It was a crisp autumn morning as Jamie and Claire walked into Lallybroch. Julia squirmed in her mother’s arms. Claire held her tighter, not wanting to let her loose just yet. “Hello!” Jamie called once they were in the door.
“In the kitchen!” Jenny yelled.
The two of them walked further into the house to find her. “Morning,” Claire greeted, giving Jenny a pat on the back as she walked by.
“Good morning. Glad ye could drop by,” she said, a teasing tone to her voice.
“As if I’m no’ here working on the farm wi’ Ian every single day,” Jamie scoffed.
Jenny laughed. She looked between the two of them. “Where’s Ian?”
“He’s outside,” Claire told her.
“I ken my Ian is outside, but where’s yer Ian?” Jenny furthered.
“He’s also outside,” Jamie told her. “We got out of the car and he spotted the other bairns wi’ Ian and he bolted to them wi’ little more than a wave to us.”
Jenny grinned. It brought them all joy to see their children growing up together and becoming such good friends. “I guess this one didn’t have a choice,” Jenny commented, walking over to Claire and taking the baby from her. She held her tightly, hugging the little thing as she tried to wiggle her way loose. “She’s such a sweet thing.”
Claire smiled for a moment. “She can be. And then sometimes she chooses not to sleep and she’s decidedly less sweet.”
Jenny clucked her tongue. “Still having trouble sleeping?”
“She’s eight months old, no’ eight years old,” Jamie reminded her.
Jenny rolled her eyes. “I ken that.” She took a closer look at her brother and sister-in-law. “How exhausted are the two of ye?”
Claire released a sad laugh. “Between the one who doesn’t sleep and the older one who bounces of the walls all day when he’s not sleeping, I’d say we’re a bit worn out.”
Jenny looked at Julia, nodding at Claire’s comments. “Do me a favor and tell Ian all of that, if ye will. Feel free to remind him all about how hard it is to have a bairn that doesna sleep.”
Jamie’s brow furrowed as he looked from Claire back to his sister. “Why?”
She rolled her eyes. “Bloody man has started dropping hints that we should have another.”
“I figured if ye waited this long, ye werena having another,” Jamie said, a surprised look about him. “Yer youngest is three.”
“Yes, and after I ended up bookending Claire’s first pregnancy with pregnancies of my own, I thought I made it clear enough to him that we were done.” Jenny shook her head.
Claire sat at the table and giggled to herself. “I sometimes forget that they’re that close. Phrasing it that way really does put it in perspective. We were pregnant at the same time twice. But I was on the same baby,” she reminded them as she laughed.
Jenny glared at her. “I dinna need the reminder, Claire.”
“I’m sorry. I just remember holding a screaming Ian while you told me that you thought you were pregnant again. I looked at him and you holding Maggie and wondered how the hell we would all handle another baby,” she recalled. “But we did just fine.”
“Though that was why Claire insisted we wait a while before we had this one,” Jamie said with a grin as he took his daughter from Jenny. He gave her a kiss on her head as he held her close.
“Well, I’m so glad ye can all learn from my mistakes.” Jenny glared at them. “Anyway, what brings ye by today?”
Claire shrugged. “Not much, just wanted to stop by. It had been a while since all of us were here.” She stood up and walked to sink to get herself a drink. “Oh, by the way, have you seen Mrs. Fitz in the last few days?”
Jenny nodded. “Yes, why?”
“She came to the clinic earlier in the week because she had a nasty bug she couldn’t kick. I have been meaning to drop by and see how she’s doing, but the children have been keeping me busy once I get home. Is she feeling better?”
The other woman shrugged. “Seems like it. She didna say anything to me.”
Claire nodded. “Good.”
