The rain pounded against the roof but it still was not loud enough to drown out Young Jamie’s cries. Jamie stood there watching his brother-in-law attempt to clean the young lad’s fresh wound. Making up his mind, he sat behind the boy and put him on his lap. Ian looked up and nodded to Jamie in thanks. Young Jamie continued to thrash around as if Ian was cutting his leg off.
“Ye need to hold still,” Ian urged his son. “If I’m to finish this up, ye need to stop.”
“It hurts!” the young boy cried. “Mam never makes it hurt!”
Jamie held in his laughter best he could. He avoided eye contact with Ian. Ian sighed. “Yes, well she isna here, lad. Ye should have known better than to fall and hurt yerself when she was away.” Ian stood up, walking back towards the bathroom cupboard to see what he could find.
Jamie still held his nephew on his lap, rubbing a hand up and down his arm. “Ye’ll be alright, lad,” he reassured. “I ken it hurts now, but soon ye’ll be up and running around as wildly as before.” He heard a sniffle from his lap and he looked down to see Young Jamie wiping his nose on his sleeve.
So much had changed around Lallybroch while Jamie had been off fighting during the war. The biggest change of all was the little boy sitting on his lap. His sister had been single when he’d shipped off. He came back years later and she was married to his best friend and they had a small child. They’d told him at each step, of course. He’d tried to make it back for their wedding but at the last minute, they couldn’t give him the leave. In the middle of a war, the last thing he’d expected to find out was that his sister was having a bairn. Young Jamie had been an unexpected bright spot. Even before the lad was born, Jamie spent lots of time thinking about all the things he’d teach him. Sometimes it kept the realities of war at the back of his mind for an hour.
Ian walked back to the two of them with a bandaid and some cotton. He tried once again to clean the large cut on Young Jamie’s leg, running his hands about quickly before the boy started kicking. “I ken this hurts, but believe me, I’ve had worse. Ye’ll survive,” Ian said in an almost scolding tone.
Jamie clicked his tongue at his friend. “Perhaps it’s no’ the time to bring up yer lost leg,” Jamie said behind a chuckle. “It’s no’ as though ye want that for the lad.”
Ian rolled his eyes. “He’s being far too dramatic for his own good.” He looked down at his son. “Uncle Jamie and I have both had much worse and we survived,” Ian reiterated. “Ye just need to sit still.”
“Dinna bring me into this,” Jamie replied with a shake of his head. He loosened his grip on his nephew for a moment and the boy took his chance to spring free. Jumping to his feet, he took off down the hall toward his bedroom, screaming.
“What the bloody hell is he doing?” Ian sighed, moving to chase after his son.
Jamie was faster. He beat the boy down the hall, pulling up him with an arm around his middle. “Not so fast, ye wee beastie,” Jamie teased. Holding his nephew like an infant, he walked back down the hall to the bathroom.
Ian fixed his son with a stern look. Jamie knew that Jenny was the enforcer in their family. He was rather impressed with Ian’s abilities to enforce at the moment. “Ye canna be runnin’ away while we’re trying to stop yer leg from bleeding,” Ian said in a firm voice as he stared down at his son. “Do ye want to be getting blood all o’er the house? Yer mam wouldna be too pleased if she came back to see that.”
Invoking Jenny’s name seemed to do the trick for the time being. Young Jamie looked fittingly afraid. He sat down on the toilet and held his leg out for his father. Ian asked Jamie to hand him the alcohol but a knock at the front door shook both of them from the task at hand. Jamie looked down at Ian. “Are ye expecting someone?”
“No’ that I’m aware of,” he replied, looking toward the stairs.
Jamie sighed. “I can get it. Assuming ye can handle him on yer own,” he joked. Ian shook his head with a smirk. Jamie walked down the stairs to see who was calling at such a late hour. A crash of thunder echoed through the house as Jamie got closer to the door. He opened the door to see a soaking wet woman standing on the top step. “Can I help ye?” She turned to look at him and he was struck with recognition. But it couldn’t be. How could she be at his home? Why would she be at his home?
“I’m so sorry to call at such a late hour,” she yelled over the storm. The wind was blowing her hair all around her face. She tried desperately to move it out of the way. “My car broke down several miles back and I just needed -” The woman had managed to move the hair out of her eyes. It seemed she recognized him too.
