Claire was awoken by the sounds of gunfire. She kept her eyes closed and willed the soldiers to practice their marksmanship skills somewhere else instead of so close to the castle. She knew the noise would wake the children and she wasn't quite ready to climb out of bed. It had been a long ride back from the mission to capture Charles Stuart and all she wanted was a bit more rest.
She reached a hand out in search of Jamie But felt nothing but air next to her. "Jamie, love could you go tell the colonel to make those bloody bastards move to another part of the estate to practice."
When no response came, Claire slowly peeled her eyes open, not ready to be blinded by the daylight that would certainly be pouring in through their bedroom window.
But the sight that welcomed her would have knocked her flat if she hadn't already been lying down. She blinked her eyes a couple of times to be sure she wasn't seeing things, but everything remained exactly the same.
She felt panic bubbling inside of her as she took a closer look at her surroundings. She was lying in a cot in an eerily familiar army tent and suddenly she realized that she was in her old cot in Paris.
She scrambled out of bed and looked around for some clothes to put on, but all she could find was her old nurse's uniform. She quickly dressed and stumbled out of the tent, afraid of what awaited her once she stepped outside. She had to squint when she stumbled through the door and when her eyes came into focus, the sight before her sent a chill through her body. Somehow she was back in Paris during the second world war, which happened to be raging around her. People ran by in a rush as the sounds of war assaulted her ears. She stood frozen in shock as she tried to come to terms with her circumstances, when a familiar face stopped in front of her, "Nurse Randall, we need your help, they are bringing the injured in now, there was an explosion."
Claire shook her head in confusion, all of this had happened before and not long after she had landed in Paris. She allowed herself to be drawn along by a fellow nurse she had once called a friend. "Martha, what's going on?"
The nurse looked back at her as if she had lost her mind, "Claire I know that you just got off a 48 hour stretch, but we need all hands, come on."
Claire nodded and followed along, falling into an old rhythm as she entered the hospital. It didn't take long for her to push her anxiety of being torn from Jamie and their children aside and to focus on the task before her. For the next several hours she focused on healing, moving from one injured soldier to the next. When she was finally able to take a moment and sit down, Martha came and sat down beside her. "I'm so sorry for ruining your day off, you truly do deserve some time to yourself, but you are the best person I know to diagnose an injury just by touch."
Claire sighed, "Yes, you have always said that but now I think I need to take a walk, I need to clear my head."
Martha nodded, "I understand, I can't believe that it has been over 6 months since you have heard from him."
Claire plastered on a fake smile, then a memory of this conversation came back to her, "Martha, what day is today?"
Martha frowned, "Claire, are you feeling alright?"
Claire nodded, "Yes of course, I just seem to have lost track of time in all the confusion."
Martha patted her hand in understanding, "Of course, I completely understand. Today is the 1st of December."
Claire nodded, "Right, and what year is it again?"
Martha frowned again and pressed a hand to Claire's forehead, "Are you sure you're feeling alright?"
Claire nodded, "Yes, I am sure, please Martha, what year is it?"
Martha sighed, "Claire, it's 1939. Your husband's complete disregard for your feelings must really be having a negative effect on you, perhaps you should put in for some leave and take some time for yourself."
Claire took in everything Martha had said, as she nodded. "Yes, perhaps I should"
Martha patted Claire's knee, "I will miss you while you're gone, hell all of us will. No one can diagnose an injury as you can, I have never known someone who can simply place their hands on someone and intuitively know what ails them."
Claire frowned, "What do you mean?
Martha chuckled, "Oh, come on Claire, back there, you touched that soldier on the shoulder and just somehow knew that he had internal bleeding. If it weren't for you, we would have lost him."
Claire sighed, "Right, well. I think I have had all I can take for one day, I'm going to go back to my bunk and get a bit of rest."
Both women stood up and embraced each other, "Take all the time you need and if you decide to put in for a bit of leave, let me know. I can't have my closest friend just disappearing on me."
Claire nodded as the two released each other, "I will, thanks, Martha."
Claire turned and made her way back to her tent. As soon as she entered she stripped off her clothes and examined her body. Certainly, she should have the scars from carrying her children on her abdomen, but when she looked in the mirror, she saw that her belly was unmarked. Her eyes moved up her body and came to rest on her face and it was at that moment that she realized she looked years younger than she had last time she saw her own reflection. She watched as the tears began to roll down her face, then she sank down onto the ground and let the sobs take over.
After a bit, she was able to regain control of herself and pulled on some clothes that she found tucked into her army trunk. She sank down onto her cot as questions and memories flashed through her mind. Was it all just a very vivid dream, had none of it truly happened? No, that couldn't be right, she could remember how it felt to be held safely in Jamie's arms, what it was like to nurse each one of her babies. But if that was true, how did she end up back in 1939, in her old life, the life she no longer wanted? Perhaps this was the dream and she would soon wake up in Jamie's arms.
Before Claire knew it she had fallen into a deep sleep on her bunk. She slept fitfully and was awoken by the sound of Martha's voice, "Claire, are you alright, darling? You were crying out in your sleep."
Claire rubbed her eyes and sat up to look at her friend, "I was?"
Martha nodded and sat down on the edge of the cot, "Yes, you were calling out for someone, but that's not what drew my attention."
Claire furrowed her brow, "Then what was?"
Martha gave her an inquisitive look, "Who is Jamie?"
Claire's eyes went round as she stuttered, trying to come up with a plausible answer, "I... well... I dreamed that he was my husband."
Martha chuckled, "So it seems your heart and subconscious are ready to move on from Frank, but your waking mind still feels a need to be loyal to him. Claire I'm not just going to suggest you take a leave, I am going to make sure you do it. I will go to headquarters and request the paperwork, you need time to figure out what you are going to do with your life."
Claire nodded and cast her eyes down in shame. Little did Martha know, that Claire had already fully moved on from Frank and all she wanted was the life she had lived with Jamie. But with every passing minute, she became more and more convinced that it had only been a dream. She looked up at Martha, determined to find the truth, "Perhaps you're right, I need to figure out who I am, but I know who I'm not, I'm not Mrs. Randall."
Martha's eyes lit up, "Now there's my girl, stay here, I'll go get that paperwork for you to fill out."
Claire sighed, "Thanks Martha, I'm not going anywhere."
While Martha was gone, Claire decided to make a list of everything she needed to do, she needed to figure out if everything she remembered had only been a dream or if somehow she was having a premonition of what lay ahead for her like she had experienced when Hal Grey had informed her she would be the one to go into the wolves den.
1. Go to L'Hópital de Anges and see if there was a headstone with Faith's name on it.
2. Get to Inverness Scotland
3. Find anything about Lallybroch or Broch Tuarach
4. Research Red Jamie & the Stuart Witch
5. Find 18th century clothing and go to Craigh Na Dun
She quickly folded her list and stuffed it into the pocket of her dress, worried that someone would think she had lost her mind if they found it. She looked around her tent to see if there was anything she needed to take with her when she went into the city and spotted a straw sunhat sitting on her bedside table. As she made her way around her cot, her leg scraped against the metal frame, causing a deep gash in her shin. She slumped down on the bed and covered the wound with her hand, "Dam, that is the last thing I needed right now."
She took a deep breath and thought about what she would need to clean and dress the wound. She looked down at her leg, where her hands were covering her wound, and gasped. A blue light was emitting from her hands. Her eyes widened as she remembered Master Raymond teaching her about her special skill. She quickly focused on the wound and imagined it healing under her hands.
When she was finished she removed her hands and looked at her leg. There was no gash in her leg and if it hadn't been for the blood still on her calf, she would think that she had imagined the whole thing. Her spirits lifted, she was now more convinced than ever that what she had experienced wasn't a dream, but it still didn't explain how she had ended up in her younger body almost a decade younger.
She got up and carefully walked around the cot, making certain to avoid the sharp edges, and grabbed her hat. As she exited her tent, she almost ran into Martha. "Claire, where are you going, you need to fill out these forms and gain approval before you can go."
Claire nodded, "I know and I will. I just need to go for a walk first, will you cover for me while I'm gone? I won't be gone more than a few hours, I promise."
Martha patted her on the shoulder, "Of course, I'll just leave these forms on your bed."
Claire smiled in thanks, "Thank you, Martha, I appreciate it."
Claire left the base in a hurry and made her way to L'Hópital but as she got closer, her heart sunk. The whole area was a pile of rubble, it had been bombed and by the looks of it, recently. She sighed in frustration, she wouldn't find any answers here.
She begrudgingly made her way back to the base and into her tent, finding the forms on her cot, right where Martha had promised to leave them. She sat down on her cot and began to fill in each line, almost forgetting to put Randall as her last name instead of Fraser. When she had everything filled out, she quickly changed into her uniform and headed to headquarters to turn in her request.
When she arrived she was greeted by the Master Chief's assistant, "Nurse Randall, to what do we owe the pleasure?"
Claire took a step closer, "Hello Lieutenant, I am putting in for leave."
The young officer extended his hand, "Let's see if you've filled this out correctly then."
Claire handed him the small stack of papers and waited patiently as he flipped through them, "Hmm, looks as though everything is in order. I'll pass this onto the Master Chief and you should get your answer in 2 weeks time."
Claire saluted the officer, "Thank you, sir."
The Lieutenant looked up at her, "You're excused Nurse Randall, return to your duties."
The days passed by agonizingly slowly as Claire awaited confirmation that she could take her leave. During that time, she decided that she should probably write to Frank. After a long night in the hospital, tending to even more injured young soldiers, she found her way to her tent and began to pen a letter, likely the last letter she would ever write him.
It's been almost 7 months now since I have heard from you. I do not know if you are dead or alive, but I find that I am not bothered by either situation. I am no longer the clueless woman that you married. I find that I have changed greatly since I have joined the army and we no longer fit together. I don't know for certain if you can call what we had love and the more I think about it, the more certain I am that it was simply an infatuation. You made me feel important, you filled a hole that my uncle left when he died. I felt empty and alone when he died and was vulnerable. I realize now that I married you for the wrong reasons. You were sophisticated and educated a man who knew what he wanted in life and went after it, a man who had a plan. But the longer I have had to think about what my life would be like as your wife, the more I realize that it is not the life I need or want.
I love being wild and free and as I think about our time together, I realize that you were always trying to tame me, to change me into something I'm not. I am not a professor's wife, someone to entertain guests, to cook and clean, to make the perfect impression so that your colleagues hold you in high esteem. I can't cook to save my life and I would rather be out seeking adventure than sitting at home looking pretty for whoever you might invite to dinner.
I also know about all the woman, Frank and though it should make me angry and jealous, I simply cannot find it in my heart to care. You can have your dalliances, sleep with whomever you wish, I will not hold you back. But I must ask one thing in return, grant me a divorce so I can be who I am truly meant to be. I need to be free, I crave to be free without anyone holding me back or trying to change me. I am meant for something more and I apologize for telling you in this way, but you are not a part of my future. If I remain as your wife, I will begin to resent you for it. I cannot be who I am meant to be and remain as your wife. You need someone that was raised to be a wife, not someone who was raised to be independent, someone who was raised to fight for what she wants and to go after it, no matter the cost. I am doing that now Frank, I am going after my dreams. Please do not try to find me, I don't wish to be found.
Good luck in your life Frank.
Claire folded the letter and placed it with Frank's ring in an envelope addressed to Frank. She would wait until she was ready to leave the base to post it. The last thing she needed was Frank showing up unexpectedly and trying to stop her.
Claire had waited 27 days after she had submitted her request for leave and finally a messenger arrived at her tent, "Nurse Randall, I have correspondence from the Master Chief."
Claire opened her tent flap and accepted the envelope for the messenger, "Thank you."
She walked over and sat down on her cot, took a deep breath, and opened the flap of the envelope. She pulled out the single sheet of paper, unfolded and read the contents, sighing in relief when she read the words that hopefully would change her future. She had been granted leave starting January 1, 1940. She needed to tell Martha that she would be leaving and likely would not be returning to Paris.
She left her leave papers lying on her cot and ran to the hospital where Martha should be. As she entered she saw Martha helping a doctor to reset a dislocated shoulder of a tall soldier. She stopped in her tracks, the scene before her taking her back 200 years to the day she had met Jamie. She smiled at the memory, not only of the memory of resetting Jamie's arm but what he revealed to her about how he felt when he set eyes on her.
She shook her head, remembering why she had initially come into the hospital. She rushed up to Martha and grabbed her by the arm, "Martha, I got my leave papers, I leave on new years day. that's only 4 days from now."
Martha pulled her into a hug, "I am so happy for you Claire, what do you plan to do with your time?"
Claire pulled her aside so that no one would overhear them, "Martha, I'm going to Scotland. I don't know for certain, but I believe that is where my destiny lies, and I must follow my heart. I need to find out if what I feel is real or if it's just some fantasy that my mind concocted to deal with the truth of Frank's betrayal. But I wanted to tell you so you don't worry about me, I don't think I will be returning."
Martha pulled her into another hug, "Oh, Claire, I don't blame you one bit, if you think there is happiness out there waiting for you, then you must go after it. If you can escape this bloody mess, I say do it."
Claire grinned, "Thank you, Martha, I will never forget you."
Four days later, she posted the letter before leaving base then headed to the airport. She was finally boarding a flight from Paris France to Inverness Scotland. The flight took four hours which Claire used to go over her list of things she needed to do once she landed. After she had made sure she had listed everything she needed to do, she decided to get some sleep, remembering how worn out she had been when she had first traveled through the stones. Before she knew it, they were landing in Inverness. She took a deep breath and waited for the plane to come to a stop. Once it did, she disembarked and looked around at what she hoped would be her home.
