Jamie woke, still propped against the tree. He watched Roger as he bent to add more wood to the fire. His eyes were heavy and his vision seemed to pulse in time with his throbbing leg.
A small piece of snake flesh was stuck in his teeth, but whilst he could raise his hand to his mouth, his fingers were too numb to navigate its removal.
He murmured, barely registering that his tongue felt thick too. Roger turned at the sound of his voice, green eyes lit with concern.
“Did ye say something?”
“Aye, but nothin’ important.”
Jamie tried to stand but his leg refused to bend.
“Easy! Hold on…”
Roger took a hold on Jamie’s arm, ready to help but Jamie shook his head
“Stop fussin’. I’m fine.”
“You’re not fine. Not even close to fine. I can feel your skin burning through your shirt!”
“Aye, and what can be done about it?”
Jamie snapped and Roger closed his eyes, praying for patience.
“All I mean is that your body is fighting the venom and if ye wish to stand, I can help ye.”
He spoke gently but Fraser still narrowed his eyes at him accusingly.
Roger thought, immediately followed by
*Don’t speak ill of the dead*
He pushed that thought aside and felt himself blush guiltily.
“It's your turn to get some sleep, I’ll bide here.”
Jamie grunted, shuffling uncomfortably and Roger grimaced at him
“Och aye, and wouldn’t that be well received at home? I could tell Claire that whilst her wounded husband was picked off by wolves, I was napping under the stars! Or better yet, you might live and I could tell Bree that I was a wee bit tired so I let ye sit up all night wi’out water whilst ye raged wi' fever?”
Jamie smiled despite himself
“Weel, I suppose they wouldna be best pleased but this is goin’ to go one of two ways, and ye canna change it’s course any more than I can.”
Jamie closed his eyes and let his head roll back to rest against the tree.
“Ye have done everything ye can do. I … appreciate it.”
Roger cleared his throat and nodded.
“Ye'd ha' done the same for me.”
“Aye. Ye are the son of my house, my daughters husband. I would ha' done the same for ye.”
Jamie opened his eyes with no small effort and appraised Roger. Aware of his gaze the younger man sat up a little straighter and tried to arrange his features into something that conveyed confidence, competence and nonchalance all at once.
“Are ye ill man?”
Jamie asked and Roger stopped trying.
“No, but I am worrit about ye. Do ye wish to have some more water?”
Roger found his accent thickening, shifting to match Jamie's own.
“No. Thank ye.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes each lost to their own thoughts. Roger felt utterly helpless and, despite Jamie's words, like he could have done – could be doing - more. He hoped Jamie would live, he prayed that Jamie would live but if he didn't, how could Roger tell Bree? How could he tell Claire?! He shuddered and stared into the flame.
Jamie saw the images flit across the lads face and smiled to himself. He wasn't quite as glass-faced as Claire but whether it was exhaustion or fear, Roger's every thought was readable.
Jamie couldn't fault Roger for thinking about the possibility of breaking the news to their family. What did he want him to tell Brianna? That he loved her was obvious, or he hoped it was obvious, if that fact was not then he had failed indeed. That he was proud of her? Perhaps. Jamie certainly was proud of his daughter but he had contributed nothing to the raising of her, the shaping of her character.
Perhaps it was enough to simply say he was glad of her. Glad of her existence. Glad of finally meeting her and the opportunity to meet his grandson.
Claire... his Claire. What could he possibly ask Roger to take back to her if he were to die here?
She would never forgive him. He knew that instinctively; for her to travel so far and love him so long only for him to get bitten by a snake and die in the woods... Ah Dhia.
If Claire were here and not Roger … no. He was glad she wasn't here, the smell of blood alone was enough to entice beasts out of the woods and Jamie would not be able to protect her in his current state. The thought of her was a comfort as it had been through all the years they had been apart but he felt tears sting his eyes that he might be leaving her to that fate, having only memories to carry into her old age...
He blinked them back, it would not do to weep in front of his son in law and he wouldn’t show that weakness. He needed to think of something that he could have Roger offer her that would let his Sassenach ken how he felt toward her.
Some things were too personal for him to ask anyone to take back to her and he could only hope that those were the things she already knew.
Jamie bit his lip as pain pulsed through his limb and checked that the whiskey was still beside him. He didn't need it yet, but it might not be long now.
Claire would need to leave this time if he died, he knew that and could only hope that she would see it too. He was her protection from the suspicions of the tenants and without the threat of retribution from Himself, most would not take kindly to her manner and her knowledge.
Jamie glanced again at Roger. The man was more capable than he realised and Jamie had no doubt that he would protect Claire and Brianna to his last breath but he was also inexperienced in leading and a man of spirit, not of violence; and Jamie feared that that particular breath may come sooner rather than later if he were to place himself between Claire and a culture of superstition that did not always look favourably upon her.
A movement beside him made Jamie look round and he saw Roger staring at him with tears in his eyes and a look of abject fury on his face.
“If ye are lying there giving up, I'll kill ye myself. I canna go back and tell the people that love ye that ye died without even trying.”
He said firmly and Jamie smiled.
“Dinna fash Roger Mac. I'll hold fast as best I can.”