“When will I wed the prince?” “Never. You will wed the king.””I will be queen, though?” “Aye. Queen you shall be… until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.””Will the king and I have children?” “Oh, aye. Six-and-ten for him, and three for you. Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds, she said. And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”
shinee: kings of kings, 5hinee???, once in a blue moon comebacks, always slays tho, taemin has killed people??, jonghyun cries, key/minho is loud, tofu leader onew, dibidibidissing themselves is a specialty, live vocals for days, visuals, rind dinG DONG DIGGY DINGY DING
shinhwa: you thought shinee were kings, actual gods, legends, eats cds for meals, fans are moms, doesn’t let members live/leave, grown men but also smol children, m style, don’t make them dance 2x speed dances, butt grabbing, kissing, they talk about farting a lot, grown men that i shouldn’t like but do, my mom thinks they’re good looking af
bts: any armys here xD, i thought rapmon was a pokemon, fans are kinda :/, lots of in fandom drama, despise exo/exo-ls, screaming, aloof, do they have other friends???, bulletproof boyscouts makes me cringe sometimes ngl, choreo will apparently kill you (lie), lightstick lowkey doubles as a weapon, FIYUHHHH OH AYE OH
got7: literally the easiest name ever jyp what u doin, actually has 7, united nations group, memes, wild af outside of korea, JACKSON, dab7, people talk a lot of shit on bambam :/, dancing kid yugyeom, they have a dog, a DOG, best leader jaebum, it’s jinyoung not junior, dancing kings with bts, gotbangtan saved my life, mark who?
exo: i’m not even gonna start, sm does whatever with them, members left, idk any names, only do and kai, fandom is kinda :/ too, despise armies/bts, CHOGIWA, wolf was a tragic era, no one talks about the history mv, call me (daddy) baby, good music, apparently invented everything????, exo next door was cringey and my life at the same time, kudae oolf naega oolf
seventeen: wait how many members???, boy with long hair (its not long anymore??), good at everything, self producing idols, short angery man writes songs, vernon is a meme, they’re all memes, american hyung josh, only chan is actually 17, they have a general leader????, sub units within a group???, justice for china line, have they ever failed at anything??, carrot is the fandom name???
infinite: hoya hoya hoooya, old man sunggyu,
weekly idol’s children, i have never met an inspirit irl, or online, unique sound, quality music, looked a lil dusty in the early days but thats ok
vixx: kinky kpop group???, lightstick vibrates????, i love n, and leo, they got me chained up lmao i’m sorry, i have never met a starlight irl either, where yall at???
24k: who???, just kidding, people don’t know who they are tho, i’m in love with the leader, listen to oasis its a bop, sunbaes to so many of ur faves its unbelievable, give em a listen, go to russia/europe on the regular???, go through so many lineup changes what is their company doin smh, look em up hunnies
toppdogg: T O DOUBLE G, T O DOUBLE G, who???, just kidding, lots of bops, give oasis and arario a try, members keep leavin like no???, stay???, one member is literally named camel, have a good ass fandom name, topp klass, vvvv nice, i have never met one irl, hmu lol
monsta x: i can be your hERO, joohoney, slept on, no one can spell their name???, all in changed my life, wonho is lowkey kinky, no mercy really had no mercy, kings of circle choreos, wheres thEIR FIRST WIN???, shownu is a giant teddy bear, you thought you knew memes, inventor of the meme, stan talent pls ;-;
vromance: STAN TALENT DO IT LOOK THEM UP RIGHT NOW STAN THEM, grown men i love but shouldn’t, vocals slay me, eats cds, so much potential ;-;
**this is all just jokes but @ me if you want lol it’ll just be for a ridiculous reason
Come now, man: you were the Laird of Broch bloody Tuarach. It wasn’t long ago when you were capable of everything from bringing down foes on the battlefield barehanded to manipulating the workings of Europe’s royal courts. Even in more recent years, you managed to master an Automobile, did you not? For the love of Bride, you can certainly bring yourself to WALK to the Elevators.
Jamie did force himself to walk at a more-or-less dignified pace, but he let the foolish grin fly forth unchecked: Bree was here.
It had been only a day since he’d last seen her, but Lord, it seemed an eternity. More than once in that space of time, he’d found himself worrying for her sake. It had been so rushed, those minutes between their talking-to beneath the oak tree and when he’d entrusted her to the Harpers before fairly leaping into the Car to get to Claire’s side. He could scarcely remember how he had left things between him and his daughter. Had she spent the time apart fretting that he was still angry with her over the business with the climbing?
