Claire sat on the picnic blanket, stroking her large belly. She could hear high pitched giggles carrying through the air as her husband and their child approached the picnic site. “Mama!” Claire looked over to see her second child hanging off Jamie’s shoulders, his arms keeping her from falling.
“Couldn’t find Ellen?” Claire asked, reaching her arms out for her child. Jamie handed her over before sitting down next to Claire.
“She ran off wi’ Young Ian,” Jamie explained. “Jenny went to find her and send her up this way.”
“You think she knows it well enough?” Claire asked, her eyes scanning the field.
“Aye. She spends plenty of time here,” Jamie reminded her. “Plus, she and Ian have wandered everywhere together. I’m sure she knows this land better than we did at her age.”
Claire grinned. “I don’t know about that. I was talking about the cave the other day and she had no idea it existed. It was probably a bad idea to mention it.”
“Mama, I wanna eat,” Lucy cried, curling in closer to her mother.
Claire leaned down and planted a kiss on the small girl’s head. “Soon, sweetheart. We’re waiting on your sister.”
Lucy sighed dramatically. “I dinna want to wait.”
Claire glanced over at Jamie as they shared a look. A jolt to her stomach made Claire gasp. She laid a hand over the spot that had just been kicked rather violently. “Goodness,” she sighed. Jamie scooted closer and ran a hand along her stomach, leaning down to kiss it. “Don’t get too close. He might kick you too.”
Jamie laughed, leaning back as he picked up Lucy and held her in his lap. “I’ll leave that privilege to ye, Sassenach,” he said with a grin.
“Of course you will.”
“Do ye need me to have a stern talk wi’ the lad?” Jamie asked. He leaned down, his head resting on her stomach. “Now ye listen to me, Henry Brian Fraser, ye’re no’ to be using yer mam like a human football. She willna thank ye verra much for it. And then I’ll have to be doing all the changings when ye’re out.”
Claire rolled her eyes. “On second thought, stay there. Let your son kick you.” She smacked his arm as he sat up.
The sound of quickly approaching feet grabbed both their attention as they saw their five year old daughter running toward them. “Ellen, nice of ye to join us,” Jamie remarked, raising an eyebrow at her.
“I’m sorry,” she said, looking down. “Ian and I were having an adventure.”
“Of course you were,” Claire commented as she moved to finally spread out the food. “We did tell you though that we’d be going on our Fraser family picnic at a certain time though.”
“I know. I’m sorry,” Ellen said, settling down next to Claire.
“Yer sister’s getting verra hungry,” Jamie informed her.
“El’s here. I wanna eat!” Lucy yelled this time.
“Yes, ma’am,” Claire responded, handing Jamie the container with Lucy’s lunch.
They sat there and had their picnic, fulfilling the little tradition they’d started just over five years before, right before Ellen was born. Jamie had convinced Claire they should go back to Scotland one last time before she had the baby. Even though travel had been anything but enjoyable, she agreed because she truly loved being back in Scotland. And Jenny’s knowledge and advice was a comfort as Claire went through her first pregnancy. About two months before Lucy was born, Jamie had suggested they make it a tradition. This pregnancy, they didn’t even need to address it. They’d both decided it would happen again. Traveling with their children was never easy either, but they found themselves back in Scotland much more often as their family grew.
Jamie and Claire had been married at Lallybroch in a small but beautiful ceremony. They didn’t need much more than the quiet simplicity with their friend group and Jamie’s family. Their married life hadn’t changed much from when they’d moved in together, but they were still blissfully happy.
The biggest change had come when Claire got pregnant.
“We have to be clever,” Claire reminded Jamie. “They’re going to know something’s up if I’m not drinking.”
Jamie sighed. “I know, Sassenach. Ye’ve mentioned this ten times.” Claire turned and glared at him.
“I’m sorry, perhaps the energy from growing your child wiped it from my mind,” she retorted. “Look, I don’t want to steal the focus from Rupert and Hannah tonight. So we just need to be sneaky. It’s too early to tell them anyway.”
“The doctor said ye’re having a very healthy pregnancy. Surely it would be fine if they found out,” Jamie reasoned.
“Why jinx it?”
Jamie nodded with a shrug as he followed Claire into the private room of a restaurant where they were meeting the rest of their friends.
It was only two years after Jamie and Claire had been married. Rupert had met Hannah at a work party Jamie and Louise had decided to throw. Sparks had immediately flown and they’d just gotten engaged. The group was all getting together for a small engagement dinner at the couple’s favorite restaurant.
