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Always Jamie

Chapter Text

Jamie was, genuinely, not anxious. He was too blissful to be anxious. He was married to the woman of his dreams. Even if she didn't particularly care for him, he sure as hell cared for her. And he intended to prove it. The thought that he could not really perform certian husbandly duties did not even occur to him. The boy was drunk on love and the bliss of being married.

Clarie sat down at her vanity, downing another drink. Jamie sat on the bed, grinning like a loon. He would get to sleep next to her! They could cuddle- shit.

Reality came crashing down on Jamie, and the fabric around his chest felt tighter than ever. Most everyone bought that the bandage was because of a wound he wanted to keep covered, but he knew it hurt to sleep in and he didn't want that for the rest of his life. And what about if his blood came? He couldn't exactly cover it up by washing it in the middle of the night, or stash it among someone else's washing. Claire would notice. Which meant he'd have to tell her.

Like that had gone well with previous people.

Jamie shook his head, shaking off the dark thoughts. Claire would feel cheated, probably. But he could say she had permission to sleep with others if he couldn't please her. And he knew a bit of how to please a woman, he wasn't an idiot. But the fear remained. What if she told everyone? They would never treat him the same. Dougle would likely send him home if everyone knew. And Column was displeased as it was with Jamie 'cavorting about as a boy'.

Jamie was so lost in thought he didn't notice Claire calling his name. Once her voice broke through his thoughts, he looked up at once. "Aye?"

"Will they ever be quiet?" Claire asked. Jamie looked at the door, hearing the roar of conversation and laughter from below.

"Only when I've bed ye." He said quietly. He'd failed to consider this. That, and Dougle may actually check the sheets. That was mortifying in and of itself, even without Jamie's situation.

Claire looked between him and the door, like she was considering bolting. Jamie's first instinct was to move forward, and place a gentle hand on her shoulder like he would a horse. But she wasn't a horse. She was a mostly dressed woman, and the two were very different creatures. (Even if Jenny could be compared to a pony in temperament and stature)

Before Jamie could decide, the door burst open and in spilled Angus and Rupert, laughing wildly.

"Have ye bed her, lad?" Angus laughed, speech slurring. "Who'd bleed? Since you're a virgin and she isn't?" He was sent into peels of laughter, Rupert following suit.

Jamie got up, face as red as his hair. "Well gimme a chance will ya! Off with ye!" He forcibly shoved them both out, and made sure to lock the door firmly. "Sorry, Sassenach. Could have sworn I locked it." He said sheepishly, turning to his mortified and very sober new wife.

Claire relaxed a bit when Jamie wedged a chair in front of the door. Jamie took that as a point of great pride, and puffed out his chest a bit as he sat back on the bed. "Sit with me?" He asked.

Claire reluctantly got up and sat next to him, her brilliant white skirt fanning out around her. She looked stunning in white.

Claire fiddled with her rings. The gold one had moved to her right hand, and his iron ring had been placed on her ring finger. He loved how it looked. The latticework was gorgeous.

They sat in silence for a moment before Claire spoke. "I understand what must be done, if only to get them to shut up and let us sleep." She said quietly.

Jamie tensed up. He had to tell her now. "Claire-"

"And I know you're a virgin but I cannot promise you anything special." Claire continued, bowling him over in the process. "And it may not be as special now since I am not also a virgin. But I cannot change that I was a married woman."

"Claire-" Jamie tried again, only to be squashed once more.

"And I will perform to the best of my abilities!" Claire finished with a flourish. She folded her hands neatly and waited.

Jamie was silent for a bit, making sure she had nothing more to say. "Claire… I can't." He said quietly.

Her head snapped around, and he could see the wheels and pulleys spin in her head. Trying to figure out what could cause whatever she thought was wrong. He realized almost a second too late that he needed to explain quickly before she started asking if his cock was shot off or something. The question was how to explain it.

"I wasn't… I don't have… I wasn't born with a cock." Jamie says lamely. He wants to put his face in his hands at that awful explanation, but he can't take words back. "I… Have women's parts."

The shame and fear didn't take hold of his heart until he sees her expression. Cold, and confused. She didn't understand, but it didn't look like she'd be willing to try. The fear of rejection, and the shame of disappointing her, wrapped around him. Soon joined by the deep misery and discomfort that he so often felt.

He looked at his hands, bracing for her reaction. The longer she was silent, the worse he panicked.

Finally, she said something. "So… You're a woman dressing as a man? Because…"

Jamie didn't listen to the rest. He visibly sagged, putting his head in his hands. He hated that assumption. So many people had made it when they found out. And it always left him reeling. That was not what he was, at all. He was not a woman. Much less a woman dressing as a man. He was a man, same as anyone else.

It took a moment for Claire to grab his attention. "Jamie?"

"That's not what I am." Jamie said quietly. "I'm not a woman." His voice grew stronger, firmer. He wasn't a woman in any way but body. And he certainly was not 'dressing as a man'. "I'm a man, same as any of them out there."

He met Claire's eyes, and the coldness seemed… Gone? Replaced with curiosity and concern. He felt more confident. Less scared of rejection. "I've just had to work for my manhood. And I may not have all the parts, but I'm a man through and through."

Claire considered him for a moment. Calculating. Thinking. Jamie could have sworn he saw something turning in the back of her eye. Whatever she decided on, the curiosity won out. "How long have you… Known?" She asks carefully.

"Since I was 6." Jamie shrugs. "Didna tell my parents till I was 12. Told Jenny and my older brother, Willy, when I was 7. Told the dog when I was 6 though." He cracked a small smile. "I dinna think the dog cared much."

Claire contained a small snort. "So, the cloth on your chest?" She asked after a moment.

Jamie shrugged. "I ain't got a flat chest. Wish I did, nearly took my dirk to myself plenty of times. Almost considered doing somethin' awful so they'd just cut 'em off with scissors as a punishment. But, I haven't got up the nerve yet."

"And you won't." Claire says quickly and firmly. "Do you know how much infection you'd be risking?"

Jamie shrugged. "It'd be worth it."

"What would you even do with them, if you did cut them off?" Claire asked, a mixture of morbid curiosity and worry plain on her face.

Jamie shrugged again. He had thought ahead that far. His first plan was to feed them to the pigs before Jenny could catch him, but she'd caught him in an incriminating position before he could do anything. And he hadn't thought ahead that far since.

Claire pinched her nose. "Really, Jamie? Really. Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, what on earth am I going to do with you?"

Jamie smiled. "Can think of a few things." He tried to say flirtatiously. Claire, surprisingly, gave him a bemused but yet… Slightly interested look.

"And how would that work, Mr. Fraser?" She asked, half sarcasm and half genuine curiosity.

Jamie smirked. "Well…"

~~

When Jamie went downstairs to get food, wearing nothing but his shirt, he was very proud to receive pays on the back, and even the jeering questions of if he bled.

He had, but they didn't need to know that.

Chapter Text

Jamie didn't often tell the story of how he got the scars on his back.

Dougle did, in almost every town they stopped at. Told how he'd been whipped until he was little more then a piece of meat. How the sight of his back, flayed like a fish, had shocked his father so much that he'd died.

A lot was left out of that story. A lot that Jamie had never told anyone.

It had been a really nice day, when it happened. Jamie had been in the fields, cutting grass. He'd stopped for a moment to take a breath, and he'd heard a scream. A loud, terrified scream. His sister's scream.

He raced back to the manor house, adrenaline rushing through him. Whoever dared to hurt his sister was going to pay. And in his blind rage, came his downfall. He stormed into the walled yard. "JENNY!" He shouted, not seeing the hidden soldiers.

Before he even knew what was happening, his arms were pinioned. He stopped for a second, confused. What was going on? He tried to look behind him, but he couldn't see his captor's face. Only a flash of crimson that sent chills down his spine.

The door opening caught his attention, and he looked in time to see Jenny, crying, being forced out the door at the hands of none other than Black Jack Randall. Jamie knew his face, nearly everyone in this part of the highlands did. He'd been everywhere, and fucked everything up where he went.

And Jamie most definitely did not want him here.

"Leave her alone! Let her go!" He roared. He fought to break free, but the man holding him held firm.

Randall examined him lazily, gaze sliding across his body. "And who are you?" He asked, holding Jenny back effortlessly.

Jamie didn't almost the question, eyes flickering between his sister and this man who he knew had a reputation. If he got his hands on her, Jenny would be ruined. He couldn't let him hurt his sister.

With a yell, he stomped on his captor's foot and charged at Randall. He only got a few steps before he was knocked down flat on his back, wheezing and nose gushing blood. He stared at the sky, too shocked to get up until he was hauled to his feet. Randall watched with amusement from the steps, and shoved Jenny down so someone else could grab her. He approached Jamie like a wolf approached a rabbit.

Jamie glared at him, meeting his eyes in a fierce challenge.

"Tie him. In the gate." Randall said, eyes not leaving Jamie's. There was a spark of something in his eyes. A spark that Jamie, by the end of his life, would know all too well.

Jamie didn't realize what was going on until they stripped off his shirt. He'd worn cloth around his chest, as he usually did when he had any plans to leave the house. But if what he thought was going on was going on, that would be removed too. He kicked and fought, trying to stop them undoing the cloth. They forced him into the dirt, with a knee planted on his back as the end of the cloth was untucked and began to be unraveled.

Jamie hid his face, crying into the dust of the yard. He couldn't even cover himself, with his arms held behind his back. He was yanked up by his hair, and he scrambled to cover his chest. But he knew that there would be no hiding it once his arms were tied to the gate.

The soldiers holding him paused, and looked at their captain for direction. Jamie looked up, trying to project more anger than fear.

Black Jack's smirk grew, and his eyes flashed. "Go on. String her up." He turned away to the stable. Jamie's heart nearly stopped as he was strung up in the gate. He couldn't look at Jenny.

Jamie did his best to stand tall. He wouldn't let this man bring him down. He glared at Randall as he approached. Daring him to get closer. Daring him to see just how long Jamie's legs were and how good his aim was.

The rest of the day was a blur of pain, and Jenny going into the house. With Randall.

Jamie stared at the gates as they left. Not knowing it would be the last time he would see home for nearly four years. The only blessing was that he was given back his shirt. He wrapped his plaid around himself for most of the ride, glowering at anyone who got too close.

At fort William, he was dragged out of the cart by his shackles. He kept his plaid wrapped around himself as he was dragged, admitted under 'James Alexander Malcom Mackenzie Fraser' (no matter the questioning stares of the men who escorted him), and tossed in a cell by himself. He stayed huddled.

When he was young, he'd been convinced monsters would attack him if he looked away. He'd been scared almost constantly. His mother had come up with an easy solution. She'd made him a plaid, smaller than a typical plaid but thick and colorful. And she'd told him that if he wore it around his shoulders, it would protect him. Willy had taught him how to put on a kilt with it, and Jamie had worn it whenever he could weasle his way out from his skirts. He still had it in a drawer in his room, waiting to be used as a baby blanket for his first child.

He wished he had it now. He wanted the feeling of safety back. The comfort of having that bit of his mother.

He sat until the sun rose the next day, when someone came to get him. That day, Jamie was alone as he was whipped. A congregation of curious people had come to see him be whipped. Jamie was just glad he could use his arms to shield himself from the sides. They wouldn't see a damn thing, and he would not cry.

The time between the whippings was blurry and mostly full of pain. The day of the whipping was clear as day in his mind, though.

He walked as tall and proud as he could manage to the office Black Jack had called him to. He stared at the wall behind Randall's head as the men who had escorted him left.

Randall got up and began circling him, much too close for Jamie's comfort. "You're an interesting… Person, Fraser. Very interesting." He said, gaze lingering on Jamie's long copper hair.

Jamie suddenly wanted to chop all his hair off. "I'm a man." He said firmly. He left no room for question. His father had told him it was something he would need to master if he wanted people to respect what he said. It had never failed Jamie before.

Randall examined his face. "Well, I've certainly never encountered a 'man' like you." He stepped closer, until they were nose to nose. "I have an offer to make you, if you are a man."

Jamie's eyes remained fixed on the wall. "And what kind of offer would that be?" He asked, trying to keep his voice from shaking.

Randall brought a hand up to caress Jamie's cheek. "I am desperately curious what is under that kilt." He whispered in Jamie's ear.

Jamie's face heated, from embarrassment or anger was anyone's guess. He thought for a moment. "And what would I get?" He asked quietly. There were very few things he could think of that would make him say yes. But if Randall said he could go home… Jamie wouldn't say no. He desperately wanted to go home. To see his father and hug his sister. Sleep in his own bed, where he'd be safe from leering guards. To pretend none of this had ever happened.

"I could spare you." Randall's hand traced the line of his neck. "From the whipping. From here." He looked up at Jamie. "I'll give you time to think." The spark in his soulless eyes made Jamie's heart race from fear. Every bone in his body was screaming for him to run or he would be eaten alive.

"Guards!" Randall called. "I am done with Mr. Fraser for the moment."

Jamie stared at the floor as he was taken back to his cell. Rolling over what Black Jack had said. His back still stung with every movement, and he didn't want to imagine the pain if 100 more lashes were put on top of what was there.

And saving him from this place… Jamie didn't know exactly what that meant. Could he go home? Or would Randall take him?

The idea of being taken by Jonothan Randall was not an appealing one. But the chance of going home was there, and it's temptation was almost too strong to resist.

He felt so close to saying yes when he heard a familiar voice. "You don't understand! I'm looking for my son! He's tall and he's got red hair and blue eyes and his name is Jamie Fraser!" The voice of Brian Fraser was wobbly and tear choked. God knew how long he'd been there begging for Jamie. God knew how long he'd known Jamie was gone. Jamie himself didn't even really know, things had blended a bit after the whipping.

"Da?" Jamie asked shakily. He had to be close by, he sounded so close. "Da, I'm over here!" The guards walking Jamie stopped, and just in time.

Jamie had never been so relieved to see his father in his life, dashing out from an adjacent hallway. "Jamie! What happened to ye?!"

Jamie sank into his father's hug. "I'm okay Da. M'back hurts." He mumbled into his father's shoulder.

His Da immediately stopped touching his back, holding him by the shoulders. "I will get ye out of here." He promised. "Don't give up, ye hear?"

Jamie nodded and pulled away, setting his shoulders.

He didn't begrudge his father for not keeping that promise. No one could have. But Jamie will never forgive himself for what happened. If he'd said yes to Randall, his father would still be alive. They'd all be so much happier.

Jamie would be home now.

He'd been lying awake for a while now, the scars tugging painfully on his back while Claire slept soundly beside him. Or, so he thought.

He hadn't realized he'd been sniffling until Claire sat up, concerned. "Jamie?" She asked, reaching out to gently touch his shoulder. Jamie couldn't help a small flinch, and he wiped his eyes.

"I'm sorry." He whispered. "I canna sleep, and…"

"Your scars hurt." Claire guessed. "Roll on your stomach, I know something that may help." She got up to fish through her bag of plants. Jamie, obiedently, rolled into his stomach.

Claire came back a few minutes later, mixing something that smelled disgusting. "This should help with the scar tissue." She said. "Can you take off your shirt?"

Jamie did, but tried to press himself as much as he could into the straw mattress. Claire took some of the ointment and started rubbing it into the scars on his back. It was painful, but Jamie trusted her. He'd had to put his full trust in her from day one. And she hadn't let him down yet. And eventually, the pain stopped. The feeling of being massaged was intoxicating, and it made him very sleepy.

He fell asleep when Claire was almost done, and she brushed a lock of copper hair out of his face. She felt… Almost happy with him. She felt bad she would leave him soon, and surely break his heart.

Chapter Text

Jamie had wrapped his top half up in his plaid halfway up the hill, and he decided that once they got to the top he'd be bundling up and let her eat all the food.

Claire had had to take the basket after Jamie needed both hands to hold his plaid, and she'd been giggling occasionally as they walked. She had the decency to hide her giggles behind her hand, but Jamie knew. He knew full well. And he also knew he couldn't get back at her because again, quilt around her waist.

He'd seen the quilted petticoat. It was the one thing he missed about skirts. You could wear all your sheets about your waist and you would never be cold again. And big, big pockets. He missed big pockets.

Claire sat down beside a big rock. "This looks like a lovely spot. It's in the sun." She said, fanning out her skirts as she sat.

Jamie sat beside her, curling into a ball and wrapping his plaid about himself. For a big man, he folded himself into a rather small space. "This is perfect, Sassenach." He said as he stopped shivering. The wool trapped what warmth he had, and he began to feel warm again.

Claire took the bread out of the basket, along with cheese and butter. "So… Tell me about your family?" She asked softly.

Jamie was happy to start on that tirade. Telling her the story of his parents, about Jenny and Willy and his best friend Ian. About the dogs they'd had.

"My Da, one time, he caught me and Ian riding the elkhounds." Jamie laughed. "We were wee, I think we were 4. Da looked at the two of us, and then at the poor dog. And he said 'I think these two need a real pony, eh pup?' and the next day he started teaching me and Ian to ride."

Claire looked curious. "Ian seems important to you." She commented. "He's in most of these stories. Did you two grow up together?"

Jamie nodded. "Aye. We've known each other since we were born almost." He said. "He, Willy and Jenny used to help me, when we were wee. When we went out to play, they would stash some clothes away for me to wear." He smiled at the memories. "We were thick as thieves, the four of us."

Claire giggled again. Jamie smiled, liking her laugh a lot more when she wasn't laughing at him. It reminded him of sleigh bells.

"What about you?" Jamie asked curiously. He realized he knew very little about her family. He knew she was French, but his curiosity was great.

Claire sat for a moment before she spoke. "My parents died when I was young. So, I grew up with my uncle. He traveled the world, so I've been a lot of places." She fiddled with the hem of her skirt.

"Like where?" Jamie was even more curious. "The colonies? Africa?" He couldn't even imagine what those places would be like. He knew there were people there, and that his way of life would seem just as strange to him as his would to them.

"Egypt." Claire said with a shrug. "Morocco. Ger- Prussia. Russia. I've been to… the colonies as well. My uncle had a fondness for the people there, he found them fascinating." She smiled. Her curls, the color of tilled earth, had the slightest auburn shine in the weak sunlight.

Jamie was still in awe of his wife. His wife. He had a wife now. He was still reeling.

"Are you going to come out of there?" Claire asked, leaning on him.

Jamie shook his head. "I'm cold." He admits sheepishly. "I'd rather stay warm." He wrapped himself a bit tighter. "I would not object to heading home now, though." Being warm sounds much more appealing then sitting here in the cold.

Claire laughed and got up. "I'll help you up." She said with amusement. She took his hand and hauled him to his feet. He was a good bit taller than her, and the joy he felt was great. One thing he had never worried about, was his height compared to other men. And now, he had a tall wife as well. God, he was a blessed man.

They walked back down to the inn, this time hand in hand. Jamie's heart was skipping about in his chest the entire time, and he felt like a schoolboy holding the hand of a girl he fancied. Only she was his wife. (He was not getting over that any time soon.)

As they grew closer to town, a storm brewed to the east. Claire was the first to notice, and she watched it approach carefully. She only commented when she was sure they were storm clouds. "Those are ominous." She said, trying to gauge Jamie's reaction.

He looked up, and he looked as worried as she felt. (And he had the nerve to say she had a glass face.)

Jamie squeezed her hand tighter. "We need to hurry." He said urgently. "That's a nasty looking storm. We don't want to be caught out in it."

They were caught out in it. The storm hit as they approached the outskirts of town, with still a little ways to go to the inn. They hid under a tree for a moment, while Jamie arranged his plaid to cover them both the rest of their walk back.

They still ended up soaked, but not as soaked as they would have been. They came into the inn like sodden dogs, miserable and cold. They were met with laughter, but warm food was pressed into their hands and they were shooed upstairs to change and warm by the fire.

Jamie stripped down to just his shirt, and Claire to her shift. They settled down together by the fire, eating their bowls of stew.

Their shoulders touched at some point. Then they were leaning on each other. Then Claire was in his arms, and he was holding her close.

Jamie wanted this feeling of closeness and home for the rest of his life. "Mo leannan." He said quietly, resting his chin on her shoulder.

Claire laughed a little. "What does that mean?" She asked. She took his hand, which had been resting on her stomach.

Jamie struggled to think of the translation. "I guess… It means you're a… Sweetheart?" He stumbled over the unfamiliar word. "I dinna know the proper translation."

Claire cocked her head, like she was thinking. "Can you teach me more?" She asked after a moment.

Jamie jumped at the chance. The afternoon was spent cuddling in front of the fire, teaching Claire Gaelic. She knew the basics by the end. Not nearly anything conversational, but she had a few words. Which was better then when they started.

When dinner rolled around, Jamie got up to get food. He put his kilt back on, though a bit sloppily, and headed downstairs to get a bit of food. He grabbed some buns and a bit of smoked meat. He didn't stop to make much conversation, and there were a few jabs -mostly from Angus- about why he was in such a rush to get back up there.

Jamie sighed in relief when he was back upstairs. "I may throttle Angus one of these days." He mumbled.

"I'll hold him down." Claire said, arranging their small table so they could eat. "It would take some team work, but we could do it." Her voice was deadpan, and Jamie could not tell if she was joking.

He decided to to leave it. Just in case she was serious. "I got us some water to. So we shouldn't have to go back down."

Claire smiled. "That sounds good. Shall we?" She gestured to the plate of food Jamie held. Jamie hastily set it down, and they said a quick grace.

Claire held up a bun. "What's the Gaelic for this?" She asked.

Jamie looked up. "Bun. That's just a bun." He said with amusement.

Claire shrugged and ate it. The rest of dinner was fairly silent. Jamie was starving, as was Claire. And they were both fairly excited to go to bed and get some sleep.

Once dinner was finished, Claire went to bed. Jamie took a moment to undress and unwrap his chest before he joined her. He's long mastered unbinding his chest without taking his shirt off, and he fell into bed once he was done.

He was out like a light almost instantly. But Claire stayed up for a moment. Something about this all was calling her to stay. Calling her to something here. She didn't know what yet, but she was torn.

She cuddled up with Jamie. She could puzzle out her feelings in the morning.

Chapter Text

Jamie had to say, being on the road again was not that bad. It certainly had not affected his and Claire's newfound sex life. She had taught him a lot of things, mostly by doing it to him. It was certainly a good teaching method, for both of them. And while they had yet to be full naked with each other -mostly out of fear of intruders and Jamie's own reluctance, they had certainly both been enjoying the pleasures of the marriage bed.

Claire followed him behind a hill, laughing all the way. "Won't Dougle wonder where we've gone?" She asked, as they stopped. She wrapped her arms around his neck as she asked.

Jamie kissed her between words. "I- told him- we'd gone- for your wee herbs." He said. "He won't come looking." He promised.

Claire grinned. "Good." She fell back, pulling Jamie with her. Jamie was more than happy to follow her, kissing her hard while he reached under her skirts. Claire gasped as his fingers brushed against her thighs, and Jamie had every intention of making her gasp a lot more.

The pistol cocked behind his hand was not part of his plan.

Claire's face became pale, and Jamie was stone still. He looked over his shoulder the slightest bit, but he didn't get far before being ordered to stand. The second one took hold of him, and they both leered at Claire.

He barely listened to what they were saying. He watched the redcoat who was about to lay with his wife with murderous rage. He had half a mind to go after the bastard regardless of his own health, and he very nearly did when the redcoat lay on top of Claire.

He was surprised by Claire stabbing him. He shouldn't have been, Rupert had taught her just that morning. But he had hoped she would never need to use it. But her aim was perfect. And the shock of the other gave him the opportunity he needed to get the pistol and shoot the other dead.

He dropped the pistol and raced to Claire, ripping the bastard off of her. His hands flitted over her, trying to repair her bodice and arrange her skirts so she was covered again, all the while apologizing in a mixture of Gaelic and English. "I'm so sorry, Sassenach. Dinna fash, they won't hurt you again, I'll keep ye safe." He rambled, trying to help her sit up. Her hands were icy in his own, and he grew more scared. He couldn't imagine how she was feeling. "Ye're hands are freezing." He said, untucking his shirt as quickly as possible so she could warm her hands on his stomach. It seemed the fastest way, and like hell he was leaving her to fetch firewood.

"It's only shock." Claire whispered, holding her hands close to herself. "It's just shock." She was rocking gently, her face paler by the moment. "It's only shock."

Jamie looked around desperately. He had no clue what the hell 'shock' was, but whatever it was it wouldn't be helped by being so close to the bodies. "Can I pick ye up, mo nighean don?" He asked quietly.

She nodded the slightest bit. So Jamie scooped her up, mindful of where she could be hurt, and brought her to the top of the hill. He stayed beside her as long as he could, trying to warm her hands desperately. He didn't know why he fixated on warming her hands. He just desperately needed her to be okay.

Dougle's appearance drew him away, which he was not happy about. He kept looking back at Claire, sat on a stone all alone on the top of the hill.

She was silent as they rode away. She didn't even look at him once, and the shame built up fast. She blamed him for not protecting her. And he didn't know what to do, except that he needed to keep her safe.

He'd come to a decision by the time they were at the place where they were to meet Horrox. He couldn't take Claire. The danger she could be in was far too great.

They stopped a little ways away. Far enough that no one would be any the wiser Claire was even there. Jamie was still anxious about leaving her.

Dougle handled telling her before Jamie got the chance. "This is as far as ye go, lassie. Ye'll be safer here."

Naturally, Claire protested. "I have shown I am quite capable of handling myself I think."

"It's too dangerous." Jamie said quietly. "Please, Claire. Ye'll be safer here." He begged she would listen.

She didn't. "I'm coming with you." She protested. "What if you need me?"

"Then we'll come back." Dougle said. "But you stay here."

Jamie could see Claire fuming from her horse, but she dismounted, as did Willie.

Jamie felt a sinking feeling as they rode away.

And when he came back she was gone. And it was his fault.

Jamie's emotions were scattered like pebbles. He was scared beyond belief, furious with everyone, his protective instincts were screaming at him to storm the bloody fort by himself. Not to mention the billion emotions from earlier that day in the meadow. The shame of not being able to protect Claire, then and now, was lurking in the corner of his thoughts.

The party had fled to the nearest cottage, to regroup and plan their rescue of Claire. A lot of good it was doing them at that moment.

He was currently staring a hole into Ned, who was used to people staring at him intently and was ignoring him. "Ye can't kill anyone." He said firmly.

This was met with groans from around the room. "Why?" Rufus asked. "Bastards will be trying to kill us, and we canna harm a hair on their wee heads?"

"Yes." Ned said flatly. "If you kill a single man, this becomes even more of a crime, and Column canna protect ye. You can harm, but dinna kill anyone." He gave looks to Dougle and Jamie, knowing Dougle was the most loose with his sword. Jamie was liable to kill anyone in his way right then.

"So we make this as stealthy as possible?" Willie asked. "Gonna be a tough job with all of us."

"We can do it." Jamie said, clenching his fists. "We'll get her out. The fort is hard to get into, but if ye aren't shackled it's easy enough to get out if ye know what to do." He stood. "We'll need a diversion."

Angus grinned. "I can do that." He said, with a glee that made Jamie a bit concerned.

They set up their plan as quickly as they could. It was held together with tar and a prayer, but it could work. And that's all they would need.

They got to work, and once the sun was down it was time to move. Jamie scaled the wall, hoping he'd remembered where the office was correctly. He hauled himself into the window, and steeled himself for a moment. He cocked the empty pistol, and elbowed the window open.

The scene to which he was greeted was an awful one.

Claire lay, dress ripped half open, and bent over Randall's desk. She looked terrified. Jamie's anger flared, and he met Randall's eyes with a fire in his soul. "Unhand my wife." He snarled. Randall grabbed a knife and held it to Claire's neck before he could recognize the intruder.

Jamie met Randall's soulless, black eyes. His eyes widened, and a grin spread across his face. "Well well well, Mr. Fraser." He said, still holding the knife to Claire's throat. "Seems we have an audience, haven't we darling?" He kept one hand firmly planted on her shoulders. "Funny, I didn't know a man like you could even marry."

Jamie was tempted to pull the trigger, even though the gun was empty. He wanted to shoot that stupid smile off his face. He leveled the pistol, finger centimeters from the trigger. The flash of fear in Randall's eyes brought him so much joy.

Randall yanked Claire up, holding her like a shield. A knife pressing into her throat and a hand around her middle. Jamie was too scared to get closer, knowing he would not hesitate to slice her throat.

Randall smirked. "Well, my dear, shall we put on a show? I doubt he can really offer you much pleasure after all." The hand not holding the knife drifted up to Claire's breast, and it took all the self control Jamie had to not launch himself at him right then. He met Claire's eyes, and tried to communicate what he needed her to do for this plan to work. She nodded, ever so slightly. And she stomped her foot down with all her might on Randall's foot.

That had not been Jamie's plan. But, he needed to work with it. In the spilt second Randall's eyes were off him, Jamie kept forward and wrestled the knife from his hand while Claire broke away. They were still wrestling for it when a loud thunk sounded, and Black Jack slumped to the stones of the floor with a nasty 'Thunk!'.

Jamie looked up to see Claire holding a rifle by the barrel, clearly having used the butt to whack Randall upside the head.

He didn't think he'd ever been more proud in his life. And also terrified. "Come on, we need to get outta here!" He said. He took her hand, and glanced at the pile of waste pretending to be a man, still slumped on the floor. His hand itched to reach for his dirk, stab him through the heart. Be done with all this.

But he didn't. He took Claire and they ran.

The chaos of a bunch of random highlanders in the middle of the fort was a very good cover. The explosion, set up by a very over enthusiastic Angus, was even better. And the jump into the water was as terrifying as it was freeing. They were well on their way to being free.

The real trouble was the way home, as it turned out. Claire was silently angry, and he could tell. And Jamie didn't know what to do about it.

It came to a head in the morning when they stopped to rest a moment. Claire marched off into the woods, and Jamie followed at a distance. He didn't want her out of his sight again. Though apparently this was the wrong thing to do, because Claire turned on him quickly.

"Why are you following me? Afraid I'll run off again?" She asked angrily, stepping closer to Jamie.

Jamie's temper rose to meet her's. "Well ye proved you canna listen to orders! I have to keep an eye on ye!"

Claire looked like she would like to throw something. "I am not some disobedient child!" She snapped.

"Ye certainly sound like one!" Jamie snapped back. "Runnin' off to the fairy hill and gettin' yerself caught by redcoats!"

"Are you saying it's my fault?" Claire looked and sounded affronted. "I went for a walk!"

"I told ye to stay put!" Jamie shouted. "I told ye to stay there so ye'd be safe!"

"You said it would be too dangerous for me! And yet here you are fine and dandy!" Claire shouted back.

"Jesus Christ Claire! I just want to keep you safe!" He near sobbed. All of the fear congregated in his mind. "When I couldn't protect ye, and then I couldn't find ye, and then you were with that bastard.." Jamie sat down on a log. "I was so scared, Sassenach."

Claire sat beside him after a moment. "I'm sorry. For yelling, and for leaving." She said quietly.

"I'm sorry to. For yelling. And…" Jamie put his head in his hands. "I'm so sorry Claire. I promise ye, I will never let that happen again." He said softly.

"It won't happen again." Claire said. And she hoped to God she was right.

Chapter Text

The duel was not, up to that point, the most stressful thing Jamie had ever done. There was the time he was up in a tree and heard an ominous crack. There was Fort William. There was Clarie when she was mad at him.

But this was up there with the most stressful situations of his life. His freedom, his ability to return home, hinged on this duel. And if the Duke of Sandringham was killed in this duel, all his chances went out the window.

He looked over at the MacDonald huddle. Andrew MacDonald had brought three boys with him, presumably his sons or nephews. He drew himself up a bit taller when the oldest one looked his way, trying to intimidate him.

The call to begin sounded. Jamie and MacDonald's second, the oldest boy and presumably his son, stood back to back and marched out five paces. Jamie's heart was racing like a thoroughbred, but he tried to seem outwardly calm.

He stood beside the Duke, hoping his anxiety wasn't visible as the guns were drawn. The handkerchief was dropped. The guns fired.

Neither man dropped. The Duke checked his limbs one by one, and when none proved injured he chuckled just a bit. Apologies were given and accepted, and Jamie's heart lept in his chest. He was going home. He was taking Claire home. He would see Jenny again, see the rolling fields, the forests, be merry and happy and free.

The joy put a grin on his face that wasn't knocked down, even by the blasted MacDonalds and their name calling.

"Off ye go to the woods, to find a log to bend each other over!" One, the oldest again, shouted at him.

"Is it true the MacDonalds learn to make love by rutting with their mothers?" Jamie couldn't help a wide grin. He would never miss a chance to insult them. Mostly because he knew his mother would be sorely disappointed with him.

Apparently he hit a nerve, because all three charged at him.

Swords clanged, Andrew MacDonald and the Duke both stepped back as the boys clashed like alley cats, swords lashing like claws and yowling. There wasn't even a winner. All four were flat on their backs clutching injuries, groaning.

The Duke bumbled through apologies, taking the letter of complaint from Jamie's sporran and fleeing the scene. Leaving Andrew MacDonald and Murtagh, who'd been in the woods for the majority of the affair, to gather up the four dimwits and pretend like they weren't helping each other.

("Dimwits, the lot of them. Thicker heads then mules." "Ye can say that about ye'r boy. My boys are a lot of idiots.")

Jamie's wounds weren't so bad. One crossed his side and the other cut across the top of his chest. He still thought Claire was going to reem him out and give him the verbal lashing of a lifetime, and he was mentally preparing for it the whole -slow- ride back to Leoch.

When they arrived, Mrs. Fitz had already gotten Claire. She'd apparently spotted them from the kitchen window. They weren't a very stealthy pair. Murtagh was as good as a ghost when he wanted to be, all dark hair and small, but Jamie was as big as his father and as fair haired as his mother. Not a stealthy combination.

Claire had her arms crossed in the courtyard, but her eyes widened when she saw the state Jamie was in. He nearly fell off his horse, and stumbled a bit when he landed on his feet.

Claire took him by the arm immediately. "You are coming with me." She said firmly. Jamie followed without complaint. He wasn't crossing his wife and making the lashing worse.

She dragged him down to her dungeon, as she called it, and sat him down on the table. She stripped him with very little mercy, and he only protested about his shirt. "Sassenach-"

She cut him off with a glare. He was silent again as she examined the cut on his chest. "It's hard to tell anything with the skin so flushed." She said. "I'm going to take off the bindings, if that's alright."

Jamie nodded, and grabbed his blood soaked shirt to cover himself as Claire unwound the cloth. He was expecting to hate it, the last time anyone had unwound the cloth was when the thrashing in the gate happened. But he stayed calm, holding the shirt as she finished. Her hands lightly traced his ribs, and he winced. He was usually bruised there, but after so long he was used to the pain. Just not being touched there.

Claire only lingered for a moment before getting to work. The cut on his chest only required two stitches, so the deeper wound on his side was addressed first. That one needed seven stitches.

Jamie eventually spoke after Claire had said nothing after five minutes. "Ye''re not usually the quiet type." He said. "I expected some shouting. Maybe dodging a jar."

She tugged harshly on one of his stitches, and it hurt something fierce. "Quiet anger gets the point across to!" He said quickly. "Verra well." He mumbled, along with a few 'ow's.

Claire had only just finished stitching the side wound when there was a knock at the door. Jamie cutched the shirt, and looked over his shoulder. Claire didn't have a chance to look up before the door opened.

"The Larid requests to see Jamie right away." Ned Gowan said, not daring to step a foot into Claire's domain he did not have to.

"He can't, I'm still tending to him." Claire protested. Jamie was inclined to side with her. The last person he wanted to see right then was his uncle.

Ned shrugged helplessly. "He said right away."

Claire looked around for a fresh shirt to dress Jamie in. She found the plaid, and a shirt she had confiscated off of Rupart when he came down with a nasty ulcer. She threw both on Jamie. "Wear it around your shoulders." She said. "And off you go."

Jamie reluctantly got up, wincing as the shirt rubbed against open wounds. He followed Ned up the stairs slowly, bracing himself for his uncle's ire.

When they got there, Jamie was relieved to find that Dougle was the one being lay out like a roasted pig for dinner. Column was shouting so loud, he imagined that Dougle's hearing would be affected.

Jamie stood quietly as he waited. Neither of his uncles had ever approved of him, and he'd had to disobey Column once before by showing up in a kilt instead of a skirt. Ever since, Column had been forced to acknowledge Jamie as a man in public. But in private, Column never would. And Dougle was much the same way, though he didn't tell anyone about Jamie even if he had the chance.

Really, they made it too easy to pick a favorite uncle.

But Column expected Jamie to act as a proper lady and keep his mouth shut until he was spoken to. And as much as Jamie hated it, he didn't want to make his uncle mad.

He looked up from his feet when Column banished Dougle. "Ye'll take Rupart, Angus, and this one with ye!" He shouted.

Jamie opened his mouth to protest. "Uncle-"

"Ye keep ye'r bloody mouth shut until I speak to ye!" Column shouted, and Jamie retreated and stared at the floor.

Dougle left with his head hung low, and Column finally rounded on Jamie. "What in God's name were you thinking, spilling blood with the MacDonalds without my permission?!" Colum roared.

Jamie looked up. "It wasna my fault!" He tried to protest. "I needed-"

"I dinna care about your tall tales!" Column snapped. "Ye disobeyed me!"

"If I'm a bother to ye, Uncle, ye'll be glad to know I'm going home soon." Jamie tried to keep his tone even.

"Ye'll go when I tell ye to, lass." Column said, making Jamie flinch. "And I'm tellin' ye to escort your fool uncle home! And to keep ye focused, ye'r wife will be staying here."

Jamie nodded wordlessly.

"Ye may go." Column turned away, and Ned patted Jamie on the shoulder as they left.

"It'll be okay." He said. "When ye come home, ye'll be well on ye'r way to being a free man."

Jamie nodded a little, though he was noticeably disheartened. Talking to his uncle was never pleasant, and he was glad he would soon never have to again.

Chapter Text

Jamie stared ahead as they rode, the events of the past few days sloshing in his mind like a keg of ale.

"I was born on October the 20th, 1918."

The math was working overtime in his brain. How old did that even make her? What did she know? What horrors lay in the future? What amazements?

"So, planes?" He asked after a moment. "They just… Stay aloft? Like birds?" He couldn't imagine it. Iron birds? Something that heavy would never get off the ground.

"They don't flap their wings, but essentially yes." Claire said. "I've been in several. Seen far more. They're an important part of war, when I'm from."

Jamie stared at the sky, trying to imagine these metal birds flying about. He couldn't picture it, but he wanted more than anything to see it. "And, carriages, they don't have horses?"

"They're called cars, and yes. They move by engines that turn the wheels." Claire said with amusement. "Ships do as well. They have massive propellers that move them forward without wind. Some even go underwater on purpose."

Jamie turned around in the saddle. "You have to be making that up." He said, incredulous. "That canna be a thing."

Claire laughed. "I promise it is!"

"A ship that goes underwater?" Jamie rolled the thought around in his head. That sounded like a special kind of hell."Sounds like a new layer of hell for the sea sick."

Claire snorted loudly behind him. "Don't tell me you get sea sick."

Jamie's face flushed. "So what if I do? You dinna plan to be dragging me on to any boats, right?"

Claire buried her face between his shoulders to hide her laughter, and Jamie smiled like a loon. Claire was laughing. She was smiling again. And soon, she would be home with him. Safe. And on land.

He really hoped she never got the American bug.

His eyes widened as they crested a hill. His heart swelled. "Claire, look!"

Claire leaned sideways to see around him. "It's beautiful." She said, and Jamie's heart swelled with pride. She liked it!

"Claire, welcome to Lallybroch." Jamie said proudly. Looking down at the valley, at the changing leaves and beautiful golden fields.

Darker memories came back. The last time he was here, he was being carted off to Fort William. Knowing what had just happened to his sister. Knowing she gave up her own honor to save his life. He felt so guilty, still. And the rumors of what happened to Jenny after…

He needed to see for himself. See what happened.

