Edit: it won’t let me put this in normal title format, so:
Four thousand planets in the Great Unity. Six thousand sentient species, give or take. Technology so complicated it could only be repaired by crews with multiple different cognition types on the team. And that’s not even mentioning the violent flare-ups that had brought the Great Unity down from eight thousand planets and fourteen thousand species. It was entirely understandable for the humans to be intimidated. But no, that wasn’t quite it.
To the species with similar intelligences and social structures, it almost seemed that the humans were embarrassed, of all things. But nobody paid them any mind. Their insistence on using the freely given technologies to outphase the signals that they had been broadcasting for cycles? Odd. Same with their social quarantining of all human history, and with the electromagnetic shielding of their quadrant. The only thing people really paid attention to was when this backwater nothing asked for the other species to delete the preliminary data gathered earlier. Some worlds balked at that, but this tiny, flimsy race was so obviously terrified that even the most predatory of the war races consented to the purge. It didn’t really matter anyways - their quadrant, an even mix of death worlds and featureless rocks, was otherwise entirely empty of life, sentient or otherwise.
The Alab were the first to realize how strange that had been. If humanity had then hidden itself away, kept from the rest of the universe, it would have been as expected (there were many shy, prey-evolved races), and they would have been ignored, as seemed their wish. But no. The flimsy bipeds built ships of their own, founded settlements on half a dozen worlds. And these places weren’t shielded like Earthspace was; instead they were as obvious and unshielded as possible. Curious about the oddity - they were a plains evolution, so curiosity fit them - the Alab ventured as close as they could to the strange cities without being spotted, hidden beneath the best cloaking the Great Unity had to offer.
As it turned out, they didn’t need to hide. Partially because the Humans saw them, somehow, and partially because the Humans invited them down. By now the Alab’s interest had attracted the attention of most of the Great Unity, who telepathically watched through the Alab sensory hearts as a world opened up around them.
This colony was not the tarnished scar they would have expected of a nascent race. Even the planet was different from the dusty rock it had started as.
A cool breeze touched the Alab delegation. It was scented with so many things that, for a moment, the Alab was frozen in simply trying to process the variety. The variety, of course, came from the masterpiece of terraforming before them: where there were one craters, glittering pools shimmered with the reflective scales of aquatic creatures; the star-burnt ridges now housed both massive, rigid photosynthetic organisms and prancing furred quadrupeds.
Even that brief glimpse sparked massive speculation on the universal scale. Were the humans genetic engineers whose art surpassed even that of the Tra'di? Did their planet simply have that many organisms, with an evolutionary history far enough beyond anything seen elsewhere, to create such variety of perfectly proportioned life? Landscape designers hurriedly took notes and scans, preparing for the unavoidable rush of requests for the new style.
But that wasn’t the mission, as stunning as the landscape was. The Alab turned around, clicking their hearts at the abrupt change in input. The city was massive, a gleaming wonder in stone and steel, somehow surpassing the crystal forests of the Mavse in elegance. The ships soaring through the skies above shone like the stars they sought, yet the Alab could pick out individual details on the designs adorning them.
Not long after this event, other species began to visit Humanity’s homes. Without fail, each and every one of them was uniquely beautiful. Their ships weren’t the fastest, but one couldn’t help but be impressed at their symmetry. Their music wasn’t the most complex, but it often gave rise to more emotion than actual empathic abilities. And each colony had its own biome, its own set of unique species, each more impressive than the last.
Rumors began to grow, as they do, surrounding the home world of the greatest artists the universe had ever seen. Some said that it was drab, focused on training the artists they sent out rather than on making the art itself. Others declared that Earth obviously was a religious secret (they had found out that humans had religion only a few cycles earlier. Of course, their prayers and monuments were the most beautiful anyone had ever seen), but that was scoffed at. The sheer breadth of human religions wouldn’t allow a decision that unified, the debaters pointed out, and at least one human would have given it away before now if it was something centered on faith.
By far the most popular opinion was that even the most wondrous works on the colony worlds paled in comparison to the splendor of Earth. Tales spread, saying that anyone nonhuman who saw Earth in all its glory would be struck silent by awe, never to speak again, for fear of diminishing the memory of what they saw. That Earth was so wondrous that the colonists saw their own worlds, home to more abstract riches and honor than most of the rest of the universe, as hopelessly utilitarian, as gray and lifeless in comparison as Raner Alikrem to Ormek 8.
Over the Human cycles, Earth grew in fame and mystery. Despite taking advantage of every advancement shown to them, Humanity never once volunteered knowledge or technology beyond that of their art and culture. Nobody minded, though, as said art was definitely worth the cost. Humans got more and more famous, and continually better educated, as the Great Unity slowly funded and rewarded their astounding work. But they retained their peculiar aversions, never accepting any weapons, or training, or even remotely militant designs, acting almost horrified at the thought of violence. It made sense, in an odd way. The fragmentary human history that had been gathered from the occasional interview with the taciturn race was as pure as it came, one where even hinting at conflict would see one shunned. Traders and scholars learned this quickly, taking specialized training in avoiding the subject just to avoid scaring their precious artists.