Everyone gathered in a circle, drinks raised in the air. Claire tried to be nonchalant about her water she was toasting with. Rupert was starting to speak when his eyes locked on Claire’s glass.
“Claire? Do ye only have water? Ye canna just toast wi’ water,” he pointed out.
Everyone turned to look at her. The hand of Jamie’s that was resting on her waist tensed slightly. “Uh, no, it’s vodka,” Claire lied.
“You’re drinking a full glass of vodka?” John asked, his brow furrowed. “Doubtful.”
“Who cares what I’m drinking? Let’s just toast!” Claire exclaimed, trying to throw off the attention.
“Claire, honey,” Louise began, turning from the happy couple to watch Claire. “Is there a reason you’re drinking water?”
Claire sighed. “Just trying to cut back a bit,” she tried. “You know, we really do drink a lot.”
“We havena been out in weeks,” Willie stated.
“Aye, especially ye and Jamie,” Angus said as he narrowed his eyes at them.
“Could it be…” Geillis asked.
“Could it be that it’s Rupert and Hannah’s big night and we’re supposed to be toasting them? Yes, indeed,” Claire said, still trying to avert attention.
“Hannah, give me yer ring,” Rupert said. Hannah laughed as she took it off and placed it on his palm. “There, tis like we’re no’ engaged. Now, Claire, tell us.” He took a long pause. “Are ye pregnant?”
She still couldn’t admit it. “What makes you think I’m pregnant? Just because of the water?”
“That and yer boobs are huge,” Geillis remarked.
“Aye, they are, aren’t they?” Jamie said with a grin.
“Jamie!” Claire scolded, slapping his arm.
Hannah met Claire’s gaze. “Claire, don’t worry about stealing our spotlight. Are you pregnant?”
Claire took one look at Jamie and he gave her a look that said “Up to you.” She shrugged and took a deep breath. “I am,” she admitted quietly.
The whole group burst out in cheers and yells, clearly very excited for the both of them. Jamie and Claire were met with hugs and claps on the back as their friends joined in their formerly private celebration.
“I canna believe ye’re pregnant,” Geillis said, tears in her eyes. “This is incredible!”
“Well done, lad,” Rupert said to Jamie with a wink. Jamie laughed but Claire glared at Rupert.
“This is amazing news!” Hector joined in.
“Your baby just needs to know that I was your child first,” John reminded them. The whole group burst out in laughter at that.
“Well thank you all,” Claire said, wrapping her arm around Jamie’s waist. “Now, Rupert give Hannah back that ring so we can celebrate your big news instead of ours.”
They smiled as Rupert slid the ring back on her finger and the group resumed toasting the newly engaged couple. As they sat around the table eating dinner and unhelpfully making suggestions for the future wedding, Rupert set his sights on John and Hector.
“So lads, when will it be yer turn?” Rupert asked, one brow raised.
John rolled his eyes before he placed his hand over Hector’s on the table. “We’re taking our time. What’s the rush?”
Claire had been largely pregnant (and indignant about it) at Rupert and Hannah’s wedding. It had been rather the opposite of Jamie and Claire’s wedding. The whole thing was large and boisterous, but also fun. Claire and Jamie made sure to avoid Dougal Mackenzie as best they could. A lot of Jamie’s cousins he didn’t speak with much were there. Claire picked up on some of their comments on not being invited to Jamie’s wedding. Neither of them had any regrets though.
When Ellen was eighteen months old, John and Hector finally got engaged. They had a long engagement and by the time their wedding day arrived, Claire was pregnant with Lucy.
Claire appreciated the sight of Jamie standing up at the altar. It had been since their own wedding that she’d been afforded such a view. She couldn’t help but notice how handsome he looked in his tux. Claire bent down as best she could to whisper to Ellen. “Okay, darling, you see Da up there? All you have to do is walk up to him. If you drop some flowers on the ground on the way there, even better.” John laughed as he stood next to Claire. “Think you can do it?”
Ellen looked up, a bit unsure. The little girl looked down the aisle to her father who was nodding and gesturing for her to walk to him. Suddenly she straightened up and set back her shoulders and walked slowly and calmly down the aisle, dropping petals one at a time. Claire laughed and shook her head as she watched her daughter walk from her to Jamie.
“I want to take a moment to say thank you, Claire,” John whispered to her.
