Chapter 20 - Home
Jamie and Claire were married at the standing stones of Craigh Na Dun, four months later. Claire’s womb was full with their first children, a set of twins. The wind rose and a hum filled the air surrounding them. One family member for each of the stones (coincidentally), surrounded them with their loving warmth. True love matches, all around.
Claire felt the pinging sensation as the knife cut her wrist before it was joined with Jamie’s. Their children reacting with a kick in her womb. Jamie’s eyes pierced through her, crystal blue, wet, loving, and calling out to the deepest parts of her. Their hand-fasting was sealed with a kiss that meant so much more than the limited capability of words ever could. Home.
Four Months Earlier
Claire and Jamie arrived at Lallybroch a week after their official engagement having kept it a secret from their family and friends. It had been hard since they were brimming with elation, couldn’t stop speaking in sweeping platitudes, and both had perma-grins from all of the exciting newness in their lives…not to mention all of the sex. That week had been blissful, the two of them in their engagement bubble, without any questions of the future, still reeling in the best of ways that they were also about to become parents. Both would remember that week of their lives with a deep nostalgia for all of it’s beauty between them.
Jamie had asked his father not to tell his mother when he took the ring home after the night at the distillery. He guess it was a 50/50 shot his father hadn’t actually told his mother. Jamie knew how close they were, Brian and Ellen shared everything. Not just lovers, married spouses, and partners, but his parents were true best friends. Jamie hoped Brian had kept it under wraps because he really wanted to see the look on his mother’s face when Claire showed up wearing it. The euphoria Ellen would feel would certainly radiate out from her and Jamie wanted them all to be in the path of that, and be there to bear witness to the surprise.
To Claire, it felt like deja vu, she and Jamie, walking into Lallybroch with a big secret to tell, this time it was two big secrets. She clutched Jamie’s hand like it was her last hope at life while she dissolved into quicksand below the earth. Though she knew this was the happiest of occasions, she was still nervous. Her lack of experience with parents always showed through during these pivotal moments with Jamie’s parents. It would always pass because Jamie’s parents were phenomenal, but it was always something Claire experienced and would continue to experience for years to come.
“Ma, Da, we’re here,” Jamie called out as they walked in the front door, hand in hand. There was no response. Jamie figured everyone must be in the kitchen, it was Sunday dinner after all. The cooking was obviously in process but no one was to be found tending to the stove. Jamie pulled Claire along, towards the back of the house. Before stepping outside, he peeked out the window, then slowly opened the back door making sure not to make a sound.
Brian and Ellen were in the garden, between the house and her studio, slow dancing. A simple sway in their step, as they moved together in practiced harmony. Hands clasped at their hearts between them, they danced cheek to cheek to the sounds of nature and the tune in their own minds.
Claire’s breath hitched. These two, she thought, overcome with emotion. Her hormones no longer allowed her to swallow her emotions and the tears of awe gently streaked down her face. “Sassenach, what is it?’ Jamie asked, concerned. “Jamie, they are just so beautiful. I hope we’ll be like that when we’re in our 60s,” Claire whispered full of emotion. Jamie collected her into his arms and brought her to his chest, kissing the top of her head. “I love ye so much mo neighan donn. I hope we are too, ‘tis a true gift what they have, but we’ll have our own version, each love is so different and I wouldn’t trade ours for anything,” Jamie said, like he was writing poetry on the spot. Claire nodded into his chest, holding him tighter.
It was in that moment that Ellen opened her eyes to see Claire and Jamie standing in the doorway in an embrace. Breaking off from Brian, she yelled, “Welcome loves!”
Dragging Brian along by the hand, they both smiled at Jamie and Claire. Once they got closer, Ellen could see that Claire had been crying and immediately got concerned. “What it is Claire?” Ellen asked grabbing her hands…then she felt it. That old familiar Fraser family friend, now resting on Claire’s left finger. Her eyes shot to Claire’s hand. Then to Jamie’s eyes, then to Claire’s.
“YER ENGAGED?!” Ellen screamed.
