I sat, marveling the slight rounding of my stomach.
Naturally, it didn’t come without a pang to my heart, remembering my first pregnancy, but the hurt was overshadowed by hope, and excitement.
In the weeks of being in the 21st century, and being fed regularly (and richly, ) I’d filled out some. In more places than just my growing belly. But I’d been so gaunt before that it hardly bothered me. And as far as my husband was concerned, the more weight I gained in my arse especially, the better.
The door to the bedroom opened and I smiled at said husband as he came inside, carrying two steaming mugs. “Brianna made some tea, I thought ye may want some. Are ye feeling alright, Sassenach? I was outside w’ Jay, and Mandy said ye’d gone tae lie down. Is Wee Bree troubling ye?”
I laughed, accepting the mug gratefully. “Wee Bree? Did you make that up?”
Jamie laughed as well, sitting on the foot of the bed and setting down his mug in favor of picking up my feet. I grinned at the way he remembered how I liked my feet rubbed, last time.
“‘Twas Brianna herself who said it,” Jamie said, chuckling. “I tried tae explain tae her that Bree means disturbance in th’ Gaelic, and she only shrugged and said she knew that, and that it wasn’a inaccurate.”
I shook my head. “Well, I’m fine, just a little tired. Mandy said that it’s normal.”
“It’s nice, having two healers about .”
I smiled. “Indeed. I’ve thought a little about what Mandy said before, about me having become a doctor in her timeline.”
Jamie cocked his head to one side, at the same time he hit a particularly sensitive part of my arch, making me moan. “Ye’re already a doctor, Sassenach, as far as I’m concerned.”
“Perhaps,” I said non-committedly. “But not really .”
“Is that important tae you? Becoming a doctor?”
I sighed and flopped backwards on the bed, making Jamie chuckle at the dramaticness of it. I thought that Jay must be rubbing off on me. “I don’t know. I just don’t know what to do about any of this.”
Jamie abandoned my foot rub, which made frown, but then he crawled up to toss himself dramatically beside me, and I smiled again. I wasn’t the only one Jay was rubbing off on, it seemed.
“Dinna think any of us does,” he said. “There doesn’a seem tae be a solution where nobody gets hurt.”
“Or cease to exist entirely,” I pointed out.
There was a swift rap on the door, and it opened before Jamie or I could tell whoever it was on the other side to come in. It was Jay, of course, and she took one second to appraise the situation before unceremoniously crawling over Jamie to wedge herself in between us. Sometimes I forgot that the child was sixteen, and only a month ago we found her running around with an older man, since lately she’d started to resort back being a girl...as she should.
“Dinner’s almost ready,” she said, wriggling about to make Jamie and I accommodate her, which we did without question. “What’re you two talking about?”
“Baby names,” I lied. “I was thinking about Pricilla.”
“I say Williamina,” Jamie suggested.
“Ah gotcha,” Jay said, nodding, clearly not fooled. “How about something more original, like Abcd?”
“Ab-sa-dee?” Jamie echoed, arching a brow at her.
“Yeah, spelled a, b, c, d.”
I laughed and elbowed her. “You just made that up!”
“No! It’s really a name!”
“It is! Where’s my phone? I’ll prove it.”
Jay started patting around for her phone, and we both turned our heads to the left to see that Jamie had it in his hand, seemingly navigating it as expertly as Jay did.
“How did you even unlock it?!” Jay demanded, reaching for it unsuccessfully when Jamie pulled it out of reach.
“I angled it toward yer face, like ye showed me,” Jamie said, without looking up from the screen. “I’m playing CandyCrush.”
I leaned up on my elbow, suddenly wondering if someone had abducted my husband and replaced him with a lookalike. “What in God’s name is a CandyCrush?”
Jay looked back over at me with wide eyes. “I didn’t even show him that one.”
“Alright, Jamie, you’re scaring me,” I said, biting my lower lip to keep from laughing. “Give the phone back to the child.”
“No,” he said simply. “First I’m going tae take a…” he furrowed his brow, looking at Jay for confirmation. “Face-y?”
“Selfie,” Jay corrected.
Jamie turned on the camera (again, HOW he knew how to do that so easily already, I had no idea,) and held it out with his long arm for a picture.
Jay burrowed into his shoulder, grinning from ear to ear, and I obliged by squeezing myself beside her to fit into the frame.
“You kids having fun?” Brianna asked.
We all sat up to find her leaning against the door jamb, her arms crossed and a fond smile on her face. “Dinner’s on the table,” she said.
“Aye,” Jamie said. “But first, come here.”
“Come on, Nana!” Jay cried.
Brianna shook her head, then rolled her eyes to the ceiling and turned her head to shout downstairs. “Amanda! Come up here!”
Mandy appeared a moment later, looking worried. “Something wrong?”
