Wind ripped across the Isle of Skye from the sea. To the east the blue line of the mainland rose out of the water. On a ridge commanding the heights of the village stood the remains of Castle Cairnmoore, a 14th Century fortification that had been abandoned since the “45” and destruction of the clans in the mid 18th Century.
At the bottom of the hill nestled in hedgerows along a narrow country lane sat Cairnmoore Mannor, the home of the McDonald’s of Teangue. Green vines grew up the stone walls. The ancient window frames were thick with paint and the glass warped with age.
Aimee and Dougal walked up the wet asphalt of the country lane hand in hand. It was a rare sunny morning and the soft breeze came cool off the sea. Dougal opened the wrought iron gate with a squeal of metal hinges.
They entered the manicured yard where a women turned to face them. Her blonde hair fell loosely over her shoulders. She had the same almond shaped green eyes, curve of jaw and chin as Dougal. She was tall for a woman, standing at least six foot. Her face lit up when she saw them, “Look at what the bloody cat drug in!” She wrapped her arms around Dougal. “What are ye doin’ here bruther?”
“Shoreleave,” Dougal said simply.
“An ‘who is the lass?” She already knew the answer, but it was her way of forcing an introduction.
“This is my wife, Aimee,” Dougal said proudly, “An’ this is my wee baby sister Margaret.”
“No so wee anymore, ” Margaret replied, “It’s a pleasure t’ meet you lass.”
Aimee smiled at the playful banter between brother and sister, “The pleasure is all mine.”
“Well, aren’t you a bonnie wee lass,” Margaret said taking in Aimee’s appearance. You got the looks of a Highlander in you, but you dinna sound it.”
“No, I suppose not. I grew up in the States. My grandmother was from Ireland somewhere. I never met her, but mom said I look a lot like her.”
“Aye well, we all cannae be perfect. At least you are no a sasanach,” Margaret said teasing.
“No, that I am definitely not!”
“Well, I always wanted a sister. About time one of these block heided oafs got me one,” Margaret teased her brother. “Come in. Mother and father will be pleased to finally meet you, though, they are a wee bit miffed you didn’t come ‘ere to get married.”
Dougal shrugged, “The opportunity presented itself, and we dinnae know if we were goin’ ta make it.”
“Aye, I’m sure ye did.”
“It is true,” Aimee said defending Dougal. “Stuck in an alternate universe and we were sacrificing one ship to get everyone home. No one knew if it would work so we had the captain of the Heracles marry us.”
“An what about your captain?”
“Ethan? He’s my half brother… I suppose it could have worked but we both agreed Captain Vausees was the better choice.”
“Aye well, ye still should have waited, but the deed is done. Come, I got the kettle on, and there’s some biscuits in the oven.”
The sun had long set over the moor bathing the Highlands in darkness. Dougal sat in the parlor of his ancient ancestral home. A blaze crackled merrily in the hearth as Dougal sipped a glass of whiskey his hand shaking slightly.
“Bloody hell!” his brother James swore into his own glass.
Dougal’s father, the laird of the estate, remained uncharacteristically silent during the retelling of the events on that cursed station, but he had consumed more than his usual quantity of whiskey. Leaning forward the Lord MacDonald of Cairnmoore refilled his cup.
Silence fell on the trio like a woolen blanket on a winter’s morning. It was unbearable, but no one wanted to be the one to throw it off and let the icy cold in. Setting his glass down with decision Robert MacDonald spoke breaking the spell, “A bloody nightmare to be sure me lad.”
Dougal only grunted in assent.
Robert took a deep breath, “An ya’ dinnae want ta’ speak with a wee heid shrink?”
“I dinnea ken how that would do any good,” Dougal replied.
Taking a deep breath Robert considered that statement, “I dinnea ken, but I respect yer decision me lad. Now, yer wife, she’s a bonnie lass.”
Dougal nodded, “Aye she is, an a braw fighter too.”
Robert raised an eyebrow at that, “A doctor?”
Dougal chuckled, “I met the lass while on the Pike. It was just us five and we were often behind enemy lines. She may be a doctor, but she can take care of herself when the chips are down.”
The other men grunted and admiration.
“Then she should be able to help you through this,” Robert said.
Dougal nodded, “She has. To one degree or another. She’s a wee bit beelin I dinnea use the Starfleet psychologist, but I have no intention of telling a complete stranger all me bloody problems.”
“Ye dinnea want it to get out ye have a thing for mam,” James teased.
Dougal simply scowled at his older brother, “An ye can haud yer wheesht! I no have an Oedipus Complex!”
James just laughed at that, “Good ta see I can still get under yer skin little brother.”
“An you can bugger off!”
“Dougal, what yer dealing with is nothing new,” Robert said bringing the conversation back in line. “Soldiers have been dealing with the worst of humanity since Cain picked up that wee stone and slain his brother. The nightmares will subside, but you cannae keep it in. Talk to your lass, and if you cannae do that you will need to talk to a counselor.”
That was a sobering thought, “Aye Da. I can do that.”
“Good,” Robert said as if that was all there was to say on that subject. “It is good timing you are home son. We could use help with the sheering.”
Dougal smiled. In his own way his father was still helping him cope with the horrors. And maybe there was something to it. Graft had a way distracting you from your problems, and the sense of accomplishment at the end of the day was oddly therapeutic. Dougal was glad he had chose to come home for his healing. There was something about family that did that to you. “Then I should try to get a wee nap. 0500 comes way too early.”
“Aye it does lad. Aye it does,” Robert replied with a proud smile on his face.