A grin the size of the Suez broke out across Jamie’s face, “Aye, Mam, we’re engaged!”
The joy shot through Ellen straight to her feet. The 62 year old woman started jumping up and down. She frantically hugged both Jamie and Claire, still jumping like a teenager. Brian, looked at his wife like she was mad, and simultaneously the most incredible being in the world. He loved her fiercely.
Claire’s eyes leaked, Jamie squeezed her into his side with a reassuring tug and they all enjoyed the bliss bubble for a few minutes.
After a few minutes of pure jubilation, Ellen realized that she had once again been left out of the fun. “Fraser, you gave him the ring and didn’t tell me?!”
“Aye, Elle, sometimes a thing has to be between a father and his lad,” Brian smiled at Jamie and then took his wife’s hand kissing it. Looking up at her while kissing her hand, their eyes met. Ellen looked unconvinced. “I swear, I didna want te keep it from ye, and it was no easy, but the lad asked. I had to honor him,” Brian said. Ellen shook her head in understanding and kissed him straight on the mouth.
“We’re so happy for ye both,” Brian said to Jamie and Claire, drawing each of them in for a deep Fraser father hug. Slinging his arm around Ellen, he said, “Let’s eat loves.”
“Erhmmm,” Jamie sounded as he cleared his throat, suddenly filled with nerves, “There’s one more thing…”
Both elder Frasers cast their eyes to their sole remaining son in question, having no idea what else could be said in the same 10 minutes as an engagement that would cause him to be nervous.
Claire nodded at Jamie, urging him on. She almost blurted it out, but wanted him to say the words to his parents.
“Unrelated to the engagement…yer going to be grandparents again,” Jamie said shyly, like he was a teenager getting caught in bed with a girl.
“Truly?” Brian and Ellen said in unison.
“Truly,” Claire said.
The hugs started again, and more tears. Claire was overwhelmed by the reaction to both events and she wished more than anything that her parents could be there to experience it. But she was also so grateful that even though they weren’t, she had these beautiful people as her family now. Their infectious love was a gift from the universe and she thought romantically, maybe from her parents too, wherever they were.
8 Years Later
Finally after all these years in London, the 6 Frasers were moving home to Lallybroch. Claire had taken the position of Chief of Surgery in Inverness, ending a five year stint in London working in an experimental surgery center. It was her job to develop new techniques, test them, get them approved, and teach them to the new residents. It was prestigious, demanding, and rewarding. But it also had a shelf life. They never intended to stay in London so long. The move was set, her new job was in place, all that remained was getting the boxes into the truck, closing up their old life and getting on the road.
When Brian fell and broke his hip, they knew it was time to go home. Jamie was needed to take a more active role in Lallybroch again. All the Frasers were needed to run the a distinct portion of the estate and its subsidiaries. Jamie and Claire had always desired a return to the highlands with their whole brood and the time had come.
Though now seventy, Ellen still painted most days, if only to keep moving her arthritic hands. She couldn’t wait to have all of her grandkids in one place. Watching them play outside her studio, as she had once done with her own children was a longtime dream of hers. When the younger Frasers moved to London she thought that dream lost, but it was once reality again and she couldn’t have been happier for it.
With Jenny and Ian’s kids now into their teen years, her grandmotherly duties had changed considerably and she longed to have the younguns running around again.
The twins, William and Fae (Faith) now 7, were curious explorers and Ellen knew Lallybroch would be an incredible, educational playground for them. Bree, 5, ran after her twin siblings, desperate to be a part of their exploration club every time they went out. The lass would thrive in the bonnie green fields of Fraser lands. And their parents, Jamie and Claire were always at their best when filled with highland air and wide open space.
To have the daughter of her heart, her son, their bairns and Jenny and Ian and their brood all in the same 5 mile radius again was more than she could have ever dreamed of all those years ago, when Brian looked at her art for the very first time.
