Fanfiction - My Brother’s Lass (Part Eight)
Hey sweeties! I managed to write this in time to post it today – and a good thing since I’ll be mostly absent for the next couple of days due to work. Can’t really say enough about the love, generosity and gentleness you have shown me. We are approaching the final stretch of this fic, so I hope you enjoy the ride! This one is for L. See you on the other side with much love! <3
My Brother’s Lass (Part Eight) – No Time For Us
“Willie asked me to marry him.” Claire said after a while. I was still panting heavily from anger, passion and our shared kiss. She had covered her legs and was standing against the railway, her body visibly trembling. I yearned to secure her between my arms, to soothe her and tell her tenderly what I had tried to show her with harsh words and the force of my body moments ago – but couldn’t. I had made my intentions clear; it was her turn to make her move, in the big chess game our lives had turned into. “He wants to give me your mother’s ring.”
“I knew he would.” I answered, brushing hay from my shirt. “He wanted ye from the moment he first saw ye – as did I.”
“Jamie,” She swallowed hard – I could hear her voice threatening to choke her, words too heavy to be easily said. “If we choose to be together, you’ll lose your brother. Your family. Your home. I could never agree to that, knowing…” She gulped. “I know what you’d be giving up. Your rightful place in the world. I can’t make peace with that notion.”
“Claire.” I interrupted, raising my hands. “Since the day I arrived from France, there hasna been a single day that I haven’t cursed myself with those thoughts. But the undeniable truth is – I made that choice long ago. My choice is you. I will forsake my home, my place at my brother’s side, my eternal soul - if that is what it takes. If ye want me, I shall have ye – and bear the retribution to come with a lightened heart.”
“Are you really willing to give up your brother’s love?” She tilted her chin and our eyes met fully. “I know how it is to be loved by him. I understand the grace – and the hardship of having it stricken away from you.”
“Aye.” I nodded. “It pains me…” I breathed deeply, truly feeling the ache of it burdening my chest. “It pains me sae much, Claire. I ken people will think me a traitor the likes of Cain – I had been thinking it myself. To commit such betrayal…” I inhaled, shaking my head. “But there is a point in which we must decide how to carry on – and be truthful, at least to ourselves.”
“If you really mean it…” Claire slid slowly to the ground, where she sat on the hay. All the colour on her cheeks, heightened by our argument and then by my kisses, had suddenly escaped her face. She looked pale and crushed – but decided. “I must tell you the truth. So you can decide if you still want me then.”
I glared at her, confused. But inside my brain I could hear the voice of my brother that nefarious evening in his room – “Ye dinna ken the first thing about her”. He had said and then – “Would ye risk her happiness when ye dinna ken what ye’re claiming?”
I moved carefully, like a hunter trying not to fright away rare and precious game, and kneeled by her side. I could feel the heat of her, inebriating – to sit beside her and not to hold her took all the self-control I possessed.
We were silent for a time, the cicadas still madly chanting in the heat outside – we could be standing in the heart of a fire, waiting to be burned into oblivion. I waited – patiently, I hope – for her next words and she fought to gather them, curling her fingers on her skirts. I vividly remembered the feel of her smooth skin on the tip of my own fingers, foreign to me and yet the sacred ground I had hoped for all my life.
“Are you familiar with the song about the woman of Balnain?” She said at last, her voice a murmur above the sounds outside.
“Aye.” I nodded. I had witnessed the telling of that ballad not long ago, in the Great Hall of Leoch. “I am the woman of Balnain. The folk have stolen me over again…” I began.
“I placed my hands upon the tallest stone and travelled to a far, distant land.” She whispered, her hand brushing mine. “Where I lived a time among strangers, who became lovers and friends.” Her fingers slowly touched my chin, delicately forcing my head to turn and to look her in the eyes. “And so I did.” A tear escaped her whiskey-coloured eyes. “I am the woman of Balnain.”
I curled in bed, fear and devastation roaring through my body like a wind-swept mountain. Claire’s words were seared into my mind – I heard them, saw them, breathed them and pumped them with my heart. I wanted nothing more than to escape the terrible truth she had shared with me – to go back and silence her with my mouth before she managed to tell me everything.
“Do you believe me?” She asked in the end in a weak voice, her body drained after her tale.
“Aye.” I avoided her eyes. “I do.”
“What are you thinking? Please…Tell me.” Claire pleaded.
I noticed the shadows that were starting to grow on the ground – the sun was low in the sky, preparing for the night to come. I felt like I had already plunged into darkness – the only light was her, beside me – and I couldn’t seem to find a way to look at her.
“I used to think that there wasn’t a place for us.” I answered in a hoarse voice. “But now – there’s no time for us either, is it?”
“Don’t say that!” She grabbed my hand and placed it against her cheek. “I’m real. As real as I’ve ever been. I’m here!”
“But will you stay?” I demanded weakly. “I ken what you told me.“ I assured her before she protested. “That you feel like you belong here. But ye have all those memories that I will never be able to share with ye, Claire. A place in the world this time could never offer ye. A man to whom ye made promises, lass.”
“A man who betrayed me!” She got up, restless and paced around. “I gave him my heart and he stomped on it. Any promises I might have given him were made void the moment he decided to fuck that nurse!” More curls escaped her bun, as she moved agitated.