It had been just in the last three months that Claire had started working as a nurse at the little medical clinic in the village. They’d had an opening and she thought about it, but didn’t know what she’d do with the children if she worked. Jamie had been nothing but encouraging, telling her how he knew first hand how precious her healing skills were. Jenny had agreed to watch the children on the days Claire worked. It gave her great pleasure to have a purpose outside of her family again. She loved her family with all of her, but being able to heal someone when they needed it brought her a different kind of joy.
“Oh, Claire, some mail came for ye the other day,” Jenny mentioned. “I meant to send it home wi’ Jamie but I forgot.” She walked out to the front table and back into the kitchen, presenting Claire with an envelope.
She was curious what mail there was for her. Without looking at the return address, Claire ripped the letter open. She stared down at the letter and the accompanying article, many different emotions coursing through her. Jamie asked her something but she couldn’t process what it was. Reading the letter multiple times, she tried to soak up the meaning, but it wasn’t quite hitting her yet. Without a word to her husband or Jenny, Claire stood up and walked out of the room.
She walked outside, letting the cool air wash over her. It started to help clear her mind. She wandered around the house, trying to find where the children had run off to. Ian’s voice carried on the wind as he yelled some instructions for his children and nephew. They seemed to be playing some game, rather than working. The children’s laughter rang through the air, bringing a smile to her face.
As her son ran past Maggie to try and catch up to Young Jamie, he yelled like a madman. She laughed to herself, recognizing that same wild spirit Jamie had. Sitting down on the step, she realized she’d wound around to the door behind the kitchen, where she’d just been. As she sat there, she watched her son play so gleefully with his cousins.
A hand drifted absentmindedly to her stomach as she remembered all she went through while she was pregnant with the little boy. He’d been her constant companion, even if she didn’t know he was there while she’d been back in England. After she knew about him, he was her courage and her strength to get them both to a better life. And it was truly a better life they’d made for themselves at Lallybroch. She took a deep breath, shaking her head at her new revelations.
Quietly, Jamie walked toward her, seemingly hesitant. He still carried Julia who was babbling away at him. Grinning at her, he looked over to Claire, trying to gauge her mood. She patted the step next to her. He sat down next to her and she quickly took Julia from his arms, giving her a big hug and holding her close.
“Are ye alright, Sassenach?” Jamie asked.
He watched how tightly she held their daughter. “Are ye sure?”
Claire held out the envelope she’d received and he took it from her. “Frank’s dead,” she told him before he could read it. Jamie’s eyes widened as he looked at her. “Louise sent it. He apparently died in a house fire.”
Jamie grimaced. “That’s no’ how ye want to go.”
Claire released a dark laugh. “Not exactly.” She rubbed a hand up and down her daughter’s back. “I’m not upset, I’m just…” she trailed off, not sure how to name what she was feeling. Tears started to well in her eyes. “It’s been just over four years since I came back here,” she restarted. “And even though I got my divorce, and even though I have this incredible life with you, there was a part of me that was always a bit afraid that he’d come back.”
She glanced over at Jamie, allowing him to finally see the fears that she’d kept hidden for years. Her hand reached out to graze the white lines on his face, left there from Frank’s fury. His face fell as he wrapped his arm around her. “Claire,” he whispered, planting a kiss on her head.
“I know it’s stupid, but the thought always lingered at the back of my mind,” she continued. “And so a little part of me was always scared that he’d try to take all of this away from me.” She hugged the baby, kissing her head. “God, especially when Ian was a baby.” Tears were fully flowing down her cheeks at this point.
“It’s no’ stupid, Claire,” Jamie assured her. “The man put ye through hell. And ye fought yer way out.” He sighed. “I just wish ye’d told me ye felt like this.”
She knew he had some idea that Frank still haunted her. There had been plenty of nights in the last four years that she’d startled him awake with her screaming. He was the only one who could truly calm her down. Each time she tried to apologize, he reminded her that his nightmares still affected him and she was always the one to make it better for him. When Frank would pop up in her nightmares, Jamie would make sure she got back to sleep before falling back to sleep himself.
