december 1942

The Last All-Clear: (7)

Notes from Mod Bonnie

  • This story is a series following the premise: Imagine if Jamie travelled through the stones, but instead of finding Claire in Boston he found himself having arrived years too early, when the War was still happening and Claire had yet to meet him… What would he do?”
  • Formatting note: Bolding in Jamie’s letters = underlining

Previously:

(Part 1) September 17, 1942: A Rusty Nail 

(Part 2) December 3, 1942: Comb and Glove 

(Part 3) 1943: Blood and Whisky | (Part 4) 1943-1944: Gifts and Ends

(Part 5) June, 1944: The Road | (Part 6) June, 1944: The Ditch  


(7) Samhain, 1946: Inverness


“Did you have many scots in your charge during the war?” Frank asked quite suddenly. I was more happy to change the subject from his kilted spectre, which, while surely utter nonsense, had given me chills.

“Yes, there were quite a few! There was one in particular,” I added, unable to stop the grin from blooming across my face at the memory. “He was a piper in the third seaforths. He couldn’t stand being stuck with a needle. He was—” 

I stopped, the implication suddenly settling over my shoulders like cold, creeping damp. Not a non-sequitur, then?  

His expression did nothing to suggest otherwise, nor his flat, “Right,” as he averted his gaze. 

Why, you bloody bastard! 

“What is it, exactly, ah…” Carefully. Oh-so-carefully. “…that you’re asking me, Frank?”

He didn’t even miss a beat. “When I saw that chap staring up at you, I thought he might be someone you’d nursed. Someone who might be looking for you now. To reconnect.”

“To ‘reconnect?’” My breath shortened and for one wild moment, I felt the hands of panic around my throat. How could he have known? was the unbidden thought. 

“It wouldn’t be unusual,” he was saying, quite gently. “It wouldn’t be surprising if you’d sought some comfort, or—”

The anxiety vanished as my senses returned, along with my absolutely righteous indignation. “Are you asking me— If I’ve been unfaithful?” 


It was hardly the worst fight we’d ever had, but it was the worst we’d had in a long time, made still worse by occurring during the ‘honeymoon’ we had both wished to perpetrate. Yes, it was tense and volatile, but at least it moved rapidly, through the near-accusations, the retractions, tender reassurances and, inevitably, to sex—the Randall fix-all. Or, rather, the Randalls-mutually-agree-to-pretend-that-it fixes-all. 

Long after Frank was asleep, though, satiated and carefree, I lay awake, privately seething. That he would have the audacity to even suggest such a thing when I’d never so much as kissed another man since I married Frank, let alone— 

Still, something still caught in my mind: ‘If you’d sought some comfort…’ 

It was only a harmless flirtation, I reassured myself, before scoffing, because that made it sound cheap, and wasn’t at all what it had been, in any case! But what had it been? We’d never touched in any way that wasn’t perfectly chaste. He’d never found his way to my bed in the secrecy of lonely nights, as so many others did in camp. I didn’t even know his full name or fully what his face looked like, for Christ’s sake. 

And yet, Danton had been very important to me, for that brief period during our time together: we had been friends. I had sought comfort in his company, many times, and he had given it, with his words and his good drink, his attention and encouragement. Hell, I doubt I would have stayed in France through the end of the war, without his friendship and the gentle support he unendingly gave; without the solace he brought to my lonely, doubting heart in those days. 

I stared at the ceiling, wondering—not for the first time—what ever became of him. There was that terrible fight between the tents, when he’d said those things and I’d stormed off in a rage that became a sobbing breakdown in the privacy of my tent. As much as he hurt me—deeply, viciously, even with so few words—I did regret, later, that I hadn’t sought him again and tried to talk things through. That cold, cruel disdain had seemed so out of character, even at the time. Surely, if I’d gotten in his face, forced him to speak to me with the sort of candor that was integral to our friendship, we might have reached some sort of rapprochement. But I’d only ever seen him again in faint glimpses across camp. After that, he was gone. People said he just up and left, one day, never to be heard from again. 

‘Someone who might be looking for you now. To reconnect.’

Well, and if there WERE someone come looking for me, Frank, I silently spat as I rolled onto my side away from him, he bloody well wouldn’t have been a Scot. 


2 0 2 4   

Passing strange, it was, to arrive back in Inverness this afternoon. Odd on the one hand, of course, to compare it with the Inverness of old; but stranger still to traverse its streets with money in my pocket and proper clothes on my back, my steps certain. You’ll have read by now of my wretched experiences here of seven years ago, not one of which I should ever wish to repeat (though I give you leave to tease and laugh about them for as many years to come, as ye wish).

Suffice it to say, I found myself murmuring a prayer of heartfelt gratitude for being able to stride boldly up to the innkeeper’s desk to give them my custom; for the money to hire a room (and by no means the cheapest in the place); for knowing precisely how to operate the hot water geyser and how I might go about seeing to my supp /


/     Forgive my artless interruption, but I must immediately explain that I had been writing the above while sitting at the desk in my second-floor chamber. Some whimsical soul had thought to situate it at the window, overlooking the square and the fountain beneath. A pretty aspect, to be sure, though the night is foul and thundering, at present, and hardly anything to be seen at all. 

On that point, I couldna have been more wrong, for there ye were, Claire, right before me in the window of the inn across the street, brushing your hair. 

Christ, the joy that coursed through me was so immediate, so complete, I couldna rightly say if I was crying or laughing. It’s likely to have been some of both, but as I say, I wasna paying much heed to anything save you, glowing in the lamplight as ye wrestled and tussled with that brush. How I’ve missed that sight, mo nighean donn: you and your great curly wig, both! I ken well that I laughed, the sound loud and full and bursting, when ye suddenly brandished the brush in a fit of pique when it caught in a tangle. I didna need one bit to peer at the reflection of your lips to ken precisely what it is ye said. Jesus H—RRROOSEVELT Christ! with that pursed, growling R that makes ye sound like a wee, angry bulldog, and at which I can never help but chuckle in delight. I leaned elbows on the desk and sat my face in both hands like a schoolboy, half-covering my mouth as I grinned like one, too; as I watched my sweetheart across the way. 