He was quiet most of the ride to the gates. He didn't look up as they got closer. He couldn't look up without seeing the ghost of himself, strung up by his arms. Claire hugged him a bit tighter as they dismounted before the gates.

The first thing Jamie saw was a little boy. No older than 3. He looked just like Jenny, dark eyes and hair. He looked up when he saw two people approaching. He looked puzzled, glancing between them.

Jamie took a step back. No- no. He knew the rumors, but believing them was a whole other matter. He sucked in a breath as Claire approached, saying hello. Jamie's ears rang too loud to hear what she said. The ringing only cleared when he saw Jenny. He was so overwhelmed with happiness of seeing her again, he didn't realize her belly was rounded with child.

His heart sank to the floor.

"Jenny?" He asked quietly.

Jenny turned to him, with pure delight on her face, then turned to the little boy. "Jamie, a chuilein, come meet your uncle! The one you're named for!"

Jamie felt anger flash. "No." He said stiffly. "Janet, can we talk? In private?"

Jenny looked confused, but her anger flared. "Go see Mrs. Crook, Jamie." She said, shooing the little boy hiding behind her skirt away.

Jamie stayed up, by some wonder. "Really? It's enough of an insult that I come home and you have Randall's bastard-"

"Ye will not charge into my house and call my son a bastard!" Jenny snarled.

"But you named him after me?!" Jamie roared.

"Well who else should I have named him after?! The bloody king of Spain?!"

"Woulda been better!"

"That's class coming from ye!"

Their shouting match turned into Gealic, and neither of them noticed Ian's appearance or his conversation with Claire. They were similar to a pair of friends on a couch, watching a dramatic but ridiculous moment on the TV and sharing a bowl of popcorn. That's all you could really do when two Frasers got into a row.

Eventually they both exhausted each other, thankfully without physical confrontation. They were both panting and glowering like children. Which is when Ian decided to make his entrance. "Now that that's out of the way, how about a bit of wine?"

Jamie's shock kept him quiet as they headed inside. He watched Ian's leg in a mixture of fascination and horror. He winced when he popped it off like it was no big deal.

Jenny was like a kettle about to start hollering. But Jamie, helped by Claire's presence, was a bit calmer. "So… Ian, what are you doing here?" He asked, trying to be delicate.

"I married Jenny, and now my son and my future child are here." Ian smiled dryly. "I'd hardly expect to keep living by the mill pond."

Jamie blinked, then shrank into the couch under Jenny's smug gaze. He deserved that. And he was willing to admit it to himself. But he wasn't going to give Jenny the satisfaction of an apology.

Jenny sipped her wine. "So, Jamie, tell us, who's the sassenach?"

Jamie's hackles rose again. "Her name is Claire, and she is my wife." He said proudly. "Lady Broch Torach."

