna move, I'll take care of the ratchety old bastard."
She did as he requested and remained perfectly still as Jamie unwound his arms from her waist and sat up next to her, "What are ye goin' on about, ye auld man?"
Murtagh shuffled his feet along the dirt floor of the cottage, "What indeed, did ye no' hear me askin' about the lass? Who is she and why is she sharin' yer bed?"
Jamie chuckled softly, "I told ye yesterday who she was, I warned ye that she would be comin' to me last night through the fairy stones, and she did, just as I had envisioned. The stones threw her directly into my arms."
Murtagh scoffed, "I think ye must have hit yer head lad, fairy stones dinna just spit out bonny lasses to any man that passes by them."
Jamie laid a gentle hand on Claire's hip, "I'm no' just any man, Claire was meant for me. She is the lass that Julia told me about when I was a bairn, she is Julia and Henry's daughter and she came here lookin' for me as well."
Murtagh made a disbelieving sound in his throat and shuffled his feet across the floor to where his bedroll was lying. Claire figured this was a good time to open her eyes and become part of the conversation. She made quite a show of waking up, stretching and groaning as she allowed her eyes to flutter open. "Oh, good morning Jamie, what is the plan for today?"
Jamie grinned, he knew she hadn't been asleep and he was pretty sure that Murtagh knew it as well, she was a terrible actress. "Well, mo ghráidh, I think we shall fetch some breakfast then ready the horses to make our way to Lallybroch. There is no time like the present to introduce the future Mrs. Fraser to my family."
Murtagh grunted in the corner at their exchange which caused both of them to turn their heads in his direction, "Oh, hello. You must be Murtagh, Jamie told me a bit about you last night after I came through the stones atop Craigh Na Dun to find him. It is so nice to meet you, my name is Claire... Claire Beauchamp."
Murtagh's eyes grew wide, "Tis true, ye are their daughter, the Beauchamp's that is. Ye have the most peculiar accent, I suppose though that is natural wi' an English father and Scottish mother. Is it true, did ye truly come through the stones?"
Claire smiled, "Aye, I did. I have been dreaming of Jamie for so long and I knew it was time to come and find him. The stones have been calling me to them since I was a little girl, but I wasn't ready until just recently to answer the call."
Murtagh made another noise as he gathered his bedding into his arms, "Well I have no' been dreamin' of ye as the lad has, so I'll no' be puttin' any trust into ye just yet. Ye say yer name is Claire, and ye have a fantastical story about travelin' through magic stones, it all seems a bit too strange for my likin'. But I guess if the lad wants ye wi' us, I canna put a stop to it. Ye will mind yer self and dinna try any funny business. I'll have my eye on ye. The lad means more to me than life and I'll no' have ye harmin' or trickin' him for yer own benefit, do ye hear?"
Claire grinned, "Aye, I hear ye. I dinna plan to harm the man I am meant to marry, I'll be on my best behavior from here on out. Ye need no' worry about any mischief on my part."
Murtagh scoffed, "Yer makin' fun of me now. That willna get ye on my good side, lass. Be wary about puttin' yer foot in yer mouth. Now we dinna have much time before we must be on our way, help Jamie to gather his bedding and tie it to his horse while the lad goes to fetch us somethin' to eat. His horse is the big black stallion, named Donas, and the beast likes nobody save, Jamie."
Claire stood up proudly accepting the challenge. Jamie rose to his feet beside her and pulled her in for a chaste kiss before leaving her to take care of things in the cottage while he did his godfather's bidding.
Claire hummed a song from her time as she neatly rolled up the bedding, tied a length of leather around the roll of blankets, and took everything outside to attach it to Donas's saddle. The horse snorted as she approached, then sniffed the air as she got closer. He lowered his head as she came near enough to touch him and stood perfectly still while she attached the bedroll to him. Murtagh looked on in wonder with his mouth agape, "Why I never saw such a thing, that beast is no' even that compliant wi' Jamie. Ye seem to speak his language lass, I must say that I am impressed. If ye keep that up, It won't take much for me to trust ye as well, though I could see how a fairy might have the magic to calm a wild beast."
Claire rolled her eyes, "I'm not a fairy Murtagh, I am just a regular woman, with no intention of causing anyone any harm. I came here to be with Jamie and nothing more."
Murtagh scoffed, "I guess we shall see about that, won't we?"
Claire smiled sweetly at the older man, "Yes, I guess we shall. I look forward to proving you wrong."
After they had prepared the horses, Claire wandered into the woods and gathered kindling for a small fire with which they could cook their breakfast. Her time spent traversing the globe with her uncle had taught her the simplest way to build a campfire. She pulled a lace from one of her boots, tied each end to the ends of a sturdy stick, placed another flat piece of wood on the ground, with a bit of Old Man's Beard moss underneath it and began the process of starting a fire with her impromptu bow drill.
Murtagh stood back, leaning against the side of the cottage through the whole process, confused at what she was doing. He had never seen anyone doing anything of the sort and was skeptical that she wasn't trying to cast some sort of spell on them. But then when smoke began to rise from next to her foot and she tossed the tool aside to scoop up the moss and blow on it, Murtagh's skepticism changed to awe at her ingenuity. That was the fastest he had ever seen anyone light a fire without the use of flint.
He stood away from the cottage and strode over to stand above her, "Well, ye may just prove to be useful to us yet. Where did ye learn to start a fire like that?"
Claire grinned up at him, "My uncle taught me when we were on an archeological dig in Egypt. It got rather cold at night in the desert, no matter what time of year it was, and we had to keep warm. This was the simplest method to keep everything from blowing away in the dry desert breeze. I have found that of all the ways I learned how to build a fire, this by far is my favorite, although it is better being used outside. There are other less messy methods to use when lighting a hearth indoors."
