Jamie awoke, and for a moment he felt disoriented.
For just a moment, he felt like a lad, waking up in his home, at Lallybroch. Young, carefree, unscarred.
It was a bonny feeling...for just a moment. But without his scars, without his years that had turned him from an impetuous young lad to a world-weary man, he wouldn’t have his wife...his Sassenach.
And where was his wife?
He reached over to her side of the bed, frowning to find it rumpled, but cold. The covers, however, had been pulled back up to his chin, to keep out the chill, which made him smile.
Getting out of bed, he stretched, and since Claire wasn’t around to tease him for it, didn’t bother to hide it when he scratched his balls.
It was rare that she was up before him, and even rarer that she managed to get out of bed without rousing him.
She’d been uneasy and unrestful, ever since they went through the stones, leaving war...and everything else...behind.
If he dwelt too long on it, Jamie would have fallen to despair, thinking on his sister and brother-in-law, of his nieces and nephews, his godfather, and his wee Fergus.
But it was enough, knowing that even though they were lost to him, they were alive , and hopefully safe. He thought that he was going to say goodbye to Claire on that moor and then die in battle. He refused to be sorry for not dying, even if it meant practically abandoning his men. Being alive with Claire was worth anything, including the loss of his family, as much as it hurt.
But Claire seemed to have entirely different issues with their current situation, and he couldn’t say he blamed her.
It was mind-boggling, thinking of Amanda and Jayme as their granddaughter and great-granddaughter. But they were . They were Jamie’s blood, and for that alone he loved them. For Claire it was different.
Oh, he knew she was fond of them, but he knew that she didn’t like thinking of them as her descendants. And even less did she like to think of meeting their own daughter, the same one she carried in her womb, as an aging woman.
He supposed he understood, but he didn’t agree. To see her...their daughter ...proof that they lived on...would be a blessing. A miracle. Whatever came next didn’t matter, so long as he and Claire and their bairn were together. If only he could make her see that.
He went over to the window, chuckling inwardly at the fact that it was later than he’d slept in years . He felt more rested than he had in an age, however, so he supposed it was just as well.
He looked out over the land that had been his once, at the hills and trees and stream, all so much the same as he remembered that it made his heart ache.
And then there, below, was a wee garden, half overgrown by years of neglect. The half that wasn’t overgrown, was apparently due to the bonny forest sprite; knelt among the weeds with twigs sticking out of her curls and dirt coating her fingers.
Jamie wasn’t surprised. Claire had always turned to nature in some way when she was feeling overwhelmed. Gardening, especially, had always been a release for her.
Just as he considered joining her, he noticed the approach of someone else. He tensed automatically, ever suspicious of anyone, especially where his Sassenach was concerned, but something in the stranger’s posture, and the way the morning sun shone in her red hair, made Jamie pause.
Claire stood, turning to face the visitor, and even though Jamie couldn’t hear what was happening, he knew that whatever it was, was turning Claire’s world on end.
He looked at the stranger, at the way her hands met before her midsection the way Claire’s did when she was nervous.
It was her. He knew it, somewhere in him, in the same way he knew that his own skin belonged to him.
He was so torn, torn between not being able to take his eyes away, and wanting to run outside as fast as he could, both to meet this person, and to be at Claire’s side.
The two woman stood tensely for a long moment, and suddenly, in a blink, the stranger was in Claire’s arms, and Claire was clutching her desperately.
That was all he needed before rushing out, barely remembering to stop and put on clothes first.
He went out the back door, squinting in the late morning sun. Claire’s back was to him, so he couldn’t see her expression to tell what she was thinking, only her rigid posture. The woman facing her was tall and slender, graceful, like Claire. Her eyes were wide as they took Claire in, and he was struck with a deep sense of, what he could only describe as homesickness. She was so like his mother, from the shape of her face, to her strong-looking hands. If he didn’t know better, he could almost believe that it was his mam, returned at last to Lallybroch.
“How did this happen?” She…the woman...was asking Claire.
Claire shook her head. “I don’t know. I’ve spoken to Amanda, and it’s completely different than what has happened in her memory. I was with Jamie, he was sending me away because of Culloden and then...we came here. That’s all I know.”
The woman took a step back, shaking her head. “But how can this be? And wait did you...did you say we ?”
Perhaps he moved, or made a sound, because suddenly her eyes flicked up to him, and if at all possible, went even rounder than before.
“My God…” she whispered. “D...Da?”
Claire turned around to look at him, and her face was streaked with tears. He of course wanted to go to her, but he was frozen, petrified of this wee slip of a woman before them.
She took a hesitant step toward him, shaking her head in wonder, and the word she’d just uttered resonated through him like a lightning bolt. Da .