Jenny looked at Claire skeptically. "Oh really?" She asked. "Well. I'd expect you'd like the laird's room."

~~~

Nothing was working. Not Jenny, not Ian, not his head, not the mill, not his head.

His head was pounding, he'd been too drunk the previous night to take off his bindings, and now everything felt off and he was bundled up in his plaid. He felt so sore all over. And the awful bannocks were the last straw.

And now here he was. The mill was not working. Because life hated him. Claire was close behind, worried about him hurting himself somehow. He really didn't care.

He dived into the millpond, against his own and Claire's better judgement, trying to find whatever the hell was causing the damn block and ruining his morning.

That did not go as planned. Because of course bloody redcoats would come by the mill pond on this god forsaken morning. He scrambled desperately to find whatever the hell was caught, grabbing and tugging blindly. Until finally, finally something gave way. Just as he was running out of air. It caught his shirt, however, which was a special sort of shame. He hid until he saw Jenny and Claire leaning over the water, and consequently nearly drowned.

He burst out, trying to cover himself while shivering madly. He noticed Jenny staring and frantically turned around. "Jenny! Could ye- ye look away?!"

The longer he went without a response the more he felt like he was about to freeze to death. He looked over his shoulder to see her gone, so he scrambled out of the water and into Claire's warm, amazingly warm arms. It was honestly as close as he would ever get to heaven. And if heaven was finally being warm in his wife's arms, he would be best pleased with it.

Once he was covered, by being wrapped up in his plaid, he saw Jenny sitting close by and turned around. "Ye can turn around." He said, standing slowly while wrapped up. Claire was at his elbow, concerned he would topple over.

Jenny did not turn around. She just got up and marched away, down to the house. Jamie was incredibly confused, and looked at Claire.

"She saw your back. She looked fairly startled." She said quietly. The look on Jenny's face had been more akin to shock, but she didn't want to upset Jamie.

Later that night, Jamie finally tracked Jenny down alone. They both had something to discuss with the other. Jenny was occupied with some embroidery on the couch, and Jamie sat beside her.

She didn't look up, or say a word, so Jamie started talking. "I ken you're pissed at me. And I'm sorry for all I said. I'm sorry for thinking… That wee Jamie was…" He took a deep breath. "And I'm sorry for worrying you and Ian. I never meant to."

Jenny sighed. "You're forgiven." She said quietly. "I'm sorry I was so angry, and for… I blamed you for so long." She put the embroidery down. "Some dark part of me blamed you. But when I saw your back… I nearly dropped dead myself." She looked up, meeting Jamie's eyes. "But there's only one man to blame."

"Jack Randall." Jamie said, voice filled with disgust. "Is the one to blame. And I swear, I will get revenge."

Chapter Text

Jamie recalled something Claire said once, as he pulled at the chain again. 'The definition of insanity,' she'd said, in a tone that reminded Jamie of a schoolteacher, 'is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results'. If that was the definition, Jamie belonged in a madhouse. He'd pulled on the chain for hours, trying to dislodge the bolt. But nothing worked, and it stayed lodged in the stone.

He looked up at the window high up on the wall. He was underground, he'd know the smell anywhere. If he could just get the bolt loose, it would be a straight shot to the surface. He could figure out his situation more once he was out of here. If he could just break the chain somehow, pick the lock on the cuff. It would be a straight shot to freedom.

He pulled again, but nothing budged. His ankle was being rubbed raw by the cuff, and he sat down in defeat. A table and chair sat just within reach, and a rough approximation of a bed was right beside the bolt.

He bundled himself up in his plaid. It was chilly, especially underground. October was one of Jamie's least favorite times of year, precisely because that was when the chill came. It was worse underground, with no fire to warm himself by. The food sat warm in his belly at least, his first good meal in weeks.

He stiffened when he heard the door open. He scrambled to his feet, bracing himself for a fight.

Randall walked down the steps nonchalantly, examining Jamie's dirk in the dim torchlight. "Peculiar piece." He commented. "Barbaric, really. You people swear on a glorified knife, and hold it higher than an oath on a Bible." He shook his head. "I truly can't understand it." A large man loomed behind him, holding a torch.

Jamie was tempted to lunge for his dirk, even though Randall was further away then he could reach. He wasn't defenseless, far from it. If Randall would just get closer, he could see just how 'helpless' he really was.

Randall, to Jamie's relief, stayed away. He focused on one of the hanging lamps being lowered, and the large man with Randall lit it’s contents ablaze.

The capitan took out a piece of parchment. "I know you don't like me," he said as he unfolded it, "but going behind my back, Fraser? You wound me." He flashed the letter to Jamie, but Jamie didn’t need to see it to know what it was. The blasted duke couldn’t do a thing right.

Jamie glared. "Then come closer and I can face ye head on." He snarled.

Randa looked amused, which only made Jamie angrier. "The bitch has a temper!" The blond commented to his companion. The companion grunted. Randall looked back at Jamie. His eyes held the same spark as the day he had Jamie thrashed in the gate as he lowered the letter into the flames.

Jamie's eyes widened. "No!" That was his last chance. His only way to go home.

Randall raised an eyebrow. "You know, Fraser, if you said yes when I asked you, you wouldn't be here now." He pushed the letter of complaint into the flames. "Now…" He tutted disapprovingly. "How do you say it… ‘I canna let ye spread this slander’." He mocked a thick Scottish brogue.

Jamie lunged forward, as close as he could get to Randall. "Face me man to man," he snarled, “I’d be delighted to relieve ye of your balls here and now.”

Randa didn't look phased. He maybe looked… Excited? “Well, it wouldn’t be man to man, now would it?”

Jamie held firm. He would not cower for the leach in front of him. He drew himself up as tall as he could, towering over Randall with ease. He would not break.

Randall sat down just out of Jamie’s reach, his eyes sparkling. “May I call you Jamie?” He asked.

Jamie bristled, and turned away. “I dinna care.” He muttered. “Call me what you wish. But if ye expect me to beg, ye’ll be sorely disappointed.”

"Oh no, I'm not expecting that. I'd be sorely disappointed if you did." He felt Randall's eyes run up and down his body. "No, I'm asking for something different. Something you must admit to yourself."

Jamie turned around, anger spiking. "And just what would that be?" He asked. He ran through times that had been asked of him, mostly by family who didn't accept him.

"That behind your pride, your bravado, you're… Terrified." The way he said terrified, with the sick smile and a glimmer in his eyes.

Jamie stood taller. "What makes ye think I'm terrified?" He was, he was terrified of dying. He had a life left to live here, his wife and family, and one day children. He didn't want to die. Not when his life was finally looking up.

"You must be." Randall leaned forward. "All men are scared of the beyond that awaits us. If you admit it, I can spare you a gift."

Jamie reluctantly sat down at the little table. "A gift?" He asked suspiciously.

Randall smiled, and Jamie didn't think anyone had ever had an uglier one. It didn't matter that the face itself was handsome, the person under it was disgusting. "A better death, of course. I could not spare your life, even if I wanted to. But, I can offer you a death better than hanging. I've always found it disagreeable myself. I could offer you the death of a Roman. Falling on your sword, as Brutus did. Or a Greek death, Socrates's hemlock." Randall listed.

Jamie laughed just a little. Like he would like either of those. Take his own life. What did the man take him for, a fool?

The captain was not amused. "Of course, none of those appeal to you." He paused for a moment. "I could slit your throat. It would be messy," he mused, "but it could be done."

Jamie looked up. Of his 'options', that was most appealing. He would die a good death.

"Of course, you would need to admit your terror. Surrender to me." Randall leaned forward, his dead eyes staring at Jamie like he was a slab of meat.

Jamie chuckled to himself and got up. He would not surrender. Not to Randall, not to anyone. The only person he had ever willingly surrendered to was Claire. He trusted her then, and he trusted her now. He trusted she was either far away or in the process of finding a way to rescue him.

He stood in silence for a moment before he spoke. "I surrender to no man. And most certainly not ye." He looked back to see Randall's reaction, expecting fury.

Randall merely shrugged. "I will admit, I would have been disappointed if you said yes." He got up and approached Jamie carefully. "I prefer the hard way."

Jamie's every instinct told him to get away from him, but the chain only went so far. He pressed himself against the cold wall, eyeing the man with Randall carefully.

"Can I see your back?"

Jamie froze for a moment. Randall's obsession with him was known, and he had asked after his back before. But now, a plan was quickly forming in his mind. "If ye wish." He said quietly, finalizing his plan and eyeing the big man again.

Randall approached, and Jamie was aware of every step closer he took. Every step closer to his trap.

He could almost feel Randall's breath on the back of his neck. "May I?"

Jamie hesitated. Considered his plan, then nodded. He whirled around the second Randall's hand was on his shirt, choking the man as ferociously as possible.

He didn't account for the big man being so fast. Or so strong.

By the end of his bid for freedom, he lay crumpled on the ground, cradling his shattered hand to his chest. Randall stood above him, like an evil specter. "Why do you make me hurt you?"

Jamie wanted to snap back. No one held a gun to his head. He hurt Jamie by his own choice. He repeated that in his head as Randall continued about how it was really Jamie's fault. He couldn't really do much else, he felt like he was fading in and out.

He was startled fully awake for a moment when Randall yanked him upright. The world was blurry, and his senses were dulled. His hand, broken with bone sticking out of his skin, throbbed with every beat of his heart.

He realized too late where Randall was putting his undamaged hand. He tried to pull away, but Randall held him by his hair. Jamie didn't know what to do. He tried again, but instead of getting away, Randall pulled him closer. Jamie didn't have any choice, and his joy at being cast aside was short lived. He landed on his hand, and it felt like something new broke as he landed.

He curled up, barely able to listen to additional admonishments. He only heard them leaving, and the crackling of the fire. He let himself relax for just a moment. He closed his eyes and sank into a brief oblivion.

It felt like seconds before he was woken by someone calling his name. He felt familiar hands cupping his face, and a soft kiss on his cheek. He woke up a bit more. “Claire?” He asked softly. “Claire, ye canna be here, Randall-”

"I'm not leaving without you." Claire said firmly. “If Randall’s here, we’ll deal with him together.” She took off her knitted shawl and balled it up under his cuffed foot. "Hold still." He noticed the tremor in her voice. He held as still as he could while she jammed a key into the cuff and swung the hammer.

Jamie couldn't stop a whimper of pain. He held his hand closer to his chest as she swung a few more times, and he closed his eyes. He couldn’t stay awake.

He faded in and out a few times after Randall appeared before he could grip on to wakefulness. He waited, not wanting to let anyone know he was awake until Claire did something. And something, she did. He heard the rattle of a chain and heavy footsteps running in Claire’s direction. He grabbed the nearest thing with his left hand, and lunged at the big man. He slashed with the nail end, and he hit his target. The burst of strength was short lived, and he crumpled to the ground a moment after.

Claire tumbled backward over him, and he tried to stay strong and awake for her. He needed to get her out of here. Get her home, get her somewhere safe. He forced himself to look up, just in time for Randall to shove Claire against the wall.

“NO!” Jamie screamed. Whatever pain came to him, he could take. But Claire’s pain? He would never be able to handle it.

Randall looked back at Jamie, eyes alight with pleasure. “Make me a better offer.” He grinned, reminding Jamie of a wolf with its prey. He didn’t even have to think, he would do anything to save Claire from this.

“Take me instead.” He whispered. “I give ye my word, I wilna fight.” He met Randall’s eyes unflinchingly, ignoring Claire for the moment. He needed to do this to save her. If that meant his own self destruction, he would do it in a heartbeat.

Randall’s sick smile said everything he needed to know.

~~

Jamie had curled himself into as much of a ball as he could while Randall unlocked the cuff around his ankle. “She’s safe?” He asked quietly.

“Yes.” Randall stood up, his fingers trailing up Jamie’s leg to the hem of his kilt. “She’s safe.”

Jamie closed his eyes. He was doing this for Claire. He could stay still, stay calm. He was fully aware Randall was behind him, and he braced himself. He curled his left hand into a fist as Randall ripped his shirt open, exposing his back to the cold air.

He struggled not to flinch as Randall touched his back. “Why would you cover this masterpiece?” He asked. He untucked one of the bandages around Jamie’s chest. “After all the hard work, you still cover yourself.”

Jamie fought to keep his breath steady. He could do this.

It wouldn’t take long for him to know he couldn’t.

Chapter Text

The drums of the morning roll call didn't even make him flinch. After everything that happened, Jamie doubted he would ever feel anything again. He didn't want to feel anything again. He wanted this done, here and now.

Randall shifted behind him, an arm thrown around him, cradling a breast. Jamie felt like his skin was on fire where Randall touched him. He wanted to cut the skin of his chest off and burn it. He wanted his hair gone, where Randall breathed into it. Where things were crusting in it. He wanted to be gone. Gone to hell, gone to heaven, he didn't care. Either was better than laying here, Randall pressed against him. Things leaking out of him.

Randall sat up beside him, his hand lingering on Jamie's back, then drifting lower and around to his stomach. Any soft swell of being well fed or muscle was gone, leaving just a soft expanse of skin.

"I wonder." Randall said. He didn't need to say anymore.

Jamie knew full well what could happen next. What might happen next. What would happen next if his worst fear was realized.

It would be so easy. Randall would only have to drag him out to the courtyard as he was. He would be pardoned, most likely. But Randall could force him into marriage. Especially if…

Jamie whimpered a little, his left hand drifting to his stomach. His mother told him and Jenny to lay with a man the week before their blood came, if they wanted children. And to avoid it if they didn't.

Jamie hadn't had much choice in the matter.

"You would make an excellent wife." Randall whispered in his ear.

Jamie wanted to sob as Randall dressed himself and sheathed Jamie's dirk. He had no way out. There would be no rescue. He would never see Claire again. And he would have to lie with the man who raped him every night for the rest of his life while spending his days as a dutiful wife.

Randall stepped up the stairs, investigating something, Jamie really didn't care. His eyes fixated on the dirk, sitting on the table. He could get to it. He could take his own life here and now. Save himself from the humiliation and anguish that lay before him. He groaned as he tried to get up, his right hand blazing with pain. His legs wouldn't work, and the pain- dear God the pain. He felt like he'd been ripped in half, but someone got bored before the job was done. Leaving Jamie screaming in pain and dying slowly. Too slowly.

He toppled out of the bed, his head making a nasty 'thunk' on the floor and his right hand making a crunch under him. Thankfully, the nerve seemed to have died with that. His left hand worked fine, and he tried desperately to crawl to the table before realizing he wasn't moving. His arm was just… Laying there as he told it to move.

He started to sob outright. He couldn't even kill himself and make the only choice he hadn't had taken from him.

He was still sobbing when the door opened again. Jamie braced for Randall, but instead several pairs of familiar boots came into his line of vision.

He tried to look up, but his vision was darkening. What little he saw was all Randall. They were all Randall. Here to torture him, to hurt him in ways worse then death. He tried to get away, but a soothing voice from the dark made him fall still. Murtagh. Murtagh wouldn't let Randall hurt him. But why was he letting them all gather around him? Why wasn't Murtagh chasing them away? Why hadn't he brought Claire?

Jamie finally saw his godfather's face, full of concern and fear as he wrapped Jamie up in familiar wool. Jamie tried to look around, but the exhaustion was too strong. His vision darkened, and finally he fell asleep.

~~

He woke what felt like seconds later to a hand touching his face. His heart jumped out of his chest, and he tried to get away before he even knew who it was. "Get off!" He shouted, eyes screwed shut. His left arm buckled, and his right hand collided with something soft and warm. He finally opened his eyes.

He looked up at the soulless eyes of Black Jack. He was smirking. "It's alright, Jamie. I'm here." He said, brushing some hair from his forehead.

The need to rip all his hair out had never been stronger. He needed it gone. He couldn't bear this anymore. He grabbed Randall by the throat. "Leave me alone!" He shouted, anger taking over for a brief moment. "I willna let ye have my life!"

If anything was going to happen, it was going to be on his own terms. And once he had a knife and a space by himself, he knew what he had to do. Randall would not take his life from him like he had taken his body and soul.

He let go of Randall, the moment of strength fading. He stared up at the sky, realizing that they were moving. He blinked. And suddenly everything was different.

Instead of a clear blue sky, he stared at a white ceiling. He was in a real bed, with real sheets. He was still covered in his plaid, it being used for a bedcover. His right hand couldn't move. His left could move a bit. He reached up to feel his hair. Parts were shorn and sticking out. Others were still damp from being washed.

He looked around, to find the room empty aside from one person. The big bushy beard hid most of his smile, but Murtagh's smiles were easy to see once you saw enough of them. "Ye're awake! Ye scared us lad, we thought you wouldna wake up." He reached over to pat Jamie's shoulder and brush the hair from his eyes.

Jamie flinched violently and watched Murtagh's hand like a hawk. He reminded Murtagh of a wolf he saw once.

The animal had it's foot caught in a snare, and no one had checked the line for a while. The poor thing was skin and bone, but it growled whenever Murtagh tried to get close to feed it. The poor animal was half dangling by a leg, but it nearly bought Murtagh's leg off when he tried to get close enough to cut it down. It had been afraid, and in pain, and too scared to see the difference between help and hurt. He'd had to shoot the poor thing from a distance.

Seeing it happen to Jamie, the trusting lad who was a son to him, broke his heart.

He tried again, moving much slower, but he stopped before he got close. Something in Jamie's eyes, something shattered, broke his heart.

Jamie had the look of a condemned man. Like he knew something was going to doom him, if not now then later.

"Lad, talk to me." Murtagh said quietly. "Or talk to Claire, when she-"

"Not Claire." Jamie almost begged. "Please." He looked desperate, and it took Murtagh aback.

"Why?" He asked after a moment.

Jamie looked down, and Murtagh didn't get another word out of him.

Murtagh couldn't leave Jamie alone. And Claire was sleeping, she'd stayed up for the past four days looking after him. He needed to find some way to offer the lad some comfort.

The first thing he tried was telling him a story about his father's antics as a boy. This had the opposite intended effect, and it nearly sent Jamie into a sobbing fit.

The next try was reading Jamie a book. Jamie seemed completely indifferent, lost in his own world. Probably not helped by the book, an anthology of some sort.

After that, Murghta tried singing him to sleep like when he was a lad. Shockingly, that got him back to sleep. Which Murtagh counted as a win and an endorsement of future singing.

He was reading the anthology and thoroughly engrossed when Claire came back. She didn't look much better rested, and he doubted she actually slept much. She was armed with a few books, probably some kind of medical texts or destined for use as a pillow. "Has he woken yet?" She asked, sitting down heavily in the chair.

Murtagh nodded from the foot of the bed. "Aye, for a wee bit. Got some coherent words out of him, and got him back to sleep."

Claire nodded, her eyes never leaving Jamie. She didn't reach out to touch him, though he could tell she wanted to. Murtagh stood up and put a gentle hand on her shoulder. "I'll get some food ready, for when he next wakes up."

Claire nodded, watching Jamie's face contort. She couldn't do anything but watch him suffer. And she hated it.

As Murtagh left, she heard small whispers. Jamie was talking, albeit quietly, in his sleep. Claire leaned in closer, trying to catch a few words. It was just one word repeated.

"Claire."

He was calling out for her, desperate and alone and maybe feeling abandoned. "I'm here, I'm right here Jamie." She said, reaching out on instinct and brushing hair off of his sweat soaked forehead. He was hot, far too hot. She glanced at Jamie's face, to see his eyes wide open and fixed on her. He wasn't moving away, but the fear made her draw back. She couldn't live with herself knowing she made him endure that a second longer then she had to.

Jamie chased her touch, just the smallest bit. He was desperate for her. For her touch in all the places Randall touched him, erasing him from his body. He wanted to melt into her touch and curl up for all eternity.

But every time she touched him, the shame of knowing he gave himself to Randall welled up, like reopening a wound. In the end, he had done all of this willingly. He gave himself away, wrapped up with a bow. He couldn’t stand himself. He couldn’t stand to let her touch him. He couldn’t stand to be here.

He would have to bide his time, but he couldn’t bear to live any longer.

So, his plan began.

His first method was refusing food. Starving to death seemed better than living. And what little food they got into him, his stomach tried to reject. The nausea was horrible, and it was never relieved. He spent his days staring up at the ceiling and trying to battle the hunger, but it was a losing battle. As his body healed, slowly, he fell further and further. The days blurred, until he didn’t know how long had passed.

He only knew his sleep was full of Randall and the smell of lavender. He never remembered the dreams when he woke.

He was broken out of his trance one day, by Willie coming in. “Jamie?” The lad’s voice was soft, like he expected Jamie to disappear if he was too loud. “Murtagh just came back. He said he’s got ye, himself, and Mistress Claire passage to France. Ye can forget this ever happened.”

Jamie focused on Willie’s face. He seemed so happy. So naive. So unknowing that Jamie would never be able to forget.

“Is there anything I can do?” Willie asked, sitting in the chair by his bed. “Anything at all?”

Jamie noticed Willie’s blade. His original plan. To slit his throat and be done with all of this. “Give me ye’r blade.” He said softly, voice rough.

Willie looked confused. “Why? What’re you going to do with it?” His hand hovered protectively over his dirk.

“So I can put myself out of this black misery.” Jamie grew angrier. “Now give me the damned blade.”

Willie stood up. “No!” He looked panicked, and he fled the room. And as he did, so did Jamie’s last chance.

Chapter Text

Claire ground the lavender as intensely as she could, trying to take out her anger on the blasted plants. The smell was everywhere. Murtagh watched her, with a hand pinching his nose closed. "Ye sure Jamie needs this?" He asked. "My eyes are waterin' now as it is."

"I'm sure." Claire said, adding the oil. "He needs this. If I'm going in the dark with him, this is what will bring him there." She ground more, and Murtagh decided he needed to get out of there before the smell made his head hurt. The only place he could really think to go, was back to Jamie. To sit with him for a bit, and offer him a bit of comfort.

Jamie was on his side, curled up. His eyes were open, though his stare was as blank as ever. Sweat had gotten into his hair, darkening the red to an almost blood like color.

Murtagh cleared his throat as he approached. "Jamie." He said quietly. "Ye haven't touched ye'r supper."

The plate of food was placed to his left, so he could feed himself if he wanted. The cutlery hadn't been touched. Jamie didn't look up, or make a noise. The only signs he was alive were the rise and fall of his chest, and the occasional blink.

Murtagh sat beside him, thinking. "Ye should sleep, lad." He said after a moment. He had a long night ahead of him. "I can sing again, if ye like."

Jamie glanced at him for a moment before returning to blankly staring. Murtagh took that as his go ahead, and he smiled. He knew just the song.

"A naeoidhean bhig, cluinn mo ghuth Mise rid' thaobh," Murtagh started, hoping Jamie would catch on. It was a lullaby that Murtagh had been singing him since he was a week old.

Murtagh still remembered the day he came to Lallybroch after a few months away. He didn't know if Ellen had had the barin yet as he rode in. He was met by Willy and Jenny, both toddlers, rushing up to him and grinning. Willy was the one to proudly tell him the news that they had a new baby sister.

Murtagh didn't think he'd dismounted a horse that fast before or since.

He also wasn't sure he'd ever been the default baby holder before. But Ellen was a busy woman, and Jamie had taken a shine to Murtagh as soon as he met the man. So he held Jamie third most, and frequently when the lad's parents were both exhausted from the work of a farm and two other children.

He remembers holding Jamie one warm night in mid May. It was raining, and Jamie had been enthralled by the sound. The thunder, however, scared him into a crying fit.

Murtagh, in a panic, had started singing. And Jamie had calmed down and fallen asleep. Ever since, singing had worked a treat to get him to go to sleep. The number of times he'd been found fast asleep because someone wanted a quiet moment was frankly ridiculous.

And singing the song worked a treat now. By the end, Jamie's breaths were even and his eyes were closed.

Murtagh felt bad. He could have warned Jamie, told him to at least prepare himself. But then Claire's plan wouldn't stand a chance.

With a heavy heart, he pulled the blankets up further over Jamie and got up to tell Claire he was asleep.

Later that night, Claire opened the door carefully. She couldn't make a sound, or she would ruin the entire thing.

The light provided by the embers was enough to see by. She saw Jamie, his face twitching in some nightmare. Would she make it all worse? By bringing it to the forefront? She started to doubt herself, but she stopped that train of thought. She needed to do this.

She sat beside him on the bed and uncorked the bottle of lavender oil. She waved it under his nose, and his face contorted before he opened his eyes. "Breath in." She said.

Jamie's heart almost stopped as he looked up at Black Jack Randall. He tried to scramble backwards, his back hitting the headboard of the bed. He blinked, and Randall was gone. And Claire, clad in her shift, was looming over him like a vengeful goddess.

"Oil of lavender. Smells familiar, doesn't it?" Claire asked, pouring some on her hands.

Jamie looked away. This couldn't be happening. "Leave me be!" He said, hoping she would listen. But knowing she wouldn't.

"I've left you for far too long." Claire rubbed the oil into her hands. "You don't respond to compassion, you only respond to strength."

Jamie's breathing sped up, voices muddling together as memory met reality.

Claire grabbed his face roughly. "And you are going to tell me what happened in that room!"

"Why are you doing this?!" He tried to drown out the echos of Randall with his own voice. "You know what happened!"

"I know you're hiding something! You can't even look at me!" Claire yelled. Jamie didn't look under. "Look at me!" She shouted, and Jamie squeezed his eyes shut. Look at me. Look at me. The words echoed around in his head. Claire's voice mixed with Randall's into a symphony of fear and pain.

"No!" He shouted, mustering all his strength and pushing her away. She grabbed him though, pulling him with her. They ended up on the floor, Jamie frantically trying to get off and Claire trying to stay on. The scuffle that ensued was too fast for Jamie to even know what was happening until Claire grabbed the wrong thing.

The ripping sound made him freeze.

Claire stared in shock. Emblazoned on her husband's side were two letters. 'JR', like a seal. Like a brand. Like Jamie was property to be marked.

She reached out and traced the skin around the mark. "He- he branded you?" She whispered.

Jamie pulled away, unable to look at her. She reached for him, but Jamie shied away from her hand. "Claire-"

He finally looked Claire in the eyes. He saw the hurt, the fear, the pain he had caused. He wanted to cry, to do whatever she asked of him. Anything to make her smile again.

"Jamie…" Claire said softly.

"He didn't brand me." Jamie said softly, looking away again. "I did it myself."

"We can remove it." Claire said quickly. "It wouldn't-"

"No." Jamie said. "You canna understand-" He flinched when she tried to touch him again, her hand touching the ends of his curls. "I did it myself. He- he handed me the damned thing and I pressed it to my own body." He stared at his broken hand. "He…. He broke me. Into a thousand little pieces, it feels like." He held his injured hand close to his chest, and a wave of self hatred crashed over him. He didn't want to tell Claire anything else, but she had a right to know. Jamie just didn't have the strength to say it.

Claire reached for him again. Jamie watched her, but her hand was gentle against his cheek. He leaned into the touch, savoring the feeling of being lovingly held, even just the smallest bit. It gave him a bit of strength back. The strength he needed to start talking again.

"He said he would make me his wife." Jamie said quietly. The memories were fresh in his mind. "Make me- make me carry his child. And he- he-" He couldn't finish, leaning his head into Claire's hand.

Claire helped him up onto the bed and moved her hand to his shoulder. Jamie looked on the edge of shaking himself apart.

"I pictured you." He whispered. "When Randall… It was the only way I…" He put his head in his hands. "I took pleasure from it. I didna want to but it felt so good, to not be in pain." He whispered.

Before he knew it, he was wrapped up in a hug. He was startled for a moment, and then he became little more than putty in her hands. And he listened well and good when she spoke.

"You promised me the protection of your body. And you did just that." She said gently. "What you did to survive is no shame on you. You are my husband. I'll be damned for a thousand life times before I let him take you." She held him tight, and nearly cried when he hugged her back.

They fell asleep wrapped around each other. Jamie's face pressed into Claire's shoulder and Claire's hand buried in Jamie's hair.

It was when Claire woke that she realized she hadn't noticed something very, very important.

Chapter Text

Claire was rather peaceful when she woke. Jamie's embrace was comforting, and she hoped that he had slept peacefully after everything. His hair tickled her shoulder, curls turning gold in the early morning light.

She gently pet his hair, wondering if she could convince him to take a bath later. He didn't reek, but they could probably both use a nice warm bath. And his hair could use a bit of washing. Not to mention-

Claire stopped. There hadn't been any blood to clean up, not in the weeks they'd been here. She wasn't completely sure of Jamie's schedule, he never talked about it and handled it by himself. But it should have come by now, they'd been here over a month.

She looked at him, trying to find any signs in his face. His cheeks seemed a little rounder, though that could be that he'd been eating a bit more. She couldn't tell if his hair was thicker, she didn't even know if that was an early sign.

She gently rested her hand on his stomach. There was a small swell, barely there. Her blood turned to ice.

Jamie was very confused when he woke up. He opened his eyes slowly, realizing slowly that Claire was still next to him, her hand was on his stomach, and she was pale as a sheet.

"Claire?" Jamie asked quietly. "What's wrong?" Her fear rubbed off on him quickly.

Claire shook her head. "It could be nothing." She mumbled. She needed to find something fast. There had to be an 18th century pregnancy test, without just waiting two months. Or really anything she could reasonably do. Nothing came to mind, or at least nothing remotely reliable. They would have to wait, even if it killed her inside.

When she looked up, Jamie's face was dark. He didn't look at her, but he wasn't blankly staring. His expression was full of fear and anger and disgust. "It happened." He said quietly, with an assuredness that told Claire all she really needed to know.

"You knew it could happen." She said quietly.

"Of course I knew! I'm not daft!" Jamie snapped. "I just… I hoped. I prayed to God it wouldn't happen." The anger drained out of Jamie's voice, and he pressed his face into the pillow. "I didna even think about it." He said quietly. He'd been so focused on dying. And for a brief moment, he felt like he could be okay.

But now his world was crashing down on him again. And there was no stopping it.

Claire held his hands. "We'll figure this out." She promised. "Once we reach France, we'll figure out what to do." She said.

Jamie nodded a little. "But first…"

~~

Jamie sincerely felt like Claire over bandaged him. He felt like a mummy. His usual cloth wrap was around his chest, though it hurt much more than usual. The small wound on his side, all that remained of Randall's brand, was bandaged tightly as could be. His hand was wrapped so much he couldn't move it.

He was very glad to be back in real clothes. Pants were much easier to get on with only one hand then a kilt, he couldn't exactly plait it.

Murtagh was next to him, rubbing his back as Jamie's face got greener and greener. He considered hurling himself over the side, but then it would be too easy to rescue him. They'd just have to drag him out of the water. He would wait until they were on the boat, when it would be harder.

A particularly violent wave rocked the boat more, and Jamie nearly threw up the very big breakfast Claire had made him eat before they left. He caught Murtagh giving him a very concerned look.

Jamie wanted to shrivel up. It was bad enough everyone else knew now, though no one had brought it up to him. And he should have expected Claire to tell Murtagh. Or Murtagh to just find out somehow. Jamie really didn't know how Murtagh knew. And it didn't really matter. Soon he wouldn't be here to care.

Murtagh knew full well what Jamie was going to try. He'd known the lad a long time. Including when his mind had been in storms like this before. He'd stopped Jamie before, and he would now if it came down to it. He pointedly hadn't given Jamie back his dirk or rapier.

Jamie reluctantly climbed onboard the ship, and he eyed the railings before Murtagh grabbed his arm. "Oh no ye don't." He said, voice low and rough. "Ye and me are going below decks, and ye aren't coming up here without me or Claire."

The resignation on Jamie's face told him he was right about his worries. He marched him down to the cabins, and made sure to place himself between Jamie and the door.

Jamie, thankfully, just curled up in his bed. He looked so similar to how he had as a child, Murtagh could only cry at some of the memories.

The first time he'd caught Jamie trying to end it all had been by the mill pond. He'd been eight, and he hadn't been able to swim. Murtagh had found him just before he got in the water, and he'd carried the boy home kicking and screaming. And that was only the first time Murtagh caught him. Jenny had told him later, when they were grown, that she'd caught him when he was seven. She hadn't said much about how, but from what he understood she'd wrestled him to the ground until he finally came out to her. And it wasn't the last time either.

Murtagh couldn't exactly drag him kicking and screaming home anymore. They didn't have a home, and Jamie was much too big for that. But that same fear that he felt, when he saw the little boy he knew couldn't swim preparing to jump into the deep part of the mill pond, he felt now.

Claire came down around Jamie's fourth bucket of puke. She sat next to him and took Murtagh's place of keeping his hair out of his face. "Seven more days of this." She said quietly. This was going to be hard if she wanted to try and keep him healthy.

Jamie groaned. "Don't remind me." He mumbled, the first words he'd said in quite a while.

Claire tried to brush a few stray curls out of his face. "Don't worry." She said quietly. "We'll be there soon."

Jamie doubted her. Every minute dragged on for a year. Misery and sickness made everything stretch, and knowing there was no foreseeable end or any comfort to be had made it even worse.

The pain, both physical and mental, was too strong to endure much longer. There were so many feelings mixed up in his head. Knowing he'd never be rid of Randall, not really. The physical discomfort of knowing no one would see him as a man. He may even have to hide as a woman. But he'd be of no help, especially not to the plan he heard Murtagh and Claire discussing over him.

He knew he was seeing the differences worse than they were. He saw feminine features where there were none, and many people had told him he was seeing nothing. But that hardly made him feel better. If he could see it, so could anyone else who looked close enough.

He didn't know how long he stared at the wall, his mind lost in the storm. He knew someone kept trying to get his attention, but he didn't know how to find his way back.

His awareness finally came back when it was dark. He guessed it was night. He heard Murtagh snoring, and when he looked around he found Claire asleep in a chair.

Jamie was careful as he got up. This was his chance. He snuck past Murtagh and through the ship's halls, his steps light and quick. He made his way to the deck. He felt sick just being here, and he ran to the side. After hurling what little was in his stomach, he tried to stifle a sob.

He tried to convince himself that it was better. They would have no body to deal with. He would be free. He wouldn't give Randall the satisfaction of having his child. He would finally be free from the battle he'd been fighting his whole life.

He got up on the rail, looking at the ocean below. He thought of Jenny. She would be sad, but her life would go on. Ian would be sad, but Jamie's death wouldn't affect a thing. Murtagh wouldn't have to babysit him anymore. Claire could find a real husband.

He was about to jump when he really thought. He could do one last thing, before he was gone.

Claire wanted a child. And Jamie had a chance to give her one. If he survived until the barin was born, he could give Claire something she had wanted. Something she couldn't have with him.

He would have to take care of himself, and of the barin until then. But once the barin was born, he could go. Knowing he gave Claire what she wanted, and left her free to find a better husband.

He stepped down from the railing, and headed back to the cabin. Claire and Murtagh were still fast asleep.

Jamie crawled into bed and curled back up. He just had to make it a few more months. He could do that. He gently rubbed his stomach, hoping beyond hope that he could do this one thing right.

Chapter Text

Jamie opened his eyes to a room. Lavish and brightly colored. Sussex, unfamiliar and hostile. The other people in the room weren't familiar, faceless and devoid of detail aside from the fashionable clothes. The only person with a face Jamie could see was beside him. Holding his ruined hand painfully tight. Jonothan Randall, bragging about Jamie to his parents.

Jamie kept his eyes downcast. Trying to act like a proper lady. Show he wasn't a savage Scot. Show he would make a good daughter in law. He felt suffocated by the world around him. It was almost physical pain.

Every inch of him felt wrong. Every breath was one he didn't want to take. Every glance in his direction made him want to sink into the floor. Every time someone said his old name, called him 'Lady Broch Torach', it felt like a stab wound.

Jamie wanted nothing more than to wilt and die when one of the faceless people congratulated Randall on his new title and lands. The hand holding his squeezed again, and Jamie sucked in a breath to hide the gasp of pain.

He knew how the dream went. He'd had this same dream for two months now. He braced himself, and resisted the urge to sob. He shut his eyes tightly, but he didn't need to see Randall's face to know that sick smile was back. The sick smile announcing that they were expecting a child.

Jamie woke to someone shaking his shoulder. His first instinct was to reach for a weapon, defend himself. But there was nothing in reach. He tried to fight back with just his hands, but his right hand screamed in pain.

He finally saw the person who had been shaking him, and the fight died. Claire was beside him, looking scared out of her mind.

"Jamie?" She whispered.

Jamie tried to steady his breathing. He remembered Claire saying something about how stress wasn't good for the barin. He reached for his plaid, bundling himself up in the familiar wool.

"Jamie, talk to me." Claire said again. She didn't reach out to touch him, but she was running out of ways to get his attention.

"What's there to talk about?" Jamie mumbled under his breath. He got up shakily. There was no way he could go back to sleep,and he could be spending his time doing something useful.

Claire watched him go with a heavy heart, not sure how to help. His nightmares were almost nightly, and he always ran away after.

She rolled over, wondering if a sleeping tea may help.

Jamie sat down at the desk, lighting a candle to see by. He had things to do, though he'd been planning to do them in the morning. He was trying to do as much as he could and get as far ahead as he could. That didn't exactly work all the time, but he had to try. Something to think about besides his plan and the slow failure of his marriage.

He couldn't stand the look Claire gave him when either of them tried to make an advance. Jamie always faltered, the thought of being touched like that unlocking memories he couldn't bury. He couldn't stand the look she gave him when he winced in pain either. The looks she gave him when he felt sick at seemingly random smells, or he pulled his plaid around his shoulders as a shield from view.

By dawn, exhaustion was settling into his bones. He was close to falling asleep at his desk, but the door opening startled him fully awake. He pulled his plaid tighter around his shoulders as the servant's came in to do the cleaning and whatever. Jamie didn't have the energy to ask what they were planning to do.

He made a quick exit back to the bedroom. Claire was asleep, which was definitely for the best. Jamie didn't want to face the questions. Where had he been,had he gotten any more sleep, what was the nightmare about. He just wanted to curl up under the blankets and fade away forever. He noticed his reflection in the vanity, and stopped.

He didn't know the person looking back at him. He knew it was him, but the disconnect was immediate. That wasn't him. But he knew mirrors didn't lie.

He approached the vanity, in an act of self destruction.

His cheeks had gotten rounder. That was the only thing he'd appreciated about nearly starving. It had sharpened his features, and hardened the softer parts of his face. But, either because he was eating again or the pregnancy, the softness returned in full force. And he hated it. There was nothing he could do short of starving himself again, but he couldn't do that.

He felt a lump in his throat. His body was already changing, and his emotions were close behind. Everything felt explosive, including the horrible feeling of wrong.

He put his head in his hands. He retraced the familiar path of self hatred. Everything he had ever hated about himself, every reason he was a horrible person, every reason he deserved everything that had happened to him.

His hand hovered over his stomach. He didn't even want to touch it. Every move reminded him of Randall now. Every day for the rest of his short life, he'd have to be reminded of this constantly. He deserved this. He deserved to want to die because of this. He did this willingly, this was God's punishment.

Maybe this was God's way of punishing him for marrying Claire. For not staying as an obedient daughter and going against the path He set out for Jamie.

Doomed to live out what little life he had left in misery, then kill himself and send himself to hell.

He took a shaky breath. Burning for eternity was better than this. He had months left, and nothing would get easier in that time. He would just suffer more and more until the barin was safely in Claire's arms.

Then he would be gone. He just needed to survive until then, and it would all be over and he would have made Claire happy.

She wouldn't be happy when he eventually killed himself. But she would survive. Be happy again. Raise the barin to be a good person. Jamie could barely stand the thought of even meeting the barin. His stomach rolled at the idea.

He took a shaky breath. He had to keep going. Just a little while longer.

Chapter Text

It was rare, these days, for Jamie to feel anything but apathy. He faked emotion when with Prince Charles, and during chess, but he just felt apathetic. Nothing could really bring him joy, and even if it got close he pushed it away.

If he felt anything else, he worried he wouldn't go through with his plan. That he would ruin Claire and the barin's life.

It was a blessing that Jamie wasn't really showing yet, though it was bound to happen any day now. Murtagh hadn't earned enough trust yet with Jamie's contacts, though his chess game was getting better. And he would have to take over Jamie's part of the plan at some point soon. Jamie was dreading that day.

He would be stuck in the house with nothing to do, just sitting in bed with his thoughts. Waiting for Claire to do a checkup and look puzzled. She always looked puzzled when she gave him a check up. And he genuinely did not care why. He just did as he was told.

Knowing that Claire had gone out, had found something that made her happy, should have made him happy. But instead he felt even more alone. Murtagh had Suzette, Claire had her hospital now, and he had nothing. Just sitting in a whorehouse where the air made him feel sick and listen to a bumbling prince with a few too many screws loose.

He was brooding over a glass of whiskey, thinking when something broke the monotony. He noticed a young boy, busing tables. In particular, he noticed the boy picking pockets.

Something clicked in his mind, and he finally felt something. He felt excited. He had a way to help, if his plan would work at all. He got up to follow the boy and corner him so they could talk.

That proved harder than expected, and running when -by Claire's estimate- 5 months pregnant was not a pleasant experience. So, he outsmarted the boy. He caught him and cornered him, and he didn't realize until then just how scared he looked.

"Fuyez, bâtard anglais!" The boy shouted. "Laisse-moi tranquille! Je dirai à ta femme que tu as couché avec des putes!"

"English bastard- For one I'm a Scottish bastard." Jamie kept hold of the boy's coat. "And two, my wife wouldna believe you."

The boy kept fighting, though he fought harder to get away. "Let me go!" He shouted.

"Aye, you speak English?" Jamie asked, holding the boy firmly. "Christ laddie, I want to offer you a job!" He dodged a very powerful kick of the boy's legs.

The boy paused and gave him a suspicious look. "What kind of job?" He asked, in a tone Jamie recognized from business dealings. He was open to negotiate.

"What ye're doing now, but for me." Jamie said. "I need someone with ye'r skill set. And, you get a bed and food."

"And 10 francs a week!" The boy added quickly.

Jamie's heart softened. 10 francs didn't feel like nearly enough. "How about 20?"

He could see the kid's eyes widen. "At your service Milord!" He said. "I am Claudel, though please do not call me that."

Jamie raised an eyebrow. "Aye, I won't. What would you like to be called?"

"Anything but that." The boy crossed his arms.

Jamie thought for a moment. "Fergus." He said after a moment. "Fergus suits ye."

Fergus smiled brightly. "Indeed, Milord!" He seemed very pleased with his new name.

"Now, Fergus, empty your pockets." Jamie said. He couldn't help a small smile as Fergus's face fell. "Dinna fash lad, I'm not gonna take anything."

Fergus relaxed a bit and turned out his pockets. Surrounded by gold and jewels and other various items, was a certain missing wooden snake. Jamie bent down with a bit of difficulty to pick it up. Sure enough, on the snake's belly was written 'Sawney'.

"Ye wee bastard, that's my snake." Jamie said with a smile. This kid was better than he thought. "Come on, let's get ye home."

Fergus proved to be an absolute charmer the second they entered the door. He complimented Suzette into getting a chicken leg, and he tried to compliment Claire, who was having none of it.

Once Fergus was off to bed, Claire gave him a look. "What on earth is that about?"

Jamie tried to dodge the conversation. "He's a thief, and a damn good one." He started walking, wincing as he worked on unbuttoning his waistcoat. His ribs protested violently.

"Because that's what every household needs, a pickpocket?" Claire asked, keeping pace with him and not letting him get away.

"No, Sassenach. It's what he can pickpocket." Jamie explained. "Letters."

Claire's eyes widened. Jamie felt a bit of pride, he'd actually done something smart. "We'll work out details in the morning." He said. "For now, I'm exhausted." He finished unbuttoning his waistcoat as he reached their room and tossed it over a chair.

Claire gently touched his shoulder. "Let me, you grimaced taking that off." She said. Jamie nodded a little, and untucked his shirt for her. Claire was very precise in her unwrapping, though her hands lingered on the bruising. "You should stay home tomorrow." She said quietly. "To rest."

Jamie nodded a little. He needed to keep himself healthy if he wanted to give her a healthy barin, and that meant doing what she said.

He didn't flinch as she gently touched his belly. Without the layers of clothing, the bump was much more obvious. Her fingers ghosted over the starts of stretch marks. Jamie hid how much he wanted to cry. The whirlwind of emotions surrounding this barin only got more complicated by the day. There was love, because he knew it would make Claire happy. There was hatred because half of it would always be Randall, and it felt like this thing was ruining the little life he had left to live. He was miserable, he could barely stand to be looked at. All the changes that came accentuated features of himself he hated. He wanted this over with as fast as humanly possible.

But he had to pretend the whirlwind wasn't there. So that Claire would love the barin, and take it in after he was gone. He'd sent for the plaid, to at least give the barin something of his, and Jenny had sent along the spoons and a delighted letter. She had no idea what the circumstances were, and Jamie would never tell her.

Claire led him to bed. "Sleep." She told him quietly. "You need rest."

Jamie nodded and he tried. He really tried. But his dreams were full of vivid nightmares and flashes of pain. He couldn't remember any once they ended, except that he had felt trapped in each one.