The first thing she did was go into the airport in search of a payphone, there was someone who she needed to reach before doing anything else. She dialed the operator and asked to be connected to Reginald Wakefield. The phone rang twice before being answered, "Reverend Wakefield's residence, this is Mrs. Graham, how can I help ye?"
Claire closed her eyes and thanked the lord it was Mrs. Graham who had answered, "Mrs. Graham this is Claire Fr.. uh Randall, I'm at the airport in Inverness, I was hoping that you could give me a lift, I need to speak with you."
Mrs. Graham made a Scottish noise that made Claire want to chuckle, but she held it in, and waited for a reply, "Aye, I dinna need to fetch Roger for a few more hours, I will be there soon."
Claire thanked her and hung up the phone. She gathered her army trunk and made her way to the front of the airport to wait for Mrs. Graham.
Mrs. Graham picked Claire up from the airport but didn't press her for any information until they arrived back at the manse. When they pulled into the driveway and Mrs. Graham had parked the car, she turned to Claire, "Are ye running from Mr. Randall lass?"
Claire shook her head, "Not exactly, but I need to ask a favor of you."
Mrs. Graham nodded in encouragement, "I will try to help ye out, what is it that ye need?"
Claire took a deep breath, hoping she didn't come off as sounding crazy, "I was hoping that you would read my tea leaves."
Mrs. Graham looked at her in shock, "How did ye ken that I could do such a thing?"
Claire took Mrs. Graham's hands in hers. "Honestly, I had a dream recently, but it didn't seem like a dream, it was so real that I believed it to be true. But with the more time that passed, I'm not so sure it wasn't just a dream. I need you to read my tea leaves and read my palm and if you tell me what I think you will, I will know for certain that it wasn't only a dream."
Mrs. Graham looked at her in confusion, "Ye seem to have lost me lass, but aye, I can read yer tea leaves and yer palm, then hopefully ye can unravel the riddle ye have begun to tell me."
Claire nodded, "Oh, thank you, Mrs. Graham. You have no idea what this means to me."
Mrs. Graham patted her hand, "Alright lass, come inside and I'll brew some tea."
Mrs. Graham climbed out of the car and Claire followed her to the door. Before she unlocked it she turned to Claire, "The Reverend is out of town for a few days so her welcome to stay here while he is away. I take it that ye dinna wish for Mr. Randall to ken where ye are though?"
Claire smiled nervously, "No I don't wish for him to know, thank you so much, Mrs. Graham."
Mrs. Graham nodded and turned back to unlock the door. Once they were inside she took Claire's coat and hung it in the coat closet. Then she went into the kitchen with Claire following behind her like a lost puppy. "Have a seat, my dear. It won't take more than a few minutes to heat the water." Claire gladly took a seat and watched as Mrs. Graham put the kettle on the stove then puttered about the kitchen. After a few minutes, the kettle whistled, signaling that the water was hot enough to brew their tea.
Mrs. Graham placed a couple of tea leaves into two separate teacups, poured some water over them then passed one to Claire.
Claire lifted the delicate cup to her lips and blew gently across the surface. Once she deemed it cool enough, she sipped until the tea was gone. After the last sip, she passed her cup to Mrs. Graham, "What do they say?"
Mrs. Graham accepted the cup, turned it this way and that as she studied the leaves at the bottom of the cup. She furrowed her brow and looked up at Claire, "That is the strangest one I have ever read."
Claire furrowed her brow, waiting to hear something she had heard before or to be devastated at what Mrs. Graham revealed, "Oh, really, what does it say?"
Mrs. Graham chuckled light heartedly, "Everything in yer cup is contradictory. There is the curved leaf which means ye will take a journey, but it's crossed by the broken one that means yer staying put. And strangers there are to be sure, several of them. And one of them is yer husband, if I read the leaves right."
Claire tried to hide her excitement, this is exactly what Mrs. Graham had told her in her dream or premonition or whatever it was that had shown her what the future might hold for her.
Mrs. Graham's brow was still furrowed though, "Let me see yer hand, lass."
Claire smiled and extended her hand toward Mrs. Graham, "Of course."
Mrs. Graham studied Claire's hand then set it on the table as she folded her fingers over. Claire could see she was deep in thought so she waited patiently for Mrs. Graham to say something. After a few minutes, Mrs. Graham looked up at her and took her hand again, pointing to her palm. "The lines in yer hand change, ye know. At another point in yer life, they might be quite different than they are now."
Claire smiled softly at her, trying to hide her excitement, this scene was playing out exactly as she had remembered it, "I thought you were born with them. But, please, tell me, what do the lines say about me?"
Mrs. Graham pointed at her thumb, "The large thumb means yer strong minded and have a will not easily crossed." Then she pointed to the fleshy mound at the base of Claire's thumb, "This is called the Mount of Venus, in a man ye would say he likes the lasses, but for a woman, tis a bit different. Your husband isna likely to stray from yer bed, if ye ken my meaning. Ye have a well marked life line, yer in good health and likely to stay so. Your marriage line is quite curious, it's divided, that's not usual, it means two marriages. But there is something strange about yers, most divided lines are broken, yers is forked."
Claire smiled widely, "Oh thank God."
Mrs. Graham released her hand and looked up at her in confusion, "Are ye no' happy in yer marriage then?"
Claire shook her head, "Well, no I'm not, but that is not at all why I'm relieved."
Mrs. Graham sat back in her chair and picked up her own teacup to sip her tea as Claire spoke, "Oh, please, do tell."
Claire sat back in her own chair and began to regale Mrs. Graham with everything she could remember of her dream of a life she wanted more than anything else in the world. When she was finished Mrs. Graham sat forward and took Claire's hand, "How can I help ye to find him, lass?"
Claire released a breath she didn't know she had been holding. "Well if my dream is at all accurate then I should be able to find something in the history books, either about Jamie or Lallybroch."
Mrs. Graham nodded and rose from her chair, "Come with me, lass. If yer going to find anything on the time period, ye will find it among the reverend's research."
For the rest of the day, Claire remained sequestered in the Reverend's study, pouring over every bit of research he had on the Jacobite rebellion and the Battle of Culloden. Finally, after several hours of reading to the point she had a pounding headache, she stumbled across a warrant for Red Jamie. It was the clue she needed to press on with her plans to attempt to travel back in time and find Jamie, to search out the other half of her soul on the other side of those stones.
In preparation for her possible trip through the stones, she had pilfered penicillin tablets, vials of clean saline, a few syringes, and several needles from the army hospital during the time she had waited for her leave papers to come through. Knowing that if her dream was anything to go by, Jamie seemed to be accident prone and would benefit from what modern medicine she was able to bring with her.
She placed all of the Reverend's research back where she had found it, in hopes that he wouldn't even know it had been touched, then went in search of Mrs. Graham. She found her in the kitchen cooking something that smelled delicious, "Mrs. Graham I think I found what I needed, but now I need another favor."
Mrs. Graham set down her stirring spoon and turned to face Claire, "Of course, my dear, what can I help you with?"
Claire sat down at the small breakfast table, "I plan to try and go through the stones at Craigh Na Dun, but in order to avoid some of the issues I had in my dream, I need to procure a few things."
Mrs. Graham crossed the kitchen and took a seat opposite from Claire, "What is it that ye will be needing?"
Claire smiled at Mrs. Graham, grateful to have someone she could trust with her strange tale, "I need an 18th century dress and all the layers that go with it. I also need a gem to pass through the stones as well as some period coins or gold to trade for things I might need, like a horse or food."
Mrs. Graham patted her hand, "I can help ye wi' the gemstone and I ken just where to get ye a dress."
Claire relaxed in her chair, "Oh, thank God, I was afraid the dress would be the hardest thing to come by, but where are we going to get it?"
Mrs. Graham patted her hand then got up from her chair and crossed over to the stove to stir whatever it was that she was cooking in the large stockpot, "The secondary school drama department hosts a renaissance faire and festival every year in celebration of the knights and ladies of olde. One of the ladies that dances wi' me at the stones is the instructor there and I ken she would be happy to let ye have one or two of the dresses."
Claire sat up a bit straighter, "That is wonderful, how soon can we speak to her?"
Mrs. Graham turned off the gas to the stove and turned back to face Claire, "We shall go in the morning and after that, we can make a stop at the antiquities shop and purchase some jewelry that willna bring any extra attention to ye. I expect ye will be needing a cloak as well, I can ask Mary if she has a warm one that ye can have."
Claire stood up and crossed the kitchen, drawing Mrs. Graham into her arms and hugging her tightly, "Oh, Mrs. Graham, how can I ever thank you for everything you are doing to help me?"
Mrs. Graham pulled back from the hug and patted Claire's arm, "I would be honored if ye would let me watch as ye cross through the stones, it will be enough thanks for me."
Claire nodded emphatically, "Yes of course, how could I deny allowing you the chance to witness something so extraordinary after everything you are doing for me."
Both Claire and Mrs. Graham had woken early the next morning, so Mrs. Graham made a call to her friend Mary, asking her to meet them at the school. Mrs. Graham and Claire pulled into the parking lot, just after 8 am and the two of them made their way to the theater door at the side of the large brick building. After a couple of knocks and only a moment of waiting, Mary opened the door to admit them inside, "Lilian it was so good to hear from ye last night. Now, how about ye introduce me to this lass that ye told me about."
Mrs. Graham turned to Claire, "Claire this is Mary my friend the drama instructor. Mary this is Claire and she plans to travel through the stones at Craigh Na Dun."
Mary's eyes went wide at the revelation, "Ye wish to travel, do ye? Do ye ken how it's done then?"
Claire blushed as she nodded slowly, "Well, I believe so, yes. You see I had a very vivid dream just over a month ago, but I believe it to be more than just a dream. I think perhaps it is a premonition or some kind of glimpse into my future."
Mary looked at her skeptically as she crossed her arms over her chest, "And what leads ye to believe it was more than just a dream?"
Claire turned to Mrs. Graham, "Mrs. Graham, do you trust her?"
Mrs. Graham placed a hand on Claire's shoulder, "Mary has been one of my closest friends for more than 20 years now, you can trust her as well, Claire, she won't' tell a soul about anything you decide to share with her."
Claire took a big breath, "Alright, the best way to prove to you why I believe it to be more is to simply show you."
Mary furrowed her brow, "How do ye plan to do that?"
Claire looked back and Mrs. Graham who nodded in encouragement, "Do you perhaps have an injury, even a small one?"
Mary looked over at Mrs. Graham bewildered then back to Claire, "No, I dinna have any injuries, why do ye ask?"
Claire sighed, "Then perhaps do you have a pair of shears or a small knife that I could borrow?"
Mary's eyebrows shot up to her hairline as she took a step back away from Claire and raised her hands in the air in a position of surrender, "Now I dinna ken what ye have in mind, but I'll no' let ye anywhere near me with a weapon of any sort."
Mrs. Graham took a step forward and took hold of Mary's hands to bring them down, "Mary, she won't harm you, she intends to make a small cut on the palm of her own hand. Do you have a pair of shears about, perhaps for mending costumes?"
Mary's stance relaxed a bit and she turned to walk over to a desk in the corner, pulling open a drawer and retrieving a pair of shears. Claire could see the woman was still quite nervous so she stayed back while Mrs. Graham retrieved the shears from her friend and brought them back to her. Claire accepted the shears and looked up at Mary, "I would like to show you how this works, but I don't wish to bleed all over your floor, could you perhaps come a bit closer so you can see this?"
Mary furrowed her brow, but walked around her desk and took a few steps closer to the other women but made sure to stay out of striking distance of Claire.
Claire looked at both women to be sure they were paying attention and spread the blades of the shears apart, then dragged the blade across her palm. The shears were quite sharp so the blood began to well up immediately. Claire quickly passed the shears to Mrs. Graham and again looked up to make sure they were both watching. She placed her uninjured hand over the palm of the one she had cut and began to imagine the muscles below the skin knitting back together and then the skin doing the same thing. The blue glow that emitted from the healing hand causing Mary to gasp and cover her mouth. Claire slowly pulled her hand away so that Mary and Mrs. Graham could see her palm.
Mary took a step closer, her brow furrowed in confusion, "There is to much blood, I can't see a thing, wait here and I'll grab a cloth so you can sop up some of the blood." Mary walked back over to her desk, not taking her eyes away from Claire or Mrs. Graham, and pulled a clean cloth from another drawer. She walked back over to Claire and dabbed at the wounded hand herself. When the blood was all wiped away, she dropped the cloth on the floor and took hold of Claire's hand to take a closer look. After a closer examination of the hand she looked up into Claire's eyes, astonishment clearly written on her face, "I don't know how you did that, but I believe that perhaps there is something more to you than anyone I know can explain."
Claire nodded in relief, she now had one more person that believed her, "Well, honestly I don't know what I am, but in my dream, I was told that I am a very old soul. At one time I would have been considered a deity of some sort because of my healing powers. But this is not why I am here seeking your help today."
Mary picked up the bloody cloth and took the shears back from Mrs. Graham as she listened to Claire's story.
Claire took a breath, "So the reason I am here, is to ask if you are willing to part with one or two 18th century style dresses and perhaps a wool cloak."
Mary shook her head from all the information Claire had shared, "Aye, well, of course, it is my duty as a druid to help ye out any way that I can, but I must ask a favor of ye in return."
Claire smiled softly, overwhelmed with the help she was receiving, "What is it?"
Mary looked sheepishly at Mrs. Graham then back to Claire, "Would ye allow me to watch as ye go?"
Claire chuckled, "Of course, it seems at this point I might as well invite the whole grove of you ladies."
