When the Heart Calls

BY : ChrissyQuinn
Category: -Misc TV Shows > General
Dragon prints: 72
Disclaimer: I do not own Outlander, nor the characters from it. Any resemblance of OCs to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Mistletoe and Whiskey

 

                Life moved quickly after the sickness rolled through Lallybroch, for some reason saving Fergus from certain death made our clandestine relationship palatable to Jamie and even Jenny to some extent. Christmas was fast approaching and after it would come Hogmanay only a week or so after. Time was moving far too quickly for my liking. Since the snow fall it’d been too cold to meet in the barn, so Fergus came to my room at night, and we sat on a blanket before the fire drinking our wine.

                “I don’t think I’ve been happier,” I whispered as I laid with my head on Fergus’s chest, listening to him breathe slowly as the fire crackled and he played in my hair. “I could lay here listening to you breathe until the end of time and want for nothing.”

                “Maybe Milord will let me go to France with you as a manservant,” he offered trailing his thumb over my cheek.

                “Could you watch me have another man’s child?”

                He smirked and it was purely infectious, “After the bedding who’s to say you don’t find your way into my bed?” Raising a dark brow he chuckled.

                I giggled and wet my lips, “And that is why you can’t come to France with me. You have a very pretty head; it would be a shame for you to lose it.” I reached up and threaded my fingers back through his dark loose curls. He took a drink of wine and then took another mouthful but didn’t swallow, instead he leaned down and kissed me, passing the wine into my mouth and lazily licking the stray drops from my lips when he broke the kiss.

                “It would be a death for a good cause, no?”

                Sitting up I tilted my head from side to side and reached up to grab the velvet pouch with the tarot cards in it from the foot of the bed.

                “Let’s see what the cards say?” I shuffled the deck and held them out, “Put your hand over it.”

                He nodded and placed his hand in mine and I covered his with the other.

                “Every time I touch your hands their softness astounds me.” He played his long fingers over my palm making me shiver.

                “Shh, we need to focus on our energy.”

                “Of course, how do I do that?” He chuckled and I kissed him, biting his bottom lip. His tongue snaked out and licked where I’d bit him. “Ow, what a vicious little dame blanche you are. Do I not worship at the altar of your beauty sufficiently?”

                “Shh, breathe with me. Don’t think, just look into my eyes and breathe.”               As I stared into those drowning blue eyes and we breathed together I felt like I was drawing a part of him into me that I’d never lose. We were bound together, and no matter what happened I knew we’d never fully part. Though I’d leave I’d take that piece with me, and a piece of me would be left behind. “Now draw the first three cards.”  I took my hand off his, and he placed the three cards down. The Lovers, the Devil and the two of cups. I blushed and set my teeth into my bottom lip, “You’re in love, Claudel. A deep, powerful unshakeable love, full of unbridled decadent passion.”

                “What a pity to waste your gifts, I don’t need cards to tell me this,” he kissed me again, his tongue slowly searching my mouth as he drew it out, leaving me flustered as we parted with things low in my body tensing as my cheeks burned.

                I cleared my throat, “Now for your future.” Keeping his eyes locked with mine he drew three more. The ace of cups, the hierophant and the ten of cups, all upright. “You’ll find a new love, and get married. There will be an emotional connection between the two of you and you’ll be happy.” I swallowed and sighed. As I picked up the ace of cups, I heard Marsali whispered in my mind as clear as if Fergus whispered it. Sniffling I shuffled the deck again. I put down the cards for my present and had the same three as Fergus, and then I placed my future. The six of cups and…

 

                My mother spread the tarot cards out on the kitchen table, she looked so casual as always her curls swept up in a bun on top of her head, her tan skin, hazel eyes and full lips free of makeup. Her t shirt of the day was a black MC5 shirt that looked like it might have been Da’s once, and the knees of her jeans were ripped out.

                “Our tarot lesson for the day,” she giggled and pursed her lips as she narrowed her eyes at the deck. “Okay.” With expert precision she picked three cards out of the deck, the eight of swords, the king of swords and the emperor. “If you ever do a reading for someone and they’re asking about their relationship or someone they like and there’s the eight of swords and the king of swords reversed or the emperor reversed, come tell me.”