It shouldna have been altogether a shock, I suppose. I kent you were in town, for I’d come to Inverness to see you, or rather, to see ye safely gone through the stones tomorrow; and yet I canna express what the gift of that unexpected sighting did to fill my heart. It was more than two years since the last time I’d laid eyes on ye, and that memory marred by blood and fear. So, to see ye suddenly there before my eyes, all alight ? I shall cherish that image, always.    

Ye might think it a strange thing to mention, Sassenach (I wonder if I ought to scratch it through, altogether), but to my own shock, I found myself feeling a trifle sad on behalf of Frank Randall, of all people. For, while I hold no great fondness for the man, he is a man, after all, a man who loves you; and how many years has he, too, waited through wartime and separation for a peaceful life with his wife? with the very woman in that window?  Ye chose me, I remind myself, with no little relief and satisfaction: with a free choice between us, I was the one you wanted. Still, I found that I pitied him your loss; that you’d be gone from him forever, first in body and later in your heart, after tonight. 

That is to say, I pitied him right up until the moment I saw the selfsame bastard coming up the street in the storm, at which time all soft, generous consideration was replaced with purest loathing for everything from his hat to his umbrella to the manner of his gait. 

The electricity cut off suddenly enough to be startling, and from the corner of my eye I saw your own light vanish as well. The work of the storm, I should expect. I fumbled for a candle in the desk drawer (when did I become so blind and helpless in the dark, I find myself wondering), and by the time I’d gotten it lit, I could see that you were about the same business, slowly illuminating your room with candle after candle. It was even more breathtaking, to see ye by candlelight again, silk and curl alike sparkling with gold as ye moved about.  

You should know that the moment I saw the door behind ye open, I stood and closed the curtain. The both of ye deserved privacy, this last night. Besides, my jealous imagination would more than manage on its own, I’m afraid, without newsreel footage of the event.

Besides, my brown-haired lass, I shall see ye again on the morrow. 


2 0 2 5   

I have seen ye this day, Sassenach, though not entirely under the circumstances I expected. 

You’d told me, once, that you’d gone to the stones with Frank at sunrise of that morn, and had returned on your own to Craigh na Dun later in the afternoon to gather your wee plants. Hoping to occupy my time until after midday, when I would drive out to the vicinity of the hill to lay in wait, I put on my coat and scarf (your Christmas gift, remember?) and passed the time out on the moors. 

There was naught I cared to hunt, but I hadn’t the mind for it, in any case. I just wandered, unsure if my thoughts would ever settle. There was no task to be done on your behalf, this time, as much as I might prefer otherwise, nothing to be done at all, save wait. I only wanted to see your last moments before ye touched the stones, so I’d ken for certain. Hour after hour, I walked, trying to enjoy the gusting winds and sounds of the animals and trees, but finding little comfort therein. 

Only, just after noon, when I was nearly back to the outskirts of town, I heard the sound of a Car approaching, coming in my direction, and then there ye were, driving fast around the bend in the road. At once, I felt the gripping of horror, for it was so much earlier in the day than I’d anticipated, and I kent I should never be able to get to my own vehicle in enough time to reach the stones before you. 

As I beheld you in all your glory, though, driving that automobile at terrifying speed, and looking absolutely thrilled for it, the fear vanished and peace settled at last. It was alright. That was the way I wished to remember ye these next years in which you’ll be truly gone, mo chridhe; not you vanishing before my eyes, perhaps screaming—as I did— when the stones pull you into their terrible embrace. No, not that: only you, dressed in white, your hair flying free in the wind and your face glowing with inner joy as ye drove off toward our life together. For today, mo chridhe, is the day we met. 


April 16, 1948 

2,557 days


His breath was white against the dark of the wee hours, coming in gasps of exertion as he made his way up the frost-covered faerie hill, heavy-laden in more ways than one. 

He hadn’t often been able to bring himself to write in the diary, since he had left Inverness. It wasn’t that it was a bleak or unhappy time, on the whole. Much like the two years prior, he had both his employment and his personal projects to keep him well-occupied; and even in the quiet moments, there were countless books to read, rides to take, long walks to be had, and prayers to say. 

But as the months wore on, as the days on the calendar began ticking closer and closer to this day, his waking thoughts were plagued by dark thoughts more and more, those that had tormented him so unrelentingly in the earliest days since coming through the stones: that he himself had been sent to a year misaligned with Claire’s own life, and that she might well do the same. In the end, he’d been meant to go to 1941, to be there in that ditch with her and see her rescued. It was a comfort, to be sure, that his steps had been ordained, but that was the very thing: what if she and the bairn were likewise meant, somehow, for some purpose unknown, to be elsewhere? He had given her up with no doubt in his heart that a better life awaited her on the other side of the stones, but who was to say that such a place and time should be

Let it be with me, Lord, he prayed for the millionth time as he emerged from the wood empty-handed and took up a place of waiting before the terrible stones. That her better life would be now, here, with me. Let it be 1948. 

Dawn broke, in golds and pinks across the horizon. The birds in the nearby wood began their twittering chorus, joyously heralding the start of the new day. Back in 1746, it would be sunrise, as well—the redcoats would be arriving—she would be running up the hill—

Minutes passed. 

And passed. 

An hour. 

Grant her to me again, he begged, his back and his heart aching with the pain of every passing second as he waited, give me once more this rare woman, and I will love her still better than before. I swear it by all that I am. 

Eight o’clock. 

Please…. Please….

Ten o’clock

He was in the grass on his knees in the center of the circle, palms upturned 

Let her place be with me.