Claire looked over at John in confusion. “Whatever for?”
“For all you’ve done for me and Hector. For all you’ve done for me in general,” John explained.
“And yet you still chose Jamie as your best man,” Claire reminded him. “What happened to us Sassenachs sticking together?”
John chuckled. “You know it had to be Jamie.”
She grinned, nudging him with her shoulder. “I know.”
“But I couldn’t walk down the aisle without my mother,” John said, extending his arm to her. Claire smiled brightly as she linked her arm through his. “Seriously though, you’re a wonderful person, Claire. You’ve brought so much joy to my life just by being my friend.”
“Dear God, John. At least pretend you’re British,” Claire remarked, trying to hold in tears. “You can’t say these things to a pregnant lady.”
“If it weren’t for you and Jamie, I don’t think I’d even be with Hector, so thank you,” John continued. “You both did so much for me after...after the attack. I don’t think most relationships would have survived something like that on the first date.”
“I think that speaks more to you and Hector than it does to Jamie and I helping you,” Claire admitted.
“Perhaps. But you pushed me to take care of myself and helped me while I was trying to do so. You both did. You guys changed my life,” John said, leaning in to kiss Claire’s cheek, “And I’ll be forever grateful.”
Tears were starting to spill from Claire’s eyes. “Well what kind of parents would we be if we didn’t do so?” she teased. The music changed, signaling their time to walk down the aisle. She squeezed his arm. “But in all seriousness, we love you. Both of you.”
John smiled brightly as he started walking with her. “The feeling is mutual.”
“I will say, I’m a bit mad that you followed Rupert’s lead and got married while I was largely pregnant,” Claire remarked.
“Well maybe you should keep your legs closed for a bit,” John joked.
Claire smacked his arm lightly, stifling a laugh as they processed down the aisle.
On their walk back to the house after their picnic, Lucy fell asleep in Jamie’s arms. Claire could tell that Ellen was getting tired too, but she would surely fight a nap. She often tried to tell her parents that she was too old to nap. Claire craved some rest herself.
Jamie quietly walked up to the room Lucy and Ellen were sharing and tucked Lucy in. Ellen had found Ian and Caitlin in the kitchen and was trying to rally so she could spend time with them. Claire shrugged, deciding to let Ellen do what she wanted. She turned and laid down on the couch, needing some rest herself.
She didn’t end up getting much before Jamie found her. “Are ye up to go look at something wi’ me, mo nighean donn ?” Jamie asked.
Claire groaned. “What are we looking at?” she asked, not opening her eyes. “Your son is draining my energy.”
“Tis a surprise, I’m afraid,” Jamie said with a small grin.
“You’re trying to get me to go somewhere with you and you won’t say where?” Claire asked. “If I weren’t eight months pregnant, I’d think this was an excuse for a romp somewhere. But I think you know that’s not happening.”
Jamie laughed, kneeling down next to the couch. “Nah, no’ that, sadly.” He laid his hand high up on her thigh. “Though ye ken there are other ways of finding some pleasure,” he reminded her as he waggled his eyebrows and moved his hand up higher.
Claire slapped at his hand as she laughed. “Jamie, your sister is in the next room. Not to mention our daughter.”
He chuckled, moving his hand instead to rest on her stomach as he kissed her gently. “No’ to worry, I ken our potential audience.” He jumped up, extending an arm to her. “Will ye join me? We can take the car.”
“It’s that far away?” Claire asked.
“Tis further than ye’d want to walk.”
She shook her head with a sigh and smacked her hand into his.
They stood in front of her parents’ old house, still in surprisingly good shape. “You know you’ve brought me here before, right?”
“Aye, I ken that,” Jamie said, still looking up at the house. He bounced up and down on the balls of his feet. “But there’s something ye dinna ken about the place.”
“Tis for sale,” Jamie told her, turning to meet her gaze. “And...I put an offer on it.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Claire said, looking between him and the house.
“I ken I should have mentioned something earlier, but I had to jump on it. When I was up in Glasgow for work last month, I saw the sign as I was driving to Lallybroch. I stopped, stared at it for a long time, and then I called them and asked to see the place,” Jamie confessed.
“You did this all without telling me?” Claire asked him.
“Yes, and I ken that was wrong. We should decide things together. But I havena officially purchased it. Tis still just an offer,” Jamie rushed to say. “I want yer final decision before I sign anything.”