                I furrowed my brows. “Why?”

                “The eight of swords is usually a victim of some sort,” she sighed. “And these reversed, ma petite chou, tend to mean tormentors or abusers.”

 

                …the eight of swords and emperor reversed.

                “I’ll long for you…” I swallowed, my gut twisted already like I was standing back in my room at Grandma’s and no longer at Lallybroch.

                “And the others?” His brows knit, eyes sweeping over the cards I’d ignored. “She does not look too happy to be amongst the swords,” he picked up the eight of swords card and I snatched it from him.

                “I’ll marry a man, or at least be bound to a man, who will abuse me… intentionally.” Staring at the cards I suddenly didn’t want to go back through the stones, I wanted to stay and run away with Fergus.

                “Don’t go to France.” The sorrow drenched words made me long to stay but it didn’t matter. Our futures were written, and they were futures apart. Either I’d meet the brute in the seventeen sixties or the twenty teens, it didn’t matter. It was happening that was my fate, the same as him finding a new love to bring him solace if not happiness.

                I swallowed. “I have to, our futures are written.” I forced a smile. “You deserve some happiness, and if I have to sacrifice myself for it.” I shrugged. “I’ll have the memory of you.”

                “But it doesn’t need to be a memory, we could run away together. Get a boat and go to France or to the colonies, if you tell Milord he’ll understand. He wouldn’t want you to be with such a man if he knew.” The distress on Fergus’s face was plain, but I couldn’t explain to him that an abusive husband was easier to deal with in the twenty teens. Not that it would ever be easy to deal with, but there were resources that didn’t exist yet… not to mention I wouldn’t be my husband’s property. I straddled his lap and cupped his face in my hands. I’d never sat astride him before and as soon as I moved to do it I wished I’d hadn’t.

                There was no ignoring his reaction to me or pretending that he wasn’t tormented by the lack of physical intimacy beyond kissing and light touches. He was a man, a grown man, with a grown man’s needs and desires. Between my thighs his flesh strained toward me, though the rest of his body stilled as though he were afraid to move and unsure of what to do. Still holding his face in my hands I kissed him and his lips never tasted sweeter. Quivering, as the kiss deepened I moved my hands to his shoulders and he stayed frozen aside from the breathing and his own slight tremble. His good hand slid to my bottom and the other pressed to my side, until I rolled my hips. He groaned then made a noise and broke the kiss, placing his hands on my shoulders and urging me off him.

                “No, I’ll not touch you in such a way unless I’m your husband.”

                “Why?” I pouted, and he moved me off him, both our chests heaved but he didn’t look at me, instead he focused his attention at the fire.

                “Isn’t it obvious?” He looked up at me, those blue eyes searing a whole into my soul with their intense smolder. “I love you, Moira-Rose Fraser. More than anyone has any right to love someone they cannot truly possess. I love you more than my own comfort, more than my own pleasure. I love you too much to use you like a whore, to ruin you. I love you to the point of agony.” He smiled and kissed me, I threw my arms around him and crushed myself against him as though I could merge my body with his.

                “I am unequivocally, unconditionally and irrevocably in love with you, Claudel,” I whispered in French as our kiss broke, half quoting the book Twilight, words I hadn’t fully understood until I’d met him but now couldn’t deny their power. “And though I can’t give you my body, my soul and my heart will be forever yours.” I leaned my head on his shoulder.

                “And mine yours. You say I’ll find happiness, but I am very doubtful, mon amor. Maybe there will be moments, but my heart will be miserable. Any moment without you is a moment I suffer.”  He kissed my forehead.