Noon

Tell me what I must do to make it so; what I must give in return.

Tell me.

Just tell me and I’ll do it. 

Three o’clock. 

Give me strength, he prayed unendingly as the evil whisperings of doubt crowded around his heart.  Give me the strength to wait beyond the time of hope. Guide my steps to her as you did before. Give me the strength to find her. 

Sunset.

“Lord, that she might be safe,” he wept aloud over shaking hands, despair he hadn’t known since 1746 rending him apart, “wherever she is. Wherever she has gone, she and the—”

A crack like the sting of a whip rent though the world. 

His legs hadn’t even fully straightened before he caught her. 


Dorie Miller, War Hero

At 7:48 am on December 7, 1941, Japanese fighter planes and bombers began their surprise attack on the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. In two waves of attack, the Japanese sunk 4 battleships, as well as damaged 4 more battleships, 3 cruisers, 3 destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and 1 minelayer, along with destroying 188 aircraft. The early morning attack also killed 2,403 Americans and injured another 1,178. The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, caused the United States to enter World War II.

African Americans supported the war effort. Although there were limited opportunities for them in the Armed Forces, 2.5 million black men registered for the draft and thousands of black women joined auxiliary units. African Americans generally served in segregated combat support groups with limited military engagement. On the homefront, African Americans supported the “Double-V” campaign, which meant victory against fascism abroad and victory against racism at home, in addition to supporting the March on Washington campaign in 1941, in an effort to demand equal employment in the defense industries.

“Above and beyond the call of duty” (NAID 513747)

As we remember the 75th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, let’s not forget the heroic actions of Navy Messman Third Class Dorie Miller, who was born on October 12, 1919 in Waco, Texas. Miller joined the US Navy in 1939, and was made a mess attendant, then cook aboard the USS West Virginia. During the Pearl Harbor attack, Miller first ensured the safety of several crewmates, before he began firing at Japanese warplanes with a 50 caliber anti-aircraft gun. Miller shot down two Japanese aircraft (possibly downed two more) during the raid.  

“December 7th – Remember!!” (NAID 535613)

In RG 80 Correspondence Relating to Discrimination, 1941-1944 (National Archives Identifier 120920855) series, the file unit Dorie Miller (NAID 26416709) contains memorandums, letters, and newspaper coupons from the black community to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, encouraging him to admit Miller to the Naval Academy. As a messman, Miller was ineligible for military training, even though he was a hero in the Pearl Harbor attack. The letters and coupons from black newspapers to FDR received attention from the president and were forwarded to the Navy Department. However, Miller was too old to attend the Navy Academy. Only candidates for midshipmen between the ages of 17 and 21 were considered. Miller was 23-years-old.

Letter to FDR (NAID 26416709)

Coupons from black newspapers to FDR (NAID 26416709) [Published material found in this series may be subject to copyright restrictions. Researchers should contact the publisher for further information.]

Memo from the Navy Department (NAID 26416709)

Following Pearl Harbor, Miller received a Navy Cross from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. He would later receive the Purple Heart, the American Defense Service Medal – Fleet Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal. In the spring of 1943, he was assigned to the USS Liscome Bay (still at the rank of messman), when he was killed during a Japanese submarine attack on November 24, 1943 near the Gilbert Islands in the Pacific.

Image of Dorie Miller (NAID 26416709) [Published material found in this series may be subject to copyright restrictions. Researchers should contact the publisher for further information.]

Via 75th Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor: Dorie Miller, War Hero | Rediscovering Black History, written by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Supervisory Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland


Follow the National Archives this week, including our accounts at @usnatarchives, @fdrlibrary, @preservearchives, @congressarchives, @riversidearchives, and @ourpresidents, as we commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor with images, stories, and documents from our holdings.

Explore more resources and events on the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor from the National Archives »

The Last All-Clear (5)

Notes from Mod Bonnie

  • This story is a series of vignettes following the premise: Imagine if Jamie travelled through the stones, but instead of finding Claire in Boston he found himself having arrived years too early, when the War was still happening and Claire had yet to meet him… What would he do?”
  • Formatting note: Bolding in Jamie’s letters = underlining

Previously:

(Part 1) September 17, 1942: A Rusty Nail

(Part 2) December 3, 1942: Comb and Glove

(Part 3) 1943: Blood and Whisky

(Part 4) 1943-1944: Gifts and Ends 


June, 1944: The Road  


1 1 7 8 


This is the first time, Claire, that I have lifted my pen,  since it   Since.  How can I commit to the page what occurred in that long night? All that occurred? 



Three weeks earlier


He was going to collapse. The forest loomed like the walls of a tunnel over the narrow road, seeming to sap the very life from the air. His every bone and muscle screamed for rest, for water, for even a moment’s respite, but he couldn’t stop running, wouldn’t, not for a moment; not with Claire somewhere out there in the dark, riding toward a near-brush with death. 

His mind replayed the fragments of her account over and over as though it might —somehow—be of use. A German shell would hit the Car, she’d said, kill the driver instantly, and send the vehicle flying before pinning one of the Americans alive in the burning wreckage. Gunshot from the Germans would take out both men, in the end, leaving her helpless and alone in a nearby ditch. Christ, and that was what had set her shaking in his arms near Carryarick, so many years later: the memory of being helpless as she heard the men die slow, agonizing deaths; being alone through the night to follow, not daring to move for fear of meeting the same. His indomitable Claire: helpless and alone. 

God, and even if ye find her so, man, you’ll allow to her remain that way. You canna risk changing her memory of this night through direct interference. 

A voice of reason, a sound one, and yet the deeper reaches of his being bared teeth and snarled at it. I’ll interfere as much as I damned well must to see her safe. 