He woke up after one with a start, a cry on his lips. He could still feel the pain, sharp and intermittent, but not as bad as it was in the dream. He lay panting until it was over, and he gently rubbed his stomach. "If ye kick ye'r mam like that, I'll be verra sore with ye." He mumbled. There was a smaller kick in response, but it wasn't as painful as before. "I felt that." He muttered, rolling onto his side. "Kickin' with your wee feet like a jockey."

There was no responding kick, for which Jamie was grateful. He gently rubbed his stomach for a moment before getting up. He wouldn't be going back to sleep any time soon anyways, and he didn't want to wake Claire.

He found his usual spot, a secluded couch in a disused room. He lit a candle and grabbed a random book and tried to focus on reading, but his head was in too much chaos to focus. So, he put the book away and started talking.

"Ye'r mam is the best woman in the world." He said quietly. "And I ken she'll take good care of ye. Better than I ever could." He felt a small kick, and he wondered if it was the barin trying to tell him to be quiet. Did they even need to sleep?

"Hey, ye kept me up. I'm returning the favor." He said, jokingly. Then he felt bad. "I'm sorry. It's not my place to scold ye. I don't know if I'll even properly meet ye." He gingerly touched the spot the last kick had been in. "Be good for your uncle Murtagh too, ye hear? He's gonna be ye'r godfather, same as he is to me. And ye best be nice to him. If ye'r nice, he'll sing for ye."

There was ominous silence that Jamie decided to take as rapt attention.

"I canna sing, not well. But he sings like a songbird, so does ye'r mam. Ye won't ever be left without a pretty lullaby." He looked out the window at the city of Paris. It would be so easy to just go now. But he had his duty to Claire, and the barin. No matter how badly he wanted to end it here and now.

He rested his head on the back of the couch. "I ken ye're innocent. In all of this. You didna ask any more than I did. But… I don't think I'll ever be able to look at ye." He felt so guilty. He remembered how happy Jenny was at the prospect of meeting Maggie, and here he was hoping he never met the barin he would be giving to the love of his life. "I feel like I should meet ye. Just to make sure ye're good for ye'r mam." He absentmindedly ran his thumb along one of the lightning like scars. "But I can only hope ye will be."

He closed his eyes, trying to picture Claire with the barin. Would they have hair like Jamie's, red and curly? Or like Randall, blond and straight? Or maybe not like either of them, maybe they would take after his father. Smooth black hair, so smooth that rumors were spread of them being a selkie.

He hoped, whatever they looked like, they took after Claire in personality. A child like her could only make the world a better place, regardless of parentage.

Claire found him the next morning, fast asleep on the couch with an arm wrapped around his stomach.

She quietly closed the door again, not wanting to disturb him. She was concerned about a lot of things, but he was safe for right now. And she had other matters to attend to. Leaving him to get a bit more sleep wouldn't hurt anyone.

Chapter Text

Murtagh was in the middle of decoding a letter when Fergus tapped his shoulder.

"Mr. Murtagh?" Fergus asked quietly. "Milord would like to see you."

Murtagh looked up questioningly. "Well 'Milord' can fetch me himself." He went back to his letter. He nearly had it.

"He said he could not. Please, Mr. Murtagh. He was very distressed." Fergus begs.

Murtagh's head shot up like a deer hearing a branch snap. "What kind of distressed?" Scenarios ran through his head. Labor, something happening to Claire, someone finding out Jamie was not homebound because of sickness, something he'd really rather not think about.

"He was asking for you, he would not say much else." Fergus looked very worried.

Murtagh got up before the lad could finish his sentence. He followed Fergus, who led him to a small room. Jamie was wrapped in his plaid, draped like a blanket around his shoulders. He was pacing, though it was more of a waddle.

"Jamie, lad, sit down." He said. "Ye can't be on ye'r feet this much." He sat on the couch, leaving room for Jamie to sit down. Fergus sat to his other side, watching Jamie anxiously. Murtagh rubbed his shoulder, mostly out of habit. Anxious 8 year olds were nothing new to him.

Jamie did not sit down, but he did start talking. In Gaelic, which was probably for the best since Fergus was right there. “Is urrainn dhomh seo a dhèanamh tuilleadh.” His voice sounded choked. “Bha mi den bheachd gum b ’urrainn dhomh seo fhaighinn, a dhèanamh gus an tàinig an leanabh. Ach chan urrainn dhomh.”

Mutagh got up and grabbed him by the shoulders. “Fergus, leave lad.” Murtagh said. “You dinna want to be here.” He dragged Jamie to the couch and sat him down.

Fergus got up reluctantly, and Murtagh was glad. He didn’t want Fergus here for this, if Jamie was talking about what he thought he was.

Jamie started talking again once the door closed, this time in English. “I canna do this.” He wrapped the plaid tighter around himself.

"Yes ye can." Murtagh said firmly. "Ye'r strong, and once the barin is born this will all be over." He hesitantly reached out to touch Jamie's shoulder, and Jamie didn't move away. He tried to curl tighter, but his stomach prevented it.

Jamie was so frustrated on top of everything. Everything was so much harder, he'd nearly fallen down the damn stairs five times, and getting a wink of sleep seemed impossible. He couldn't wait for the barin to be out and in Claire's arms so he could have what he wanted.

"I canna be alone." Jamie whispered quietly. He didn't trust himself, and he needed to do this one thing for Claire. He couldn't quit now when he was so close.

Murtagh patted his shoulder, knowing much more contact was out of Jamie's comfort zone. "Okay." He said quietly. "Lay down, okay? You look half dead."

Jamie lay down in possibly the most cramped position he had ever seen, and still technically sat up. Murtagh decided against pressing it. "How about a song?" He offered. "Dh’èirich mi moch madainn cheòthar?"

Jamie nodded a little, and burrowed deeper into his plaid. The song, soft and whimsical, put him right to sleep.

Murtagh made a mental note to teach the song to Claire. And as if summoned by his thoughts, he heard her voice.

Claire made her way up the stairs, unsure how to break everything to Jamie. Firstly, that Black Jack was alive. She and Murtagh had agreed that it would not be good for Jamie to know, and they had hoped that if Randall ever arrived, it would be while Jamie was housebound.

There was the bigger problem of her having challenged Randall to a duel. When she barely knew her way around a knife. And she needed a second.

This was not her brightest idea ever.

"Jamie?" She called as she climbed the stairs. There wasn't a trace of him. Usually he was with Murtagh, going over letters. But they were both gone. "Jamie?" She tried again.

She heard a door open, and a moment later Murtagh appeared. "Shh! I just got him to sleep." He closed the door carefully behind him, and caught sight of her expression. "Jesus Christ, lass, you look like ye saw a ghost."

"I challenged Jack Randall to a duel." It sounded completely absurd when she said it out loud. "So… Can you teach me to fight with a sword?"

~~

Fergus had to say, it wasn't bad staying with Jamie. He could do whatever he wanted, as long as he was in the room and kept an ear out. Claire had bought him toys -mostly little tin soldiers and a few wooden animals- after Fergus volunteered to stay with Jamie, and getting Jamie to play with him or tell him a story was incredibly easy most of the time. He seemed relieved to be given something to do.

Sometimes, when Jamie was napping, he'd try and find where Murtagh and mistress Claire were practicing their swords. He would try to mimic them with a stick he found, but he wasn't very good yet.

He brought it up to Jamie one day, while he was running his thumb over the wooden snake. "Milord?"

Jamie looked over. "Aye?"

"How do you fight with a sword?" Fergus asked. "I saw Murtagh practicing, and I want to learn. And I know you can, so could you teach me?" He used every trick he had to persuade Jamie. The big puppy dog eyes, the innocent expression. And by God it worked.

Jamie's face softened almost instantly. "I dinna know how much I can teach ye, but I can try." He said. "Ye got a sword?"

Fergus jumped up, grinning. "Oui!" He ran to grab the stick from its hiding place. In another life, it had been a broom handle. But now it rested in his left hand, ready to be brandished at evil.

Jamie had sat up while Fergus was getting his stick. "That's a bonnie sword." He said. "Ye'r left handed?"

Fergus nodded. "Oui. Many people have tried to make me right handed, but I outsmarted them!" He beamed.

Jamie smiled just a little. "Well then, ye'r in good company. I'm left handed to."

Fergus grinned. "Parfait!" He said excitedly.

Jamie and Fergus had moderate success. Fergus could slash without losing his balance, and he knew a few basic blocks. He wasn't perfect, but he was better then when he started, and he was much happier. "Thank you, Milord!" He beamed.

Jamie smiled just a little bit more. "Ye'r verra welcome."

Fergus went to put his broomstick sword back, and ran into Claire on the way. She seemed anxious about something, but Fergus didn't know what. She smiled when she saw him though. "Hello, Fergus."

Fergus smiled. "Hello, Milady! Guess what I got Milord to do?"

Claire looked bemused as he scampered along beside her. "What did you get him to do?"

"He taught me how to fight with my sword!" Fergus said proudly. "And he smiled!"

Claire stopped. "He smiled?" She asked carefully. There were hints of other emotions in her voice, but Fergus couldn't pick them out.

"Oui, Milady. I'm sure he will smile more when he sees you!" He smiled, and Claire smiled back.

"I'm sure he will." She said quietly. She knew he wouldn't be smiling tomorrow. The letter, sealed with wax, was heavy in her pocket. Tomorrow, everything could go wrong.

And oh, how it all went wrong.

Chapter Text

Jamie was woken, as he had been a lot recently, by a sharp pain. It wasn't just the kicks, he was used to them by now. And he knew when the barin was using his ribs as a climbing tree. This was neither, but Jamie hadn't had the thought to bring it up to Claire.

He rolled over, trying to reach for her. He found the other side of the bed cold and empty. He sat up, confused. Claire was anything but a morning person, and the light was weak. It had to be no later than 6 am.

He spotted a letter on her pillow, and his blood turned cold. Was she leaving him? Did she have to steal away in the night?

He opened the letter with shaking fingers, dreading the worst.

Claire's handwriting was very familiar by now, and he could read the short note just fine. 'Dueling Randall, plan to maim not kill. Will be home soon. I love you. -Claire'

Jamie's whirlwind finally stilled, and all he felt was bone deep fear. Claire was dueling Randall, alone. Murtagh had left the previous night, and he wouldn't be back for a while. It was up to him to stop this.

He got up, grabbing his plaid. It was hardly perfect, but he had a functional kilt. He left the brace abandoned on the bed, cursing the fact that Claire and Murtagh hid his dirk and rapier. He could use a weapon. But it didn't matter.

"Ready the carriage!" Jamie shouted as he searched frantically for anything to use as a weapon. A sleepy Fergus looked up from the couch, and looked surprised when he saw Jamie.

"Milord?" Fergus asked.

"Fergus, do you know where they hid the blasted swords?" Jamie asked, checking cabinets.

Fergus pointed to a spot under an ottoman, confused. "Milord, what is going on?"

"Claire is a blasted idiot, that's what's going on!" Jamie fished around under the ottoman until he found his dirk. "Ye stay here, Fergus." He tucked the sheath into his belt. "I'll be home soon, with Claire."

"But Milord!" Fergus protested. "Milady told me to stay with you!"

"Then come!" Jamie snapped. "Get down to the carriage, I'll be down in a moment!" He grabbed a coat from the rack. It wouldn't close, but it would conceal hopefully just enough. Another sharp pain ripped through him, but he pushed through it. He had to do this, damn it. Or Claire would end up in the Bastille.

Fergus beat him to the carriage, and was holding the door open for him. Jamie hauled himself in, and sat down heavily. The door was barely closed before the carriage was moving.

Jamie's hand rested firmly on the hilt of his dirk, and his intense focus led him to discover Fergus's broom stick a good 15 minutes into the ride. He didn't question it. Anything was better than nothing.

Jamie gritted his teeth through a couple more of the pains, forcing them out of his mind. He had enough to worry about without that.

Fergus clung to his broom stick, scared but willing to fight. Jamie tightened his grip on the hilt with every pain, praying they got there soon. Praying he got there in time before Claire was hurt.

Praying he got there in time to separate Randall's head from his shoulders personally.

The carriage lurched to a stop, and Fergus got the door and helped Jamie out. He heard the sound of clashing steel, and it gave him hope. Claire was still fighting. She was still alive. Fergus stayed at his elbow as Jamie tried to hurry, tried to draw his dirk in time to somehow interviene.

What he saw was a clash fit for gods.

Claire, clad in a shirt and someone's trousers, was sword to sword with Black Jack. Her hair was tied back, and she looked like a vengeful hero. Like Randall was a monster.

Jamie stood in silence. He couldn't get closer. Distracting Claire could get her killed. And he couldn't do that. He watched, terrified but in awe, as she held her own.

He noticed some movements that had Murtagh's training written all over him. She had been smart about preparing for this, and he almost smiled. She was winning!

A sudden wave of intense pain overcame him. He stumbled and tried to keep his voice down, unable to stop a quiet gasp, but Fergus had no such reservations. And in his panic, the lad shouted the first words that came to mind.

"Papa!" He cried, and it caught both combatants attention. Their heads snapped up at the same time, for seperate reasons.

Claire knew that voice. She knew the crumpled form with blazing red hair even better. Her eyes widened. What in the hell were they doing here?!

Randall looked up out of concern of a whiteness. He glanced at the boy, plain and young, but his eyes caught on the familiar shine off of copper hair.

He watched Jamie get up, holding his swollen stomach. The time he took to grin would be his undoing.

Claire swore she wasn't aiming for his nuts. It just worked out like that. She didn't even know she had got his nuts, it could have been his thigh. Either way she didn't care, because he crumpled like a piece of paper. She didn't think to drop the sword as she tried to run to Jamie.

The thundering of hooves met her half way. Shouts in French made her stop in her tracks. She dropped her sword, but kept trying to get a look at Jamie. He was being helped up, but he looked too pale. One thing seemed most important right then. "Go to the charity hospital!" She shouted after them.

Fergus looked back and nodded before continuing to help Jamie back to the carriage. Fergus looked back just before getting into the carriage. He couldn't see anything else. All he saw were woods, and all he heard were men shouting.

~~

Jamie woke in a haze. The world looked as if it was being filtered through a cloth. There was the hint of flickering candle light, shady figures in the distance. But everything felt muffled. Everything but the pain.

He didn't know if he cried out. He felt weak as a kitten. But the pain was immeasurable.

He wondered, distantly, if he would die like this. If the barin would survive, if he didn't. If it would survive long enough for Claire to take it.

Suddenly, the world came crashing back. It was overwhelming, he only gathered a few details in the blur. Nothing solid, nothing he could hold on to for very long.

"Push-"

"Elle est très faible-"

"Il y en a un autre!"

He knew when it was over. Because that was when he fell back asleep.

~~

Jamie woke slowly. There was sunlight, that was the first thing he noticed. Weak sunlight, but sunlight all the same. He cracked open one eye cautiously. The room was not one he was familiar with. It was wide and open and he was in a four poster bed. That was… Odd, to say the least.

He took inventory next. There was a numbness around his legs, but he dismissed that as just not having gotten up for a bit. The barin-

Jamie sat up, hand flat on his stomach. His flat stomach. Panic filled him, and he looked around frantically. Where was it? Wouldn't it be close by?!

A nun noticed him. "Monsieur Fraser!" She called, hurrying to the bed. "You are awake!"

None of this helped Jamie's panic. "Where's the barin?" He asked frantically. "Please, where is it?" If he failed, if he couldn't give Claire this one thing-

"Do not worry, Monsieur Fraser." The nun said gently. "Your son has one of them, and the other is being attended to as we speak."

Jamie stopped listening to whatever else she had to say. There were two. One was with his son. The other was being cared for. They were twins? He'd never even met a pair of twins, how had he had them? How hadn't he known?

He came back to reality when he heard Fergus' voice. "Papa!" He sounded so happy, so relieved. "Papa, le bebé, she is perfect!" Jamie finally caught sight of the lad as he scrambled down the stairs, holding a baby in his arms. He bonded over to the bed and sat beside Jamie, offering the little girl to him. "I looked very close! She has red hair, I am sure of it!"

Jamie, more out of instinct than anything, took the baby and held her close. She was so small in his arms. Smaller than any baby he had ever seen. She had wisps of red hair, and her eyes were closed.

He was in absolute awe. She was perfect. His little girl. And she would definitely make Claire very happy.

It was then that she decided to wake up, opening her eyes just a little. He couldn't tell the color, but he hoped she would have eyes like his. The fewer reminders of Randall, the better.

He looked up after a little while of watching her. "What about the other one?" He asked quietly. He didn't want to disturb the little one in his arms.

The nun and Fergus both looked at the ground. "She was born… Very weak." The nun explained. "And we were worried she would not make it. She's doing better now, and now that you are awake…"

Jamie nodded a little. Hopefully, the curtains could be closed. He knew that he wouldn't be able to give the barin- barins to Claire right away. He thought he was prepared to care for them until she could.

He continued holding the little girl as the nun came back with the other. "She already has a name." The nun explained. "We were very worried, and we couldn't ask you. We christened her Faith." The nun explained.

Jamie shifted the other little girl to one arm so he could take Faith. She was smaller than her sister, and with much lighter wisps of ginger hair. He held them both close. "It's a bonnie name." He said softly. The rest of her name was obvious, at least to him. "Faith Claire Fraser." He whispered. "That's you."

Faith was asleep, while the other was starting to whimper. Jamie tried to move them both so that Faith was resting on the bed so he could hold the other little girl. "Could we, uh, have a wee bit of privacy?" He asked quietly.

The nun- he really needed to learn her name- nodded and shooed Fergus away with a few words of French Jamie didn't quite catch. She closed the curtains around the bed, and Jamie tried to adjust himself so that he could feed the red haired girl. He really needed to think of a name for her.

He held her carefully, and was grateful she didn't have any trouble. He'd heard Jenny talking about how some barins had trouble, and he really didn't have the energy to deal with that on top of everything else.

But it was peaceful, for the moment. And it allowed him to think of names. He'd wanted, in the back of his mind, to name the barin after his father if it was a boy. But here he was with two girls, and only one name that sounded anything like Brian.

"Brianna. Brianna Ellen Fraser." He said quietly. "Faith and Brianna." His daughters. Daughters that he knew Claire would love and care for once he was gone. Once he found her again, wherever in hell she was.

It was only then that the crushing reality came down. The last image he had of Claire was surrounded by police. She was probably in the Bastille. And Jamie had no way of getting her out.

He wanted to cry, but he couldn't. Faith was asleep beside him, and they both needed all the strength he could give them. And crying over something he couldn't do anything about yet wouldn't help anyone.

He steeled himself. He'd stick around a bit longer. Protect and care for Faith and Brianna until Claire could care for them.

Brianna stopped suckling, and Jamie very carefully pulled her off and lay her down beside her sister while he fixed his shirt. As soon as they could, they would head home. And Jamie could try and form a plan.

Chapter Text

Fergus sat on the edge of the bed, holding Faith in the plaid blanket. “Papa, are you sure?” He asked. “What about Murtagh? Should we wait for him?”

Jamie finished putting on his plaid, freshly washed and dried. “He’ll be looking for us at home, when he comes back. And we canna plan a rescue for Claire here.” He tucked the dirk back into his belt, and gathered up the ends of the plaid and tied them over his shoulder. “And the girls will be happier at home." He picked up Brianna, who was fast asleep. "And we canna burden the sisters much longer." He pointed out.

Fergus nodded and stood up. "Should I go check for the carriage?" He asked.

Jamie nodded. "Aye. Be careful." The thought of Faith and Fergus being out of his sight for very long made him nervous, but he needed to go thank Mother Hildigaurd. She had been very kind to them the past week while Jamie was recovering.

He found her in between patients, and she noticed him before he could flag her down. “Monsieur Fraser.” She said politely.

“Mother Hildigarud.” Jamie said in the same tone. “I’m heading home, and I wanted to thank ye before we left.”

Mother Hildigaurd nodded. "You are welcome, Monsieur." She smiled kindly. "I hope you have a safe journey home. Wish your wife well for us."

Jamie nodded. "I will. Thank you again." He waited until she turned away before leaving. He hoped he would never have to come back.

Fergus was waiting outside, and Faith had woken to examine the world around her. Her eyes, a brilliant light blue like Jamie's, moved from thing to thing in the bright city. Fergus was trying his very best to be a good guide. "That is a carriage, and these are cobblestones, and this is a blanket." He explained.

Faith didn't seem to know what to make of all this. This busy world outside the hospital.

Jamie, with only a bit of difficulty, got himself into the carriage. "Fergus, ye can show her Paris later." He said. "We need to get home."

"Coming!" Fergus said, climbing into the carriage with Faith. He sat down next to Jamie, trying to be confident he was holding her correctly.

"Support her head a wee bit more." Jamie said after a moment. "There ye go."

Fergus smiled brightly. "I cannot wait for Murtagh to come home, he will… What is it… Avoir des chatons."

Jamie laughed, just a little. "He'll have more than just kittens, laddie. I suspect he'll have a whole barnyard."

Fergus grinned. "I cannot wait to see!"

The rest of the carriage ride was mostly quiet, Jamie occupied trying to make some kind of plan. He couldn't leave Fergus alone with two babies, and while Murtagh had more of an idea what to do, he couldn't leave him and Fergus alone with them either. He needed to get Claire out as soon as possible.

That proved very difficult.

Jamie groaned a little when he woke up, for the fifth time that night, to a crying baby. He dragged himself out of bed, glancing at the dawn light. He hoped the girls understood just how he loved them, when they were older. He hadn't gotten a wink of sleep since they'd been home. He needed to be awake during the day, and they were waking each other up every night.

He tried to tell who was crying before he reached the crib. Faith was marginally quieter then Brianna, and Brianna cried a lot more. He would be proud of her, expressing her displeasure so readily, if he wasn't so tired.

Faith was crying, as it turned out. How she hadn't woken Brianna was a mystery, they usually woke each other up within moments. He picked her up. "What's wrong, a leannan?" He asked quietly.

Faith quieted down pretty much as soon as he picked her up, which Jamie was very happy for. She just wanted to be held, and he couldn't fault her that.

He sat down on the bed, trying to get his mind to start working. Faith was cuddled up against his chest, and falling back asleep. But he didn't want to just sit for however long it would take her to fall back asleep.

He decided to walk around. It was early enough that no one would be awake, and Faith would probably enjoy it.

He put Faith down for a moment to wrap himself up in his plaid, wanting to keep the early morning chill out. He picked Faith back up and started walking, trying to clear his head.

Walking around a quiet and dark house was oddly calming. Jamie hadn't been scared of the dark since he was little, and the manor house was arguably a bit creepier at night then a Parisian… Whatever the hell this house was called. He didn't care.

He was walking by the servant's quarters when he heard soft crying. He stopped dead, trying to place who was crying. It took him a moment to recognize the voice as Fergus.

It seemed out of the question to just ignore him. He moved Faith to one arm and tried to be quiet as he opened the door.

Fergus was crying into his pillow. Jamie sat beside him carefully, and gently touched his shoulder. "Fergus?" He asked quietly.

Fergus looked up, startled and sniffling. "I'm-I'm sorry." He tried to run his eyes, but the tears kept falling. He was not expecting how fast he would be pulled into a tight hug. He was frozen for a second before hugging Jamie tightly.

He didn't remember his own parents very well. But he thought that this is what must feel like to have parents.

Jamie was not expecting Fergus to fall asleep so quickly. He felt guilty for not realizing that the boy was so tired. It was his job to take care of Fergus, same as it was his job to take care of Faith and Brianna. He'd gotten that job the second Fergus called him Papa, even if he hadn't been filling it very well.

He held Fergus a little closer. He couldn't just leave once Claire came back. The girls wouldn't remember him, but Fergus would. Fergus would lose another person, and Jamie couldn't do that to him.

It was a reason to stay. And Jamie took it.

He held Fergus closer. "Fergus Claudel Fraser." He whispered. His son.

He didn't realize he'd fallen asleep, Faith in his lap and Fergus at his side, until he woke to familiar footsteps in the hall. Jamie blinked, trying to pinpoint just who's they were. They were too heavy to be Claire, even if she had escaped the Bastille. And Murtagh couldn't be back already, right?

Jamie lay Fergus down, and put Faith next to him. He didn't want either of them there when he confronted the person in the hall.

He opened the door carefully and looked both ways. The hall was empty, but the stairs at the closer end creaked as someone went down them. He followed, having no weapon but prepared to brandish his fists if needed.

The stairs apparently led to the kitchen, because he found Murtagh there eating some rolls from the night before. He didn't even look up. "You sneak as well as a cow." He said, finishing off one and starting another. "I heard you on the stairs."

"Good morning to you too." Jamie said dryly. "I thought you'd be gone longer."

Murtagh shrugged. "Wine sold fast. I came back fast. Didna want to miss-" He looked up. "What I apparently missed."

Jamie couldn't help laughing. "Oh, you have no idea." He tried to stifle his laughter. "One moment, I should go wake Fergus. He'll be glad to see you back."

Fergus was awake, sort of, when Jamie came back. "Papa?" He asked quietly. "What is going on?"

"Murtagh is home. He's in the kitchen. Can you take your sister to see him?" Jamie asked, sitting on the bed. "I need to go get Brianna."

Fergus positively beamed. "I will!" He said excitedly, scooping Faith up and walking very carefully down to the kitchen. Jamie smiled and went to get Brianna.

Bri was fast asleep in her crib, wrapped up in the plaid. Her hair had turned out to be the same shade as Jamie's, an almost rust color that was much closer to brown then her sister's hair. Jamie picked her up carefully, and brought her back to the kitchen.

Murtagh was still eating and listening to Fergus talk about everything that had happened while he's been gone. "And now Maman is in the Bastille and we have been trying to find a way to free her but-"

"Christ almighty!" Murtagh shouted, startling both babies awake. "Where did ye get that one?!"

"They're twins." Jamie said. "I ken ye know what twins are." He held Brianna closer so she wouldn't start crying.

Murtagh stared. "Lord Almighty, I leave for two weeks and I come back to three barins." He muttered.

~~

Claire didn't know why she was at Versailles. After two weeks, give or take, in the Bastille, why was she at the palace?

She was still clad in her shirt and trousers, though they were now very dirty and reeked as much as she did. She hadn't even had a chance to freshen up. Her hands were still in irons, rubbing her skin raw.

She was not expecting to be presented to the king, who was pacing.

"Madame Fraser." He said, politely enough even as his nose wrinkled.

"Your majesty." Claire did a mock curtsey. "How may I be of assistance?"

The king looked her up and down. "I have heard rumors. That you are… Le Dame Blanche. If you are so magically inclined, I am in need of your services."

Claire thought for a second before she nodded. "How may I be of assistance?"

Chapter Text

Murtagh was sat in front of the fire with Brianna when he first felt old.

Bri was fast asleep, having discovered the joys of sitting by the fire with 'Grandda'. Murtagh didn't feel deserving of the title, but Fergus was already calling him Grandda, and he didn't have the heart to tell the lad to stop.

He realized, with a start, that this was Ellen and Brian's grandchild. And he had been older than Brian!

He stared at the fire, contemplating just how old he was now. Jamie was all grown up, and had barins of his own. And he could still survive to see Faith and Bri have barins of their own.

He dreaded the thought. Then he would truly be old. He was born in 1683, and when he thought back, that felt so long ago. Remembering everything that had happened in his life, seeing two centuries, remembering all these things.

Meanwhile, Bri and Faith would likely live to see the beginnings of the next century. They may have grandchildren of their own by that point, but they'd only be 50 or so.

He stared at this little person that would live to see Lord knew what. "Ye better tell me all about it when we see each other up there." He said. "And I want details, lassie."

Bri stayed asleep. She was the spitting image of her father as a baby, besides her eyes. Her eyes were a deep brown, like a cool coal. A spark could light them up with ease, to burn or to warm. They reminded him of Brian and Jenny, much more than they reminded him of Randall.

He held Bri a little closer, hoping she never met Randall.

He heard the door open and close downstairs, and his guard immediately went up. With the baby in one hand, he grabbed his dirk with the other. He had it halfway out of the sheath when he saw a familiar face.

"Claire?" Murtagh asked, confused. "How did you-"

"Where is Jamie?" Claire asked. She seemed anxious, she hadn't even noticed that Murtagh was holding a baby.

"He's in the study last I saw him. Claire-" Murtagh tried again to get her to stop,but she went right to the study.

She threw open the door. Sitting at the desk, looking for all the world like he was seeing a ghost, was Jamie. Claire nearly threw herself at him, hugging him tightly. "Jamie!"

Jamie hugged her back, startled. "H-how?" He asked quietly. "I was looking for weeks. Jesus Christ, you smell like a pig sty…" He hugged her tighter.

Claire buried her face in his shoulder for a moment before realizing something important. "The baby came?" She asked quietly.

Jamie nodded. "Aye. They came, made a right entrance." He chuckled a little. "And, there's two."

Claire looked up in shock. Twins in her time were rare, but twins in this time were practically unheard of.

Jamie looked a bit nervous. "I already named them both, I didna know when ye'd be home and I couldna let them go without names."

"Where are they?" Claire asked, her voice a bit choked. Twins. Two lives that were wholly dependant on her and Jamie. She had left Jamie, alone, with twins, for two weeks.

She hoped he wouldn't be too angry with her when they had a real chance to talk. Probably on the boat. She still needed to tell him that they needed to leave, and soon.

"Well, Brianna is with Murtagh." Jamie said. "And Fergus has Faith."

Claire nodded, noting their names. Brianna and Faith. "Those are beautiful names." She said quietly. "Jamie, we need to leave France."

Jamie blinked at the quick conversation turn around. "Wait, why?"

"Because I convinced King Louis that I'm a witch." Claire said. "That blasted rumor you started got me out of the Bastille, but we need to get out of here."

Jamie had long adopted a policy of not asking too many questions when it came to Claire. "Can ye at least meet the barins first?"

"We should start packing now, or they won't have parents." Claire argued.

Jamie's temper finally made it's grand resurgence. "I nearly die to give ye a child, and ye willna even meet them?!" He snapped. "I've been alone taking care of them and Fergus, trying to rescue ye, and keep myself alive!"

"And neither of us will be alive if we stay! I can meet them and pack, Jesus Christ!" Claire argued back.

She could feel the anger rolling off Jamie as he went to retrieve Brianna and Faith. Murtagh was by the door, holding one of them and looking between Claire and Jamie.

"Well, at least he's got his temper back." Murtagh said dryly. "This is Brianna Ellen. She's the younger one, or that's what Fergus said. I dinna know how twins work."

"One is born first." Claire said. "Can I hold her?" She knew before she even laid eyes on Brianna's face that she would lay down her life for her. Holding her felt like holding creation in her arms. "Hello little one." She said quietly. Bri looked up, but seemed more keen on going to sleep.

Claire looked up as Jamie, pissed as ever, came back. Fergus trailed behind him, looking worried and holding Faith. He lit up when he saw Claire. "Maman!" He said excitedly.

Claire smiled. "Hello, Fergus. Is that Faith?"

Fergus beamed, but glanced up at Jamie, who was getting slowly angrier. "Yes." He said quietly. The same maternal love washed over her, knowing that yes, these kids were her's. Forever and always. But there were other matters to attend to.

Claire shot Jamie a look, but he didn't care. "If we're packing, we're packing now." He said. "Jared will be back soon anyways. Murtagh, can you arrange a ship?"

Murtagh nodded and made his escape. Claire watched Jamie as he started aggressively packing everything. He was dead silent the whole time.

"Fergus, go take Faith and Brianna downstairs." She said quietly.

Fergus nodded and took Brianna carefully, and Claire stormed into the bedroom, shutting the door behind her. Jamie had laid out everything on the bed and was shoving it into bags.

"Jamie," Claire tried, "talk to me. What's going on?"

Jamie slammed a shirt down on the bed. "I stayed alive for ye." His voice shook. "I had a chance, the first night on the ship. I was up on that railing and I was going to do it. But I didn't, because I thought I could give ye something ye always wanted." He didn't look at her. "I wanted to end it so many times. By the end, I told Murtagh to not leave me alone because I was scared I would try."

He finally looked up at her. Claire had always compared his eyes to ice over a river, in her mind. It would give you a safe bridge to cross, but it could break under you and sweep you away.

She felt like she'd fallen through, and she was being swept away.

Jamie looked back at the bed. "Ye could have died." Jamie said quietly. "Ye got arrested."

"And I'm sorry." Claire says quietly. "And I regret doing it."

"You didna even tell me he was alive!" Jamie looked back at her. "Why the hell wouldn't you tell me?"

"We thought-" Claire started. She thought Jamie would be terrified. That he would fall further into his mind. That he would try again.

"What?! That I wouldn't be glad? That I have the chance to wring his neck myself?" Jamie squeezed the waistcoat in his hands like he was imagining it was Randall's throat. "Knowing the bastard is alive for me to kill, that's something I've needed for months."

Claire watched Jamie in quiet awe. He was so close to his old self, motivated and fierce.

Jamie let go of the waistcoat. "We should pack." He said with finality.

Claire grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him onto the bed, and into a kiss. Jamie was startled for a moment before kissing her back just as fiercely.

Claire's hands started to wander, but Jamie pulled away. "Sassenach.."

Claire stopped immediately. "Is something wrong?"

Jamie looked a bit embarrassed. "I… I dinna think I'm ready for that yet. Not you doing it to me." He explained. "But… My skills may be a wee bit rusty, but I can certainly polish them if ye'll let me."

There was certainly introspection about this that could be done. How they used passion and pleasure to resolve arguments. But then, neither of them wanted to think about that.

After, they lay together in silence for a little bit. Jamie taking the moment to enjoy having Claire back in his arms, Claire taking a moment to enjoy having her husband back. After a moment, Jamie started talking.

"Ye ken how we all have a piece of ourselves, that no one else gets to see?" Jamie asked quietly. When Claire nodded, he continued. "It's… Kept in a fortress of sorts. The kind that can be battered, but stand strong. After… After Randall…" He took a shaky breath, and Claire gently took his hand.

"Go on." She said quietly.

Jamie took another, slightly calmer breath. "I felt… Exposed, like my fortress was blown to bits. And, the pregnancy, it felt like people had been called to stare at me. While I tried to hide under blades of grass or pebbles."

Claire squeezed his hand reassuringly. "And now?"

Jamie thought for a moment. "I… I have a lean to. It's not much, but there's three walls, and a roof to keep out the rain." He said quietly. "And a little wall around it, to keep people away. And you helped build them both."

Claire looked back at him, smiling. "I'm so glad."

Chapter Text

April the 16th. Claire hated that date.

She looked at the calendar on the wall of the Boston apartment. It was April the 16th, 1954. She was thousands of miles and hundreds of years away, but the memories were as fresh as ever.

She had prepared a big breakfast that morning. She always did on the 16th. She would pretend that it wouldn't be Frank sitting in that fourth seat. That the fifth seat would be filled. That there was family to call and say hello to. That they were together.

She could almost picture Fergus, his wild brown curls cut shorter, but still unruly as ever. He would help Faith and Bri get ready for school, doing his math homework at the breakfast table.

She could picture herself calling Jenny. Them talking about the children, about their husbands, about when Claire would bring her litter to visit, if Jenny would ever come to Boston. Jenny would put Murtagh on the phone, and Claire would put Faith or Bri or Fergus on so that they could talk to their Grandda.

And Jamie would be reading the girls the funny strips in the paper, and they would laugh at his funny voices. He would kiss her, and hug her, and walk the children to their bus stop. Then he would be off to work, and Claire off to school, and they would all get home at the same time.

She tried to keep her composure. Her daughters would be downstairs soon. Frank would be downstairs soon. She couldn't wish for what cannot be.

Fergus. Jenny. Ian. Murtagh. Jamie.

They were all long dead.

She remembered some parts of that day clear as a bell. Jamie's expression when he handed her the girls at the stones. He'd looked broken hearted. The last view she had of the encampment, tattered banners and flags hanging limply.

The feeling of Fergus letting go of her arm as she touched the stone.

Other things were foggy. The last kiss she ever gave Jamie. The last hug she got from Jenny. Where she last saw Murtagh. How Jamie's hands felt in her's.

She was so lost in thought that she didn't notice a little ginger haired girl sitting patiently in her chair. "Mama?" Faith asked. "Can you do my hair?" Her accent, a strong Boston one, had long lost the faint Scottish tint her words used to have. Claire missed it desperately.

"One moment, darling." Claire smiled and got up to grab the hair brush. "Is your sister awake?"

Faith paused for a moment before shaking her head. "No."

"Did she ask you to tell me no?" Claire asked with a raised eyebrow. She used a hair ribbon to tie off a braid. Her hair had turned out to be very loosely curled, which made it much less of a headache to do things with.

"Yes." Faith admitted. "She said I could have her cookie if I said she was still asleep." She was the honest one of the two, and the less likely to get into trouble. Or, Faith was better at not getting caught. Claire didn't know.

"Well, you can go get your cookies. I'll go wake your sister and start on the pancakes." Claire kissed Faith's cheek and went upstairs.

Brianna was still fast asleep, spread out like a starfish with a wild tangle of red hair. Where Faith was more of an English lady -seemingly-, Brianna was her father's daughter in every way. Smart, curious, and determined. With a healthy side of stubbornness.

Claire sat beside her on the bed. "Brianna." She said, seeing if it would be an easy or hard fight today.

Bri stirred just a little, only to glare at Claire. "I don't wanna go to school." She mumbled, pushing her head back under her pillow.

"Darling, school is important. School is where we learn fascinating new things." Claire said gently. "Remember yesterday? You came home so excited because you read a whole page all by yourself."

Brianna made the signature Scottish noise that had never left either girl.

"If you get up, I'll make you a banana pancake." Claire resorted to bribery.

That got an interested look, but no other movement.

"And, I'll tell you a story tonight." Claire sweetened the deal. She knew Brianna wouldn't be able to resist a story. And, as expected, she jumped out of bed.

"I'll go brush my teeth!" She shouted as she ran down the hall.

Claire couldn't help a laugh. She nearly looked to see Jamie's reaction, but she stopped herself. Jamie wasn't there to laugh about it with. He wouldn't be downstairs. He wouldn't be there tonight, helping tell the story.

He was dead, lying in Culloden field. There was no way to know where, and she didn't want to know. She never wanted to see that blasted field, that blasted hill ever again.

Claire shook her head. She needed to find an outfit for Brianna before she came back. She found a nice navy blue dress, and lay it out on the bed. Just in time as well, as Bri came rocketing back into the room. "Mama, I brushed my teeth! All by myself!" She said proudly.

Claire smiled. "I'm so proud of you, sweetheart. Time to get dressed, then breakfast, okay?"

Bri nodded and stood still while Claire helped her into the dress. "Remember your socks." Claire reminded her.

Brianna put on her socks and rocketed downstairs. Claire followed, ready to get to work on the pancakes. She was in the middle of making breakfast when Frank finally made an appearance.

"Hello, girls." He said as he came down the stairs. He was dressed nicely, as always. Claire hadn't seen him one bit disheveled in 9 years now.

Bri and Faith both grinned. "Hi, Daddy!" They chimed in unison.

Claire couldn't look up from the pancake in the skillet.

~~

Fergus snuck between the guards as carefully as possible. He had his nose covered to block out the stench of death as he searched. He wasn't the only one, several who had escaped had returned to find other survivors.

Fergus was unscathed, miraculously, despite following Jamie into the battle. Now he just needed to find him again.

He stepped over a dead redcoat, and finally he saw a sign of life. Breath misting in front of someone. He tried to figure out who it was in the dark, not daring to get too close.

He hid behind a dead horse as a guard passed by, then jumped out to get a closer look. As he got closer, he knew who it was.

"Papa?" He whispered. He looked around before shoving the redcoat off of him. "Papa, it's me, it's Fergus." Fergus said quietly. He tried to grab Jamie and drag him, but he wasn't very successful. Thankfully, Rupert was close by. The man hefted Jamie up.

"Come on lad, hurry." He said quietly.

Fergus looked back once. It was how he imagined hell. A field of the dead, and the living stabbed so they would join them.

He never looked at it again.

They escaped to a barn not far away, trying to regroup. Fergus stayed by Jamie's side, neither saying a word. Fergus started to shake as he thought.

Eventually he spoke. "I couldn't find Murtagh." He started to cry. "I don't know where he is." He sobbed. "I'm so sorry."

Jamie tried to move his hand. He felt weak all over. He needed to stay awake, but all he wanted was to fall into the darkness. But he knew he couldn't.

Rupert was sat by the window, watching the road. "Redcoats are coming!" He whisper yelled.

Fergus felt cold fear take hold of him. He didn't want to die, not like this. Before he even knew what he was doing, he was scrambling out a window and then he landed in the grass outside.

There was no turning back now. He only had one place to go. He only had a few people that should know. He needed to get home, to Lallybroch.

Chapter Text

May 1st, 1955

Claire woke up with a start. She lost the dream she had been having, the memories slipping through her fingers. She realized she had fallen asleep on the couch as reality returned, and two little girls were looking up at her. They were 9 now, nearly in double digits. Claire wasn't ready for that.

She sat up. "Can I help you?" She asked, amused.

"We want a story!" Faith said. "Daddy's are boring." She had no issues throwing Frank's storytelling under the bus. He had an unfortunate tendency to get lost in the details, and the history. He was a great professor, but not as good of a story teller.

"Which story?" Claire asked, amused. She had a few she told them often. All of them were fairly simple. Folk tales she heard growing up, tales Jamie had told her, ones she made up.

"The lost prince!" Brianna said. "I wanna listen to the one about the lost prince!"

Claire smiled softly. "Once apon a time, a long time ago, there was a prince." She began. "He was big and tall, and he had copper colored hair," She ruffled Brianna's hair, "and eyes as blue as the sea." She smoothed a stray bit of Faith's hair.

"He was very far from home, and he couldn't tell anyone he was a prince. He had to hide away with other family, family who didn't like him very much. They didn't believe he was a real prince." She continued, her audience enthralled.

Maybe she took too much from Jamie's story. But the story of the lost prince was all she could tell them. She hadn't said his name in years. But in this small way, she could give them a bit of their father.

She continued the story, until the prince was safely home with his princess. By that time, Brianna and Faith were both falling asleep. Claire took their hands, glad they were already ready for bed. "Come on, let's get you both to bed." She said quietly. She led them up the stairs, and put Faith to bed first. She tucked her in and kissed her goodnight, then went across the hall to do the same for Brianna.

She hovered in the hallway. It was May 1st. Jamie's birthday. She didn't even know how old he would be. Just that he had died 200 odd birthdays ago.

She kept her head high. She would not cry. She could stop thinking about him.

'No,' a small voice in the back of her head said, 'you really can't.'

 

May 1st, 1751

Jamie knew what he needed to do. He couldn't keep putting Jenny and Ian through the inspections. The incident with wee Ian was enough to convince him, but then Fergus…

His son had lost his hand. Thank God it wasn't his left, but his life was changed forever. Because of Jamie. He couldn't get the lad killed, and he knew that was what would happen. Fergus would die before he let Jamie be discovered.

Jamie checked his reflection in the stream. His hair was freshly cut, and his face washed of grime. He felt more human than he had in a while.

He adjusted the lone waistcoat he had. He wasn't fool enough to wear a plaid, so he had opted for a pair of pants.

He started his trek to the house. The patrol would be there soon, Jenny had sent word for them to come as fast as possible after all. Giving his date of when he planned to arrive.

His birthday.

He waited in the bushes for the guard to come, and made his entrance. He channeled as much bravado as he could muster. He drew himself as tall as he could. "Jenny! I'm home!" He said, smiling. He wished, so so badly, that he could come home victorious. That he hadn't contributed to the failure of the cause. That he could come home and bring with him more land and new titles and his wife and children.

Reality was misery. Reality was the death of his culture before his eyes. Reality was the chains around his wrists, and the cage waiting for him.

"WAIT!!"

All heads turned to the voice from the door. Fergus was holding his stump to his chest, but standing tall. Jamie's heart stopped dead.

"I am a Jacobite, same as him! I fought at Prestonpans and Culloden!" Fergus said proudly. "Arrest me to!"

Jamie thought he finally understood what Claire meant when she said she was in shock, all those years ago. The world became fuzzy around him. His head felt light. His feet felt numb.

Fergus was sat beside him. Fergus was being taken with him. Fergus was going to prison, and Jamie couldn't save him.

"Ye wee bastard." Jamie whispered.

Fergus sat straight. "I will not leave you. And trying to send me away will not work."

"Do ye know what ye did?" Jamie felt even more light headed. "Ye'r a traitor to the crown."

"I am no citizen of the crown. I am French." Fergus said with a laugh.

That was all Jamie needed to know he was in no shape or fashion ready for this.

December, 1754

"The cell blocks are that way." The governor said, gesturing at a dark hallway. John swore he saw a rat dragging something disgusting across the hall.

"Charming." John said dryly. This was a fun punishment. Being sent away to the far north of Scotland to watch over a bunch of Jacobites. He was already bundled up enough to keep out a bullet, and he was still cold. This would be a pleasant tenure, he was sure.

"A more detailed tour can be performed later." The governor waved his hand vaguely. "The important bits are all inside anyways. We can discuss particulars in your new office."

John grimaced. His new office, that hardly sounded right. It implied he would be here a long time. He didn't want to think about that. He wanted to be out of here as soon as possible.

Inside was a bit warmer, though John was fairly certain the rat from earlier had been through the office. There was an ominous trail of ooze. He tried not to think about it.

"The guards all have names, you'll learn them soon enough." The governor was in the middle of packing his things, and kept packing as he talked. "The only name you really need to know is Fraser."

John's ears perked a bit. "Fraser?" He knew that name from somewhere.

"Used to be known as 'Red Jamie'. Dressed as a man to get into the Jacobite army, is my guess. We found out she was a woman her first month here." The govener said dismissively. "The others refer to her as 'Mac Dubh', no clue what it means. We don't know her real name, though."

John blinked. Red Jamie? Could there be two? The Red Jamie he knew was a man through and through. He'd nearly assaulted a woman! This must be some other Red Jamie. Which piqued his curiosity. "And why do I need to know this? Does she get special privileges I should know?"

The warden snorted. "Hardly. She's the leader, of sorts. Her and her son, some frog." He packed away a quill. "I have dinner with her, once a week. To discuss matters with the prisoners."

John nearly recoiled. "I will not be doing that!" He said loudly.

The governor chuckled as he stuffed the last of his things in the bag. "We'll see. Now, I have a carriage to catch!" He said gleefully. "Good luck!"

Just like that, John was in charge. He was in charge of a prison.

Lord help him.

John had been at the desk for all of 10 minutes when a guard knocked on the door. "Major?" He asked. "Fraser is here to see you."