***

                Christmas, or yule as everyone called it, brought relations from every corner of Scotland to Lallybroch, which made it harder to find moments with Fergus, but we stole our kisses in the back hallways all the same. It took a servant two days to take in my dress for Yuletide, it was dark red satin with lace at the wrists and wide French panniers. I loved how it looked with the matching ribbon at my throat. That morning the servant came to dress me early and there wasn’t a sprig of heather waiting for me but a bottle of perfume. I held it in my hand after I was bathed and the servant brushed my hair. She was very pale with hazel eyes and russet colored hair neither ginger nor brown but something in between. Her face was lined and severe and I’d always had the impression that she disapproved of me somehow.

                “Such lovely hair,” she spoke as she brought the brush through. “Like fire and rubies, does’na compliment yer swarthy skin much though.” I twitched. “But what fine Scottish hair ‘tis,” she continued and I cast my gaze down from my reflection. Like that I suddenly didn’t feel beautiful in my dress anymore, I wasn’t looking forward to dancing or seeing Marsali. It was winter, I wasn’t swarthy I might have been pale but my skin wasn’t pinkish but golden. “Not quite an Outlander and not quite one o’ us.”

 

                “You can tell she’s from Marseille, it’s like the woman never heard of sunblock. I don’t know why Renault insists on inviting distant poor relations,” a woman with pale skin and black hair wearing a black sheath dress gossiped behind my mother’s back in French as I clung to her hand. I was seven and it was our first time in Paris for the holidays. I’d been to the house in Versailles maybe twice before and never for long. Smoothing my hair back into the bun my mother turned to the woman. Unlike all of the guests my mother wasn’t dressed in a designer formal gown, but instead a loose fitting brown sweater and black leggings. I’d been dressed the part and looked like other children there, uncomfortable in designer formal wear.

                “Get out,” my mother smiled, as she tilted her head to the side.

                “Excuse me? Who do you think you are?” The woman rambled with a scowl but my mother didn’t engage with her, instead she turned around hazel eyes scanning the crowd until they landed on my grandfather.

                “Papa!” My mother called, and my grandfather across the room turned around and grinned at my mother and approached sweeping her into a hug and giving me a kiss on the forehead. He wasn’t much taller than my mother, and graying with pale lined skin, his eyes were the same color as my mothers. They even had the same flecks of green in their left eyes. “The provincial relations are bothering me.”

                “Are they now?” He chuckled and slipped me a candy from his pocket. “What a pity for them, no one upsets ma petite chou.”

                With a grin, my mother gestured to a man in a black suit then to the woman in black and they were escorted out. My mother knelt before me and took my hands looking me in the eyes.

                “Always remember, your father makes you a Fraser. They’re kind and loving and loyal people. But I make you a Saint Martin, which means you can be ruthless, and passionate and vengeful, and exacting. If anyone makes you feel lesser even for a moment, never forget to make them suffer for it.”

               

                “Well I am a Fraser by blood and a MacKenzie too. The blood of Lairds and chieftains flows through my veins, the very blood of the highlands. So, you’re right, I’m not like you. I don’t serve anyone.” I looked at my reflection in the mirror, lifting my chin like my mother did, “Get out.” I didn’t grin, I didn’t rub it in that I commanded her. But I did sit up tall and straight and watch her in the mirror as her face twisted.

                “Yer Aunt tol—”

                “Get. Out.”  I turned and looked at her keeping my face blank, she seemed panicked and with a nod she left the room and with her gone I felt better. I dressed myself, it took a little longer but I managed. There was a knock on the door as I was smoothing the fine delicate lace at the sleeves. I walked over and opened the door revealing Jamie on the other side holding a velvet pouch and a garland of mistletoe, poinsettias, and holly.

                “Where’s yer maid?” Jamie looked around with his brows furrowed.

                “She called me an outlander and I reminded her of… her station.” I pursed my lips and searched his face to see if he was disapproving.

                Jamie chuckled and shook his head. “Ye sure ye dinna grow up in Paris during my time? I’ll speak to the lass. Yer my blood, that alone makes ye no outlander, Morra. That and the hair.”

                I shook my head, “It’s done. No need to make it worse.”