“There were a few times I wanted to,” she admitted, leaning her head on his shoulder. “But I thought it was foolish to still be worried about it.”
“Tis no’ foolish. I promise ye.”
She nodded her head. “Well, now it’s all over. He really can’t get to me.” She sighed, mostly from relief. “He’s dead. And I feel ashamed for how relieved that makes me.”
“Claire, ye need no’ feel ashamed for that. Ye canna help the way he made ye feel.”
Claire leaned over and kissed his cheek. A silence hung between them. “I love you,” she whispered. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
He looked at Julia wiggling in her mother’s lap, wanting to be moving again. “Well ye’d have to wrangle the bairns all by yerself. And I wouldna wish that on anyone.” Claire laughed, looking down at their daughter. “But I dinna ken what I’d do wi’out ye either, Sassenach. I count my blessings every day that ye came back to me. Both times, really.”
Claire smiled, curling into his side. They looked out at the field where the children were playing. They were content to sit there and watch the game unfold. The teams seemed to consist of Ian and Maggie on one team and Young Jamie and Kitty on the other. Adult Ian seemed to be the referee of sorts. There was no telling what the rules actually were. It seemed like innocent fun. To a point.
Young Ian stuck his foot out, tripping Kitty. She face planted into the grass and started to cry immediately. Little did he know that both his parents were watching him.
“Ian!” they both yelled in unison. Both Ians looked over to them, shock on their faces.
“What?” Old Ian called. Little Ian knew why his name was being called. Claire could see the guilty look on his face.
“Why did we ever name our child Ian?” Claire asked. Jamie laughed. “We already knew first hand how confusing two Jamies was.”
“I believe ye insisted upon it,” Jaime recalled.
“Damn, I think you’re right,” Claire sighed. Their little boy came walking slowly toward them after his name had been called. Ian held Kitty as the rest of the Murrays watched him approach his punishment.
“Mam, Da, I’m sorry,” he said in a small voice.
“Tis no’ us ye need to be apologizing to,” Jamie told him, pointing to a still crying Kitty. All it took was a look from his parents and Ian nodded, looking down at his feet. He walked back over the rest of the group and apologized to his cousin. She seemed to accept his apology and the game recommenced.
As the children kept playing, Ian walked over to Jamie and Claire. “Ye’re better parents than I am,” he admitted.
They both laughed, looking up at him. “Why’s that?” Claire asked.
“Because ye scolded yer son. I just picked up Kitty and said if she was going to play wi’ the older kids, she needed to be tougher than that,” he told them through clenched teeth.
“Ye’d tell yer wee lass that?” Jamie asked, his brow raised.
Ian shrugged. “Maggie and Jamie play hard. And Ian clearly does as well. She needs to be able to keep up wi’ them, no?”
“I suppose, but she’s only three,” Claire reminded him.
“Well aye, but tis no’ like Ian and Maggie are that much older than she is. Why, Ian is only seven months her senior.”
“Mmm, yes, we were just talking about that inside,” Claire informed him.
Ian looked down and made faces at Julia. “How’s the sweet one doing?”
“Dinna do it, man,” Jamie advised him, remembering his sister’s words.
Ian looked at him curiously. “What?”
“You don’t want another,” Claire said ominously.
“Oh, come on. Jenny got in yer heads, did she?”
“She didna have to. We ken it well enough on our own,” Jamie said.
“She’s precious!” Ian exclaimed, reaching down to pick up his niece.
“Fine, ye keep her for a night then. She’s no’ a braw sleeper.”
Ian shook his head, looking at Julia. “Yer parents are just being mean to ye, aren’t they?” Claire looked at Jamie and shook her head with a grin. “I bet she wants to go play with the big kids.” Ian started walking off with her.
“Uh, Ian,” Claire called.
“Dinna fash, Claire, I willna put her down. I ken she’s still trying to start crawling,” Ian reassured her.