It was with this in mind that the Gald set out for Earth. They were one of the oldest species in the galaxy, and undoubtedly one of those for whom the times of peace chafed the most. It was in seeking both truth and conquest that they sent out their expeditionary force towards Earth. The logic was plain even to the most sedentary of species - if the most fascinating mystery in all the universe was being guarded by the eleventh most physically weak of the races, and the second least violent (the least being an immobile, telepathic cellscape that covered a small moon), then of course a predator-evolved race with an undeniable urge to spread their reach, grow their power, would eventually come after them.
The first fleet was more of a team of armed ambassadors than an armada. Even as they attacked, the Gald hoped to stay in Humanity’s good graces. The Gald kept in careful contact with them up until the moment they crossed over into the shielded Earthspace.
The first fleet was never heard from again. The Gald, logically assuming that some standard space disaster had befallen their fleet, sent another, this one with precautionary reconnaissance and messenger ships. Again, all was well up to the shielded space. The Gald, sure that the new fleet was safe from all but the strangest disasters, waited with bated breath for the return of the messenger ships.
The first one came back early, not only with a report from the fleet (no notable planets had been found yet, other than twelve deathworlds. The fleet continued its search for Earth), but with cargo. That was unexpected, to say the least. The messenger ships had been intended to fly back and forth across the shield, transmitting messages from one side to the other. That one had been used instead to transfer what looked like an derelict satellite meant that, whatever was on that satellite, it was worth looking in to. The satellite proved a welcome distraction from waiting for the return of the second fleet. It had turned out to be an old mining surveyor, sent into what would become Earthspace mere ertd before the humans entered the Great Unity. It had been destroyed - they couldn’t tell by what - only twelve Human cycles before said entrance.
Excitedly, the Gald searched the recorded scans from the surveyor for images of Earth. It only took them a few hundred false positives - deathworlds and wastelands all - before they found it. A world, extremely high in water content, of substandard gravity. Cloaked, seemingly unintentionally, in a cacophony of electromagnetic signals, the world had all the readouts of a near-spacefaring race. The Gald, elated at their discovery of Earth’s exact location (what kind of planet hides themselves in the exact center of the protective shielding?), sent the messenger ship back across, with new commands for the fleet.
There was no response. The second fleet had, somehow, vanished.
Frustrated now, the Gald sent a proper fleet for the third time, targeting the exact location of their quarry. Armed with the most formidable equipment the Great Unity (home to almost a thousand intelligent warlike species) had to offer, and with a borderline-forbidden Breacher signal processing unit that would allow them to transmit past the shielding back to their home planet, they closed in.
Everything was going well - the invasion force was actually feeling a bit pointless - when they reached the first field of wreckages. They stopped for just long enough to check that there were no survivors of their fleet, and that there were no intact ships or weapon systems to harvest. It was when they reached the second fleet that they realized something might actually be wrong - these ships were perfectly bisected along the power cores, the corpses of their crew shot midfloat even as they died in the depressurization of space. But again, scans revealed no useful resources, personnel, or information about the opposing force.
By then the crews had begun to mutter. Nobody had any idea of what could have done all of this - the technology was far beyond that of the rest of the Great Unity. Some said that it was a rogue member of the Great Unity who had gotten there first. Others said that it was even a species from outside the known, who was trying to infiltrate the Great Unity through their physically weakest link. Either way, the mission of the Gald shifted in a new direction: save the humans from this strange new threat. The fact that doing so would net them the secrets of Earth was simply a bonus to a glorious war.
The high command glinted at that - it was a political win/win from something that they had expected to bring them only hatred. As the Gald, weapons primed against the unknown threat, passed into the solar system that Earth was supposed to be located in, they began to broadcast their oncoming victory across the universe. Every member of the Great Unity guiltily watched, greedy for the final answer to the Question of Earth. The Gald passed the star that Earth circled. They counted planets our from the center, pausing when they got to the third nearest. It wasn’t Earth. Or at least, it didn’t look like it. There were no towering cities of light, nor were there full monasteries of inspiration. There were no massive tracts of wildlife, no “forests”, no poles of ice, no massive mountains. Even the water, which had before been one of the natural wonders of this world according to the mining satellite, had vanished, leaving the continents indistinguishable from the sea floor. Horror and sadness filled the galaxy - clearly whatever had destroyed the Gald fleets had also smote the Earth into oblivion, leaving slag where there were once mountains, and radioactive craters where the satellite showed had once been glorious cities.
