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The Life We Always Wanted

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It was a long, hard ride back to Lallybroch from Culloden. Not only was the terrain rough and the weather wild, but her heart was broken. She had left Jamie to die on that battlefield, and despite the reasoning behind leaving, she couldn’t help feeling as though she’d betrayed her husband by heading for safety while he fought on that bloody moor. Claire had expected that her morning sickness would have only worsened her journey, but oddly enough, it encouraged her. The nausea acted as a reminder for why she left. It reminded her of the child that she was protecting, and the child that was waiting for her back at Lallybroch.

Claire had missed her daughter fiercely while on the warfront. Jenny wrote often of Faith and her new developments in growth, but all the letters in the world couldn’t fix the ache in her heart that longed to be with her daughter. She had left her only four months after her birth, which Claire knew would be difficult, but nevertheless, nothing could have prepared her for the pain that she felt being away from her sweet Faith.

The day she arrived at Lallybroch, the weather had taken an unexpected turn for the better. The sun was rising bright in the early morning sky, the air was warm, and the breeze carried the scent of home to her nose. It had taken about two months to find her way back from Culloden with no map or guide, and she had long since run out of money. She was weak, dehydrated, and hungry, all of which she knew were less than ideal for the baby growing inside of her.

Arriving at the arch, she dismounted her horse and tied the reins to a post. Claire hurried to drink some water from the well, reveling in the instant relief the water brought to her dehydration. When she stopped, she looked about the yard of her home, strange not seeing any servants, children, or tenants milling about. But it only took a moment before she saw Jenny taking clothes down from a hanger.

“Claire!” Her sister in law exclaimed loudly, the surprise and relief evident in her voice as she dropped her laundry and ran to embrace her brother’s wife. As Claire wrapped her arms around her sister in law, she began to wonder why her husband’s sister was working in the yard so early. Yet she quickly found that she knew the answer, that Jenny Murray would never spend a free moment idle in the house when she could be waiting for Jamie to walk through the arch at any given moment.

“Jenny,” Claire whispered before tears began to well up in her eyes. A moment later, Jenny pulled away and began to search her face.

“Jamie?” The Scottish woman started, hoping beyond hope that her brother had survived that bloody battle. Claire barely shook her head before she collapsed into her sister in law’s arms, shaking with each sob that escaped her lips. The English and Scottish women knelt to the ground, both of them weeping for the man they lost.

After a long while, when the tears stopped running and their throats hurt too much to cry out any longer, Claire stood up.

“Take me to Faith. I need to see her.” Jenny stayed kneeled on the ground, not responding, an empty shell of grief. Jamie has been the last of her born family, and now she would be expected to soldier on. A sudden fire began to burn hot in the English woman’s gut, anger and rage clouding her better judgement. Claire grabbed her sister in law by the shoulders and began to shake her.

“Janet Murray, you will get up and you take me to my daughter. You’re strong, you are not weak. Don’t you dare let his death consume you because it’s already consumed me and I know that’s the last thing that Jamie would want for either of us. So get up and let me see my child!” Claire knew that she was lashing out at her, but she couldn’t find the energy to care. Her husband was dead, and her children would grow up fatherless. She deserved to lash out.

Jenny stood and slapped Claire across the face. The English lady said nothing, no tears left to pour out onto her cheeks. Her husband’s sister paused, not knowing what to say or do. Then, in that moment, the two women looked into each other’s eyes, understanding each other in a way that they never had before. They both knew in that moment that it was time to set aside their despair and carry on. Jenny’s brown eyes fluttered shut, as if she were allowing herself one last moment of grief before she looked at Claire once again.

“Come now. I’ll show ye to yer bairn.” The two women took one another by the hand and slowly walked into the main house, headed for the nursery where little Faith was sound asleep in her crib.