He walked faster. She had been fine, Marian (and later Penelope) had assured him in the times when he’d phoned, no tantrums or tears; but he still could scarcely wait another moment to have his little girl back in his arms again. For, full and complete as the experience of Ian’s birth had been, holding the wean made Jamie feel Bree’s absence all the more; a deep, growing ache in his wame, more noticeable with every passing minute. He needed to have both of his children there together, to kiss and hold them, to see both at once. A Dhia, came the stunned, joyful thought as he accelerated around the final corner: a father of two, Fraser…
Mrs. Byrd was just stepping out of the Elevator, Bree’s hand in hers, and Jamie could have burst with sheer joy at the sight, except that the minute his daughter laid eyes on him, she burst first: into tears.
He closed the distance between them in a matter of moments and caught her up into his arms, clutching her tight against his chest in a terrible panic of love and worry. “Bree, lass?”
She had thrown her arms around his neck at once, and he could feel the whole of her little body shaking as she sobbed out something that sounded like ‘Da.’
“I’m here.” He cupped her head. “Shhhh, dinna fash, lass, it’s alright….What’s the matter, a leannan?”
Penelope was apparently as bewildered as he. “Goodness! Where did that—She was quiet all morning, but I didn’t know something was—Oh, there, there, honey,” she crooned, coming close to stroke Bree’s back. “Tell us what’s the matter, sweet pea.”
Even with an inconsolable toddler on his shoulder, Jamie was filled with such tenderness and gratitude toward this dear woman. He and Claire truly couldn’t work at their hours and pace of life without Penelope’s endless dedication, a fact that would be all the more true in future, with two wee ones in her charge. To her credit, she was no cold, cruel governess like those in the stories: ‘Grannie Byrd’ was truly a member of the family. Jamie managed to bend down and kiss her on the cheek and express some of the depth of his gratitude with words, even over Bree’s tears. He truly hoped they never had occasion to learn what they would do without Penelope Byrd.
“Oh, you won’t have to, if I have anything to say about it,” she promised, patting Bree’s shaking back, then casting about a bit sheepishly. “I hate to run off and leave you without knowing what’s troubling her, but…”
“…But you’ve a wee grandson to meet,” he said with a smile, and for a moment, the look on her dear, weathered face made him wonder if he would have to manage two distraught ladies crying on his shoulder in a moment.
Still, as Penelope—glowing—made her way down the hall to find Claire and Ian, there was only Bree; only his daughter, sobbing her entire heart out.
“Alright, now,” he murmured in Gaelic, finding an empty chair on a quiet side-corridor and settling down into it. Surely, this was only the relief of an unaccustomed separation ended at last, he reasoned, and that would be soothed easily enough. “It’s alright, wee love….Cry all ye must…It’s alright, mo chridhe….”
He closed his eyes and held her tightly, a lump in his throat making him feel as though he would join her in crying at any moment. She just felt so big in his arms, so solid and full of lively energy, and all at once. he wanted to hold her there forever and keep her from growing up—that she might stay his wee one, always. “I love you, Brianna Ellen,” he murmured, finding it was the only thing that could hold the weight of all he felt.
What Brianna said in response had Jamie’s eyes flying open wide, and he bolted up so straight and so suddenly that Bree detached from his neck and would have toppled backward. “What was it ye said?”
Her face was red and wet and swollen, her expression the exact twin to her voice: wretched and genuinely crushed as she repeated: “…Love Beeyin more—th’n—me?”
“NO,” he swore violently. He saw her jump and forced himself to lower his voice. “That is absolutely not so, Brianna.”
“But—” She rubbed her eyes with both fists, hiccuping and still sobbing. “But them—they—”
“Bree.” He managed to get her to meet his eye again, torn between simple astonishment and anxiety for the state of her heart. “What on earth would make ye think such a thing?”
“Didna’nt MEAN to think one,” she wailed. “People were say—sayin’—”
“Which people? Who, lass?” he pushed.
“Meerin an’— Mister Tom an’ the people.”
“Oh, aye?…. And what did they say to ye?”
“That—” Tears welled up again in force and her words were choked and gasping. “You’re so much happy—‘cause of havin’ a—a baby thatsa baby-boy for FINALLY, and—and—” She collapsed once more in a heap around his neck. “An’—I—was—sad.”
“Oh, my sweet, wee cub…”
Jamie pulled her as close as he could, and kissed her again and again, her warm head pressed against his cheek. If Marian or Tom had truly made such a comment, he knew it would have been a completely lighthearted jest that had gotten unfortunately misconstrued. Still, by whatever means, that sense of ‘finally’ had obviously taken root in Bree’s heart, for the feeling behind that word had been deep and true.
“The people didna mean anything by it at all, Bree,” he promised. “It’s just how folk talk sometimes, aye? Some nonsense about how daddies are supposed to like their boys best, and mummies, the girls.”