John looked up. He was desperately curious about this mysterious second Red Jamie. "Come in."

The clanking of chains preceded Fraser's arrival, then a massive shadow. It took John a moment to realize most of the bulk was blankets wrapped about Fraser's shoulders. A mane of dull copper hair covered Fraser's face, but the voice, rough as it was, was familiar.

"James Fraser. At ye'r service, ye'r lordship." Jamie mumbled. He pulled the blankets tighter around his shoulders. "I represent the prisoners." God it felt good to be in front of a fire. His feet finally felt warm. He wanted to sit in front of it forever.

He looked up to get a better look at this 'John Grey'. The name sounded familiar, but Jamie hadn't been able to place it until he saw the Lord's face.

He looked down before his face could give him away, but he was amused. This wee lordling was in charge of him now? How the tables turn.

John was in shock. This was the very same Red Jamie. And he'd introduced himself as James. It was so confusing. But, he had to roll with it. He thought. "It is a pleasure to remake your acquaintance." He said politely.

Jamie nodded. "Same to you."

The lads were not going to believe this.

Chapter Text

Fergus had gotten good at ignoring the guards when he was a lot younger. They liked to pick on him, because he was both the most rebellious and the only one without a hand. He would fight back when they made fun of him, and in retaliation he was most often assigned jobs that required two hands.

As a form of rebellion, Fergus had figured out how to perform the tasks with only one hand. Picking apart rope with his left hand and his teeth was his favorite, because the guards had looked so shocked when he figured it out.

As they were marched back to the cells, he was in his usual high spirits. He finally figured out how to cut peat, and he was smugly planning how he was going to show them tomorrow.

He sat next to Murtagh, who didn't leave the cell very much. He jumped a little when Fergus sat beside him. "Jesus lad, give me some warning." He muttered.

"How? Get shackles that jingle?" Fergus asked. "They would have to put them on my feet, but I suppose that could work." He smiled, hoping Murtagh would too.

Murtagh just put his head in his arms. "Ye need to spend more time with ye'r Da." He mumbled.

Fergus shrugged. "He should be back soon, right?" He spotted a rat out of the corner of his eye. "Don't move." He whispered to Murtagh.

Murtagh raised an eyebrow, but stayed still.

Fergus approached the rat slowly, eyes intent. He was nearly about to strike when the rattle of chains scared both him and the rat.

Fergus jumped up. "Papa!" He said. "I nearly had that rat."

"Sorry, lad." Jamie said. "Next time for sure." He smiled, but Fergus could see clear as day how forced it was. None of the adults ever really smiled anymore.

Jamie sat down heavily beside Murtagh. "Ye need to hide that." He said quietly, spotting the scrap of fabric clutched in his hand. "Ye ken the punishment for having it."

Murtagh ran his hand over the fraying wool. "Just another moment." He said quietly. He stuffed it back in the crack he kept it in. "It's a small comfort." He said softly.

Jamie looked up at the ceiling. "God knows how much longer we'll be here." He whispered.

Murtagh stifled a cough. "We've been here too long from day one." He muttered.

Fergus laughed. "You are not wrong." Despite being surrounded by Scots all day every day for the majority of his life, Fergus had only picked up minimal bits of the accent. He was almost proud.

Jamie leaned back on the pillar. He was so tired. He had been for years now, he hadn't felt rested since... God, since before Brianna and Faith.

He found his mind wandering to Claire, as it so often did. He could see her clear as day, her gorgeous brown curls and her beautiful whiskey eyes. He knew thinking about her would only hurt, but in that moment it felt worth it.

He wondered what Brianna and Faith looked like. If he'd done his math right, it would be 1956. What wonders had appeared in their years there? Where were they?

"I think… I think they're eating cake tonight." Jamie said after a moment. "And… Claire said there's something called 'Jello', when she's from."

Murtagh snorted. "Ye say they're havin' cake for dinner every night." He said with a small smile. "Come on, get creative lad. They canna have cake every night."

Jamie thought for a moment. "Salmon. They're having salmon. Fresh caught and roasted." He smiled. "With basil. And a side of something green and leafy." What he would do for something green.

"Go on." Fergus said. "What is for dessert?"

"Ye always want the damn desserts." Murtagh mumbled. "Can't a man enjoy an imaginary dinner?"

"Jello." Jamie said. "Claire said it's made of something, I dinna ken what exactly. But it's 'jiggly', it wobbles when ye touch it. And it's solid, but it's see through." He smiled, trying to imagine what that would taste like. "And pudding to."

"Pudding? Ye hate pudding." Murtagh gave him a strange look. "I tried giving it to ye when ye were three and ye acted like I poisoned ye."

"No, Murtagh, there's an American pudding." Jamie smiled. "It's like a custard, but it's chocolate. And you eat it with cream on top as a dessert."

Fergus had a blissful grin on his face. "I can almost imagine it." He said. "I had chocolate once."

"Disgusting stuff." Murtagh mumbled. "I canna stand it."

Jamie chuckled a little. He had the whole picture in his head. Their little family gathered around the dinner table, a feast spread out before them. He leaned his head back as he imagined. Murtagh would act like he hadn't had two servings of pudding, Brianna and Faith would be so pleased they got to eat with the big cutlery. Claire would be by his side, trying to explain to him how jello worked. Fergus would be trying to impress with some new knowledge he learned in school.

He was broken out of his fantasy by the cuffs on his wrists. He would never get to have that dream.

He got to his feet. "Come on, Murtagh." He said quietly. "Ye should be by a fire."

Murtagh got to his feet with difficulty. "Maybe I'll finally burn up." The older man muttered. Fergus supported him, and Jamie cleared their part as they got closer to the fire.

The other prisoners made space for Murtagh right beside the fire. They'd all taken to sleeping in piles, of sorts. They would huddle close during the night to stay as warm as possible.

Fergus curled up with Jamie near the fringes. They were both, comparatively, healthy. And they needed the fire's warmth less. He was quiet for a moment before he spoke. "Papa?"

Jamie shook his head. "Dinna fash yerself." He said quietly. "I'm okay."

Fergus nodded and curled up to sleep, holding his stump close to his chest protectively.

Jamie stayed awake for a long while. The uncertainty of the new governor made him nervous. What he would be like, how much he cared, how willing he was to give them any sort of care.

~~

Lord John finally saw his chance to ask questions after Fraser's escape.

They were being open with each other, and John knew that he may never have a chance to ask ever again. He tried to muster his courage. He was still alone with a massive Scot who could strangle him if he said the wrong thing.

"So… The previous governor said-" John started, but was cut off.

"I'm no woman." Jamie said stiffly. "I never have been, and I never will be." He drew himself to his full height, which John had forgotten. Jamie had been hunched for most of the time he'd known him now. But here he was, standing straight up. John's throat went dry.

He was taller then him. That was not a common expirence.

John tried to not show his emotions on his face. He could contemplate that later. Right then, Jamie looked ready to start a fight or run. Knowing Jamie, he would probably fight.

"So, you're a man." John said, trying to puzzle it out. "But…"

"Woman's parts." Jamie sounded annoyed. John wondered how many times he'd had to explain this. "Which doesn't change a damn thing about my being a man."

John nodded. "Of course." He decided against further comments, which seemed to put Jamie at ease.

After a moment, Jamie picked a couple of flowers. "We should go back." He said quietly.

John watched him go before following, wondering if there could be the smallest sliver of a chance.

 

June, 1956

Claire wished she could say she was upset, with Frank gone. But she didn't miss him really.

What surprised her was that Faith and Bri didn't seem to mind a bunch. Not as much as other children she had seen. Maybe it was because they still got to see Frank, maybe it was because Frank hadn't been incredibly close to either of them.

Frank had been remarkably accepting of the girls, when Claire came back. They had been very little at the time. But two toddlers with heads of brilliant red hair and one with light blue eyes weren't really cohesive with pretending they were his children.

Claire was distantly glad she hadn't brought Fergus. Frank wouldn't have given her a chance if she had a French 8 year old with her, especially one who remembered Jamie. It was hard enough, when they both were crying for 'Da'.

She sipped her coffee as she thought about everything.

"Mama?" Faith asked from across the table.

Claire looked up. "Yes?" She asked, putting her coffee down.

"Have we ever had two other dogs?" Faith asked.

Claire's blood turned cold, but she smiled. "Not that I've been aware of. Where do you get that notion?"

Faith shrugged. "I remember a big dog and a little dog." She went back to her pancakes.

Claire tried not to hope.

Chapter Text

Brianna stuck out as she drew. She knew what she wanted the drawing to look like, but she didn't know how to make it look how she wanted. She was trying to draw Fern, an imaginary friend from when she was little. She remembered him, he'd had hair like Mama and blue eyes like Faith.

Faith was staring out the window. They were 11 now, and the whole grade was obsessed with romance. Brianna didn't understand it, but Faith was fully into it.

She sighed wistfully. Brianna looked up from her drawing and glared. "What, are you thinking about Marty what's-his-face?"

Faith jumped, then looked indignant. "Marty Waters." She said, drawing herself up like Mama did when Daddy asked her a rude question. "His name is Marty Waters."

Brianna went back to ignoring her sister, but found it hard as Faith started talking more. "He has the loveliest blue eyes-"

"So what? Eyes aren't special, everyone has them." Brianna, ever the killjoy, said. "You're just in love with him 'cause he's cute."

Faith bristled. "He is not cute! And he has blond hair!"

"So does half our class!"

"You're such a drag!"

Brianna went back to ignoring Faith and drawing Fern. There was something she was missing, but she couldn't remember what. The drawing looked fine, but it felt incomplete.

She tried to remember what she was missing. She remembered words, though the voice saying them felt distant, so she couldn't tell who it was. She was pretty sure it was Fern, so she wrote down the words to the best of her ability. "Je t'aime, petite sœur." She whispered as she wrote 'Ge tam pteat sir'.

Faith looked up from her longing staring. "What was that?"

"Something Fern said." Brianna said dismissively. She smiled as she looked at her drawing. It was perfect!

"Fern?" Faith asked in confusion. She remembered Gus saying that, but who was Fern?

Brianna proudly showed Faith the drawing. "It's Fern!"

Faith was very confused. "No, that's Gus." She said. "I remember him saying that."

"No, it was Fern!" Brianna insisted.

They both realized at the same time.

"We shared an imaginary friend?" Faith asked, very confused. No one ever talked about that.

Brianna shrugged. "I guess? Should we ask Mama when she gets home?"

Faith shook her head after a moment. "Nah, it's not important." She went back to looking out the window, the thought lingering in her mind.

Brianna stared at the drawing. She grabbed a crayon and wrote 'Fern Gus' on the top, and went to get a magnet to put it on the fridge. That way, they would both remember.

~~

Faith was puzzled when she remembered something next.

They were with Daddy and Sandy, at a place called Old Sturbridge Village. Daddy said the whole village operated as it had in the 1840's, but something about it felt so familiar to her.

She looked around at the houses and the people. She remembered hiding behind skirts like the ladies were wearing. Someone at a spinning wheel making yarn. Someone holding her hands and showing her how to knit. The smell of dye.

It was so confusing. She knew Daddy and Mama had never been anywhere like this. That she never had been anywhere like this before.

She held Brianna's hand tightly, wondering if her sister was thinking the same as her.

Brianna was fixated on the barns. She remembered something about barns. She had been with Faith, and an older boy. They had had a job, she thought. She didn't know. But she remembered running through a barn just like the ones here.

Neither breathed a word of it their memories.

~~

Mama took them to Minutemen National Park when they were 13. April 19th, when the re-enactors came and played out the march from Boston to the Old North Bridge.

There were men from all over. She heard that the re-enactors came from ever town that sent militiamen, and they all walked from their towns to here. Some were from far, far away. Brianna could hardly comprehend it.

The reason today was special, though, was that Daddy was playing one of the Redcoats.

Brianna didn't need to bounce or climb anything to see. She was already tall enough to see without trouble. She tried to spot Daddy, but she couldn't see him in the midst of the Redcoats.

She flinched instinctively when the rifles of the hidden colonists went off. Something felt too familiar.

She looked at Mama, and she saw the strangest expression on her face.

Fear.

Faith looked up at the rocky outcrop. "It's perfect." She said quietly. "They can't fire back, at least not while expecting to hit anyone." She watched it all intently.

The Redcoat's only hope was to get out of here. And she watched them do just that.

She was intrigued. She would have to ask Daddy more about it, because she really wanted to know.

And that was what sparked Faith's lifelong interest in military tactics. To the worry of her parents and the great annoyance of her twin.

 

November, 1755

"I'm very pleased to hear that Fitzgibbons is doing better." John said, examining the board. Jamie didn't know it, but John was very close to a win.

"Aye, 3 months of treatment by the physician did him well." Jamie made his fatal move, as smug as a mouse going to a trap.

John smiled and made his move, pleased at how Jamie stared at it for a moment.

"Ye cunning wee bastard, where did you learn that?" Jamie started putting his pieces back on his side of the board.

"From my elder brother." John said. "He's very good at chess.

"Lord Melton?" Jamie asked, lining up his pawns just so. "Your brother very stubbornly refused to shoot me."

John looked up, surprised, and Jamie continued. "I wasna inclined to appreciate the favor at the time."

"You wanted to be shot?" John had not intended to sound so incredulous. And while he could picture Jamie like that -he'd been on the receiving end of Jamie begging to be killed, after all, he didn't like to picture it.

"Aye, at the time." Jamie shrugged a little. "Felt like I had reason."

“What reason was that?” John asked, not realizing how rude it sounded until he said it. “I mean no impertinence in asking! It’s just… I felt very similarly at the time.”

John watched Jamie’s reaction carefully. Jamie was, unfortunately, in possession of a glass face when among friends. He seemed curious, if a little apprehensive.

“I lost a…” Lover, light of his life, the first person who made him feel accepted. “A good friend, at Culloden.” He said quietly. “I found him dying… Hal dragged me away. I couldn’t even say goodbye”

He remembered being pulled away, sobbing. He closed his eyes, trying to push the memory away. He took a shaky breath. “Hal told me that I would… Get over it. In time. He’s right about a lot of things. But not this.” He sagged into the chair. He still felt the grief like a fresh wound. “Some people, you never stop grieving.” He said softly. He didn’t look back up at Jamie, and paused for a moment. He didn’t know how to ask.

“I know the feeling.” Jamie said quietly.

John looked up, curious.

Jamie fiddled with the cuff of his jacket before speaking more. “I miss my wife more every day. And our daughters.”

John kept his reaction to a surprised blink. Jamie had never mentioned having daughters before. He stayed quiet though, so that Jamie would keep talking. He was incredibly curious about this new part of Jamie’s life he’d had very little idea even existed.

“My wife… Claire, she was a healer.” Jamie said quietly. “I sent her away, before Culloden. With our daughters.” He smiled. “They were twins. Faith, and Brianna.” He hadn’t said those names in years. He felt his heart warm, but the grief felt stronger. “I miss them all so much.” He whispered.

John acted on instinct, and took his hand. “Jamie, wherever your family is, I know they still love you.” He said quietly. “No one could ever stop.” He gently ran his hand over Jamie’s knuckles.

 

He didn’t know how badly he had fucked up until Jamie spoke. “Take your hand off of me. Right now.” He said in a low voice.

John paused, confused.

“Or I will kill you.” Jamie’s voice was so low and threatening. John slowly retracted his hand, like Jamie was a rabid dog.

"I'm sorry." John whispered as Jamie got up. Jamie didn't turn around to respond.

Chapter Text

Jamie stared at his feet as he shuffled after Murtagh. He would happily go the rest of his life without wearing cuffs ever again, but it seemed like he was doomed to wear cuffs for another long while.

"Fraser!" A guard shouted. Jamie looked up, then looked back at Fergus.

A guard came and grabbed him by the chain connecting his shackles. Then grabbed Fergus by the rope around his hand. "Come with me." He said gruffly.

Jamie looked back at Murtagh, who watched him go with a mixture of confusion and fear. Just like that, their little family was split in half again.

Jamie tried to stay strong for Fergus as the shackles around his wrists were removed, and replaced with a rope. Fergus stayed beside him the whole time, scared and flighty.

"It's okay." He whispered. "Dinna fash, lad. I'll protect ye." He smiled, but he felt anxious. He had no idea where they were going. If Fergus would be safe.

The walk was long and quiet. Jamie and Fergus conversed in quiet French, leaving John out entirely. That went on for three days, and Jamie was surprised. John hadn't lost his composure once.

It was the third day when they stopped for seemingly no reason. John dismounted the horse, and went to untie Fergus first. He winced a little as the rope rubbed against his raw wrist, but he seemed okay.

John untied Jamie next. "You know, you can't keep talking in French and ignoring me forever." He said after a moment.

"Where are we?" Jamie asked, not looking John in the face. He still felt a fear hanging over him.

"Helwater." John said. "I had a few strings I could pull." He finished untying Jamie's hands.

"What about the rest?" Jamie asked, rubbing the feeling back into his wrists.

"The colonies, to serve the rest of their sentences." John said. "They'll be cared for." He tried to be reassuring, but Jamie didn't look up.

"Why us?" Jamie asked, voice cracking. "I didna-"

"That was a moment of weakness. One I regret." John cut him off. "I will come once each quarter to ensure you are both well cared for."

And that was the, very confusing, end of that. Jamie spent the rest of the walk down to the large manor wondering what John's motivation could possibly be. He couldn't think of anything, not really.

~~

Alex MacKenzie and his son, Fergus MacKenzie. That was who they were now. The stable boys, father and son, who were mysteriously Scottish and French respectively. No one questioned it once they'd been around a month, and things evened out once the Dunsaney family came home from Italy.

The threat remained over Jamie -and a now nearly grown Fergus. Fergus was especially fortunate to have grown up to be tall, he was nearly Jamie's height and much more willowy. If Mistress Dunsaney knew they were Jacobites, Lord knew what would happen.

Fergus, at the very least, would never be mistaken for a Jacobite. He was much too French.

The most deplorable thing about their new employment, in Jamie's opinion, was that he was frequently forced to accompany young Lord Dunsaney -also known as 'George', and 'That blasted prick' around the stable- on his rides. Jamie was the second newest, and of the two, he was the only one with two hands.

"Shite is what it is." Jamie mumbled as he saddled the horses. "Horse shite, the lot of 'em." He was maybe a bit aggressive tugging on the girth, and the horse whinnied.

He loosened it a bit and patted the horse on the neck. "Sorry, lad. I didna mean to hurt ye." He said softly.

The horse pawed at the cobblestones. Jamie understood all too well what the gelding was saying. "I ken. I want out of here to. Isn't any fun bein' cooped up all day in a stall."

The stallion behind them whinnied shrilly. Jamie had half a mind to geld the blasted animal. "I ken, ye great beast." He chided the horse. In contrast to the gelding, a bay with four white feet, the stallion was a brilliant chestnut. It's coat was a similar shade to Jamie's hair, and he had a clear white blaze from his forehead to his nose.

And if any horse had the redhead temper, it was this one. He was an impatient asshole of an animal. And Jamie would pay good money to never handle the stallion again.

He tacked up the crimson beast. Bridaling the horse was the hardest bit. Jamie really needed to work on him with not being so bridle shy.

"I ken, I ken." He said once he had the bridle on. "I dinna think I would like it much either." He fixed a bit of the stallion's mane. "There ye go."

He was finishing up a couple finishing touches when George Dunsaney made his appearance. "MacKenzie! My favorite groom." His grin unsettled Jamie. He was a good deal older than the lordling, he was closer to Fergus' age. But something about him was a bit too canny for his liking.

"Your horse, sir." Jamie said stiffly. George took the reins and threw them over the stallion's head, and mounted. Jamie mounted the bay, who was nearly too small for him. He felt oversized riding the small thing.

George didn't speak until they were a good ways out. "Alex MacKenzie is not your real name." He said with full confidence. "And, I suspect neither is James Fraser."

Jamie froze.

"I've watched you for a bit." George leaned forward. "I asked Father. If mother knew we housed Red Jamie, she wouldn't be pleased."

Jamie's grip tightened on his reins. "And ye want something in exchange for your silence." This was such a practiced song and dance. He wished people would stop holding these things over his head.

"My silence cannot be bought." George smirked. "It can be earned. You see… My parents have chosen a rather unfortunate looking girl for my bride."

Jamie knew exactly where this was going. "No." He said firmly. "Tell your mother all ye want-"

"Or maybe," George interjected, "She would find humor in a Jacobite officer serving as her ladies maid."

Jamie was silent.

"That's what I thought."

 

Scotland, 1968

Faith didn't know how to explain the connection she felt to this place. It felt like coming home. That the glens and moore were places she had walked before.

She was sat on the hill overlooking Culloden field. A memory, fleeting, passed by her eyes.

A tartan wrapped around her, a man with vibrant red hair. Glimpses of tents. A whispered promise of protection.

And a few simple words.

"I love ye, Faith."

That was a voice she knew. She knew she remembered more of that voice, but as she reached for the memories, they fled from her fingertips.

She wanted to cry.

~~

Brianna was with Roger as he tried to fix his car when she looked across the moor. She recognized something, and a voice supplied the name. "Craìge na Dùn?" She asked, pointing at the hill.

Roger looked up and shrugged. "I guess, I dinna ken all the hills around here." He got back to work on the car.

Brianna kept watching it. She knew this view. A memory came, unprompted.

She was on a horse, in a saddle. Wrapped up in a blanket and cushioned by a large, soft skirt. "That's Craìge na Dùn, darling." Mama's voice said.

Brianna shook her head. That made no sense. When that would have even happened? She'd never been to Scotland before in her life!

… Right?

Chapter Text

July, 1968

Faith sneezed as she entered the storage room, flaked by Brianna and Roger. Fucking dust, it always made her nose get stuffy. Part of why she hated history. "Jesus Christ, you'd think a window never opened in here."

"I doubt one ever has." Roger said, looking around. "We're lookin' for Scribble Diaries, or somethin' similar." He led the way in, knowing his way around the labyrinth of boxes and books and items.

Brianna was next, looking around curiously. "This is all so old." She said, in awe.

Roger gave her a look. "The 40's are not old. And if you say that again, I'm gonna feel like a right old man." He grumbled, navigating between two towering piles of boxes.

Faith sneezed again. "I hate this." She mumbled.

"You picked the wrong major if you want to not pick through old things." Brianna said, weasling her way past a very moth eaten suit.

"Well they don't exactly allow women in West Point. If I want to study military strategy, I have to study history." Faith had been complaining about that since she was 14. Now, at 22 and knee deep in her masters, she still hadn't stopped.

Brianna laughed and finally freed herself into a chamber of sorts, joining Roger in looking through journals. She had finally settled in at MassArt, though she didn't know what she wanted to major in yet. She dusted off a journal. "1953." She read out. "Could these be in some kind of order?"

"I dinna ken." Roger got a face full of dust as he found another journal. "This one's from 1929, and the one below it is from 1949." He waved away the dust while Faith examined a third one.

Roger and Faith both jumped half out of their skins when Bri screamed. "What the fuck was that?!" She cried.

"Probably a rat." Roger said, trying to be reassuring. He spotted a flashlight. "Take this, so ye aren't surprised next time."

Brianna was skeptical to say the least, but she took it. "I'd rather there be no rats." She mumbled.

"I can sing a wee rat song." Roger offered. "Makes 'em go away."

Faith and Brianna both gave him a strange look.

"That can't be real." Faith said flatly. "You're lying."

Roger grinned and started singing. "Oh rats, oh rats, come and hear me song! There ain't a bite to eat here, the food is all long gone! And if you go just down the road, and find another door-"

"Ye won't never want to come round here no more!" Brianna finished, smiling. She remembered someone singing a similar song, with the same melody. She remembered helping sing to, and dancing in a circle.

Roger laughed. "And ye said ye never heard a rat song before?" He said playfully.

Brianna nodded. "Never, I think. Guess it's a catchy melody." She shrugged. "And we definitely scared off the rats." She went back to the journals.

"Hey, can ye say just one wee thing for me?" Roger asked after a moment.

"Pahk da cah in Hahvahd Yahd." Faith and Brianna said in unison, exaggerating their accents to say the iconic phrase.

Roger stifled a laugh. "I'm sorry, it's just… It's so funny." He said, not able to hold in a giggle.

Brianna picked up a journal. "Hey, 1948!" She said. "It was under 1942." She dusted off the cover and opened it, scanning the pages for any mention of her mother and father. She found a few mentions, but nothing specific.

"Hey, there's a box marked Randall!" Faith said. She opened it, and was surprised to find that she wasn't greeted by a cloud of dust to the face. Instead, there were pictures of their mom and dad. "This would have been… 1939, right?" She asked, picking up the picture. "Before the war?"

Roger glanced over. "I dinna ken." He shrugged. "It looks like pictures of my parents from then, so I think so."

Brianna went to help her sister sort through the box and pulled out some old, old papers. "It's a royal letter of commission… From 1735?" She handed the papers to Roger so she could keep digging.

Faith came up with a newspaper clipping. She scanned the headline and froze. "Returned by the faeries…" She read.

Brianna and Roger both looked over as Faith continued. "Claire Randall, found wandering the road in rags with two toddlers…"

Brianna looked over her shoulder. "Missing since 1945?" She whispered. "Weren't we born in 1946?"

Faith nodded a little. "We should read more of this inside." She whispered.

~~

Claire was sipping her whiskey in a moment of quiet. Soon, they would return to normal life. And she didn't feel free yet, but a burden was lifted from her shoulders.

Jamie knew about his girls. How smart they both were, how loving and kind. How Faith, the littlest baby she had ever seen, was now in a masters program at Harvard. How she was a surgeon now. How Brianna was an artist. How she had lived for the 20 years they had been apart. How much she missed him, and wished he could see some of the strides that had been made.

How she helped people just like him. Men and women who fought for their bodies, just like he had. How she could picture him helping lead the charge for liberation. How people like him would soon never have to live in fear again.

She took another sip of whiskey. She wished he could be here now. Holding her while they cuddled.

She was broken out of her day dream by Brianna storming in, the spitting image of her father. "1946." She snapped. "You were missing in 1946."

She slammed a newspaper clipping down on the table, fire in her brown eyes. Claire knew what it said without looking at it. She had hoped that this day wouldn't come, on one hand. On the other, she had prayed for it.

Faith and Roger appeared behind Brianna as she continued her tirade. "You had a lover! Is this why we came to Scotland, so we could meet our father?" She asked angrily. "Your lover?"

Claire shook her head slowly. "No." She said softly. "That's not why."

"Then why?! Does he not want to see his own daughters?" Brianna asked. Faith tried to grab her shoulder, but Brianna shrugged her off. "He would have known us for two years. Does he not care about us?"

"He cared more about you then you will ever know." Claire met her daughter's eyes. "And he loved you, in the short time he knew you."

"Then why can't we see him?" Faith asked, her voice more controlled than her sister's.

"He's dead." Claire said softly. "He died when you were two. Protecting you, and trying to protect your older brother." She would never forget the feeling of Fergus letting go of her arm.

"We have an older brother?" Faith asked.

Roger mumbled something about going, but Brianna grabbed his wrist in a vice like grip.

"Yes. You had an older brother." Claire said quietly. "His name was Fergus. He wasn't your brother by blood, but he loved you both as his little sisters."

"And our father?" Brianna asked, anger still searing hot. "Why did you never tell us?"

"Frank made me promise not to-"

"Don't you dare pin this on him!" Brianna shouted. "You divorced, you could have told us then! You could have told us when we were little!"

"I did." Claire whispered. "Do you remember the lost prince? That was his story, in a way." She fiddled with her silver ring. "His name was Jamie. Jamie Fraser."

Brianna looked at Faith, and Faith shrugged a little. There was so much information to process, neither understood.

"Sit down. I'll tell you the whole story, I promise." Claire said softly. "Complete, and I won't change anything. But… It's an odd story in every way."

Faith, Brianna, and Roger all sat down. Roger didn't have much choice in the matter.

And Claire started talking.

~~

Faith stared at the ceiling of the guest room. "I don't believe it." She said softly. "I just…. Everything about that story…" She was laid flat on the bed, her ginger hair spread out on the pillow.

Brianna nodded, sitting on a chair. "There's no way. None of that… It doesn't make any sense. I mean, did transsexuals even exist back then?" She put her head in her hands. "It doesn't make any damn sense."

They were interrupted by a very urgent knock. Brianna got the door, only to get nearly knocked aside by Roger, babbling about something or other he found around his wheezing breaths.

"I think- translated the ring- Gaelic- fuckin' stairs-"

Brianna sat him down on a stool. "Breath." She said firmly. "Then talk."

Roger gasped for air for a bit before he got enough wind back to talk. "I translated the inscription, on your mother's ring. She didna know it was there or what it meant, so she couldn't have gotten it herself." He explained. "And the workmanship is 18th century, if I ever saw it."

Brianna and Faith looked at each other. Could it all be possible?

 

January, 1758

Jamie wished he had come up with a different plan. A better plan.

A plan that didn't involve finding a midwife while dressed in stolen skirts. He wanted to die of several types of shame, and he felt an amount of discomfort that somehow surpassed having twins. But if a random man showed up about to have a baby, it would raise far more questions then a random maid.

Jamie was grateful the barin was a lot easier to hide than before. With a combination of making himself scarce and eating more, no one had questioned when he had a bit of a belly. It hadn't helped him feel any better, he'd been sick as a dog for 8 months now. But emotionally, the lack of questions was a god send.

Jamie tried very hard to be somewhere else while Fergus talked to the midwife. He felt unstable enough as it was. Focusing on the pain was easier, and a bit less painful.

Fergus sat beside him while the midwife went to get something. "It will be okay, right?" He asked softly. "You will be okay?"

Jamie nodded. "Dinna fash." He said softly.

He doubted he would be okay. But he didn't want to worry Fergus any more then he had to.

~~

John came back to Helwater to find utter chaos had erupted in his absence. George Dunsaney and his wife had a child, a little girl. That was to be expected, though George didn't seem fond of either of them. John had known George since they were boys, and they never liked each other.

John stayed no longer then politeness demanded before absconding to the stables to find Jamie.

He was expecting Jamie to still be in bed. He'd been in very poor health the last time John had visited. Seeing him up and about was reassuring.

Seeing Fergus hand him a very small baby, wrapped up in a million layers of cloth and blankets, was a shock. A bad one.

Jamie looked up when John made an undignified squeak. He didn't have the will to talk, he hadn't in the near month since William was born. So Fergus took over.

"Lord John?" Fergus asked cautiously. "Are you well?"

"Quite." John squeaked a bit, but it was better than before. "Where did you get a baby?"

Three months. Three months, and now there was a baby. Naturally.

~~

Jamie hadn't been intending to run into John. His plan had been to go into the woods. He had a length of rope with him, and he knew what he had to do.

John catching him in the middle of sneaking out was not part of the plan. It was the opposite of the plan.

They had similar expressions. John looked like he'd just been caught himself, and Jamie knew that John would know exactly what he was doing if he looked at his hand.

He tried to hide the rope behind his back, but he was too late. John's eyes flickered between his face and the rope for a second. "Jamie." He said quietly. "Tell me you aren't doing what I think you are."

Jamie couldn't look at him. If anyone had earned the right to do this, he was pretty sure he was in the running. Three children by men who had taken what they wanted one way or another. His wife was gone. His daughters were gone. William would have Fergus, and not a disgraced Scottish outlaw for a father. A bad father, at that.

John grabbed Jamie's wrist. "I will not let you." He said firmly. "We're going back."

Jamie let himself be dragged back without protest. He didn't have the energy to care. If his plan was foiled tonight, it was foiled tonight. He could try again once John left.

John dragged him back to his room, where Fergus and baby William were both fast asleep. John sat Jamie down on the bed and sat across from him on a stool and watched him carefully. Jamie fiddled with a bit of the rope for a while, but didn't look up.

To fill the silence, John started talking. He spilled his guts, so to speak. He talked and talked, half hoping Jamie wasn't listening. He talked about his father's murder, about Hector, about everything he had gone through.

When he stopped, he noticed Jamie was looking at him strangely.

"We aren't so different." Jamie said, his voice rough from disuse.

John shrugged. "In a way, I guess we aren't."

Jamie sat in silence again as John fell asleep. Thinking.

He looked at the bundle of blankets by the fire. Self hatred filled him. He was a horrible father already. He nearly left a one month old baby. Even if William had Fergus, Fergus was in no way ready to care for a barin by himself.

Jamie got up and gingerly picked William up. He didn't stir, which was a relief. The last thing Jamie needed was a crying baby.

He knew from before that he would be tired and stressed. Barins were a lot of work when they were this small especially. Jenny had talked about being exhausted plenty. But he felt more worn out than he ever had before. Everything in his life, save a few precious things, were gone.

He felt so alone. He'd felt alone, that week between the hospital and Murtagh coming home. But then he'd had Murtagh, and Claire, and Fergus. And then he'd had Jenny and Ian.

Now, he only had Fergus. And he felt guilty relying on Fergus. He was supposed to be a father. Fathers don't need support.

He looked at William's wee face. He was already bigger at a month old. Jamie felt like he'd blinked, and he'd grown. He didn't like it.

He held William closer. "I promise, I'll be a better Da." He whispered. "I'll try my hardest."

Chapter Text

April, 1764

"Da? Da! Daaaaaaa!"

Jamie groaned and rolled over. It was too early for this.

"Da! Lookit! Fergus helped me with my kilt!" Willie jumped into the bed next to his father. "Da, you gotta look! I did most of it myself!"

Jamie rolled back over and opened one eye. "Oh really?" He asked. "And if I talk to Fergus-"

"Fine. He did most of it." Willie mumbled. "I can't pleat the back right."

Jamie ruffled his hair. "Dinna fash, ye did a fine job." His heart warmed at his son's wide smile. "What are the plans for today?" He asked as he sat up.

"Mistress Heather said she would give me some of the cookies she made!" Willie said excitedly. "They're the chocolate ones, you ken?"

Jamie nodded. "I ken. Those sound verra tasty." He said. "Don't eat too many, save room for supper."

Willie looked at him pleadingly. "But Daaa…" He whined. "Dinner's gonna be gross!"

"And how do ye ken that?" Jamie asked, raising an eyebrow.

"I just do." Willie said. "It'll be gross."

"We'll see about that." Jamie ruffled his hair again. "Off ye go, find your brother."

Willie giggled and took off. His kilt, cut from a thrown out bit of fabric, was a simple plain color. As much as Jamie wished he could give his son their true tartan, he didn't have the means or the death wish to do it. He couldn't even tell the lad his full name. As far as Willie knew, his name was just William Lambert MacKenzie. 6 year olds were not the best secret keepers in the world, which meant a lot of things needed to stay hidden.

He got dressed, tying up his hair. Another day, another potential nightmare that William would find his way into. How his parents handled him, Jenny, Willy and Ian was a total mystery.

~~

“Why do we have to go?” Willie asked sleepily. “I like it here.”

“Because it’s time to go home.” Jamie said, lifting Willie up into the saddle. “We’re going back to Lallybroch.”

That got Willie’s attention. Jamie had been telling him about Lallybroch since he was a baby. He looked very curious. "Will Mama be there?" He asked.

Jamie paused. Willie knew very little of the story of how he was born. None of it was true. "No, Mama won't be there. Auntie Jenny will be, and she canna wait to meet ye. Now take the reins." He handed Willie the pair of reins attached to the ponie's halter. It had taken some time to get ahold of a Shetland pony, but it was a good size for Willie and less of a demon then most ponies. He mounted his own horse, and checked for Fergus.

Fergus had an unruly two year old to wrangle. He was holding his own, but handling that much horse with one hand was hard.

Jamie really wished Fergus had picked a different horse from their options.

"Are we going?" Willie asked. "I wanna meet Auntie Jenny!"

"Aye. C'mon lads, let's get as far as we can before nightfall." Jamie said. "Willie, how do ye feel about a story? About your big sisters?"

"Yes!" Willie said immediately. He loved stories about his Mama and his older sisters. He'd never met them, but Da and Fergus told him about them all the time. He wished badly that he would get to meet them one day, but they were somewhere in the New World. Da said they had to be there 'for their own protection'.

Willie wished they would come home soon. But he settled for listening to the tale his Da told him about when his sister, Brianna, was wee. She had been gathering eggs at Lallybroch when she found an abandoned egg. She had taken it to auntie Jenny, and they discovered there was a chick. So auntie Jenny and Brianna cared for the abandoned egg until it hatched. As far as Da knew, the chicken was still there.

Willie wished he ever got to meet his sisters. Fergus was fun, but what would having sisters even be like? Especially sisters who were older. He wondered if they would know who he was. If Mama would know who he was. She'd been gone since he was a baby.

He looked ahead. The forest was dark, but it felt familiar. Like he was meant to be heading closer to the mountains. Like he was getting ever closer to the place he belonged.

 

July, 1968

After finding Jamie at Ardsmuir, breakthroughs had been harder and harder to find. Claire was hunting through records from the strangest places when she finally found something.

She picked up a photocopied piece of paper. It didn't seem possible.

"A birth certificate." She said shakily, drawing the attention of the three young people around the table. "For William Murtagh Lambert Bechaump Fraser. Father, James Alexander Malcom Mackenzie Fraser. Mother, Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Fraser. Born January 9th, in 1758." Her fingers traced the familiar loops of Jamie's handwriting. "He had another child." She whispered.

Brianna gently took the paper. "From Helwater, England? Maybe that's where he was!"

Faith and Roger looked at each other. Roger shrugged. "I mean, it's possible. He could have been an indentured servant there." He pointed out. "He would have been released in 1764, but… Where would he have gone?"

No one around the table had any ideas. Claire cursed herself. Two years. Two years earlier, and she would have known exactly where he was. She could have gone to him. Met their son.

Now, he was lost to her again.

~~

The last person Brianna expected when she opened the door the week before Christmas was not Roger Wakefield. But, expecting him more than Santa was hardly a high bar. "Roger!" She grinned. "Come on in, why didn't you call ahead?"

"It's all a bit last minute." Roger said sheepishly. "But… I have a wee bit of information. That your mother may want."

Brianna ushered him in, and closed the door behind him. Claire came out from the kitchen, holding the Christmas pudding. "Roger! Just in time for dessert."

Roger smiled sheepishly. "Thank you, Claire. But I have something I think ye should see."

Claire set the pudding down in front of Faith. "Well, what is it?"

"I found something that… Could be related. Jamie's middle names were Alexander Malcom, right?" Roger asked as he sat down beside Brianna.

"Right." Claire said. "Did you find something?" She didn't touch the plate of pudding sitting beside her.

"I found a broadsheet. It's from 1766, and it was printed by A. Malcolm. It was printed in Inverness." Roger explained. "I looked more, and I found a different sheet, that was by a 'Red Jamie'. They're both from Inverness, and I think they were made by the same person." He tried to talk fast, but the looks of shock told him he hadn't needed to. None of them were quite ready to talk.

Brianna spoke first. "You…You're sure?"

Roger nodded.

Chapter Text

William was trailing behind his cousin as they ran about the town. Ian was a good deal older, at 14 compared to Willie's 8. He was so cool, or at least he seemed so. He tolerated his younger cousin at least.

Most of the time.

"Just go back!" Ian snapped at Willie. "I have things to do! And I dinna want a baby following me!"

"I'm no baby!" Willie argued. "I'm 8! That's not a baby!"

"Yes it is! Go back to the shop!" Ian shouted.

Willie huffed and turned around angrily. "Fine! But I'm gonna tell Da!" He shouted over his shoulder. He stalked back to the shop angrily. Ian had no right to call him a baby, he was only 6 years younger than him! And Willie hadn't run away!

Willie opened the door to the shop. "Da! Can I tell auntie Jenny where Ian is?!" He shouted, seething.

He got no response, which was confusing. Da usually at least shouted for him to come to the printing room instead of shouting. But dead silence was unusual. Unless Da was out?

Willie looked for any notes left. Da would tell him if he was gone, right? He started to worry when he found no note on the desk.

"Da?" He asked again, getting worried. He opened the door to the print room, which he normally wasn't allowed in alone. He was just the right height where standing on tip toe to look over the railing wouldn't work, but if he leaned between the railings he was in serious danger.

He leaned between the railings anyways. Where he finally spotted Da, rubbing his head while a strange woman sat next to him. She was talking to Da in a hushed voice, so Willie couldn't hear. He stepped back and quietly made his way to the stairs, not sure what to think. But he was really curious.

What if that woman was Mama?

Claire gently pushed hair off of Jamie's forehead. "Are you sure you're alright?" She asked. "That was a nasty fall."

Jamie shrugged. "Dinna fash, my head is thick enough to take it." He stared at Claire again, and gently reached out to touch her cheek. When his fingers touched the clear, solid skin of her cheek, he wanted to cry from joy. "You're back. Ye really are back." He said, smiling.

Claire held his hand to her cheek. "And so are you." She said softly. He looked different then she remembered. There were bits of grey in his copper hair, and he was wearing a pair of reading glasses. A few wrinkles had developed, but his smile was the same.

She looked up when a step creaked. She saw a young boy, with curly brown hair and eyes exactly like Jamie's. She connected the dots quickly. "William?" She asked.

She saw his eyes widen. But what broke her was the quiet little, "Mama?"

Claire smiled. "Yes, darling. It's so wonderful to see you." She helped Jamie up. "You're so big!"

Willie smiled so wide and ran to hug her. Claire wrapped him in a hug. "I can't believe you're so grown up." She said. She gently pet Willie's curls. "How did you get my hair? It looks just like mine."

Willie smiled even more. "I know!" He beamed. "Da said I got lucky with my hair!"

Claire kissed his forehead. "I need to thank your Da. He's done a fantastic job." She felt that same rush she got when she first met Bri and Faith. She would lay down her life for this little boy.

Jamie had no idea how he got so lucky. Willie and Claire got along so quickly, and she was back after 20 years, and it felt like his life was finally coming back together.

~~

Later, Claire and Jamie were cuddled up in bed, in Jamie's peculiar accomodations in his print shop, when Claire remembered. "I brought something." She smiled. She grabbed her bag and pulled out a small bag full of photographs.

She cuddled up with Jamie, who looked over her shoulder curiously. "What are those?"

"They're called photographs." Claire explained. "They're invented in the next century." She selected one of the older ones. "This one is from when we just moved to Boston." She explained.

Jamie took the picture gingerly. It was black and white, and the two little girls pictured were covered in flour. They were both grinning at the camera, and Jamie's heart swelled with love.

Claire explained all the pictures, including the bikinis, which Jamie didn't understand. "Ye just… Go around in your underthings?" He asked in confusion.

Claire laughed. "Just at the beach. There's no need to look so affronted!"

Jamie tried to cover his expression. "I just canna see the appeal." He explained. Which reminded Claire.

She sat up so she could face him. "Jamie… I have something that I think you should know."

Jamie looked worried, but nodded. "Well, out with it." He braced himself for bad news.

"I know a surgery that can flatten your chest." Claire said. "There's a long recovery time, and this would hardly be ideal, but I can do it. I've done it before, specifically for men like you." She explained.

Jamie blinked. There was a lot of information there. "Wait… There are others like me?" He asked. He had always thought he was alone.

"There's a name for it." Claire smiled. "Transsexual. In modern times- the 1960's, there's a movement. People are banding together."

Jamie looked at his hands. Knowing that there were others like him in the world was reassuring, knowing he wasn't and never was alone. But knowing it would be another two centuries before they made any progress…

Claire took his hand. "Talk to me." She said quietly. They couldn't be too loud, since Ian and Willie were sleeping not that far away.

Jamie shook his head. "It takes so long." He whispered. "200 years…"

Claire kissed his cheek. "It gets better." She whispers. "Eventually."

Jamie nodded and lay back down. "So… Ye can flatten my chest?" He asked cautiously. He almost didn't believe it.

Claire smiled and nodded. "We can figure it out later." She promised. "But I can do it."

Jamie smiled and kissed her gently. Claire happily kissed him back, tangling her fingers in his hair. God how she missed him, feeling him against her. She pulled away to look up at him one more time, gently tracing his cheek. "You're so handsome." She whispered.

Jamie blushed a little, and he smiled. "And you're so beautiful." He said softly. "I dinna ken how ye did it, but ye got more beautiful since the last time I saw ye."

Claire kissed him again, but this time they were interrupted by someone else. Jamie noticed first, and looked up. Claire followed his gaze to the shape of a shaking 8 year old.

It took less than a second for William to be embraced by both his parents. He hugged them back tightly.

"Did ye have a nightmare?" Jamie asked quietly after a moment. He didn't want to startle Willie, he was shaken enough.

Willie nodded. "I- I woke up, and Mama was gone, and ye were gone." He sniffled. "An' I dreamed all of this."

"This isn't a dream." Claire said reassuringly. She had plenty of experience soothing small children. "You're awake, and this is all real." She gently pet his hair, and he leaned into it, like a cat.

"Come on, tuck in between me and Mama." Jamie said, shuffling over so there was a bit of space for Willie. "We can talk until you feel better, aye?"

"Aye." Willie smiled and cuddled up between Jamie and Claire.

"Do you know your full name?" Claire asked, tucking the blanket up a bit higher. She wanted Willie to be good and warm.

"Willie Lambert Fraser." Willie recited. "I think."

Jamie smiled. "Verra good, lad." He said softly. "But that isn't your full full name."

Willie looked confused. "Then what is it?" He asked curiously.

"William Murtagh Lambert Beauchamp Fraser." Jamie recited, tapping Willie's nose with each name. "After great people."

Willie looked even more curious. "I ken I'm named after uncle Willy." He said confidently. "But…"

"Murtagh is Grandda's real name." Jamie explained. "He's never met ye, but you're a lot like him."

"Lambert is after my uncle. He raised me after my parents died." Claire explained. "He took me many wonderful places."

"And Beauchamp is Mama's maiden name. The name she had before she married me." Jamie finished.

Willie yawned sleepily, and Claire and Jamie shared a conspiratorial and celebratory look. "How about a story?" Claire asked.

Willie nodded and yawned again. Claire settled on a short story. "Once apon a time, there was a girl who walked with faeiries." She began. It took only half the story to get Willie to sleep.

Jamie leaned his head on the pillow. "I'm sorry." He said, so quietly Claire barely caught it.

"For what?" Claire asked, trying to be just as quiet.

"For doing this wrong." Jamie didn't look at her. "I made so many mistakes that I ken I wouldn't have if I had ye."

Claire reached over and gently cupped his cheek. "Jamie, look at me." She said quietly. When he did, she continued. "You did your best. We both did our best. We made mistakes, and we aren't perfect. But we did our best. And we'll keep doing our best."