“Randall?” He asked, gobsmacked by her presence.
“Fraser?” she replied, seeming equally shocked.
He nodded, stunned into silence. A roar of wind shook him from his daze, making him step back from the door. “Please, come in. It’s pouring out there. Ye’re soaked.”
She didn’t have to be told twice. Once he was out of the way of the door, she ran in behind him. After he closed the door, she stood there on the mat, holding herself around the middle. They were both staring at each other. “What are you doing here?” she asked.
“I live here. What are you doing here?” he countered.
“I was driving through the highlands earlier and my car broke down. I tried walking till I found the nearest establishment that could help me, but as it’s the highlands, it’s a bit remote,” she said with a shake of her head. As her head moved, water sprang from her soaked hair. She self-consciously ran a hand along her head. “Anyway, it started raining and this was the first building I saw.” She looked at him skeptically. “You really live here?”
“Aye, this house has been in my family for generations,” Jamie informed her. He was about to say more before a loud noise came from upstairs. It seemed Young Jamie had broken free again, this time tearing down the stairs.
“Who’s that?” the young boy asked, skidding to a stop at the bottom of the stairs.
“This is Claire Randall,” Jamie told his nephew. “She’s a friend of mine.” He looked back at Claire and smiled. She returned it before looking over to his nephew.
“You know Uncle Jamie?” Young Jamie asked, walking over to the newcomer. She nodded with a smile. “I didn’t know he had friends.”
Jamie closed his eyes as Claire laughed. “Well I’m sure that’s not true.”
Ian walked over, appraising Claire as he got closer. “Sorry, I seem to have missed the introductions. Ian Murray, and ye are?”
Claire held her hand out. “Claire Randall. I’m so sorry to have intruded like this. My car broke down and with the storm, I just decided to knock on the first door I found.”
“She’s a friend of mine,” Jamie repeated for Ian. “I kent Claire during the war.”
Ian’s eyes widened, looking from Jamie to Claire. “The war, aye?” Claire nodded solemnly. “How did ye come to know Jamie during the war.”
Claire opened her mouth to reply before closing it, looking to Jamie for him to answer. “She was a nurse,” Jamie replied. “We met in France.”
Saying “France” was enough to clue Ian into how Jamie knew Claire. Despite Jamie’s reluctance, Ian knew all about Jamie’s hardest times during the war, his close encounters with death included. “Oh,” Ian said simply. “Well, what a mighty coincidence that ye’ve come to Lallybroch.” He paused, looking between them. “Unless it wasn’t a coincidence. Had ye planned to see each other?”
Jamie and Claire both shook their heads. “No, it was really a happy coincidence,” Claire assured, looking over at Jamie. “I can’t quite believe it.”
“Ye must be freezing,” Jamie said, trying to change the subject. “Ian, surely Jenny has some clothes that she could borrow.”
“Oh aye, of course!” Ian turned and quickly ascended the steps.
“That’s really not necessary,” Claire insisted to Ian’s disappearing form. She looked back at Jamie. “I appreciate it, but I don’t want to be an inconvenience.”
“Not to worry. Ye’re far from an inconvenience,” Jamie said with a reassuring smile.
“Ye’re a nurse?” Young Jamie piped up.
Claire looked down at him, dropping to his level. “Yes, I am.”
“Does that mean ye can fix my leg?” the boy pointed to the large cut, still seeping. “My da and Uncle Jamie can’t do it wi’out hurting me.”
Claire’s eyes widened. “Goodness, that looks painful.” She looked up at Jamie. “Would you have a first aid kit of any kind?”
“Oh aye,” Jamie said, shaking his head at his nephew. She’d been there for all of three minutes and the lad was already putting her to work. Jamie ran up to the bathroom and grabbed the kit they’d been using before she arrived. When he walked back downstairs, Claire was sitting on the floor with his two year old nephew as the boy told her how he got hurt.
“And the dog was in the back of the truck with me. When he jumped out, I fell out and onto my leg and it got cut up,” he explained.
Claire’s face reflected her sympathy. “That sounds quite painful. I’m so sorry. But I think, thankfully, it doesn’t seem very bad. It should be a quick fix.” She smiled at him as she gave his hand a squeeze.
