What if Claire went back through the stones a few years (between 2 and 5) after Culloden?
(Ah ah! figured out what I did wrong on my last post! I accidentally deleted the question form in my inbox, so sorry. I could blame it on tiredness or just lack of know-how. Anyway this one should be posted in answer to the anonymous request. Also if anyone else has any requests please send them! I’ll stop my silly AN and allow you to enjoy the newest prompt!)
Twice I have been whisked away to a far off place that I did not want to go to, and only once have I felt like I do not belong. I have a hatred for Boston. The bustling streets, crammed sidewalks, and the awful nasal local accent that could be the equivalent of nails on a chalk board surrounded me. I crave the peaceful lochs, rowdy villages, and playful farms of the Scottish Highlands. If Frank has his way I’ll never set foot in Scotland or near Inverness again. My heart and soul are two-hundred years in the past, floating somewhere in the Highlands with the man I truly love, yet I’m anchored to the present— New England America thanks to a beautiful red headed almost two year old child who is already so much like her father.
Living with Frank these last two years has shown me what a marriage of obligation is and what a marriage of love is; I do not share the love for this wonderful man the way I once did. He’s taken care of us, accepted, even loved Brianna as his own, despite his previous musings of never being able to love a child if it were not of his own blood. Our love, the love I had fought so hard to return to during my first few months in the past, is not what it was and will never be the same ever again. He deserves someone who will love him the way a woman should love him. Not with him out of obligation and fondness for what once was. Unbeknownst to him, last night at dinner he gave me the perfect opportunity to consider going back to Scotland, back through the standing stones at Craig na Dun to my home.
My mind is rushing from the conversation of the previous night. Frank had said he’s going to a conference in London for the week of Halloween not returning until November 2nd. My main concerns with finally having the chance to fulfill my desires were: Can I survive a trip through the stones again? Can Brianna travel through with me? If we did make it, could we make it back to the right time? What if Jamie wasn’t alive? What if he had moved on? Would I really risk her that way all for the selfishness of wanting to get back to her father?
I have the opportunity and I must try something to get back to where I belong with the family I long to be reunited with and introduce father to daughter. Halloween was only a month away, happiness flooded me as I watched Frank play with Brianna imagining Jamie in his place, instead of the woven rug on the hardwood floors of our Boston home, the homely wood and stone of the hearth at Lallybroch flooded my mind.
We can go back. We will go back.
A month may seem like a long time, but for me it went by in a blur of unfinished resolve. Six days ago Frank left for London, tomorrow Brianna and I will be on our way to Inverness and to Mrs. Graham’s house on the outskirts of town. Already, I had found money from the time, I only hoped it would be enough to secure a horse or carriage from inverness to Lallybroch. Cloaks and gowns waiting at Mrs. Graham’s, a small package of mementos for Jamie, and hope for a better life all prepared. One last night in Boston, one more day in the twentieth century, and then forever in the time and place where we belong.
The stone circle at Craig na Dun looked the same; the split large center stone, the towering outer circle and the buzzing. The menacing buzz of pain and freedom. Brianna started to cry with her hands clapped over her ears as we approached the center stone. She can hear it too. Thank God, she can hear it too. Stepping forward I readjusted my grip on Brianna’s solid form and checked that the leather bags containing our clothes and mementoes were still buckled.
“Brianna, sweetie. When mommy says put your hand on the big stone in front of us do it ok?” Tears still streaming down her chubby face she nodded.
“Ok! One…. Two… Three! Put your hand on the stone!” Fearful she might not touch at the same time as me I grabbed her tiny hand and our combined hands touched the center stone at the same time. The jerking and sudden falling feeling was excruciating this time around and I prayed Brianna did not feel it as strongly as I did.
Landing beside the same stone I hoped we were two-hundred and two years in the past from the stone we touch only a moment ago. Brianna was crying even harder, as I stood us up and looked around to see if it was the same wilderness I knew from 1950 or the wilderness slightly altered wilderness of 1748. Attempting to calm the inconsolable child in my arms I began walking in the direction of Inverness hoping to find food and a horse I could buy.
The horse we were able to procure was small but reliable. Our combined weight would not cause too much of a strain on the horse and hopefully would make it the entire way to Lallybroch without me having to walk too far carrying Brianna.
Our second full day on the road was surprisingly pleasant for early November in the Scottish Highlands. A pale yellow sun peaking over the trees and mountains, a light and chilly breeze, and thankfully none of the signature Scottish drizzle had dampened our journey.
“Pardon me madam, are you lost?” A deep British voice said from behind me causing me to nearly fall off the horse. Turning my head to look at the person who was now beside me— my stomach dropped. An English soldier. I knew they were frequently roaming the highlands, even more so after the rebellion, but I had hoped I would not run into them.
“Hello officer. I’m happy to say I am not lost but thank-you for your concern.” Giving him a smile I dearly hoped came across as pleasant and confident instead of the anxious turmoil that was racking my insides.
“Oh? Well pray madam where are you headed and would you like an escort? These are dangerous lands and a woman, especially an English woman with a child as small as yours, should not be traveling alone.”
