“...You’re carrying my mother.”
Claire sat down, hard. There wasn’t anything behind her to sit on, so Jamie swiftly pulled a chair ‘round to keep her from falling on her arse. He understood how she felt though. He, too, felt like a rug had been pulled out from beneath him.
He dragged a chair around for himself, trying to process everything, but there was so much happening, so much newness was entering his head like a wild Highland charge, that Jamie could scarcely do more than remember to breathe.
Suddenly the woman, Mandy, as she called herself, looked entirely different to him. He thought from the very start that she reminded him of Claire, where her daughter was an almost eerie copy, but this was different.
They both shared Claire’s regal gracefulness, had the same sly, knowing twinkle to their eyes, and the same blunt honesty and coarse language. All things he loved about his Claire.
But now it made so much sense. He’d already started to wonder if they were perhaps relatives of Claire, but now he knew it was so much more than that.
This older, handsome woman before him was their granddaughter , and the smart-arsed child downstairs their great -granddaughter, as unbelievable as that seemed. He’d never even been a father, and now he was a grandsire.
Jamie felt like crying, felt like taking Mandy in his arms and never letting her go. All he’d wanted for as long as he could remember was a family of his own, and now he had proof that he would and that it would flourish and continue long after his life was done.
“Your mother,” Claire breathed, holding her stomach, her eyes finding his, wide and full of wonder and love, as well as fear. “A daughter?”
Mandy smiled at him, tears brimming in her eyes. “I always wondered what you were like when you were young. I had pictures of Granny, but…”
“ Granny ?” Claire exclaimed suddenly. “Oh God.”
Mandy chuckled. “You never change.”
Claire made a face. “So are we...dead?”
“Claire,” Jamie said. “Ye were born in 1918, no?”
“You can’t travel to a time where you’re already living,” Mandy said. “That’s something my dad figured out a long time ago.”
“Your father can travel too?” Claire asked.
Mandy looked away, sighing. “Could. He passed away, a couple of years ago.”
“I’m okay,” she said, although Jamie suspected she wasn’t quite. “It’s my mom I worry about. After, well, after we lost, you know, you, it was really hard on her. And then Dad got sick, and Aunt Marsali suspected that it was cancer. They had to come back, for the healthcare, but I didn’t want them to be alone, and my brother already had a family of his own so I came with them. Dad fought a long time, but…” she smiled sadly. “He didn’t have you, Claire.”
“And th’ lass?” Jamie asked.
Mandy snorted. “Yeah, I met her father right after we came back. Told him everything, but he never actually believed me. When the marriage started going south, he tried to convince Jay and I both that I had some kind of mental illness and Christ , there was a time I almost believed him, myself. We divorced when Jay was eleven, the same year Dad died, and I got full custody.
“He divorced ye?” Jamie asked, appalled. “Leavin’ ye alone wi’ a bairn?”
“Trust me, I’m better off without him,” she said, scoffing. “Being a single mother here isn’t anything like it is where you’re from, and I had Mom.”
Jamie wasn’t terribly convinced, but now wasn’t the time to argue.
“Look,” she continued. “There’s a lot we need to discuss, but I can see you’re both dead on your feet. I’ll rent you a room, and we’ll talk more tomorrow, okay?”
“Dinna suppose th’ inn would accept our money?” Jamie joked.
She chuckled. “Doubt it, but don’t worry, I’ve got it. Meanwhile I have a very fun conversation with my daughter ahead of me.”
“She doesn’t know anything?” Claire asked.
Mandy shrugged. “It just seemed easier not to talk about it. I tried explaining a few times, but her father he…” she shook her head. “It would have been very hard to prove either way. It’s part of why we came back to Scotland. But come on, you two, let’s get you into a room and we’ll figure things out in the morning.”
Jamie and Claire followed Mandy back down into the lobby, only to find Jayme curled up in an armchair, fast asleep, the wee thing she called a Phone still clutched in her hand.
She was so like a younger version of Claire that it made his heart hurt. Especially in sleep, where Claire herself often looked like a girl when the lines of stress and hardship were smoothed out. He wondered if the child Claire was carrying would look like her, too.
Before Mandy could try to awaken her, Jamie picked wee Jayme gently up into his arms, her tall but thin build weighing next to nothing to him.