“Thank you!” she yelled as they moved closer to the field. She watched as Little Ian ran over and gave his sister a kiss on the cheek before turning back to his game. Jamie chuckled, pulling Claire in closer.
* * *
They’d spent most of the day at Lallybroch, spending time as a whole family. But both children were incredibly tired as they finally got back to their home. Thankfully, it wasn’t far away. In fact, it was technically on Lallybroch lands. At the very edge of the boundary line, Jamie had built them a cottage, big enough for a growing family. Claire had been seven months pregnant when he floated the idea past her.
“What would ye think of that?” he asked her after his pitch.
They were laying in bed, cuddled together after a long day. Claire rubbed a hand along her large belly. “I think it sounds good. But would you be able to do it yourself? Like you said?”
Jamie flashed her a disappointed look. “Of course I can, Claire. Ye doubt me?”
She grinned at him. “Never. I just like having my husband around.” She laid a hand on his cheek. “I wish I could be more helpful, but…” she looked down at her belly and laughed.
He leaned over and kissed her stomach. “Ye’re doing the most work already.” She shook her head at him, a large smile on her face. “I talked wi’ Ian and he thinks he knows the best spot for it. We’d still be at Lallybroch, but we’d have our own space.”
Claire looked around the room before glancing back at Jamie. “You know this house is quite large, right? I think there’s plenty of space here.”
“Of course there’s space here,” Jamie agreed, “but I’d like us to have a home of our own. We will always come back here and if we’re on the land, we can do so verra easily. But I think it would be nice to have a home that is just for us and our bairns.”
“Bairns, plural?” Claire asked, her brows raised. “I haven’t even had this one yet and you’re already talking about a second?”
Jamie laughed, grinning at her. “I’ve got big plans for our future, Claire. If ye’ll want them too.”
She leaned forward, her hand resting at his cheek. “Your plans have proven pretty wonderful so far, Fraser. I think I’ll be willing to hear what else you’re thinking.” She kissed him softly, leaning her forehead against his as they parted. “And I like the idea of the house.”
Jamie whooped, kissing her again quickly. “Great, I’ve already drawn up some plans.”
Claire tucked Ian in tightly, making sure he was warm enough. She placed a kiss at his forehead, ruffling his red hair back. “I hope you know how much I love you,” she whispered to her already asleep child.
“He does,” Jamie said quietly. Claire glanced over to see him leaning against the doorway with a sleeping Julia in his arms. “Believe me, he does.”
Claire smiled, standing up from the floor. “Good,” she replied. Placing a kiss against Julia’s head, she looked up to Jamie. “We need to get this one in her bed as well.” Jamie nodded and they walked from their son’s room. Claire couldn’t help but pause as she shut the door, taking one last look at her first little miracle.
After Julia was down in her crib, Claire and Jamie were finally able to go to bed as well. The last lamp had been turned off and Claire snuggled in close to her husband. She reached a hand up and ran her fingers through her hair. “I hope you know too,” she said.
Jamie’s arms came around her as a confused look crossed his face. “Know what?”
“How much I love you,” she said, pressing a kiss to his shoulder.
“I believe I do,” Jamie told her before he got a mischievous look on his face. “But I wouldna be opposed to ye showing me.”
Claire grinned, rolling over til she was on top of him. She grabbed his face in her hands as she bent down to kiss him. His hands came to rest at her waist, holding her there. Claire pulled back, a serious look crossing her face. “Do you ever have those days where you think about where your life was and you’re just immensely happy with where it ended up?”
Jamie smiled up at his wife, brushing her curls back. “Every damn day, Sassenach. Every day I get to be wi’ ye.”
Claire nodded, matching his smile. “I was more or less thinking the same thing.” She leaned down and kissed him again. “I’m glad it’s always been this way.”
He shook his head. “What do ye mean?”
“From the beginning when we met, and still now,” she explained, peppering kisses along his face. “It’s you and me. Against the world.”