I Will give you my firstborn if you could do a chapter on the Vietnam AU where Jamie is jealous or Frank And Claire meet again
“Bree! You got some mail!”
Six-year-old William Fraser theatrically slammed Lallybroch’s old, heavy front door, rattling the blue vases carefully arranged on the window ledge. For the past year he had delighted in trekking the half-mile gravel track connecting the Big House to the main road, emptying the giant mailbox, and bearing all the letters and packages and magazines for the four Frasers (not including Murtagh and Suzette, who had their own cabin and mailbox) and eight Murrays who lived cozily in the four-story house that great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandpa James Fraser had constructed himself more than two hundred years before.
Cousins Ian and Kitty scampered in from the parlor, where cousin Michael kept pounding away at an old song – something about boats in the sky – on the worn piano.
“Anything for us?”
William staggered under the weight of the mail. “Don’t know – let’s go into the dining room to find out.”
Ian and Kitty raced ahead, clearing one end of the long mahogany table – crafted (they were told) by great-great-great-grandfather Simon Fraser right after the War Between The States – and watched William spill dozens of envelopes onto the polished surface.
“Will?” There was Brianna – aged seventeen – rubbing a crick on the back of her neck. William knew Mama and Da were a bit worried for her these days – she spent *so* much time studying for that SAT test, so that she could get into a good college…
“Yes! Highlights!” Ian exclaimed, grabbing the brightly-colored magazine and dashing toward the sitting room, heedless of the envelopes that showered to the ground.
Kitty sighed as she bent to clean up Ian’s mess. William squinted at the pile. “Hi Bree – you got some more college envelopes and magazines.”
“Oh cool – do you know from where?”
Now she joined them at the table, but not before pulling her brother – much younger, and so beloved – close for a quick hug.
She felt him shrug against her. “I don’t know. It all looks the same.”
Footsteps echoed in the hallway from the study.
“William! Did you get the mail again?” Da breezed in, pencil over his ear, hair all mussed – evidence of deep thinking.
Brianna pulled away from her brother to tear into her pile of envelopes.
“I did!” William exclaimed, smiling as his father ruffled his dark curls.
“Thanks, buddy – you know how much we all appreciate it. Anything for me?”
“Bree got some more college stuff. Doesn’t look like anything fun for you.”
Kitty finally found what she had been looking for – the new kit of paper dolls in 18th-century clothing – and quietly retreated upstairs to share with her sisters.
Jamie pulled out a chair to sit while sifting through the pile, then pulled out another one for Brianna, already engrossed in her mail.
“What did you get today, love?” he asked gently.
“Some more course catalogues…informational packets…and a magazine,” she replied absently. “More stuff to read.”
“From where?” Ah – there it was, last month’s feed bill for the horses and sheep. A quick glance to William – now busy sorting mail by the recipient’s name – before returning his attention to his daughter. His miracle.
“Virginia Tech…MIT…Georgia Tech…Duke…”
Jamie lay a gentle hand on Brianna’s forearm – and her eyes snapped up to meet his. His own eyes looked back at him – and not for the first time, he was amazed at how much of himself he saw in her.
“You know you’ll get into everywhere you apply, right? You’re smart, and you work hard, and you’ll be successful.”
She pursed her lips – eyes wide – and nodded.
“Just enjoy this time. It’s so exciting – you’ll have so many choices in your life, and you’ll do so many great things with that mind of yours. Don’t let any of this intimidate you.”
“I know, Da.” Her voice was quiet – hesitant. But confident. “If you and Mama keep telling me, that must make it true.”
Then she blessed him with a smile – and his heart melted as much as it had that first time she had smiled at him when she was just a few weeks old.
A daughter nearly grown – where had all the time gone?
The side door slammed – which only meant one thing –
“Mama!” William raced toward the kitchen, abandoning his task.
“Hello, love! *Ciamar a tha thu?*” Jamie and Brianna shared a smile as Claire’s voice echoed through the house.
Jamie shook his head. “She’ll always have that accent when she speaks the Gaidhlig. Unlike you, and me, and Will, and the rest of our family – she didn’t grow up speaking it. And it’s so hard for your mouth to learn new sounds without it sounding terrible.”
William’s muffled exclamations to his mother in the Gaidhlig grew louder.
“I’m just grateful we can speak it, Da.” Brianna tidied her magazines into a neat pile on the table. “It’s like our secret language. And I know it’ll make me stand out on my college applications!”
He shook his head incredulously – clever girl. And then –
“Hello loves!” There she was, William hoisted on her hip like a wee monkey, smiling broadly at her redheads.
“Hi Mama! Look what came today!”
Dr. Claire Fraser strode around the table and settled into the chair Jamie pulled out for her – easing William onto her lap and bending for a quick kiss from her husband.
Brianna pushed the magazine from Duke toward her mother. “This one looks really cool – they have a great engineering program, but there are so many other things to study, too.”
“Raleigh – not too far. And yes it’s a fantastic school.”
William settled against her shoulder – just enjoying being held by his mother – and Jamie opened the magazine on the tabletop, flanked by his women.
“Let’s see…table of contents…alumni in the news…recent publications by professors…here’s a new building going up…”
Absently he thumbed through the pages one by one –
And then Claire’s hand darted out, slamming to the table.
William – startled out of his hazy half-sleep – gasped in surprise.
Brianna watched her mother’s hand lay flat on the page, then slowly draw her fingers inward to clench into a fist.
“Mama?” So confused.
Then Claire gently scooted William to Jamie’s lap, stood, and quietly left the dining room.
“Mama!” Brianna called. “What’s wrong? What is going on?”
Panicked, she turned to her father. To see his face almost white with shock.
“Da? You’re scaring me – what is it?”
Only then did she turn her attention to the page. A small article, just a few paragraphs, in the “Alumni News” section. Something about a substantial donation to the school, to endow a program in the history department. Made by someone in California. Frank Randall, class of ’62. And there was even a picture of him – looking straight into the camera, not smiling, ensconced in a stuffy office.
Jamie pursed his lips. “Can you mind William? I need to talk to your Mama. Wait here.”
Wordlessly she opened her arms, and William snuggled against her, and she watched her father stride out of the dining room. Heading upstairs, to the master bedroom.
With her free hand she pulled the magazine closer, squinting at the photograph of this man who ran a real estate business in northern California. Had amassed a fortune, and given much of it to the school. Something about having no children of his own, and wanting others to benefit from his labors.
Gently she stroked William’s back, soothing.
Waiting, and thinking, and worrying, until Mama and Da came back into the room, holding hands.