It was while the Gald drifted in shock that the armada appeared, dropping cloaks unlike anything the Great Unity had ever seen before unleashing whirlwinds of light and kinetics upon the unfortunate war fleet.
The signal cut off. Silently - so as not to alarm the human colonies, who had, of course, not watched - the myriad worlds of the Great Unity came to a consensus. They would keep this horrendous act of violence from the Humans for as long as possible. They would arm themselves, surrounding Earthspace with the best and brightest of every militant force the Great Unity had to offer. And they would study every recorded trace of the Gald transmission until they knew everything possible about those monstrous destroyers who came to be called the Worldbreakers.
Several erdt passed, with no trace of the Worldbreakers. Another fleet, armed again with a Breacher, was sent into Earthspace. They didn’t last long.
A pattern developed, over time. A fleet would go in, armed with the newest equipment, often technology inspired by their very foes. They would briefly be able to scan Earth and the neighboring systems, often places with even more melted planets, before being extinguished by the Worldbreakers. It happened again and again. The newest of weapons would be blocked with shields specifically designed against their unique energy signatures. The most outlandish of strategies was outdone as if textbook. Nothing could phase the Worldbreakers; it became clear that they had played at war at extremes beyond the imaginations of even the sadistic Denwim.
The Worldbreakers became a common component of human-free discussions. Cults formed around them, both worshipping their undefeated might and fearing the eventuality that they would notice the rest of the intelligent universe. And then the day came. The day that turned everything around. It was a combination of three simultaneous events, between an obsessive astronomical historian, a lab treating a Human child for brain damage, and a student’s analysis of the Gald transmissions.
The historian was comparing old electromagnetic transmission records to the current species database, to track how many near-spaceflight species actually developed it and entered the Great Unity. It was quite surprised when it found a plethora of electromagnetic records, all obviously from different species, from all across what became Earthspace. It wondered to its colleagues what could have happened to seventy-three distinct species that would leave no trace of their civilization. No disaster they could imagine would have allowed the survival of only the Humans, a race too fragile to survive much of their own planet, much less interstellar catastrophes.
The doctor who headed up the lab was doing routine lobe simulations, checking that each repaired part of the Human child’s brain worked as properly. He was quite interested in this, as Humans generally performed their own operations, and the Human brain was largely a mystery to most of the universe. He was hoping for some distinctive part that would explain Humanity’s artistic skills, so his simulations were very in depth.
One can imagine his surprise when, instead of symmetry and resonance being the core of the Human biopsychological makeup, his simulation showed little other than pure, unadulterated aggression and greed. Uncertain, he ran it again. And again. Then he called the other interspecies doctors he knew to have them replicate the results. It was confirmed - Humans, the race so famous for hating the mere thought of conflict, was at its core the most hateful species the Great Unity possessed, orders of magnitude worse than the Gald.
And the student’s work sealed the matter. In a thermometric readout of the planets destroyed by the Worldbreakers, she found that, according to standard interplanetary cooling formulas, the Earth had to have been destroyed long ago, before even the Humans reached out to the Great Unity to ask for privacy. Unity laws prevented locations with signs of unknown species from being placed under electromagnetic shielding and social quarantine, so the Worldbreakers couldn’t have been there to destroy Earth before the shield was placed. The paradox did not lend itself at all to any known theories.
The logic was clear. Even the hive minds agreed. Humanity was not the docile race of scholars and artists that they appeared. Nor were they shy about their homeworld. Not shy, but paranoid. Sensibly paranoid that, should the Great Unity discover their war-torn past, that they had not only destroyed at least seventy-three sentient species but also their own planet in the short time between when they had developed space flight and joined the Great Unity, the other members would have either fled or tried and failed to exterminate them. So they went with their other option - beauty. They hid their ugliness under a veil of wonder, only sending their unstoppable armada after those who came close to finding out their secret past.
The understanding rocked the galaxy. Nobody sane had even contemplated this before, that one species could appear so innocent and yet be so terrifying. Their worlds would never be the same.
Despite all of this, little to nothing changed for the Humans. Aliens still came from all over to view their work, even if they now did it with apprehension. Scholars still appreciated their mystery, perhaps all the more.
And, of course, the unofficial rule that the topic of violence was never, ever to be breached while Humans were in contact suddenly became a lot more official.
Tl;dr: Humans are the super shy aliens. Too bad. It’s always the quiet ones.
Warnings: Sad characters are sad, and you are also sad, but at the end you both are not so sad, so that’s good.
His new Kingship has got Jon thinking, worrying about his old wounds. To confide and ease his conflictions he goes to speak with you, an old friend of Ygritte’s, a worg blinded from a punishment of your grandparents.