Chapter Text

Faith had been sleeping when Jenny brought Claire in to see her. Her hair had darkened in the six months since she had seen her mother, it’s rusty color having turned into Claire’s own shade of dark brown. She was no longer a fragile and tiny newborn. At ten months, she was now well into her infancy. Faith had chubby little arms, legs, and cheeks, which relieved Claire’s fear that she would forever be suffering the consequences of her premature birth.

“Ye can pick her up and hold her if ye like. She’s yer own wee bairn, Claire.” Jenny whispered as she watched her sister in law smile down at her daughter. Claire looked up at Jenny and nodded.

“I know.” She said quietly with a grin. Claire then reached down into the crib and paused, unsure if she should disturb her child from her slumber.

“Go ahead, Claire. She’s isna fussy.” Jenny said softly, as if to reassure her that it was okay. The English lady took a deep breath and gently lifted her child out of the bassinet and into her arms. Faith stirred, yawning and clenching her fists before settling back down to rest her head against Claire’s bosom. There was a moment of calm silence, a peace that the English lady hadn’t known since before she and Jamie had left for the warfront. Having her daughter against her chest relieved her of a weight she hadn’t known she’d been carrying. All through her journey back, Claire had feared that she wouldn’t remember how to be a proper mother, yet all those fears were now a distant memory as everything fell back into place.

“It’s hard to believe that in about four months I’ll have another child to look after.” Claire said with a light smile. Jenny’s eyes widened as her jaw dropped, a combination of surprise, elation, and shock overwhelming her.

“Yer with child?” She exclaimed as Claire smiled and nodded.

“I am. It’s why Jamie sent me back here, to protect him.” She spoke softly, gently placing a hang on her abdomen. Jenny smiled wistfully at the mention of her late brother.

“Of course he did. I ken that he’s up there in Heaven now, with my parents, watching over us. God knows that even death couldn’t stop him from protecting his family.” Jenny murmured. Claire closed her eyes, the image of her husband flashing in her mind, his smile warming her soul. There was a long pause before Jenny spoke again.

“I ken that ye know Jamie loved ye and wee Faith, but I dinna think ye ken how much. In his youth, Jamie was reckless and foolish, but ever since he returned to Lallybroch with ye in tow, he’d changed for the better.” There was a brief pause before Jenny continued. “Ye made him a man, Claire. Ye gave him a purpose, a reason to live and to fight. My brother was a passionate man. When he raged, he was a force to be reckoned with. When he was determined, nothin’ in the world could stop him. And when he loved, he loved wi’ all his being. I can never thank ye enough for making him as whole as ye did.” By the time Jenny had finished speaking, Claire had tears in her eyes. She quickly wiped them away and sat down in a rocking chair, gently rubbing her daughter’s back.

“When I was a little girl, my parents were killed in an accident, so I was raised by my uncle, Lambert Beauchamp. His work took us all over the world, so I never really had a true home. I never had any siblings either, and my uncle never married, so I never had any cousins. When I was married to my first husband, we tried to conceive for several years before discovering that we were unable to have children together, so I prepared myself to go on living as I always had; just me and a man. But when I married Jamie, I had no idea that I would not only be getting a place to call home, I would also be gaining two children, a sister, a brother, more cousins than I could count, some nieces, some nephews, an aunt, some uncles... I never imagined that I would get a family such as this.” Claire paused as she wiped a stray tear from her eyes, not daring to look at Jenny, for she knew that if she did, she might burst into tears all over again. “Jamie’s gone now, and I swear I’ll never forgive him for it, but– but he left me his family and this home so that our children will know what it means to belong somewhere. He always knew exactly what to do when I was in need of comfort.” The English lady fell silent before she looked down at her beautiful child sleeping peacefully on her chest.

“I hope our second child looks like him. I hope he’ll have his red hair, his nose, his jaw, his same stubbornness, his same fire and passion. I hope that this one is exactly like him.” She murmured the words quietly, unsure if she was speaking to Jenny or just exerting words out into the void, needing to get them out of her head. “If Faith is like me, I hope that Brian will be like him.” Jenny smiled at the sound of her future nephew’s name.

