He watched the two of them from the entrance of the tent. For years he had been in the cave, dreaming of the very scene in front of his eyes.
Their daughter must have said something funny, for Claire tossed her head back and laughed. It was carefree and spontaneous. Her hair fell back and traced down her shoulders, her cheeks flushing red. The sound of her laugh was like music to his ears. She was his daily reminder for why he had to do what he always had to- she was the reason he had the life that he did. The family he had- they had come from her.
For a minute he could almost forget where he was. He had once longed for the day when he’d be with his family, lunch being served, and land that needed to be tended to. He had pictured Claire cooking, the best that she could, and serving him his stew. He had dreamt of having his children surround him, his grandchildren on his knee. He had that life now, yet sometimes those desires came with duties, things he’d happily oblige to do, even lay down his own life for.
He’d never wished the life of a soldier upon Claire, yet she went where he did. And now, their daughter, their son-in-law, were following along with him.
Though he couldn’t hear them, Claire must have retorted something funny back to their daughter, for it was Bree’s turn to let out a belly laugh.
Claire said that Brianna was all the pieces that a Fraser consisted of-and she was. There was no denying who had fathered Bree. He let himself wonder for a moment how Frank could look and be reminded, daily, of the man Claire had left behind, and raise his child. He’d never know nor understand, but all he could do was be thankful. He had trusted Frank with his two most precious Earthly gifts, and the fact they were before him- alive and whole, well, he had prayed to Dougal earlier. He’d have to say a prayer of thankfulness to Frank Randall later.
Though as much as Fraser as she was, there were hints of Beauchamp in her too. The strong wit of her tongue, the soft way she spoke to Jem to soothe him, an obligation to stand up for what she thought were right, and a liveliness within her soul. There was no doubt in his mind who had mothered and raised her. She was a gift from Claire to him, and from him to Claire. Of all the things he had done wrong in his life- the one thing he had done right was choose Claire- and Brianna was both their Earthly redemption. Seeing them together, the warmth he felt within his soul, this must be heaven on Earth he supposed.
Like a magnet, (at least that is what he thought Claire had called it) she turned to him. It was like her soul knew he was there. Watching. Waiting.
They always pulled each other, attracted in ways he never understood, but he had learned long ago- it wasn’t always this way between two people, but it was with her, and he didna mind.
She reached her hand out, the silent question he knew the answer to. He reached for the outstretched hand and intertwined their fingers. He brought her hand up to his lips, brushing the cool metal of her ring against it, and kissing it softly.
“Mo chridhe” he said as he sat down, “mo chuisle” he greeted Bree.
“Morning, colonel.” His wife smiled towards him. He placed a quick kiss to her lips but could feel the tips of his ears burn at the mention of his rank. Ah dhia, she had a way of making him feel like a lad again.
“I was just reminding Mama about a place on Newbury Street in Boston,” Bree smiled and tilted her head, “They had the best french toast. Beats what we’re having here.”
He took his bowl and placed it on the table in front of him, “Weel, lass, at least we have food on the table.”
“Mmmm.” His wife moaned. She scooted closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder. “We used to eat there every year for your birthday. Remember I’d take the morning off from work and take you to school late.”
“Oh I remember.” Brianna took the last bite of her lunch and pushed her bowl slightly forward. “And I remember for your birthday you’d make me go to that diner near the hospital with Uncle Joe… Daddy would always have a work function or something else.” He watched the raise of Brianna’s brow and a tilt of her head.
“Funny how that always worked out.” Claire took a breath and laughed at herself grabbing his knee. “Birthdays are a little different now, aren’t they darling?”
Jamie took a bite of his lunch and swallowed. “Was that of yer doing, Sassenach or just by chance?”
“The first few years…” She took a breath and pulled herself closer towards him. “It was intentional to spend birthdays and holidays together. I will never forget Bree’s first birthday. She couldn’t wait to get her hands on that cake. But as the years went on, the distance grew. Mostly unintentionally…”
“And then she was a hot shot medical student. First woman to go to Harvard Medical School. Uncle Joe was the first man of color… We started making our own traditions because Daddy was always busy with work. We were together for the holidays, though.”
“And speaking of birthdays..” Bree smiled. He felt a small kick under the table. “Da… It was your birthday earlier this month?”
“Hmmm.” He grumbled and took another bite of his lunch.
“I remember reading it when we were looking for you- May 1, 1721. It was the big 5-0 this year.”
He could feel his heart skip a beat. Like he had told Claire on the morning of his birthday this was a year his father had never seen. Even Claire had lived longer than both of her parents.
He was experiencing things he’d never thought he’d live long enough to see, let alone doing it all with Claire by his side.
He took an arm and wrapped it around his wife. He could feel the buzz and energy within the camp. There was no doubt a battle was on the horizon, yet in this moment, nothing felt more right in his world.
“It was,” He squeezed Claire a little tighter as his wife drew circles on his knee, “A year yer grandsire never got to see. I am a lucky man.” He reached across the table, taking their daughter’s hand in his. “And I am blessed to have lived to see yer face.”
There were years and experiences he knew Frank Randall held with his two ladies, yet at the end of it all, it didna really matter. Somehow, by some miracle, Claire had chosen Jamie and so had Brianna. They had both found their way to him. In all his life, that was truly his biggest blessing- for some reason, they chose him.
There were “birthday traditions” they had with Frank from their own time, he didna mind. The thought that they had happy memories from where they came from warmed his heart. He knew all too well what it felt like living wi’out Claire, so to know that she hadna been like him the whole time soothed a piece of his soul.
“Well, I am a few days late, but happy birthday, Da.” Brianna gave him a wink, intertwining their fingers and giving it a light squeeze. “I love you.”
“As do I, soldier.” Claire tilted her head up, kissing the base of his jaw.
He felt the tears prick in his eyes, but blinked them away. Jamie Fraser had a feeling fifty held the best that was yet to come.