For, there remained the inescapable thought, there in his mind: that history might be changed. Claire’s work as a healer had shown him that even small actions by a traveler could indeed produce a different outcome than before, an alternate course of events creating a new path. What, then, would prevent tonight’s events from going differently this time? Or for such differences to be for the worse? What if the Car had set out one minute sooner, or one minute later than the time Claire experienced? What if that meant the German shells would hit her along with the vehicle? What if it were she pinned under the wreckage, this time, all from some shift in events from the original due to his presence in camp? What if she was already dead? 

That is what kept him running, hurtling down the darkened road without knowing how far he was to go or even if the attack had already happened. It’s what kept him pushing harder and harder, fearing his muscles would tear apart; but not heeding, not slowing. God, just let her be alive, he begged as he ran, seeing a crossroads up ahead. Just alive. As soon as I find her so, I’ll go back to being cautious—Even if I can see from afar that she’s alive, I’ll go without saying a word to her, just let her live. Let the Germans be sleeping—let them be compassionate, this night—Let them miss their shot, or—

B O O M

He staggered and nearly fell from the shock of actually seeing the explosion happen, the barest flare of light through the trees ahead and to the right. And Holy God….he could hear the screaming. 

He vaguely registered the popping of gunfire in the same direction, heard it and let it fuel his momentum toward Claire, let a bloodthirsty vow that the shooter would pay for every single bullet propel him toward the crossroads up ahead, faster than he even thought possible;

—Just be alive—just stay alive, mo nighean donn—

but by the time awareness truly struck him, he had only seconds to act. With all the strength remaining in his legs, he dove off the road and into the underbrush, concealing himself a matter of moments before the German convoy came into view at the crossroads, no more than fifty feet from where he lay. 

Despite the terror and hatred, the shuddering in his bones from how near he had just come to rushing right into the enemy’s midst, relief rushed up his spine and down into his toes for the respite from running. He lay with his face to the ground under the bushes, heart pounding, strength and breath spent, watching and listening. 

They weren’t moving past, they were patrolling, three or four men on foot escorting a great Panzer Tank. But he could smell the smoke of the fire. He could see the faint glow of fire through the trees to the right, could hear—

B O O M

She hadn’t said anything about a second explosion. He had to bury his face in the crook of his arm and bite down hard to keep from roaring, his entire body shaking from it. She hadn’t said. She hadn’t said. 

You’ll keep yourself together, man, a voice shouted over the despair, though he wanted nothing more than to surrender. You canna fall apart, yet. There’s a job to be done. 

The Germans didn’t show any signs of moving on, their Tank’s hatch open where it stood quiet, right at the middle of the crossroads. 

Jamie began to crawl.



Slow as a insect I moved, terrified that any crack or rustle would bring them down upon me. Even if it took all the night, I knew I had to get to that ditch and find you, alive or

An hour or more, I crawled on my belly across that forest floor toward the light from the fire, and all the while, my heart pounded with my prayer that you’d be alive; that I wouldn’t somehow bring the Germans down upon ye myself; that I wouldn’t have to face, this night, the prospect of eternal damnation at my own hand.

Then I was at the fence at the edge of the wood, looking out upon the open field; upon the horror of that burning wreckage beside the road.  Even from hundreds of feet away, I could see the shapes of the three men cast in the roar of the fire, so destroyed by shot and flame as to be scarcely more than heaps. All of them….silent. God above, rest their souls in peace.

Across the road from the carnage, on the side nearest to me, the ditch, dark and quiet. I couldn’t see anything within, from the angles and the night and the shadows. I couldn’t see you. 

Had I been able to see your form, see it show signs of life, perhaps I would have had the courage to remain there behind that fence, simply watch over ye from a distance through the night until morning, when your rescuers would arrive. 

I wasn’t able.



Crawling through that ditch on hands and knees felt like pounding down the forest road again, his breaths like screams in his nostrils, his limbs shaking and spent as he moved as fast as he was able 

Where is she? 

The glow from the inferno cast everything in ghoulish parodies of shadow and light, making every hump of mud and stone look like a body. 

His heart suddenly leapt with a joyful thought: God above, had she managed to crawl to the safety of the wood? Had she managed to get out of harm’s way altogether? Maybe Nancy was mistaken and she hadn’t ever left camp at all! 

Then he rounded a curve in the path, leveling out at last to show—

“Claire….” Her name escaped from him without leave, and he forgot any role he had thought best to play, any name by which he ought to go. 

All he could see was his wife, a hundred feet ahead, laying lifeless in a ditch. 

No—”  He hurtled toward her, his hands catching and tearing on stones, but he barely heeded it.  Lifeless…dead… 

“CLAIRE!” He shouted it at the top of his lungs in his despair, for the Germans could take him, now, gladly, and spare him the choice of it. 

But then the firelight flared, and his heart burst to see her bolt upright and scuttle backward on her hands in fear; saw her face break as she recognized him’ heard her cry of broken relief to match his as, at last, he reached her. 




Will you remember, Claire? 

the moment when the very last ounce of strength within me shattered? 

that fierce, violent second when I collapsed overtop you and clasped you to my heart? 


or the sound I made when you immediately clasped me back?  



When the blackness cleared from his vision, he was on his side, the length of his body pressed against the length of hers, his hands and arms trying to hold all of her at once. Exhaustion and terror and relief were wracking his body so violently that he could scarcely breathe, but it was the fact of the woman in his arms that had him truly falling apart.  

His wife. 

His wife, her quaking body held tight against his, her face pressed against his chest as though he were merely comforting her in their bed after a horrific dream

His wife, sharing breath with him. 

His wife… clinging to him with absolute trust, letting him walk with her through the terror of this night. 

His wife. God, his wife. 

Not alone, Claire.” His hand came up to twine in her hair and cup her head tight as her breathing turned choked and spare with the panic. “You are not alone, m—” A broken cry in his throat as he broke, relented, breathed onto her skin: “—mo chridhe.” 