Claire’s last day on the job had been full of tearful goodbyes, make sure you come visit comments, and lots of hugs. Taking a look around her office for the last five years for the final time, she was overcome by a wave of nausea and dizziness, then everything went black. She woke up in a hospital bed, connected to an IV, flanked by her dear friend and fellow doctor, Louise.
Slowly blinking her eyes open, Claire saw Louise’s petite smiling face.
“What happened Louise?” Claire whispered.
“Well my dear, you passed out in your office, er, old office,” she said, without the requisite alarm Claire thought she should have in her voice at this moment.
“Give me the rundown, what tests did you run? How are my bloods? Have you called Jamie?”
“I have not called Jamie because there is no reason for alarm and I know he is with the kids getting ready,” Louise said, succinctly.
“Was I just stressed and dehydrated or something? I’ve never passed out before. It’s kind of strange,” Claire stated with raised brows.
“Claire, as your friend and doctor, I have to ask you a question,” Louise said, looking directly into Claire’s eyes.
Claire began to worry, but nodded her head to encourage Louise on.
“You still love your husband right? I’ve seen you together, you must have a lot of sex, no?” Louise asked.
Claire went pink, what a strange question, she thought. She and Louise were friends, but not talk about your married sex life type friends. Still a little hazy from fainting, she didn’t think much of it.
“Yes, I love my husband, and yes, even after three kids, we make time for the two of us as often as possible,” Claire said clinically.
“When was your last period Claire?” Louise asked.
“Hummpphh, like a year, I think. I’ve started to transition to the next phase of life Louise,” Claire said, a bit exasperated. Jamie had clued into it before Claire had, (of course). He thought she was pregnant when she missed her cycle two months in a row. But she got a check up from her GP and the GP confirmed she was in perimenopause or pre-menopause. Claire, as a Doctor, knew it was not uncommon to start the multi-year phase before full blown menopause at age 44, but it was still a surprise since she had no family history to hint at when she might begin the shift, since her mother was long passed. Her GP said she might not get her period again, or it might be sporadic and rare. Jamie, ever supportive, had been slightly surprised that she wasn’t pregnant and disappointed too, Claire thought later. She suspected he had always hoped for a fourth child even though they had decided three was plenty new Fraser blood in the world.
“Well Claire, this is going to knock your socks off, you’re pregnant,” Louise said, with a smile, “the labs confirm it.”
“WHAT?! How? Is this even possible?” Claire stammered out.
“You’re a doctor Claire,” Louise laughed, “you know full well it is. Rare, but possible.”
“I…I’m speechless…,” Claire said.
“It looks like this life change, going back to Scotland, couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s seems…perfect,” Louise said, reaching to give her friend’s hand a squeeze.
“Perfect…” Claire whispered out in a hopeful, if disbelieving tone.
Claire’s internal monologue began to run rampant. Jamie is going to freak. He’s going to be so thrilled. That man loves a pregnant woman more than anyone I’ve ever seen. To see him with a baby again…sigh…I cannot believe this. A mother again at 45. Oh no, what about the job. Ellen and Brian and going to be over the moon. Can I give birth again. Shit, another baby…I’m…so excited!
In the end Claire’s thoughts ran the gamut but settled in the same space where the baby had been conceived, pure love. Out of love and into love this small growing human would be. The only question was when to tell Jamie…and how.
Claire was released after a full check up and a long discussion with Louise and a specialist in “advanced age or geriatric” pregnancy. Armed with some hidden prenatal vitamins in her bag and a long list of dos and donts, she entered their London house for the last time. In the morning, the Fraser clan would hit the road, leaving the bustling city behind for greener pastures, literally.
The now 44 year old surgeon walked into their boxed up home and was met with pizza, balloons, flowers, and four Frasers.
“Ye ok mo graigh? Ye look a little more pearl than normal,” her ever observant husband said, kissing her on the mouth. All three younger Frasers, yelled out, “ewww” in perfect unison. They were getting to that age when physical affection between their parents grossed them out.
“Yes, I’m fine. It was an emotional last day, I’m a tad overwhelmed. Nothing some pizza and mini Fraser hugs won’t fix,” she said, opening her arms wide as her little ones squeezed in for hugs before running back to their food.
