“Do you know when I was born?” I asked, looking up. I knew my hair was wild and my eyes staring, and I didn’t care. “On the twentieth of October, in the Year of Our Lord nineteen hundred and eighteen. Do you hear me?” I demanded, for he was blinking at me unmoving, as though paying no attention to a word I said. “I said nineteen eighteen! Nearly two hundred years from now! Do you hear?”
I was shouting now, and he nodded slowly.
“I hear,” he said softly.
“Yes, you hear!” I blazed. “And you think I’m raving mad. Don’t you? Admit it! That’s what you think. You have to think so, there isn’t any other way you can explain me to yourself. You can’t believe me, you can’t dare to. Oh, Jamie…” I felt my face start to crumple. All this time spent hiding the truth, realizing that I could never tell anyone, and now I realized that I could tell Jamie, my beloved husband, the man I trusted beyond all others, and he wouldn’t—he couldn’t believe me either.
“It was the rocks—the fairy hill. The standing stones. Merlin’s stones. That’s where I came through.” I was gasping, half-sobbing, becoming less coherent by the second. “Once upon a time, but it’s really two hundred years. It’s always two hundred years, in the stories.…But in the stories, the people always get back. I couldn’t get back.” I turned away, staggering, grasping for support. I sank down on a rock, shoulders slumped, and put my head in my hands. There was a long silence in the wood. It went on long enough for the small night birds to recover their courage and start their noises once again, calling to each other with a thin, high zeek! as they hawked for the last insects of the summer.
I looked up at last, thinking that perhaps he had simply risen and left me, overcome by my revelations. He was still there, though, still sitting, hands braced on his knees, head bowed as though in thought.
The hairs on his arms shone stiff as copper wires in the firelight, though, and I realized that they stood erect, like the bristles on a dog. He was afraid of me.
“Jamie,” I said, feeling my heart break with absolute loneliness. “Oh, Jamie.”
I sat down and curled myself into a ball, trying to roll myself around the core of my pain. Nothing mattered any longer, and I sobbed my heart out.
His hands on my shoulders raised me, enough to see his face. Through the haze of tears, I saw the look he wore in battle, of struggle that had passed the point of strain and become calm certainty.
“I believe you,” he said firmly. “I dinna understand it a bit—not yet—but I believe you. Claire, I believe you! Listen to me! There’s the truth between us, you and I, and whatever ye tell me, I shall believe it.” He gave me a gentle shake.
“It doesna matter what it is. You’ve told me. That’s enough for now. Be still, mo duinne. Lay your head and rest. You’ll tell me the rest of it later. And I’ll believe you.”
I was still sobbing, unable to grasp what he was telling me. I struggled, trying to pull away, but he gathered me up and held me tightly against himself, pushing my head into the folds of his plaid, and repeating over and over again, “I believe you.”
At last, from sheer exhaustion, I grew calm enough to look up and say, “But you can’t believe me.”
He smiled down at me. His mouth trembled slightly, but he smiled.
“Ye’ll no tell me what I canna do, Sassenach.” He paused a moment. “How old are ye?” he asked curiously. “I never thought to ask.”
The question seemed so preposterous that it took me a minute to think.
“I’m twenty-seven…or maybe twenty-eight,” I added. That rattled him for a moment. At twenty-eight, women in this time were usually on the verge of middle-age.
“Oh,” he said. He took a deep breath. “I thought ye were about my age—or younger.”
He didn’t move for a second. But then he looked down and smiled faintly at me. “Happy Birthday, Sassenach,” he said.
It took me completely by surprise and I just stared stupidly at him for a moment. “What?” I managed at last.
“I said ‘Happy Birthday.’ It’s the twentieth of October today.”
“Is it?” I said dumbly. “I’d lost track.” I was shaking again, from cold and shock and the force of my tirade. He drew me close against him and held me, smoothing his big hands lightly over my hair, cradling my head against his chest. I began to cry again, but this time with relief. In my state of upheaval, it seemed logical that if he knew my real age and still wanted me, then everything would be all right.
Jamie picked me up, and holding me carefully against his shoulder, carried me to the side of the fire, where he had laid the horse’s saddle. He sat down, leaning against the saddle, and held me, light and close.”
What do you love about our iron-livered, not meek and obedient Sassenach Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser [Spoiler (click to open)]Grey, Sassies?