“Look, obviously this house means a lot to me,” Claire admitted, “but it’s in Scotland. I know we’re doing pretty well, but not ‘have two residences’ well.”
“I ken that too, but we’ve also talked about moving out of London,” Jamie reminded her. “Wi’ the girls and now the new bairn, it would be a good time for it.”
“And so you think we should move back up here?” Claire asked.
“We’ve talked about it.”
“I know we have. But we never came to a decision.” Claire sighed. Her heart yearned to go back in and walk the halls she used to walk with her parents. “So we have an offer on this?”
“Aye, they’ve actually accepted it,” Jamie told her. “But I said I had to talk it over wi’ my wife before I signed anything.” He watched her as she stared at the house. “Living in London is no’ what it was when we reunited there. Rupert, Hannah, and Angus all live in Edinburgh.”
“Louise took that job in Paris.”
“Geillis would probably follow us as an excuse to go back to Scotland,” Jamie argued.
Claire laughed. “You’re right, she probably would.”
“That really only leaves Willie, John, and Hector. And you know Willie has one foot out the door.”
“Yeah, I think he does,” Claire agreed with a sigh.
“Our days of spending the weekends closing down a pub wi’ our friends have been over for a while now,” Jamie admitted. “And we pay quite a lot on our home. The city is a grand place, but tis no’ like here. We were both raised here and enjoyed it, aye?”
Claire finally took her eyes off the house and looked over at Jamie. “Aye.” She smiled, moving to tuck herself into his side. “Yes, we certainly did.” She shook her head as she weighed all his arguments. “As much as I love London and will always love London, it would be nice to be closer to the family. And to have more space for the kids to be kids.”
“Aye, that’s just what I was thinking as well.”
“The group has dispersed so it’s not like we’d be staying for them. And we should be thinking of our family before them anyway,” Claire reasoned. “And Ellen definitely loves it up here. I don’t think she’d have any issues with the move.”
Jamie smiled, thinking of how naturally his daughter had taken to the land. It brought him such joy to see her tear across the same fields he’d done so. “We always talked about leaving the city someday , but when I saw this was becoming available, it seemed like a sign.”
Claire let out a deep breath, running a hand absentmindedly over her stomach. “I could see that.” She turned to look at Jamie. “But what about our jobs?”
“I could get transferred up here,” Jamie informed her. “I spoke wi’ my boss and it would be an easy process. There’s the office in Glasgow, as ye ken. That would be an easy commute. Plus, there would be a hospital in Glasgow I’m sure that would want ye. Ye’re a fantastic doctor.”
Claire rolled her eyes. “Laying it on a bit thick. Feeling guilty for doing all this behind my back?”
“A bit. I want ye to be on board, but I willna push ye toward something ye dinna want to do,” Jamie assured her. “Whatever we both want for our family is the most important. I can take back the offer on this and we can find something outside London if ye’d rather.”
Claire was silent for a long time as she thought through each aspect of Jamie’s plan. The fact that it was her parents’ old home, the last place she’d had a family before her children came along did make it feel like a sign. London had linked her to Uncle Lamb and when he’d passed, that was what she needed. That was what had felt like home. But now that she was a mother, she craved the idea of a link to her parents again. The idea that her children could grow up and play in the same place that their parents and aunt and uncles did gave her a ridiculous amount of joy. Lallybroch had always brought her happiness and peace. Getting to be there regularly sounded pretty perfect. She’d just never considered the option until now.
Claire turned around and looked at the road that led to Lallybroch. She saw the backyard where she used to play in the refurbished shed. There was the tree that was much easier to climb than the ones at Lallybroch. This place held so many sweet memories that she’d held close to her heart in the years after she left Scotland. Suddenly, with a kick from the baby, the decision became very easy.
“Leave the offer on the table,” she said as she walked up to the front porch. Turning around, she saw Jamie’s broad grin as he strolled towards her.
He wrapped his arms around her. “Ye mean it? Ye’re sure?”
Claire nodded. “London was our home for a while. And we both loved it and will always love it. And we can take the kids back and show them all the wonderful parts of it. But Scotland is also our home. And it’s where we should be. I didn’t really think about it until you showed me all of this.” She felt another swift kick. Claire laughed, rubbing a hand along her belly. “And I think Henry agrees. He thinks this is our home too.”
Jamie smiled, bending down to kiss her belly. “Smart lad.” He looked at her. “Ye’re sure?”