Murtagh huffed as he sat down on a fallen log across the fire from her, "Well, it may still be fairy magic. I'll not fall so easily for yer charms as the lad has."
Claire rolled her eyes, making sure that Murtagh saw it, "Well, I guess I will just have to continue to prove myself to you, although I really don't require your approval, Jamie has already chosen me and that is all that matters."
Murtagh made a disagreeing sound in his throat, "If ye think the lad's father willna have anything to say on the matter, ye are sadly mistaken. If Brian does no' wish for the union betwixt the two of ye, it willna be."
Just then Jamie walked back into camp with two large trout hanging from his belt, "My father doesna have a say in who I marry, I am a man grown and tis my decision who I decide to take as my wife, whether ye or he likes it or no'. Is that understood?"
Murtagh grumbled but didn't respond with words.
Jamie nodded and sat down on the log next to Claire to prepare the fish for cooking, "Good, now that the one issue is settled, we need to discuss our plan to avoid the MacKenzie's. Now that they are no' escortin' me back to Leoch, they will have likely returned to stealin' cattle and I dinna want to cross paths wi' them while we make our journey back to Lallybroch."
Murtagh nodded in agreement, "Aye, yer right about that lad, they willna have a reason to return so quickly now. I think we should tread carefully, go slow and stick to the woods. We can avoid the main roads at least until we are within Fraser lands. Though, havin' the lass wi' us will surely slow us down and it will take longer than ye expect to return to yer home."
Claire threw her hands in the air, as she stood and stomped her foot theatrically, "I'm not some helpless female. I have ridden horses my whole life, I have lived rough for most of it too. I will not be what slows you down you old coot. I can keep pace with any man, I don't need your coddling."
Jamie chuckled at her outburst and she glared at him and placed her hands on her hips defiantly, "And what the Hell do you think you're laughing at Mr. Fraser?"
Jamie shook his head, "I'm no' laughin' at ye Sassenach, on the contrary, I'm quite proud of ye for standin' up for yer self against to auld grump. Besides, ye dinna look that heavy, I doubt Donas will even notice the extra weight on his back."
Murtagh stood up at that declaration, "Ye dinna mean to have the lass ride wi' ye then. Tis inappropriate considering the situation we find ourselves in."
Jamie stood to face his godfather down, "Aye, she will ride wi' me, as my betrothed, it is the only appropriate solution."
Claire cleared her throat, "Excuse me, your betrothed, I don't remember there being a proposal."
Jamie's mouth dropped open at the playful smirk plastered across her face, "Aye, somethin' I intend to remedy this minute."
She relaxed her face and watched as he dropped down to one knee to declare his intentions, "Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp, it is my intention to ask for yer permission to court ye and at the end of that time, if ye find yer self so inclined, I shall ask for yer hand in marriage. Do ye accept this proposal?"
Claire bent down and kissed him on the crown of his curls, "Yes, Jamie I accept. Now let us cook these fish and have some breakfast."
The fish that Jamie had caught were quite delicious and they all felt like they could sit back and enjoy the beautiful day now that their stomachs were full. But they also knew that the longer they lingered at the stones, the higher the possibility would be that they would encounter Dougal and his men as they made their way to Lallybroch.
After breakfast, they forced themselves to get up and begin the process of leaving the stones behind. They all took part in the responsibilities of cleaning up camp and readying the horses for their journey. Claire tied the two large leather satchels she had brought with her through the stones to Donas's saddle as Jamie got rid of any evidence that they had been at the cottage. Murtagh took this time to scout ahead and make sure that they had a clear path ahead of them.
They would only travel for a mile or two at a time, taking frequent breaks so that Murtagh could scout for redcoats or MacKenzie's on their path ahead. They all had agreed that even though this would slow their travel, it was a necessary sacrifice while they traveled during the daylight hours. When Murtagh returned to camp, Jamie and Claire were all ready to leave. Jamie hoisted Claire up into the saddle, then skillfully pulled himself up to mount behind her.
Jamie laced one arm around her waist as the other clutched the reins. He pulled her tight against him, which caused Claire to smile in appreciation. She had no fear of riding the 'Devil Horse' as Murtagh had put it, but she did enjoy the fact that Jamie wanted to hold her close. She leaned back into him, relishing the warmth his body was putting off.
Jamie grinned as she leaned against him and he leaned down to nuzzle his nose into her hair and inhale her fresh earthy scent. She turned in his arms as a soft moan escaped his lips, "Are you sniffing me?"
Jamie sat up straight and tried to school his features, "No, I am no' a truffle pig."
Claire raised her eyebrow, "So if you were, that would make me a truffle? You were clearly smelling my hair."
Jamie sighed as he let his shoulders relax, "Aye, I suppose it would make ye a truffle. I canna get anything by ye, can I Sassenach?"
She giggled, "No, you can't. Do I at least smell good, I don't stink, do I?"
Jamie chuckled, "Nah, ye dinna stink. I enjoy yer scent, smellin' ye helps me to remember that ye are truly here and no' just another dream."
Claire melted against him, her mood softening at his eloquent words. "Oh, Jamie, I really got quite the catch when I found you, didn't I. You are the sweetest man to ever exist."
Murtagh grumbled at their exchange, "If ye two are quite finished, we should be goin'."
They both chuckled as Jamie gently kicked Donas in the flanks to get the horse moving forward. As they rode along, Jamie pointed out things of particular interest. Claire didn't notice so much what he was pointing out but loved listening to him talk. His voice was the most beautiful melody that she had ever heard and she wanted to let the cadence of it soothe her soul for the rest of their lives.