“Thit’s—It’s…” He felt her sniff, heard the tentative hope. “….it’s a nonsense?”
He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “‘Aye, of course it is. Lass, I love your baby brother wi’ all my heart, but there’s no’ a single thing in the world that could make me love YOU less.” She coughed and gulped for air, and Jamie decided that perhaps humor would be of some use. “In fact, your Mum and me quarrel ALL the time about which of us loves ye most.”
She stirred and glowered dubiously up at him from under wet lashes, lips still quivering. “…Who’s….the most one?”
“Both of us.”
“Mum AND Da.”
Bree had trouble not grinning, though she made a valiant effort to stay stoic.
Jamie pressed his good fortune. “And, let’s face it, wee Ian shall—WELL….Can ye keep a secret?”
“Yeah!” she whispered, streaming eyes suddenly wide. “I’m keep it!”
“Only between us, ken….?” Jamie whispered confidentially. “Your wee brother is going to have to work verra, VERRA hard to impress, because his sister is already the best there is.”
“Me’s, the siss-ter?”
“Aye, that’s you.”
She giggled even as a latent tear slid the rest of the way down her cheek. Jamie thumbed it away and kissed the track, serious again. “Truly, Bree: no matter how much we love Ian, your Mum and I canna love you any less, not ever. It isna even possible, do ye hear me?”
She got a deep breath at last and exhaled it, the life coming back to her eyes. “Aye-okay.”
“Aye-okay, indeed.” He kissed her, his heart full. “Shall we go meet your wee brother, then, cub? He’s been asking after ye…”
And her smile—captivating him entirely with the earnest joy and excitement in it—was all the reassurance he needed.
Because she’s completely lost it. She’s essentially become the Mad King 2.0 (the man Jamie destroyed his honor to stop). She’s unstable and she’s dangerous. And Jaime, while he loves her, is going to see that. And he’s going to do what has to be done to stop her. The real question is will he be able to live with himself after?
ALSO, and this is only something you’d know if you read the books, there was more to Maggy the Frog’s prophecy than was seen in the show.
Cersei: “Will the king and I have children?” Maggy: “Oh, aye. Six-and-ten for him, and three for you. Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds, she said. And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”
The entire theory hinges on that one word: Valonqar
“Valonqar” is High Valyrian for “little brother.” Now of course Tyrion is the obvious answer here. He is the youngest Lannister child, and he of course hates his sister. But I believe he’s a red herring. Because remember, while Jaime and Cersei are twins, Cersei was born first.
Hey guys!! I’ve answered all of the questions I’ve had about Cuban language, culture, snacks, etc. for your Cuban Lance fanworks! If anyone has a question that’s not on here, you may feel free to ask!! (Just don’t expect it to be quick bc finals are here, sorry)
So my beautiful best friend, @tacmc and I decided to do a prompt exchange! The prompt we went with is “The fire alarm went off at 3 am and now the cute guy from the apartment next door is standing next to me in his underwear,” with a Rowaelin pairing.
Let us know if this is something you’d like for us to do more often!
You can find her half of the exchange HERE (it’s so damn cute, UGH) and mine below the cut! Enjoy!
Solitude. The sound of her voice her only company.
Days passed. Simply. Easily. Quietly.
Sometimes she was very busy, the drawers full. Sometimes it was quiet enough for her to get her work done, and the paperwork filed.
She’d been able to add what she could to her notes to help the officers at Scotland Yard. A flash revealing the cause of death, or gender of the perpetrator, and she would search the body for the evidence to point the police in the right direction. A long blonde hair from a jealous wife. The scratches from an angry lover. Sometimes the entire scenario would play in her head, and she would invite the detective who caught the case into the morgue to “run something by him”. She was very good at making the officers think they’d worked out the evidence.
Except for one.
Detective Sergeant James Fraser.
He watched her like a hawk. Which made her nervous. Part of her nerves came from the fact that his eyes lingered a little too long on her.
She couldn’t remember the last time a man looked at her like that. Not even her husband.
He made her feel. And after Frank’s death she didn’t want feelings. Feelings hurt. Feelings like betrayal, and disdain. She’d had enough of those feelings to last a lifetime.
The detective aroused different feelings, though. Feelings long buried in Claire. Longing. Lust. He was too damn good looking, that was the problem. The way his hair curled at his nape. The small scar at the base of his throat just begging for her lips. The scruff after a long day. And the way he breathed the word ‘Aye’ when he was thinking something over.
Aside from the obvious attraction, he was extremely clever. And he seemed to enjoy bantering ideas back and forth with her. Claire always was attracted to a keen mind.