Mary and Mrs. Graham's eyes lit up, "Now there is an idea, Claire. We usually dance at the stones on Samhain and Beltane but I don't see why we couldn't dance for you, perhaps we could ask the spirits to open the veil to allow you to pass through."
Claire looked at Mrs. Graham skeptically, "Do you think that would work?"
Mrs. Graham shrugged, "I dinna ken, but it certainly couldn't hurt, now could it?"
Claire thought for a minute and then shook her head, "No, I don't see how it could hurt, alright I am hoping to leave tonight, is that enough time to notify everyone?"
Mary and Mrs. Graham squealed like schoolgirls, "Oh, yes. I will make the phone calls now. Lilian, take this lass to purchase her coins and jewelry, I'll have everyone meet at Craigh Na Dun at half to midnight tonight and I'll bring the clothes for ye Claire."
Mrs. Graham nodded, "Aye, we will see ye there."
By a quarter after eleven, Claire had everything ready to take with her. She decided that the story she had concocted would be more convincing if she were to use saddlebags to carry everything with her. One set of saddlebags held her spare dress and all of her medical supplies, the other set held the coins, gold, and enough food to last at least a week. Mrs. Graham helped Claire load everything into the boot of her car and together they made the short drive to Craigh Na Dun.
When they arrived the rest of the ladies were already there, waiting for them to begin their dance. Mrs. Graham led Claire up the hill, "Alright Claire, stand in the center of the circle but don't touch the stone until you hear it call to ye. We will do our dance to call to the ancient ones, we will ask for yer safe passage through to the other side. When the stone calls to ye, clear yer mind and think only of yer Jamie."
Claire nodded, "Alright." She stood in the center of the circle, watched and listened as the Druid's danced around her. It was even more mesmerizing than it had been in her dream. As the dance began to wind down, the wind rose up and swirled through the circle. Claire brushed her hair out of her eyes and looked up at the center stone, her eyes drawn to it by the buzzing sound it had begun to emit. She followed her body's instincts and let her hands rise up as her legs started to carry her closer to the center stone. Just before her hands came into contact with the warm granite of the monolith before her, she heard a gasp from the Druids. It was immediately drowned out by the ungodly screams of trapped souls as the stone seemed to swallow her into a frightful darkness and her body felt as if it had been reduced to atoms, exploding into thousands of different directions.
She kept the thought and image of Jamie at the forefront of her mind and blocked everything else from entering her conscious thought. After what seemed like an eternity, Claire felt as though her body was knitting itself back together and the screams that seemed to permeate every pore of her being slowly subsided. She thought she had been prepared for what it was like to travel through the stones, but dreaming of it was nothing compared to actually experiencing it. She knew that she was no longer in the stones, but she laid completely still, willing the turmoil in her stomach to calm enough for her to open her eyes. After a few minutes of consciously slowing her breathing, she attempted to open her eyes.
The first thing she noticed was that it was no longer the middle of the night, but likely late morning. However, it was hard to tell due to the cold, wet weather she suddenly found herself in. She rolled to her side and then up onto her knees, fighting the urge to vomit. She quickly surveyed her surroundings and took a relieved breath when she spotted both sets of her saddlebags lying at the base of the center stone. She stood up and brushed the loose grass and pine needles from her dress, then bent to gather her saddlebags.
As she was picking the second set of bags up, she was startled by the sound of a gunshot. She quickly knelt down and looked around, but from her location on the hill, she couldn't see anything through the dense forest below. She picked up the last set of saddlebags and cautiously made her way down the hill. When she heard a brook babbling nearby, she ducked behind a tree to make sure her path was clear. However, when she peered around the tree, she realized that her dream had been a premonition after all. To her utter astonishment, Black Jack Randall was squatting next to the stream and it appeared as though he was filling a flask with water.
She quickly went over her options in her head. She knew exactly what kind of man this was and she knew that if she didn't put a stop to his evil reign that he would go on to terrorize many more Scots, not least of all her future husband, James Fraser. She slowly and carefully lowered her saddlebags to the ground and pulled the sgian dubh that Mrs. Graham had gifted her from her right sock. She pushed it up inside of her sleeve and decided that it was best not to try and change this part of her dream. She needed to appear to be a damsel in distress so that Murtagh would rescue her.
She stepped out from behind the tree and acted as though she was surprised to see him, "Frank, what the hell are you playing at?"
Black Jack stood up and turned toward her, and even though she had expected it, the resemblance to Frank startled her and her breath caught in her throat, "You're not Frank."
He looked her up and down lasciviously, "No, madam I am not."
In keeping with the ruse, she continued as she had when she had fallen through the stones in her dream, "Just who are you?"
He took a step closer to her, "Who am I? I might ask the same question of you, madam, and with considerable more justification."
She took a breath and again demanded his name, "Who the bloody hell are you?"
Black Jack seemed to sneer at her choked question, "I am, madam, Jonathan Randall, Esquire, Captain of His Majesty's Eighth Dragoons. At your service, madam."
At that, she broke and ran toward the rock outcropping where he had caught her in her dream. She was prepared for him to grab her arm and shove her against the outcropping but she still flinched when his hand gripped her arm like a vice. He spun her around, pressed her against the outcropping, drew his sword, and pressed it to her throat, "What the devil do you mean by running away like that?"
She struggled to get away, but only succeeded in falling to the ground and pulling him on top of her. To her shock, he seemed to be enjoying the new position and thrust his hips against her. She screamed into his ear which caused him to pull back and she was able to scramble to her feet, but she didn't' make it far before he had her pinned again. This time the sword was pressed harder against his neck. She knew that she only needed to last a few minutes more before Murtagh would come to her aid. Randall began to ruck her skirts up and she was worried that perhaps she had misjudged Murtagh's arrival. But she caught movement out of the corner of her eye and just as the rock was coming down to strike Randall in the back of the head, she let her sgian dubh slide down into her palm and she plunged it directly into his kidney.
Her blow hit him at the same time Murtagh's did and he slumped to the ground at her feet. She looked down at her hands and realized she was gripping the sgian dubh that was now covered in blood precariously. Murtagh reached out and swiftly pulled it from her trembling hand as he began to soothe her, "Tis alright lass, come wi' me, we mustn't linger here. Someone is bound to come and see what we have done."
Claire looked up at Murtagh and nodded dumbly and allowed him to pull her away. He started to pull her in the direction of his horse but she pulled back, "Wait, I must fetch my things. I can't just leave everything I have behind."
Murtagh gave her a strange look but released her hand to allow her to duck behind a tree. She came back out with a saddlebag slung over each shoulder, "Alright, I'm ready."
Murtagh looked at her strangely before taking both bags from her and slinging them over the back of his horse. He helped her into the saddle then swung up behind her and they rode off away from Randall's body. She hoped that he was taking her to meet Jamie.
Murtagh didn't speak during the time it took for them to leave Randall and arrive at the cottage, but Claire didn't mind. It gave her a bit of time to revise her story. Murtagh pulled the horse to a stop outside of the cottage, slid off then helped her down. He pulled her into the cottage, leaving her saddlebags on his horse. He shoved her in front of Dougal and the two men immediately starting a conversation in Gáidhlig. She was thankful that she had picked up enough in her dreams that she could follow most of what they were saying this time around. She was also prepared for Dougal's intimidation techniques this time as she waited for him to turn his attention to her. "What is yer name, lass?"
Claire raised her chin with pride, "Claire, Claire Beauchamp."
Dougal's eyebrows shot to his hairline and she had to stifle the giggle that was threatening to erupt at his comical reaction to her English accent. "Yer a Sassenach?"
Claire smiled, "Indeed I am, is that the only question you have for me? I'm not stupid you know, I am not a whore as the Captain so rudely assumed and I'm not a spy. I am a healer and I was on my way to look for people in need of my services when a redcoat scared my horse off, leaving me stranded next to the stream. Then my bad luck seemed to continue when the notorious Black Jack Randall decided that a woman alone in the woods was nothing more than a whore. But I can assure you, sir, that I am not."
To her surprise, Dougal chuckled at her, "Is that so, well, it seems that at least some of what Murtagh has told me matches what yer sayin'."
Claire frowned, "I understood most of what he said, perhaps I missed something."
Dougal took a step back, "Ye speak the Gáidhlig?"
Claire shook her head, "Not so much, but I understand it well enough. What else did Murtagh say about me?"
Dougal took a step closer, "He says that ye killed the Captain, but after hearin' what he tried to do to ye, I'm no' surprised. But what I want to ken, is where did a Sassenach lassie such as yer self learn the Gáidhlig language and what are ye doin' in the highlands of Scotland?"
Claire sighed, "I have lived in Scotland for the past three years. I learned Gáidhlig from the people I have been living with. Scotland is my home even though I wasn't born here, I have no love for the British."
Dougal scoffed, but before he could reply a painful groan originating from the corner of the room interrupted their discussion. Claire's eyes went round as she realized that everything was following along with her dream and that was likely Jamie that was in pain. She suppressed her urge to put Dougal in his place and turned toward the sound. Before anyone could stop her, she rushed to Jamie's side, recognizing him immediately and began to assess his injury, "Oh, you must be in quite a lot of pain, will you allow me to help you with that?"
Jamie looked at her in confusion and then to Murtagh and Dougal who both shrugged, "The lass claims she is a healer, let's put it to the test."
Jamie nodded, "Aye, if ye think ye can."
Claire knelt in front of him and looked up into those eyes she had been dreaming about. She swallowed past the lump in her throat and suppressed the urge to throw her arms around his neck and hold him tight to her bosom. This was her Jamie, the man who she knew held the other half of her soul. The man who she had given her heart to, the man whose heart she was determined to win again. She shook her head to pull herself from her reverie and focus on the task in front of her, "This is the worst part."
Jamie nodded at her and she took a hold of his wrist and elbow, gave a sharp twist, and forced his shoulder back in. He gasped in surprise, "It doesna hurt anymore."
She smirked, "It will, it's going to be sore for a few days, but I can help you to ease the pain."
Jamie quirked a brow at her with his sexy crooked smirk, "Och, aye?"
Claire blushed, "Yes. I can teach you some stretches to strengthen the joint."
Dougal rolled his eyes and tossed Jamie's coat to him, "Come, lad, we canna linger any longer. The redcoats will be on our trail soon enough, gather the lass and help her onto yer horse, she can help ye wi' the reins."
Jamie escorted her outside and with only a bit of struggle, pulled himself up onto his horse then waited as Dougal gave Claire a boost up, hissing in her ear "Stay close and dinna try anything or I shall slit yer throat for ye, do ye understand?"
Claire nodded, "I understand, I will stay close."
Jamie rolled his eyes as he kept the reins in his left hand and Claire settled snuggly against his chest. He leaned forward to whisper in her ear, "Are ye warm enough, lass? We can use my plaid to wrap around us and combine our body heat but I will need help to loosen it, I canna do it wi' one arm."
Claire turned to help him loosen his plaid, "Don't try and move your arm too much, you will reinjure yourself. Let me do this, alright."
Jamie smirked, "As ye say Sassenach."
Claire grinned as she turned back around and felt Jamie wrap his plaid around them. She took both edges in one fist and placed her free hand on his thigh. He was even more beautiful and kind than she had dreamed. But she had to remind herself that none of this had actually happened before and that she needed to be extremely careful in choosing her words and revealing too much too soon. She wouldn't lie to Jamie, but she had to be sure of his love for her before she told him the truth of where and when she had come from. She also had to figure out how she could arrange the right circumstances for them to be married now that she had murdered Jonathan Randall.
They rode for a bit in comfortable silence, Claire grinning the entire time. She was so thankful that her dream had turned out to be a premonition and that she now found herself wrapped snuggly in Jamie's arms. She allowed herself to relax further into his chest as his masculine scent enveloped her. She knew from the events that had already happened what to expect, but what she wasn't sure of was how close she needed to stick to the original events as she had dreamed them. So far everything had played out just as it had in her dream, except for a few different word choices and the fact that she was wearing proper clothing for the time period.
She became lost in her thoughts and questioning the best approach to guarantee that things would turn out how she had dreamed. Before long her mind settled down and she had drifted off to sleep, fully trusting Jamie and content in his warm embrace. After what seemed like minutes she startled awake and looked around in worry, "Where are we, what time is it?"
Jamie leaned down and murmured close to her ear, "Tis mornin' Sassenach, ye slept all night, we are about halfway to Leoch."
Claire sat up a bit taller and looked around again, her body stiffening when she caught sight of the landmark from her dream. She turned and looked at Jamie with fear in her eyes, "That rock up there, the one that looks like a cocks tail. Isn't that one of the places that the English use for ambushes?"
Jamie furrowed his brow and looked around, "Tis a bonny place for an ambush right enough. Murtagh, what do ye think?"
Murtagh looked around, "Aye, tis. Wait here, lad, I'll go tell Dougal."
Jamie pulled his horse to a halt, worried that Claire might be right about the ambush. He didn't want to put her in danger and if he stayed near the back, he could drop her into a gorse bush before racing off to assist the men. A few moments later, Murtagh came riding back, "Leave the lass here, lad. Dougal thinks she might be right about the ambush."
Jamie nodded and dropped Claire into the nearest gorse bush, then kicked his horse hard, leaving her to wonder what in the hell had just happened. She climbed out of the bush, picked some prickly bits from her skirts and hair, then ran back in the direction they had come. She tried to pick her way along the path she had dreamed of taking, hoping that she would end up in the correct place. Luckily she came out in a place she recognized and right then, Jamie came riding up and jumped off of his horse, "Lost yer way?"