Jamie looked like a burden had been lifted off his shoulders. Claire smiled and gently ran his hand through his hair. Jamie took her hand, still needing reassurance she was real. She was here. She was with him.

"I love you." He said softly.

"I love you too." Claire whispered, loving the way his eyes sparkled with joy at the words. It never failed to amaze her how a few simple words could bring so much joy and change so much.

It felt right when they fell asleep, holding hands with their son between them.

Chapter Text

Jamie ignored Claire's raised eyebrows as he led her down the street. Ian had been bribed into watching Willie with a promise of stories, and an apple pie. 14 year olds were not difficult to bribe.

And it meant that Jamie and Claire now had a chance for a night alone after two days. Commitments the next day were far from Jamie's mind. He would have real time alone with her. All their interactions had been with the agreement that Willie came first right then. But with that gone for the night, Jamie was a bit scared.

There were questions he needed to ask. Things he needed to know. Things he was scared to ask.

He suspected she felt the same way.

"So, where are we going?" Claire asked, as they made their way down one of the many dark cobbled streets. "Or shall I guess?"

"I rented a room for the night from a good friend." Jamie explained. "She's a business partner." He stopped in front of a nondescript door. "Stay by me, okay?"

Jamie could hear the raised eyebrow as he opened the door. The smell of a large amount of perfume hit them both in the face. The room was filled with couples in various states of undress. Jamie navigated with practiced ease, a grace Claire did not have. She looked around in fascination.

Claire was left out of the quiet conversation for the most part, so she took the opportunity to look around. It was a very posh place, it reminded her of Parisian brothels she had seen. That wasn't much of a surprise, she heard Jamie and the Madame of the house speaking in French.

She was about to go examine the embroidery on a curtain when Jamie called for her. "Sassenach, our room is upstairs." He said.

Claire looked up, a little startled. "Coming!" She glanced one last time at the curtains before following Jamie upstairs.

Jamie opened the door to one of the rooms. It looked cosy, and not what she was quite expecting. Jamie hung up his hat and coat, though he seemed almost hesitant.

Claire took off her cape and hung it up beside his. "Are you scared?" She asked softly.

Jamie nodded. "First time we've really been alone." He said quietly. He ran his thumb over the scar on his ring finger, one of a few habits he'd had after his hand healed.

Claire nodded. "Well… It's better then our wedding." She said after a moment, making Jamie laugh.

"It canna get more awkward than our wedding." He smiled.

"So there's no need to worry." Claire took his hand gently. "Let's sit down, talk for a little while." She led him to the little table, which already had some food laid out.

They spent a while sitting, eating, talking. They got to know each other again. Each familiarizing themself with the other. Until they felt like they really knew each other again. The anxiety remained, but it was less.

Jamie got up after a long while. "Come to bed with me?" He asked quietly.

Claire smiled and got up. Neither were sure how to start, it had been so long since either had lain with anyone.

Claire made the first move, despite how anxious she felt. She began to unbutton the waistcoat, but Jamie stopped her.

"Let me." He said quietly, unbuttoning the waistcoat slowly. It was a little calming, it reminded him of their wedding. The hesitation, but the underlying desire. But now there was love, and so much shared experience.

Jamie slipped the waistcoat off her shoulders, and stood patiently as she unbuttoned his. Her fingers, more nimble than ever, made quick work of the buttons.

They both moved layer by layer until they were in shirt and shift. Claire didn't want to press. Jamie had never been fond of taking off his shirt, even with the bindings on. She didn't want to force him into something he wasn't comfortable with.

Jamie took a steadying breath and pulled the shirt over his head. It was a little painful, with how his shoulders moved. Insecurity struck fast, but he hid it. He needed to be confident for Claire.

He hesitated before touching her shift. "May I?" He asked quietly. He wanted to know for certain that she was willing.

Claire nodded. "You may." She said, voice gentle as ever.

~~

Jamie was about to fall asleep when Claire gently shook his shoulder. It had been a long, wonderful night. And he was exhausted. The pain in his ribs had dulled considerably, and time had only made him more used to it.

Unfortunately, he had a wife now who would not let him wear it while he slept. There had been little fight the last two nights, Jamie would have done anything Claire asked of him then.

Now, he was too sleepy and comfortable to want to get up. And there was the layer beneath that, of not wanting her to see. Claire was the only person who he'd slept with who hadn't seen. And she was also the only one who hadn't forced or extorted him into it. He knew it was stupid, but the association had stuck.

"Jamie." Claire said softly, breaking him out of his mind. "You need to give your chest a break." She gently touched his shoulder, and he flinched. Claire moved her hand away, like she'd been burned.

Jamie rolled onto his side, before sitting up. "Let me grab my shirt." He said quietly, getting up to grab it from the floor.

Claire watched him, her heart heavy. She felt like she'd found a part of the puzzle that hadn't been there before.

Jamie sat back down on the bed, reaching under his shirt to unravel the wrap. It'd been getting harder as he got older, and his flexibility got worse and worse. Claire watched him struggle for a moment before she tried to help.

"May I?" Clare asked quietly, hand hovering over his back. She waited for him to say anything before she touched him.

"Aye." Jamie said quietly. It felt like an admission of defeat, but he trusted Claire.

Claire gently unwound the wrap, making sure to never brush his skin. As the last bit fell away, Jamie took a deep breath. "Thank you." He said quietly.

Claire rolled the wrap up and tucked it away. "You're welcome." She said with a small smile. "Now come to bed." She settled down and shuffled back under the covers. Jamie did the same.

Neither were quite sure what to do for a moment. Jamie made the first move, and reached for Claire's hand. Claire gladly let him hold it.

When they woke up, later than intended, they were wrapped around each other.

Chapter Text

The sound of the shot echoed in Claire's head. Seeing Laoghaire standing in the courtyard, holding the pistol aimed at her, would probably be burned into the back of her eyelids forever.

She sat up, surprised she was on the dusty ground. She didn't feel any pain, but that could be shock. She stood up, looking for any blooming spots of blood.

She looked up, and saw Jamie on the ground with blood pooling around him. She stared before looking up. There was buzzing in her ears, and things felt like they started happening in slow motion.

Jenny grabbed Willie by the arm and shoved him inside, and Laoghaire stood still, her arm still raised. Finger still tight around the trigger. She looked shocked, like she finally realized that what she did would have consequences.

Claire didn't let herself wonder if there were more rounds to reload with. She needed to get to her husband. She scrambled the few feet between them, realizing he must have pushed her out of the way.

Jamie blinked at the sky. He was so confused. Being shot wasn't new, but birdshot was a new experience. He had no way of describing it.

Things got blurry fast. He saw Claire's face briefly, and then there was the familiar taste of whiskey, and after that it was sweet drunken oblivion. Which was much preferable to the screaming pain of being peppered with birdshot.

~~

Claire sighed heavily as she finally sat down. Her hands were still bloody, but she could rest a moment now. The pellets she could remove had been removed, which was most of them, thank God.

She couldn't look up at him just yet. He was too pale. She would have had a blood transfusion going already, but she had no way of type matching him with anyone else. And knowing her luck, Jamie would have a rare blood type. She wouldn't put it past him to have AB- blood.

She laughed a little at the thought. A ginger with blue eyes and AB- blood. That would certainly make him one of very few.

"Mama?" Came a small voice. Claire looked up to see Willie, hiding in the doorway.

Claire realized she still needed to wash her hands. "One moment, darling." She said gently. She got up and looked for the bucket of water she had disinfected before. She scrubbed her hands hard. "Is something wrong?" She asked as she scrubbed.

"Will Da be okay?" Willie asked, not moving further into the kitchen then the doorway. His eyes were fixed on his Da's pale face.

"He'll be just fine. He's sleeping off the whiskey, and when he wakes up he'll be fit as a fiddle." Claire said, trying to reassure both herself and Willie.

Willie nodded a little. "Will anything make him wake up faster?" He asked. "What if he has a nightmare?"

Claire shook her head. "He'll wake up when he wakes up." She promised. "And if he has a nightmare, we can be there for him. Pull up a chair, okay?" She finished scrubbing while Willie grabbed a chair.

Claire was about to grab her own chair when she noticed Jenny. Jenny, who was still mad at her.

Jenny, who was looking at her little brother like she was looking at a ghost.

Claire knew how she felt. She made her way over, not wanting Willie to overhear their conversation.

"Ye would think he just swam in something too cold." Jenny said quietly. "Without the stitches."

Claire nodded. "He'll be perfectly fine. He won't be getting any kind of infection, I'll make sure of that." She promised.

Jenny nodded, not having the energy to question Claire about how she knew. "I'll get some food, so he'll have something to eat when he wakes up." She left before Claire could say anything.

Claire was confused, but she didn't follow Jenny.

~~

Jamie felt like someone drove a few nails through his brain. Everything was very bright, even though he was pretty sure his eyes were closed. He tried to cover his eyes, but his arm howled with pain when he tried to move it.

He did discover his ears were working. Through Willie shouting "Da!!" There were probably less painful ways to determine that, but Jamie would take what he could get.

"Lad, could ye be a little quieter?" He asked, the pounding in his head getting worse. "God, what happened?"

"That is a hangover." Claire said. Jamie couldn't figure out where she was, the headache preventing him from having many full thoughts.

He felt a glass pushed into his hand. "Drink this." Claire said quietly. "It will help. There's food to."

Jamie hadn't realized just how thirsty he was until he was offered something to drink. He drank the whole thing, and he felt a little bit better. Claire was magic like that. He cautiously opened his eyes, and while it hurt his eyes, it wasn't as bad. The first thing he saw was Jenny, shoving bannocks into his face.

"Eat these." Jenny said. "Now."

Jamie wasn't about to argue. He took the bannocks and ate them. It made him feel better, and his head felt a bit less light. After finishing the second one pushed into his hands, he finally felt like he could string thoughts together.

He sat up, careful of his injured arm. "What happened?" He asked, memories of what happened incredibly fuzzy.

"Laoghaire decided the way to get ye to fall in love with her was to kill Claire." Jenny said flatly. "Or that if she couldn't have ye, no one could."

"Either or." Claire shrugged. "She has tried to kill me before." The witch trail was still clear in her mind. She was glad she had never been back near Crainesmuire.

"She tried to kill ye?" Willie asked, his eyes wide.

Jamie handled it fastest. "We'll tell ye when you're older, lad."

Willie crossed his arms. "I'm old enough!" He argued. "I'm grown up!" He tried to stand taller, but he could barely see over the table.

Claire raised an eyebrow. "Oh really? Well then, you can help me and your aunt with the laundry later. Grown ups have to help with the laundry."

Willie paled. "I'm not a grown up!" He said.

Jenny snorted. Threatening barins with chores always seemed to do the trick when they wanted to know something. They'd either do it and earn the knowledge, or they'd run away.

"Off ye go, find your cousins." Jenny said. "Your Da will be just fine."

Willie looked at Jamie nervously, but seemed reassured. Jamie looked more alive then he had the past few hours, and that was all the reassurance Willie needed to run off.

Jenny looked at Claire. She hadn't found a chance to ask yet, with barins always underfoot, but now she had a chance. "What happened? To the girls?" She asked quietly. "Are they…"

"In the colonies." Claire said. "They have commitments of their own, in Boston. But they're grown women. I plan to send a letter once I get a chance, to let them know I found Jamie." She smiled. "They're both well, last I saw them."

Jenny felt relief fill her. She had worried about her only nieces, and knowing they were well gave her a bit of peace. "Can ye send for them?" She asked.

"I don't think so." Claire said softly. "They're… Involved in something, in Boston. It's very important." How could she explain that there was no way she could really send for them?

Jenny, thank God, accepted that explanation. "Aye. Well, pass along my best when ye write the letter." An ominous crash from upstairs drew Jenny's attention. "Christ give me strength." She muttered as she stormed off.

Jamie looked back at Claire. "Sassenach?" He asked softly.

"Yes?" Claire asked. She guessed his answer before he even said it.

"Can we please go to a real bed? My back is killing me."

~~

At dinner that night, the adults were gathered around the table telling stories. Jamie's arm was in a sling, and he was fumbling desperately with his right hand. Ian the elder was watching with great amusement, while Fergus definitely did not show off with his own proficiency of eating with one hand.

To distract from the hilarity of Jamie cursing his right hand to hell and back in what Claire thought was French, she asked a question. "So, I heard a rumor recently. About a chest of gold."

"Och, that's real." Jamie said, not looking up from the baked potato. "I found it."

He looked up to stares from all around the table.

"What?" He asked. "I never told ye about the Frenchman's Gold?" When met with shaking heads, he told the story with vigour. He didn't notice a certain 14 year old peeking out from behind a door.

Ian planned his escape very carefully that night. But not carefully enough.

August 13th, 1969

Faith, Brianna and Roger were gathered around the Television. The newscaster spoke of riots in Belfast, and how the previous night had been deadly.

"Somethin' tells me this won't be the last we hear of Northern Ireland." Roger said quietly, as they showed BBC footage of burning homes.

Faith nodded. "I don't think it will be." She said softly.

Chapter Text

July, 1769

Claire rubbed her feet as she sat down in the rocking chair. It had been a long day of work, and she was excited to sit and relax with her husband.

The hot summer days were still cool summer nights. And Claire enjoyed them greatly. She had a slice of bread, smothered in jam, to eat as she listened to the sound of the North Carolina woods.

Jamie came out after a few minutes, holding a slice of pie. Flour was still in short supply, so baked goods were not a common sight in the Fraser household. But it was a special occasion, seeing as blueberry season was passing. And they'd jammed enough blueberries to feed an army. So, blueberry pie was in order.

Jamie sat beside her, tension draining from his shoulders. "This is a good life." He said softly. He kept a careful ear out for Willie getting into trouble, at 10 he was about as much trouble as 16 year old Ian.

Ian had yet to learn his lesson. Even after being kidnapped by pirates and moving his aunt, uncle and cousin to North Carolina. He was determined now to be camping by himself.

"Think he'll come back soon?" Claire asked, examining the darkness beyond their porch.

"No, he's probably camping with friends." Jamie said between bites of pie. "They'll be fine. May even come back with a wee bit of game." He put his plate down on the deck and took Claire's free hand. "It's not like he can get himself in more trouble then he has before. The lad isnna that stupid."

"Are you and I talking about the same young Ian?" Claire asked skeptically. "The one that took off to find treasure in the middle of the night?"

Jamie considered for a moment. "Well… He canna get in more trouble than that." He said. "Unless he gets himself kidnapped again. And he's canny enough to not get kidnapped again."

Claire sighed. "You overestimate him." She mumbled.

They sat in silence for a bit before Claire voiced an idea that had been rolling around in her head. "You know, we're well settled here." She pointed out.

Jamie looked up. "Yes… And?" He was expecting some kind of curse. Whenever they got settled, it was time to hightail it soon after.

"I recall, a few years ago, I said that once we were settled, I would do a certain surgery." Claire smiled at him. "If we time it right, you could recover over winter."

Jamie felt his heart leap out of his chest. "Really?" He asked excitedly. "Ye can really do it?"

Claire nodded. "I really can."

Jamie jumped out of his chair. "This is great!" He said, pie forgotten by the chair. He looked young again. He knelt in front of Claire. "Sassenach, ye have no idea how much this means to me." His smile was so big, and his eyes were so bright that Claire's heart melted completely.

She leaned forward and kissed him. "I love you so much, James Fraser." She whispered.

"And I love ye, Claire Fraser." Jamie kissed her again, joy abound.

~~

Jamie woke one dreary November morning with a hangover that could kill an ox. He groaned, glad someone had covered the windows.

"Good, you're awake." Jamie recognized Claire's voice, but he didn't dare open his eyes yet. He was happily mostly numb, and the few fuzzy memories he had told him he was probably happier that way. Claire, meanwhile, was having none of it. "Drink this." She pressed some kind of cup to his lips.

Jamie drank reluctantly, and cracked one eye open cautiously. Claire's smiling face greeted him, which reassured him a lot. If she was smiling, nothing went horribly wrong.

Claire brushed some hair off his forehead. "Rest easy, soldier." She said softly. "It went great. You can look, if you want."

Jamie tried to sit up, but his chest hurt badly. Claire helped him sit up, shoving one of their extra blankets behind him. Jamie took a deep breath, and looked down.

His chest was still wrapped, and it would be for a little while longer. But it was flat. There was barely even a bump.

Claire took his hand gently. "It's a long recovery. But it'll be worth it." She promised.

Jamie wanted to cry. He felt better already, comfortable in his skin for the first time in what felt like ever. He wanted to hug Claire, but moving his arms was incredibly painful.

Claire was very careful as she hugged him. She was grateful she would be with him through the healing process. He'd been through worse, but it wouldn't be easy.

Jamie looked up after a moment, realizing something was missing. "Where are the barins?" He asked.

"I sent them into Wilmington with Fergus." Claire explained. "They'll be back next week or so."

~~

"Will ye shut up?! I ken the horse lost it's blasted shoe ye wee-"

"Ye were leavin' even as the horse was shoeless!"

"SHUT UP!!"

Ian and Willie both stopped shouting, and Fergus glared at them both. "Both of you are being idiots. Go to the blacksmith, there's one near here I think. Ask him if he can reshoe the horse before we leave." Fergus grabbed his money pouch. "Don't let anyone steal that!" He handed it to Ian, who glared at Willie.

Willie huffed and marched off, tromping through the mud. Ian followed him, swaggering like a cat with a rat.

Willie found the blacksmith easily. The pounding of metal and the stench of molten metal was easy to follow. He found a little man with white hair working at the forge.

Ian walked right up. "Sir? We need a horseshoe for our horse." He said, with all the confidence in the world.

The blacksmith didn't turn around. "I'm closing up." He said. "Come back tomorrow like everyone else." He was putting away tools and cleaning the forge.

"We're leaving today!" Ian argued. "We can pay you!"

The little man turned around.

Murtagh looked over this whelp with contempt. "Get your father." He said. He grabbed a pair of tongs. "And get out of my smithy." He brandished it at the boy, who jumped back.

The other one, probably his younger brother, stepped forward. Murtagh liked him better right away. He wore a plaid, though not any tartan. And he carried himself with real confidence. And, he was polite.

"Please, sir, my parents are expecting me and my cousin home soon." Willie said politely. "And my older brother canna take us another night."

Murtagh was not swayed. He liked the kid better, but he was not swayed. "Then get your older brother, or be off with ye both." He brandished the tongs again.

Fergus stalked around the corner at the moment. "What could possibly be taking so long?" He asked, not noticing Murtagh right away. "It is just a horseshoe!"

He looked up at the smith, and he stopped dead in his tracks. Murtagh stared back. Fergus had grown up the rest of the way in the years he had been gone. He was a man now.

"Grandda?" Fergus asked softly. How did they end up in the same place? What were the chances?

"Fergus? Christ lad, what are ye doing here? And with these two?" Murtagh put the tongs away. "Ye got so grown up!"

Fergus shrugged. "I am 32." He said. "Allow me to introduce young Ian Murray, and William Fraser. William is…"

Murtagh took another look at the lad. He had Jamie written all over him. From his eyes to his hair to his nose. He was the picture of his father.

Willie looked back at Fergus, confused. What was going on?

Fergus explained quickly. "Willie, that's Murtagh. Grandda, from Papa's stories, remember?"

Willie looked back at Murtagh, and suddenly it clicked.

Ian groaned internally. How was he going to explain this to Auntie Claire, much less his mother?

 

September, 1970

Roger liked driving in the mountains. He was perfectly okay driving on the winding narrow roads. He'd been doing it all his life.

On the left side of the road.

He hated it driving on the right. It felt viscerally wrong. Every instinct in him was screaming that this was wrong.

He was very lucky he was in the back seat and could keep his eyes on the map. If he looked out the window again, he didn't know what he would do. He was very glad Faith was a good driver.

Brianna picked another blasted country station as they went around the bend, Roger buried in the map. "It should be a few more turns up the road." He said, trying to be heard over the singer crying out for the lost days of his youth in Kentucky.

"What?!" Faith shouted. "Brianna, turn it down!"

Brianna huffed and turned the radio down. "What, Roger?" She asked.

"Three more bends, then we take a left." Roger said. He made the mistake of looking out the window, and he muttered a prayer.

"Stop being dramatic." Brianna said flatly. "It's just the right side of the road."

"I think you need to desensitize him." Faith said. I mean, he can handle a taxi ride, but we need to work up to long car rides."

"I wasna happy about the taxis either!" Roger argued. "And they are far worse drivers! Scared the piss out of me."

"Oh no, they're rabid." Brianna agreed. "Not as bad as New York though."

Roger never wanted to go to New York.

~~

The festival was… Actually fun. There was dancing, log hurling that Brianna very nearly tried to join, food, and even dance classes.

The dance class was his favorite because he got to dance with Brianna. And dancing with her was like dancing with fire. Her hair flying, her eyes lit up like the night sky, her beautiful smile. All the energy and excitement in the world converged on her. She was a lot like fire, he'd found. Bright and warm and cozy, but fierce and able to burn.

If she was fire, he was a firebug.

Later, Roger would realize they lost Faith at some point. He didn't notice, he was more focused on Brianna. She belonged with these people. She fit in easier than he did. She moved through the crowd, towering over a lot of people, and she just… Belonged. At some point she got a Fraser scarf, and suddenly she looked so beautiful. With her red hair, her orange sweater, and the colors of the tartan, she looked like an autumn goddess.

She noticed him staring, and her smile was more lovely than anything he had ever seen.

Sitting for the clan portrait, his arm around her, was the happiest moment of his life.

The day blurred after that, until he realized they were alone together in the private cabin they'd rented. And they were getting closer. She was still wearing her Fraser scarf.

He took it off of her, and she kissed him. And he was happy that that was all it was. Kissing. Just holding her felt like he was holding the world. He would never need anything else.

Chapter Text

The morning chill was a horrible way to wake up.

Jamie groaned and tried to move closer to Claire. He hated being cold. His thoughts were fuzzy enough that he didn't remember he had stitches to worry about.

He winced as he tried to reach a bit too far. His ‘range of motion’, as Claire called it, wasn’t bad for a week of healing. But Jamie still wasn’t happy with only being able to move his arms so much.

“Good morning to you too.” Claire mumbled into her pillow. She sat up, her hair in a cloud around her head.

“Mornin’.” Jamie said, sitting up carefully. It took a bit of maneuvering to get up without causing much pain or tugging on a stitch. He still wasn’t over the pure joy that was waking up to a flat chest. He doubted he ever would be.

Claire smiled as she got dressed. "Need a hand getting up?" She asked. "Or are you happy sitting and staring?"

"It's a new view." Jamie defended himself, but he was smiling. "I canna thank ye enough, Claire. I never will."

"You can start thanking me by taking it easy." Claire sat beside him. "There's still plenty of things you can do without moving around too much. Heaven knows there isn't enough knitwear in this house." She gestured at the closet, which was filled to the bursting with knitwear.

Jamie gave her a look, but nodded. "Aye. We canna have enough. But, we ran out of yarn. And the lads were going to get more, since you wilna let me get us sheep."

"We are not getting sheep." Claire said flatly. "The goat and pigs are enough."

"Ye say that, but then we wouldna run out of wool." Jamie pointed out. "And we can make and dye our own yarn."

"No. Not yet." Claire said as she got up. She grabbed her stockings and put them on the wrong feet, so the clocks faced the inside. Claire didn't seem to care, folding the tops over her garters.

Jamie got up as well to grab a pair of trousers and his own stockings. It wasn't very comfortable, and he felt something pulling, but he tried to hide it. He was not about to ask for help getting dressed.

He gave up on that when he was putting on his waistcoat. Rolling his shoulders back that much hurt. Claire was by his side before he asked, helping him into his waistcoat and coat.

Jamie kissed her gently. "I love ye." He said quietly. "More than anything."

Claire smiled. "I love you too." She said. "And we'll have a good day."

They both got to work doing their chores. Jamie couldn't do much, so he mostly just followed Claire and helped where he could.

Jamie kept looking at the road, his concern building as the wagon never appeared. "Where in the blasted hell are they?" He mumbled. "They should be home by now."

"They could just have had a delay." Claire points out. "They'll probably be home by tomorrow."

That didn't stop him from worrying all night. Something didn't feel right. Maybe it was just the anxiety of not knowing where they were, if they were safe. It was by far the longest time he'd been away from Willie, and he tried to chalk it up to that.

He still lay awake most of the night, and was up well before dawn the following morning to watch for the wagon. He didn't notice the cold until Claire came out, wrapped in a blanket.

She sat beside him on the porch and wrapped the blanket around both their shoulders.

Jamie watched the road intently until finally, just as it was becoming well and truly morning, the rattling of the wagon could be heard. Jamie relaxed visibly, and got up to see if he could see them yet.

“DA!!” Came a familiar shout, and Jamie grinned.

~~

“So... Ye found Murtagh?”Jamie asked, confused. “And that’s what kept ye both?” Jamie asked. He wasn’t surprised Murtagh was here, the men of Ardsmuir were scattered about the Empire. Finding Murtagh in North Carolina was just damn lucky.

“Aye! He’s a smith now.” Ian said. “We tried to get him to come with us, but he said he had more important things to do.”

“We went to this meeting.” Willie jumped in. “With a bunch of other Scots. They were all talking about how the Governor was overtaxing them.”

Jamie could imagine. Murtagh was a very opinionated person, and he tended to choose his battles wisely. And from what Claire told him of the Revolution, Murtagh had made a safe bet. Just not this early.

Ian kept going, talking over both Jamie’s thoughts and his cousin. “Could we build him a smithy here? I promised that if he came, we’d make him a smithy. Well, I didn’t. Fergus did.”

“We can make a smithy, aye.” Jamie muttered to himself. He glanced out at the dark sky. It was well past nightfall now, and after a busy day, he mostly wanted to sleep. “We can think of a place in the morning, lads.” He said after a moment. “For now, off ye go to bed.”

Ian was half way to getting up when he snapped his fingers. “There’s a letter from the Governor! Said somethin’ about a play.” He fished around in his various pockets for the letter before handing it over. Jamie took it curiously.

Willie was half way between the stairs and the door when someone knocked. He looked back at his family, confused. “Who’d be callin’ this late?”

Claire reached for the musket while Jamie grabbed his dagger from beside the fireplace. Ian grabbed Rollo’s coller.

Willie cautiously opened the door.

Murtagh was not expecting to be greeted by weapons and a growling wolf. But, he’d had worse receptions. “Christ lad! It’s just me!” He said, throwing his hands up. “Who the hell are ye expecting?”

Jamie lowered the dagger. “Murtagh?” He asked, confused but excited. “I thought ye weren’t coming?”

“Aye, so did I.” Murtagh admitted. “But then I said to hell with it and tracked the lads. They canna cover their tracks worth shite.” He gave a pointed look to Ian, who bristled but stayed quiet.

Jamie laughed. “Well come in man! We just finished dinner, but there’s jerky.”

Murtagh went to hug him, but Jamie backed away. Hugging straight on seemed like a bad idea. Murtagh, however, looked very confused. He glanced at Claire, who looked at Jamie, who was trying to figure out how to explain.

“Boys, off to bed.” Claire said, saving Jamie from having to come up with a way of talking around it.

“But Auntie!” Ian protested. Willie stayed put by the door,

“Boys.” Claire said warningly. “Bed. Now.”

Murtagh and Jamie sat down by the fire as the boys headed upstairs. Murtagh looked between Jamie and Claire, suspicious. They did something they couldn’t tell anyone else about, which made him think time travel was involved. After they were silent for a while, Murtagh got fed up. “Just spit it out! Jesus Christ, I’ve only got so many minutes left!”

Claire took a deep breath, but Jamie started talking before she got the chance. “Claire kens how to perform a surgery, that flattened my chest. An’ I’m a bit sore ‘round the chest because she only did it a week ago.” He explained badly.

Murtagh blinked, then looked at Claire.

Claire pinched her nose. “I’m a surgeon.” She explained. “And I know a surgery that’s used for men like Jamie to give them flat chests. I’ve performed a few, and I know from experience that Jamie is recovering normally.” Her science talk was oddly reassuring, and much less confusing then Jamie’s rushed explanation.

Confident in his knowledge, he grinned at Jamie. “Well done, laddie!”

Jamie was positively beaming.

 

October, 1971

Roger nearly jumped out of his seat when the phone rang. He scrambled to grab it, pushing papers out of the way in his rush. When he picked up, the operator informed him that it was a long distance call, then connected him. His heart leapt. Brianna hadn’t called him in over a week, and he’d been starting to worry.

His heart sank again when he heard Faith on the other end of the line, in a panic. “Roger! Is Brianna with you?”

“No, she hasna contacted me in a week.” Roger said. “Why?”

Faith cursed. “I’m coming over there now!”

Chapter Text

October 16th, 1971, Scotland

Roger picked up Faith at the airport, very concerned and bursting with news. She was easy to find, given she was easily the tallest woman on the plane and also had a bubble around her. She looked absolutely pissed.

Roger very nearly made a quick escape. Angry people were not his specialty. But, he stayed put. "Faith!"

She noticed him and made her way over. "Did she send you any kind of letter?" Faith asked immediately.

"Aye, I got it here. We can talk in the car." Roger said hurriedly. "We shouldna talk here."

Faith nodded and followed him out of the airport. She sat down in the passenger seat of Roger's car. "What did she say?" Faith asked.

"She said that something is going to happen to Jamie and Claire." Roger said quickly. "She didn't say what she was doing but I ken, we both do."

Faith nodded. "And we know what we have to do."

Roger nodded before doing a double take. "We?"

~~

Faith looked up at the stone, buzzing loud in her ears. She clutched the edges of her cloak, steeling her nerves. Roger was beside her, face freshly shaved and looking anxious as ever.

Faith realized that they had no real plan. The plan was out the window once they went through. There was no going back, they didn't bring extra gem stones. They didn't have extra gem stones. They were going in unguarded and blind. Everything she knew about strategy told her that this was a plan that would get them both killed.

She looked at Roger. "Ready?" She asked.

Roger nodded. They reached forward together, and Faith felt like she'd been thrown.

~~

Faith groaned as she woke up. Her head hurt something awful, and she felt like she'd been slammed down on the ground by a wrestler. She sat up, rubbing her head. Her hair had come loose from the braid she had put it in, so it hung in loose curls around her shoulders.

She rubbed her head and looked for Roger. He was flat on his back a little ways away, rubbing his nose.

Faith stifled a laugh. "Landed face first?" She asked.

"Well I havena done this before, unlike ye." Roger mumbled. "I dinna ken how to land properly."

Faith got up, brushing the grass from her skirts. "Come on. We're 10 days behind her, she could already be on a ship." She started walking, fishing for her map in her bag. "Which way to the docks?"

"The closest port, ye mean?" Roger asked, scrambling behind her. "It's a long walk, a few days at least." He checked his compass. "Should be southeast of us, what's the map say?"

"Southeast." Faith agreed. "We should get moving, if it's such a long walk."

~~

Roger did not like being in the employ of Stephen Bonnet. The man had a way about him. A terrifying one. Like he would blow up a school bus if it got him what he wanted.

Roger was sat with Faith in a rare moment of rest, staring at the drawing of him and Brianna. "I miss her so much." He whispered.

"I do too." Faith said softly. She was braiding a lock of her hair, then undoing it over and over again. It was a nervous habit she had picked up somewhere.

Roger leaned back and looked up. "We should be close to the first port." He said quietly. "Then it's only a few more before Wilmington."

Faith nodded. "We'll find her." She said with all the confidence she could muster.

She stood up, only for something to howl in pain. Faith shrieked and jumped backwards, just in time to see a pale hand with an indent in the shape of her heel be pulled back behind crates.

Roger jumped up and moved the crates out of the way. He was met with the barrel of a gun shoved in his face.

"Don't feckin' try it!" Came a squeaky voice. Roger was very focused on the barrel of the gun in his face.

"Okay, okay! Just put the gun down!" Roger said. "We dinna want to hurt ye!"

The gun was lowered, revealing a young man about their age. His black hair was shaggy, only a little shorter than Roger's. His eyes, a bright blue, flickered between Roger and Faith. He was dressed in old clothing, but decidedly more modern than what they were wearing. "Who are you?" He asked.

Roger cleared his throat. "I'm, uh, Roger MacKenzie. This is Faith Fraser." He said. "Pleasure to meet ye and all that, now can ye put the bloody gun away?"

The man reluctantly put the gun down. "Fionn O'Dea." Fionn introduced himself.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Faith asked, finally finding her voice again. She already didn't like him one bit, he was screwing up all of her plans.

"You're American?" Fionn asked, confused. "I thought…"

"You're a time traveler too?" This was too confusing. Faith was floundering. How many people time traveled?

Fionn relaxed greatly. "Thank God." He said quietly. "Do ye know when the hell we are? I've been trying to figure it out for weeks but I've been hiding on ships and in the woods."

"December of 1769." Faith said. "When are you from?" There were so many questions rolling around in her mind.

Fionn looked confused. "Same as ye. 1916."

Roger and Faith looked at each other with matching expressions of 'What the hell'.

 

Late December, 1769, North Carolina

Brianna stepped off the ship she had bought passage on, Lizzie just behind her. Her uncle's words were clear in her mind. 'Go to River Run. Find your Auntie Jocasta. She'll send you your parents' way.'

She would just need to find passage that way. She looked around the port, not entirely sure where to start. She figured the logical place to start would be a tavern. People would be talking there.

She stepped in, holding herself with all the elegance she could manage. A few heads turned, but they all went back to their conversations or drinks quickly.

Brianna turned to Lizzie. "Could you get us a room?" She asked. Lizzie nodded and went to find the tavern keeper.

Brianna didn't have to ask around long before she found some information. There was a ferry that made the trip to River Run once a week, and they would be coming back in a few days.

She was not expecting to turn around and see Roger, standing there with a tiny ponytail and a huge smile.

"Bree?" Roger asked quietly.

Brianna was happy to see him, but good lord was she also pissed. "What are you doing here?"

Roger looked very confused. "I- your letter?" He said sheepishly. "I didna want ye to go alone." He explained.

Brianna went to hug him. "You are so lucky you're cute." She mumbled.

Roger hugged her back tightly. "I missed ye so much." He said quietly. "I was scared ye were hurt or that something happened to your ship…"

"I'm fine, I promise." Brianna pulled away so she could look him in the eyes. “Are you okay?” He looked tired and thinner then when she’d seen him last.

“Aye lass, I’m fine.” Roger was still so ridiculously happy to see her. “You’re more beautiful than ever.” He whispered.

Brianna kissed him. “I love you too.” She said.

Roger got the brightest idea. “Marry me.” He said quickly.

Brianna stared. “Wait, what?”

“Ye heard me, let’s get married!” Roger said exciedtly. “We can have your sister and the wee Irish lad as witnesses!”

“Wait, my sister is here?!”

“... I shoulda told ye that sooner.”

Bree gave him a look and grabbed his hand. “Yes. Now let’s go find my sister and ‘the wee Irish lad’, and then we can get married.”

Roger should not have been grinning as wide as he was.

~~

Faith was fed up. She and Fionn -who had insisted on joining her- had scoured Wilmington head to toe. Asked as many people as they could. And Faith was about ready to throw in the towel for the day. They could have missed her by days.

Fionn noticed her looking down. Even in the short time he had known Faith, he knew she was a fierce woman. Her looking defeated didn't feel right.

"Don't worry." He said softly. "We'll find your sister." He smiled reassuringly.

Faith gave him an amused look. "You make big promises for a man drowning in his own coat."

Fionn puffed up a bit, though that didn't bring him close to Faith's height. "It's not my coat, may I remind ye, we stole it."

"Yes. You picked it though." Faith said. "We'll find you a better one later. One made for someone short."

"I am not short! I'm nearly as tall as ye!"

Faith looked down at him. She was at least a few inches taller than him. "You're like, 5'6." She pointed out.

Fionn huffed and marched onward, not dignifying the insult to his height with a response. He was 5'7, thank you very much.

Faith laughed and went to follow, but stopped. She could have sworn…

"FAITH!" A familiar voice shouted. A voice Faith had known since she was born.

She turned around and spotted Brianna waving, Roger by her side. Faith grinned and grabbed Fionn's hand. "Brianna!" She shouted back.

Brianna nearly tackled her with her hug. "I missed you so much." She said softly. "You will never guess who I met!"

Faith hugged her back tightly. "Who did you meet?" She asked, more than happy to just hold her. It was the longest they'd been separated.

"Uncle Ian, and I remembered him!" Brianna said excitedly. "He was the one who taught me to say damnit!"

Faith stared, memories clicking. "Did he have a wood leg?"

Brianna nodded. "He did! It was really him!"

Faith had no idea what to think. That confirmation of that childhood memory, of a man with a wooden leg, made her earliest memories seem solid again.

"Who's this? The 'wee Irish lad'?" Brianna asked, pulling away and looking down at Fionn.

"I am not 'wee'!" Fionn protested. "Ye are all just feckin' giants!"

Brianna nodded, but she was trying to hide a laugh. "So… Roger and I have news.." She squeezed Roger's hand, and his face heated up a little.

"We're getting married." Roger explained. "Like, now."

Faith stared. Then she decided that this was not the weirdest thing that could be happening. They were time travelers. This was not the weirdest thing any of them had done. "Shotgun wedding it is then. Can you even get married without a minister or something?"

Roger and Brianna looked at each other for a moment before Roger snapped his fingers. "We'll be handfast!" He said excitedly. He explained once the other three gave him a strange look. "It's a Highland tradition. Two people, if a minister isn't close, can be wed for a year and a day. If they want to, at the end of that time, they can wed for real. We'll need witnesses, but it's legal in this time!"

Brianna nodded. "Let's do that!"

~~

Fionn leaned over. "So… Do ye know what we do?" He asked Faith in a whisper.

"We sit here and we listen." Faith said. "So shut up."

Fionn shut up and sat as Roger and Brianna traded their vows. It wasn't a ceremony he understood very well, but he got the gist. They both seemed happy.

Roger said his vows first. He stumbled a few times on the words, but the final words were clear. "Blood of my blood, bone of my bone. I give you my trough."

Brianna repeated what Roger had said, stumbling over more words. But her meaning was clear.

Once they kissed, Faith stood up, dragging Fionn with her. "And this is where we leave." She said. Fionn had no complaints about leaving.

~~

Brianna lay beside Roger, perfectly content. She lay her head on his chest, listening to his heart beating. He ran his fingers through her hair, amazed that she was his. Forever and always.

Brianna looked up at him after a moment. "We probably shouldn't sleep here.." She said softly.

Roger nodded and sat up. "Ye have your own lodgings?" He asked. "If ye don't, I have a place I've been sleeping."

"I have my own lodgings." Brianna said. "You know, the tavern? I asked Lizzie to get us a room." She sat up and reached for her stays.

"May I help?" Roger asked. "And walk ye there?" He smiled when Brianna nodded, and helped her dress before getting himself dressed. He tied his hair back, and got the door for her. "After ye, Mrs. MacKenzie."

Brianna laughed. "Why thank you, Mr. MacKenzie." She said, taking his arm as they strolled down the street to the tavern.

Roger stopped at the door. "This is where I must leave ye." He said softly. "I'll be back tomorrow morning, I promise."

Brianna kissed him. "See you tomorrow." She said softly. She waited as he left down the street before entering the tavern.

There was a group of men playing cards. She spared them a glance, but she noticed something. A familiar ring on an unfamiliar hand. That was her mother's ring.

Chapter Text

Roger entered the tavern the next morning with a bounce in his step, ready to retrieve his wife. He was whistling a tune as he looked around, trying to find the head of familiar red curls. He was worried when he couldn't find her.

He found the owner washing a table. "Have ye seen the lass I was with last night? Red hair, brown eyes?" He asked. The owner shrugged and went back to his table.

"Mr. MacKenzie!" A familiar voice called. "Nice of ye to show your face, I was about to go looking for ye."

Roger turned around to see Bonnet, lounging like a cat. He tried to compose himself. "Aye. Just lookin' for my lady." He explained.

"Oh, so ye had luck with your lass then?" Bonnet leaned forward, a gleam in his eyes. "I had good luck too." The laughter from the crew made him a little suspicious. But Roger didn't question it.

"Aye. I'm actually looking for her now." Roger said. "She's trying to find her parents, so…"

"Well, I hope ye wished her luck last night." Bonnet smirked. "Because we're shipping out this morning."

Roger was incredibly confused. "I said I was only on till Wilmington?"

"And I said, you're on till Philadelphia." Bonnet smirked. "And, not to discredit your lass, but I'd rather ye lose her rather than a limb… Seeing as if ye left now, that would be abandoning your post."

Roger looked around one last time for Brianna desperately. But she was nowhere. He looked back at Bonnet, who smirked as he got up. "Come on, Mackenzie." He said.

Roger grabbed the owner's arm before he left. "When she comes down, please tell her that I'll be back soon." He begged. When the owner nodded, he left. He left with a thousand promises in his heart to come home to her.

~~

Brianna came down the stairs carefully. She still felt too shaken to cry. She just wanted Roger. It was late, but she hoped he would still be waiting for her. She wanted to fall into his arms and cry, knowing she was safe in his arms.

Finding him gone felt like her trust was broken in two. Finding out he left without so much as a word felt like he betrayed her.

She ran to the docks as fast as she could, hoping against hope that she could at least see the ship. But it was long gone, and far out of view.

Brianna wanted to sob, and she felt close to doing it when Lizzie called her. "Mistress!"

Brianna turned around to see Lizzie, trailed by Faith and Fionn. Lizzie skidded to a halt in front of her, panting. "Mistress, you wilna believe what I've heard!"

Brianna was not in the mood for gossip. "Not now, Lizzie. We need to find a way to get to River Run." She started walking, but was stopped by Faith.

"No, you really need to hear this." Faith said. "Folks talk about the well to do Scots in the area, right?"

"Right. What does that have to do with anything?" Brianna asked, more annoyed by the second.

"Ye said your Da's name is Fraser?" Fionn asked. "I was talkin' with Lizzie and a maid from down the way -real nice lass, German I think she was- and she said that her friend-"

"For God's sake Fionn, we don't have time!" Faith snapped. "The point is, the wife of a Mr. Fraser cut open a man to heal him. Who does that sound like?"

"Mama." Brianna stared. "That sounds just like Mama."

"And it was last night! And I heard that the Mr. Fraser is down at the silversmith's!" Lizzie said excitedly.

That was all Brianna needed to hear before she took off running.

She looked around frantically for the silversmith. Hoping that her father hadn't left yet. Hoping she wasn't too late.

She knocked frantically on the door, and talked very quickly when a man opened it. "Is Jamie Fraser still here?"

The smith looked back into the shop. "Mr. Fraser, there's a girl askin' for you."

Brianna was not expecting to be faced with someone she knew. She had tried over the years to recall her father's face. All she had ever gotten was the image of red hair like her's, and blue eyes like Faith's. But looking at Jamie, she recognized him the same way she recognized Ian.

He didn't seem to recognize her. "I'm Jamie Fraser. Do ye have a message for me?"

"I… Do you know…" Brianna stumbled over her words. "I'm…"

Jamie looked very confused. "Hey, lass, it's okay. Ye look like ye ran half a mile, take a moment." He smiled reassuringly, and Brianna relaxed just a bit.

"You have a daughter, named Brianna?" She asked softly.

Jamie's reply was more stilted. And Brianna could hear a hint of grief in his tone. "Aye. I have two daughters. Why, is something wrong? Has something happened to Brianna?"

"I'm Brianna."

Jamie stared at her. There was no way. She was gone, far away in the future. Safe. But then he spotted it.

The little birthmark under her ear.

"Brianna?" He whispered. "It… It's really you." As it sunk in, he grinned and hugged her tightly. "Oh thank Christ! I thought I would never hold ye again!"

Brianna hugged him back tightly. "Da." She whispered.

Jamie stood for a moment before pulling away, still holding her by the shoulders. "Is Faith-"

"Brianna!!"

Jamie looked up, and Brianna turned around to see Faith staring at them in shock.

Brianna smiled. "I found Da." She said, which sounded way too simple. Like they'd just been lost for a few hours in a strange city, not separated by centuries.

Faith stared, then came up the steps and hugged Jamie tightly. Jamie held her for dear life. "A leannan, I thought ye were lost to me." He whispered. He couldn't believe it. Faith and Brianna were here. He was holding them again. They were grown women, they were everything he could have dreamed of.

He was more than happy when Brianna joined the hug. "I havena held the both of ye since ye were barins." He said softly. He tried to compose himself a bit more. He needed to be strong. And the hug hurt a lot, even with his stitches out. "Have ye seen your mother?" He asked softly.

Both Faith and Brianna shook their heads.

Jamie smiled. "Well, come on then. She'll be verra pleased to see ye."

~~

Claire was coming back after paying a visit to the apothecary before their departure. She was counting her coins as she made her way back.

"Sassenach!"

Claire looked up, spotting Jamie easily. And the two girls beside him.

She dropped her basket and ran to hug them. "Faith! Bree!" Claire embraced her daughters. "Oh my god, what are you doing here? Are you both alright?"

"We're alright, Mama." Faith said quietly. "We promise."

Claire held them both close. She couldn't believe they were together again.

~~

Jamie didn't notice Fionn until they were getting on the ferry. He was much more focused on his daughters, then to notice some skinny little man with an Irish accent.

Ian noticed right away. "An' just what do ye think you're doing?" He asked.

Fionn stopped half way up the gangplank and turned around. "Getting on a ferry. What, is that illegal?"

"Why are ye comin' with us?" Ian got up in his face. "Do ye fancy my cousin, ye-"

"Call me a mick or a paddy, and ye won't see your balls again." Fionn snarled. You could almost see his hackles going up. "I don't fancy anyone, much less your cousin."

Faith stood to try and grab his arm. "Fionn-"

"Stay out of this, cousin." Ian said, his eyes not leaving Fionn. "Why are ye here?"

Fionn glanced back at Faith before looking back at Ian. "The English want my head." It wasn't a lie. "So I'm not keen on going home, as much as I would like to." Also not a lie. There was nowhere in his Ireland for him to hide.

"You're a murderer?" Ian asked, in a smug tone.

Fionn grabbed him by the collar. "A freedom fighter." He said in a quiet voice. "I fought to free my country from the tyranny of the crown. What can ye say you've done? Threatened a man because ye don't like where he's from?" He let go of Ian. "I'm from Belfast, by the way." He said, giving Ian the coldest possible stare. "Bastard na hAlban tú."

The satisfaction of turning around while knowing Ian was trying to translate it was immeasurable. He sat down beside Faith.

Jamie watched the lad curiously. He'd known a few Irishmen. They came in the same kinds as Scots. The dumb ones trusted the English, the smart ones didn't trust any Englishman as far as they could throw him.