“Do ye think it could be connected?” They both stared down at yet another victim in a drawer.
Claire pursed her lips. Oh, it was connected. But she hadn’t found the tangible evidence yet.
“Could be,” she said, noncommittally.
“Och, come on, Claire,” he said, tucking his note pad away. His head hurt from over analyzing. It had been a long day. “I’m starving. Let’s get some dinner.”
She looked up at him. “No, thank you. I’ve got some tidying up to do here yet.”
James looked around the morgue. There wasn’t a thing out of place. Not a paper on her desk. “Oh, aye. I can see that. Swamped, you are.” He raised an eyebrow. She was avoiding him.
Claire laughed. “Okay. You caught me. It’s just, I don’t do dinner with people I work with.”
He threw her a look. “It’s work, Claire. No’ a date.” He took two steps toward the door and stopped. Turned back around to face her, cat eyes narrowed. “Although, I wouldna mind one of those, as well.”
The vision slammed into her brain. Heavy breaths. Moans. Sweat. Skin. Legs gripping his hips. Big hand cradling her breast. His mouth hot on hers. And the feel of him pulsing inside her.
And just like that, it was gone.
Claire blushed. God, she hated this. Because her visions were never wrong. She was headed down this path like a freight train on its track. It would take all her strength to thwart it.
She took a deep breath. “I suppose it will do us good to talk about the case.” She avoided his eyes. “Just let me grab my coat and purse, okay, Jamie?”
He watched her walk towards her desk, pulling open a narrow closet to retrieve her things. Jamie. No one called him Jamie, save his family.
He never let anyone at Scotland Yard give him a nickname. Ever.
Yet, she had just called him by the name he’d had as a wee lad.
He watched her tuck into her fourth slice of pizza. He liked a woman with an appetite. Reaching for the wine bottle, he topped up her glass.
It may have started out hesitantly, but they’d had a good night. Claire loosened up after a couple of glasses of Merlot, and some good, generic conversation. She was born in Oxfordshire, only child, parents died in a car crash when she was five. Raised by an Uncle, who’d also passed.
He shared his family tidbits, the deaths of his parents and brother, the sister he did have and her family. You had to give in order to get from Claire. Once she got some food and wine in her, the conversation became easier. They spoke of work and why she became an M.E. She liked to work alone, she said. She got tired of losing patients, and since she was damn good at diagnostics it seemed like a good next step.
“And why no partner for you, Jamie?”
“Interesting nickname ye’ve given me,” he said, grabbing another slice for himself.
Shit. Shitshitshit. “You mentioned it,” Claire mustered her bravado. Looked him straight in the eye. No blinking.
“I did not,” Jamie said, returning her stare. Just a hint of panic in those amber eyes.
“You did,” she said. “You said your nephew was Wee Jamie, named after you.”
Jamie hesitated. So he had. Two hours after she first used the nickname, but he’d let that go.
He inclined his head in defeat. “So, why do ye think my latest victim is tied to the last one?”
An abrupt change in topic was in order. He didn’t want to lose her. He was having a good time. Claire was good company. She was gorgeous. Sexy. Now he found himself being attracted to her sharp mind and quick humour.
“They both died of some sort of poisoning. I haven’t determined what, yet. I’m waiting for toxicology to come back for the latest victim, but what I haven’t told you is that their stomach contents seemed similar. That should give you more information.”
Jamie set his slice down on his plate. “Interesting. So I know where I’m starting tomorrow. On the street retracing their steps.”
They finished dinner sharing stories, some gory, some embarrassing, some hilarious. Claire couldn’t remember the last time she’d had this much fun in a man’s company. Being married to Frank was not easy. He was fastidious. Predictable. Controlling. He never liked it if she laughed too loud, or talked to much.
In the beginning they’d gone out to dinner like this, and then with other academic couples. Those were never fun. She’d see the grimace cross his face when she said something he didn’t find intelligent enough, or he’d give her the “For God’s Sake Claire Quiet Down” tap on her leg under the table.
The worst outing was when she spontaneously went along on the dinner where he was “treating his research assistant” as a thank you. She knew immediately that they were sleeping together. Sparked quite the argument when they got home. The first of many.
None of that absolved her from her sin, though.
Jamie seemed to like her laugh. She could tell. He’d watch her mouth then grin from ear to ear. His eyes would get even more cat-like as he enjoyed her mirth.
He paid the bill, amid protests. He helped her on with her coat. He escorted her to his car, not letting her walk home at this hour.
He pulled up smoothly in front of her townhouse. He was out of the car and around the vehicle just as she climbed out.
“Thanks for dinner, James.” She stuck out her hand.
Jamie looked at her hand as if she had the plague. “James, is it now?”