A German soldier urges his horse onward during the winter of 1941-42. More than 7,000,000 horses were used in the Second World War, mostly by the German and Soviet armies. Many of them died – including almost 200,000 horses on the Russian front in just the two months of December 1941 and January 1942. 

The Last All-Clear: (6)


Notes from Mod Bonnie

  • This story is a series of vignettes following the premise: Imagine if Jamie travelled through the stones, but instead of finding Claire in Boston he found himself having arrived years too early, when the War was still happening and Claire had yet to meet him… What would he do?”
  • Formatting note: Bolding in Jamie’s letters = underlining

Previously:

(Part 1) September 17, 1942: A Rusty Nail

(Part 2) December 3, 1942: Comb and Glove

(Part 3) 1943: Blood and Whisky

(Part 4) 1943-1944: Gifts and Ends

(Part 5) June, 1944: The Road 


June, 1944: The Ditch   


There, in that darkness with you, love, there was no fear in me. None. There was no worrying about stones, or time, or wars, or consequences. There was only the feel of you in my arms, for the first time in so many years; the feeling of my soul, reaching out to yours, and being accepted in kind. The intimacy of it was a blow and a caress sending me reeling, and everything went silent around us. I held you, stroked your back, cupped your head; felt your heartbeat against mine as ye wept and shook. I held on to you, lass, like I never would let go. Perhaps, I thought, I wouldn’t. 

You didna speak, so violent was the terror and relief within ye, but I myself could scarcely stop the words from tumbling out, incoherent and tear-choked as they were. I had enough sense left to move from language to language—Latin, Greek, Gàidhlig, Hebrew, the ones you wouldna ken, or very little— but I was able to speak my heart aloud to you, and that itself was relief beyond telling.



“You will survive this day, my heart.” 

“You will survive and go on to do so much more than you ever imagined. You’ll be kind and brave and reckless and wild and wonderful. Happy. Free. I promise you.”

“Even the suffering, the horrors, you’ll bear with grace. You’re a fighter. You overcome. I’m so—so very proud to be your husband.” 

Her husband. Lord, that he might be given the grace to be her husband again. He pulled her closer, breathed deep, his hammering heart breaking for the millionth time to hear her own breath calmer, slowing. 

“I miss you, mo Sorcha.” 

“I love you.” 

She couldn’t have known the words, but she gave a little whimpering sigh and pressed her face closer into his chest. He closed his eyes tight and didn’t bother to stifle the sob in his throat. 

“I love you, and no other.” 

“I promise I will find you, wait for you and the bairn, no matter how long it takes.”

“Be brave,” he heard himself saying in English, in his own voice, brushing his lips against her forehead. “Be brave, Claire, and have hope in the joy to come.” 



When the fingers of dawn began to creep into the ditch, you were still in my arms, fast asleep. I hadn’t slept, for I couldn’t bear to look away from your face. I was happy. No matter else might come, I had had that night with you, a night in which you would not have been alone. 

And then, I heard them. 



People shouting above the roar of motors, close at hand. Carefully dislodging himself from Claire, he grabbed the hilt of his knife and eased up to peer over the edge of the ditch. Nothing and no one in sight, but a breeze carried a word or two on the wind: Americans. THE Americans that she’d said had found her and brought her to safety. Only, they weren’t coming closer. They were on the other path, going the wrong direction at the crossroads. 

“Come back,” he muttered, fixing his eye on the distance with all his might as though he could summon them by sheer will. “Come back….come this way….damn you, come back…”

The panic was roaring within him, heightening with every passing second. They weren’t coming. He could get her back to the camp himself, of course, but why had the goddamn memory changed? He had been so relieved, the previous night, to find that things had played out as she’d foretold, but something…. something had gone wrong. Something was different. What had he done to change— 

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ

It was like a blow to the head, but he didn’t have time to stop and marvel. One moment only, he spared, that to kneel over Claire once more, look at her, and kiss her sleeping face. 

“I love you, mo nighean donn.” 

Then he was gone. 




Perhaps you’ll have understood at once, Claire, pieced together the conclusion of the tale long before I myself did. Perhaps, to a person raised with Films and so verra many books about fantastical happenings, it would have occurred to ye sooner. 

But how great was the shock that tore through my own simple mind, not to mention the abject relief, to comprehend the truth….That I perhaps couldna have changed events even had I tried; that things set in the motion of history might be—for better or worse— unstoppable, certain. While it makes my heart ache with regret, thinking that our efforts to stop the rebellion will have been for naught from the outset, in THIS case, love, it is for the better; for better than I could ever have imagined. 

My being alongside you, these years, wasna a divergent path, Claire. My coming through the stones and finding young Claire Randall during the War: that wasna a course of events separate from the ones you knew. I— Danton—was always a part of your story. Even if, perhaps, you had your reasons not to think of or remember him since, he always was there, beginning in 1942. There was never a version of your life in which you did not stitch his arm; in which he did not offer you whisky after that unfortunate operation; in which he did not become your friend in camp. As astounding as it is for my own faculties of comprehension to reconcile, I was always there. Here.

And I was always in that ditch with you, mo nighean donn. Why it is that ye never remembered me; that your lingering, terrifying memory of that night was of being completely alone? That, I shan’t even attempt to comprehend until the day I can ask you of it myself and ken the truth from your own lips; but you weren’t alone. I was always there with ye, holding you through the night

and it was always a ragged, bearded Frenchman that ran after the Americans and told them of two of their countrymen, dead in a German attack, always his word that made them hurry down the adjacent road to see for themselves; always me that made sure you were found. 


“Hey, Bill! Boys, there’s a woman over here!” 

“Alive??” 

“I think so! Ma’am? Ma’am?” 

He hung back at the fringes of the troupe, close enough, only, that he could see all that occurred. If they laid a foul hand on her….

“Ma'am, are you okay?” 

She was awake, and—Oh, love…. Have courage, my heart— as frantic and terrified as when he’d first found her the night before. ‘Helpless.’ ‘Alone.’  