“I’m headed to the home of some long beloved family friends. It’s only half a days journey left and while I am most grateful for your offer of an escort I believe I can manage just fine until we are safely in their lands.” My hands tightened, one around the reigns and the other on the now squirming Brianna. Please, please let it alone and let me be on my way. Please!
“Friends? In the Scottish Highlands? Madam you must be joking!”
“I am not jesting or any of the sort. My family has known these people for many years. Long before the uprising and I want to keep them as friends. They’ve always been kind to us before.”
“What is the family name you seek? I know all the former clan names in the area and have patrolled the villages multiple times. I can assure you of their kindness if you please.”
“Murray. The family name is Murray. They lived on the Clan Fraser lands just through the pass in about three miles time. Last I saw them they were the utmost of loyalist and perfectly kind people. I do hope you are not to contradict that.”
“Murray you say madam? I’m afraid I do not know the Murray’s, but the Fraser’s I do have acquaintance with. I shall warn you against seeking out or going near the man they call ‘Red’ Jamie Fraser. He was a wanted criminal before becoming one of the bloodiest Jacobite of them all. If it’s the Fraser lands you seek I do hope you do not come across the man.”
A chill went down my spine and also a shudder of relief; Jamie was wanted but he was alive. A life on the run was not what I had in mind; however, if that’s the only way to be with Jamie then so be it. We would make do.
“Thank-you for the warning and I’ll be sure to avoid this ‘Red’ Jamie. I am sorry to cut our conversation short but I must be on my way. I would like to make it to the Murray’s before dinner time. Good day.”
“Good day madam. Know that if you need any assistance please send word for me, my name is Corporal Jackson Morgan. My company and I are stationed at Fort William. Good luck on your travels.”
Watching the soldier, and the ten other men on horses that I had not noticed until now, ride away in the opposite direction caused me to release a breath I had not realized I was holding. Now to get through the rest of this journey without meeting any more soldiers or someone worse.
Lallybroch was just as I remembered it. The sweeping hills and farm lands, the slightly off kilter tower, and the beautiful three storied home I couldn’t wait to set foot in again. Brianna sensing my excitement started to bounce and babble, her words going from the comprehendible to some the last of her baby nonsense babble.
“We’re almost home my love.” I whispered into the wind both for Brianna and Jamie— wherever he might be.
The closer the horse brought us towards the estate the harder my heart began to pound. Every step like an added heart beat forming an irregular and overwhelming rhythm. Closing my eyes I sent up a silent prayer for the acceptance of my daughter and I back into the Fraser household and for the safety of my husband.
Howls met my ears signaling that the Fraser/Murray household would know we were approaching. Not knowing whether we were friend or foe, I doubted we’d get a greeting in the archway or dooryard.
“DOGGIE!!! Doggie doggie doggie doggie doggie doggie! Mamma look DOGGIES!!!” Brianna’s excited squeal somehow overpowered the racket the hounds were causing. Pulling her closer to me, I dismounted the horse and began to walk into a home I once knew and wanted to call home again.
Gathering up my courage, I slowly approached the front door of the house, pushing the door open brought back memories of my first time here: Jamie barging in without a care “It’s my house Sassenach,” he had told me and since I was his wife, the Lady of this land, it was my house as well. The creak of the door startled the housekeeper who was headed for the door. Mrs. Crook caught sight of me and blanched quickly turning on her heels bellowing “Milady!! Milady!! You need to get down here!” I caught a brief smile as she took in the red headed, bright blue cat eyed child in my arms.
Before I had a chance to thick any further on what I might want to say to Jenny or Ian, Jenny Fraser Murray was standing before me looking as though not a day had gone by since we last saw each other three years ago— Black hair elegantly knotted, blue eyes bright and homespun gown stained from dirty baby hands. Almost in tears I smiled at my sister in law. “Hello Jenny, it’s been a while.” Like with Mrs. Crook, Jenny’s pallor paled and her eyes widened.
She approached me slowly as if not fully believing I was there, a hand extending ever so cautiously to touch my arm. “Ye’re here. Claire Fraser ye’re here! Why are ye here? Ye’re supposed to be dead! Jamie thinks ye’re dead!”
“It’s a long story I would love to tell you, Ian, and if he’s around Jamie. For now though could I trouble you for some food and a glass of water or some milk? I’m afraid my daughter and I haven’t had much since yesterday.” At the word daughter Jenny’s eyes darted down to Brianna who had hidden her face in my neck.
“Darling, it’s ok. Please stop hiding your face I want you to meet your Aunt Jenny.” Ever so slowly Brianna turned her head in the direction of Jenny. Shy Fraser eyes meeting shocked similar eyes.
“Jamie’s. She’s Jamie’s.”
“Of course she is. She’s so much like him too, already stubborn to the core with a fiery passion that could rival his.”
With a faint laugh and a nod Jenny asked, “How old are ye mo chridhe?”
“She’s almost two.”
“Does Jamie know? Did he know before… before Culloden?”
“He did know,” I snorted, “He’s the one who told me I was pregnant— on the eve of Culloden of all times.”