You were sitting in front of the weirwood, a small bright red cardinal in your hand while rosy-finches and redpolls littered the snow around you, eating the seeds you had tossed out. The leather wrap around your eyes was warm, it’s only real saving grace. Behind it was scars and only flesh where the eye sockets had been melted and burned over. It happened as a child, a punishment that passed down for three generations, you never knowing the reason, just that it made you a cursed creature. But not being able to see didn’t stop your worging and certainly didn’t stop your other senses.
“Hello Jon.” You smiled hearing the crunch of snow coming out of the path. “Or should it be King Jon now? From Bastard to Commander to King. A wonder what you’ll be next.”
You heard a breath of a laugh, his boots coming a little closer, the wind blowing just as it did to let you recognize his scent. “That’s what I’m worried about. It sounds like there’s nowhere left to go now but down.”
“Are we savages, or are we brave?“ // “The world’s a dangerous place. Not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
“Isn’t that where it’s comfortable? In the sameness?” // “We’re both too smart to allow pettiness to dictate our actions.”
“Annihilation is always the answer. We destroy parts of ourselves everyday. Annihilation is all we are.” // “Don’t shit a shitter.”
“She may look innocent, but I’d be careful.” // “Even though what you did was wrong, you’re still a good kid. And that guy was a prick. Sometimes that matters more.”
“In my life, as I was making my way, I always asked the question: “Am I the most powerful person in the room? And the answer needed to be “Yes”. To this day, I still ask that question, and the answer is still “Yes”. In every room in the entire world, the answer is “Yes”…with exception of one…or two.“
“You don’t like people?”
“Not most of them, no” // “The minute you remove emotion from this, you’ll do just fine.”
“I should just tell her what she wants to hear.” // “People who get violent get that way because they can’t communicate.”
“I’m good at reading people. My secret, I look for the worst in them.” // “We inherently trust no one, including each other. I’ll never be able to tell her there will always be this divide, my walls she can’t look over… and she knows it.”
“I will not be owned.” // “When they say “if your friends jump off a bridge, would you?” – he would. Without hesitation, just to prove something.“
“People walk around acting like they know what hate means. Nah. No one does until you hate yourself… I mean, truly hate yourself. That’s power.” // “Shit. I’m gonna have to let him hug me, aren’t I?”
“Sometimes I dream of saving the world. Saving everyone from the invisible hand, the one that brands us with an employee badge, the one the forces us to work for them, the one that controls us every day without us knowing it. But I can’t stop it. I’m not that special. I’m just anonymous. I’m just alone.”
“Fantasy is an easy way to give meaning to the world. To cloak our harsh reality with escapist comfort. After all, isn’t that why we surround ourselves with so many screens? So we can avoid seeing? So we can avoid each other? So we can avoid truth.”
White Liberalism™ and White Feminism™ is when you take two key figures from troubling, problematic and illegitimate current administration and seriously think saying “all politics aside” absolves you from flawed analysis.
To think that it’s possible to separate who Ivanka and Melanie are from the politics of their brand is absurd.
"All politics aside" and “part of the world cloaked in fundamentalism and oppression” reads to me “despite the endless problems coming out of their administration, they’re still Pious White Folks in this sea of Middle East barbarians"
Or more simply "despite what you think of the Trumps, they’re still rich and powerful white people”
I want to marry the sun. It’s the one thing in this world I can depend on, that I know will always be there. I can’t touch it, but it seeks me out. The warmth I feel on my skin is because of the sun, and the freckles on my face are marks of love. The smattering across my cheeks and nose is a reminder of its eternal presence.
I can’t stare at the sun, because it’s too bright. Isn’t that the way love is supposed to feel? Like if you stare at it for too long you have to look away, because it blinds you in its glory. Love should light up the sky and take your breath away.
True love should give you everything. It should be the beginning and the end and all that is in between. That is the sun. When we are nothing but a tombstone weathered into an illegible sentiment, the sun will remain. When I am no longer walking about this earth, the sun will go on. Maybe it’s a daunting thought to others. For me, it’s comforting.
When I close my eyes and see the red through my eyelids, I smile. Because there is no such thing as true darkness when the light is at your side. It chases away the shadows, and any creatures lurking in the depths of my mind cower in its wake.
When the sun is gone and the night approaches, they come back. They beckon and taunt me. Tell me the thoughts I try so desperately to shut out. It’s funny really. We’re afraid of the monsters in our closets when the real ones dwell in our hearts. The darkness laughs in my face and brings horrible thoughts to life. In those times, it’s difficult not to resent the sun. After all, it left me when I needed it most. And as if it knows I call for it, knows I am close to breaking, the sun comes back, lighting up a world cloaked in shadows.