Their first stop along their journey to allow Murtagh to ride ahead to scout the next stretch was at a fairy pool hidden deep in the woods. They were taking the hard route, usually only traveled by drifters and animals, but caution was still their top priority. Jamie knew that Murtagh would be gone for almost an hour for the next leg of their journey and he wasn't about to let the opportunity to enjoy his time alone with Claire pass him by.
Jamie dismounted first then reached up to help Claire down, but she was already jumping off. "I suppose I must get used to havin' a strong willed woman as my affianced. Ye are used to doin' things for yer self, are ye no'?"
Claire smiled as she reached up and laced her hands behind his neck and pulled him down for a kiss, "Yes I am used to being an independent woman, but don't stop offering. I enjoy your chivalry and I will allow you to help me and do things for me, it just might take a bit of time."
Jamie wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her body against his as he closed the gap and pressed his lips tenderly against hers for a chaste kiss, "Aye, it was how I was raised, I'll no' stop bein' the gentleman that ye deserve, my lady. Wi' that said, what would ye think about goin' for a swim? The fairy pools are warm, fed by hot springs. They are good for easing sore muscles."
Claire hummed as she pressed a kiss to his clavicle. "That sounds lovely, but I didn't bring a bathing suit wi' me. I would have to swim nude."
Jamie gulped, "What is a bathing suit?"
She giggled, "You mean to tell me in all of your dreams of me, you never dreamed of me swimming?"
He shook his head, "Nah, usually ye were traveling wi' yer uncle or healin' men torn apart by war."
She looked up into his crystal blue eyes, "A bathing suit is meant to cover my breasts, my mound, and my arse, to keep me modest while I swim."
Jamie cleared his throat, "Is that all it is meant to cover?"
She giggled again, "Yes, only the most intimate parts of me, would be covered."
He swallowed hard, the lump remained in his throat as he choked out his next words, "That doesna sound modest at all. If ye would like to swim nude, as ye put it, I shall turn my back as ye disrobe and hide yer self below the surface of the water."
Claire stepped back from him and put her open palm against his chest, just over where his heart was thumping at a rapid pace. "That sounds like the gentleman that I know you are, thank you. I would love to go for a swim with you."
Jamie waited for her to step away from him, then walked over to hobble Donas, keeping his back to her the entire time. When he was done with the horse he walked back over to where he and Claire had been standing and waited for her to tell him that she was ready.
Claire had removed her clothing quickly, thanks to the hidden zippers in her dress, and stepped gracefully into the fairy pool. She watched as he left Donas and walked over to wait for her approval to turn. "Jamie, I am in the water, you can turn around now."
He turned slowly, his heart rate speeding up at the vision that awaited him. He gasped when he saw her, all but submerged in the water. The tiny waves caused by the movement of her arms lapping at the tops of her breasts was like a siren song calling to him. He froze where he stood, not being able to tear his eyes from the sight of the goddess in the water that belonged to him. This woman, lovelier than any he had ever seen had traveled 200 years to be with him and he felt like he should be thanking whatever deity responsible for sending this woman into his life.
He was broken from his reverie by her soft voice calling to him, "Jamie, are you going to just stand there and watch me, or are you going to join me? The water is like heaven, it feels so good."
Jamie swallowed, "Aye, I am goin' to join ye."
He sat down on the soft green grass and started with his boots. He unbuckled each buckle with skilled quick hands, removing the boots in record time. Then he pulled his stockings off, wadded them up and shoved them in his boots. Then he stood back up, never taking his eyes off of her as her eyes stayed glued to him. He removed his waistcoat, unbuttoning each button slowly, causing Claire's chest to heave faster. He smiled at the effect he was having on her. Then he removed his stock, tossing each piece of clothing toward his boots. He untied the laces of his breeks and watched her face for any reaction, there was none, so he continued. He pushed his breaks down his muscular thighs and pulled them off, one foot at a time, and tossed them aside.
Finally, he was left in only his shirt, he stood still, watching her as he unbuttoned the cuffs of his sleeves and the single button at his neck. He watched her face as he reached over his shoulders to pull the shirt off over his head, her eyes grew larger than they already were. He paused, "Are ye alright, Sassenach, do ye wish me to leave my shirt on?"
She tore her eyes away from his thighs and brought them up to gaze at his lovely chiseled face "Um, no, that wouldn't be fair. You don't need to get your shirt wet, it would be so uncomfortable to wear during the ride. I will just um... uh... turn around, yes I'll turn around. That is what I will do, I will turn around and give you some privacy."
Jamie chuckled at how flustered she suddenly became at the thought of seeing him nude. "Aye, that sounds like a grand idea."
However she didn't turn, her eyes remained glued on him as if he would disappear if she turned. He made a sound in his throat, "Sassenach, if ye wish me to remove my shirt and no' risk my virtue, perhaps ye should turn around now."
Her eyes grew wider and her face flushed the most lovely shade of pink as she realized she hadn't made any attempt to turn away from him. "Oh, yes, quite right."
She quickly spun around, almost toppling over at the sudden change of balance.
Jamie waited until she had her back turned to him, then quickly stipped off the last piece of clothing and tossed it onto the pile of clothing at his feet. He walked slowly toward the pool, stepping in gently so as not to disrupt the surface of the water any more than necessary. Once he was submerged above his waist, he walked toward her and stopped within mere inches of coming into contact with her. She shivered as he approached and he was sure that she knew he was there, but she didn't move. His voice was husky when he finally spoke, "Claire, turn around and look at me, lass, I need to see yer eyes."
Claire let out a breath and turned slowly, her eyes closed, afraid of what she might do when she saw him in all his naked glory.
He placed his large hands on each of her shoulders and murmured, "Mo nighean donn, open those beautiful honey eyes for me."
She lifted her face toward the sound of his voice, her hands going automatically to rest on his chest. She gasped at the feel of his toned body under her fingers and her eyes fluttered open to lock with his. "Hi." She whispered.