“Is that why ye left? To protect the bairn?” I nodded somberly looking down as to not show the tears pricking my eyes, “I thought Jamie died on that battlefield. I had a part of him with me and I had to protect it, if not for me then for him. To keep him alive in any way that I could.”
Before Jenny had a chance to respond to what I had just revealed I was nearly knocked off my feet as a gangly dark haired boy attached himself to my legs.
“Milady!! God has restored you!! Milord will be so happy to see you!”
“What the,” startled at first from the impact and recognition taking it’s time. The dark haired boy looked up at me, tears streaming from his dark eyes, “Fergus? Oh! Fergus get up! Let me look at you!” The young Frenchman scrambled to his feet eager to oblige.
“Milady l’enfant you carry looks just like Milord!” Touching his cheek, I smile at his assessment of Brianna, she definitely has the Fraser and Mackenzie looks. “Does Milord know?” Fergus’s eyes had grown wide and in a haste of French mixed with Gaelic and bits of English I caught what sounded like “I must go fetch Milord, he will come home for this! He…” the rest was lost to me as was Fergus as he raced out the front door in search of Jamie.
“Weel guess we won’t be needin’ to call for Jamie then. Why don’t we go to the kitchen and get you and this precious one something to eat?”
“Thank-you Jenny, truly.”
“Think nothin’ of it lass, I’m just glad ye’re home.” Smiling at each other Jenny looped her arm through mine as we set off towards the kitchens.
For hours Jenny and I sat and talked while Brianna and Maggie played together by our feet. I was wary of telling her anything about where I had gone until I could speak to Jamie, together we needed to decide what to tell his family. The journey to Lallybroch, meeting the soldiers on the road— their warning about Jamie, and personality traits of Jamie’s that Brianna boldly displays, were all topics I felt safe enough to discuss.
“The fool better wait until dark to get down here especially with the redcoats lurking. Last thing we need is for him to get thrown in prison or worse hanged just as ye’ve made yer way home.”
“How long has he been in hiding?”
“Ever since they brought him back from Culloden. I’ll let him tell ye more, it’s been difficult, he’s not quite the same. It’s as though all the life in him has been drained away, ye ken?” Looking down and nodding I did know what she was talking about. If it hadn’t been for Brianna I would have lost myself to the grief of losing Jamie long ago.
“With ye being back, he might have some life in him again.” Jenny mumbled something else that sounded like, ‘I hope.’
I hope, indeed. I hope I didn’t make the wrong decision in coming back.
As dark began to cover the farm lands of Lallybroch, my anxiety went up. Twisting my hands and pacing in front of the front door, I sent up a silent prayer that Jamie may be safe and make it to me.
“Claire!” A desperate, hope filled whisper said in the deep Scottish lilt that I had dreamed about for two years was there. Jamie was there. His beautiful red curls covered by the dun bonnet (that would inspire a Highland legend), his face with a full red beard split by a blinding white grin, blue eyes slanted and smiling— my Highlander. Still strong and proud, the posture of a king and a warrior, the gentleness of a dove, finally before me.
“Jamie. Oh God, JAMIE!” Smiling as I ran to his embrace, tears freely flowing, and the feeling of home enveloping me like a warm blanket.
Holding on to me with all his strength he kept muttering, “Ye’re real.”
“I’m here Jamie and I’m not going anywhere.” That seemed to be all that he needed to lean down and catch my lips in dance that was as fervent as the day we parted only euphoric instead of in desperation. Days could have passed while I was in his embrace without me noticing. Breaking off this kiss Jamie leaned his forehead to mine.
“The bairn? Claire please tell me nothing happened to the bairn!”
“She’s safe and so beautiful.”
“She,” looking into his eyes the awe and relief were overwhelming and the faint gleam of tears touched his eyes, “Ye—ye dinna leave her there did you?”
“No Jamie I didn’t. Would you like to meet your daughter?”
At my question he broke down fully giving in to his emotions. Clinging to me I could feel his shoulders shake as he wept, and the faintest of nods was distinguishable. Grabbing his hand I pulled him into the parlor.
“Brianna, sweetheart please come here.” Briefly looking away from Jamie to make sure Brianna toddled over to me, I reached out the hand that wasn’t being held by Jamie and grabbed Brianna’s. “Sweetheart this is your father. Jamie, I would like you to meet your daughter, Brianna Ellen Fraser.”
Never letting go of my hand, Jamie crouched down to our daughter’s level, a shaking hand outstretched to her small form and ever so gently touching her face.
“Dia duit mo ghile iníon álainn.” A small giggle came from Brianna as Jamie continued to lightly touch her face. If Jamie’s smile before had lit up the room, now it was positively illuminating.
“Darling, do you want to give your father a hug?” Brianna’s big blue eyes looked up at me almost asking if it were ok. “Go on.” I nudged with a smile. Cautiously she released my hand and wrapped both arms around Jamie’s neck. Jamie’s free hand clutched her small back, I reluctantly released my grip from him so he could fully embrace her.
That’s how Ian, Fergus and Jenny found us, myself kneeling on the floor while Jamie sat clutching his daughter to him for the first time. In this moment I cannot find fault, it’s finally as it was meant to be.
We are home.