                “I have an early gift for ye,” he grinned and opened the pouch, producing a length of red ribbon that matched the dress, it had a tiny little ruby set in gold dangling from it. “Ye have to Hogmanay, but I thought to give it to ye now.” He untied the plain ribbon around my neck and replaced it with the new one; with careful touches he righted the jewel to sit at the dip between my clavicles before holding out the garland. “This ‘tis from Jenny and Janet.” He crowned me with the garland with a wide smile. “Very bonnie.” Jamie led me downstairs, to where everyone was gathered in the parlor. There was a bard playing, and a man I didn’t know with auburn hair watched me closer than I liked.

                “Who’s that man?” I asked Jamie nodding toward the man watching me.

                “That is the current Master of Lovat, Simon Fraser. I thought my grandfather’s cruelty skipped him, but by all accounts I was wrong.” His brows knit and he shook his head. “Careful o’ him, lassie. By rights he could command me to give ye to him and neither ye nor I would have much say in the matter.”

                I sneered. “Give?” I crossed my arms and turned to face Jamie head on so the man couldn’t look at anything but my back. “I’d rather walk to Inverness barefoot.” I left the room and went wandering.

                As I passed the entrance to Lallybroch Marsali, her mother and little sister entered, and I didn’t get two steps before Marsali grabbed me in a rather unexpected hug.

                “Moira-Rose, I missed you!” she hung off me as Fergus stepped into the end of the hall and paused for a moment staring at me before retreating once more. Marsali and I had exchanged letters every few days since Allhallowstide, like the world’s slowest text chain. It wasn’t until she was standing in front of me that I realized I was going to miss her too. My eyes misted up and I wiped them. Marsali’s mother looked me over and grinned before leading Marsali’s sister away. She watched as they walked away and when they were out of earshot she grinned. “Fergus has been writing me.”

                I knew about their letters, I’d encouraged it, but it still hurt to see the joy in her eyes. To know that every time she looked about she was looking for him burned me but I pushed it down and forced myself to smile and link arms with her as we started for the parlor.

                “Oh, Moira-Rose, I’m in such a fit!” she sighed and stopped walking, her features were drawn and she clearly was in distress. “I want to tell Fergus how I feel but I dinna ken how.” She stooped low and pressed her head to my shoulder.

                “Well… I can read the cards if you like,” I spoke without thinking, like she was one of the friends I’d met at one of the private schools I’d attended and not a seventeen hundreds scots girl who was likely to scream witch and have me burned. Instead of screaming witch she beamed.

                “Ye’ could do that?”

                “Mhm, lets go upstairs.” Giggling I grabbed her by the hand and pulled her upstairs to my room. Once the door was shut I took the velvet bag with my cards out and shuffled them before setting them on the table and sitting down. “It’s very easy. All you have to do is shuffle the cards and place them in my hand.”

                “Just like that?”

                “Somewhat, we’ll go a step at a time.” I flashed her a grin as she shuffled, then I held out my hand and she placed the cards in my hand. “Now place your hand over mine.” She did as I asked giggling all the while with blush turning her cheeks the colors of cherries. I placed my hand over hers. “And now, the step before last. Look into my eyes and think of Fergus.”

                “Oh, this’ll be easy. I canna’ do much else,” she confessed sitting up straighter. As we stared at each other I could almost see it, him and her together in marital bliss, welcoming their first child and a seemingly endless string of pregnancies that would appear to proclaim to all how happy they were. Unable to bear anymore I shut my eyes and took a deep breath.

                “Now, take three cards off the top and place them face up.”

                She did as I instructed, two of the cards were the same Fergus drew while thinking about the future. Forcing my smile I set the deck down and looked at the cards.

                “The Ace of Cups means it’s a new love, and the ten of cups means you’ll be blissfully happy, and you see the empress, that means you’ll have lots of children,” I held her hand. “You have nothing to worry about. Fergus will love you. Tell him at Hogmanay and he’ll be stubborn…but you’ll wear him down.”