He reached out and took her hand. The way a man takes a woman’s hand. A woman he’s been on a date with.
Hands. Stroking. Wound in her hair. Tugging. Heat filled her chest. Panting. Passion.
She found it hard to breathe. She could feel the arousal, the heat blossom between her legs.
She twisted her hand out of his and fell back against the car.
Jamie turned, concern mingled with shock on his face. He knew immediately what had happened.
He waited until she caught her balance. And her breath.
“Ye’ve seen us. Haven’t ye?” He bent his 6′ 4″ frame down so he could look Claire in the eyes.
Claire was terrified. How to answer? God, dare she tell him? She didn’t need to, apparently. Bastard already knew. She could see it in his eyes.
“We’re good together, aren’t we?” he whispered, eyes dark like a hurricane.
“JESUS, lass!” Jamie hissed as he lunged to snatch Bree mid-stride and prevent what would have been a flying leap off the picnic table. He forced himself to exhale before setting her onto her feet and asking, “Why in the name of all that is holy and right do ye turn demon the instant we go out in public?”
The demon giggled.
“Brianna, hear me, it’s no’ a game, this.” He dropped to a crouch before her, trying to keep his already-worn temper in check. “I mean it. NO climbing up upon things, d’ye hear?”
“Okayyyy!” she trilled, beaming with joy, already turning on her heel.
“Wait just there, we’re not—”
But she was already out of reach, scampering off to join a pack of other children headed toward the play-slides.
“Stay within the yard!” he called after her. “Heaven BLOODY help me,” he groaned under his breath in Gaelic, getting back to his feet and his conversation. “I’m terribly sorry for that wee hooligan, Tom.”
“It’s alright, bud,” Tom Harper laughed, handing him back his bottle of terrible American beer. “Kids will be kids, no harm done.”
“Perhaps it’s some great test of parenting, to see how well I cope wi’out Claire to hand….or how poorly, as the case might be.”
It was the annual Fernacre employee summer picnic, or as Bree saw it, a battlefield ripe for the carnage her impish soul apparently craved. Scarce an hour the two of them had been there, and she’d already knocked over a pitcher of Lemonade, bitten another child who had bumped into her, squirted tomato sauce all down her front, and managed to get a lollipop stuck in her hair. This was to say nothing of the tantrum on the car ride about not being able to see the clouds (it being a hot, blue day and there being no clouds), and several outbursts of language he was more than grateful Claire had not been present to overhear. Nine days out of ten, Bree’s heartbreaking sweetness outweighed the net destruction (though there was plenty of the latter in any given day, and no mistake); but there would be a full moon brewing in the sky this evening, certainly, for Brianna Fraser had come out IN FORCE.
“Really, though, she’ll grow out of it,” Tom said with a veteran’s confidence. “Our Rob was just the same at that age. It’s your first kiddo’s job to put you through the wringer. It’s in their contract and everything!” His wink went suddenly sideways as both brows furrowed over his Sunglasses. “Speaking of which, Claire’s okay, I hope?”
“Oh, aye, she’s well enough,” Jamie assured him, taking what restorative strength he could from the watery excuse for a draught. “The babe kept her up all through the night, and she didna think she could manage being out the heat, besides.”
“Don’t blame her one bit.” He wiped sweat from his forehead before adding significantly, “Not long, now, huh?”
“No,” he grinned back, “not long at all.”
Earlier that morning
“Will you absolutely hate me if I stay in bed today?”
“Of course not, mo nighean donn,” He tucked the covers more securely around her and then stood, looking around to see what he might bring her.
“Would it be pressing my good luck to beg you to take the monster with you?”
He kissed her, then Ian. “…Which one?”
“Oh, I’d happily give you BOTH, if I could!” She rubbed her now-still belly ruefully and winced a bit. “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, little one, you have got to give Mummy a BREAK when she’s trying to sleep. We can’t keep having these midnight drill parades!”
A whinnying horse galloped into the room and catapulted herself onto the bed next to Claire. “Mum-ma, you comin’?”
“No, lovey,” Claire said, pulling Bree close into a great, warm hug. “Mummy’s going to stay here and take a nap.”
“Nappin’ isna FUN!”
“Oh, it’s LOADS of fun for me! But you and Daddy will go and have a lovely time at the picnic, just the two of you.”
Bree grumbled for a minute, then brightened. “Can’see iffee’s ‘wake? If Beeyin’s ‘wake?”
Claire smiled that warm, sweet smile he loved so well. She pulled up the hem of her nightshirt from under the blankets, patiently letting Bree inspect the whole expanse of her with exuberant pats.
After a few moments, Bree glowered up and whispered in a confidential yell, “I dinna heer’im.”