People say that the sun is a star, but I’m convinced otherwise. If the sun were a star, then it would be like billions of others. Unremarkable. How could something that gives me everything be so ordinary? It grows love in a world of hate. Its gentle touch on my neck and shoulders is the only reassurance I need to go on. The sun gives me strength. It seeps through my skin and floods my veins with sweet honey and warm embraces.
Some cannot handle its touch. They see it as a nuisance. But truthfully, I’m amazed. Something millions of miles away has the ability to leave a mark on my skin. We pass hundreds of people every day, none leaving marks. None influencing. We’re like planets, all of us. All caught up in our own gravity. We never truly step out of our borders, not with anyone. Yet the sun, in its mighty defiance, dares to permeate the walls we so effortlessly put up.
I wish I could be like the sun- bright, strong, influential, important. Instead, I will just marry it. I will attach myself to it in hopes to become its reflection. And one day, even if it’s just one, I will light up the sky. I will leave the marks. I will do the influencing.
as requested by the wonderful @smariko !! sorry that this was quite late, but i had a little bit of trouble starting this one lol. this pretty much takes place after the events of 2x10. enjoy :)
Alec and Magnus sat cross-legged on Alec’s bed, facing each other, and talking about everything and anything. Business at the Institute had just calmed down and Alec needed to just sit down for a second. He was alive, Magnus was alive, they were alive together. And he made sure to cherish that before the next threat arose.
Alec reached out to run a light finger down the bridge of Magnus’ nose. Magnus sighed at the touch, eyes closed and hands on Alec’s chest. They were sitting close enough to feel each other’s breath but it never felt close enough.
Suddenly, the door to Alec’s room burst open and the two jerked back in surprise. Turning around, Alec glared at Jace who was standing in the doorway. “Jace, come on! We went over thi-”
“You’re gonna wanna see this,” panted Jace. Both Alec and Magnus frowned and eyed each other curiously. Without another word, they both rose and followed Jace to the Ops Centre.
“Jace what’s going on?” asked Alec, worry soaked in his voice as they turned the corner of a corridor. Alec reached his fingers out to Magnus’ hand and they interlaced fingers tightly.
“It’s the Clave,” was all Jace said. Alec groaned loudly, knowing full well that the Clave only ever sent emissaries to ruin things. The three made it to the Ops Centre as quickly as possible to join Isabelle and Clary. Shadowhunters had their weapons drawn and handcuffs out, wading their way through everyone in the Institute.
It didn’t take them long to figure out that Shadowhunters were ushering all Downworlders off the premises. A Clave representative explained that after the attack on the Institute, no Downworlders could be trusted to be in the Institute. Alec rolled his eyes. They must have known that no Downworlder was responsible for what had happened. The Clave often cloaked their prejudice as wanting to help keep the entire Shadow World but everyone knew it was bullshit.
Isabelle stepped up to Alec and Magnus with an apologetic gaze. “The Clave is placing a ban on all Downworlders entering any Institute – ever. They’re thinking of writing it into the Accords,” she whispered. Alec was speechless. They couldn’t do that, they just couldn’t.
Magnus looked up from Isabelle to see Simon being forcefully removed from the Institute. A seraph blade was dangerously pressed to his back. Simon looked back at a distressed Clary who was also being held back by an angry Shadowhunter. Magnus glanced at Simon and felt compelled to help him. “Simon!” Magnus exclaimed, wading through the dense group of Nephilim, Magnus ran up to Simon, a hand reached out to his.
Before he could do anything else, Magnus had a seraph blade held to his throat by a Clave emissary. “Hey!” Alec yelled, running to the front of the group. Magnus stood as still as possible, aware that one wrong move could have him slaughtered. Alec glanced down to see Magnus’ fingers spark with flames of red – he was getting ready to attack. Magnus looked up to sneer at the Shadowhunter in front of him, cat eyes glowing. The Shadowhunter looked back at him in disgust.
Suddenly, another Clave representative had his blade to Magnus’ throat as well and Magnus let his sparks die. Alec clenched his fists at the sight. He couldn’t just stand there. Alec cautiously walked up to the situation. Every other person in the Institute had stepped meters back, steering clear of anything that could go down. It was dead silent.
Alec placed a hand on Magnus’ shoulder and pushed him back lightly before stepping up between the Clave emissaries and his boyfriend. His eyes were piercing into the Shadowhunters’ in a look that was deathly cold. His jaw was clenched and knuckles white. “Nobody touches him,” Alec said in a low but harsh voice.
One of the Clave Shadowhunters stepped closer to Alec. “Sometimes I wonder why we ever let them in,” she said, coldly. She glanced over to Magnus to look him up and down in disgust. “Get rid of him yourself,” she snared before setting down her blade and ushering the rest of the Downworlders and Clave emissaries out of the Institute.