He chuckled, "Hi."
He let his hands slide across her back as he drew her body against him, his traitorous erection trapped between their bellies.
Her skin flushed pink as her mouth made the perfect O shape, "Oh, well, hello there indeed."
Jamie flushed as well as he leaned down and placed a kiss on the crown of her curls, "I'm sorry, ye seem to have this immense effect on me and I canna control it."
She grinned mischievously, "Hmm, well maybe we don't need to wait too long to get married after all. I mean, we are already courting. It will take us a few days to reach Lallybroch, right? Do you think that will be long enough?"
Jamie chuckled, "I dinna think we should let desire dictate how long we take to get to ken one another. We are no' in a rush and we have already promised ourselves to one another."
She sighed, "Yes, you are quite right, waiting a bit will make it all the sweeter when we do finally come together. Besides, I want to get to know your father and sister before we jump into marriage. And I do want to spend time, just being together, doing whatever comes naturally to us."
Jamie placed a kiss on her temple, "Aye, what do ye think of a compromise, perhaps we should set a date so we dinna feel like we are waiting for forever."
Claire grinned, "Yes, I like that idea, very much. What date should we choose?"
Jamie thought for a moment, "Well to wed properly in a church, banns must be read for three consecutive Sundays. It will likely take us a week to reach Lallybroch, so when we arrive we can go talk with Father Broun. We could be married in a month if ye wish, on June 1st."
She leaned up and kissed him on the tip of the chin, "Yes, I love that. So are you now asking me to marry you?"
Jamie shook his head, "Nah when I ask ye to marry me, I will do it properly in a place that is special to me."
She moved her hands up to cup the back of his head and pull him down toward her.
He moaned as he watched her breasts push up against his chest.
She stood on tiptoe and pulled him closer until their lips touched, both begging for entrance. Both acquiesced and they allowed their tongues to dance in an endless promise of love and devotion.
After they finished their leisurely swim and took turns climbing out of the water while the other had their back turned. They laid out Jamie's tartan and sat down for an impromptu picnic, eating some of the wares that Claire had brought with her through the stones. Jamie was stunned at the new flavors of everything they ate. Mrs. Graham had packed some of the swiss cheese and pumpernickel bread into Claire's pack and Jamie moaned in delight as he tasted them. "Mo ghráidh, did ye make this bread and cheese?"
Claire giggled, "Unfortunately I did not. I'm not a very good cook, the bread is only found in Prussia in this time and the cheese, is swiss cheese, found in Switzerland. I'm afraid that once this is gone, we have very little chance of ever having it again."
Jamie let his shoulders slump, "That is unfortunate indeed, tis verra good though. A bit of a taste of the future as it were."
Claire took a bite of her own slice of dark rye bread and mumbled between chewing, "Yes, I guess you could say that. Enjoy it while it lasts, I'm afraid there is not much left. Do you think that perhaps we should save some for Murtagh?"
Jamie shook his head, "Nah if he tastes this, it will ruin him for any other food available for the rest of his days. Better no' to have him miss something that he canna ever have again. I at least will still have ye by my side when this delectable food is all devoured."
Claire looked at him inquisitively, "Are you absolutely sure, there is enough now and I don't mind saving it for him. Right now, he doesn't trust me and I would like to get on his good side."
Jamie shook his head, "Nah, he willna trust that ye have no' poisoned it. Tis better to just eat it now and think of somethin' else to get on his good side. Just be yer beautiful self and dinna try so hard. His opinion is no' the one that matters anyway. Tis my sister Jenny who will likely be harder to win over. Since my Mam died, she became quite overprotective of me."
Claire frowned as she looked down at the cheese in her hand, contemplating saving it since she had now lost her appetite. Jamie saw her reaction to what he had said and knew right away that she must be worried. "Dinna fash, Sassenach, tis no' her opinion that matters either."
Claire peered up at him through her lashes, but the frown remained, "Then whose?"
Jamie grinned, "Tis only one opinion that matters and that opinion belongs to me."
The frown lines on her forehead softened a bit, but didn't disappear entirely, "And what happens to be your opinion of me, so far?"
Jamie leaned a bit closer to her, "I gather that ye would like complete honesty." She nodded, so he continued, "Aye, I thought ye might. Well in that case, let's see... first ye are stubborn, foul mouthed, hard headed, demanding, cantankerous..."
She interrupted him, as she rose on her knees and began repacking everything into her satchel, "Well if that is what you think of me, you might as well just let me go right now. I will return to the stones and go back to my own time."
Jamie reached out and grabbed her arm to stop her, a huge grin plastered on his face, "I am no' done yet, will ye let me finish?"
She huffed and lowered her self down to sit on her heels and crossed her arms with a look that said 'This better be worth my time.'
Jamie chuckled and released his hold on her, "As I was sayin' ye talk in yer sleep, ye have the roundest arse I have ever seen, yer lovely brown locks curl about framing yer lovely face. Those whiskey golden eyes make me want to melt into a puddle. Just lookin' at ye has my heart poundin' so hard that it may just burst from my chest. Yer skin is the color of alabaster and it is smooth like velvet. To hold ye in my arms is like being in heaven itself and to kiss ye, oh Sassenach, to kiss ye is like pressing a live flame to my lips and I canna get enough."
Claire had relaxed onto her hip at this point with a smile threatening to spread across her lips, but she held it back, "So I take it from some of what you said, that you rather enjoy bits of me at least."