“I wilna pretend to know what that means.” I said in a restrained tone. “Ye might think ye want to stay now. But what if ye change your mind in a year? Or two? Or twenty? What if ye realize that ye made a terrible mistake while you’re carrying our bairn?” I tousled the waves and cowlicks of my hair. “I don’t know if I can live like that.” I swallowed hard. “Not knowing when you’ll decide to leave me and go back through the stones.”
“If I wanted to leave you, James Fraser.” She replied with fierceness. “The inability to travel through time wouldn’t stop me, even if things were different. I would leave anyway.”
“And William has known this since the beginning?” I demanded, hurt filling my eyes.
“Yes.” She closed her eyes. “He found me shortly after I came through. I was famished, dehydrated, battered and as close to madness as I ever want to be. He believed me!” Claire gave me an incredulous look, as if she couldn’t quite believe it herself. “His faith, his trust, meant more to me – to become whole again – than bread, water or shelter.”
“I…I canna…” I rubbed my knuckles against my closed eyes, watching stars appear in the darkness. When I opened them, Claire was directly in front of me.
“You told me I needed to know – that I belong to you.” She whispered. I could see the sparks of gold in her eyes, like coins of a treasure waiting to be found, his possessor rich beyond his imagination. “And I do.”
She touched my lips with hers, softly. A question, an answer, a promise.
I turned to the other side, watching the night recede to give room to dawn.
I had wanted her – and had demanded it in a way, knowing her will complicit with mine. She had finally given to me her heart, but it had come with a cost. Take me, it said. Take the wonders in me, marvel in their revelations – but cherish my darkest secrets with them. Have everything of me, the purity and the sinfulness alike – or nothing at all.
I still yearned for her. I still loved her. But some image inside me had been tainted with fear, an irrational fear that left me petrified and helpless - the very thing that built my dreams, slipping away from me.
From the future. A future I would never know if not through her eyes – never see if not through her dreams. But I could have her present to myself – if only I was brave enough.
October came with a rush of leaves and a sudden gush of hail and cold – one day we were outside, sipping the warmth like a rare and fine tea; and the next the winds forced us inside, to prepare to the harshness of life in the Highlands during the winter time.
Ian was leaving for France. I had tried to persuade him to stay, knowing that his heart wasn’t at peace – and that he wouldn’t find it by putting distance between himself and my sister. But he needed to go and find that piece of wisdom by himself – so I blessed him and hugged him tightly, knowing he carried with him a good part of my conscience.
We were gathered outside with some tenants and lads from the village, valiantly ignoring the cold as we sipped ale and toasted to his good fortune. William and I had reached a silent agreement – that mainly consisted of blatantly pretending the other wasn’t present in the same space.
“What do ye think people in Paris do to pass the time?” Ian asked, contemplating his cup like the answer could be found at the end of his drink.
“Well,” I smiled. “They spend a lot of time in brothels and drinking wine.”
“I shall miss a good game of shinty.” Ian sighed. “Perhaps we can play some now and ease the pain of it, aye?”
We quickly formed teams – it hadn’t escaped my attention that my brother had made a conscious, yet discrete, effort to be on the opposing team.
Shinty is never a dull game – and not one for the weak. It’s made of brutal hits and cries of war, lost teeth, fractured bones, smiles covered with mud. But after a few moments it was fairly obvious my brother was out to get me.
After he inflicted a nasty blow in my bollocks with his stick for the second time, not even bothering to try to get to the actual ball, I rushed in fury and threw myself at him.
We rolled in the mud like two wild animals - punching, kicking and scratching each other; ignoring Ian’s kind attempts of splitting us. We only stopped - with simultaneous gasps and a torrent of curses – when a rush of cold water splashed over us.
I struggled to regain focus and watched as my father gave us a threatening look, his hands holding a bucket – Claire hovering behind him, her face clouded in disappointment and sadness.
We were sitting at the kitchen’s table, both of us placed near the fire, water dripping from our wet clothes and forming intermittent clouds of mist around us. William and I had been trying to explain what had happened, trampling each other and trading angry glares and sneaky pokes on the ribs. Claire sat at my father’s side, composed and collected like a queen from another age.
“Enough!” My father roared, silencing us. We froze, like stone-made statues in the halls of Medusa. “I ken what brought this on and ken it fine. This madness needs to end!”
“Da…” I tried to explain, but he gave me a hard look, warning me that my time to speak hadn’t yet arrived.
“Ye all have said plenty in the past weeks, I reckon.” He hissed. “And I tried verra hard to stand aside, thinking ye grown enough to mend what was broken; to figure how to conduct yerselves as men. But enough is enough.”
“This has nothing to…” William started, but received an equally cold look to disarming effect.
“I canna have my home shattered!” Da screamed, hammering his fist on the table. “My sons fighting like sworn enemies under my own eyes, my hearth turned into a battlefield - and do nothing!” Brian Dubh turned to Claire and his black eyes were intense, but sad. “I care for ye, Claire. I’d love nothing more than to have ye as daughter of my house. Ye’re a fine healer and a good lass; my tenants owe ye much.” He brushed his temple, where his black hair was slowly turning to the grey of precious silver.
“I understand.” She said softly, her fingers tightening in a fist until her knuckles turned white.
“But there’s no other way to solve this.” My father said in a hollow voice. “Ye need to leave this house.”