“I don’t feel him ei—Oh! There he is!”
Bree shrieked in delight, dissolving into insane giggles as she poked the heaving mass back to and fro. At such a degree of intensity, it was rather like the game Jamie had seen the Fair where you clubbed the stuffed groundhog with a mallet only to have another pop up on the other side. ‘Clubbed’ indeed, for Claire was obliged to grab Bree’s hands and croon, “Gently, Bree, baby, *gently*…”
After a long, peaceful while, Claire happened to glance up and catch his expression. She was a canny one, his wife, and she gave him a gimlet eye at once. “And just what are you smirking at like a cat in the cream?”
In truth, he WAS grinning, so widely he must have looked positively deranged. “You. are. SO. BIG.”
“You ARSE,” she laughed, managing to land him a kick in the belly even through the blankets.
“Ye ARE! I mean, LOOK!” He came to sit on the edge of the bed and joined Bree in outlining just how massive she was. “Big as a—a—”
“A HOUSE!” Bree finished helpfully, “or A ‘POTTAMUS!”
“I do hope wee Ian comes out a fair shade more polite and complimentary than YOU lot,” Claire said, splitting a glare between the pair of them.
“And just think, you’ve *two weeks more,* forbye.”
“One and a half, thank you very much,” she corrected primly.
“But let’s just stop and consider.” He raised a significant brow. “Should wee Ian see fit to bide his time…”
“Don’t EVEN suggest it.”
“….It could be THREE weeks more…” He was having trouble speaking normally through the bubbling laughter. “….or even FOUR, until—”
“You wish four more weeks upon me, Jamie Fraser, and I will make you wish otherwise.”
Bree turned her coat in a flash. “Don’ wisp that at Mum-ma, Da.”
“Oh, verra well, if ye say so,” he said, mock-abashed, with a wink at his wife. Glancing at his watch, he groaned and straightened with a yawn. Claire’s tossing and turning in the night from Ian’s acrobatics hadn’t done him any favors, either. “Alright, a leannan, let’s see to your clothes and get along to the picnic.”
“You really do delight in seeing me as huge as a beached whale, don’t you?” Claire asked sardonically as Bree scurried from the room, cheering.
“Aye, I do,” he admitted freely, wrapping both his arms around her and nuzzling his nose against hers. “Truly one of the happiest sights I’ve ever seen.”
In the cave, he had many a time wondered—longingly—what Claire might look like at the time of her full term; and what he had imagined paled in comparison. She was full and lush in every single inch of her. Hair thick and glossy. Skin softly glowing like sunlight on a flower petal. Whisky eyes seeming to sparkle with the same light, heavy with a soft, sleepy happiness. Claire was absolutely exquisite in this height of her bearing, and he would happily spend all his days glorying in the memory of her, this way.
“I never imagined…” He bent and laid a kiss on her straining navel, reflecting that spending a fair number of those days in good fun and laughter would *also* be greatly rewarding. “…that anyone could get even bigger wi’ child than JENNY.”
“Bree!” Claire shouted, swatting him with a pillow as he lunged up to kiss her cheeks and neck ferociously, “tell your Da to take his imagination and shove it up his—”
A crash sounded from the other room, followed by a ‘whoops-eeee’, which, in retrospect, had not boded well for the rest of the day
His head whipped around so fast he heard his neck crack.
She was on the top rung of the fence separating the yard from the adjacent pasture, and he felt his heart stop as she fell from it headfirst.
The next moments as he sprinted toward her seemed to pass as slowly as in a dream. He could hear shouts and cries behind him, but he didn’t stop for an instant until he was vaulting over the fence and snatching her up off her back. He didn’t remember what words he may have uttered, or in what language, but a few moments later, he was exhaling in great gasps of relief seeing that she was conscious and not injured, just badly scared with the breath knocked out of her.
Dazed, she began to cry with great long wails that drove away the two mares that had come to investigate the visitor to their pasture. Thank the Lord she hadn’t chosen the next paddock over, where the true brawlers were kept.
“You’re alright?” he demanded once more as he got back to the right side of the fence, vaguely aware he was speaking in Gaelic. “You’re not hurt?”
She coughed and gasped for breath, considered, then showed him, lips trembling, a slightly-red patch on the fleshy part of her palm.
He laid a fervent kiss in her hand—silently praising heaven she hadn’t broken the wrist, for all that she was still crying like a banshee—and then could contain himself no longer.
“What did I say about climbing?” His teeth were gritted tight and his hands were shaking even as they strove to remain gentle. “AND about wandering off??”
“I din’knowww,” she wailed, hearing his tone and trying to hide her face in his chest.