Jamie eyed her suspiciously but decided not to push. He knew from experience some conversations were better left for when prying little ears were asleep for the night.
The air mattress puffed up as Jamie sat on the edge before arranging himself next to his wife, leveling off the delicate balance of the modern invention of a pop up bed. The little Frasers were all snug in their sleeping bags on mats in one room, since they had wanted to spend their last night in the house all together. Jamie had found it endearing and couldn’t resist allowing, though he knew they probably wouldn’t get much sleep. Tired children might benefit them on the long drive north.
The unusually translucent paleness of Claire’s skin when she had arrived home had not ceased. She had also been unusually quiet as she made her way through her nighttime routine. She was in “bed” staring at the ceiling by the time Jamie got back from tucking in the small humans.
“Claire…I love ye…ye know ye can tell me anything right?” Jamie asked hesitantly, not wanting to spook her. He could feel the thoughts in her mind racing and crashing together.
“I know Jamie, really I do and I love you for it. I do have something to tell you and I’m not sure how,” Claire said, rolling over to meet his gaze as the air mattress groaned.
He intertwined their hands, kissed her knuckles, encouraging her on, looking up through his lashes. Those flashes of deep blue, could disarm even her biggest fear, even after the years spent together. They consistently said, even in the darkest of times, “I see you, I love you, I am here for you, no matter what.”
“I passed out today at the office as I was giving it a final look around. I remember feeling dizzy and the next thing I knew, I woke up in one of the beds hooked up to an IV.”
Jamie bolted upright, “WHAT? Why didn’t you call me? Are ye alright? Oh Claire…” said nervously.
Placing a hand on each of his shoulders, she coaxed him back down to the mattress. Facing each other, lying on their sides, Claire’s hand soothed the etched lines of concern on his face, and kissed him gently.
“I’m fine, nothing too much is wrong…well nothing is wrong at all,” she said, correcting herself. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the situation at all. She was happy, overjoyed even, nervous, but overjoyed.
“What do you mean?” Jamie asked.
“My love…,” she said dragging a finger along his jaw as he looked at her intently, “You’re going to be a father again.”
Jamie gasped, bolted back upright, bouncing Claire on the air mattress as he did, and stared at her.
“What…How…is it…do ye really mean it?” Jamie babbled out.
Claire sat up, clasped his hand, gave it a squeeze, looked directly into fathomless blue and said, “Yes, I really mean it. I’m pregnant again.”
Just as he had done, the two other times she was with child, he began to weep. He brought her in for a hug, and they let their bodies mold into each other. Creating a soul seal, heart to heart. Filled with the bliss of a new piece of physical evidence of their love, slowly making its way into the world.
Claire pulled back, “Happy tears?” she asked, knowing the answer.
“Aye,” her husband said, kissing her, “Happy tears for our life together, for us, for our three children, for our fourth yet unborn child, and for thanking all that is holy, every single day, for you. Whatever I did to deserve ye, I would do it over and over again in a thousand lifetimes, if it meant I got to feel this with you for even one minute. I love ye so much Claire and I can’t wait to have another child with ye.”
The 10 hour drive north, was made significantly better by the fact that all three small humans slept for 4 hours straight. Letting them sleep in the same room and stay up until all hours chatting had been a stroke of genius on Jamie’s part. Once they woke, there were more frequent stops, lunch, bathroom breaks, running around breaks, and of course, pull over to pry the kids off of each other while fighting breaks.
Jamie and Claire split up the driving, but were never far from a hand hold or a stroke of the arm. Their new found secret growing inside of Claire. An excited joy coursed through each of them. Knowing, loving looks, were exchanged, over the questions of whichever Fraser from the back seat was being heard from. Everything felt right.
Pulling into the car park of Lallybroch, 12 hours later, Jamie looked over at Claire. He reached over and pressed his lips to Claire’s. Although a chaste kiss, all three small Frasers said “yuck,” in unison. Jamie and Claire exchanged a deep grin. They were truly home.