                She squeezed my hand, “I wish ye dinna have to go to France. I am going to miss you something awful fierce.” I couldn’t speak, her happiness made me bitter inside. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy for her or glad that it was almost assured that Fergus would have a somewhat happy life after I left, it was that for all of the happiness to take place I would have to leave. Even if I weren’t going back to my own time I’d have to leave, I wasn’t sure I could bear it same as she probably couldn’t bear knowing the truth of what Fergus and I really had. I almost wanted to tell her, but instead thought better of it and stood.

                Thud. Thud. Thud. I tucked the cards away back in my skirt pocket.

                “Who’s there?” I asked taking a half step toward the door.

                “It’s Fergus, Milady,” his voice was tense, something was wrong. I went to the door and opened it Fergus’s coat was covered in slowly melting snow flakes.

                “What’s wrong?”

                “Milord told me that you have to leave tonight, I’ve been readying his horse, Milady.” His hands were shaking, and his voice was on the knives edge of panic and sadness and I couldn’t blame him.

                My mouth fell open and I glanced at Marsali. What I wanted more than anything was to draw Fergus into my arms and kiss him, but I couldn’t with her there. Instead I hugged her close.

                “Remember, Hogmanay,” I whispered before pulling back. She nodded and looked at Fergus.

                “Marsali, I believe your mother is looking for you as well,” Fergus explained, eyes glaring at Marsali with half noticeable threatening tears. She muttered something about her mother and left.

                Once the door shut we both broke down in sobs as I crashed into his arms, and piteous noises broke from my throat not even half human in nature. I felt like I was dying inside, like something was physically being ripped from my insides and I hadn’t left yet. He held me like I was something precious and took deep breaths of my hair, practically wallowing in my scent. I looked up at him and grabbed his hair as I pulled him in for a deep kiss, I didn’t even care that the door opened behind us. In the moment all that mattered was him and that we were being forced to part.

                “Lad, there is’na time. We have to be on our way. Now!” It was Jamie and as I broke my kiss with Fergus Jamie shoved things into my bag. The charcoals, the journal and the bottle of perfume.

                “I’ll never forget you, your name will be on my dying breath,” he whispered to me before parting and kissing my lips once more. “I love you.”

                “I love you, too,” I whispered through tears as Jamie took the heavy green cloak from the chest and held it out to me as Fergus left with one last look. “What happened?” I took the cloak and pulled it around my shoulders.

                “Our good Lord Lovat demanded ye go with him when he leaves. I’ll not subject any blood o’ mine to that brute.”  He shook his head. “No matter the costs.” Grabbing my hand he yanked me from my room and down the stairs. The bard was still playing, his music drifted on the air even as the door to Lallybroch shut. Outside Fergus stood in the snow holding the reins for Jamie’s horse. Jamie mounted with ease and pulled me on after him. He heeled the horse, taking off at a punishing gallop as Fergus stood by and watched us go. I couldn’t think, let alone move or talk, all I could do was grieve as the sun rose and the stones came into view. Jamie dismounted and helped me off the back of the horse. My legs were sore, and the space where my heart once was ached even as I felt the pull of the stones.

                “Take care of him?” I asked, and he nodded wiping my eyes.

                “Aye. Live a good life, Morra. Ye might not think it, but ye will be missed.”

                I gave him a hug and forced a smile as I took off the cloak and held it back to him. He took it and I climbed up toward the stones, giving in to the hum and pull of that unknown force. I forced myself to think about Grandma and Da as I head my hand out and touched the stone…

 

                Over head a plane ruined the perfect blue sky by leaving a white chemtrail. I pushed the tears I’d been crying for over two hundred years aside and stood. The walk was automatic, I didn’t notice the people who stopped and stared at me, some taking pictures with their cellphones. It was cold but I didn’t feel it all I felt was the pain where my love for Fergus had been. When I reached Grandma’s house I didn’t bother with knocking, I took the key from under the frog and let myself in. The central heating made everything too warm after my month of acclimating to life without it.

                “Ian, that you laddie?” My grandma called. “I think I found Mor—”  I stopped in the living room and the sight of me made grandma drop her papers and crush me to her. We sobbed and cried on each other for the longest. She showered my forehead with a thousand kisses. “Oh my sweet lassie!” She squeezed me and took out her phone, facetiming Da with one hand. “Look!”