Jamie flashed back to a moment when she’d done similarly for him. It had been a year since he’d seen her. After he’d finally been cleared, he was able to leave the medics behind and return to battle. The problem was that after spending so much time with Claire (and such a bad injury), it was the last thing he wanted to do.
She looked up as he approached, reaching a hand out for the kit. Claire got out all the things she’d need as she sat there still talking to Young Jamie. The boy was distracted with talk of his dog and the farm as Claire moved quickly to clean up and bandage the cut. “And voila!” she said with a flourish.
The boy looked down at his leg in awe. “I didn’t even feel it!”
She smiled brilliantly at him. “Well that’s where all my years of training come in,” she joked.
Jamie felt Ian approach at his side. “Good God,” he muttered. “I’m glad someone could get him to stop screaming.”
Jamie chuckled as he looked over at his brother-in-law. In Ian’s hands held a folded set of clothes for Claire. Handing them to her, he pointed her in the direction of the powder room downstairs. “And there’s a comfy pair of pajamas up on the guest bed,” Ian added.
Claire turned back to look at him. “Oh, that’s not necessary.”
“What are ye going to do, go back out in that storm?” Ian asked bluntly.
Claire took a deep breath before shaking her head. “No, I suppose not.”
“Well then ye’ll need a place to sleep,” Ian finished. “Ye’re more than welcome here. Any friend of Jamie’s is a friend of ours.” He looked down at his son. “Now, I have to go get this wee one ready for bed. Say goodnight, Jamie.”
Claire looked at Jamie before the younger one began talking. “Goodnight, Uncle Jamie,” he said as he gave Jamie a hug. “Goodnight, nurse Claire. Thank ye for fixing my leg.”
She beamed at him. “It was my pleasure.”
The two of them walked up the stairs and Jamie took the moment to watch Claire while she seemed distracted. He couldn’t believe that she was standing in his home. What weird form of fate had landed her back in his life? She turned around with a smile still on her face.
“His name is Jamie?” he nodded in reply. She smiled even wider. “They named him for you?”
“Aye. Though I’m too afraid to ask if it’s because they thought I wouldna come home,” he said with a bleak expression.
“You know, now that you say that, I feel a vague recollection of you telling me about him,” she said as she watched Jamie.
“I might have,” Jamie thought out loud. “Knowing they were bringing a bairn into the world brought me a lot of comfort those days.”
A sad look crossed her face. “I can understand that. It’s nice to know that life carries on even in dark times like those.”
“Exactly.” There was a long silence between them. Jamie cleared his throat. “Anyway, let me show ye to the powder room.” He walked her over to the doorway of the bathroom. “I’ll be in the kitchen just that way, making some tea.” She nodded appreciatively before closing the door.
Jamie wandered into the kitchen, taking a moment to shake himself out of his reverie. How on earth was Claire Randall there? After he left her camp, he truly never expected to see her again. His thoughts had often drifted back to her, but he figured it was nearly impossible not to, given what they’d been through together. He put the kettle on and waited for it as his mind continued to wander. Two cups of tea were steeping when Claire found her way into the kitchen.
She sat down at the table next to him and he pushed a cup her way. They sat there in a long moment of silence. “What brought ye to Scotland?” Jamie asked.
Claire sighed before taking a sip of her tea. “A getaway of sorts,” she answered vaguely. He could more or less understand that. The war had ended only 6 months ago and it was hard for most of the world to adjust back to normal life. She looked over at him. “I’m glad to see you’re doing so well. I wondered how you’d handle going back. There were a lot of times I wished I could have known.”
Jamie sat there, absorbing her comments. He didn’t really know what to make of it. There had been plenty of times in the last year he’d wished he knew what she was doing. Suddenly he stood up from the table, walking to a further point in the kitchen. “Is there someone I can call for ye?” he asked, moving closer to the phone. “Surely someone must need to ken where ye are.” He swallowed harshly as he reached for the receiver. “Should I call yer husband?”
“No,” she nearly yelled. She stood up quickly, reaching a hand out to stop him, even from across the kitchen.
Jamie’s eyes widened as he stared at her, taken aback by her reaction. Claire clapped a hand to her mouth and slowly sat back down. Jamie walked over to the table, sitting down in his chair. “Is everything alright, lass?”
Claire stared down at her teacup for a long time before answering. “No.” She took a deep breath before looking at Jamie again. “I’ve run away from my husband.”