Letting out a deep breath that Alec wasn’t even aware he had been holding in, he turned to look at Magnus. The Warlock had his eyes cast downwards and had fists balled up beside him. He looked so helpless and – although Alec would never describe him this way – weak.
Alec stepped closer to Magnus, forehead pressed to the side of Magnus’ head. He was at a loss for words. “I don’t know how to fix this…” he murmured, softly, helplessly. Magnus looked up at Alec.
He pressed his hand to Alec’s cheek. The boy always wanted to fix everything. “It’s okay,” Magnus said as he stroked his thumb under Alec’s eye. He scoffed, letting his hand drop to his side. “It’s almost like the 1700s again.”
Alec looked at Magnus with a pained expression. He was trying to apologise but Magnus knew that it wasn’t his fault. None of this was. “I’m leaving with you,” said Alec. Magnus frowned at him. “If you’re not allowed to be here, neither am I.”
Magnus shook his head. “You’re the head of this Institute, you can’t leave,” he said, in a matter of fact tone.
Alec nodded. “I’m the head of this Institute, I can do what I very well please.”
i hope you enjoyed! if you have any prompts or scenarios for me, please head over to my ask box!
Almost six months ago, I learned that you survived Culloden.
You made history, my darling! Q.E.D.
As many nights as I’ve lain awake in those months cursing myself for not having looked sooner, I know I shall thank God every day of my life for the series of events that led me at last to the right pages, to you. When I fully realized what it meant— that you had been spared the death you faced so bravely that April morning, the death that has haunted my thoughts and my nightmares for so long— It was like a wound, the oldest and deepest scar ripped back open, inch by inch. I was completely laid bare from it, from the storm of emotions warring within me: such joy, such anguish for the lost time (how many more years could we have had, Jamie, had I looked?), such fear—and then joy again, because the years of grief could now be ended, and *against all reason!* I could see you again.
Likewise will I thank God every day for the small voice in my head that nudged me at the very last moment to go first to Lallybroch, rather than to your shop in Edinburgh. Please thank Jenny for me. She explained everything.
It is for the best, that it happened this way; easier, I think, for all concerned. Perversely, despite the shock, I find myself smiling in this moment: for we promised there would be no lies between us, remember? It is a promise I make to you again, today. You can know, then, with absolute certainty, that it can be no lie when I tell you that I am glad— glad and on-my-knees grateful to Heaven—that you have found true happiness.
After all the pain and the loss, the war and the hunger and the suffering you’ve endured, to know that you have a wife with whom you’ve found something new and wonderful; that you have had the joy of holding your own children in your arms, to have seen them be born and grow? It is a balm, Jamie, a comfort to know that despite all the cruelty fate has dealt you—dealt us— you have been blessed with such great and abundant joy. Never would I wish anything less for you, just as I know you would not for me.
It is my deepest prayer that as you read these words, you will know the truth of them, will be able to feel my heart through the page, and KNOW that from its very depths, I wish you every happiness with your wife and your daughters.
And yet I couldn’t leave, couldn’t go back from whence I came, without telling you about another little girl, who was born the 23rd of November the year of Culloden.
I hope the contents of the brown packet, here enclosed, tell you more than any words could about your daughter—our daughter—Brianna Ellen.
Jamie was shaking—no, he was
Every breath wrenched through him, agonizing, and the tears were falling, blurring his vision. He had to sit back on his haunches to keep them from dropping onto the page and blurring her precious words.
His hands were quaking with
Jesus, GOD in
He COULD NOT think
Thoughts, words, they were—
They failed him, simply abandoned him as he shook on the study rug. Only his body seemed to know the way, for he was snatching for the parcel, tearing at the string binding the paper. There was an oily, unidentifiable wrapping within, then a layer of soft flannel, and then
The sound that escaped him—He didn’t even know there existed such a sound within him. It was terrible and beautiful at once, and though it was in no language, what he felt, his lips over and over formed a word, the only word he could muster: “No….NO….”
For as though a great knife had cut through those terrible, looming stones on the accursed hill, Jamie held his infant daughter, newly-born, sleeping there in the palms of his hands. The portrait—picture?—painting?—was all in shades of grey, and yet somehow lifelike as a true bairn in miniature before him, like peering through a spyglass straight into that distant life.
He had not a single thought to spare for how, or by what means…
He could only trace the bitty wee fists curled on the blanket, the sweet wisps of hair on the tiny skull.
“Oh, mo chridhe…”
He couldn’t look away, could not even blink, though tears were coursing downward.
God, the child —this very child —
—delivered safely into the world and into the arms of her mother—her mother.…
The babe had lived—LIVED.
The pad of his thumb caught slightly as he caressed her cheek, and the portrait slid upward just enough to reveal — “Ohh…Jesus…”
She was grown to a toddling child, eating a cake that was smeared all about her face. And damn him if he didn’t LAUGH amidst the weeping to see just how pleased with herself she looked for it, a cuddly toy raised in triumph like a sword, four wee teeth visible as she giggled out a victory cry.