Jamie chuckled again, his eyes glittering with something she couldn't quite describe, perhaps it was love that was reflected back at her. "Aye, no' just bits, I love all of ye, even the crabbity bits. I hold a verra high opinion of ye Claire and now that ye are wi' me, I willna let ye go. Yer soul belongs wi' mine, we are two halves of one whole and I dinna intend to be a half a person ever again. Havin' ye here wi' me, ye have filled a hole in my heart that I didna ken was there until I met ye. To have ye now and then to lose ye, that would be to live without my heart and I canna do it."
Claire leaned over to capture his lips against hers, pressing her hand to the back of his skull to bring him closer to her. She pulled back from the kiss to gaze directly into his eyes, "You won't lose me, no matter what you do. I'm not going anywhere, you are stuck with me 24/7 for the rest of your life. I love you and I couldn't leave you now, not even if I wanted to. We are bound, the two of us and you are right, it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks of me or our union. I will marry you James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser even if it is the last thing that I do."
Jamie wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her against him, pressing his forehead to hers, "Aye, Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp, ye will be my wife on June 1st and it will no be the last thing that either of us does. I intend to lie wi' ye before we die, several times in fact and beyond that to live a long life wi' ye by my side."
They sat, staring at each other like that for several minutes until they were both startled by Murtagh's gruff voice, "What's this now, the two of ye are no' marrit yet. Tis no' respectable to be sittin' so close while ye are alone together."
Jamie grinned as he separated his head from Claire's, her head coming to rest on his shoulder instead. "Dinna fash, a goistidh, our virtues are intact. We were nothin' but proper the entire time ye were gone. Speakin' of bein' gone, how is the path ahead, will we run into any trouble if we continue on?"
Murtagh sat down on the edge of the tartan, near Jamie's feet. "Aye, tis clear, we should be able to travel beyond the boundary of MacKenzie lands by late this afternoon. I see that ye have food out, were ye havin' a picnic?"
Claire sat up, "Oh, yes we were just enjoying some cheese, bread, and whisky, would you like some?"
Jamie gave her a look that she couldn't interpret out of the corner of his eye, perhaps it was a warning, but she wasn't going to tell Murtagh that he couldn't have any of their food.
Murtagh reached for her offerings, "Aye, I am famished, been ridin' since I left the two of ye here. My wame has been complainin' for the last half hour. I'll just finish the rest of this off if the two of ye are finished and then we will be on our way, no time to waste after all."
Both Claire and Jamie watched intently as Murtagh took his first bite of the bread. His eyes rose almost to his hairline in delight, "Tis quite good, where did ye get this?"
Claire turned toward Jamie with a knowing smirk that said, 'I told you so.' "I brought it with me from the future, a friend of mine, Mrs. Graham, she packed the food into my satchel. We weren't sure how long it would take for me to find Jamie and she wanted to make sure that I was well prepared to live several days on my own if I wasn't able to find anything more to eat."
Murtagh grumbled, "Well at least I can trust it, if a Scottish lass made it. Tis too bad that ye didna though, tis quite good and would be nice to have it again sometime."
Jamie and Claire exchanged a surprised glance, both of them shocked at Murtagh's sudden apparent acceptance of Claire.
Jamie peered over at his godfather, "Are ye feelin' alright a goistidh?"
Murtagh furrowed his brow a tipped his head to the side like a curious dog, "Why do ye ask, is there something wrong with the food?"
He looked down at the food still in his hand accusingly until Jamie replied. "Nah, the food is fine. But ye were actually pleasant to Claire, why?"
Murtagh scoffed and waved his hand in the air in front of him, dismissing Jamie's observance. "Twas only that when I came upon the two of ye, I watched ye for a few moments before makin' my presence known. I could see that ye both fully trust one another. Besides that, I have no' ever seen you so happy as I have today. Ye are made for each other."
Claire pulled out of Jamie's embrace and crawled over to envelope Murtagh in an awkward one sided hug, "Oh thank you Murtagh. You have no idea what it means to me to have your acceptance of not only me but of mine and Jamie's union."
Murtagh grunted and pulled back from her while trying to push her off of him, Aye, well yer welcome. But that's enough thanks for today. If ye will let me be, to finish eatin' my lunch, we can be on our way."
Claire backed away with a shy smile and moved back over next to Jamie who still had a stunned expression on his face. She elbowed him gently to pull his attention back to the present.
He glanced down at her momentarily before quickly returning his gaze to Murtagh, "Aye, thank ye a goistidh."
After Murtagh had his fill of the cheese and bread that Claire had offered him. They gathered up their belongings, tied them on Jamie's horse, and continued on their journey north, away from MacKenzie lands. Murtagh led the group with Jamie and Claire riding close behind him. Since tasting some food from the future, Jamie was even more curious about the time that Claire had come from, "Sassenach, would ye tell me more about yer time? I'd like to ken about the world ye grew up in, the world that made ye who ye are."
Claire turned in the saddle so she could see his face, "You truly want to know about the future?"
Jamie nodded thoughtfully, "Aye, I do."
Claire turned back around and thought for a moment, "Well, where shall I start?"
Jamie kissed her on the temple, "Start at the beginning, tell me when ye were born and go forward from there. Ye had yer history books to ken about me, but I have only had my dreams and the few stories that yer mother told me of ye."
Claire leaned back against him, relishing in his warmth, "It's true that I had history books, but the only thing I was able to find was the history that you and I made together, I'm afraid I know nothing of your life before I came into it, except what was in the story that my mother and father were able to hide away for my uncle to find and read to me."
Jamie tightened his grip around her waist, "Well then I shall tell ye about my life growing up after ye share about ye and yer time."
Claire giggled, "Alright, if you insist. Well, I was born in the year 1918 in London. My parents left through the stones when I was only 5 years old and I don't remember anything before that. When they didn't return, the official record for the reason of their disappearance was a car accident."
Jamie furrowed his brow and leaned closer to her, afraid that Murtagh might overhear their conversation, "What is a car?"