“Ma’am, can you hear me?” the soldier kept saying. “What the hell are you doing down here all alone?”

Jamie’s heart broke to see her curl up with her hands about her head. But this is how it must be, Fraser. This is the morning she remembers, the way she remembers it.  

The soldier was insistent, agitated with concern as he tried to get her to speak. “Ma’am? Ma’am?”

“Cool it, Jimmy,” the other man said, “the poor lady’s been through hell. The English camp ain’t far off—Let’s take her with us and see if that’s where she came from.” 

“Here, ma’am, it’s alright,” the man Jimmy said, more gently. “Put your arms around my neck. We’ve got you now, okay? It’s all over.”

Jamie kept his distance as they trekked back down the forest road; kept far back as they approached camp; stayed hidden in the woods as he watched the Americans waiting outside the fence. The last sight he had of her was her head still bobbing on the American’s shoulder, her hands fisted in his shirt as the Nightwing guards ushered the party in to safety. Then, she was gone. 

He didn’t cry; he didn’t feel the churning of regret and pain that he perhaps would have expected. He took the time only to find that patch of woods through which he’d left camp the night before. His pack was there, just where he’d dropped it. Shouldering it, he cast one more look at the place that held her. 

“Until we meet again, mo chridhe.” 



Will you believe that what I felt as I left, and what I feel now, all these weeks later, is happiness? 

For, as much as the memory of that night’s fears shall haunt me, always, I’m more at peace, today, than I have been these many, many years. For I ken, at last, why it is I was brought to this time. It wasna a mistake; wasna a twisted blow of fate. It was for that very day, to see you safe. 

Had I not been there, had someone not gone to fetch the Americans, help might never have found you. You might well have lain there in that ditch until you were found and shot by the Germans. I’m on my knees thanking the heavens for guiding my footsteps to where they were meant to go. I couldna have known or planned it on my own merits, but yet somehow I was led to where ye needed me; all the way from the stones to France, through all the years and to that very ditch on that very night. 

The relief within me, Claire, at that knowledge, is balm beyond imagining. Call it pride, call it selfishness, but to know that my time near you was not in vain, that there WAS some purpose, some role I was meant to play for my wife’s sake—I’m grateful for it. I’m so very, very grateful. It makes every moment, every year that I otherwise might have deemed ‘lost’, have been worthwhile; precious, even. 

And now, I’m sitting on English soil—sand, rather— James Fraser, again, respectable Scottish stowaway. Something within me knew that it remained my time to be parted from ye, to leave camp, just as I’d planned. If you were to remember my presence there that night, the intimacy, connection, yes, the intimacy of the heart between us in those hours….Even if nothing in the events could be changed….No, far better to allow myself to fade from your presence, before we could have the chance to properly talk about that night, or make amends for the rift that preceded it. 

Sitting here on this beach, looking back across the channel, and even with the knowledge that there remain four years more in this purgatory of waiting,  I am filled with exquisite peace. It will be like claws in my skin, waiting for 1948, agonizing as to whether you too will be sent to the wrong year, but ‘tis a pain that I can bear in the blessed assurance that you will be well until then, and that I’ve done what I was meant to do, for your sake and the bairn’s.  

I will see you soon again. 



C. E. B. Randall

Camp Nightwing, France

1 July 

I will not put to paper what occurred that night on the road; what happened to those innocent men. I never shall. 

But one thing I must write out, else refusing to acknowledge it will drive me mad: 

I passed out alone, in that ditch; I woke up alone. But I dreamed. I dreamed that strong, familiar arms held me throughout the night. I dreamed of my own name, over and over, said with such tenderness. Even more, I dreamed of strange words, words in languages I couldn’t even name, but words that spoke of warmth and care. I dreamed that they were words of love, so deep that I believed them, without knowing what they said; so visceral that when the Airborne men found me, I was still reeling from the sensations awoken in me.

It isn’t like one has any control over dreams, but what I must get out of my mind, confess, even if I later burn this page:  

The arms weren’t Frank’s. Nor did I want them to be. 


The Last All-Clear (4)

Notes from Mod Bonnie

  • This story is a series of vignettes following the premise: Imagine if Jamie travelled through the stones, but instead of finding Claire in Boston he found himself having arrived years too early, when the War was still happening and Claire had yet to meet him… What would he do?”
  • Formatting note: Bolding in Jamie’s letters = underlining

Previously:

(Part 1) September 17, 1942: A Rusty Nail

(Part 2) December 3, 1942: Comb and Glove

(Part 3) 1943: Blood and Whisky 


1943-1944: Gifts and Ends


C. E. B. Randall

Camp Nightwing, France

1 September

Another long night in surgery by the end of which I wanted nothing more than to scream.

But, as always, Danton was there waiting for me at the shed with whisky and an open ear. I don’t know how he always knows when I’m in most need of company, but it means the world to know I’ve got a friend, not just friendly people with whom I work, but a friend. He’s always there to listen, drink with me, say a word of encouragement, and get me laughing by the time I leave to go to sleep. Still a tough nut to crack, all things considered, but I’ve rarely encountered someone so intuitive and incisive. He’s quiet, but when he speaks, it’s with such intention. 

Add another tidbit to the Danton file: his mother’s name was Hélène and she had red hair. It makes him sad to talk about her, but he loved her very much. 



9 3 2 

Will ye have you noticed, reading this, years hence, that I’m a different person these last several months than in the ones before? That I go days—weeks, even— without writing single word? That when I do, it’s brief pleasantries: what I ate, the tasks I undertook?

It isna because my days are less full than before; quite the contrary. Only, if I dinna force myself to recount the way I’ve let myself act around you, the way I order my day so that I can see you, the way I encourage your attentions, chaste and merely friendly as they are….If I allow myself to simply go to sleep with the sound of your voice still fresh in my ear, I’m better able to live with myself for it. ‘Tis infinitely easier to let myself live my days in an unexamined happiness, however fleeting, however much I feel the shame of it in my bones, deep down. Writing of it, having to face it, makes my weaknesses so abundantly and painfully clear. Denial, I have found, is its own sweet comfort. 