Claire suppressed the grin that threatened to escape, "I hope you haven't been misusing that shoulder." Then she noticed the blood on his shoulder and grimaced, she had hoped to stop him from getting shot. But perhaps it wasn't a bad thing he had. She remembered him telling her once that when he looked up at her the night she had first tended the wound, he knew he wanted her. It would also give her an excuse to spend a bit more time with him once they returned to Leoch. No, it wasn't a bad thing, he needed to be shot so they could establish the connections that made him fall in love with her. "You're hurt."
Jamie smirked at her and looked down at his shirt, "This lot isna my blood, no' much of it anyway." He took a step closer to her, his sword was still drawn. As she pretended to look like she wanted to evade him. "Now Dougal and the others will be waitin' further up the stream." He took a step to block her escape, "We should go."
She stood still, not wanting to run from him, "I don't think that's such a good idea. Dougal seems to think I'm a spy and you saw what he thinks of the English."
Jamie reached out and pulled her against him, "That may be, but ye don't look that heavy, now if ye won't walk, I shall pick ye up and throw ye over my shoulder. Do ye want me to do that?"
Claire's lip curled up a bit at the corner as she thought about being thrown over his shoulder, then shook her head, "No, it would hurt your arm."
Jamie smirked, curious about the expression that had flitted across her face for that brief moment before she thought about his welfare, "Well then, I suppose that means yer comin' wi' me."
They walked back over to Jamie's horse, he helped her back on with a small grunt of pain then swung up in the saddle behind her. She rolled her eyes as another grunt left him after a rather rough spot in the path, "Serves you right, you've probably torn your muscles as well as bruising."
Jamie grunted again, "Well, there wasna much of a choice, if I didna move my shoulder I'd never of moved anything else ever again. Now I can handle a single Redcoat wi' one hand, maybe even two but no' three. Besides ye can fix it for me again, when we get to where we're goin'."
Claire rolled her eyes, but thanked the Lord for the chance to do just that, "That's what you think."
Just then they caught up with the rest of the men and Rupert lifted his flask into the air, "Here's to ye lass, for tippin' us to the villains in the rocks and givin' us a wee bit of fun."
Jamie grinned and looked around to see all the men taking a sip from the flasks, "Slainte mhath."
Rupert passed his flask to Jamie, who took a sip then leaned forward over Claire's shoulder, "Here, have a wee nip, it willna fill yer belly, but it'll make ye forget that yer hungry."
Claire thought about telling him that she had food in her saddlebags but thought better of it until they had a bit of privacy away from the other men. She took the flask from him and took a wee sip, just enough to appease him."
Just as before, Murtagh and Jamie held back and let the rest of the men ride ahead. As soon Claire determined there was enough distance between them, she tipped her head back to speak to Jamie, "Murtagh has my saddlebags, I have food in one of them."
Jamie's eyebrows rose up, "Och, aye, which one?"
Claire shook her head, "Well, I'm not sure, Murtagh has had them since he rescued me."
Jame leaned closer to Murtagh, "Could ye pass the lass her saddlebags for a moment?"
Murtagh furrowed his brow but did as Jamie had asked. "The horse is already carryin' two riders, lass. I dinna think it's such a good idea to add both of yer saddlebags as well."
Claire nodded, "Yes, I agree, just hand me one at a time and I will take out what I need. After that, we can put them back on your horse."
Murtagh shook his head and handed her the first bag, but it was the one that carried her dress and medical supplies. "Here, take this one back, it's not this one."
Murtagh took the bag back then handed her the second one, "This one is a wee bit heavier, what are ye carryin', gold?"
Claire smiled, "Yes."
Jamie's eyes went round at her admission, "Are ye truly?"
Claire furrowed her brow and nodded, "Well, yes. I told you that those bags contain everything I own. I have a bit of gold jewelry, some coins, a spare dress, my medical supplies, and some food for my journey."
Jamie leaned closer to her after she pulled a few strange looking pieces of bread from her bag. She offered one to Murtagh, "Here, try it, I think you will like it."
Murtagh furrowed his brow but accepted her offering, as he smelled the strange looking bread, "What is it?"
Claire chuckled, "It's a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, it's rather good."
She pulled another sandwich from her bag and offered it to Jamie. He did the same as Murtagh had done, but a wee smile spread across his face at the sweet scent of the sandwich. He took a big bite and moaned at the flavor. Claire chuckled, pulled one more sandwich from the bag then passed the bag back to Murtagh. "Are ye sure that ye dinna wish to keep this bag wi' ye?"
Claire shook her head, "No, I think I can trust you, after all, you saved my life when we met."
Murtagh made a sound in his throat, "Yer awful trusting of a ragtag bunch of highlanders."
Claire giggled, "Not all of you, just you and Jamie. I don't trust the rest of these men any farther than I can throw them."
Jamie finished his sandwich and licked his fingers, "Where is it that ye were headin' when Murtagh found ye, lass?"
Claire's eyes went round, she didn't want to lie to Jamie under any circumstances. Her answer would need to be crafty in order, to tell the truth, but not reveal too much. "I had a dream that my healing skills were needed."
Jamie quirked an eyebrow, "Ye had a dream, and ye just up and left everythin' based on a dream?"
Claire nodded, "Yes, it was quite a moving dream. I didn't feel like I had any choice but to trust it."
Murtagh grunted, "Where is it that ye dreamed ye were needed, if ye dinna mind me askin'?"
Claire shook her head, "Not at all, in my dream I was needed by a young highlander who seemed to get himself into trouble quite a lot. He seemed to always be in need of my healing hands."
Jamie blushed at the thought she could be talking about him and was thankful that she was facing away from him at that moment. He cleared his throat and leaned in close so that only she would hear him, "Do ye have the sight then?"
Claire furrowed her brow, "You know, I'm not really sure. I dreamed of what my future holds or I suppose what it might hold, that is if I make the proper choices, but I don't know if any of it will come true or not."
Jamie scoffed, "Did ye dream of anythin' that has happened to ye since ye met us?"
Claire stiffened and Jamie instantly knew the answer but waited patiently for her to answer, "Well, yes and no. I made a judgment call that made what truly happened quite different than how it happened in my dream. That one choice will without a doubt cause a ripple effect that will cause more changes from what I dreamed."
Jamie frowned, "Which choice was that?"
Claire shook her head, "If it's all the same to you, I would rather tell you about that at a later time, perhaps when we know each other a bit more."
Jamie huffed at having to wait for an explanation, but he liked the fact that she wanted to get to know him better and saw him in her future. Then he furrowed his brow in thought, "Ye knew what would happen at Cocknammon rock, did ye no'?"
Claire nodded as she became comfortable with the new direction of the conversation, "Yes, I knew what would happen."
Jamie narrowed his eyes, "How far into the future did ye dream?"
Claire sighed, "I don't feel comfortable revealing too much. I don't want to say anything that will have negative effects on what is to come, but I will tell you that I dreamed of what might happen every day from the day Murtagh found me until the morning of April 15, 1746. I dreamed of two possibilities, but anything can happen. I can say or do something different that will cause neither of them to happen as I dreamed they would."
Jamie leaned even closer to her, "What happened on that day?"
Claire's eyes went wide and she knew she had to be vague in her answer, but she could not lie to him, no matter what. "All I can tell you is, that day you made a choice that I didn't agree with."
Jamie opened his mouth to speak but Claire raised her hand and silenced him, "That is all I will say about it, at least for now. I will tell you everything, but as I said, I fear that if I reveal too much to soon, it will cause a catastrophic ripple that will affect the rest of our lives and I didn't come this far to lose it all now."
Jamie frowned, "Aye, but dinna keep me waitin' long. I have a feelin' that this has to do wi' me as well."
Claire sighed, "More than you know. Just trust that I will never lie to you, but I might not always be able to reveal the secrets that I keep, at least not right away."
After Claire's revelation that she knew what would happen at Cocknammon rock and that she had dreamed of the future, Jamie wondered who exactly she was and what was her true purpose there. Had she intentionally sought them out, was it him she was talking about when she mentioned a young highlander needing her healing? There were plenty of questions that he wanted her to answer and the more time she spent with them, the more questions came to mind. But there was one thing he was certain of, he didn't care why she had come, but hoped she would stay. He suspected by what she had said so far that she thought there was some kind of future for the two of them. What other reason would she feel the need to make such a promise to him, why would she say that she would never lie to him? He suspected she had secrets from the moment he laid eyes on her, as did the others he assumed.
They did have one thing in common and that was their hate for Black Jack Randall. Thankfully the brave wee thing had already taken care of that particular thorn in his side. He was grateful to her for that and was determined to find a way to thank her. Suddenly Claire's voice broke into his thoughts and startled him, "Jamie, you'll tell me if that shoulder starts bothering you or if you begin to feel weak or dizzy, won't you?"
Jamie smirked, "Aye, Sassenach, I'll tell ye, but I feel fine."
Claire nodded and settled closer to his chest, "Alright, I'm going to rest for a bit, I have a feeling that I'm going to be quite busy tonight."
Jamie frowned and looked down at the top of her head, wondering what she had foreseen happening in the hours to come, "Should I be worried about why ye might be busy tonight?"
Claire shook her head, "Not if you're honest with me."
Jamie's frowned deepened, "I'll make the same promise ye made to me and no' lie to ye either."
Claire smiled and patted his thigh, "Good, at least we have that between us."
Before Jamie could form a response or ask any more questions, he heard her breathing slow and felt her body melt into his chest, and knew she had fallen asleep. He smiled tenderly and lowered his head until his nose was just brushing the curls at the top of her head. He inhaled her scent, letting it fill his senses, and prayed that he would have the chance to do so for the rest of his days.
When he had ridden off to fight the redcoats at Cocknammon rock he had pulled his arm from the sling Claire had made with Angus's belt and they had not stopped to put his arm back in it. So he carefully wrapped the injured arm around Claire's arms and body, holding her tight to his chest. He couldn't deny that he enjoyed how she felt in his arms, not like any other lass he had ever held. Though he was still a virgin, he wasn't a monk and had held many lasses, kissed them too. But what he felt with Claire, just by having her body rest against his in the saddle was unlike anything he had ever felt in his life. He felt as though there had been a piece of him missing but he hadn't known it until Claire came into his life and suddenly he felt whole.
She was a curious creature to be sure, but one he was curious to know more about. He was eager to spend more time with her and hoped that when they reached Leoch that her attention wouldn't be drawn elsewhere. He could tell that she was worried about revealing her secrets, but that only made him more determined to win her trust and show her that no matter what she revealed, it wouldn't frighten him away. He already suspected that she was a seer or perhaps a white lady, so truly there was nothing he was not prepared to hear.
As he was staring down at her curls, wishing he could run his fingers through them, Murtagh made a sound in his throat that drew Jamie's attention from the angel in his arms, "I dinna ken who the lass is, but she certainly seems to trust ye, lad. Do ye think she was speakin' about ye when she told us of her dream?"
Jamie shrugged, "I dinna ken, I'd like to think so, but her answers were vague. She is afraid of somethin' but I dinna ken what. I mean to reassure her that she can trust us wi'out judgment. But to do that, I will need to spend a bit of time wi' her. I dinna ken how I'm to do that under the watchful eye of Colum and Dougal."
Murtagh furrowed his brow and nodded, "Aye, Dougal thinks the lass is a spy for the English, but from what I saw when I came upon her and Randall, I canna say that I am of a like mind on that matter. It was as if she knew what Randall was about to do and she was just waitin' for the right moment to murder him. She is a canny lass to be sure and I wouldna wish to get on her bad side."
Jamie furrowed his brow, "Do ye think she will be safe at the castle?"
Murtagh shook his head and shrugged, "I dinna ken lad, but I gave my word to the lass that ye and I would protect her and no' let any harm come to her. Dougal says that he doesna hold wi' rape, but I wouldna' put anything past yer uncle when he is gone wi' the drink. We must come up wi' a plan to see the lass safe."
Jamie nodded in agreement, "Aye."
The two rode in silence for several hours more and eventually, daylight gave way to night and Claire began to stir. She stretched her arms and arched her back, pressing her hips back against Jamie's thighs. He gritted his teeth and willed his body not to react to the pressure her arse was putting on his cock. Claire sighed as she stretched and her vertebrae cracked. She opened her eyes and relaxed back against Jamie's chest, immediately feeling the hard pressure on her lower back. Her eyes went wide and she blushed, her words coming out in a stutter, "O-oh... m-my God, I-I'm so s-sorry."
Jamie finally let out a groan, "Tis alright, lass. I should be the one to apologize."
Claire shook her head and turned to look at Jamie, but his features were hidden in the shadows of the night, "You have nothing to be sorry about, it is a natural reaction and I should have been more mindful of where I was pressing my body."
Jamie closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Her words had his cock hardening even more. Claire felt the shift in his hips and decided a change of subject was probably best. "How is your arm feeling?"
Jamie looked down at his shoulder, realizing that the fabric felt as though it was stuck to his shoulder, but he didn't want to appear weak by admitting he had been shot. But when he didn't answer right away, Claire turned and looked at him again, "Honesty, remember."
Jamie grunted and nodded, "Aye, it hurts a bit, but tis no' the worst pain I've ever felt."
Claire scoffed, "That might be true, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't need tending to."
Jamie sighed and his shoulders slumped which caused a bolt of pain to shoot from his shoulder down to his fingertips, "Aye, perhaps it does and since we are bein' honest wi' one another, I should admit that I was shot back there at the ambush."
Claire shook her head, "I already knew that, is there anything else you would care to admit while we are being honest?"
Jamie furrowed his brow, "Ye knew that? Did ye ken it would happen before it did?"