                “Morra!” Strange as it was all I heard was Jamie when I looked up at the phone. Technology seemed strange then but I forced myself to smile.

                “I’m sorry, Da. I… I’m so sorry.” I couldn’t say anything else, and my voice came so high pitched I swore dogs whined in the distance.

 

 

August 2020

 

                The bruises around my eye were still fresh, and my lip was still swollen it happened less than twenty minutes before and I didn’t even need to close my eyes to feel my pulse there. It wasn’t the first time he hit me and blamed it on the whiskey.

                Da and Grandma died last Christmas in a car accident, leaving me alone. It was then the tarot cards came true, five years after I pulled them, or would that have been two hundred and fifty five years, when I met and fell in love with a man in a kilt at grandma’s funeral.

                “You know I didn’t mean it,” Nathan blathered as he entered the hotel room in his tartan kilt the green black and red of Clan Gunn. He was tall, thickly muscled with blonde hair and thick dark eyebrows. “I shouldn’t have had the Lagavulin. You were right to leave.”

                We were engaged, and we hadn’t had sex yet, were I truthful with myself I was surprised he hadn’t raped me yet. He had money and the type of pedigree my Grandma loved—Scottish highlands through and through. But he was a mean drunk who hit hard. Of course he was capable of being charming and the first two months of our relationship were sublime—it was the first time I hadn’t compared a man to Fergus. Once the engagement came so did the beatings, which was how I knew in the morning I’d wake up to white Calla lilies and a new piece of jewelry on the bedside table.

                He grabbed my chin, forcing my face to the side. “You probably shouldn’t go to the clan call tomorrow. The shiner’s going to be a bad one.”

                “I have to, for Da.” I twitched away from him and walked over to the dress I’d had made, it was a white corset and skirt with the Fraser tartan wrapped around it almost like a mock kilt. The Fraser tartan reminded me of simpler times, of my childhood when Da would drag Grandma, mom and me to the festival.

                Why was I there? Why didn’t I grab my things and leave when he made me go back to the hotel? I swallowed and glanced back at him. Oh right, last time I tried to leave he found me within a day. I walked to the bathroom and opened my leather bound box of herbs—it was my grandmas. In it I had a tin of ointment I kept for the bruises. I dabbed on the ointment as Nathan stalked in behind me.

                “Mo-mo, your dad’s dead. He doesn’t know what you did or didn’t do and he doesn’t care because he’s dead. Like your Gran doesn’t care, and your mom doesn’t care. They’re dead and gone.” He trailed a finger down my spine, “I’m all you have left.”

                At the bottom of the box was the bottle of French lilac perfume Fergus gave me.  I hadn’t used it, I did however take it out and breathe it in like a ritual. Both Grandma and Da tried to find him for me, neither could. Jamie and Claire settled at Fraser’s ridge; I knew that growing up. As Nathan kissed my shoulder and I smelled the whiskey on his breath I shrugged from his touch.

                “You have your talk in the morning,” I smiled at him and placed my hand against his cheek. His brows furrowed.

                “Damn, what would I do without you?” He grinned at me and kissed my neck before walking back into the bedroom. He was the boy wonder of the Scottish Highlands Myth and Legend. At the Festival he was giving a presentation on the likes of Red Jamie and the Dunbonnet, I’d at least be free of him for the morning.

 

                I hated calla lilies, the way they smelled, the way their petals curled and that strange off white yellowish color. Beside them however wasn’t the usual earrings or necklace, but a broach with a stag that said JE SUIS PREST. I stared at it for a time before getting up, my phone buzzed.

                --Hey, about to give talk. Wish me luck. From Nathan.

                --Best of luck! You’ll do AMAZING. I sent back sighing.