His arms opened on instinct, and she didn’t hesitate to throw herself into them. He wrapped her tightly in his embrace, his mind and heart racing like rabbits. She smelled of perfume and the same kind of minty Shampoo that Mandy have given them.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” she whispered, pulling back and looking up at him with tears on her cheeks.
He brushed some of those tears away with his thumb, mustering a smile, as nervous as it was. “Dinna weep, lass.”
She gave a slight gasp, as if something he’d said surprised her greatly. Perhaps it was just the sound of his voice.
Jamie looked over the woman’s shoulder at Claire, finding her watching them intently, her hands cupped protectively over her abdomen.
“Mandy explained things to us,” Jamie said. “We ken who ye are, of course. But it’s strange, I still hadn’a thought of you as grown.”
She chuckled, rubbing at her eyes from beneath slim spectacles. “You’re nothing if not reliable, Da,” she said in amusement, though Jamie didn’t know why. “But how ?” She looked back over at Claire. “You can’t be here , not now! And...and Da, he shouldn’t be able to travel at all!”
“That’s what Mandy said,” Claire said, her voice rough with emotion. “I don’t know what else to tell you, though. It happened, and we’re here.”
“Right,” she sighed, raking her hand through her short-cropped hair, making Jamie smile at how like him it made her look. “Now we just have to figure out what to do about it. And you said Culloden ? Oh God, that must mean…” she trailed off, but the way her gaze settled on Claire’s midsection said all it needed to.
“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” she muttered, and Jamie’s smile widened.
She looked back at him again and scowled. “And just what are you grinning about? This is serious!”
This time, Jamie let out a barking guffaw, which only served to make the lass’s scowl deepen, while Claire added one of her own.
“What has gotten into you?” Claire demanded.
“I’m sorry,” he said, taking a breath. “It’s just, I was trying tae decide who she ‘minds me more of, myself, or my mother...but then she scolds me like that and she is you, Sassenach!”
The woman’s sour expression smoothed into a soft smile, but Claire still looked very pensive.
“Why don’t we go inside?” Jamie said.
“Yes,” the lass hummed. “I need to talk to my daughter and granddaughter.”
Jamie motioned for her to go ahead, and waited with his arm out for Claire. “Wait...lass?” he called suddenly. “We dinna ken your name.”
She blinked at them a moment, then bit her lower lip indecisively.
“Jamie…” Claire said quietly. “I don’t know if we should.”
“Well, we have tae call her something !”
“What don’t you name me?” Their daughter said, grinning.
“What, now ?” Claire asked.
“Everything has already changed,” she said. “No matter what we do, your choices will be affected. I’ll tell you my name if you want, or, you can just name me yourself, and I don’t have to tell you whether you’re right or not.”
Jamie and Claire exchanged an unsure look.
“When you think of one, let me know,” she said over her shoulder as she made her way into the house. “In the meantime, if it helps, you might already know that my last name is MacKenzie.”
“Nana!” Jayme exclaimed, leaping up from the kitchen table and nearly bowling her grandmother over in a hug.
“Oh my God, Mama!” Mandy cried at the same time. “Your plane wasn’t supposed to land for hours!”
“I caught a red eye,” MacKenzie explained, though what that meant, Jamie had no idea. “Want to explain to me why I wasn’t warned of this ?!” she gestured widely behind her, where he and Claire stood.
“I’d planned to tell you in the car ride here,” Mandy said with a slight shrug. After sneaking out,” she glared at Jayme. “ again , Jay ran into trouble and met them out near Craigh Na Dunn. I was waiting for you to get here before we even attempted to figure out what to.”
“I just don’t understand how this could happen,” MacKenzie said. “This could ruin... everything .”
“Well what can be done, now? Try to send them back to 1746?”
“No,” Claire said suddenly, firmly, and took a step forward. “I understand everything you’ve said, Mandy, but Jamie and I are not returning to 1746 unless it’s to remain there… together. ”
MacKenzie’s face softened as she looked at Claire. “Mama, I get it, I do. You just don’t understand what you’re sacrificing, here.”
“No, I don’t, and quite frankly I don’t want to. What did your parents sacrifice by being apart for twenty years?”
MacKenzie heaved a great sigh and sat down heavily at the table. “I wish Roger were here.”
They all stood around tensely, and after exchanging a look with Claire, Jamie sat down beside his daughter and took her hand. “Roger? That’s your husband’s name, then?”
She nodded, wiping a tear off her cheek. “Yeah. You and he didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but he admired you so much, and you grew close, in time.”
Jamie smiled, squeezing her hand. “Must ha’ been a braw lad, then. Did ye love him?”
“Oh, Da, more than anything.”
“Would ye no’ have sacrificed all tae be wi’ him?”
MacKenzie let out a watery chuckle. “I hate it when you do that.”
“When I do what, lass?”
She gave him a wry look. “Make so much damn sense. Yes, I’d give almost anything to have him back now,” she looked up at Amanda and Jayme. “ Almost anything.”