“Ye DO know.” He pulled her up and made her look at him. “Brianna Ellen, ye mustlisten to what I say! Don’t ye understand ye could have gotten very badly hurt? Lass, look at me.”
She was sobbing, now, working herself up into hysterics. “C—can—na—”
He went completely still at that. Closing his eyes, he took a deep, deep breath.
Help me, Da.
With gestures and apologetic looks, he shooed the well-meaning onlookers back to their picnic and made for the big oak tree in the opposite corner of the yard. It was well-shaded, and he sat down against the trunk, holding his daughter to his chest as she sobbed against his shoulder.
Thank God she wasn’t hurt. Thank GOD.
“Bree, cub?” The walk had calmed him, and he was glad to hear his voice was gentle and soft. “Look at me, aye?”
After a moment, she glanced timidly up (face red as an apple and covered in liquids of all description) and he smiled at her, stroking her cheek and her hair. “I’m here, a leannan. It’s just me…just Da… I love you.”
“Love—” she hiccuped through her tears, “—too.”
He kissed her and held her close for a minute before setting her on his legs facing him and saying gravely, “But ye made me verra afraid today, a chuisle. Ye disobeyed and could have hurt yourself.”
“I did’nint mean to,” she said, rubbing her eyes.
“Aye, I ken ye didna mean to get hurt,” he said, gently pulling her fists away from her face, “but ye meant to be climbing the fence, even after I told ye not.”
“…It was fun, though,” she offered with a shrug, voice tremulously defiant.
Come on, Da…. How would ye have explained this to me?
A shrill whinny sounded in the distance, then another, and Jamie glanced around to see the two sorrel foals playing together in the south pasture, teasing and prancing about one another.
He smiled and felt peace whispering through the grasses. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away.
“Ye ken, when wee Ian is born, Bree, he’s going to grow up fast. Before long, he’ll be as big as you and running about on his own! And you’ll want your wee brother to be safe, aye?”
She straightened at that, no longer crying. Bairn safety was no small matter, in her book. She nodded.
“Say there were something like a great, nasty snake crawling about in the grass about to bite your brother on the foot…..Would ye just stand by and let him be hurt?”
Brianna looked up at him in absolute affront. “NO, I’d kill dat snake!”
He very nearly choked, but managed to keep a moderately straight face. Call upon a Fraser, and a Fraser ye shall get, he supposed; but he cleared his throat and plunged on, determined to make his point. “But what if wee Ian didna understand the beast was dangerous? What if he went running to the snake because he thought it would be fun to play wi’ it?”
“Well…I jus’tell him not.”
“Aye, just so,” he said, “because we have to protect the people we love, d’ye see?”
“Uh-huh.” She was staring up at him, rapt but not quite understanding.
“So when I tell ye not to do things like climb the fence, mo chridhe, it’s only to keep ye safe, to keep ye getting hurt because I love you so. And when the bairn comes, it’ll be your job to keep him safe, too.”
She nodded emphatically. “I’ll do him safe, Da, promise.”
“But that means ye have to keep yourself safe, as well. Elder sisters have to be the best at obeying Mam and Da so the smaller bairns ken what’s the right way of things. Can ye do that?”
“Aye,” she said at once. “I’ll ‘bey.”
For precisely sixty seconds out of every hour, he predicted.
“Hear me, though, Bree: the next time ye disobey like ye did today, I shall have to strap ye. I dinna want to do it, not one bit, but it’s how you’ll learn. Are we understood?
“Getting smacked hard on the bottom wi’ a belt.”
“Hard?” she clarified, shocked.
“Aye, hard enough that it hurts.”
“But ye said—” She scrunched up her face and gestured with both hands. “NOT do things to KEEP me of getting hurted….”
A Dhia, Da, he laughed silently, how by all the saints did ye raise three—
His head snapped up and he saw Marian rushing down from the house, beckoning wildly, with a look of—
“Da—ddy—” Bree gasped out from where she bounced against his shoulder. “Why we runnin’?”
His heart was pounding.
“Because your brother has decided he’s going to arrive early.”
He smiled suddenly, the haze of fatigue gone. “Oh, aye. Chickens are verra poor company, especially on a long journey.” Realizing that the dressing was completed, he hunched the shoulder experimentally, wincing as he did so.
“Don’t do that!” I said in alarm. “You really mustn’t move it. In fact,” I glanced at the table, to be sure there were some strips of dry fabric left. “I’m going to strap that arm to your side. Hold still.”