Claire wrapped her arms around his neck as best she could with her large stomach between them. “Yes I am. It just feels right.” She leaned up as Jamie leaned down and met her for a kiss.
“Well then, welcome home, Claire Beauchamp Fraser,” Jamie announced, gesturing to the house. “Apparently there’s only been one family living here since ye last did. When I looked through it, there didna seem to be too much changed. It seemed just the same.”
Claire curled into his side, staring at the house. “That sounds nice. But realistically, we’ll probably have a lot to change. You know you’ll want a nicer kitchen than the outdated one my parents had.”
Jamie laughed, wrapping his arm around her. “We can make whatever changes ye like, a nighean .”
Claire leaned up and kissed his cheek. “This is a terrible time to be making a big move,” she reminded him, looking down at her prominent belly. “But I can’t deny that it seems perfect.”
They stood there for a while longer, intermittently sharing a silence and crafting plans. Soon they turned back for Lallybroch, enjoying how quickly they got there. That night, they sat down to tell the girls the news, hoping they’d be as excited as Jamie and Claire were becoming.
Ellen was very thrilled at the prospect of being minutes away from her cousins instead of hours. Lucy didn’t seem to really know what it all meant, but was smiling nonetheless. Claire held her youngest daughter on her lap as she watched Jamie hold their eldest and share in the excitement of the upcoming move.
Jenny and Ian were also quite thrilled at the idea of having them so close. Their children were already inseparable during their visits. They all shared the same joy at the idea of their children living out a similar happy childhood as their own. The Frasers and the Murrays must have been destined to spend their childhoods on those lands.
It was three months later that they finally moved into the house. Wrapping up their lives in London while also welcoming a new baby and trying to pack up had been chaotic. And in that time, Claire and Jamie never gave up on trying to convince John and Hector that they should move to Scotland.
Jamie had moved up to Scotland two weeks before the big day due to the transfer. He’d taken the girls with him and entrusted them to Jenny and Ian. Claire had finished up packing away their lives when not nursing and changing Henry. She felt capable of undergoing it all by herself, but she couldn’t deny her relief and happiness when Jamie surprised her two days before the movers were due to arrive.
They spent their last night in the house they’d welcomed all their children. The first place that had been only theirs . They’d moved in there when Claire was expecting Ellen. It had been a happy place. Though they were excited to move back to Scotland, it was a bittersweet moment.
It felt strange to Claire to be unpacking all her new things in her old house. She felt she’d misremembered certain things in the almost thirty years since she’d lived there. But the feeling of contentment remained. And that was all that mattered.
The girls were discovering the shed, one Jamie had made sure was still in good condition before letting them loose in, while Henry napped. Claire was down to her last box to unpack. It had only taken a couple of weeks, which seemed like an impressive undertaking with three small children. Claire had decided to wait to look for jobs until she was ready to go back to work. And at the moment, she was enjoying the time with her children, even if that just meant unpacking while they ran around and played. Jamie walked in the door from work and Claire held the last box up victoriously.
“We did it!” she cried, waving the box over her head. “We’re officially moved in!”
Jamie walked over and wrapped his arms around her, meeting her for a kiss. “I believe ye beat all our other records.”
She laughed, kissing him again. “Yes, I believe I did. I’m amazing.”
Jamie beamed at her, a smile on his face. “I’ve always thought so.” Claire shook her head, wrapping herself tighter around him. “What’s this?” Jamie asked, spotting something over her shoulder. She turned around to see him looking at the housewarming gift Jenny had dropped off earlier in the day.
“It’s from Jenny.”
Jamie smiled as he stared at it, wonderful memories clearly coming to mind. It was a frame that held two pictures. The first was the picture Claire had found when she’d moved to London of Jamie and Claire sitting on the fence as children. The second was the picture Jenny had insisted they take sitting on the same fence, their three children with them.
“Tis perfect,” Jamie commented, seeming a bit choked up.
“It is.” Claire hugged him tighter before Henry started waking, drawing her attention. She brought the baby back over, holding him between them.
Jamie bent down to kiss his son’s head. He then kissed Claire’s forehead. “We’ll be happy here, aye?”
The girls raced in, running past their parents for the kitchen. Claire laughed, looking around at the family they had and the life they’d built. She leaned in close to Jamie. “I think you should know by now, we’ll be happy wherever we’re together.” She kissed him softly. “You and me.”
“And the bairns.”
Claire laughed. “Exactly. Our family.”
Jamie leaned his forehead against hers. “Tis all we need.”