Claire nodded "Yes I did, but you wouldn't have believed me then. I also know that you have lost a lot of blood and right about now, you are likely feeling quite dizzy. I know that you are going to fall off the horse soon, from all the blood loss, that is, unless you are honest with me."
Jamie chuckled, "Awe, so that is what ye meant by ye would be busy tonig..."
Jamie suddenly slumped forward and slid off the side of the horse. Claire shook her head, "STOP, he fell off."
She jumped down and tried to drag him away from the horse. Murtagh suddenly came to her aid and the two of them dragged him over next to a tree so she could tend to him, "Murtagh, would you grab my saddlebag, the lighter one please."
Murtagh nodded, "Aye, mistress."
While Murtagh was jogging back to his horse, Claire unbuttoned Jamie's shirt and waistcoat to push them aside and examine his shoulder. Just as she had suspected, it was a clean wound, the bullet had gone straight through the muscle. Murtagh set her saddlebag down next to her, while the rest of the men gathered to watch. She opened the bag and used the light of the moon to find what she was searching for. She pulled out a glass bottle that contained a dark liquid, as well as a few squares of cloth. She removed the cork from the bottle and poured a small amount of the dark liquid onto the squares of cloth.
Murtagh furrowed his brow as she pressed the cloth to the bullet wound, "What is that?"
Claire looked up from her task, "This is iodine, I'm using it to clean the wound. I told you that I was a healer and this is better than whisky to clean the dirt from the wound so that it won't get inflamed."
Murtagh nodded and watched as Claire began to wipe the cloth over the bullet wound. She removed the squares of cloth and placed them at the back of the wound. She tipped the bottle up and poured a bit of the iodine directly into the wound, causing Jamie to jerk back to consciousness, "Tha mi gasta, I'm alright, just a bit dizzy."
Claire chuckled, "Yes, I know. But I'm going to tend this bullet wound the best I can so that we can get back on the road. I'm sure we have quite a bit of time before we reach our destination."
Jamie grinned at her as he watched her work. She pulled two fresh squares of cloth from her saddlebag, pressed one to the back of the wound, and one to the front, "Give me your free hand and hold this while I wrap it."
Jamie did as she said and remained as still as possible as she began to wrap the wound, "God damn bloody bastard."
Jamie's eyes went round, "So it's curses, is it?"
Claire rolled her eyes, "I'm not cursing at you, this bloody bandage won't cooperate. But don't worry, I'll get it, just remain still, please."
Jamie's grin spread across his face and his beautiful eyes twinkled in the moonlight. Claire tried to suppress the urge to smile back at him, but she was quite unsuccessful. She shook her head, trying to ignore his easy charm and focused on bandaging his shoulder so they could get back on the road. When she was finished, she packed everything back in her saddlebag, handed it to Murtagh, and offered Jamie a hand to help him stand. "That's about all I can do, the rest is up to you."
Jamie took her hand and carefully stood up, coming to stand directly in front of her, enjoying the heat coming off of her body. He leaned down close enough so that only she would hear what he had to say, "As ye say, Sassenach."
Some of you have noticed that this follows closely to the original. It will remain parallel for a while, but at the same time, there will be new elements to tie it to SCAL. If you haven't yet read SCAL, you should read that first so you understand the references. I hope you enjoy my slight deviations from Canon.
The rest of the journey back to Leoch was uneventful, just as it had been in Claire's memory of her dream. However when they arrived at the castle, it was the first time she had actually been there and she was so caught up in the magnitude and daily life happening around the castle, that she didn't even think about her dream or what may have happened had she waited till after the war to go to Scotland with Frank.
As they rode into the courtyard, Claire was again reminded of her dream and wondered if the next moments would play out as they had in her dream. Just then a man came walking toward the group, "Ay, Dougal! Yer early, man. We hadna thought to see ye before the Gathering!"
Dougal swung down from his saddle and tossed his reins to a young boy, "Aye, well, we've had some luck, some good, some bad. I'm off to see my brother, will ye summon Mrs. Fitz to feed the lads? They'll need their breakfasts and their beds."
Murtagh and Rupert dismounted their horses and together the three of them disappeared under a pointed archway. Everyone else dismounted and stood steaming in the wet courtyard for another ten minutes before Mrs. Fitz showed herself. Jamie pulled Claire's saddlebags off of Murtagh's horse and handed both to her. Claire stood waiting for Mrs Fitz to arrive and when she did finally show herself, Claire recognized her right away and had to hold herself in check not to run to her and hug her like a long lost friend. Mrs. Fitz bustled over, joyous to see the men, "Ye'll be needin' breakfast, I reckon. Plenty in the kitchen, do ye go and feed yer selves." She turned toward Claire and suddenly jerked back as though bitten by a snake, "What do we have here?"
Jamie turned to face her, "Claire Beauchamp, Murtagh found her and Dougal said we must bring her wi' us."
Mrs, Fitz looked Claire up and down, "Claire, well, it looks as though ye could use some cleanin' up, come wi' me."
Claire nodded then turned toward Jamie, "What about him?"
Mrs. Fitz stopped in her tracks and looked back at Jamie with a frown on her face. Jamie smirked and shook his head, "I'm fine, I can fend for myself."
Claire shook her head and stomped her foot, "No, you're not." She turned back to plead with Mrs. Fitz, "He was shot yesterday and I wasn't able to clean it properly. I need to clean it to ensure that it doesn't get inflamed, you know with fever and swelling."
Mrs. Fitz tipped her head to the side as if sizing Claire up, "Oh, aye, I ken fine well what ye mean. But do ye mean to say that ye ken what to do for that? Are ye a charmer, a Beaton?"
Claire shook her head, "I'm a healer, not a charmer or a Beaton, but I have had plenty of experience in treating wounded men."
Mrs. Fitz looked over at Jamie, "Ye heard the lady, Jamie, ye need tendin'."
Jamie handed his saddle to another young boy, rolled his eyes, and followed along dutifully. He took Claire's saddlebags back from her and carried them into the castle for her as the two of them followed Mrs. Fitz through the halls to one of the vacant rooms on the third floor. Claire recognized the room from the one in her dream and was thankful that it was just as she remembered it. She turned to Mrs. Fitz to thank her. "Thank you, Mrs. Fitz, this is perfect, but could I perhaps get some water so that I can wash the area around the wound. I won't know how bad the wound is until I can get a look at the surrounding skin."
Mrs. Fitz frowned, looked over at Jamie, who stood stoic, then she turned back to Claire and nodded curtly, "Aye, I'll bring it right up."
Mrs. Fitz turned and left the room, leaving the two of them alone. Claire removed her cloak for the first time since she had passed through the stones and laid it over the back of one of the chairs in the corner. She turned back to Jamie and noticed that he was still standing in the same place he had stopped when entering the room. "Jamie, you can set those saddlebags down on the bed, I'll need my medical supplies to treat your gunshot."
Jamie kept his face blank, walked over, and set the saddlebags on the foot of the bed, then turned to look at Claire who stood by the hearth, "Where would ye like me, mistress?"
Claire rolled her eyes, "Enough of that, you must call me Claire, have a seat on the stool and remove your shirt, if you will."
Claire could see Jamie's body tense at the mention of removing his shirt. But he did as she asked, setting his things down on the table in the corner, keeping his back facing away from her the entire time. Then he walked over to the stool and took a seat. Claire knew that what he was most afraid of was having her see his back and be horrified at the sight, so she let him have a bit of time to himself while they waited for Mrs. Fitz to return. She took a red throw off the bed and handed it to Jamie, "It's still a bit cold in here, why don't you wrap that around your shoulders until I am ready to begin."
Jamie took the blanket gratefully and wrapped it around his shoulders, effectively hiding the scars on his back. They remained silent until Mrs. Fitz returned a few minutes later, "I've brought comfrey and cherry bark for the pain. As well as witch hazel and garlic and clean cloths to help clean the wound."
Claire took everything and set the items on the table as Mrs. Fitz hung the pot over the fire so the water could boil. She looked apologetically over at Jamie then turned for the door, "I'll leave ye to it then, just call out if ye need anything."
Claire smiled, "Thank you, Mrs. Fitzgibbons."
Mrs. Fitz turned and smiled at her, "Everyone calls me Mrs. Fitz, ye may also."
Claire nodded, "Thank you, Mrs. Fitz."
Once Mrs. Fitz closed the door, Claire walked over and locked it, ensuring that nobody would barge in while she had her medical supplies from the 20th century out for anyone to see. She placed a few of the clean cloths that Mrs. Fitz had brought into the pot then walked over and emptied her saddlebags onto the bed. She picked up the supplies she would need to tend to Jamie's wound, carried them over to the table, and laid them out in the order she would need them.
Once she had everything arranged she walked over to pull one of the rags from the pot over the fire, then looked at Jamie who was avoiding her eye. She shook her head and walked behind him, pulling the blanket away to reveal his scars. She pressed her palm to the center of his back and tried to stifle the tears that threatened to spill over. Jamie jerked at her touch but didn't try to cover himself. "It's alright, you don't have to tell me what happened, I think I already know."
Jamie furrowed his brow and looked over his shoulder at her, "How could ye ken that?"
Claire quirked her brow, "I told you that I had a dream, but what I didn't tell you is that you were a huge part of that dream. I'll tell you what I dreamed you told me and you can tell me if I'm wrong, how does that sound?"
Jamie made a Scottish sound in his throat and Claire had to stifle a giggle, "The redcoats took you from your home, charged you with obstruction, you tried to escape and were flogged twice in the space of a week. Randall himself flogged you the second time and the sight of it caused your father to die from apoplexy."
Jamie looked at her in alarm, "Aye."
Claire took a deep breath, "I need to reveal something to you now, but please don't be frightened when I show you."
Jamie nodded, "Please, I want to ken everything there is to ken about ye, dinna be afraid to tell me anything or show me anything."
Claire nodded, "Alright, I'm going to clean up your gunshot wound, and then heal it."
Jamie furrowed his brow, "Heal it?"
Claire nodded as she got to work wiping the dirt and dried blood away from the wound, gingerly peeling the old bandage away from his skin as it softened from the water. Once it was all clean, she took a dry cloth and blotted the area dry. "Alright, I'm going to heal it now, you might have to turn your head a bit to be able to see it."
Jamie nodded and turned his head to try and see the wound in his shoulder, but it was just out of his line of sight. Claire noticed and took his hand, wiping the dirt away, "I'm going to place your finger on the bullet hole so that you can feel it, be gentle since it will be tender."
Jamie allowed her to move his hand into position and gasped when he put a bit too much pressure on the wound. He quickly pulled his hand away, "Aye, I feel it."
Claire took a deep breath, walked around in front of him, closed her eyes, and placed her hand over the wound. Jamie gasped as he saw the blue light reflected against her dress and felt the pain in his shoulder melt away."
When Claire was finished, she pulled her hands away and looked down to examine the wound. She smiled warmly at the unmarked muscle where the bullet wound had just been. She reached for his hand, "Give me your hand, I want you to feel it now."
Jamie offered her his hand and she again placed it on the muscle, letting him run his fingers back and forth in search of the wound. He frowned, "Tis no' there anymore and I dinna have any more pain in my shoulder from the bullet or from fallin' off my horse."
Claire grinned, "I healed you as if it had never happened."
Jamie nodded but his brows knit tighter together, "Aye, ye did, but how?"
Claire pulled up the other stool to sit down in front of him, "I need to tell you a bit more about who I am, about who we are to one another. But I need to know that I can trust you and that you will believe what I have to tell you."
Jamie took her hands in his, "There is honesty between us, ye can trust me no' to share yer secrets, no' wi' anyone."
Claire sighed, "Alright. My dream was about you and me mostly. We are very important to one another and yes, you are the young highlander that I dreamed about needing my healing touch. The touch you just witnessed mostly. I dreamed of falling through the stones at Craigh Na Dun and meeting all of you. In my dream, I tried to get back to my own time, to my husband Frank."
Jamie furrowed his brow, "Wait, yer sayin' that ye come from another time and ye have a husband?"
Claire nodded, "I did come from another time, I came from the year 1940. But I don't have a husband anymore. After I dreamed of you and the life we would have, I knew where I truly needed to be, when I truly needed to be."
Jamie grunted, "Ye said when ye first told us that ye came here because of a dream that ye had dreamed of every day from when Murtagh found ye up until April 16, 1746, so tell me more."
Claire looked down at her hands as she recounted her dream. "In my dream Murtagh rescued me, but I didn't kill Black Jack Randall, not like I did when I really met him a few days ago. So far everything that has happened, besides me killing Black Jack is just how it happened in my dream. Well, for the most part, it is the same, I haven't said the same things, therefore some of what you and everyone else has said is a bit altered as well. I was also wearing a thin white dress in my dream that you all thought was my shift. Oh and in my dream, I didn't leave my own time until 1945, so I'm 5 years younger than I was in my dream. I also somehow left my time in January of 1940, and unless I'm mistaken, I arrived here on your 22nd birthday, May 1, 1743."
Jamie nodded, "Aye, so in yer dream, ye were 26, but still arrived on my 22nd birthday?"
Claire nodded, "Yes, it appears as though I was destined to arrive on that day, no matter when I left."
Claire frowned, "You seem to be accepting the fact that I traveled through time, quite well."
Jamie quirked his brow and pointed to the bed, "Tis no' that hard to believe when I look over at everything ye brought wi' ye. Tell me more of yer dream."