He didn’t speak further, but relaxed a bit under my hands when he realized that it wasn’t going to hurt. I felt an odd sense of intimacy with this young Scottish stranger, due in part, I thought, to the dreadful story he had just told me, and in part to our long ride through the dark, pressed together in drowsy silence. I had not slept with many men other than my husband, but I had noticed before that to sleep, actually sleep with someone did give this sense of intimacy, as though your dreams had flowed out of you to mingle with his and fold you both in a blanket of unconscious knowing. A throwback of some kind, I thought. In older, more primitive times (like these? asked another part of my mind), it was an act of trust to sleep in the presence of another person. If the trust was mutual, simple sleep could bring you closer together than the joining of bodies.
The strapping finished, I helped him on with the rough linen shirt, easing it over the bad shoulder. He stood up to tuck it one-handed into his kilt, and smiled down at me.
“I thank ye, Claire. You’ve a good touch.” His hand reached out as though to touch my face, but he seemed to think better of it; the hand wavered and dropped to his side. Apparently he had felt that odd surge of intimacy too. I looked hastily away, flipping a hand in a think-nothing-of-it gesture.
My gaze traveled around the room, taking in the smoke-blacked fireplace, the narrow, unglazed windows, and the solid oak furnishings. No electrical fittings. No carpeting. No shiny brass knobs on the bedstead.
It looked, in fact, like an eighteenth-century castle. But what about Frank? The man I had met in the wood looked disturbingly like him, but Jamie’s description of Captain Randall was completely foreign to everything I knew about my gentle, peace-loving husband. But then, if it were true— and I was beginning to admit, even to myself, that it might be— then he could in fact be almost anything. A man I knew only from a genealogical chart was not necessarily bound to resemble his descendants in conduct.
But it was Frank himself I was concerned with at the moment. If I was, in fact, in the eighteenth century, where was he? What would he do when I failed to return to Mrs. Baird’s? Would I ever see him again? Thinking about Frank was the last straw. Since the moment I stepped into the rock and ordinary life ceased to exist, I had been assaulted, threatened, kidnapped and jostled. I had not eaten or slept properly for more than twenty-four hours. I tried to control myself, but my lip wobbled and my eyes filled in spite of myself.
I turned to the fire to hide my face, but too late. Jamie took my hand, asking in a gentle voice what was wrong. The firelight glinted on my gold wedding band, and I began to sniffle in earnest.
“Oh, I’ll … I’ll be all right, it’s all right, really, it’s … just my … my husband … I don’t—”
“Ah lass, are ye widowed, then?” His voice was so full of sympathetic concern that I lost control entirely.
“No … yes … I mean, I don’t … yes, I suppose I am!” Overcome with emotion and tiredness, I collapsed against him, sobbing hysterically.
The lad had nice feelings. Instead of calling for help or retreating in confusion, he sat down, gathered me firmly onto his lap with his good arm and sat rocking me gently, muttering soft Gaelic in my ear and smoothing my hair with one hand. I wept bitterly, surrendering momentarily to my fear and heartbroken confusion, but slowly I began to quiet a bit, as Jamie stroked my neck and back, offering me the comfort of his broad, warm chest. My sobs lessened and I began to calm myself, leaning tiredly into the curve of his shoulder. No wonder he was so good with horses, I thought blearily, feeling his fingers rubbing gently behind my ears, listening to the soothing, incomprehensible speech. If I were a horse, I’d let him ride me anywhere.
This absurd thought coincided unfortunately with my dawning realization that the young man was not completely exhausted after all. In fact, it was becoming embarrassingly obvious to both of us. I coughed and cleared my throat, wiping my eyes with my sleeve as I slid off his lap.
“I’m so sorry … that is, I mean, thank you for … but I …” I was babbling, backing away from him with my face flaming. He was a bit flushed, too, but not disconcerted. He reached for my hand and pulled me back. Careful not to touch me otherwise, he put a hand under my chin and forced my head up to face him.
“Ye need not be scairt of me,” he said softly. “Nor of anyone here, so long as I’m with ye.” He let go and turned to the fire.
“You need somethin’ hot, lass,” he said matter-of-factly, “and a bit to eat as well. Something in your belly will help more than anything.” I laughed shakily at his attempts to pour broth one-handed, and went to help. He was right; food did help. We sipped broth and ate bread in a companionable silence, sharing the growing comfort of warmth and fullness.
Finally, he stood up, picking up the fallen quilt from the floor. He dropped it back on the bed, and motioned me toward it. “Do ye sleep a bit, Claire. You’re worn out, and likely someone will want to talk wi’ ye before too long.”
This was a sinister reminder of my precarious position, but I was too exhausted to care much. I uttered no more than a pro forma protest at taking the bed; I had never seen anything so enticing. Jamie assured me that he could find a bed elsewhere. I fell headfirst into the pile of quilts and was asleep before he reached the door.