Fionn fell into the latter category. And Jamie figured that giving the lad a chance wouldn't hurt.

Chapter Text

Jamie woke up from an all too familiar nightmare. His nightmares had gotten better as the years passed, and now with Claire they were very occasional. But they never went away. And getting back to sleep after them was nearly impossible, that he knew very well.

He got up, looking back at Claire. She was still fast asleep, curled up under the quilts. It had been a few months now, and they were finally getting into March and the marginally warmer months. It was still cold enough that he decided to get dressed, since he wasn't keen on freezing his feet off.

He wished, not for the first time, that he had his plaid. He wished he could bundle himself up in the thick wool. He missed how it felt under his fingers.

He tried to push it away. He wouldn't ever get it back, and wishing for it wouldn't bring him any closer.

Claire woke up a little when she heard rustling. She opened her eyes, making out the shape of her husband in the dark. "Jamie?" She asked quietly.

Jamie looked back. "Go back to sleep, Sassenach." He said quietly. "I'm going to go check on the barins."

Claire nodded and lay her head back on the pillow, watching Jamie as he left.

Jamie went to check on William first. He was fast asleep in his bed, snoring softly. He looked a lot like George, especially when he slept. He had the same hair and the same face, and Jamie couldn't say it didn't unsettle him.

But Willie was nothing like George. And Jamie tried to see Claire in Willie instead, which only worked sometimes.

It was painful to have a constant reminder of what happened at Helwater. But he loved Willie, and he hoped that he could raise his son to be a better man than George. And raising Lord Dunsaney's firstborn son as a Scot brought a sort of sick satisfaction to him. It was the most revenge he would ever get, but it was great revenge.

He gently closed the door to Willie's room and headed outside to check on Faith and Brianna.

The shelter they had set up wasn't meant to house four people, and Jamie was already planning an addition to the house or making them their own cabins. He made a mental note to ask later.

He opened the door carefully. Faith was on the floor, and Brianna had one of the beds. Lizzie was on the other, and Fionn was under one of the beds. They made an odd set, for sure.

Jamie watched them for a moment. Faith slept fitfully, moving around a lot. Brianna hardly moved at all, aside from small smiles in her sleep. Jamie smiled when he remembered the first time she smiled.

They had been home for a little bit, nearly two months. Jamie had still spent most of his time with the babies, not really having the courage to face his family yet. He'd been sitting by the window, lost in his head. Brianna had been going through a very clingy phase, so he'd been holding her close.

When he'd looked back at her, she'd been smiling so wide. He had no idea to this day what made her smile, but he'd been so excited that he ran downstairs to tell everyone. And after that, he'd started spending more time with his family again. Her one smile probably saved him from spiraling like he had with William.

Now, here she was. Grown up, without him. She probably didn't even know that story, because Jamie had never been there to tell it to her.

He closed his eyes. He hadn't thought that he would even meet her or Faith. But here he was.

He tried to push the emotions away and focus on happy memories. Faith's first word came to him, and he stifled a chuckle. Faith had only had two words before that, Mama and Da, and Ian was dead set on her first real word being 'uncle'. Unbeknownst to him, Murtagh was working to get her to say Grandda.

Faith's first word had been after dinner one night, when she had pointed at a bannock and said "Bumok!"

Jamie was still proud of himself for thwarting Ian and Murtagh.

He stayed for another moment before he went back inside. More memories followed him inside, though he tried not to think about them.

He sat back down in his and Claire's bed. He still didn't feel ready to sleep, but he didn't know what else to do with himself this early. The nerves from the dream remained. He’d never actually talked about them. There were a few recurring ones, but they were also the worst.

Jamie put his head in his hands. The one he’d had had evolved over the years, and it was still just as vivid as it was 20 odd years ago. It felt like he was watching what could have happened to him, if Randall had exposed him that day in Wentworth. Or if George had known Jamie would have a son. As far as Jamie knew, George didn’t even know Jamie had had a child. And Randall never knew.

Or, he hoped he never knew.

Jamie tried to push the thought away. It had invaded his mind before, making its own little camp and staying. But he always managed to route it off before he thought too much. But it always came back. What if he had known? What if he found out somehow?

Whenever he’d thought about it before, he always remembered something that he wasn’t sure was real. When he had been crumpled on the grass, buckled over in pain from labour with the twins, he had looked up for a moment. He’d been trying to find Claire, but his eyes landed on Randall for a brief moment. What Jamie wasn’t sure was real, was Randall smirking.

Jamie didn’t know what to think. He desperately wanted to believe he made it up, he’d been in a lot of pain and he was probably seeing things. And he would never know for sure. Randall was dead, and gone for good. Even if he had known, he had never met Faith and Brianna. That he was confident of.

He lay back down, staring at the ceiling. He wondered if Faith and Bree even knew what happened. Claire had said she told them everything, but did that include Randall?

He rolled over. Not for the first time, his anger spiked at the thought of Frank raising his daughters. He may as well have just given them to Black Jack. From what Claire said, he was the spitting image of the man. He would have more resemblance to the girls then Claire. Even now, Faith and Brianna both had traces of him. Faith’s loosely curled hair, Brianna’s eyes, even a few of their mannerisms.

Jamie pressed his face into the pillow. He hated the rabbit warren that he always found himself in when he thought about this.

Claire sat up, finally deciding that letting him be quiet wasn’t working. “Jamie?” She asked quietly, “Talk to me. What’s going on?”

“Go back to sleep, Sassencah.” Jamie said softly. “Ye need to rest.”

“Well I can’t, I’m worried about you.” Claire shuffled a little closer to him. “Talk to me.”

Jamie was silent for a long moment. “How much did ye tell them?” He asked after a moment. “About Randall?”

Claire was quiet. Too quiet. Which told Jamie all he really needed to know. They knew what happened. It explained part of why they were so distant and cautious. And he had to reassure them, which he was more than ready to do.

Claire hugged him tightly, not breathing a word of a secret she’d been keeping for 20 years.

 

April, 1746, Inverness

Claire hadn't known what to do. She'd had a fussy baby, an appointment to keep, and no one around to watch Brianna. Faith was fast asleep, and likely to stay that way all afternoon, so Claire trusted Fergus to keep her safe. But Brianna had been screaming her head off, and only happy when Claire had picked her up and left with her. Which was how she ended up at MacGilvery's boarding house with Brianna in tow.

Mary stood off to the corner, holding Brianna. "She's so cute, Mistress Fraser." The girl said softly.

"She's the image of her father." Claire smiled as she stuffed the pipe. "Born with the most flaming red hair I had ever seen in my life."

Mary nodded, but went quiet. Footsteps approached the room, and Claire quickly fell silent to. She dreaded who it would be, but her worst fear was realized when the door opened.

Jonothan Wolverton Randall stood in the doorway, holding his hat and looking between the four occupants.

Chapter Text

April, 1746, Inverness

Claire stared across the table at the drunk before her. He was hardly the put together, always in control officer that he had been when they met. She wondered if she'd had anything to do with that. She hoped that she had.

Randall stared back, hazel eyes as dull as ever. Stray hairs were plastered to his face, and he reeked of alcohol. "What are you doing here?" He asked, words slurring together. "Beg me to take my brother's wife?"

Claire sat as tall as she could. "You are not deserving of begging." She said stiffly.

Randall chuckled. "Should tell that to your husband." He reached to fill his glass again, but Claire yanked the bottle away, rage searing under her skin.

"Do not talk about him." She hissed. But Randall just continued.

"I had no idea about the child, until the duel." He said, staring into the empty glass. "If I had known-"

Claire stood up. "You didn't know." She said angrily. "And he will never know you found out. Much less that you ever laid eyes on our daughter."

Randall looked up at her with one of his evil smirks. It was so close to Frank's smile, and she knew that this man was all she would ever be able to see when she thought of him. "Your daughter? The one who carries my name, surely?"

"No." Claire said, taking great delight in how his face fell just a bit. She she continued. "She carries Jamie's. Her name is Brianna Fraser, it will never be Randall. And she will never even know your name."

He looked so defeated, and Claire's heart soared. She had an in now, and a plan formed on the fly. "But you could give Mary and Alex's child your name. And your title. They'll be taken care of, long after Alex is gone."

"And what of your curse?" Randall spat, anger flaring. "April 16th, 1746. Only a few days away. I won't be here to take care of them."

"But your pension and your title will." Claire said. "Alex has neither. You can save Mary, and grant Alex's dying wish."

Randall was silent for a long time. And when he finally spoke, it was the opposite of what Claire wanted. "Did he ever tell you, what we did?"

Claire stiffened. "Yes." She said shortly. She knew what happened, but Jamie never talked about specifics.

Randall laughed, and Claire got up before she could listen to more of what he said. He didn't follow her.

 

March, 1770, Fraser's Ridge

Claire reached for Jamie's hand carefully. If he ever found out, she wasn't sure how affected he would be. He'd told her, more than once, how relieved he was that Black Jack had never even found out. Jamie's mental state was far from predictable in the best of times.

Jamie took her hand gingerly. "I can tell you're thinking." He said softly. "Out with it."

Claire shook her head. "It's not important." She said softly. "Just thinking."

Jamie didn't push her, for which Claire was grateful.

~~

It was a few days later when Jamie and Brianna ran into each other in the early morning.

Jamie had decided to finally go bee hunting, having run out of reasons to avoid it. And he was getting ready when he spotted Brianna in the weak dawn light.

He slung his bag over his shoulder as he stood up. "Brianna?" He asked.

Brianna jumped, but relaxed a bit when she saw Jamie. "Da? What are you doing up?"

"Could ask the same of ye. But, if you're curious, I'm going bee hunting." Jamie smiled. "Ye ever been bee hunting before?"

"No…" Brianna said slowly. "I haven't ever been bee hunting." Images of tiny rifles aimed at bumblebees came to her mind.

"Care to come?" Jamie offered. "It'll likely take all day, but we'll finally have some sweetness around here."

Brianna thought for a moment before shrugging. "Sounds fun." She said. She had nothing better to do, and getting away from everyone for a little bit sounded nice.

They set off a few minutes later, Jamie trying to explain how bee hunting worked. "We're looking for the big flat flowers." He explained. "The narrow ones are for the hummingbirds, but the flat ones attract bees."

Brianna nodded along. "And what do we do when we find a bee, exactly?" She was still envisioning tiny rifles.

"We follow it, back to the hive." Jamie explained. "Then we wait for dusk, when all the bees are inside, and we take the hive home."

Brianna nodded, rolling the thought around in her head. "But… Can't they just come back?"

"They won't know how." Jamie shrugged. "They'll figure out how to make their new home, and they'll come to like it."

Brianna nodded again, though she felt bad now. They were basically kidnapping a bunch of bees.

They didn't talk very much for a while. Neither was entirely sure how to reach out.

Jamie decided to start talking. "Did your Mam ever tell ye about when ye started rolling?" He asked.

Brianna raised an eyebrow. "No, she didn't."

Jamie grinned. "It was while we were at Lallybroch. Faith had been rolling for a couple of days, but we thought we were safe putting ye on the floor for a wee bit longer. I looked away for a second, and when I looked back ye were gone." He made a 'poof' motion with his hands. "Nearly fell over, I thought the faeries stole ye from the middle of the living room."

Brianna laughed. "Where was I?" She asked. "Under a couch?"

"Aye. Ye rolled yourself under the couch your aunt was sitting on, and she didna notice ye until the dogs barked at ye." Jamie had nearly keeled over at the time, but looking back it was hilarious. "I don't think your Mam put ye down in anything without walls until…"

Until Prince Charles forged his signature. Until they were called to fight. Until their little family packed themselves up and went on the move.

Brianna noticed his change in demeanor. "Da?" She asked quietly. "Are you okay?"

Jamie nodded. "I'm fine, a leannan. Dinna fash." He adjusted the bag on his shoulder, trying to pretend that was what bothered him. "Do ye see any flowers?"

Brianna looked around. There wasn't a trace of color on the dull brown of the forest floor. She was silent for a moment before offering a story of her own. "One time when Faith and I went to Cape Cod, we saw a shark."

Jamie looked impressed. "What kind of shark? A great white?" Jamie was happy to say he had never seen a great white himself.

"Probably." Brianna shrugged. "We were on the beach, and we saw the shadow in a wave. It was really cool, but we didn't go back in the water."

Jamie blinked. "Ye swim in the ocean?" He was genuinely confused. Swimming in rivers or lakes he understood, but swimming in the ocean seemed like begging for disaster.

"Yes." Brianna said, amused. "We swim in the ocean in 1971."

Jamie was silent for a long while, trying to get his head around that idea.

~~

Claire didn't know how she was going to tell Jamie. This wasn't something they could just hide, and it certainly wasn't right to.

She sat across from Jamie. "I need to tell you something." She said quietly. "And I need you to stay calm."

Jamie looked up from his book, concerned. "Aye, I promise." He took off his glasses and put the book away.

"It's about Brianna." Claire tried desperately to figure out how she should say this, and tried to buy some time.

Jamie leaned forward in his chair. "She's leaving." He said quietly. "Faith to, then?"

"No." Claire said quickly. "It's… Brianna…" She decided to just say it. "Brianna was raped. In Wilmington."

There was dead silence. So Claire kept talking. "She told me this morning. She doesn't know the name of the man who did it."

Jamie nodded, almost imperceptibly. "There's more, isn't there." He dreaded the answer.

"Yes." Claire said quietly. "She's pregnant."

Jamie stared at the fire, not saying another word. His daughter was enduring nearly the same thing he had, and he couldn't do anything about it. He couldn't protect her. He hadn't been there when she needed to be protected most.

And now she could fall prey to his worst nightmares.

Chapter Text

Brianna watched the goats, wondering what it would be like. Not having all the worries, all the pain of being human. Not having to worry about time travel. Not having to worry where Roger was, and why he left her.

Brianna kept hoping that she would look up, and Roger would be there. Relieved and happy and willing to take her, no matter what. Willing to adore her as he had before. In her daydreams, he would scoop her up and spin her and kiss her, and then she would take him inside and they would have dinner with her family. He could impress Jamie and Murtagh with all he knew, then make them laugh with some silly blunder or question.

And then they would build a cabin here. A home to raise their child in. With a hearth and a kitchen and Brianna would make them a calendar they could put on the wall. She could paint the walls and the doorways and make the cabin their's. The home of an artist and a historian. Books on every surface and art on every wall.

And a little boy or girl, always underfoot, with her hair and Roger's eyes, and the most delightful accent from growing up with so many Scottish playmates. Growing up just in time to see the Revolution, to see the Louisiana purchase. To see the beginning of American history.

She always came back. When she never wanted to leave her fantasy.

She was broken out of it then by a hand on her shoulder. She jumped and whirled around, only to see the concerned face of her sister.

"Brianna?" Faith asked quietly. "Are you okay?" It was far from the first time she had asked, and Bree knew that Faith never believed her when she said she was okay.

Brianna was tired of lying. "No." She said quietly. "I'll… I'll tell you later."

Faith leaned on the fence. "Does it have to do with Roger?" She asked.

"Yes." Brianna said. It wasn't a lie. Everything happened after Roger left. And she missed him desperately.

Faith was quiet, and Brianna was going to say something when she heard someone else coming. She tried to keep her composure as she looked over. She relaxed a bit when she saw it was just Jamie.

He looked awkward, almost. Unsure of himself. Brianna didn't know how to fit this new image of Jamie with the one she had. The Prince from Mama's stories was brave and true, the Jamie she first met was loving and kind.

Faith looked unsure. She didn't know how she felt about Jamie yet, and she tended to avoid him. "I have chores." She mumbled, and left quickly.

Jamie looked sad as he leaned on the fence next to Brianna.

"Don't worry." Brianna said. "She'll come around. She just needs a bit more time." She smiled a little, trying to reassure Jamie.

Jamie nodded a little. "Aye. But I came to talk to ye about something else." He was rubbing his hand, the one with all the scars. "Your mother… She told me what happened, in Wilmington."

Brianna stared at the goats. "And…"

"About the barin." Jamie said softly. "Brianna, I- whatever ye need-" He was cut off by Lizzie going by. "-Maybe we shouldn't talk here. I need to go check the snares, will ye come with me?"

Brianna nodded mutely. She definitely didn't want to talk here with everyone around. A walk to check on the snares seemed perfect.

Neither spoke until they got to the snare line. It was Brianna who broke the silence.

"Do you hate me?" She asked quietly.

Jamie answered quickly. "No, I don't. Why would I?"

"For being unwed and having a child." Brianna said. "Can't be what you were hoping for." She kicked some of the dead leaves littering the forest floor.

"Why would I hate ye for something ye had no choice in?" Jamie asked. "Ye didna choose this, and I ken that it's hard enough without being hated."

Brianna didn't look up. "Why did you keep us?" She asked bluntly. "Mama told us what happened to you, that Faith and I…" They were like her baby. The result of rape.

Like mother, like child.

Jamie was quiet for a while before he spoke. "I almost didn't. But, I saw ye as a gift, that I could give to your Mam. It was the only way we would have children, and I couldn't take that from her."

Brianna turned around to look at him. He was rubbing a scar on his palm, and he didn't look at her. She had wondered after Mama told her, what it must have been like. But this situation felt different. Nearly completely different. Brianna didn't have Roger, she was alone. And she was angry at so many things. But the easy target for her anger was Jamie.

"So you didn't love us?" Brianna asked. She knew it wasn't fair, but she was too angry to care. And it had been a fear for a long time. Frank hadn't loved her or Faith, not really. And she expected Jamie to hate her, as much as she hated the child she had now.

Jamie kept an even tone. "Bree, I didna say that. I love ye and your sister, ye saved my life." He took a cautious step closer to her. "I ken it's different, but-"

"But what?! I can't think of this baby as a gift of any kind!" Brianna snapped. "I don't have the love of my life, and there's no way this baby is his! And what if he rejects me?!"

"Are ye done?" Jamie asked gently.

Brianna nodded, the anger draining out of her. "What if he rejects me?" She whispered.

"If he's got any honor, he won't." Jamie said. "And I'll track him down across time to tell him so." He gingerly touched Brianna's shoulder.

Brianna didn't flinch. "Thank you." She said quietly. They walked in silence for a few minutes before she spoke again. "I don't know why I didn't fight harder." She nearly whispered. "I could have fought harder."

Jamie checked another trap. "No, ye couldn't have." He said.

"I just let it happen." Brianna picked at loose threads on her sleeves. "Why didn't I fight?"

"You're blaming yourself for not fighting off a bear with your bare hands." Jamie pointed out. "Bree, he would have killed ye. Ye did what ye had to, and you came out on the other side."

Brianna nodded a little. "Is that how you…"

Jamie was quiet, so she turned around. He was staring at the trap, seemingly lost in thought. "I did it to save your mother's life. I promised I wouldna fight. And I'd do it again to protect her."

Bree watched him stand up. "Did you finally kill him?" She asked. Maybe if she got her hands on Bonnet, it would help.

"Does it matter?" Jamie asked, heading to the next trap.

"Just wondering if it helped." Brianna followed him. "I know Mama stabbed him in the balls."

Jamie laughed a little. "That day was a right mess. But the best things about it were that, and holding ye and your sister for the first time." He could look back on that day with a small smile now, 20 years later.

Brianna didn't smile. "But… Did you kill him?"

Jamie was silent for a moment. "Aye. At Culloden. But it didna help any. There were hundreds dead, he was just another one. And I wasna in a state to take pleasure from his death."

Brianna nodded a little. "Just…I was hoping it would help me forget." She admitted quietly.

Jamie shook his head. "Ye don't ever forget." He examined the last trap. "It's like an injury, a bad one. It hurts less as time goes on. And ye stop noticing it every day. Ye never forget, and it never goes away. But ye live on, and it heals."

Brianna nodded a little. She needed the day she didn't notice to come soon. And hopefully Roger would be there.

~~

Roger opened his eyes as he felt himself falling forward. He hadn't realized he'd passed out, but he realized too late to catch himself. The rope around his wrists dug in, and he very nearly cried out.

He struggled back to his feet before he was pulled further by the horse. He kept walking by some wonder.

He looked up at the sky. They were still heading south. He had no idea where they were, just that it had been a week since he was sold to the Mohawk. But hopefully, they were heading in the right direction, back to North Carolina. If he could get away there, he could find his way back to Brianna.

He just needed to get away and time it right.

Chapter Text

Faith poked the fire. "I just don't know." She said. "Dads and I haven't had a great track record. Dad never liked me, probably because I have Da's eyes. And we never even got along."

Fionn nodded. "So… Tell me more?" He sat down to pick her brain about American culture in the 1970's, and instead he was here. Listening to her talk about how she and her dad had never gotten along. He could relate, and he guessed this was a way to learn about American culture. But this was not how he expected this to go.

He should have tried to pick Murtagh's brain about 17th and 18th century Highland culture.

"Dad likes history. A lot. I don't like it at all." Faith said. "Here is fine, because I'm living it. Technically I'm from here, so this isn't my past. But Dad, I think he loved history more than my stepmom." She put her head in her hands. "Don't even get me started on the divorce."

Fionn blinked. "Divorce?" He needed to write that down, that was fascinating. "Is that…Common?"

Faith shrugged. "I guess. I knew other people with divorced parents. But it wasn't like, super normal. People judged you for it."

Fionn grabbed his notebook and flipped it open to the 'American - Boston, 1970' section. He scribbled a note about divorce under fridges and the fixation on road trips and a fast food chain called 'McDonald's'. Beside it was a note that Jamie had been incredibly opposed to ever going there. This would make an amazing thesis for his PH.D paper, if he ever went home to get his PH.D.

Faith noticed. "What are you even doing? Are you like, a phycologist?" She asked.

"Anthropology student." Fionn said. "I was studying in Dublin, my PH.D focus was going to be Celtic culture across Ireland, Britain and France. Please, continue." He looked up, pen ready.

Faith stared at him. "Why am I just finding this out?" She stared at him long and hard. "You even look like an anthropology major, minus the glasses."

Fionn shrugged. "It never came up. Ye talk enough for the both of us. So please, keep talking."

Faith gave him a look, but continued. "It's just… He always liked Bree more. Not much more, but... She looks more like him, and I guess like Randall. He could pretend her hair is from like, some great great aunt or something. Murtagh said I look like my grandmother but with orange hair." She groaned. "I hate my hair, do you know how many people called me carrot top and then turned around and said Bree's hair was beautiful?"

"I think your hair is very pretty." Fionn offered. "It's a really pretty color."

"You don't count." Faith said. "You're my friend."

"Friends don't count? Why?"

"Because you have to say something nice to me! You're my friend!"

Fionn was about to reply when Brianna sat beside Faith. He took that as his cue to make himself scarce.

Faith poked the fire again, sparks flying into the inky blackness of the night. "You finally going to tell me what's going on?" She didn't look at Bree, instead watching the fire.

"I'm pregnant. And the baby… I don't even know. I don't think it's Roger's." Brianna said in a rush. She didn't want this to last longer than it needed to. She stared at Faith, waiting for a reaction.

Faith kept staring at the fire. "So… What happened, that you don't know who the father is?" She asked, watching a stick crumble and fall further into the flames.

"There was a man, at the tavern." Brianna said softly. "He had Mama's wedding ring, the one from Da." She dug around in her pocket until she found it. She took it out, rolling the silver around in her fingers. "And… I couldn't stop him." She deliberately said 'couldn't''. It helped her put less blame on herself. She couldn't have fought him off.

Faith hugged her faster then Bree could react. She hugged her back, relishing the hug.

Faith felt horrible. How hadn't she noticed? After all of this? And that bastard Roger, did he leave because he found out?

"Did Roger know? Is that why he left?" The anger in Faith's voice was badly concealed.

"No, he was just gone when I woke up the next day." Bree said quietly. "I think he was back on the ship, but I don't know."

"If he was, he'll be coming back here." Faith said. "I know it. We'll find him, or he'll find us." She looked her sister in the eyes. "Trust me."

Brianna nodded. If she trusted anyone with a promise like that, she trusted Faith.

~~

Jamie wondered if this was what would finally do it. He and Faith were working together on the still, trying to fix some part that had broken. They hadn't talked much through the process, but they were working together. It was more than Jamie could have ever asked for.

Faith wiped sweat from her forehead, her light copper hair sticking to her forehead. "Try it now, I think I got the leak."

Jamie tried the tap, and the whiskey poured out. He grinned. "There we go!" He raised the cup. "Slàinte mhath!" He toasted, and took a sip of the whiskey. It burned, and it tasted awful, but it was what he had.

"Can I have a sip?" Faith asked. Her expression was unreadable.

Jamie raised an eyebrow. "You're sure, a leannan?" He asked. "This is strong stuff."

Faith glared and held out her hand for the cup. Jamie handed it to her apprehensively, and stared in horror as she drank the rest of the cup. Seemingly completely fine.

She didn't notice her father's shocked expression. "Better then some whiskey I've had." She mused. "Needs a bit of aging."

Jamie recovered his ability to speak. "Christ lass, how did ye do that?"

Faith smiled. "You should have seen me a couple years ago. I drank Conner Mahoney under the table."

Jamie was in absolute awe. "Ye are a woman of many talents." He said.

It was Faith's turn to raise an eyebrow. "What other talent have you heard of?"

Jamie shrugged, leaning on the table. "I've heard you're an excellent strategist. How's your chess game?"

And that was how they spent the rest of the afternoon. Kicking each other's asses in chess. Jamie was incredibly impressed. And Faith was grinning the whole time.

~~

Faith was sat beside her Da while their family gathered around the fire with some Cherokee. Ian had brought a few of his friends back with him, and everyone was swapping stories and songs.

Brianna was sat next to William, who she still wasn't sure how to act around. The siblings were still unsure of each other. She wasn't really listening, more focused on her food and considering what to do.

There was still the chance. A small chance, but a chance that the baby could be Roger's. She had no way of knowing, which was the worst part. She would never know.

She was rubbing her stomach gently when a story caught her ear. One of the Cherokee was telling a story that had apparently happened recently.

Brianna didn't know enough to know every word, but the few she caught were 'Mohawk', 'Scotsman', and 'escaped'. Her heart nearly stopped.

There was no way.

Chapter Text

Roger approached the Captain's desk with a certain expectation that he felt was fairly reasonable. He would be payed, and then he could leave and head back to Wilmington to find Brianna. He felt like he wasn’t asking for much.

Bonnet had a wicked sort of smile as Roger came up. “Mr. MacKenzie! Just the man I was looking for.”

Roger was deeply unsettled by his expression, and it reinforced his opinion that trusting Bonnet was a very bad idea. But he didn’t have much of a choice. “Yes, sir?”

Bonnet reclined in his chair. “Well, the lads and I chipped in, to get ye home faster. We’ve arranged a bit of an escort for ye.” He smirked as he gestured. “Take your pay, they’re waiting off the ship.”

Roger took the coins cautiously. He didn’t know what to think. This seemed like the opposite of what Bonnet would do, just being nice. He knew from experience that Bonnet was not nice. There was something in it for him.

He was cautious as he left the ship, tucking the coins as securely as he could as he looked around. He looked around for whoever Bonnet could mean.

He saw one of his crewmates talking to a group of Native people. There was a sudden knock on the back of his head, and he blacked out.

~~

Roger's brilliant escape plan started with a nasty faceplant into a stump. He had tripped over something a mile before and hadn't been able to get back up until his head -painfully- hit a rotting stump. His head throbbed painfully, his concussion having never fully healed after two- or three?- months.

They had finally stopped for a moment as Roger groaned in pain, but he spotted something interesting as he opened his eyes. The glimmer of a stone arrowhead. He frantically grabbed it, and hoped to God that no one noticed.

He was taught as a bowstring for hours afterwards, watching his steps and keeping his fist clenched. Even as the arrowhead cut into his skin. He couldn't afford to let it fall out of his hands, or be discovered.

When they finally stopped, and Roger was tied up for the night, he bided his time until they all fell asleep before he started his work. He started with the ropes around his wrists, feeling so proud of himself as they fell away. He started frantically sawing at the rope around his middle.

It took much longer, but it only took cutting one before he could just unravel the rest. It was close to dawn when his work was done, and he didn't wait to stick around before he took off into the wilderness.

Roger knew, vaguely, how to avoid being tracked. He'd seen the Mohawk follow footprints, so he needed to find somewhere where he couldn't leave any or mislead them. He ran for a while before he spotted exactly what he was looking for. A stream he remembered passing, it was perfect.

He jumped in, and discovered he wildly overestimated his swimming ability. And desperately underestimate the depth of the river.

He was not expecting to be almost neck deep in frozen, rushing water. He tried to doggie paddle his way to the opposite shore, frantically splashing, but it was fruitless. A deep part came, and Roger’s head went under.

He saw a wedding aisle. He was standing at the altar, and he was watching the door of the church. He was waiting for something, someone. Everyone was.

And then he saw her. Flaming red hair, brown eyes as warm and sweet as hot chocolate. Glittering like gems. Dressed in silver and white, and she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

She stood in front of him, and she fixed the broach he wore with his kilt. “Ready?” She asked, her voice clear as a bell. And he nodded.

“I am.” He promised.

“Then come back to us.” She took his hand and squeezed it lightly. “I love you. Come home.”

Roger’s head broke the surface, and he gasped. He treaded water as best he could, but he couldn’t stay up for long.

His salvation came in the manner of a fallen tree across the river that he grabbed desperately. He clung for a moment, trying to get his bearings, before he dragged himself down the log to the opposite bank. If he was lucky, he'd been washed far enough downstream that no one would find his new tracks.

It was early morning now, with the glimmers of sunshine shining through the leaves. He ran as far and as fast as he could before he collapsed, exhausted but elated. He was free. He let out a laugh. “Fuck you, Bonnet.” He chuckled. “Ye canna get rid of me that easy, ye fish faced bastard.”

He lay for a while, resting and enjoying his new freedom. He stayed until noon before he got up to start walking again, this time trying to find civilization. He knew heading west was a bad idea, settlements would be close to impossible to find. Heading east, to the coast, was his best bet.

And then night fell. And Roger got very lost.

He decided it was safest to travel during the day, and he bunked down under some fallen trees. He made a bed of sorts from fallen branches, remembering from somewhere that it was safest to have a layer of something between your body and the ground. He settled down for the night, shivering and slightly miserable.

And then something out there screamed.

Roger shot bolt upright, his heart racing. It sounded like a woman who was being murdered. “Hello?!” He shouted back, not thinking that if it was a murderer, he gave himself away.

There was another howling scream, and Roger wished very much he had some kind of wall in his shelter to hide behind. He had just given up where he was to probably an ax murderer. He was going to die here and now in this ditch and he would never get home.

There was a third scream, and Roger finally heard the growl. He remembered going to the zoo when he was younger. The lions had roared, and he had been terrified. This scream, while very different, had a cat-like growl.

“Panther.” Roger mumbled. “It’s just a panther, or whatever they’re called.” He curled up in a ball. With any luck, it wouldn’t come near him. It sounded far off anyways. He didn’t need to worry much.

He still decided that leaving was the best course of action. And he just kept walking.

He didn’t know how long he walked, stopping only when he got too hungry or tired or thirsty. He got more and more lost, and he had no idea just how big North Carolina really was. It had seemed so much smaller with the car. With roads.

He stared at a rock with nothing but despair. It was the same fucking rock he’d seen 3 times before.

He crawled up the rock and lay down, staring at the sky. He felt insane. He didn't know how turned around he was. He was clearly lost as hell, he had no idea where he was, and he had a few shillings to his name and no way to get help.

He closed his eyes.

~~

Claire was packing the bags. “Bree, you aren’t coming.”

Brianna grabbed one of the bags. “Yes I am.” She said. “He’s my husband, and maybe the father of my baby, and I’m helping to find him.” She slung the bag over her shoulder before Claire could stop her.

“Bree.” Claire said firmly. “You’re staying here. You’re nearly three months pregnant.”

“Like that’s stopped anyone in this family.” Bree pointed out. “I can still do plenty! I can help!”

“Brianna, listen to your elders.” Faith said, putting her knife in her shoe. “You should stay home.”

“You are two hours older than me!” Brianna growled. “Right?” She looked for Da, knowing he could confirm it.

Jamie looked up from his own bag. “I dinna ken, I wasna in a state to be watching the time. But, they told me it was almost exactly two hours. And ye aren’t coming.”

Brianna was pissed. “Well what can I do?” She asked angrily. “Sit on my ass at home by myself?”

“You won’t be by yourself.” Claire said, finally seeming satisfied with her bag. “Willie is staying home too. And Murtagh will check in on you.”

“Does Willie know that he’s staying home?” Brianna asked. “Because I think he wants to go.” She looked out the window to see her little brother already mounted on his pony, waiting for everyone else.

Claire followed her gaze and sighed heavily. She marched outside, muttering under her breath. “Why did I have to marry a bloody Fraser, and why do they all turn out so stubborn?” She opened the door. “William, get off that horse this instant!”

“She’s not a horse!” Wille shouted back. “And I’m going with you!”

“No, you are not! You’re staying home to protect the farm and your sister.” Claire crossed her arms. “She can’t stay home all by herself, and someone needs to take care of the animals and the crops.”

Willie looked like he was considering it. “And… It’s important?” He asked. “Like, really important?”

Claire nodded. “It is.” She promises. “It’s very important.”

Willie nodded after a moment. “Okay.” He dismounted his pony and fixed his hat. It looked suspiciously like Jamie’s old hat, and it was too big for him. She didn’t mention it as he went inside. He was nearly her height, and she missed when he was younger. He’d grown up so fast in the three years she’d been here.

She looked back at the woods. She was glad that Willie and Brianna were staying back. It was dangerous out there, and she didn’t want them out there. Letting Faith and young Ian come was making her anxious enough as it was.

She went back inside to gather the rest of her things.

Jamie had a map of their land spread out. “The Cherokee said they saw a white man crossing the stream near the old Muller cabin. So we should head in that direction and see what if there’s any tracks.”

Fionn nodded. “And we circle out from there. He won’t be far, right?”

“Ye would be surprised.” Faith said. “One person can move fast if they want to. And we don’t know how long it’s been.”

Jamie nodded. “We start at the old Muller cabin, then we circle out.”

~~

Jamie looked up at the sky. “We should make camp soon.” He said. “It’s almost dark.” After four days of searching, nothing had turned up yet. And they could miss something in the dark.

Claire looked up and nodded. “We’ll stop soon. There’s a rock just up there, we can stop there for the night.”

Fionn and Faith were riding behind them, talking quietly. Claire leaned over to talk quietly with Jamie. “I think they like each other.” She whispered conspiratorially.

Jamie gave her a look. “If he does, he’s not going within 10 feet of her ever again.” He said firmly.

Claire laughed. “You don’t have to be so overprotective you know, she’s 23.”

“Aye, still a barin.” Jamie said sagely.

“You were 23 when we married!”

“Aye, but I wasna a barin.”

“Your logic is flawless.” Claire said flatly.

They reached the rock, and dismounted. Jamie kept a careful eye on Fionn and Faith. He wasn’t ready for Brianna to have a husband, but there wasn’t much choice there. But Faith? Faith could be an old maid and he’d still think she was too young. He’d only had his daughters for a few months, he was far from ready for husbands to take them away.

The only points in Fionn’s favour were that he was Catholic, and he seemed to be respectful. Which was more than Roger had, Jamie had to give him that. He had no idea how respectful Roger was. But he did know the man was a Presbertarian.

He got the fire going and leaned back on the rock, thinking for a bit before a noise startled him. It sounded like someone snoring. He looked up at the rock, and it happened again. Jamie, ever the superstitious one, jumped back. “The bloody rock snores!”

The trio gathered around the fire looked at him like he was insane. “Da? Are you okay?” Faith asked, very concerned.

“I swear! The rock snores!” Jamie insisted. “Listen yourself!”

Faith came closer and listened, and it happened again. She jumped back to, before logic took over. She walked around the rock, trying to see if anything was on top. She spotted a shoe. “Someone’s up there!”

Chapter Text

Roger woke up to someone dragging him by the foot. His first thought was that the Mohawk found him, and he panicked. He kicked frantically at whoever had his foot. "GETOFF YE BASTARD, I'M NO' GOING BACK!" He shouted loud enough that they probably heard him in the next state.

Whoever was holding his foot let go, and Roger scrambled to his feet on the rock. He couldn't see who it was in the dark, but someone shouted behind him. "Faith!"

Roger hesitated. Could that have been Faith? He didn't have time to react before he was tackled and his head hit the ground. He passed out again for a second as his head hit something hard and sharp several feet below.

~~

He woke up slowly, and with a great amount of pain. His eyes hurt a lot before he even opened them, and there was something warm running down his neck. He groaned, and tried to look away.

"Don't move." A woman said. He thought he knew the voice, but he wasn't sure. His memories were fuzzy as best. He listened to her, but he was so confused. He wanted to fall asleep, but someone snapped their fingers under his nose.

"Stay awake, asshole." Someone said. "You don't get to die without apologizing for kicking me in the face."

Roger tried to stay awake, but it was hard. He just wanted to sleep. But they kept finding ways to wake him up until he could stay awake by himself.

He slowly opened his eyes. He wasn't seeing double, which was nice. And he recognized Claire and Faith, though Faith had a shoe shaped bruise on her cheek. That was his fault, most likely.

"I'm sorry." He said quietly. "I didna recognize ye."

Faith shrugged. "It's no big deal. I scared you. I'm just glad you're alive, we thought Da killed you."

Roger looked around, confused, until he spotted a hulk of a man sitting on the other side of the fire. Looking ashamed, at least. It made Roger feel a wee bit better.

Faith sighed. "Bree won't be happy." She mumbles. "We bring him home and Da gave him a concussion. How do we explain this?"

~~

Willie crossed his arms. "I don't want to go to school." He said stubbornly. "I have a job to do here!"

Murtagh was just as stubborn as his grandson. "You're going to school, laddie. And ye will like it." There wasn't much he could do to threaten Willie besides saying he would tell his parents. The lad was already taller than him.

Willie went back inside. "I am not going to school." He said firmly. "Mama and Da put me in charge while they find Roger."

"They put your sister in charge." Murtagh said. "And she will be fine if ye go to school. Ye ken ye need to. Hell, ye canna multiply or divide!"

Willie glared. "I'm staying home." He grabbed the bucket of food for the pig. "I won't tell them if you let me."

Murtagh stroked his beard thoughtfully. "Ye drive a hard bargain, lad. But, I can live with it."

Willie smiled and went to help his sister with the chores. He really hoped she was in the mood to talk.

Brianna smiled as Willie came out with the bucket. "You conned him into letting you stay?" She guessed.

Willie nodded and dumped the bucket into the pig's trough. "I'm staying home. So dinna fash." He said proudly.

Brianna raised an eyebrow. "My plan was to draw for a bit, if you want to come with me." She offered. "It'll be quiet, but-"

"Sounds perfect!" Willie said brightly. "Come on, let's go!"

Willie was not so chipper after the hike they took. "Where are we going again?" He asked in annoyance.

"To a spot, stop being a baby." Brianna said. "We've been walking for half an hour."

"It feels longer!" Willie whined. "What's so special about this spot?"

Brianna moved a bush aside and smiled. "You'll see, we're here." She held the bush for William so he could see.

It was a meadow, filled with wildflowers and surrounded by towering oaks and elms and pines. It sprawled out for nearly half a mile across, and a mile or two wide. It was perfect to build a home in.

"Is this…" Willie started to ask.

"Yeah." Brianna smiled as she looked around. "It's perfect. It's just…Soft and warm. There's no hard edges here. It's a perfect place to raise a family." She sounded so wistful.

She sat down at the edge while Willie explored, picking some flowers as he walked. It was a peaceful place, secluded and beautiful and warm in the spring light. He found a patch of clover to rest in, and he lay back in it.

The little purple flowers danced in the wind, blowing back wisps of his chestnut hair. In the sunlight, the red was caught and set ablaze.

He closed his eyes, welcoming the warmth it brought to his bones. It felt so much like home. Wherever home even was anymore. He had the most memories of here and Lallybroch, but he was barely six when they left Helwater. Was Helwater home? No, it most definitely wasn't. But Lallybroch hadn't been home either, not really. They hadn't stayed for very long before they went to Edinburgh. And Edinburg was the opposite of home. Willie was in no way shape or form a city person.

But here was starting to feel like home. This was where he belonged.

He didn't realize he'd fallen asleep until he woke up. The sun was hanging low in the sky, and Brianna was sat next to him and drawing.

She didn't look up from the paper she was drawing on. "Don't move." She told him.

Willie stayed perfectly still as Brianna drew. She needed the exact lighting, and she was almost done. "And…There!" She said proudly. "Let's head home." She got up with a bit of difficulty, and Willie jumped up to help her.

"Are ye okay?" He asked, very worried.

Brianna shrugged him off. "I'm fine, I promise. We should head home, it's starting to get dark."

The way home was nerve wracking in the fading light, with very little trail to follow and a few tricky spots. But they got home unscathed.

Brianna noticed the extra horses first. "Aren't those… They can't be." She was confused, but elated. They had found Roger that quickly?!

She raced for the door, Willie close behind.

Chapter Text

Roger sat down heavily by the fire. Being indoors again felt so wonderful, after God knew how long of being outside. He fumbled with his shoes, the laces slipping through his fingers. He cursed quietly under his breath as he struggled, and his head started to throb painfully. “Christ almighty.” He muttered, then regretted it. His head hurt so much.

He cringed as the door was thrown open. The sound reverberated in his head, rattling around and bashing painfully against the inside of his skull. He squeezed his eyes shut before he could see who it was.

He recognized the hug though.

He was very nearly knocked flat on his back as Brianna hugged him, her skirts poofing out around her. "You're here." She whispered. "You're really here." She buried her face in his shoulder. "I missed you so much."

The whisper didn't hurt his head so much, and he felt like a new man in her arms. He sunk into her embrace, relishing everything about her. She was real, here and holding him and he was holding her.

It took him a moment, both because of how small the bump was and all the layers of clothing, to notice. He pulled away to stare for a moment. "Ye- We're-" he stumbled over his words.

Brianna touched her stomach, almost protectively. "It- it may not be yours." She said quietly. "Something happened. After you left."

Horror dawned on Roger, and dots connected. It felt so unlikely, but there were comments he thought he remembered. Whistles and other things. He stared at his hands for a moment before looking back at Brianna. "Bonnet?" He asked quietly.

Brianna nodded, just the smallest bit.

Roger had already had a detailed plan for Bonnet's murder. But now, the plan needed amending. A quick death was too good for the fucking rapist. No, his death would be drawn out. He wished he decked the bastard while he had the chance, if he'd known, Bonnet never would have left Wilmington.

Brianna took his hands. "Roger?" She asked quietly. He didn't realize he'd fisted his hands until she pried them open.

"Are ye okay? And the barin?" Roger tried to prioritize. He had a family to worry about now. His wife and child needed him. "I should have found a way to stay. There's so much to do, we don't have a home, much less any of what we need-"

He was cut off by Brianna hugging him again. He realized she was crying, though he couldn't imagine why. Maybe it was the concussion? But he hugged her back nonetheless. "Bree, is something wrong?"

Brianna shook her head. "Thank you." She whispered. "I was scared you would…"

The words 'reject me' hung between them.

Roger was frozen. What kind of asshole would even consider that? He was her husband, she was carrying his child. And something horrible had happened to her. Even if the child was his, did that really matter? His father wasn't his biological father. And he had never questioned that he was loved.

He held her closer. "It doesna matter who the father is. We both are examples of that." He pointed out quietly. "What matters is giving the barin a loving family, and we'll do just that. Together."

Brianna dissolved into weeping, and Roger kept holding her. He caught a few curses between her sobs, mostly about 'fucking hormones'. He was woefully uneducated about pregnancy, having been raised by a bachelor. He'd need to fix that when his brain stopped hurting.

Brianna jumped up all of a sudden. "I found the perfect place! I've been drawing it, do you want to see?"

Roger winced at the loud noise. "Bree, could ye be a wee bit quieter?" He asked. "My head…"

Bree looked concerned, and sat back down. "What happened?" She asked, looking over his head. "Why do you have stitches on the back of your head?"

Jamie, who had been respectfully quiet, finally spoke. "It's complicated." He muttered.

Roger shrugged a little. "I kicked your sister by accident." He said quietly. "And he tackled me. And my head landed on a rock."

The room went from warm and cozy to icy cold in a split second. Brianna glared daggers at her father, who had the decency to look very ashamed.

Jamie didn't need to be told to get out. He made a very hasty escape, deciding that he would wait for a bit until Bree had calmed down. He hoped it wouldn't take long, but lord knew with a Fraser.

He settled in by the fire for a long night, and keeping a careful ear out. He didn't like Fionn and Faith sharing the shelter, even if Lizzie was still there. And he really didn't know how he felt about them being together.

He sighed. There was a lot to think about, but for now he was exhausted.

~~

Fionn woke up with an explosion ringing in his ears. He stopped short of crying out, but his side hurt something awful. He knew he still had shrapnel embedded in there. The 'doctor' he had seen after had been a sympathetic butcher. By that point, a few of the wounds had been infected, and the last bits were too deep to get out without surgery.

Once he'd been captured by the English, they hadn't been keen on giving him surgery to remove the shrapnel. And he hadn't been keen on letting any of their doctors near him.

He groaned and rolled to his good side. He was met with a pair of intense greyish-blue eyes staring at him.

He tried to sit up, but he banged his head on the bed above him. "Jesus Mary and Joseph!" He rubbed the top of his head. "Some warning would be nice!"

Faith didn't even blink. "What were you dreaming about?" She asked.

Fionn stayed under the bed, not entirely sure where this was going. "Nothing. I'm fine."