Brianna was already pushing Jamie aside to fit onto the bed. “Family photo, I think,” she said.
“Oh,” Mandy said, then happily bounded onto the bed, nearly crushing all our legs and making everyone laugh.
“Make sure you get Granny’s stomach,” Jay exclaimed. “So, you know, everyone is in it!”
“Oh, I got it!” I cried, rolling over to my side of the bed where my sonogram was sitting on the nightstand. I held it up for the picture, which was honestly a mess, since we were crushed together on the bed and no one could stop laughing.
“Alright, alright, let me up,” Brianna groaned, struggling to get to her feet. “Let’s go, before dinner gets cold.”
I leaned over Jamie’s shoulder to see the pictures, and Jay skipped on ahead, astonishingly unconcerned with getting her phone back right away.
“I wish Jem was here,” Mandy said to her mother.
“Oh, me too,” Brianna said. “And your father, and my brothers.”
She paused suddenly, making Jamie and I almost run into her. I wondered if I had misheard her, because it sounded like she’d said brothers , plural. There was only Fergus...right? But then she kept walking, and I gave a mental shrug.
Brianna was quiet at supper, but Mandy was animated, telling Jamie, Jay, and I about the exploits of her brother and cousin, Jemmy and Germain. I could see by the look on Jamie’s face that he sorely wished to meet the two scoundrels. As much as I knew he adored these women, I also knew he would always at heart long for a son...or at least a grandson.
Brianna chuckled. “It took hours to get Germain out of that tree,” she said. “Ian had to climb up and carry him down on his back, no matter that the boy was almost as big!”
“Ian...ye mean my nephew, no’ my brother-in-law?” Jamie asked to clarify.
“Well, of course…” Brianna started, then trailed off. “Sorry, it’s just, I forget there could have been a time when there wasn’t a Young Ian in your life.”
Jamie smiled fondly. “Ah, I do love all of Jenny’s children.”
Brianna shook her head. “It was different with Ian, Da. He was like your son.”
I could see immediately the effect that had on Jamie, and I wondered if that had been what Brianna had meant when she said brothers .
“He and Fergus were every bit your children,” Brianna said sadly. “And Marsali...God, Mama, she was your best friend. I knew you loved her every bit as much as you loved me. She called you Ma. Which is remarkable, considering who her mother was.”
My heart constricted at the thought of these people who clearly meant so much to Jamie and I, that, on our present course, we would never meet. I wanted to believe it didn’t matter...that if we never met them we couldn’t miss them, and we could always form relationships with others. But my heart knew the truth, and the hell of it was, I did miss these people, these children, who I’d never known.
“Wait,” I said. “Who was Marsali’s mother?”
“I probably shouldn’t tell you,” Brianna deadpanned.
“Well now I have to know.”
“Ex cuse me?!”
After we cleaned up supper, and I tried to come to terms with the fact that in another timeline, I grew attached to one of Satan’s offsprings, we moved into the den, where Jamie paused and looked at the gashes on the wall, made by a redcoat sword generations ago.
“I ken th’ point ye’ve been trying tae make,” Jamie said, still looking at the wall. “And I ken why . But Brianna, Claire and I canna go back to that time.”
“I know,” Brianna sighed, crossing her arms. “I know, okay? I just...I just feel like you deserve to know what you’re giving up, is all.”
“Why?” I demanded. “Why tell us at all? At least if we’re ignorant, we don’t have to feel so damned guilty about it.”
Brianna narrowed her eyes at me. “The Claire I know likes to be completely informed, no matter what.”
“Well, I’m not the Claire you know! The Claire you knew was your mother who spent twenty goddamned years separated from the love of her life! You can’t possibly think that didn’t change her!”
“I know it did!” Brianna cried. “God, Mama, I’m not trying to talk you and Da into separating. That’s not in the cards, I get it, and I don’t want it! I do love the man who raised me, but damn me if I don’t wish that it could have been Da, for all our sakes. But for give me for loving my family, and feeling my heart breaking at the thought that it could disappear!”
“We can try our best tae fix it,” Jamie said. “We can find your Roger, and when enough years have passed, and it’s safer, we can go back tae th’ 18th century for Fergus and th’ rest. It doesn’a have tae be all or nothing, does it?”
“Maybe,” Brianna admitted, softly. “But you won’t save everyone.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Mom, don’t,” Mandy murmured from where she and Jay were sitting on the couch, watching with wide eyes.
“What do ye mean?” Jamie repeated my question, but more firmly.
Brianna blanched and curled her lips in, clearly thinking she’d said too much. “Nothing. Never mind.”
“Ye’ll tell us,” Jamie demanded. “And ye’ll tell us now, lass.”
“My brother,” Brianna said, letting the words blow out in a rush of held breath. “William.”
I scowled at her. “Y...you said that we didn’t have any other children.”
“You didn’t,” she said, then cut her eyes up to Jamie. “Da did.”