Claire smiled, "After we arrived at Leoch and Mrs. Fitz showed us to this room, I saw your scars for the first time and you told me how you got them. I bandaged you up, wrapped your arm so you couldn't use it. You told me that I was a kind woman with a good touch and that my husband was a lucky man. I was mourning the loss of my husband, having left him behind in my own time. I began to cry and you comforted me, you held me in your arms and allowed me to cry. I felt bad for allowing you to see me cry and immediately apologized. You told me that I need not be scared of you or anyone else here as long as you were with me, and also reminded me to be careful since I am English and that is not a pretty thing to be here."
Jamie smirked, "Aye, that sounds like something I might say."
Jamie thought for a minute, then looked up at her, "Ye say that in yer dream, ye fought to return to yer husband, if that's true, then why would ye purposely come through the stones now?"
Claire smiled softly, "Because, when I woke up from my dream, I realized the truth about my life. I knew that if I was indeed able to travel through the stones, then this is where I was meant to be."
Jamie shook his head, "So ye left yer husband then?"
Claire chuckled, "I wrote him a letter, told him the marriage was over and yes, I left him. I hadn't heard from him in over 6 months and I knew that we weren't meant to be together. I knew that there was someone else that I was meant to be with and instead of wasting my life in a time where I didn't belong, I took control of my destiny and came to you 5 years sooner."
Jamie chuckled, "Ye came to me?"
Claire blushed, "Well, yes. I haven't gotten to that part of my dream yet and I'm not sure how much I should reveal about what is yet to come."
Jamie reached up and stroked her loose curls, "What are ye afraid of lass, I can see that it is somethin' so powerful to keep ye from speakin' yer mind. I can see that ye wish to share everything wi' me, but whatever it is that has ye so frightened, it is stoppin' ye from doin' so."
Claire sighed, "It's not a thing or person per sae, it's more that I am afraid that if I reveal too much, we won't have the life we dreamed of, the life we deserve."
Jamie let his hand fall away, "I have'na dreamed anything, lass. But a future wi' ye by my side, that seems more than I could hope for."
Claire shook her head and reached out, claiming his hand in hers, "Not if we play our cards right. You are mine James Fraser, and I am yours."
Jamie chuckled, "I should have known that ye knew my true name. Will ye tell me a bit more?"
Claire nodded "Yes, but this bit, I found out much later in my dream and I can only tell you now so that you might understand how I was able to heal your shoulder and what I want to do to your back."
Jamie frowned, "What do ye wish to do to my back and why?"
Claire released his hand and walked around behind him again, "I want to heal your scars. I'm not afraid of them, they don't sicken me, but I know you would feel more comfortable if you didn't always have to worry about them. I also know what Dougal is planning and I don't want to give him the opportunity to use you in that way."
Jamie nodded, "Aye, tell me and then ye can try and heal them."
Claire leaned over and kissed Jamie's shoulder, and a blush rose to the tips of his ears. She walked around and sat down on the stool in front of him and took his hands in hers, "It will take quite a bit of time to heal your entire back and it takes a lot out of me. I need to regenerate my strength after doing something like that and I need you near me in order to do that. Will you stay with me after I heal you?"
Jamie furrowed his brow, "Stay wi' ye, here in yer room?"
Claire nodded, "Yes, I can't regenerate unless you are near me, your strength is what keeps me going."
Jamie shifted on his stool, "Tis no' proper for me to be in yer room wi' ye."
Claire quirked her brow, "You're in here alone with me now, what's the difference. You would basically be guarding me while I heal."
Jamie frowned, "Ye didna say that to heal me, would harm ye. I dinna ken if I wish to have ye do it."
Claire sighed, "I will be fine as long as you stay with me."
Jamie rubbed his thumbs over the backs of her hands, "Why don't ye tell me more, and then I shall decide."
Claire nodded and looked straight into his eyes, "I still don't wish to reveal too much, as I said, there are things that I am afraid will be changed if I say too much too soon. But what I can tell you is that in my dream I learned some truths about me and about you. Apparently, we are two halves of one soul and we have been drawn together since the beginning of time. I have special powers that allow me to heal people, as well as to see into their minds. I can only show one person into my mind and that is you, but we won't do that until I know you are ready.
In my dream, I met a man that taught me about my power and worked with me on how to control it. I can heal others as well as myself, but there are those that would accuse me of being a witch if they were to see me use them. I have to be extremely cautious with where and who I use my healing gift on. In my dream, I healed your back before, as well as the wound to the back of your skull, the one that Dougal gave you when he hit you with the ax."
Jamie furrowed his brow, "I always thought it was Dougal, how did ye ken it was him?"
Claire rubbed her thumbs over his knuckles, "During my dream, you killed Dougal, but right before you plunged your dirk into his heart, he admitted to being the one to try and kill you with the ax."
Jamie frowned and pulled his hands away from her, "Ye say ye wish to keep certain things to yer self, but then ye reveal that I killed my own uncle. What are ye playin' at?"
Claire sighed, "That is not something that I believe will be repeated or something that needs to be repeated. As I told you before, I saw two versions of how my life would end up, you only killed Dougal in one of those versions. I don't believe that by revealing that to you, it will change anything. Well, perhaps it will give you a better understanding of him, and then again, perhaps not. He has never really hidden his true feelings toward me, so it wouldn't take you much time to know why you had killed him."
Jamie grimaced, "Aye, he thinks yer a spy and ye sayin' the wrong thing would be enough reason for him to try and kill ye. There is no way that I would let him get close enough to even attempt such a thing."
Claire nodded, "Yes, exactly and you have known me less than a week. Just imagine how strong your feelings would be after we had lived almost three years together."
Jamie quirked an eyebrow, "Do ye realize how much ye have revealed to me already?"
Claire nodded, "Yes I do, but nothing that should cause any changes to our future. You told me once in my dream that you wanted me almost from the first time you saw me and loved me not long after that. I don't know if you have reached that realization yet since we have met, but I would wager if you haven't yet, that you will soon."
Jamie smirked, "To be honest wi' ye, I have thought that love might be what I am feelin' for ye, but I canna yet be certain. But I do have one thing to ask ye?"
Claire looked him in the eyes, not wavering even a bit, "What is it that you would like to ask me?"
Jamie reached out and took her hand in his, lifting it to his lips and placing a kiss over her knuckles, "Do ye love me, is that why ye came through the stones?"
Claire blushed, "Honestly, I'm not sure. I definitely feel a pull toward you, but I don't think we know each other well enough yet to call what I feel for you love. I think we need more time to truly get to know one another."
Jamie grinned, "Aye, I couldna' agree more. I look forward to spendin' more time wi' ye."
Claire smirked with a bit of cockiness in her eyes, "Good, now, are you ready to let me begin healing your back?"
Jamie nodded, "Aye, but perhaps no' all of it at once. If we are gonna spend time together, ye can work on it bit by bit. Besides, I imagine that Mrs. Fitz will be up to fetch ye for supper after a bit, so we only have a few hours. After supper, we can return to yer room and ye can work on it a bit more."
Claire stood up and reached for Jamie's hands, "I will need you to come with me."
Jamie furrowed his brow but allowed her to pull him to his feet and lead him over to the bed. He looked at it incredulously before turning his questioning gaze on her, "Ye wish for me to lie in yer bed?"
Claire nodded sheepishly, "Yes, as I said, this takes a lot out of me, its better if you are lying on your stomach and I can sit on the bed next to you. That way when my energy is drained, I can just lay back and fall asleep."
Jamie narrowed his gaze at her, "As soon as ye fall asleep, I'll be moving back to the stool. It wouldna be proper to remain in the bed wi' ye while ye are asleep."
Claire smirked as her cheeks turned pink, "As you say, my Laird."
Jamie's eyebrows shot up, "Ye truly do ken a lot about me, do ye no'?"
Claire nodded, "As I said, I dreamed about you, about us, about the life we had or rather will have. I believe you told me everything about yourself, though I won't know for sure until I have lived through those years with you. Now lay down so I can get to work."
Jamie rolled his eyes, sat down on the side of the bed, and pulled off his boots. She stood watching him as he pulled them off and set them side by side next to the bed. He looked up at her as he sat up, "What?"
She giggled, "Nothing at all, I just enjoy watching you ready yourself for bed, even though that's not technically what you're doing."
Jamie furrowed his brow, "I dinna ken what the word technically means, but I dinna wish to get mud in yer bed."
Claire walked over and placed a hand on his shoulder, "I know and I thank you for that, don't worry yourself over it."
Jamie turned his head and kissed her hand, then laid down and rolled onto his stomach with his hands on the pillow over his head. Claire walked around the other side of the bed and climbed up to kneel beside him. She looked over the expanse of his back, trying to decide where to begin. Finally, she thought to begin near his waist, where his shirt was more likely to ride up accidentally. "Alright, Jamie, just relax, close your eyes and I will begin. As I said, this will take a while, even a small space takes a while since the damage goes all the way to the bone. I will heal the underlying layers first and save the visible scars on the surface until the end. You might feel a bit of tingling as the feeling comes back to the area I'm working on."
Jamie nodded, "Aye, do as ye must, I'll be fine."
Claire had already dreamed of all the damage to his back and what it would take for her to repair it, but she still started with a diagnosis as she hovered her hands over his back, closed her eyes, and allowed the images to make themselves visible to her mind's eye. The most extensive damage was to the area at the top of Jamie's back, likely where the cat of nine tails had made initial contact with each lash that Randall had laid down on his tender, once beautiful skin. She opened her eyes and moved her hands to where she planned to begin his healing treatments. She closed her eyes, cleared her mind, and visualized the severed nerves knitting back together. Once the nerves were repaired, she move onto the muscle fibers, then she emptied her mind and visualized the scars under her hands, she saw the skin smooth out and begin to mend back together in her mind, then she visualized as the coloring evened out and the scar finally disappeared. The whole process to heal an area the size of her hand took roughly 20 minutes. Claire opened her eyes and examined the area below her hands, smiled, and moved her hands to an adjacent area on Jamie's back.
She began the process again and once finished she placed her hands on Jamie's back, causing him to startle at her touch. He turned his head so that he could see her, "Are ye alright lass, do ye need to rest now?"
Claire shook her head, "Not quite yet, I think I can heal one more spot before I will need to rest."
Jamie smiled then closed his eyes and waited for the telltale warmth on his back to signal that she had begun healing yet another area on his back. She had been right and he could feel his back tingle as her hands hovered above him, the sense of feeling in his back becoming more acute with each moment that passed. He could sense when she had finished due to the warm feeling being replaced by a crisp chill that seemed to permeate the rest of the air in the room. He opened his eyes just in time to see Claire curling up next to him as her eyes drifted shut. Before he could move, her hand reached out and rested on his bicep as her lips curled up into a sleepy smile.
He carefully extracted himself from her and moved off the bed without jarring her. He walked over and retrieved the blanket that had been wrapped around his shoulders when they had first arrived in the room and used it to cover Claire over. He grabbed his boots and returned to sit on the stool next to the fire, slipping his boots on quietly, then folding his hands in front of him to wait for her energy to return to her.
To say Jamie was nervous about remaining in Claire's room while she slept not 10 feet away would be an understatement. He repeatedly strode over to check on her, wondering how long it would take before she was well enough for him to leave. There was no doubt that he was drawn to her, but the things she had revealed to him, were beyond even his imagination. He had felt the heat from her hands as she healed him, but without seeing it happen for himself, he was having a hard time wrapping his mind around what exactly had happened. After she had fallen asleep and he had put his boots on, he had reached back to feel the skin on his lower back and was astounded to find it free of the scars he had become accustomed to over the past years. He knew that she believed everything she had told him and had even proven to be right when they were at Cocknammon rock, but he was still wary of her.
Murtagh had told Dougal that she had killed Randall, so Jamie knew she was capable of cold blooded murder. That made it very clear that a man did not want to get on her bad side. She was capable of healing and seemed to take joy in doing so, but she was just as deadly in the right circumstances. Even though he was eager to get to know her better, he decided to keep a bit of distance between them and if they truly were meant to be together, it would happen naturally. Besides, if his uncles realized there was something between them, they would make sure they never saw one another again. There was no way he could let that happen, no matter what, he needed her in his life in some way.
She had told him that they were important to one another but never mentioned exactly what that meant. She had said they were two halves of one soul, but he thought that could also mean they were close friends, always there for one another. After all, if her dream was a premonition of her future, how would they end up wed. He was an outlaw with a price on his head and nothing more to offer her than his name. He nodded to himself, taking it slow and letting nature take its course was the best option. He would not press her for more details of her dream, he didn't want to know. Once she awoke, he would do as Dougal had requested of him and go to the stables, where he would remain. If they were truly meant to be something to one another, he had faith that God would lead them back together.
He was staring into the fire, trying to decided what to say to her to make her understand his trepidation when he heard her moving on the bed. His gaze shot up toward the sound and he saw her stretching her arms above her. However, he wasn't yet prepared to face her, so with the proof that she would be waking any moment, he pulled his shirt on, collected his belongings, and silently slipped from her room.
When Claire's eyes opened, it took a moment for her to remember where she was and a slow smile spread across her face. She sat up and looked around the room in search of Jamie, but he was nowhere to be found. She frowned, wondering why he had left and where he had gone off to. Before she had much time to contemplate any of it, there was a knock on the door. Claire climbed out of bed and straightened her dress, then strode over and answered the door. On the other side, stood Mrs. Fitz, holding a familiar dress and a fresh pitcher of water. "Himself is eager to meet ye, lass. Ye must get cleaned up and dressed before ye go up to see the Laird."
Claire closed her eyes and sighed, realizing that all of this was playing out as it had in her dream and she had no choice but to go along with it all. She just hoped that her new story for being here would be more believable than the one she had used in her dream. She stepped aside and waved Mrs. Fitz into the room, "Yes, of course, please come in."