Claire looked back at him, "Oh, sorry, I will try and explain things that are unfamiliar to you as I go along. A car is like a carriage I suppose, but it doesn't require horses for it to move. It is propelled forward by something called an engine or motor. I don't really know how it works, just trust that it does. Anyway, not long after their disappearance, uncle Lamb found the letter that they had left for him along with a journal that told the story about finding you. Uncle Lamb would read me the story every night and he made sure that I knew it was a true story and not some fairytale. As I got older, I began to doubt the story, thinking that my uncle had made it up so I wouldn't feel like my parents had abandoned me."
Jamie hugged her tighter and buried his nose in her hair, "I'm so verra sorry mo chridhe."
Claire widened her eyes and turned her head to kiss his cheek, "Why, whatever for?"
Jamie turned his head so he could kiss her lips, "For yer parents comin' here to find me and no' bein' able to return to ye."
Claire shook her head, "No, do not ever apologize for that. First off you had nothing to do with them deciding to come back here and second, if they hadn't then I wouldn't be here with you now, with my soulmate."
Jamie lifted his chin from her shoulder, "What is a soulmate?"
Claire thought for a moment, "Well, I guess the best description would be two souls who are meant to be together, apart each soul or person is fine, but together they form a bond that cannot be broken. It's when you meet someone who just seems to understand you, someone who makes you feel complete."
Jamie sat up straighter and remained quiet for a moment, "So perhaps it is like how the Chinese describe the idea of yin and yang?"
Claire smiled, "Yes, exactly. I forgot that the concept of yin and yang was invented in 600 B.C., but where did you learn about it?"
Jamie leaned forward and whispered, "I'm an educated man, Sassenach, maybe no' as educated as ye, but I did go to university and learned many things while I attended."
Claire grinned and leaned her head back against his chest, "Yes, I am finding out more and more every day, just what an intelligent man I have chosen to spend the rest of my life with."
Jamie tipped his head down and kissed her on the temple, "Aye, I am at that and it would seem that my bride is an intelligent lass as well, but dinna stop there, tell me more."
Claire hummed, "Hmm, where was I... Oh yes, anyway I stopped believing that the account of them going to find you was anything other than a story when I was about 12 years old. I asked my uncle to stop telling it to me and in return, he suggested that we do some research into Scottish history and in particular one James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. At first, it proved difficult to find anything about you, so we broadened our search to the Fraser clan. We stumbled upon a Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, whom I believe was your grandfather, is that correct?"
Jamie made a Scottish sound in his throat, "Aye, the old bastard is my Da's father, he wasna accepting of the union between my mother and father so my father doesna speak of him. Jenny says he visited Lallybroch just after my mother died, but I dinna remember it."
Claire placed her hand on top of Jamie's hand that was resting on her hip, "I'm so sorry, Jamie, I didn't intend to bring up painful memories."
Jamie shook his head, "Dinna fash about it, twas many years past. Keep going, yer story is intriguing. I want to ken what changed yer mind about comin' to find me, but dinna skip anything gettin' there."
Claire giggled, "Yes, of course, you want to know why I fell back under the spell of the story and chased after a fairytale to search out the man of my dreams."
Jamie grinned, "Aye, I do wish to ken what eventually delivered ye right into my arms."
Claire rolled her eyes, "Of course you want to know that. Alright then, I will tell you how I came to be here and I won't skip a step."
Jamie tightened his hold, a signal for her to continue.
She smiled at the gesture, "Eventually, we found out that Lord Lovat sired your father Brian Fraser but a mother was not listed in the records, we never did find that out."
Jamie kissed her shoulder, "Aye, she was a kitchen maid in Lord Lovat's employ at Beaufort Castle. My father was raised there but after he chose to marry my mother, Lord Lovat disowned him. It was only after my mother died that the old fox offered to name my father heir again, but Da would have to leave Lallybroch and forget about my mother's memory as well as Jenny and I. My father chose the memory of my mother as well as us instead of accepting Lord Lovat's conditions to become heir. He turned his back on his father, just as Simon Fraser had done to Da."
Claire nodded in understanding, "Yes of course, and that is a good thing. That is how we eventually found a record of you. We found out that Brian Fraser was the Laird of the estate known as Broch Tuarach or locally known as Lallybroch, the very same estate mentioned by my parents in the story. Although that is where the next part gets a bit strange. You see since I have returned I have realized that history has already changed."
Jamie furrowed his brow, "How so?"
She turned and looked at him, "Well, if things were like they had been described in the history books, then your father would have died about 4 years ago. But you have stated yourself that he is alive and well at home at Lallybroch with Jenny."
Jamie loosened his hold on her waist, "What has changed, why did my father die originally and how is he still alive now if he should have been dead?"
Claire all but whispered the next part, "Jamie there was an event that caused your father's death 4 years ago and I don't know if that ever took place. But there is something that I must ask you before I can answer your question."
Jamie nodded, "Go ahead, what is it, ask yer question Sassenach."
Claire swallowed past the lump in her throat, "According to my research into your family's history, a group of British soldiers came to Lallybroch due to levies being placed on the lands. Some of the soldiers were attempting to assault Jenny when you came to her rescue. You were arrested for obstruction and taken to Fort William, once there you were flogged with 100 lashes. Your father had been away at a funeral when the soldiers came to Lallybroch and did all of this. He came to Fort William to see you freed, but Captain Randall would not release you and your father witnessed as another 100 lashes were laid down upon your back by the monster Black Jack Randall. Your father witnessed his brutality in laying down the lashes. He was so brutal that you lost consciousness and your father died from apoplexy right then and there, having thought you dead. So I must ask you, other than your father not dying, did any of what I just described come to pass?"