“After ma father?” The Scottish woman asked with a grin.

“Yes. I promised Jamie that I would name our second child after your father. He’ll be named Brian James Fraser.” Claire said softly, still rubbing her daughter’s back.

“And if it’s a wee lass yer carrying? What then?” Jenny asked. Claire furrowed her brows, thinking of a female alternative to Brian.

“Brianna Ellen. After both of your parents.” The English woman said with a small smile. Her sister in law nodded and grinned in approval. Suddenly, a crash was heard from somewhere else in the house, directly followed by the sound of a servant girl’s incessant apologies.

“Welcome home, Claire. Are ye ready to enter yer new life here?” The Scottish woman watched as her sister in law stood with some difficult and placed her child back in her bassinet.

“I suppose I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.” The English lady replied. The two sisters then left the nursery to take on the day, and every day that followed.

THREE MONTHS LATER

Claire was cleaning Faith’s dirty clothes when she heard Jenny scream from the main yard. She dropped the clothes in the wash basin before hurrying as fast as she could in her condition to see what was happening. Jenny and Ian were both leaning over the edge of some sort of food cart.

“What’s going on?” She asked as she waddled towards the cart.

“It’s Jamie. He’s alive.” Jenny gushed breathlessly. Claire’s jaw dropped before she ran over to the cart and looked in. Sure enough, there he was, sound asleep. He was dirty, unshaven, thin, and injured, but he was alive and he was home. Suddenly, his eyelids began to flutter open and he moaned a bit.

“Jamie! Jamie, can you hear me?” The Scotsman looked up onto the face of his wife and tears of his own began to spill down the sides of his head. He smiled as he nodded.

“Aye, I can see ye, Sassenach.” He managed with a cough. “Where am I?” He asked as Ian and the man who had driven the cart prepared to get him out.

“You’re at Lallybroch, Jamie. You’re home.” She whispered. As soon as Ian and the cabbage cart man had lifted Jamie out of the wagon, Claire threw her arms around him.

“I love you so much, James Fraser. And don’t you ever leave me again.” She murmured before she planted a kiss on his dry lips.

“I won’t Sassenach. I’ll always return to ye. I give ye my word.” The English lady then helped her husband enter into the main house.

Over the next few hours, Claire inspected, cleaned, and dressed his wounds, diagnosed and treated his illnesses and had helped him bathe for the first time in too long. She was now standing in their bedroom in only her shift, shaving off the last of his scruff when she accidentally nicked his skin.

“Careful, Sassenach. I dinna intend to suffer any more injuries than I already have.” He said with a smirk. Claire rolled her eyes and laughed before blotting the spot of blood with a kerchief.

“I think you more than deserve some form of punishment for leaving me all alone after Culloden.” She joked. “There. All done.” As soon as Claire had washed the blade in a basin of water, Jamie pulled his pregnant wife into his lap and kissed her cheek.

“I didna want to leave ye, mo nighean donn. But I did what I had to do to protect you and the bairn.” He whispered, rubbing a hand protectively over the swell of her belly. “And wee Faith.” Jamie looked over to where their daughter was sound asleep on their bed with a tender smile.

As soon as he had first been properly tended to and bathed, Claire showed him to their child. Jamie had cried at the sight of her. She looked just like her mother, from the dark curls on her head down to the tiny toes on her feet. When he first held her against his chest, Claire nearly wept at the sight of them together. He whispered endless prayers and praises in Gaelic to her in between planting kisses on her head and face. He’s protested with his wife told him that he had to put Faith down so she could sleep and so she could give him a proper shave.

“I know. And I love you so much for doing what you did for us. And now you’re back, and we’re a whole family again.” The Scotsman and the English lady beamed at each other, basking in the glory of being together as a family once more.