                After showering I put on my Fraser tartan dress and added the pin. In the all too well-lit bathroom the dark bruises were stark against my skin. He was usually better about avoiding my face, but the varying shades of yellow, green, brown and purple bruises covering the rest of my body told a very sad story I couldn’t escape from. I gathered my hair over one shoulder and fluffed the waves to cover the black eye before braiding it. Opening the antique herb case I took out the ointment and reapplied it then picked up the perfume bottle and smelled it. Closing my eyes I could see Lallybroch at Yuletide all over again. Smirking I tucked the herb case into my leather bag and stared down at the engagement ring with it’s million dollar yellow diamond. I’d have traded living penniless in the disease ridden streets of seventeen hundreds Paris for my gilded cage.

                I took an UBER to the Festival, I’d had the dress made out of linen to compensate for the punishing North Carolina heat. But nothing quite prepared me for the push of the humidity though it wasn’t unfamiliar.

 

                “See that?” Da picked me up and put me on his shoulder, showing me a display of a map and tiny wicker stag as my four-year-old legs dangled against his chest. All I saw were lines on a map and an area shaded in the family tartan like the kilt Da wore and my dress.

                “What’s that?”

                “That is Fraser’s Ridge, I aided with a dig there and guess what I found?” His voice brimmed with excitement and that made me excited too.

                “A Castle?” I grinned and he laughed.

                “Kind of, I found the big house where your great great great great great great… great,” he took a deep breath. “Great Grandpa James Fraser lived. How cool is that?” He chuckled and I squealed as he lifted me up and spun me around. “You’re going to go with momma while I give a talk about it to everyone here.”

                “Are you scared? There are a lot of people here.”

                He gave me a peck on the cheek and lowered me to the ground taking my hand. “Never! We have highlands blood, wee bonnie lassie. Nothing scares us!”

                “Except storms.” I scrunched my nose and he laughed, tugging on one of my pigtails.

                “That you got from your mother, she’s French and I’m sorry but they’re afraid of everything.”

                My mom laughed as she walked up behind us, “I heard that.”

 

                The booths were the same, the games were the same, caber tossing, axe throwing, and all the things Nathan and Da loved. I’d never be able to even lift a caber let alone toss one considering it was a tree trunk, but I did axe throwing once, the summer after Da married his new wife—or as I referred to her in my head, the woman who dissolved after he died.

                There were always new exhibits about life for the highlanders who settled the area. I was glancing over baptismal records when someone moved in the corner of my eye and my jaw dropped. There was a man in Mackenzie tartan kilt who looked like Fergus… our eyes met and he smiled but kept walking. The man had both hands, so it clearly wasn’t him… was it like my Da and Jamie? A random roll of the genetic dice when the chromosomal stars align, and up pops a doppelganger hundreds of years later. The scar left on my heart from six years ago started to reopen.

                I did possibly the worst thing I could have done. Keeping a bit of my distance I followed the Fergus look alike until he came to an exhibit about printing and his lips tugged into a grin that was too familiar to bear.

                “Can I help you?” He asked in a very American accent, his wild curls brushing his shoulders.

                “Oh… I…” I blushed and looked away.

                “Ah! A Fraser! We’re family then in a way.” He chuckled.

                “Doubly so my Da was a Fraser and a Mackenzie. Ian Fraser…”

                “The distinguished Doctor Ian Fraser, I took his class a couple of years ago when he guested at Yale.”

                “So you’re a historian?” I cocked my head to the side, it was surreal talking to him, there were differences—other than the lack of accent and him having two hands. There was a scar on his lip Fergus didn’t have, and one on his chin, not to mention his contact lenses.

                He shook his head, “Nah, I’m a hobbyist with a passion for genealogy. I’m a psychologist by profession.” He laughed a little pulling long pale fingers back through dark locks. “The only reason I’m here is for this.” He tapped the glass above an old newspaper article. “Strange enough it was your Dad who called me about the find last Thanksgiving.” He pursed his lips and sighed. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

                My brows knit and I twisted the end of my braid. “Thank you. It’s been hard.”

                “Someone’s making it easier to cope at least,” he nodded toward the ring and I twisted it nervously.

                “Yeah…” I looked down at the paper. It was the standard pre-revolutionary war article, complaining about taxes.