Claire allowed Mrs. Fitz to help her with her ablutions and silently thank the druids for providing her with period clothing so Mrs. Fitz wasn't left questioning her strange undergarments. When she was finally washed and dressed in fresh clothes, Mrs. Fitz escorted her to Colum's study which was situated exactly where Claire knew it would be. Mrs. Fitz led her inside and she was left alone to wait for Colum to arrive. This time, however, she didn't need to snoop around to find out what the date was, she was aware that she was in the year 1743, just two days after she had arrived.
She sat down in a high backed chair, folded her hands in her lap, and stared out the window as she awaited the arrival of the Laird. Colum entered silently and took in her proud queenly posture, curious about the Sassenach his brother had found in his travels. As he started across the floor, his feeble body betrayed him and the shuffling of his feet alerted Claire to his presence. She swung her head around, took note of him, and rose to her feet, curtsying politely as he came closer to her.
He waited for her to rise, then smiled at her, "Have a seat lass, we have much to discuss."
Claire furrowed her brow in confusion, but kept silent and did as he commanded, taking her seat and folding her hands in her lap again. She waited for him to take his seat before speaking, "What is it that you would like to discuss, my Laird?"
Colum chuckled, "My name is Colum Ban Campbell MacKenzie, but ye can call me Colum."
Claire nodded, "It is very nice to meet you, Colum, I am Claire Beauchamp."
Colum folded his hands over his chest, "My brother Dougal tells me that Murtagh found ye tryin' to fight off a Redcoat captain who happens to be well known around these parts."
Claire nodded, "Yes, that's correct."
Colum narrowed his gaze at her, "He also tells me that ye killed that Redcoat captain."
Claire swallowed, "Yes, I did in fact do that."
Colum smirked at her bravery and bravado, "Ye will have to pardon my confusion, but why would a sassenach, lassie, have need to kill a redcoat captain?"
Claire sighed, "In truth, the man was attempting to rape me. I have no love for the British or their army, they are a bunch of power hungry fools with too much time on their hands. Now I know what you are probably thinking, why would an English woman have such loathing for her own country. Honestly, I was born in England, but it hasn't been my country for a very long time. Not since I lost my parents when I was a little girl. I was raised all over the world by my uncle, my only surviving relative, so I don't call England my home anymore. Scotland has been my home for the past three years."
Colum's eyebrows rose as he took in everything she was saying. He could see that she was being truthful and he was astounded at the hate this woman had for her own countrymen. "Be that as it may, what is a sassenach lassie doin' in the highlands of Scotland?"
Claire sighed and gripped her own hands tighter. This would be the part of the story that would require a bit of stretching. "I don't know how much your brother told you about me, but I am a healer. I came to the highlands in search of people who could use a healer."
Colum furrowed his brow, "But why would ye come to the highlands, there are people all over the world in need of a healer?"
Claire nodded, "Yes, you are absolutely right, but as I said, I have lived in Scotland for the past three years and I have come to see it as my home. I find it atrocious what the British are doing to Scotland and her people and I want to do my part to try and change that. I understand that people here don't trust me because of my English accent, but I want to prove that not all English born people are bad. I love Scotland and her people and would gladly live here for the rest of my days. I have no family left since my uncle died and so I have nothing anchoring my anywhere."
Colum rubbed his chin, "I hear truth in what yer sayin', but I can see that ye are holdin' somethin' back from me. I dinna ken what it is, but until I do, ye will remain here, ye can work in the surgery. It used to belong to old Davey Beaton, our healer before he died. Ye will see to the inhabitants of the castle and I will decide when I trust ye enough to let ye leave."
Claire nodded, "Thank you, Colum, but I have no desire to leave. If you are in need of a healer, I think your plan will benefit us both. I have been looking for people to heal and from the sound of it, you have plenty to keep me busy."
Colum nodded and began to stand up, so Claire stood as well. Before she left she turned back to Colum, "There is something that I am keeping to myself, but my secret will not bring harm to you, your family, your people, your home or Scotland. I will tell you everything in time, once I know that I can trust you as well."
After leaving Claire's room, Jamie made his way to the stables. It was late enough in the day that auld Alec wouldn't need his help till morning, so he climbed up to the loft above the stalls and made a rough pallet out of some hay and old horse blankets. When the pallet was satisfactory, he stretched out at length, closed his eyes, and let his weary body finally get some rest.
After Claire had left Colum's study, she found her way to the top of one of the castle towers and looked down into the courtyard. Dougal was there with Hamish, just as he had been in her dream and she reminded herself not to commit the same faux pas she had in her dream. That declaration only seemed to feed the flame of doubt and mistrust that surrounded her and the last thing she needed to be aimed at her while she tried to win Jamie's heart, was more suspicion.
She furrowed her brow as she watched Dougal play with his son in the yard and wondered if she would be able to see the stables from her vantage point. She turned in a circle and realized that the stables were on the opposite side of the castle from her current position. So she looked across to the other side of the castle, trying to determine how to reach the other catwalk. She scanned the inner castle walls, trying to build a virtual map in her mind of how to get to where she wanted to be in order to try and spot Jamie. When she had a plan formed, she made her way back inside the castle and down the corridors that should lead her to the far catwalk. But as she turned a corner a bit too fast, she ran into none other than the petulant child, Laoghaire.
Claire clenched her jaw and had to bite her tongue to keep from saying something that would cause the girl to report her as a witch. Luckily the girl was not yet aware that there was anything between Claire and Jamie. She did, however, stop right in front of Claire, effectively blocking her path, "Mistress, my grandmother has sent me to fetch ye. She says that the Laird has requested yer presence in the great hall."
Claire sighed in defeat, her little detour would have to wait. "Yes, of course, please show me the way."
Laoghaire curtsied, turned with her chin held high, and led the way to the great hall. She stopped just outside the door and gestured for Claire to continue, "I must return to the kitchen, the Laird awaits ye."
Claire nodded and plastered on her best fake smile then turned away from Laoghaire. She smoothed her hands over her skirt in a nervous gesture then stepped into the hall. Every voice in the hall quieted do a whisper as all eyes landed on her. She swallowed past the anxious lump in her throat, stood proud, lifted her chin in defiance, and strode toward the high table where Colum and Letitia awaited her arrival.
She took a breath as she approached the table and reminded herself to follow the script of her dream, but not to drink so much that she lost her judgment. She curtsied to Colum then raised her head to see him gesturing to the seat next to him, which Dougal stood behind with a cocky expression on his face. She took another deep breath to steady her nerves and prepare for the coming interrogation.
She walked around the table, sat in the offered seat, and folded her hands in her lap. A few minutes later one of the kitchen maids brought a plate filled with food and set it in front of Claire. She eagerly dug in, consuming everything on the plate while Colum and Dougal watched on in disbelief at her lack of decorum. Colum furrowed his brow and waited until she had set down her fork before he spoke, "Ye look like a lady, have the speech of a lady, but ye dinna act like any lady I have ever met. Perhaps ye were truthful when ye said ye werena raised in England."
Claire smirked but quickly schooled her features, "I am so sorry, I didn't mean to be rude like that. It's just that it has been some time since I have had such delicious food at my disposal. I am used to only getting the sparsest of rations."
Colum nodded, but he was confused about where she had been living that she had only meager meals. "Where is it that ye had to live as such?"
Claire contemplated how much to reveal to get Colum to believe her. She had dreamed that she lived in Scotland for the past three years, so that was true to an extent. But the rationing was due to her time in France as a combat nurse. She decided she could divulge a bit of truth to perhaps ease his mind. "As I said, I have lived in Scotland for the past three years, but most recently I spent a bit of time in France. I was working as a healer there and with all of the fighting going on, there was very little food available."
Colum frowned, "How did ye find yer self in France?"
Claire swallowed the sip of renish but kept her eyes forward as she scanned the crowd in search of Jamie. "I had heard that healers were needed to help all of the wounded men. I thought it was my duty to go and help them."
Colum stared at her for a moment, "Why Beechump?"
Claire furrowed her brow to seem confused, but in truth, she knew exactly what he was asking, "Well, that's my name."
Colum shook his head, "Should it no' be pronounced Bo-shom?"
Claire nodded, "Well, yes, that is the french way, but I suppose that one of my ancestors decided to adopt the English pronunciation."
Colum made a disapproving sound in his throat, and Claire was loathed to allow the conversation to go on for much longer. She decided a change of subject was required, "I hope Mr. MacTavish is feeling better."
Letitia frowned, "Mr. MacTavish?"
Dougal rolled his eyes and spoke up, "She means young Jamie."
Letitia's frown deepened, "Jamie, why, whatever is the matter wi' the lad?"
Colum patted her hand, "Naught but a scratch my dear, he's fine. Though, where is he, Dougal?"
Dougal set his fork next to his plate, "I sent him down to the stables to help auld Alec wi' the horses. Seemed the best place for him, all things considered. Or did ye have some other plan for the lad?"
Colum nodded with his brow furrowed, "The stables, aye, that will do."
Claire smiled internally, Jamie was right where she expected him to be. As the kitchen maid came around to serve pudding, Claire pushed her plate away and stood up. It was time for her to make her excuses and retire for the night. "Please excuse me, I am still bone tired from our journey and can barely keep my eyes open."
Colum looked at her appraisingly for a moment before waving his hand in the air as if to excuse her, "Goodnight to ye then, Mrs. Beauchamp. I'll send someone to fetch ye to the hall in the morning."
Claire turned and narrowed her eyes at him, "It's Miss, I am unmarried"
Early the next morning Claire awoke, dressed, and headed down to breakfast before Colum had a chance to send anyone to fetch her. She needed to see Jamie, but she was worried that she had frightened him with all of her talk about being soulmates. She had to remind herself to reign in her passion for the man she knew she loved the moment she had set eyes on him.
In her dream, they had promised not to lie to one another, but that had only been a dream and had not truly happened, not yet anyway. So she didn't feel too bad when she had kept her true feelings from him. She could see that he had been holding back as well, but it was likely all a bit too much for him at once.
She had planned to spend as much time with him as possible, but perhaps what he needed was a few hours to wrap his mind around everything. Instead of following the demands of her yearning heart, she would follow the script of her dream and take him lunch under the ruse of checking on her patient.
She walked into the great hall and Mrs. Fitz met her with a plate full of food, "Take this lass, I'll find ye a seat."
Claire nodded in thanks and followed Mrs. Fitz toward a table near Colum's table. As she approached he raised his glass of renish in welcome. She smiled and took the seat which Mrs. Fitz had indicated for her. Luckily it was a familiar face that belonged to the man who sat down across from her. Claire smiled at the familiar face, "Hello."
He smiled back at her, "So how are ye gettin' along, lass?"
Claire shrugged, "Well as good as I can be, I suppose. Both Colum and Dougal suspect me of being a spy."
Murtagh reached across the table and patted her hand, "Dinna fash, lass. No' all of us believe that to be true."
Claire sighed in relief, "Thank you, Murtagh."
Murtagh pulled his hand back and stabbed a piece of blood pudding, "Ye have naught to worry about lass, I saw ye kill that black hearted redcoat captain. Both Jamie and I ken that ye are no a spy for the English and in time Colum and Dougal will ken it as well."
Claire nodded and hoped to God that Murtagh was right. She turned her attention to her breakfast and they sat in silence, enjoying the rest of their breakfast, and when they were finished Mrs. Fitz appeared at their side, "Mistress Beauchamp, the Laird would like for me to show ye to the surgery."
Claire nodded and stood up, gathering her plate as she did. "It was nice sharing a meal with you Murtagh, I hope to do it again soon."
Murtagh raised his glass to bid her adieu as she walked away from the table. Mrs. Fitz led her first to the kitchen to deposit her dirty plate with the kitchen maids, then led her down the side stairs to the surgery.
For the next few hours, Claire focused on cleaning and organizing her surgery, stopping only when her stomach complained of hunger. She returned to the kitchen in search of Mrs. Fitz, finding her preparing vegetables, "Excuse me, Mrs. Fitz."
Mrs. Fitz looked up, "Yer a bit late for lunch my dear, but there is a bit left if ye would like it."
Claire nodded, "Yes, actually I was hoping to take some lunch out to Jamie in the stables, I don't imagine he made it back for lunch either. Would it be possible to pack a basket of food?"
Mrs. Fitz wiped her hands on her apron, and smiled knowingly, "Och, aye. I imagine the lad would be all too happy to see ye. Give me a moment and I'll pack enough for both of ye."
With the basket full of food, Claire made her way out to the stables, noticing Jamie working the young stallion in the distance. She slowed her pace as she admired the strong lines of his body and the graceful way in which he commanded his body and the animal in his care, the two performing a beautiful dance, the steps of which were known only to them. Soon she approached, silently watching as he continued to work and just as in her dream, she leaned against the fence, knocking a tin cup to the ground. The sound of the cup clanging to the ground startled the horse into rearing back and caused Jamie to stumble backward away from the beast's dangerous hooves.
Jamie growled as he spun around to see what had caused the disturbance, but his mood immediately changed when his eyes settled on Claire's apologetic expression, "A ghráidh!"
Claire had placed her hand over her thundering heart when the stallion reared, worried that the beast would trample her love. Her hand was still resting there as Jamie gazed at her and began to walk closer. She stared at him in wonderment and was soon apologizing profusely, "Oh, Jamie, I am so sorry."
Jamie's megawatt smile graced his lips at the look of surprise on her face and he leaned against the fence, his face coming close enough to hers so as not to be overheard by Alec, "What is it I can do for ye, Sassenach?"
