At Fraser's Ridge Love to see Jamie as a father to William. William remembers the love he received from Jamie as child. William forgives and accepts Jf as his father and submits to Jf as his father and Himself. Please !Thx love everything you do!
William planted his feet farther apart for the next shot, steadying himself as he carefully aimed at a particularly plump hen at the edge of the flock of turkeys in the clearing.
The first loud blast had startled the birds, but not enough to disperse them. With the second blast, however, William felled his prize. He turned to Jamie, grinning widely.
“Good lad!” his father exclaimed, clearly pleased. “I had no idea ye were such a fine shot.”
William lowered the musket and reached to rub his shoulder, wincing from the recoil. “I had lessons growing up, and I’ve never had to shoot my own food - but between the game birds in Virginia and the practice I’ve gotten in the war, well -”
Jamie clapped William’s other shoulder, matching the young man’s shy smile as they crossed the clearing. “I’m proud of ye. Though I’ll have ye know, yer sister is the finest shot I’ve ever seen. She hasna had much practice, since she and Roger and the weans returned to us - but I’m sure she’d find a way to try to best ye.”
They reached the fallen turkey and crouched beside it. William watched, fascinated, as Jamie murmured something in Gaelic before gently wringing the hen’s neck.
“What was that?”
Jamie turned to his shoulder bag for the length of canvas they’d use to wrap the bird for travel. “I ken it was probably already deid - but I wanted to make sure. We canna have a half-deid bird waking up and squawking over yer shoulder on the way back.”
William helped Jamie spread the cloth on the crushed grass. “No, not that - those words you said. Was that a prayer of some kind?”
Together they rolled the carcass onto canvas. “Aye. It’s called a *gralloch* prayer - my da taught it to me as a lad. It’s to - weel, it probably sounds a big pagan to ye, but it’s to thank the spirit of the animal for its gift of life, and gift of food.”
William pursed his lips, considering, holding the wrapped canvas in place as Jamie neatly tied it with twine. Not for the first time, he was amazed at how dexterous Jamie was with just the four fingers on his right hand.
“When did you lose your finger?”
The tying done, Jamie eased back to sit cross-legged on the grass, gently pulling the edges of his kilt over his knees. William sat back in his breeches, heedless of the leaf litter and small pool of blood beside the wrapped turkey.
Jamie laid his hand flat on one filthy, sunburnt knee. “Saratoga,” he said quietly, reflecting. The afternoon sun shone on his bright red hair - dazzling, almost blinding William in its intensity. Jamie looked across at his son, and saw the highlights of red in his dark hair. His heart surged with joy at this small echo of himself in the bright lad beside him, who was still such a stranger in so many ways.
“I didna *lose* it, ken,” he continued, tracing with his eyes the almost-faded scars on his knuckles and joints - the legacy of his ordeal in Wentworth prison, a dozen lifetimes ago. “Claire amputated it.”
“She did?” William scooted closer and gently reached to touch where the fourth finger should have been.
The simple joy of having his son beside him, touching him - Jamie’s brain couldn’t process all of the emotions. So he focused, as he always did, on just the thought of Claire.
“Aye. She’s verra skilled wi’ her wee knife. She put me to sleep and tells me it didna take more than a few minutes.” He flipped his hand so it was palm up, and effortlessly took William’s hand, squeezing the strong fingers - so much like his own - tightly in companionship.
William, dear lad, was genuinely touched. Jamie heard him swallow at the sudden rush of emotion, but neither let go.
“She was trained as a surgeon in her own time,” he continued, voice suddenly husky. “She went to a proper school, and had a reputation as one of the finest in her profession in the entire country. She kent weel what she was doing - and she willna say it, but she’s quite proud of my hand. After we - came back - to the Ridge, and there were so many who were so suspicious of her and her talents, all it takes is one look at my puir hand for them to trust her.”
William nodded, processing.
“It’s so hard for me to understand how the two of you survived living apart, for so long,” he said after a long while. “To see the two of you together - it’s a - a deep love, isn’t it?”
Jamie sighed. “It is.”
“And how could you possibly send her away, like you did? How could you send her away when you only wanted to have her with you, always?”
“I had to, lad,” his father said simply. “I had no other choice. It was so - desperate - at that time. Everything was falling apart, and she was pregnant. What else could I have done?”
“But the life you have now - on the Ridge, with your tenants - that’s the life you always wanted with her. And you have it, but you could have had it much earlier, couldn’t you? And you were in prison, and at Helwater, and apart for so many years.”
Jamie turned to face William squarely. The lad’s eyes - his own eyes - looked up at him, questioning. *What kind of man are you?* his son’s eyes asked. *Am I that kind of man, too?*
“I did it then, and I’d do it again. Claire knows that. Brianna knows that. Jenny knows that. Because it kept Claire and Brianna safe. God restored my wife and daughter to me. For that - every day we spent apart was worth the sacrifice.”
William shook his head. “I don’t understand - ”
Jamie’s eyes bored into his. “And had I no’ given them up, I never would have gone to prison, and I never would ha’ gone to Helwater.” He licked his lips. “And that means I’d have never fathered *you,* William. Ye wouldna be, had I no’ let Claire go.”
William’s mouth gaped, throat working wordlessly.
Jamie scooted closer and framed William’s face with his hands. “Do ye understand me, lad? I canna regret any of it. I canna look back and wish it were different. Because had it been different, I wouldna have you. And I would never, ever wish that away.”
Tears slipped down his son’s cheeks. He closed his eyes in disbelief.
And then wordlessly sank into the sanctuary of his father’s chest, tears soaking the rough smokiness of his plaid, overcome with the love and devotion and admiration pouring out of the man whose arms were the safest place he’d ever known.