Smiling, Mandy motioned him up the stairs while she and Claire worked out their accommodations.
“Are you really him?” Jayme murmured sleepily as he laid her down on the bed. “The same Jamie that Mama talks about?”
“Seems so,” he said, covering her with the quilt. “Can barely believe it myself, lass.”
“I think I’ve seen you, before,” she said, eyes already drifting shut again.
Jamie frowned, but at this point there was little that could surprise him anymore. “Oh?”
“When I was little,” she said. “I ran out of the house when Mom and Dad were fighting. It was cold, and raining. There was a man there, but I wasn’t scared for some reason. He led me home. He called me a name I didn’t know, and smelled like you.”
With that, she was asleep, snoring lightly, and Jamie shook his head in wonder.
“Goodnight, a leannan ,” he said, touching her curls briefly before standing to go.
He thought he may have heard her say, “that was the name he called me,” but he could have been imagining it.
“Ye alright, Sassenach?” Jamie asked once they were alone in their room. It didn’t look too different than what he was used to, although there was a strange, big, flat object hanging on the wall that looked like an oversized version of Jayme’s Phone that he was too nervous to investigate at the moment.
“I don’t know what I am,” she said, sitting on the bed with both arms crossed around her middle. “This has been...a lot to take in.”
“Aye,” he agreed. “Now I know what you felt like getting dropped into my time, and you were all alone,” he sat down beside her, wrapping an arm around her and kissing her temple. “You’re th’ bravest person I know.”
“Thanks,” she said, chuckling tiredly and leaning into him. “But you know I would have actually liked getting to introduce you to modern comforts and teaching you about my time. Now, I’m almost as lost as you.”
“At least we have our...granddaughters.”
“Ugh,” Claire flopped backward onto the bed and covered her eyes with her arms. “Don’t remind me.”
“But it’s incredible,” he said, wondering why it seemed to bother her so much. “They’re...proof, proof that we live on.”
He touched her stomach, although it was still too soon to be able to feel the life growing inside. “Proof this child will grow, and love.”
“Yes,” she agreed a little uncertainly, covering his hand with her own. “But what are we going to do? We can’t stay here.”
“Why not?” He asked. “We canna go back, and this time may be easier even than your own.”
She uncovered her eyes enough to peek at him. “How do you figure?”
He arched a brow at her. “How d’ye think? Frank?”
She tilted her head from side to side, giving him that point. “But you don’t understand, Jamie. The world I come from, and I assume this one too, doesn’t just let people appear out of nowhere and join society. We can’t just say we are who we are and expect everyone to just accept it. At least in my time, I had resources, even if the situation with Frank would have been difficult.”
“But here, we have family.”
She sat up. “And how is that supposed to work? Mandy clearly remembers our story very differently. What happens to her if we do things different from what happened in her history?”
Jamie sighed. “Weel, we canna decide everything tonight. Let’s just get some sleep.”
Claire gave one of those breathy chuckles that always intrigued him, even though he was bone weary. “Oh no, lad, neither of us are getting into this nice clean bed without bathing when there is most definitely a shower on the other side of that door over there.”
Claire had described Showers to him before, and he had to admit, the idea of an endless stream of hot, clean water was interesting, to say the least.
“Will ye teach me, Sassenach?”
She stood up and grabbed his hand. “Gladly.”
The Washroom, as she called it, was a blindingly white chamber with a commode, a bathtub, and several other unidentifiable contraptions.
They made quick work of their own clothes, relieved to be out of them after a solid three days or more without changing. Even their quick and desperate coupling on the ground at Craigh na Dun had been with their clothes on.
Jamie couldn’t even remember when was the last time he’d had the simple pleasure of looking at his naked wife. They’d been on the road for months, often sleeping completely clothed in case they needed to move at a moment’s notice. Making love was done in the dark, hurried and hushed so the rest of camp didn’t hear. It probably wasn’t since Lallybroch that he’d taken his time with her.
Though beautiful as always, Claire was painfully thin. Where delicious curves had once been were now ribs and bones. Only her stomach held a hint of roundness, and even that might not have been noticeable yet if Claire had been of a healthy weight.
Jamie knew he didn’t look much better. They’d been close to starving for weeks, and Jamie knew damned well that much of Claire’s rations had been going to Fergus, whereas some of his had been going to her.