"I didn't ask if you were fine." Faith pointed out. "And you favour your left, but you're right handed. So my guess, is you have a nasty injury to your right." She looked slightly smug with her deduction.

Fionn seethed silently. "So what? Yeah, I hurt my side. It's not a big deal."

"It is because you got hurt recently?" Faith kept prodding. "I don't know how-"

"It's not recent!" Fionn pulled his blanket up more over his side, in case she saw the divot. "It's healed, I'm fine."

Faith stood up. "Come on." She said firmly. "Let me look. My mother is a doctor." Her tone reminded Fionn of his commander, and he decided to obey her. He'd rather not risk her wrath.

He reluctantly got out from under the bed, glad he was still wearing his pants. He untucked his shirt hesitantly, glancing at Faith. "It's not pretty." He warned.

Faith shrugged. "I've seen worse." She promised. "It can't be that bad."

Fionn took off his shirt.

It was that bad.

Faith stood up to gently trace over the wound. It started up on his ribs, and she could see the painful stretch of thin scar tissue over the bones of his ribs. It took up part of his chest as well as his back, but it was centered on his right side. Clean, like a cut of meat had been taken, not helped by the clean lines where his normal flesh started again. Whoever had done this had followed the lines that were easiest to cut, with no mind for nerve or muscle damage.

It took her a moment to recognize that there were burn scars too. The wound had been cauterized, likely to stop bleeding. She gently touched once, and Fionn flinched. "Please don't." He said softly.

Faith retracted her hand and took a shaky breath. "Mama knows something to help with scarring, I'll ask her about it for you." She promised.

Fionn nodded and put his shirt back on. Faith watched the scar tissue stretch over the bones. It was fascinating, like she had a glimpse of how his bones moved under his skin. She was glad he didn't notice her watching, and he went back under the bed to sleep.

Faith settled down in her own spot on the floor, wondering.

Chapter Text

Jamie kept the smile plastered on his face, even as he wanted to sink into the floor. He hated parties like this. They were unbearably formal, and American ones in particular were in a middle ground. Some people who came had no title, but we're just as respected as the Lord beside them. And they were nearly impossible to tell apart. It was nerve wracking.

Jamie had been hiding with Claire for a bit in another room, taking a break from the party. "We're surrounded by peacocks." He muttered as he sipped a bit of whiskey.

Claire didn't look up from her game of solitaire. "You have clearly never been in the wives area." She furrowed her brows at the cards.

Jamie raised an eyebrow. "Ye think? I wasna always a rascal ye ken. I dressed up when I was wee."

Claire looked up, curious. "Oh really?" She asked in amusement. "Little Jamie Fraser mingled with the wives?"

Jamie shrugged. "My uncles didna like me 'mingling' with the other boys." He swirled the whiskey around in his glass. "Never stopped me, but my aunts tried to make me." He didn't like to think about it, though the expressions of his aunts when he always mysteriously came back in a kilt made him smile.

Aunt Jocasta didn't make funny expressions. She'd sent him to a room and went to tell his mother. He'd been 12, and it had been an event a lot like this.

He was really glad she was blind sometimes.

He was broken out of his thoughts by Claire standing up. "Come on. We should rejoin the masses." She said solemnly. Her expression nearly made Jamie laugh.

"Ye look like you're off to the executioner." He stifled his laughter as best he could. "It's no' that bad." He knew from experience. This wasn't fun, but it was better than staring down a noose.

Claire rolled her eyes. "It certainly feels like it. These stuffy old men, they're infuriating sometimes." She adjusted her skirts. "I can't believe we still have this." It was a dress she had worn in France, long ago. It still looked reasonably fashionable, not that she had much other use for it. One of its petticoats had apparently been used for bandages, so she was down a layer.

Jamie shrugged and offered her his arm. "Ye look bonny, Sassenach. I'm glad we kept it."

Claire leaned up to kiss him briefly. "Flirt." She muttered before turning back to the door. "Ready?"

Jamie quickly checked his hair was all in place. "Aye. Ready."

~~

Claire found herself sat with the other wives when the topic of children came up. Apparently, one woman was a grandmother. Claire stayed quiet until a question was aimed her way.

"Mistress Fraser," one of the younger girls asked, "do you have children?"

Claire smiled and nodded. "Yes, four. Two sons and two daughters. Two of them are actually here."

"Really? Your sons?" An older woman guessed.

Claire shook her head. "My youngest son, Willie. He's with his father somewhere. And my older daughter Faith. I don't know where she is, but I suspect she's found someone to talk to."

Jamie, meanwhile, watched in quiet pride as Faith debated a man about military tactics. The man, some local, was adamant that presenting a front, not unlike a Roman legion or like knights, was the better and more honorable method of fighting. Faith was of the strong opinion that splitting off into groups, guerrilla warfare she called it, was better. They'd been at it for nearly half an hour, each holding their own.

Jamie was practically bursting with pride. And quietly happy with the knowledge that she wouldn't be attracting many suitors. He wasn't ready to see her go.

"She's lovely." Someone said behind him. Terrifyingly close. Jamie tensed up, his panic rising. He knew that voice. The voice behind him continued. "Just English looking enough, to hide that her-" the voice dropped into a whisper, "-father is Scottish."

Jamie tried to gasp for air, but he felt frozen. His mind raced. Where was William? Where was Claire? Why was George Dunsaney watching his daughter? How did he even know she was Jamie's daughter?

"Ye leave my daughter alone." Jamie growled, trying to cover the panic in his voice.

"Oh, you have nothing to worry about." George laughed and stood beside him. "I disgraced myself enough with you, but a half Scottish bride with no title to speak of? I couldn't even commit to the shame."

Jamie bristled, offense on Faith's behalf overpowering his fear. "She's more than just that." His voice was surprisingly calm. "She's the daughter of a powerful landowner." He took a deep breath and met George's eyes.

He hated how he saw bits of Willie in his face. But they weren't at Helwater, and Jamie wasn't a prisoner. He was one of the more powerful people in the room. They weren't on equal footing, like they would have been if Jamie was still Laird Broch Torach.

He tried not to think about that.

George quirked a smile. "What, you own land here?" He didn't try to hide his laugh.

Jamie bristled. "Yes. 10,000 acres." He said shortly. He didn't know how much information he wanted to give George. He definitely didn't want him to find out where he and his family lived. But he also didn't want George to think that it would be easy to manipulate him again. He had power now. He was not helpless.

Willie, bored of playing outside with the kids his age, had decided to come inside. He felt especially fancy, his plaid made of a patterned wool that Fergus found in a fabric store.

He weaved his way through the crowd, trying to find Da. It wasn't much more fun to hang around him while the adults talked, but it was more fun than playing hide and seek for the millionth round.

He spotted his Da talking to a well dressed man, with dark brown hair. He wasn't sure if he would be welcome, Da told him that children were expected to be quiet at events like these. But he wasn't a child, was he? He was 12. He was old enough to at least listen, right?

He stood beside Da, and the conversation stopped dead. Willie looked between the two men, confused. "Da?" He asked quietly.

"Willie, go find your Mam." Jamie said, his voice starting to shake. "Now."

He watched to make sure Willie left, his heart hammering in his chest. George was silent next to him for a moment. When he spoke, it was like a bucket of ice water was poured over his head.

"He's my son."

Jamie acted before he could think. "No he's not." He said as firmly as he could. "He's mine and my wife's son. You have no claim to him." He took a steadying breath. "If you'll pardon me." He mumbled, and made his escape.

He tried to keep his head cool. He could fix this somehow. He didn't know how, but he could.

~~

Later that night, Faith and Fionn examined the table. Dinner was out, but the table was tense because of the two men near the head of the table. Faith looked up the table to see her father, stabbing his fish periodically, while he talked quietly with the man across the table. He was the same man from earlier.

Fionn leaned over to look. “I can’t tell what they’re saying.” He said quietly. “You think-”

Jamie stood up, anger flaring. “A duel.” He snarled. “I challenge ye to a duel.”

The other man stood up, tucking away his napkin. “If you insist.” He said, voice calm. “Tomorrow. Here, if our gracious hostess will allow it.”

Both men looked at Jocasta, who seemed to be deep in thought. After a moment, she nodded. “Aye. Ye may.”

Faith looked at her mother, scared. What was even happening? What did a duel mean? Were they going to shoot at each other?

Jamie got up from the table and stormed away, Claire following close behind. Faith looked at Willie, who was across the table. They both got up and rushed after their parents, Fionn trailing behind.

Chapter Text

Claire pinched her nose. “I cannot believe you.” She said. “What was that even about? Challenging a fucking English lord to a duel?” She was sat in a squat little armchair, her hair falling out of it’s careful bun. “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, Jamie.”

Jamie was glaring at the fire, rubbing his right hand. “He’s going to take William.” He said stiffly. “Or try.” He pressed on the scar on his palm.

Willie looked between his parents, confused. “Who’s going to take me?” He asked. “Why? I don’t know him and he sure as hell doesn’t know me if he thinks he can take me?” He puffed up. “If you just let me have a sword-”

“No swords.” Jamie said firmly. “Ye ken they’re not allowed. We’re riskin’ enough with the duel tomorrow.” He finally looked away from the fire. “Willie, this is complicated. There's a lot about the story you're too young for."

Willie crossed his arms. "I'm 12! I'm plenty old enough!" He argued. "You can't just keep hiding things! I deserve to know, if he wants to take me away from you!"

Jamie glanced at Claire before he said anything. "It's a long story." He said softly. "I'll tell ye after, aye? So we have the time." He stood up. "Fionn, I need ye to be my second." He said. He didn't like Fionn very much, but he trusted that the lad wouldn't defect to the side of an English lord.

Fionn nodded without hesitation. "I'm a good shot, though I'm shite with a sword." He admitted. "But if we're doin' guns, I can make do."

Jamie nodded. "I need ye to find George, or his second. Arrange the terms and the place. I'll scrounge up some pistols, Murtagh said something about a stash near here once."

Fionn nodded and left, making his way through the halls, trying to seek out his prey. He kept his steps light, his mind going back to hunting with his grandfather.

He'd relied heavily on his knowledge before, and he leaned on it now.

He heard the round little man before he saw him. He looked out of breath.

Fionn swiftly took the lead of the conversation. "Are you Lord Dunsaney's second?" He asked, excited that he was finally taller than someone.

The little man panted for a second before straightening. "I am. Are you Fraser's?" The distaste in his eyes made Fionn want to strangle him.

"Aye, I am." Fionn straightened. "Fionn Cathal Ó Deaghaidh, at your service." He bowed respectfully. "Fraser has requested we use pistols, and has offered to provide them."

The other man bowed stiffly in return. "Sir Fredrick Dickerson." He said. "Lord Dunsaney has asked each man provide his own weapons."

Fionn figured that was reasonable enough. "Does the lord have any preference of location?" He asked. "Somewhere close to the house, so Mistress Fraser can attend any wounded?" That was his own invention. He was anxious about being too far from a surgeon in case things went wrong.

Dickerson reluctantly nodded. "I shall inform his lordship." He said. "9 o'clock sharp."

Fionn nodded. "9 o'clock sharp." Less than 10 hours away. No time to lose.

He rushed back with the news. He threw the door open, and started talking right away. "9'clock sharp tomorrow morning, behind the house. Each man brings his own weapon." He said as fast as he could. "Dunsaney got a knight for his second. And a stuck up one, man acted like I disgraced him with my presence."

Jamie stared into the fire for a bit longer before he got up. "I'll borrow one of Auntie Jocasta's firearms." He said stiffly. "We should all go to sleep. It's an early start tomorrow."

Claire remained seated while the others left. Willie was most reluctant, looking back at his parents before he left.

Jamie started getting ready for bed, not saying a word. Questions burned in Claire's mind, things she had never asked for fear of upsetting him. But conversations she felt like they needed to have.

She waited until they were both in bed. Jamie had rubbed the cream she'd made into the scars on his chest. She was incredibly proud of how well he was healing, and while the scars were still large, they were looking better and better every day. He'd also taken to sleeping shirtless, which Claire had no gripes about.

Tonight was not a shirtless night, however. He lay on his side, away from her. Lost in thought, and far away from her.

Claire reached out. "Jamie, we need to talk." She said softly. "What is going on? Why on Earth would Lord Dunsaney of all people want Willie?"

"Because he's his father." Jamie said softly. "He…"

"You don't have to tell me." Claire moved closer, reaching for Jamie's hand. "I would understand if you didn't want to."

Jamie shook his head. "I never told anyone." He whispered. "It- it wasna one time." He tightened his grip on the sheets. "Before, and after his wedding, he'd send for me. I couldna say no, or he'd tell the whole estate." The threat of being a ladies' maid still stood out in his mind years later.

Claire held him close. "Oh, Jamie." She whispered.

Jamie squeezed her hand lightly. "It ended once his wife was pregnant." He said softly. "I was already a bit along with Willie, though I didna ken it at the time. I was just glad it was over. He never came around for me again, never even came to the stables really." The way he relaxed, recalling the peaceful times, made Claire feel a little more relaxed to. "His daughter, thank God, took after her mother. Sweetest thing, good friends with Willie when they were wee."

He finally rolled over to face her. He still looked troubled, but a little less so. Sharing what happened took a weight off his shoulders. And once he started talking, he found it nearly impossible to stop. There was so much he'd bottled up for so long.

"When Willie was born, I told the midwife I was ye. I wanted Willie to be our child, ye ken. I wasna up for talkin' much after, though." He thought back to his own state of mind after Willie was born. "It was worse, then it was with the girls. I had Fergus, but I couldna rely on him much. And I felt alone for a long while. Nearly… A month later…" He opted to let Claire fill in that blank.

Claire gently cupped his face. "I'm here now." She promised. "And we are not losing Willie. He's our son, no matter what."

Jamie nodded, cracking a small smile. "I love ye, have I told ye that today?"

Claire smiled. "Yes. I love you too." She kissed him gently. "Now sleep, soldier. It's a big day tomorrow."

~~

Jamie waited impatiently for George. He'd woken up, as usual, at around 6 am. And he'd been preparing ever since. He already had his gun, cleverly snatched from a mantel before anyone could notice. And now here he was, pacing and annoyed.

Fionn leaned on the porch bannister, yawning. "Ye would think they'd be timely." He said. "It's nearly 8:45. They should be here."

"You're all crazy." Faith muttered, bundled up in one of her mother's shawls. Willie was beside her, picking at the fraying edge of his kilt. He'd wrapped himself up in a kilt burrito for warmth. Early morning in April wasn't warm, even though River Run was hardly in the mountains like Fraser's Ridge was.

Jamie checked his pistol for the millionth time. "It's insulting is what it is. He threatens to steal my son and he doesna show up early?" Really this was just insult to many injuries. He had half a mind to go and drag the Lord out, ready or not.

Fionn started whistling a tune that was vaguely familiar to Jamie. And he got through three more tunes before Dickinson ever showed up.

He puffed a bit as he ambled down the stairs. "Lord Dunsaney is on his way." He said primly. "He asked that we prepare for him."

Fionn shared a look with Jamie, and he swung himself over the bannister and into the yard. "Five paces?" He asked.

Sir Dickerson nodded and selected a spot. Fionn stood back to back with him, holding a stick while Dickerson held a sword. They took five paces, and marked where they stood. It was hardly a very official duel. With not a moderator to speak of.

Jamie grabbed Fionn's arm. "No matter what," he said quietly, "protect them. Promise me."

Fionn nodded. "I promise." He said quietly. "But nothin's gonna happen to ye."

Jamie looked across at the still half empty position 10 paces away. He didn't trust George Dunsaney further than he could drive him into the ground. Something could happen, and Jamie didn't want to take the chance without covering his ass.

It was past 9 when George finally graced the yard with his lordly presence. Jamie glared at him as he approached, standing taller as he took his place.

Dickerson and George exchanged a few words, and Dickerson handed him a pistol. He and Fionn both stepped back, and the men aimed at one another. Jamie held himself ready for war, for a fight to the death. George held the confidence of a cat. Watching the mouse move to the cheese, knowing it was approaching it's own doom.

Faith stared as the seconds ticked by without a shot being fired. Did someone need to tell them? Were they sizing each other up still?

It was dead, still silence one second. The next was complete chaos.

Faith shot up. Someone was hurt, but who? Both George and Jamie were stumbling backwards, Jamie clutching his arm and George holding his shoulder. They both seemed startled for a moment, trying to figure out how injured they were. Jamie looked at the blood on his hand and shrugged it off, while George fell to his knees, clutching his shoulder like he was dying.

Faith was about to run to go get Mama when a smaller blur of chestnut and patterned fabric raced past her.

Faith raced out into the yard, trying to prioritize. George was more obviously wounded, so he should take priority. But Jamie could be more badly hurt and not showing it.

This is why she prefered military strategy. Pain tolerance of losses was the same across units. Pain tolerance between people varied so much.

She decided that the man who was on the ground was probably in more pain. She went to his side and tried to apply pressure to the bullet wound. The bullet was still in there, which wasn't great probably, but Faith didn't know much about bullet wounds.

She kept pressure on it while whooping came from the background. She assumed George laying on the ground constituted a win in this situation. And while she was very glad, she couldn't wait for her mother to get out here so she could take her hands off of George.

She looked up to see her mother, skirts hiked up, running across the lawn. Faith moved out of the way so she could work, feeling relief. She hated medical stuff, how her mother did it was a mystery.

She looked up to see Fionn tending to Jamie's arm. Jamie, for his part, did not look the least bit sorry. He was grinning from ear to ear.

Chapter Text

"For the last time, no."

"Da! Ye promised!"

"I promised I'd tell ye later. You're too young still."

Willie glared at his father as he planted seeds. "It's been a month!" He argued. "I'm older now! Ye trust me with the fucking house!"

"Dinna use that word." Jamie stabbed the dirt and sprinkled seeds into the hole. "You're to have a wee niece or nephew soon, and your sister would kill us if the first word out of the barin's mouth is 'fuck'."

"She would kill ye." Willie corrected, grabbing a fieldstone in his path. "She likes me. She's still pissed at ye for knockin' Roger over."

"Aye, but Roger is fine now. But if ye teach her barin to say 'fuck', she willna be pleased with any of us.” Jamie pointed out. “And I dinna want to face your sister’s wrath.”

"If we're to die soon, can ye tell me why that man wanted me?" Willie tried again.

Jamie stopped. "Lad, when you're older." He said firmly. "And my answer will not be changing."

Willie glared. "Fine." He muttered. He would find some way to find out. He knew he was old enough. It didn't take a genius to know that Mama and Da had a lot of secrets. And he was old enough to know at least this secret around him.

He wasn't stupid. He knew he didn't look like Mama. He only had brown hair, in a different shade. Even his curls were closer to his Da's hair, loose curls instead of coils like Mama.

That didn't change anything. Willie still loved her. She was his Mama, and he knew she loved him. But it raised a lot of questions, like who his actual mother was. And why Da had raised him .

A plan began to form in his mind. He could sneak out of bed to see if they ever talked about it. They would eventually. And he would get his answers.

~~

 

Brianna was maybe a tad bit aggressive as she pounded the butter. “Why is planning a fast wedding so hard?” She asked. “Between finding a priest or a Reverend, and a place to hold it, and Roger’s head-”

“I’m right here, darling.” Roger said, glaring at his knitting needles. He was contemplating throwing his attempt at a baby blanket in the fire like it’s precursors. He was learning to knit from William, which was a special sort of insulting. His 12 year old brother in law could knit better than he could. “And all inter-religious weddings have trouble.”

“We’re both Christian!” Brianna pounded the butter harder. “But when it comes to the bloody Catholic or Presbertarian ceremony, we can’t figure it out!”

Ian looked between them, not sure how he got roped into this. “Well, ye could just have two ceremonies." He suggested. "Make ye both happy. Now can I have some jam?"

He was met with the silence that only accompanies two people who didn't consider the obvious. Ian quickly grabbed some jam and made his escape.

Brianna rubbed her forehead. "How did neither of us think of that?"

"I have a concussion, still. And ye havena been sleeping well. Neither of us are firing on all cylinders." Roger missed another stitch. "Fuckin' hell." He muttered.

"Hey! Little ears." Brianna said, checking on how the butter was doing.

"Like the barin can hear me." Roger mumbled.

"You do know they can, right?"

Roger's silence made Brianna laugh. "Mama said something about it when she came home from class one day. I think they were learning about pregnancy. She said that there's research saying that babies can hear when you talk to them."

Roger stared at the knitting needles. "Chr-chripes almighty." He said. He really needed to start watching his mouth.

Brianna laughed harder. "They won't know you're swearing! It's actually good if you talk to them, so they know your voice." She explained.

Roger nodded a little. "I'm not too late for that." He said quietly. He still felt guilty for not coming back sooner. He should have been there to help from day one.

Brianna sat beside him. "You aren't too late for anything." She said softly. "Not even the morning sickness. How many times have you held my hair back now?"

Roger laughed a little. "I'm not keepin' track. But plenty."

Brianna examined the blanket. "That's looking great!" She said. "It's way better than the last one!"

"You're just saying that." Roger mumbled, glaring at the blanket. "It's awful. Your brother does a better job than me. He knitted a fucking hat for the barin. This is just a square!"

"Well, what matters is that you're trying." Brianna kissed his cheek. "And the baby will love it and you "

Roger smiled. "I love you." He said quietly. He couldn't believe how lucky he was.

~~

Murtagh raised his eyebrow. "Say again?"

“Ye asked.” Fionn said in annoyance. “I’m not repeating it.” He was still wheezing a little. He was having a hard enough time getting his breath back without telling Murtagh all about mustard gas.

“So… In your time, men lob ‘gas’ at each other an’ call it war?” Murtagh asked. He sat on the foundation they had finished before Fionn had his coughing fit. Fionn was leaning on it, looking up at the sky with his shoulders back. And getting very annoyed with Murtagh’s question.

“We don’t just lob gas at each other. There are shells, from massive canons that travel miles. Guns that fire thousands of rounds. We get shot like pigeons if we poke our heads above the trenches. Then they gas us.” He reached into his pocket, and pulled out a scrap of fabric wrapped around something.

Murtagh watched curiously as he unwrapped it. The fabric itself was wool, dyed a dull green. The contents were a silver necklace, and a patch. He handed the patch to Murtagh. “It’s a clover, for the Irish 16th. I had a few battle stripes too, but I didn’t think I would need them when I left home last.” He held onto the bracelet, running his thumb over the inscription.

Murtagh examined the patch. “What’s it mean?” He asked. “The ‘Irish 16th’, what’s that mean?” Were there 16 of them? Was Fionn the 16th one? Did everyone in his army get an individual patch?

“It was my division. The 16th, of the British Expeditionary Forces. Made up of Irish volunteers.” Fionn explained. “We don’t use commander’s names when I’m from. Divisions sometimes have nicknames, but we’re all just numbers.” He looked back at the necklace.

Murtagh leaned over his shoulder. The necklace was simple, just a silver chain with a locket. It could have been nothing, except for the design on the locket. The initials of O.O and I.M were contained in a heart.

"Who's O.O?" He asked, tact discarded. He doubted it would do him any good.

Fionn ran his thumb over the locket. "My brother. Oisín." He undid the clasp, but didn't open it. "He died a few months ago. In April." He pocketed the locket again.

Murtagh didn't know anything about Fionn's time, or his brother. But he knew that pain. "Lad-"

Fionn shook his head. "I'm fine." He said quietly. "We should get back to work."

Later, Fionn stared at the roof of the little cabin. He was still on the ground, which probably wasn't helping his lungs. But he wasn't about to make Faith give up the bed.

With Brianna and Roger living in the house for the moment, Faith had gotten the second bed. And Fionn was still on the floor.

He sat up to grab his pants. He searched his pockets until he found the patch and necklace again, and stared at them. His brother's necklace, the only thing he had of him. And the patch, all he had left of what had been his family.

He closed his eyes. He should have died with them. By gas, by shell, by going up over the top. He should have died with them then, or later. Dozens of men died in the streets of Dublin, and millions died in the trenches of Belgium and France. Why couldn't he have been one of them?

Why couldn't that fucking grenade have blown him up properly? Why couldn't it have finished the job the gas started? Why did they send him home, not even in time for his grandfather's funeral? Why hadn’t he been brave, and fought for his freedom instead of killing Germans because a Serb killed a duke. He could have died with some kind of purpose. Instead he was alive without one.

The news of the Rising had reached Fionn days after it was crushed. The news that his brother was among the dead reached him nearly a week after that.

He didn't remember much of that time. Mostly he just remembered the darkness, the damp, the putrid smell of his gas mask, and the explosion that ripped it.

He'd been in the hospital for a week when his grandfather died too. And just like that, he had been alone in the world.

He held the locket close to his chest, and looked to the other side of the hut where Faith slept. He had been alone then, but maybe he wasn't so alone now.

Chapter Text

John admired the North Carolina countryside as he rode to Fraser's Ridge. It was a gorgeous country, and his heart fluttered at the thought of the man who would put the beauty of North Carolina to shame. It was the first time he would see Jamie in years now, and his stomach did strange flip flops at the thought of seeing him.

He heard Jamie before he saw him. "What? I canna show off my wife's handiwork?" John recognized the laughter in his voice. He'd only been blessed with Jamie's laugh a few times, but it was one of his most treasured memories.

He tried to ignore his heart breaking in two.

The reply, clearly Claire, was equally amused. "James Fraser, you are a menace."

As John drew closer, he saw what was going on. His mouth went dry. Jamie, ax in hand, was chopping wood with only a linen shirt, and it was unbuttoned and loosely tucked. His copper hair glinted in the sunlight, pulled back in a ragged ponytail when it was scarcely long enough for it. Stray hairs caught the June sun, and became strands of the finest gold.

The unbuttoned shirt revealed glimpses of scars. A slash to the top of his chest, a mark on his collar bone, but little else. His chest, without a sign of a bandage, was as flat as John's own.

He realized almost too late he was staring, and he almost didn't notice Jamie's smile.

John smiled back, trying to pretend like he hadn't just been admiring Jamie. "Good morning!" He called, feeling almost giddy.

Jamie rested the ax against the tree. "What brings ye to our neck of the woods?" He asked. He buttoned his shirt hastily, trying to make himself presentable.

John smiled as he dismounted. "Your letters described your land so beautifully, I simply had to see." He led his horse closer. They weren't exactly formal with each other, especially when away from society. "I'm on my way to Verginia, to look after some land there for a relative."

Jamie patted his shoulder. "Come in, ye must be tired. Where are ye comin' from, Cross Creek?" His usual friendliness seemed to be turned up to 11.

John didn't look up at Claire until he had to. "Yes, actually. I'm on my way to look after my brother in law's land, as he can't. Shot in a duel, I heard."

Jamie snorted. And John had to face Claire. He steeled himself and smiled at her politely. "Mistress Fraser." He bowed.

Claire curtseyed. "Lord John." She said, equally polite. He could see it was a veneer. A well done one, but there was no covering up her own distaste for him. It couldn't be anything else.

He was in love with her husband. And he knew she knew.

"I heard you talking about the duel Lord Dunsaney was involved in?" Claire asked, breaking John out of his thoughts. "It just so happens, so was Jamie.

John stares at Jamie. "And you missed?" He asked, slightly incredulous. He hated George, and knowing his best friend -a very good marksman- missed killing the man felt like a missed opportunity. He could have solved a great many problems.

"I didna miss!" Jamie argued. "Bastard is too good for a quick death, I was hopin' he'd get infected."

"Unfortunately, George is rather like a tumor." John lamented. "He refuses to go, and he's a bother while he's around."

"Ye can say that again." Jamie muttered.

Claire steered the topic away from where she suspected it would go. "So, Lord John, will Lady Isobel be joining us?"

The familiar numbness made a crashing return. For a moment, just a moment, he felt something. But now it was gone. He heard himself reply more than said it, relaying the news of her passing. He didn't quite know his own word choice.

He was jolted back into his body by Jamie touching his shoulder. The gentleness and care in the gesture were like a drop of opium. It relaxed him and intoxicated him, almost.

He was ushered inside and sat by the fire to rest as people came and went outside. He couldn't say he minded the solitude. A moment alone in somewhere safe, homey and warm relaxed him, and fended off the chill he was feeling despite the warm weather. And traveling was exhausting.

He also suspected it was to keep him out of the way. He was clueless when it came to farms or whatever they were doing out there.

Dinner that night came in the form of a small army gathering around the table. John tried to graciously introduce himself to everyone, but there were a lot of people. He only knew Murtagh, and Murtagh had a great bit of disdain for him.

Even Willie didn't know him well. He was the spitting image of Jamie, with some leeway for coloration. Though he bore some resemblance to his sire, he was more a Fraser than anything. He looked at John suspiciously, and he stuffed something into the pocket he had in his plaid.

It was awkward, meeting Jamie's family. His daughters, both pictures of him, seemed curious. The older one, Faith, asked for any funny stories he had of her Da.

John had to say he knew none. Which thank God meant Murtagh took over.

He doubted anything that took place in their friendship could truly be considered funny. There were funny moments, but cast with a shadow. And the energy to even try and put a positive spin on it was seeping into the floorboards.

He was retreating into himself when Jamie got up. "John, do ye have a chess set?" He asked, knowing the man usually had a chess set with him.

John took the escape. The table was draining, and a nice game or two of chess seemed perfect.

Five games later, 3-2 with Jamie in the lead, most of the dinner crowd had dispersed. Brianna and Roger left while there was still light, Faith and Fionn left later, Ian went upstairs an hour or so after dark and Willie went to bed last. Leaving the adults gathered about.

"Dunsaney showed up late for the duel." Jamie explained. "Didna explain, or apologize. Acted like I was late." He huffed. "Bastard shot me in the arm."

John raised his eyebrows. "He did?" He asked. He hadn't been able to tell.

Jamie shrugged. "Was my right arm, that one can fuck off." As if to demonstrate, he swiftly executed John's queen with his left hand.

John stared. "Bloody bastard." He muttered. "Are you actually left handed?"

Jamie smiled. "Aye. My teachers hated me, said it was the devil's hand. But no one could read my handwriting with my right hand. And… Well, breakin' it didna help matters."

John leaned forward, intrigued. "Your hand was broken?"

"Ye think I tied my ring and middle fingers together for fun?"

John suddenly felt stupid. How didn't he notice that? "Well… You are a master at hiding your condition. I didn't even know you were having William until I came to the stable and saw you holding him."

Jamie grew quiet. William had been much more difficult then the twins for multiple reasons. He'd had more issues, he'd been sicker from a lack of care, and he'd barely tried to take care of himself. He'd passed it off as sickness, though the doctor wasn't sure what could have struck down an otherwise healthy man for 3 months.

"That may just be obliviousness." He said. "Willie wasna easy. And I dinna say that lightly."

John nodded a little, and stifled a cough. He decided to take that as his cue to find a place to sleep. "I'm afraid I must retire. Is there anywhere suitable?"

Claire stood up. "Ian's old room should do. He's taken to spending his nights with the Cherokee." She explained. "It's just upstairs."

John nodded and made his way upstairs, only to hear something peculiar. The sound of creaking wood, and then a door closing. Homes in the colonies were hilariously easy to hear people moving around in. And he had a sneaking suspicion.

"I think William was listening."

~~

William leaned against his door, trying to puzzle out what was said.

What had Lord John meant, when he'd he 'didn't even know he was having William'? Why had Da called him unobservant? There were a million questions in his mind.

He heard footsteps coming back up the stairs, and he practically threw himself into bed. Just in time, as Mama opened the door to check on him.

He prayed that she wouldn't notice anything amiss.

The door closed, and William relaxed and tried to think. What could that mean? Could it mean Da had told other people about him before he was born? They were discussing physical injuries though, that didn't make sense. Nothing made sense. And he knew he wouldn't get a straight answer.

So more spy work was in order.

Chapter Text

The past few days had been quiet. Much more quiet than Willie was accustomed to. Da wasn't usually very quiet. Mama said he got lost in his own head sometimes, but never for this long.

Willie knew their impromptu hunting trip would be ending soon. And for a hunting trip -lacking Roger, who needed the practice- Da wasn't the keenest on hunting all the game they came across. He thought he was starting to understand what Mama had meant.

It was the last night, and the fish were roasting over the fire. Willie was proud of himself for catching their dinner the Highland way. And it had brought Da out of his head for a bit.

He was back inside now. Willie pictured a cave, with his Da huddled inside. It didn't fit with his image. Da didn't hide away. He was proud and open and strong. He wouldn't hide. He never hid.

Willie picked at his fish when his Da finally spoke.

"Willie, ye ken ye were born at Helwater, aye?" His Da asked quietly.

Willie nodded. "Aye. Dinna remember it well." He said honestly. "Just ridin' away, and missing someone."

"Aye. Ye were wee, I dinna expect ye to remember folks ye barely saw." Da poked the fire. "And… Ye ken your Mam, isna your true mother?"

"Aye, I ken. Figured it out when I was 10." Willie shrugged. "I dinna mind, she's my Mama. And Faith and Brianna, they're my sisters. I dinna care if they have a different mother."

Jamie stared into the fire. "Ye have the same mother." Jamie said softly. "None of ye are Claire's by blood."

"Da-" Willie tried to stop him. His sated curiosity wasn't worth the distress his Da was in. If they shared a mother and Jamie was all of their father, that was all he needed to know. He didn't even want to know who she was. He had Mama. He didn't need anyone else.

"Willie, ye need to hear this." Jamie rubbed his face. If he didn't tell him now, he never would. And he'd be keeping this secret with dozens of others that he couldn't breathe a word of ever again. Except he would breathe word of it again, it was inevitable. And he didn't want William to never know. "Ye have different fathers, lad. And… In a practical sense, I'm your mother." The words felt heavy, and the last few disgusting. And they hung suspended as Willie stared, waiting for an explanation.

Jamie tried to find some explanation. Anything that would work. "I carried ye, and I bore ye, like a mother would. But ye ken I'm not your mother." He rubbed the scar on his palm, running his thumb over the jagged mark.

Willie tried to work it out. How was that possible?

He remembered when he asked Mama about how babies happened, when Marsilie found out she was pregnant. He'd scarcely been 9 at the time, and Mama had explained it better since then as he got older. But one thing stuck out now. She had only mentioned it that one time when he was 9. 'Most women can get pregnant, and a few men can to'. It had been a throwaway comment then. Willie had nearly forgotten it as just a bit of knowledge.

Now it made sense. Da was a man who could get pregnant, and Mama had known it. It didn't all make sense, Mama had explained the organ part of it. And he still had questions, but it did click.

"So… You're the father to all of us." Willie hoped he was getting this right. "But we have other fathers?"

His Da nodded. "Aye. It doesna change a thing." He said. "But… Your other father didna ken about ye. And he wanted ye back."

"Why not?" Willie asked. "He must have known. Roger knows, and so did Fergus and Mama."

Jamie wished he could share his son's innocence. Still thinking that a child could only be convinced in love. "I didna tell him. Because we didna get on well. He never came to see me after ye were born." And God had he been happy for it.

He didn't realize he smiled until William stiffened.

"Did he hurt ye, Da?" Willie asked quietly. "Like that man hurt Bree?"

Jamie cursed how smart Willie was. And how good his hearing was. He couldn't lie, either. He would figure it out later and be pissed he was lied to. "Aye. He hurt me. But that doesna mean I dinna love ye. Ye were the best thing I could ever have gotten from that time. Ye've brought me joy and made me laugh when I thought I never could again. Ye, William Fraser, are a blessing I treasure every day." His words were honest. William was nothing like his father. He was Jamie's son, Claire's son. And despite the ashes he was born into, the lad had built something new in it's place. Something strengthened by the day.

Willie nodded, staring into the fire. Anger rose in him, not at Da. For Da. At the man who hurt him, and who claimed to be his father. He had no idea what he would do, but he needed to do something. Find something.

"Willie?" Jamie asked quietly. "Are ye angry, with me?" He had worried since Willie was wee that keeping his secret from him would make him angry. Not knowing something like that about his own father, the truth of how he came to be, would drive him away.

"I'm not mad. Not at ye." Willie said softly. "I dinna ken how, but I will get ye vengeance, Da. I promise ye."

"Vengeance will do no good." Jamie said quickly. "He doesna have what he wants. Ye. That's vengeance enough."

One thought rattled around Willie's mind as he lay down for bed.

No. It wasn't vengeance enough.

~~

Roger smiled proudly at his new home. The cabin, a simple but pretty sort, was done. And just in the nick of time.

He smiled at Brianna, a grand idea popping into his head. "May I carry ye, over the threshold?"

Brianna raised an eyebrow. "You're sure you want to?" She gestured at her very round stomach. "I'm about to pop. And isn't that something you do on the wedding day?"

"Aye, well it's only a week or so away." Roger pointed out. "And we're to live here till then. Ye'll be crossing the threshold plenty."

Brianna gave him a look. "After the baby." She said. "Then you can carry me around as much as you like."

"Ye weren't sayin' that when I carried ye out of bed this mornin'. Or when I carried ye to bed last night."

"That was different! My feet hurt!"

"Aye, so if I wait I can?"

".... You're awful."

Roger scooped her up, eliciting a delighted shriek. "Come on, Mrs. MacKenzie!" He said cheerfully.

Brianna clung to his neck. "If you drop me I swear!"

"I wilna drop ye!" Roger protested. "I got a good grip, I promise ye."

He carried her over the threshold, with only a small whack of Roger's elbow. Which was what puzzled him when Bree gasped in pain. "Brianna?!"

Brianna clung to him. And Roger felt the wet spot on her skirt. "Christ almighty- we need to get your Ma!" He looked around desperately. He put her down on the bed. "I'll go, ye stay here!"

"I can walk!" Brianna protested. "Just- walk me there!" She clenched her teeth in pain.

Roger wasn't going to argue with her. "Okay, but we're hurrying!" He said urgently.

~~

Roger was sat by Brianna's side, anxious as hell. She was resting between contractions, and he didn't think he'd been more anxious in his life. Claire had said the baby was fine. In a perfect position, ready to come.

That did just enough to sate his anxiety. What could he do? He was helpless but to offer comfort. Even that didn't feel enough.

"Roger?" Brianna asked quietly.

"Yes?" Roger asked quickly. "Do ye need something?"

"Could you sing?" Brianna asked quietly. "I just…. Need a distraction."

Roger tried to think of anything he knew. Only one song seemed simple enough that he could keep it going while he panicked. "She'll be comin' round the mountain when she comes," he started.

Brianna laughed a little. "That one?" She asked, then hissed in pain and nearly broke Roger's hand with how tight she squeezed. Roger grimaced but kept singing, which was about all he could do. If he moved an inch he was sure he would pass out.

~~

Roger knew why he was handed the baby. It was his baby, and Brianna was rather busy. But there were much more qualified people just outside the door. The sheer amount of fear he felt when holding his son for the first time was hard to describe. This was a little person who would depend wholly on him and Brianna.

He looked down at the little face, nearly hidden by the blankets. He was so squishy looking. He couldn't look like anybody yet. But here he was. A little person.

He looked up with the biggest smile on his face. Pride and amazement and love overcame the fear. Brianna smiled tiredly at him, but she looked exhausted.

"Do ye want to hold him?" Roger asked. Brianna was probably the only person who Roger would give the baby to at that moment.

Brianna nodded and held her arms out, and Roger very carefully handed him to her. She looked at the squishy little face, and she knew she would throw herself in front of a bus for him.

She brushed the blanket and a few light blond hairs out of his face. She looked back up at Roger with the biggest smile, and he returned it in full force.

Claire watched with amusement as the new parents fawned over their baby. They needed time alone to bond with the new baby, but soon enough the baby would get to meet his very large family.

Roger moved to the edge of the bed, wishing he had a camera. He wanted to capture this moment forever.

Brianna looked at him again. "Could you sing?" She asked quietly.

Roger didn't even hesitate to start singing. He knew the song to sing.

"L is for the way you look at me, O is for the only one I see, V is for very very extra ordinary, E is even more then anyone that you adore can love."

Chapter Text

North Carolina; April, 1770

Jamie liked to think Willie was smart. He hadn’t gone forward at the gathering, he didn’t play with the rifles, and he never walked behind a horse. Which was why he wasn’t worried about Willie trying to join the party on the hunt for Murtagh. He trusted that Willie would recognize he was too young to come along.

He was very, very wrong.

He was tacking up his horse when he heard someone approaching. A bad feeling stirred, but he tried to suppress it. None of his children were that dumb, and hopefully Fionn and Roger weren’t either. Claire might want to come, and he wouldn’t say no, and that was the only good option it could be.

“Young Mr. Fraser!” Knox said. “What brings you here?”

Jamie sighed a long, long suffering sigh. Willie was far too much like him.

“I’m here to help, sir!” Willie said proudly. “I may be too young to swear an oath, but I’m not too young to come along, surely!”

Jamie turned around. "William-"

"And it'll teach me how to be a good leader!" Willie said quickly. "So I can swear my oath and be worth a damn when I do. So, can I come?" He glanced between Lieutenant Knox and Jamie.

"If your father has no objections." Knox said, deferring to Jamie.

Jamie gave Willie a look. If he wasn't invited, he would probably try and follow them and end up in trouble. His safest bet was to bring him, and he wasn't happy about it. "Fine. But ye stay with me or where I tell ye to be."

Willie grinned. "Aye!" He said cheerfully.

~~

Willie stared at the pile of burned items in the middle of the town. He'd been frozen there for a few moments while Da and Knox talked to the man Mama had healed. Seeing the ashy remnants made him think of Da's shop.

The people around him were trying to set their town right one item at a time, and it should have been reassuring. Rebuilding after destruction and all that. But all Willie could think, was that people he knew had caused this. People caused this. Grandda, the man who taught Willie how to hold a sword, and made him a brooch for his plaid, did this.

"Willie!"

He was jolted out of his thoughts, and stole one last glance at the pile before following Da and Lieutenant Knox inside.

Inside was worse.

Opening the door, Willie was hit in the face with a wall of tobacco smoke. He stifled a cough as he followed the men in, trying to wave the fumes out of his face. Under the sickly sweet smell was something darker. Something almost familiar.

“They seized control of the courthouse,” Mr. Fanning explained. “Forced the honorable judge Henderson to hear their complaints. When they did not receive their version of justice… They did this.” He gestured to a man wrapped in blankets, and Willie could only stare as the blankets fell away to reveal burns encrusted with feathers.

Tar and feathering. Willie had only heard about such things, but he had never seen how it left it’s victims. He almost threw up, and he couldn’t hide his disgust. He couldn't believe that people did this.

He didn't realize he was in a daze until Da touched his shoulder. "Willie?"

Willie jumped and turned to face him. "Da, I'm sorry, I-"

"Lad, it's alright." Da said gently. "Stay here, I'll be back soon." He patted his shoulder, and left with Knox. He wasn't sure where they were going, something about prisoners. And he didn't want to know.

Willie waited as long as he could. Which with the combined smell of tobacco and what he now knew was tar, wasn't very long. The combination was making him queasy, and he didn't want to stay in a room full of strangers. It may mean disobeying Da, but it was worth it. He quietly slipped out and tried to find the jail.

He was just down the street when the door opened. Da stormed out, looking scared. Knox followed him, his eyes wide. Willie was instantly suspicious, and he hid behind an overturned cart. He strained to hear if they were talking. All he could catch were a few words.

"What were ye thinking?"

"I-I-"

They moved too fast for Willie to hear much. His only option was to follow them and hope. He sent up a quick prayer that Da wouldn't notice he was missing until he was already back in the tavern, and exited his hiding place.

He blended in with the crowd as he followed them, snippets of conversation drifting back to him. Every bit made the truth even more tantalizing.

He slipped in through the closing door just behind them, and made his way to the bar so he wouldn't raise suspicion. He glanced at the two men as they hid in the back corner, talking in low voices. Willie meandered to a nearby table, and leaned back to listen.

"It was honorable." Knox said, his drink trembling in his hands. "I gave him a soldier's death, instead of the noose."

"Ye executed a man without trial." Da hissed.

Willie resisted the urge to whirl around and stare. What the hell?

He felt eyes on him, and he didn't want to take the chance. He got up as casually as he could, and made a hasty retreat. The words rolled around in his mind, battered by the wind and rain of the storm they created.

~~

"What am I doing?" Jamie muttered to himself. He watched the guard dozing at his post. This would be an easy in and out, but he still felt dread building in his gut.

He slipped into the building, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dim lighting before moving forward. He kept his steps light, and near the walls. If a board creaked too loudly, he was done for. He pressed himself against the wall before the hallway, and glanced down it. No guard.

He slipped down the hall to the cell. "Wake up!" He whispered harshly. The men inside stirred as he struggled with the lock.

The most antagonistic one, at least the one left alive, leaned on the door. "You're a bloody turncoat, Fraser." He hissed.

Jamie was used to insults, and letting them roll off him. He needed to focus on saving their lives. Even as the digs got more personal. He gave up on picking the lock, and instead smashed it.

"Come on, we dinna have much time." He said quickly. He led them back through the building, concentrating on not making a lot of noise. There was only one more bend to the door when it opened.

All three froze in their tracks as someone walked down the hall. Jamie's feeling of dread grew larger and larger until the person turned the corner.

"Come on!" Willie whispered. "We only have so much time." He gestured for them to follow, and went back twords the door.

Somehow, this was worse.

"William!" Jamie struggled to keep his voice down as he rounded the corner. "What the bloody hell were ye thinking?!"

"That Knox murdered a man." Willie said, opening the door. "And I want to help you."

Jamie decided to deal with this later. He had two men to get out of here and he had to get himself and now Willie back without anyone noticing. "We are talking later." He said quickly. "Come on."

The moon was just a sliver in the sky, providing very little light. Not the perfect night to escape in, but they had no choice. “Tell Murtagh to make himself scarce.” He said softly, as the two remaining men fled. Willie stayed by his side, watching them go. He turned to head back to the inn. There was nothing more they could do, and he didn’t want to know where they were going.

Willie looked back once, before following him.