There she was again, older, standing in a great snowfall, naught but wee cheeks and grinning eyes visible under the great padded suit she wore against the cold.
Older, still. Three? Four? Sitting proper-like in a pretty frock with her hair combed smooth.
Such a sweet face—
Older, still, standing with a wee box in her hand beside a giant something with wheels, proud and eager, eyes bright.
And then he was gasping as the spyglass world ignited into blazing, brilliant colors. He saw his daughter’s hair, red and victorious and shining against the black coat of the huge dog she hugged tight; saw the pink flush of her cheeks, spread down her neck as it always did his, when he was happy and exuberant.
On and on flashed the paintings, these captured momentsof his daughter’s life.
Going fishing and doing a damn fine job of it.
Playing uproariously in the sea-surf, splashing and laughing with complete abandon.
Absolutely lovely as as she grew out of girlhood, and God, how vividly he could see Claire in her, as she did—in the lines of her, the way she held her mouth, tilted her head—that broad, clear brow that begged to be kissed, reverently—
Laughing, carefree, safe.
Braw and strong as she chopped wood. Good lass!
Gazing softly out a window, seeming not even to notice her image being captured.
until he was gasping and looking at the last portrait, of an achingly beautiful young woman sitting on a rock before a fire, making camp for the night, perhaps. Her face was cast in the same golds and red as her hair; the dreams of her heart seeming to dance across her eyes—as they always did her mother’s. His daughter…grown.
The paintings were strewn all around him on the carpet, a tableau of her; her life. On his knees he bowed over them, overwhelmed and shuddering with great sobs as he looked, and looked, and looked.
She would be—
…..she was well.
The child HAD been safe.
It hadn’t been for naught.
He fell, then, and sheltered her like a cloak, keeping his child, his daughter, safe and shielded from the world for just one moment; safe…his….
It was only sudden, ripping, screaming panic that yanked him out of the quiet calm, searching wildly, fumbling with desperate hands—
But relief tore from his throat just as suddenly as he found a second page:
Not everything can be captured in a photograph, of course (that’s what they’re called. Did I ever tell you about them?), and there’s so much I long to tell you about this wonderful person.
Will you believe she’s been taller than me since the age of thirteen? She carries it like a queen, though, like I imagine your mother did. She doesn’t slouch or try to hide. Not Bree.
Oh, yes: most people call her Bree, for short.
She bites her nails, when she’s thinking hard. I don’t even think she notices when she’s doing it.
She’s absolutely brilliant, Jamie, studying at one of the top universities in the world to be a historian. You would be so very proud of her.
She’s not perfect, of course. Perhaps her biggest flaw as half-Scottish is that she HATES whisky, haha. I’ll do my best to win her over, though, don’t you worry.
She’s a spectacular artist, another way in which she takes after her grandmother. She captures you, completely.
That statement, actually, is true in more ways than one. Our Brianna is captivating, in every way.
She’s an absolute wonder with maths and figures
—as natural to her as breathing, it seems, just like they are for you.
She smiles in her sleep, just like her father.
She’s so like you, Jamie, it breaks my heart.
After Frank died—But Lord, I haven’t said anything of him.
It was two years ago. He had a good, full life, and he loved Bree more than anything in the world. He could have been cruel, could have taken out his anger upon the child, the very breathing manifestation of the ways in which I’d betrayed him—but he didn’t. From the moment he first held her, Frank loved her as his own, and while things between he and I were tenuous, to say the least, I will always love him for the father he was to her, for the sacrifices he made for her. I hope that is a comfort to you, and not a blow.
After he was gone, after giving her time to grieve, it felt important that Bree should know about you, about the stones. It took—well, it frankly took a bloody lot of luck and a jolly good miracle to get her to believe, *but she does.* She loved Frank with all her heart, but she knows now that Jamie Fraser was her father. IS her father.
You should know that she was instrumental in finding you. She persisted when I would have faltered under the doubts and the fears. As ecstatic and overjoyed as I was at the news that you were alive, I was so afraid Jamie, for you, for me, for Bree.
Even though I know she, too, was plagued with fears, she remained strong; and she kept ME strong. Even at the very stones, when I was so wracked with guilt over leaving her forever that I would have stayed, for her sake, she was there to strengthen me, to tell me not to look back. She said that she was giving me back to you, and that if I didn’t go, *she* would. ‘Someone has to find him and tell him I was born,’ she said, and she meant it.
THAT is the kind of person your daughter is growing to be, Jamie: determined, and brilliant, and selfless for the sake of those she loves; *and that includes you.* She asked me to give you a kiss, just from her. I’ve left it here, on the page, for you to keep, always.