Jamie shook his head, his tired mind and body unwilling to drift to thoughts of his poor lad, and focused instead on his wife.
“I haven’a been doing right by you,” Jamie said, stroking Claire’s sides.
“Hush,” she said. “It’s the universe that hasn’t been doing right by us. You’ve done the best you could.”
“I just want you safe,” he said. “You and this child.”
“We are safe, Jamie,” she whispered, kissing him lightly. “Nothing is going to hurt us right now. Come here.”
Claire’s hand disappeared behind the curtain that surrounded the bathtub. There was a squeak, and then the sudden sound of pouring water. She pulled him into the tub, but to stand, not sit, and backed into the wee waterfall that was coming from the wall.
It was bliss , pure and simple. So hot it almost hurt, but in a pleasant way, almost like when Claire used her teeth during lovemaking.
“Surely this is a sin,” Jamie moaned, letting his head fall back. “Anything that feels like this must be.”
“Hardly,” she chuckled, pouring some sort of potion into her hands that she then lathered into his hair.
The soap was nothing like the harsh lye soap he was accustomed to. It smelled like flowers and something else sweet. He stood still as she washed him, so relaxed that he was almost in a daze, the feel of the water rolling off of him becoming one with her hands.
He gasped when she decided to take a little extra time cleaning his cock, delighting her deep chuckle. He’d thought he might have been too tired to rouse for her, but he should have known better where his Sassenach was concerned.
“My turn,” he said, taking the soap from her and taking his time washing her smooth body, paying special attention to her breasts.
Twenty-four hours ago, he’d been prepared to let her go, never to see her again as he marched to his death on the battlefield. He’d taken her body one last time, knowing he never would again. Knowing he’d never see their child, just like he’d never gotten to see Faith, but hoping and praying with all his might that they’d go on and live and be happy.
It was almost too much to believe that he didn’t have to let them go, after all. Not yet. That he could still touch Claire, and love her, watch her grow with child and be with her when that child is born. Watch her...yes her ...because he knew their child would be another daughter...watch her nurse at Claire’s breast.
With that thought, he lowered his head, kissing the tops of Claire’s breasts before taking a nipple into his mouth, suckling hungrily, moaning when she did.
“Jamie,” she whispered, nails digging into the scars on his back. He hoped that she would add to them, put her own marks of love there where hate had branded him.
He pushed her against the slick wall, but there was a wee ledge there, thin but at a good height, and he propped her onto it while he grabbed her thighs, urging her to wrap her legs around him.
She did, eagerly, and sighed in relief when he pushed into her.
With the water hitting his back, he rocked against her, hard and without much finesse, but he was too far gone to care. By the sounds of her moans and whines, so was she.
She was wet - all over - and still soapy. That with the smooth wall and tub it was difficult to find purchase but he couldn’t stop in order to get them to bed. He needed her, needed to find that one certainty that they’d held onto in the months leading up to Culloden, that one constant in a sea of uncertainty.
She grappled at him, pulling his hair, biting his shoulder, crying out when he spilled inside her.
He could have collapsed into a heap of satisfied exhaustion, but before he allowed himself that, he sank to his knees, lifting Claire’s legs up until they were resting on his shoulders instead.
“Fuck,” she hissed, almost slipping, but catching her hands on the ledge.
He devoured her like a starving man at a feast, which he supposed he was, since it had been an age since they’d partaken in this particular delight.
Jamie listened as her cries grew louder, echoing off the the tiled walls. When he fastened his lips around her bud and sucked as he had her breast, she gave a sharp yelp and dug a hand into his hair, nearly ripping it out as she came.
He let her down carefully, but she just sank down to sit with him in the tub, as the water continued to cascade upon them. Either he was growing used to it, or it was cooling off, either way, it was losing some of its pleasure and he was ready to be dry and in bed, curled up with his wife.
They were quiet as they got out and dried off with the softest towels he could ever have imagined.
They crawled into bed naked, but Jamie made a mental note of where they’d left their bag with their sole changes of clothes, in case wee Jayme came knocking in the morning. No one wanted to see their great-grandparents like that .
“Is it going to be okay?” Claire asked him as he pulled her into his arms.
He knew that she knew that he had no answer for that, but he also knew that sometimes she just wanted reassurance. “Aye, mo cridhe, we’ll be just fine.”