Realization hit me like a train, and a glance at Jamie proved that understanding was dawning on him in a similar manner.
“The twenty years…” I began.
Jamie shook his head. “Ye’re telling me I...no. I wouldn’a. No matter how long Claire was gone, especially knowing she was alive .”
“It wasn’t exactly love,” Brianna said wryly. “From what I understand, his mother was sort of...awful, and died right after childbirth. But you loved Willie. You both loved him, very much,” she chuckled. “Actually, Mama, he drove us all a little crazy, the way he doted on you. We’d joke that he was your favorite.”
I turned away, breathing heavily, trying to imagine a world where Jamie had a child with another woman, and I love him as my own. But then...if we were apart for so long, I’d be hard pressed to begrudge him of it. Still though, jealousy was rearing its ugly head for something that had never even happened . Not in our life.
I was trying to come to terms with it, but judging by the look on Jamie’s face, he was having a much harder time. I tried to reach for his hand, but he didn’t notice, moving out of my reach as he stormed up to Brianna.
“What would ye have me do then?! Go back tae th’ 18th century and swive another woman just to assure I have a son?!”
I started to scold Jamie for his language in front of Jay, but when his voice cracked on the last word, the scolding evaporated and I pulled him into my arms.
“I’m sorry,” Brianna said, tears in her voice. “I never should have told you about him. You’re right, it’s worse knowing. I’m so, so sorry.”
“I dinna ken what tae do,” Jamie said brokenly into my shoulder, but whether he meant it just for me, or everyone, I didn’t know. “I canna do everything .”
“We know that,” I whispered, stroking his hair. “All we can do is what’s best for us and our child, Jamie. We just have to hope that the rest will fall into place.”
“She’s right, Jamie,” Brianna said, putting her hand on my arm where it wrapped around Jamie. “I was wrong to try and influence you. I’ve been focusing on my past, instead of your future.”
“Jamie…” he sniffed, pulling away from me and looking at her. “No’ Da?”
Brianna was smiling, but it was so sad, it broke my heart. “You aren’t my Da,” she whispered. “You’re a young man who needs to take care of his wife and unborn baby. And that’s all you need to do.”
Jamie smiled back, a put a hand on the side of her face. “I’d still like tae be your Da, for a wee bit longer, if it’s alright w’ you.”
Brianna nodded, and I felt a sudden, light jab in my stomach, making me gasp.
“Granny? Are you okay?” Mandy asked.
I cupped my stomach. “I...I think she just kicked!”
“Really?” Jamie asked, covering my hand with his.
I looked at Brianna, who was smiling at me, this time in awe. She reached out, but the second her fingers brushed my abdomen, my baby kicked again, and Brianna’s body went rigid.
For a moment, I thought she was just surprised, feeling her self kick, but when the baby kicked a third time, Brianna gasped and clutched a hand over her chest, her face suddenly draining of all color.
“MOM?!” Mandy cried, leaping up and getting her arms around Brianna just in time to keep her from falling. “Mom! What’s happening?!”
“I...I don’t know…” Brianna gasped, curling her left arm to her body.
Jay and Jamie fell to their knees at Brianna’s side, and I wanted more than anything to as well, but instead I backed away, covering my stomach with both my hands.
“Jay!” Mandy barked. “Go get some Aspirin out of the kitchen, I think your grandmother is having a heart attack. Granny, can you pull the car around?”
“Shouldn’t we call an ambulance?” Jay asked shakily, already headed for the kitchen.
“It’ll be faster to drive her. Claire! Now!”
I snapped out of my shock and rushed to do as Mandy said. By the time I got the car pulled as close to the steps of Lallybroch as possible, Mandy and Jamie were leading Brianna out.
“Jay, stay with your grandparents,” Mandy said as I handed her the keys.
“No arguments!” Mandy snapped, meeting my eyes briefly before jumping into the car.
Jamie grabbed my hand as we watched them go, wrapping his other arm around Jayme’s shoulders.
“I did this…” I whispered, my hand still on my stomach. The baby had stopped kicking, but I could still feel her moving around. Reassuring in one sense, even as my heart was sinking.
“What?” Jamie asked.
“It’s us !” I cried, the tears coming now uncontrollably. “Me, you, the baby...we did this! Jamie, if we’ve killed her…”
“Claire, what are ye saying?” he asked, grabbing my shoulders. “We haven’a done anything!”
“We’re here , with the baby! She can’t be in the same time as Brianna, they tried to tell us!”
Jamie was shaking his head. “No, it was a coincidence, Sassenach. It could have been th’ argument, but it couldn’a been th’ baby, she’s no’ close tae being born!”
“Maybe it was a warning,” I said. “We can’t stay here, Jamie!”
“What are ye saying?! Where will we go?”
“I don’t know...but we can’t stay here. We have to go back.”