Jamie shook his head, "No, well no' all of it anyway. Randall did come to Lallybroch when father was away at a funeral, but yer father was there overseeing things in my father's absence. When the soldiers arrived and heard his English accent, they left us be without even takin' anything. They didna assault Jenny and I wasna taken to Fort William. I didna even ken they had been there until later that evening when I came down from the fields for dinner. Henry and Jenny told me of Randall and his soldiers."
Claire let out a breath that she didn't realize she had been holding, "Oh, thank God for small miracles. That means that Randall never formed an unhealthy obsession over you and as long as we can keep you away from him, none of the torture that he laid upon your body and mind will come to pass."
Jamie hugged her against his chest, his arm around her shoulders, "Aye, thank the Lord for any miracles he sees fit to perform."
Claire furrowed her brow, "Wait a minute, that was only 4 years ago, in the journal that my parents left for me, they said that they left your estate soon after your mother had died."
Jamie nodded, "Aye, they did, but they came back for a short time just 4 years ago. They insisted that they stay with me and Jenny while my father was away. Da thought it an unusual request, but Henry and Julia were adamant, so father acquiesced."
Claire looked back at him, "That all seems a little too coincidental, do you suppose that my parents had prior knowledge as to what would happen if it was only you and Jenny left there?"
Jamie looked down at her and rested his chin on her shoulder, "I dinna ken, but the more ye tell me, the more it seems likely. Almost as though they were helpin' to keep me whole until ye could come and find me."
Claire smiled softly, thanking her parents silently, "Yes it would seem that way, wouldn't it. I wonder if they know that I am going to be arriving at Lallybroch with you this week."
Jamie kissed her cheek then sat up tall in the saddle, "I dinna ken, but it would be a blessing to have them there for our wedding, would it no'?"
Claire leaned back against his chest, "Yes it would. But on the other hand, I hope they are not there when we arrive."
Jamie furrowed his brow and peered down at her, "Why no'?"
Claire sighed as she melted even further against his chest, "Well, I am already apprehensive about meeting your family, but to have my parents, who I haven't seen in 15 years be there when I arrive. I'm not sure I could handle it all at once. Not to mention that I want to spend the next month getting to know my future husband, not reuniting with my long lost parents. It probably sounds selfish, but I have lived for 15 years without them and I really don't want to take their opinion into account while I am trying to grow close with you."
Jamie nodded in understanding, "I ken what ye mean, it will be hard enough getting to ken ye with father and Jenny interjecting their thoughts into our relationship. Tis why I have already planned for us to have daily picnics so that we might find time to have all to ourselves, away from prying eyes and ears."
Claire turned and placed a kiss on the underside of his chin, "Oh, Jamie, you are so thoughtful, you have thought of everything to make this time special for us."
Jamie leaned his chin on the top of her head, "Well, knowing Jenny, she will put ye to work helpin' out right away. Ye will be the new Lady of Broch Tuarach once I am Laird and she will take it upon herself to teach ye everything ye must ken to be a proper Lady of the estate. I dinna imagine we will get much time together if we dinna make the time to escape from our responsibilities a bit each day."
Claire giggled, "It sounds like it's going to be a lot of work, but strangely enough, I welcome every moment of it. Perhaps working alongside Jenny will allow the two of us to form a sisterly bond as well."
Jamie smiled softly, "Aye, Jenny has always wanted a sister, I ken she would like that. The thought of ye and Jenny forming a bond makes my heart happy. Ye should rest for a bit a shùgh mo chridhe, we still have a bit of a ride ahead of us until we stop to make camp and rest for the night."
Claire snuggled against him, "I love the endearments you choose to use for me, I love you, my sweetheart."
Jamie kissed her crown of curls, "Tha gaol agamsa ort fhèin, mo ghráidh."
With Murtagh leading the way, the three of them rode on toward the border of the MacKenzie lands. Even though the path had been clear when Murtagh scouted ahead, the group continued toward Lallybroch with caution. Jamie and Claire kept their conversation to a whisper in order not to miss the sounds of someone approaching. Jamie had explained to Claire that the animals of the forest would forewarn them if someone was nearby, "If ye sit silently and listen for a few minutes ye will hear the birds chirping, the squirrel's chatter and the insects buzzing. Since we are moving along at a steady rate that is no' startling to them, the animals dinna feel threatened by us and continue singing nature's melody. However, if someone suddenly approaches, the animals will go silent. Their silence is a warning to one another that there has been an interruption among the peace of the forest. If the animals go silent, we ken to stop, look around and listen as well. So as long as they keep singing, we are safe enough no' to have to worry."
Claire turned and looked up at him, "You do remember that I told you that I was raised by an archeologist. But I guess I didn't really explain what that was or what it meant for how I grew up."
Jamie shook his head as he smiled softly down at her. "Nah, ye have no'. Will ye tell me then?"
Claire turned back to face the front of the horse, "Well, it means that I grew up rough. We slept under the stars for most of my childhood. We traveled by horse, mule, camel, and elephant, depending on where in the world we went in search of artifacts. I remember sleeping under the stars in Egypt and thinking that the stars were more brilliant there than I had ever seen them before. I also wondered if I would ever see them shine so bright after we left Egypt. Now here I am, in Scotland of all places and I know that when we stop to rest tonight that the stars will shine brighter than I have ever seen them before. While living in the wilds of the world, my uncle taught me about listening to the sounds of the creatures around us. You are a lot like him in that sense, he always used what the land offered and never wanted to leave a mark behind. He taught me all kinds of things that I only now realize were likely lessons, preparing me for my time here with you, as your wife and I find that I have even more that I should have thanked him for before he died."
Jamie kissed her shoulder, "He sounds like a brilliant man, it warms my heart to ken that ye had such a role model wi' yer parents stuck in this time."