Will you understand this, Sassenach? Will you understand the depth of loneliness that can drive a person to be so pitifully less than he ought? 

Still, with every day that passes, each day torn between restraint and joy in your companionship, I find the voice of better judgement murmuring more and more determinedly in the back of my mind, the same questions that have been there from the beginning of this nightmare: What is it that I actually accomplish on your behalf? Is it only my pride that keeps me here? Would it be better for you, be less risky, if I were to simply leave, go to Scotland and bide my time until you should return? Am I doing you any good at all by staying? 



C. E. B. Randall

Camp Nightwing, France

25 December

A working Christmas, but a merry one. Wrote a long letter to Frank with all my love. 

Danton seemed absolutely shocked when I handed him his gift, and he tried to scold me for it, but everyone can use a new scarf, I insisted! It brings out the blue in his eyes. He grumbled about it even then, but honestly I think he was just embarrassed he didn’t have anything for me in return. Told him it was the least I could do to pay him back for drinking all of his good whisky, month after month. Then I told him the truth: that his friendship has been a tremendously dear gift to me this year. I swear to God, the man actually blushed. 



9 9 1

A new year, today, mo nighean donn.  Ye pushed a paper cup of champagne into my hand at the gathering in the mess hall and kissed my cheek before running off to dance with your friends. It was a lively song first, but followed by that bittersweet one that brings tears to my eyes every time, even if I canna discern the tune: 

     ….how happy, my darling, we’ll be,     

     when they turn up the lights, 

     and the dark, lonely nights     

     are only a memory.

You sat off to the side, during that one, looking as lonely and sorrowful as I myself must have appeared.

Nineteen hundred and forty-four. Another year closer to when I can take your face in both my hands and kiss you without end, at the stroke of midnight or no. 


C. E. B. Randall

Camp Nightwing, France

13 January

Saw Danton wearing his blue muffler again. Teased him about it and he immediately grinned and pulled a little cloth-wrapped bundle out of his pocket. The bastard intentionally baited me! 

My Christmas gift turned out to be a little carved-wood oval, polished and sleek as a pebble, with an intricate interlace pattern that, at the center, knits inward to form a dragonfly. It’s small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, and I honestly can’t stop staring at it. The time it must have taken him, and the precision needed for working on so tiny a canvas! He demurred, of course, when I raved about the craftsmanship, but I know he was pleased I liked it. 


1 0 0 9

You stitched up a wee French laddie today, no more than four years of age. He was hurt in the course of fleeing with his family, and it was clear that he was terrified of soldiers and of being in camp. Ye spoke to him softly in his own language as ye worked, though, soothing and comforting him as though he were your own. Ye sang to him, too. Being so sadly precluded from music myself, these last years, it didna occur to me before that ye might have such a lovely voice. 

I’ve passed these last few hours in such beautiful peace, mo ghraidh: imagining the day when ye might take my head in your lap and sing to me as you stroke my hair; a day when a song drifts through our rooms, our home, and I peek through a doorway to see you cradling our child, singing them to sleep. 



1 0 1 3 

You didna tell me he was coming to camp.

Should it reassure me, an indication that I’m insignificant enough that it didna even cross your mind to mention it? Or is it the worst of signs: that ye didna want to speak of your husband, of all people, to me

There he stood, there at the quiet edge of camp by the pond, behind the barracks. Franklin Wolverton Randall, patiently waiting for his wife to go on leave. He truly does look like the bastard. I nearly reached for my knife when I saw him standing there, unannounced, unexpected. Then to see you, out of uniform, hair long and loose as ye ran for him, flew into his arms with that same abandon as you used to enter mine? See him kiss you, touch you like that—

I watched for far too long, mo chridhe. I confess as much to you, here. It was wrong of me, but I simply couldna look away. Even after the two of ye had left, hand-in-hand, your face alight and beaming….I sat under that tree for hours—trying not to think of where and how and for how long he was bedding you, tasting you. Would ye be making those same small sounds for him, reaching for him with that wild, lovely abandon? Would ye be crying out his name, moaning for him as



Forgive me. 


C. E. B. Randall

Camp Nightwing, France

24 January

Lord, it’s positively wretched trying to undertake an intimate visit in a mobile camp with no friendly town or inn nearby. A spare tent and two mattresses pushed together on the ground hardly can qualify as a love nest. Still, throw enough cozy blankets on top and a cozy husband within for good measure, and not a bad way to spend a day or two off. 

It’s been over a year since we last saw each other. Always a little strange trying to get back into things, but it’s so good to have him here, to have even a short time to reconnect. It’s easy to get caught up in work, day after day and month after month; easy to forget, amidst it all, that I’ve a marriage to maintain.  

Danton’s taken ill, apparently; asked for today and tomorrow off. Hoping he’s alright.


1 0 1 5 

I wanted him to be cruel. I wanted him to be the worst kind of scum. 

But when I was so startled seeing his face again unexpectedly today that I dropped a hammer on my foot, he came over at once to see if he could help. He was kind and considerate, and had a warmth to his eyes, even toward a complete stranger such as me. He has nothing of the cruelty of his putative ancestor, not to me, and more importantly, not toward you. I could see the tenderness he has for ye, the evident care and the love as the two of ye made your farewells.

It only serves as yet another proof. You’re safe while you’re in camp. You’re safe when you’re with Frank. You dinna need me watching over you. You never did. The only one that needed it was me. 

Today, Claire. It ends today. I promise you this.