                “So are you following in your father’s footsteps?”

                I shook my head. “No, I’m a physical therapist and certified naturopath.”

                “Sounds like someone followed their bliss. Why physical therapy?”

                Staring at someone who looked so much like Fergus it was hard to answer that question. After a moment of pursing my lips in thought I found my voice.

                “When I was a teen, I met this guy. He was…” I wet my lips and smirked. “I don’t know I was just drawn to him like a moth to a flame. Anyways, he was missing his hand and I decided I wanted to help people like him.”

                “Admirable.”

                “Selfish,” I corrected him and we shared a laugh.

                “Well, I’m here because your father found baptismal records for one of my dead ends, and with the baptismal records came drum roll please… the parents!” He chuckled. “Germain Fraser’s mother and father are Marsali and Fergus Fraser who settled in Fraser’s ridge briefly. Fergus owned this paper in the mid to late seventeen seventies.” He grinned and rocked on his heels a little. “It’s just a shame I can’t thank your Fa—” His phone rang, and he answered it. “Hey baby! I’m almost done here. Okay, I’ll meet you by the souvenirs. Love you, too.” He hung up. “Sorry, when the husband calls, I answer.” He flashed me a grin. “But like I was saying, I wish I could thank your dad. He was the research master. Anyways I have to meet up with hubs. Nice meeting you… I’m sorry I didn’t catch your name.”

                “Moira-Rose. I didn’t catch yours either.”

                “Alan… Mackenzie. If you’re ever in Philadelphia and need a shrink, look me up and I’ll give you the friends and family discount.” He walked off toward the stand of souvenirs and I sat down by one of the food stalls trying to process what I’d learned. I’d always guessed that Fergus and Marsali ended up together but now I had proof and they’d gone to America. My phone buzzed in my pocket and I took it out, Nathan was calling. Drawing a deep breath I sighed and answered.

                “Hey—”

                “Who the fuck was that you were talking to?” Though it was over the phone I flinched with his words, his speech was slurred, which was never a good sign.

                “I’m sorry, it was just some guy who knew my father and wanted to give his condolences and share a story.” Juggling the phone I took off the pin and looked at it. I traced my thumb over the family motto.

                “Oh, I guess that’s okay… Did you get my gift?”

                I pinned the broach back on my chest. “Yes, thank you. I really appreciate it.” My voice sounded tense but I knew he’d blow up if I didn’t praise the gift. “I loved the calla lilies.”

                “Only the best for you, you know I love you.”

                “I love you too.”

                “Come drink with me before the bonfire.” It was a command and I knew if I disobeyed I might end up with broken bones, especially since he saw me talking to another man.

                “All right, I’ll… be there shortly.”

                “Good.” He hung up and I stood.

                On my way to the beer garden, however, I came across a display about the stones. They were all over the world apparently and the same stories of disappearances surrounded them all, including a set in North Carolina not too far from the festival grounds. It was a handful of miles; I could run it and be there in an hour or two.

                “Moira!” I jumped as Nathan bellowed my name, people turned and looked at him. Panicked I ripped the map off the display and ran across the festival grounds with Nathan trailing behind me, my skirt billowing around my legs.

                I tore through the forest as fast as I could, brambles and branches snagged on my skirt, but I didn’t care. All I cared about was being in Fergus’s arms again, and having the love of someone who didn’t give me ultimatums or use me as a punching bag. It might have been six years since I last saw him but I could already taste his lips again, feel his arms around me and smell him. My legs burned and my lungs screamed in agony with every panted breath as I ran as fast as I could, following the stream as a guide. Sweat streamed down my face and stung my split lip but I didn’t care. It didn’t matter that I could barely breathe, or that there were spots in my vision. The only thing that mattered was the image of Fergus stuck in my mind.

                Climbing the rocks took too much effort as the stones hummed around me, I tossed my cellphone away and used the last of my strength to reach for the stones.

                “Claudel,” I whispered as I fell toward the stones with my hand outstretched my mind focused on him, my heart crying out for his love through the stones.

 

 

 



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