Claire smiled as she leaned back against his chest, "He really was. He wasn't prepared to raise a child when I was suddenly thrust upon him without explanation, but I have to say that he did an exceptional job at it."
Jamie chuckled, "Aye, he raised a fine lass, one that kens more than most men of this time. I would say he did a fine job indeed. Now tell me more about yer time."
Claire thought for a moment as she snuggled closer to Jamie, relishing the heat that his body put off. "You know that I was a nurse for the British army, that was during a world war, the second to be precise. The war was like nothing you could ever imagine. Thousands of men died and thousands more were injured beyond repair. The war started in 1939 and lasted for 6 years. There were planes dropping bombs and tanks crashing their way across the land. I remember once going for a walk to try and clear my mind. I ended up in the garden of Versailles, but it no longer was a beautiful place to escape. There were army vehicles parked in the garden waiting for men to take them out to join in the battle. There didn't seem to be a place left on this earth where one could escape the ravages of the war. It reached every corner and men from all over the world fought to stop the oppression being brought down by Adolf Hitler. Hitler was a dictator, a Nazi who wanted to rid the world of those he thought were impure. His ideals were skewed and unfortunately, he had many followers who believed what the propaganda that he spewed. It was a pointless, brutal war, just as the battles were between the Scottish Jacobites and the English in 1715 and 1745."
Claire stopped talking when she heard Jamie gasp, she turned to look at him, confusion was written all over her face, "What did I say, what's wrong?"
Jamie leaned close and whispered in her ear, "Ye just said there were two wars between the Jacobites and the English."
Claire furrowed her brow, "There were, but why should that surprise you?"
Jamie quirked his brow as if she should know exactly why that surprised him, but that only confused her more, "What is it Jamie, what are you not telling me?"
Jamie tightened his hold on her waist and whispered even softer, it almost to quiet for her to hear his words, "Lass, ye said the second war was in 1745, tis only May in the year of our Lord 1743."
Claire's eyes grew wide, "Oh, God, I mean I knew that when I came back, but I didn't even realize when I was telling you about my time that the second rising hasn't happened yet."
Jamie sat straighter in his saddle, holding her close enough that it was as if he was afraid if he let go, she would simply fade away into the air like a whisp on the wind. "Will ye tell me about the war to come then. Ye said many things about the war from yer time that I dinna ken the meaning of and I will be askin' ye about them later, but this rising in 1745 seems a bit more pressing than one 200 years from now."
Claire nodded, "Yes, yes, of course, I will. But you must know that there is nothing we can do to stop it, it is much too large of an event. Attempting to change something that large would cause ripple effects with numerous unknown consequences that we could in no way foresee the outcome of. What we can do is to ensure the safety of all those we know and love. Whatever happens, we must not become engaged in the conflict, we must either remain neutral or pledge ourselves as loyal subjects to the crown. The Scots will lose again and thousands of men will be killed, not only on the battlefields. They will be hunted down, shot, hung, and arrested to eventually be sent to America to serve out the rest of their lives as indentured servants."
Jamie swallowed the lump in his throat that had appeared as she explained about the rising, "Are ye certain ye wish to stay in this time when ye ken of what is to come?"
Claire smiled up at him, "I wouldn't choose to be anywhere else, my lad."
Jamie kissed her temple, "Can ye tell me more?"
Claire nodded and turned to face the front again, "Well it all started with Prince Charles Stuart, I'm sure you have heard of him. He traveled from Italy where his father remained, to France. He attempted to raise funds among the aristocrats of French society. He was at least partially successful because eventually he sailed to Scotland and began to raise an army of Jacobite supporters. There were several small battles that the Scots won, but in the end, it was all for naught. So many men died needlessly on the battlefield at Culloden Moor. They had no chance with muskets and swords against the canons that the British commanded and were cut down in less than an hour. It was one of the bloodiest battles of Scottish history, but it didn't stop on the battlefield. To punish the Scots for the uprising, the British overran Scotland, banned tartans, the gáidhlig language, and the owning of any weapons. Clans became no more, as the British thought that the assembly of so many people would lead to another rising. They took what they wanted from the people that remained, be it food, supplies, valuables, or just something they fancied, they took it. The men were hunted down and killed and the women were raped. No family was left untouched by the power of the British army. It all culminated at Culloden Moor on April 16, 1746, a date remembered by Scots, even in my time."
Jamie sighed, "What will ye have me do Claire, what will ye have all of us do. If all will be punished regardless of our loyalties, we willna be safe here, no' anywhere in Scotland. None of us will be safe."
Claire turned and cupped his cheek, "I think there is a way that we can be safe. I have been thinking about it ever since you told me about what my parents did when your father went to that funeral. The way that they saved Jenny from possible rape and you from torture at the hands of a madman. You are going to be marrying an English wife, now I know that women have little say in this time, but it may help to garner sympathy from the British. That brings me to another solution to our situation as well."
Jamie quirked his brow, now intrigued at what she might suggest, "Go on, out wi' it, dinna keep me waitin'."
Claire kissed the underside of his jaw, "Well, if we can track down my parents, perhaps they can come back to Lallybroch and talk with your father. Perhaps they can help me explain the situation and convince your father that it is in everyone's best interest if my parents act as owners of the estate, only when the British arrive unannounced of course. I don't know if your father will agree to it, but it might be the only way to keep you, your sister, and your tenants safe from the hands of the British. They won't harm another British citizen and if my father poses as the owner of the estate, they should leave all of us be without taking anything from us. Your father's tenants would be protected because, in the eyes of the British army, they are paying their dues to an English citizen already."
Jamie rubbed his chin, "Aye, that could work. We just need to convince Da' of our plan. He may ken where yer parents are and if he does, we can write to them and ask them to come wi' all haste back to Lallybroch."