“We wouldn’a sacrifice Amanda and Jayme’s lives,” Jamie said. “Nor your other bairn. But surely, surely there’s a way.”
“There are other things to consider…” she said.
“Then tell us,” Claire said. “Just tell us. There’s really no sense in keeping anything back now.”
MacKenzie smiled sadly. “I don’t think I can.”
Claire looked as though she were going to say something else, but she instead wobbled unsteadily.
Jamie was out of his chair and at her side in a blink, holding her tightly to him. “Sassenach! Are ye alright?”
“I’m fine,” she said, holding a hand to her forehead. “I just got a little dizzy all of a sudden.”
“Is it the baby?” Amanda asked. “Mama, could it have anything to do with you being here?”
“I don’t think so,” she said, putting a gentle hand on Claire’s stomach. “But you need to go lay down, Mama. You were dehydrated and malnourished after Culloden, and mine wasn’t an easy pregnancy. And the stress you’re feeling right now isn’t doing you any favors.”
“She’s right,” Amanda said. “You should be taking it easy. I’ll make you something to eat and bring it up.”
“I’m fine,” Claire said shortly. “I don’t need you two bossing me about like I’m a child.”
Jamie opened his mouth to demand Claire do as the women said, but MacKenzie beat him to it.
“You’re not fine, and you’re thirty years old, that makes Mandy and I both your elders, now go to bed and don’t argue!”
Claire blinked in surprise, and looked to him as if for help. “Dinna look at me, Sassenach,” he said. “Seems ye best do as told.”
Giving them all a withering glare, Claire turning and started up the steps without another word. With one last smile for MacKenzie, and a wink for Jayme, he followed her.
“Nerve of her,” Claire groused as Jamie helped her to remove her muddy dress and change into a clean shift. “Ordering me to bed like that, as if she’s the mother.”
“She’s had a wee bit more practice, is all,” Jamie said. “She’s just concerned, Sassenach, as am I. Ye’re so thin, and no’ as healthy as you were. Ye must be extra careful, for th’ bairn.”
“You’re right,” she huffed, settling herself in bed. “This is all just so…”
“Overwhelming?” Jamie offered, sitting beside her and pulling her into his arms.
She chuckled. “Putting it mildly.”
There was a quiet knock on the door, and they both looked up to find MacKenzie peeking in.
“Whipped up some sandwiches,” she said, nudging the door open more.
“Thank you,” Claire murmured. “I am hungry. I...do I smell peanut butter?”
MacKenzie laughed. “Peanut butter and grape jelly, to be exact. Your favorite.”
Claire’s eyes went round with pleasure as MacKenzie offered her the sandwich as Jamie watched on cluelessly. “Peanut Butter?” he asked.
“Oh, try it, darling,” Claire moaned, taking a huge bite.
Jamie gingerly picked up the other half of her sandwich and took a cautious bite, his nose wrinkling automatically.
“Here you go,” MacKenzie said, taking it from his hand and replacing it with something else. “Ham and cheese. You never could get on board with peanut butter and jelly.”
“Thank you,” Claire said. “I’m sorry...about before.”
“It’s alright,” MacKenzie said, patting Claire’s leg. “I understand. Just try to relax, okay? Nothing has to be decided right away, and if it’s alright with you…” she smiled softly. “I’d like to enjoy you being here for a little while.”
Claire smiled back, and Jamie realized that it was the first really genuine smile he’d seen from her in days.
“I almost forgot what you looked like with dark hair,” MacKenzie said, reaching out to lightly touch Claire’s curls. “So much like Mandy and Jay.”
Claire chuckled. “What color was it?”
“White as snow,” MacKenzie laughed. “But for some reason, the whiter it got, the stronger you always seemed. Right up until…” she trailed off, looking away. “Well, I better let you get a little rest. We’ll talk later?”
“Aye,” Jamie said. “Ye should rest too, lass, ye’ve traveled far.”
Her cheek dimpled sweetly as she grinned at him. “Yes, Da.”
She stood to go, but froze when Claire suddenly called out a name. “Brianna?”
MacKenzie turned slowly, her eyes wide. “What did you say?”
“I thought about what I would have done,” Claire said softly. “If I’d had to leave Jamie and have this child on my own,” she looked up at Jamie. “Remember, I promised you that I would name the child for your father, assuming for some reason that it would be a boy. I would have wanted to honor that still, somehow.”
“But, Bree-anna?” Jamie asked skeptically.
“What?” Claire asked. “I think it’s lovely.”
“I always thought so,” MacKenzie whispered, her eyes shining. “Especially after you explained what it meant to you.”
“You mean I’m right?”
Their daughter returned to the bed, leaned down, and kissed Claire’s forehead. “Yes. And you just proved to me, that even though things are different now, it doesn’t mean that whatever was meant to happen, won’t happen still.”