Brianna has been the greatest joy of my life since we parted, a joy that would have been richer only if I had been granted the grace to raise her with you at my side. Thank you for her. THANK YOU for making me go on, for her sake. Despite everything, it has been a good life. Even in those long years of grief, I had the joy of seeing you every day, of seeing your spirit, there in the child of our love. And I’m so very grateful.
I’ll keep telling her about you. There wasn’t enough time, before I left. She’ll be able hear everything, now. I promise.
Jamie shook his head hard, fast, feeling for a third page that wasn’t there. “No…”
Be happy, Jamie Fraser, and LIVE.
“No,” he moaned. his eyes clinging to the fleeting words, even as he begged them not to stop. “Claire…”
“Mo nighean donn, don’t
Those next seconds were everlasting, each terrible, catastrophic truth echoing in his soul like the toll of a great bell, over and over.
She had been here
Claire had been here
She was sitting at the bottom of the staircase, crying hard into Ian’s shoulder. When the study door crashed open, her head shot up and she jumped to her feet, her face pure terror. “Jamie, mo ch—”
“When?” He snarled it, and Jenny convulsed with a deep sob like a swallowed scream, and covered her face with her hands.
Jamie was thundering toward her, a veil of red over his vision as he demanded, “WHEN?”
Ian—in a shockingly deft and smooth movement given the leg—shot to his feet, shielding Jenny from Jamie’s rage with his body.
In all truth, the rational parts of Jamie’s mind were glad for Ian’s presence, for that was the only thing keeping the blood rage from taking control, from taking revenge. “WHEN was she here, woman?” he bellowed over Ian’s shoulder, “How fucking long did ye see fit to keep—”
Ian shoved him, eyes blazing. “You’ll NOT talk that way to—”
“Mor—ning—”Jenny sobbed, her voice a strangled whisper, “—gone before—Jamie! Oh, Jamie, I ken I’ll—never for—give mys—for—”
“HOW MANY MONTHS?” he roared, overtaken by despair, overtaken by rage, becoming a nameless beast under it. “HOW MANY YEARS, JENNY?”
“This morning—” she wailed, “To—TO—DAY—”
And then a great wave, tall as a mountain, rose up within Jamie, blasting out everything within him in a single cataclysmic moment of clarity.
T O D A Y
Then she was—
She could be no more than—
He vaulted up the stairs four at a time, paying no heed to Janet and Wee Ian and the others who were gathered at the top of the staircase, wide-eyed and pale and gaping.
Less than a minute later, he thundered back down past them all, breeks only half-laced under his boots, traveling bag on his back.
“No,” Jenny moaned, grasping at his sleeve as he passed and trying to hold him back. “Jamie, ye canna—Ye CANNA catch her, she's—GONE—she’s—”
He shook her off, hard enough to knock her off-balance, and ran to the kitchen, shoving what food he could lay his hands on into his sack and moving straight to the door, so crazed with determination he could barely see what it was he took. Food didn’t matter. Fatigue, already tugging at him, didn’t matter. Claire was—
“Jamie, she’s nearly a day ahead—” Jenny caught the handle just as he did, eyes absolutely wild. “Ye dinna even ken where she’s bound or—”
He spared his sister one look, and let all the hate and contempt, the rage and the betrayal show there as he growled, “I ken precisely where she’s bound.”
Intersectionality is not about enforcing alignment of identities and politics. In fact, by definition, “intersectionality” is the opposite of alignment! Intersecting lines touch at only one point; everywhere else, they are heading in different directions. The purpose of intersectionality is to help us all realize that identities are complex and diverse and multi-faceted; that we can’t create simple equations to explain, describe, or prescribe them.
This misunderstanding of intersectionality is deployed by its supporters and detractors alike – by those, like the organizers of the Chicago Dyke March, who insist that an LGBTQ march must necessarily be pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist, and by those, like Bari Weiss of the New York Times, who warn us that intersectionality by definition is bad for the Jews. You have to choose, they all seem to say: either get on board with a neat version of intersectionality and pare down those messy identities, or reject intersectionality out of hand.
As always, when we are being asked to choose, I believe we must ask ourselves why. Who benefits from this framing of the conversation? Choices are almost never neutral and unweighted; instead, they cloak deep structural power relations in the language of freedom. A world without intersectional analysis is a world in which we can’t see the big picture, and a world in which we’re forced to amputate parts of our identities is a world in which we cannot be our authentic selves. Neither is a world in which I want to live.
You couldn’t place how you felt in this exact moment. Was it hatred? Terror? Anger? Sadness? Or perhaps it was betrayal. Whatever it was or however many mixes of negative emotions it was, there was one that that was clear–you were in pain. Of course, being tied to a stake and having your skin seared off did that to you.