Claire gaped like a fish for a moment, then shook her head to clear her thoughts, "Oh, right. It's what I can do for you."
Jamie's eyes twinkled with happiness, "Och, aye?"
Claire found now that she was standing in front of Jamie, that she was quite nervous, "Well I... I came to check on my p... patient and to bring you some lunch."
Jamie reached up and tucked a rogue curl behind her ear, reveling in the softness of it. His fingers lingered a bit longer than strictly necessary as they stroked the length of her curl and stopped on her throat. His voice became husky and his eyes darkened as he leaned in even closer, "Ye need no' be scared of me, nor anyone else here. No' as long as I'm wi' ye."
Claire gasped, surprised not only by the words he had used, they having been exactly what he had said in her dream but in the way he looked and sounded as he had uttered them. She subconsciously licked her lips and his eyes darted down as if drawn by the movement. Her eyes began to flutter as he brought his lips closer to her ear, "Yer shaking, Sassenach, are ye cold?"
Claire shook her head and her voice came out in a whisper, "No, no I'm not cold, actually I'm ravenous."
Jamie grinned, "Well then, I suppose we should eat this food, it smells delicious." However, both of them were aware that she had not been referring to the food.
He opened the gate for her and led her over to a covered area with straw strewn about the floor. He was curious about what had truly led her to seek him out since he was no longer injured, but he was none the less, grateful that she had. She seemed much more subdued today and it almost pained him to see her light smothered. He wondered if his furtive disappearance from her room had been the cause of it and he vowed to himself, never to be the cause of the extraordinary light fading from her eyes again. He was still unsure of her and her motives, but after a full night's rest and a half a day to think over everything she had revealed to him, he decided that taking the time to truly get to know her was harmless enough and he would never turn her away.
She had said that she came to this time in search of him, but it was too soon to call what she felt for him, love. But he knew when he looked into her eyes, that the same mysterious emotion he felt for her was being reflected back at him and the more time that went on, the more he was convinced that it was indeed love. It was that once in a lifetime kind of love that his father had told him about when he was a young lad.
He took the basket from her, pulled a blanket from inside of it as he set the basket on the ground by his feet, and spread the blanket out so that they would have a nice soft place to sit while they enjoyed their lunch. Claire sat down on her left hip with her feet tucked to her right side. Jamie sat down next to her, his feet out in front of him with his knees raised. He passed her the basket, and leaned his elbows on his knees, tucking his kilt between his legs as he did so in order not to dishonor her.
Claire began to pull all of the items from the basket, setting them on the blanket as Jamie watched her. When she was finished, Claire sat back and handed Jamie a tin plate, "Here, eat all you like, I'm sure a strapping young lad such as yourself works up quite the appetite."
Jamie chuckled, "Strapping young lad, am I?"
Claire nodded, "Well, yes, but why is that funny?"
Jamie quirked his brow, "Sassenach, ye told me yer self that yer younger than I am."
Claire rolled her eyes, "Yes, well, you're still young."
Jamie chuckled, "As are ye, mo nighean donn."
Claire rolled her eyes but delighted at the familiar intimate nickname he had used. They each piled their plates with food and chatted about this and that as they ate. When they were all but finished with their meal, Jamie caught Claire taking a peek at him when she thought he didn't notice. "What are ye lookin' at, lass?"
Claire blushed when she realized that she had been caught, "Honestly?"
Jamie nodded, "If ye please, I appreciate honesty."
Claire sighed and rolled her eyes, "I was looking at you, Jamie. You are so beautiful that I find it hard to tear my eyes away from you."
It was Jamie's turn to blush, his ears turning pink as he did. He looked at her for a moment, taking in her lovely long curls, the angles of her face, her lush full lips, and the glow in those dazzling honey colored eyes, "As are ye, mo chridhe."
Claire's eyes widened and she quickly looked down so that Jamie wouldn't notice. She knew exactly what he had said to her, but she didn't want to let on as much in case the word had just slipped from his lips and he hadn't intended to say it yet. But her reaction to hide her eyes wasn't quick enough, Jamie had noticed. He placed a finger under her chin and lifted her face to force her eyes to meet his, "Aye, I ken what I said just a moment ago and that ye are aware of the meaning, and aye, I meant it. I ken it has only been a few days since ye dropped into my life, but after some thought, I have come to realize it to be true. Ye are my heart Claire and though ye still frighten me a bit, I believe ye to be an honest kind woman and I would call myself lucky to call ye mine."
Claire let out a breath she didn't realize she had been holding as her shoulders slumped, the weight she had been carrying had finally been lifted. She looked up into his gorgeous blue eyes and leaned closer so that her mouth was only a breath away from his, "Jamie, I would very much like to kiss you, may I?"
A grin that could light up the world spread across Jamie's face as he murmured against her lips, "Aye, ye can."
After they shared a passionate kiss, Jamie leaned his forehead against Claire's and stroked her cheek with his thumb as he stared into her whisky eyes. Claire smiled at him and pulled back so she could get a better look at him, "Jamie, why didn't you return to my room last night? I thought you were going to allow me to mend the scars on your back a bit more."
Jamie pulled back from her and rested his forearms on his raised knees, "After everything ye revealed to me, I thought a bit of time to think over everything was in order."
Claire folded her hands in her lap and looked down at them, "Yes, I suppose that I probably said a bit too much to soon, and I am so sorry about that. The last thing I want to do you scare you away."
Jamie furrowed his brow and reached out to place his hand over both of hers, "Ye told me what was required so that I understood what ye needed to do, dinna apologize for that. I appreciated yer honesty wi' me."
Claire sighed, "Well, I wasn't completely honest with you last night."
Jamie pulled his hand back and his frown deepened, "Och, aye, how so?"
Claire raised her head so she could look him in the eye, "When you asked me if I came back through the stones because I loved you, I said that it was too soon to know, but that wasn't true. I have loved you from the moment I woke up from my dream. Well to be completely honest, I loved you while I was dreaming, when I didn't realize it was a dream. But I was afraid that if I admitted to it last night, that it would be too much for you and it would scare you off and I would never see you again."
Jamie relaxed his face and chuckled, "Aww, lass, did anyone ever tell ye that ye have a glass face? I could see that ye loved me from the moment ye touched me in the cotters cottage. I didna understand it, how ye could already hold such passion toward me when ye had just set eyes on me, but I kent it from the start."
Claire blushed as she rolled her eyes, "In my dream, you told me all the time how I had a glass face and to not even attempt to lie, since everything I was thinking was clearly written on my face."
Jamie placed his hand over hers again, "Aye, tis, so to keep this secret between us is going to be difficult. Luckily for both of us, I learned from a young age to mask my emotions, so hopefully, no one besides us will ken that I reciprocate yer feelings."
Claire smiled sweetly at him, "As long as we are honest with each other, I don't care what others think."
Jamie pulled her left hand up to his mouth and placed a kiss on each of her knuckles and Claire couldn't help but smile at the intimate gesture. When he placed their clasped hands on his knee she tilted her head to the side and looked at him for a few moments before she spoke. "Jamie, why haven't you asked about my visions, aren't you curious about what is to come?"
Jamie sighed and shook his head, "Aye, a bit, but perhaps it's better if I dinna know."
Claire shook her head, "I don't believe that. Why would I have been shown the future if I can't use that knowledge to save you from all the heartache and torment?"
Jamie quirked his brow, "Aye, I suppose ye might be right, is there somethin' ye wish to tell me then?"
Claire nodded and looked at him sheepishly, "Well, I know that you are a virgin, but that the kiss we just shared was not your first."
Jamie chuckled, "Aye, I am and no, it was no' my first."
Claire rolled her eyes, "That being said, there are several maidens that fancy you, but there is one on particular that believes that you belong to her. As far as I know, you have not yet done anything to encourage her, but none the less, she believes that the two of you will end up married."
Jamie furrowed his brow, "Who?"
Claire shook her head, "Laoghaire MacKenzie."
Jamie's frown deepened in thought, then after a minute or so his eyes focused on Claire's, "Mrs. Fitz's granddaughter, Laoghaire?"
Claire's eyebrows rose to her hairline in astonishment, "Do you know of another?"
Jamie shook his head, "Well, no, but why would she think such a thing? I have never even spoken to the lass, much less given her a reason to think that I am interested in her."
Claire chuckled, "Apparently you just being you is enough to convince her."
Jamie rolled his eyes as he gave her hand a gentle squeeze, "Well, tis no' goin' to happen, I have eyes for but one lass and that is ye mo nighean donn."
Claire leaned over and kissed his shoulder, "I know that, but that is not why I told you."
Jamie frowned, "It's not?"
Claire shook her head, "No, it's not. I told you because in my vision you did something that led her to believe that you returned her feelings. I'm telling you in the hope that I can convince you not to do that foolish thing."
Jamie quirked his brow, "Might I inquire as to what was the foolish thing that I did, or will do, or might not do?"
Claire giggled, "I know, the whole situation is confounded."
Jamie rolled his eyes in exasperation, "Aye, tis."
Claire shifted a bit so her entire side was pressed up against Jamie's, "The thing you did, was to take the girl's punishment for her."
Jamie pulled away and looked at Claire with a surprised expression on his face, "I did, why would I do such a thing? What was the lass bein' punished for and what was the punishment?"
Claire chuckled, "Whoa there soldier, that was a lot of questions. I'll answer them in the order you asked, alright?"
Jamie nodded but the confused expression never left his face.
Claire took a hold of his hand so she could feel his reaction as she revealed the truth, "You offered to take her punishment because you said it would have embarrassed her to be beatin' in the hall in front of everyone. Her father brought her to Colum for judgment for her loose behavior and Colum said that she would receive lashes as her punishment, but at the last second you stepped forward and offered to take her punishment. You chose fists and Rupert pummeled you, he even hit you hard on your healing gunshot wound. I asked you later why you would do such a thing and that is when you told me to save her embarrassment, but much later you admitted that you did it to gain my attention and so that I would put my healing hands on you again."
Jamie chuckled, "Aye, that does sound like somethin' I would do, but surely ye canna ask me to stand by and let the lass be beatin'?"
Claire frowned and dropped his hand, "Yes, I most certainly do. Though it was just a kindness on your part, Laoghaire took it into her head that you loved her and that is why you did it. That one act led to her placing an ill wish beneath our bed and even telling the authorities that I was a witch. I was nearly burned at the stake because she thought I stole you away from her and that kindness that you did to save her a bit of embarrassment was the catalyst to it all."
Jamie's eyes went wide as he attempted to hold in the laughter that was threatening to escape. Claire recognized the look on his face and slapped his arm, "Don't you dare laugh at me, you stubborn Scot."
At that Jamie could no longer hold it in and the laughter spilled out, bringing tears to his eyes as he fell back in the hay and held his stomach. Claire rolled her eyes and waited for him to calm down. After a minute or two Jamie's laughter died down and he sat back up to look her in the eyes. "I'm verra sorry, Sassenach, but ye are so lovely when yer angry and ye were quite passionate in the telling of why I would no' be taking Laoghaire's punishment for her."
Claire crossed her arms over her chest, "Well, what do you intend to do then?"
Jamie reached out and pulled her arms apart so he could take her hands in his, "I give ye my word that I willna stand up for the lass, in fact, I would like for ye to accompany me on a stroll on the night this is supposed to happen, that way I willna be tempted to take her punishment and I can spend a bit of time wi' the woman that my heart belongs to."
Claire breathed a sigh of relief and allowed Jamie to pull her into his lap. He stroked his hands up and down her back as he looked into her eyes, "I told myself that I wouldna ask ye about yer visions, but I find that I need to ask ye this one thing for now."
Claire nodded, "Alright, ask me."
Jamie furrowed his brow, "How did ye escape the pyre?"
Claire smiled brightly at him, "You rescued me just after they tore my dress open and lashed my back. Also, Geillis claimed that she was a witch and that she bewitched me into being her friend."
Jamie's eyebrows shot up, "Geillis Duncan, the fiscal's wife, she truly is a witch?"
Claire shook her head, "Well, no, actually she traveled through the stones of Craigh Na Dun, just as I did, but she came from the year 1968. She came back to stop the rebellion and used her knowledge from the future, which people took as witchcraft. She is nothing more than a woman with a devious mind, oh and Dougal's mistress."
Jamie jerked, "Rebellion, Dougal's mistress? Claire, I think ye must slow down a bit, ye are gonna have my head spinning wi' all of these secrets."
Claire sighed, "I'm sorry, Jamie, the last thing I want to do is overwhelm you. The most important thing for you to know right now is what I told you about Laoghaire and that should happen in four days' time. After that I can tell you more, or if you want to know something you can ask me. I would like to spend as much time with you as possible, but I also know about your uncles and what they will do if they know we love each other."
Jamie nodded, "Aye, we must be careful and I suppose yer knowledge of the future could come in quite handy now that I think about it. I wish to ken about the rebellion ye speak of but no' right now. When does Laoghaire place the ill wish under our bed and when does she report ye as a witch?"
Claire took a deep breath, "If I am going to tell you all of that, then I need to tell you how we got to that point. Are you sure that you are ready to hear all of this?"
Jamie shrugged, "I dinna ken, but if ye think that tellin' me willna change anything, then I dinna see what it could hurt. But I dinna think we have time just now, auld Alec will be lookin' for me to finish my work soon. Would ye join me for a walk in the heather when I am finished for the day?"
Claire nodded as Jamie helped her to her feet, "Yes, I would quite like that, should I meet you here?"
Jamie shook his head, "Nah, I will knock on yer chamber door, but ye best be off now before Alec comes around and starts in on me like an old hen."