C. E. B. Randall

Camp Nightwing, France

9 February

Danton is angry with me, I think. Every time I try to approach him to talk or just say hello, he’s turning tail and making for the other side of camp. He’s never in the wards anymore, nor do I see him taking his meals at the usual times. I made excuses for him for the first several days, but it’s clear, now, that he’s actively avoiding me. 

It shouldn’t bother me as much as it has, but damn it all, I miss him; that calm support he’s been to me this year. 

Jesus, looking at that on the page, I want to scratch it out. I have no right to be so entitled or territorial or whatever you wish to call it. The man’s never even told me his first name, for god’s sake, and he hardly knows a thing about me, either. Still, there’s a hollow feeling in my chest every time I feel that dragonfly carving in my pocket. I miss him, and I don’t know what I did. 

How bloody dare he. 



1 0 6 5 

I ache for you, mo nighean donn.



April 1, 1944

I rounded the corner so quickly, neither of us had time to avoid the other. We both just stood there in the narrow passage between tents, teetering mid-step. I smiled and opened my mouth to speak. He nodded once, put his head down, and walked around me.

“Oh for Christ’s sake,” I snapped, turning to follow him with my glare, “honestly? Danton, I’m not going to bite you.”

He stopped, but did not turn. “I know, madame.” Quiet. lifeless. 

“Will you at least tell me what it is I’ve done to offend you so grievously?”

I didn’t think it was possible, but his shoulders tensed further. “You ‘ave done nothing, madame.”

“Well, something clearly changed.” All my pent-up bewilderment was barreling out of me in a fury. “You’ve avoided me completely for weeks. You won’t even look at me any more, like the past year was just— erased overnight! I mean, Jesus H. Christ, we used to be friends, didn’t we?”

A momentary flash of blue over his shoulder before the hair and the hat obscured him. “In truth, we do not know one another, madame. We ‘ave been friendly acquaintances.”

“Ac…Acquaintances.” My blood boiled and hot tears prickled in my eyes. “That’s it? That’s…. bloody it?” My voice came out shrill and small. 

His was like a dead man’s. “What more did you think it was, madame?”

I couldn’t even speak for a few moments, so great was the shock and hurt. 

He made to walk away, but then I found my voice, low, teeth gritted. “Perhaps I don’t know you in the sense of having all the details of your life’s story. Why? Because you deign to divulge such things only once in a blue moon and I’ve respected that.” I rallied, trying to maintain control of the lump in my throat and my rage. “But you meant a hell of a lot more to me than I apparently meant to you.”

He was still for moment longer, then he turned and faced me squarely, looking me in the eye with a hostility I had never before seen there. “I am no longer interested in being your charity case, madame. And it is time you learned to carry on without needing a man to constantly congratulate you.” 

He may as well have sliced me open. 

Fuck you, too, then.

I threw the dragonfly on the ground and walked away without a glance backward. 



1 0 8 2  

It was the only way I knew to complete the break. 

I am so very sorry, mo nighean donn. 

I shall be leaving as soon as I have enough wages to get home.  I waited all my life for you. I can wait four years more alone.



C. E. B. Randall

Camp Nightwing, France

4 May 

So many battles. So many wounded. German incursions and raids have locked down the camp until further notice. 

God, just let this vile war end. 


1 1 3 4 

You willna even speak to me, now. I hardly can blame you for it, as that was the intended result. Still, now it’s me keeping my eyes wide and searching for you at every turning, for you’ve been avoiding the usual sick bays, the places we used to encounter one another. 

You’ve taken to teaching classes to the soldiers. It’s a credit to you, Claire. I’ve stood outside the tents and listened to you give your lessons on several occasions. You truly are grand at it, this world of healing and instructing. You have so much in you, Sassenach, so much to give. 

I dinna wish to leave you. 



C. E. B. Randall

Camp Nightwing, France

7 June 

God be praised, the Americans stormed the Normandy beaches yesterday. Let this be the breakthrough that changes things, at last. 



1 1 5 6 

Tomorrow. I’ve been given leave to depart tomorrow. 

I’ve thought long and hard about it, Claire. Even if you dinna wish to see me, even if it is only a word and a moment, I shall say farewell face-to-face. 





The sack felt leaden on his shoulders, though he had hardly any possessions to his name.  His old sporran. A change of clothing. His book of letters to Claire. 

This is not the end, he reminded himself over and over. This is naught but the end of a chapter that should not have been opened to begin with. This is not the end. 

The walk across camp felt an eternity, made still worse by the fact that she wasn’t even in the barracks, where she would normally be found at 7:00 of an evening. She wasn’t in the instructional tent. He went to the mess-hall—not there either.

Jesus, Claire,” he muttered under his breath after a full quarter hour of searching, “where in God’s name have ye gone?

At last, he spotted a familiar face and he all but ran to catch up with her, panting a little as he said, “Excuse me, Miss Nancy?”

Nancy jumped as though he had grabbed her, and it took all his control not to roll his eyes at the flighty wee thing. She never had gotten over that initial fear and loathing for his manner and look. More’s the pity that it hadn’t worked half so well on Claire.

He recovered and gave a cordial bow. “I am most sorry to ‘ave startled you. Would you tell me, please, where I might find Nurse Randall?”

“Whew, um,” Nancy put a dramatic hand on her heaving heart as she blinked and thought. “Oh! Yes, well, she’s not here, of course.”

“Not here?” In his shock, he nearly forgot to put on the French accent. “Where ‘as she gone?”

“She was part of the escort that set out to take those American chaps back.”

“…Ameri—” Then the world was shifting, tumbling, fragments of memory from another war suddenly sparking into horrific clarity. 

“Surely you heard about it? The two Airborne lads that came to us because they got separated from their men after Normandy? They’ve been here for the last week, I can’t believe you haven’t—”

But Jamie wasn’t listening. He was running. 

Of all the things Claire had told him, how could he have failed to recollect THIS?  For today was the day Claire nearly got herself killed by German fire…..the day when Claire could get herself killed by German fire.