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2020

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He held my hand, helping me reach toward the stone when I didn’t think I would have had the strength to do it myself. 

The only reason either of us could bear to do it at all was because of the life growing inside of me.

I closed my eyes, unwilling to watch his hand vanish from mine as well as feel it.

I still felt his whisper against my ear even as I fell,

“Goodbye, Claire.”

It was even worse than the first time. The feeling of having my soul ripped from my body and forced clumsily back again like a child playing with its toys. It was worse, because I knew when I awoke, my soul would still be gone.

When I came back to myself, I could smell the grass and soil, hear the birds singing merrily in the trees.

I could still feel Jamie’s arms around me.

I kept my eyes closed, unwilling to let the feeling go, not sure I could survive turning and finding myself alone on that bloody hill.

The feeling of his arms tightened, a deep inhaling of breath.

My eyes flew open.

I wrenched myself around, finding instead of an empty space and only the ghost of a memory, a living, breathing man, his eyes opening slowly to meet mine.

“Jamie?” I rasped, hearing how high-pitched and hysterical I sounded.

“Claire,” he said, wincing as if in pain.

Immediately on alert, I jolted into a sitting position, looking him over. “Are you hurt?!”

“My head aches,” he said, sitting up more slowly and raising a hand to the head in question. “Christ, Sassenach, canna imagine how you’ve done that twice.”

I looked around, trying to decide if things were different, or not. “Did it work? Did I….bring you with me somehow?”

Jamie looked around as well, squinting in the fading sunlight. “I dinna hear th’ cannons anymore. And...it’s sunset. It was morning only moments ago.”

“We could have been unconscious,” I said, almost afraid to hope. “If it didn’t work...I can’t do it again, Jamie. Please don’t make me.”

He shook his head, pulling me into his arms. “No, lass. I’ll no’ put ye through that again. We’ll figure something out.”

But then I saw something I’d missed before, and felt my heart rate increase. “It worked.”

“What?”

I stood up on shaky legs, pointing. “Look!”

It was a sign, quite literally in fact. Just a simple wooden sign with lettering too small to see from the distance, and beyond it was a wooden railing that bracketed a footpath. Here and there around the stones were candy wrappers and unidentifiable pieces of plastic and paper.

It was, without a doubt, not 1746. 

“We made it then?” Jamie asked, eyeing the standing stone. “We’re in… I’m in…”

I smiled up at him, touching the side of his face, almost unable to believe that he was real, and there . “Yes, Jamie. We made it.” I took his hand and laid it on my stomach.

His eyes flickered down to where his hand rested against me. “We made it,” he murmured, and I could see the beginnings of what might be a panic attack, so I framed his face with my hands and brought our foreheads together.

“It’s alright,” I whispered. “You’re here with me, Jamie. It’s alright.”

He pressed his head harder to mind, breathed deeply through his nose. “It’s over,” he said. “Culloden…”

I understood then what was going on, and I wrapped my arms around him.

“Jenny,” he said suddenly, looking back up at me, eyes red. “Ian, Murtagh…”

“Fergus,” I cried, burrowing myself into his chest. We were alive, safe, away from war, and together, but at what cost?

The sun had nearly set, and it was getting colder. I pulled back, aware we’d need to find shelter or make camp for the night. I knew Jamie was aware, too, but was staring at the stone as if he could see what was happening on the other side.

“Jamie,” I said, as he released me and stepped closer to it. “Jamie?”  When he reached to touch it, I let out a cry and grabbed his arm.

He shook his head, as if coming out of a trance. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I wasn’a trying to...I just don’t understand. Why didn’t it work th’ other times I touched it?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t know how it works. Maybe it had to do with you touching me. I also don’t know how the destination works. I know we’re not in 1945, because that sign and walkway wasn’t here then.”

“But it’s been three years,” he pointed out.

I supposed it could have been put up in the three years since I’d been gone. Perhaps it had something to do with my disappearance. I cringed at the thought of having to try and reassimilate into the world...I cringed even more at the thought of having to see Frank, and explain to him that I was married to someone else and had no intention of changing that. I could only hope that he’d moved on already, and that it would be okay eventually.

But there was little to be done about it right then, and I was cold and hungry and utterly exhausted. “Come on,” I said. “Let’s…”

I was interrupted by a piercing scream, echoing through the air. Jamie and I both nearly leapt out of our skins, prepared to run, but then there was another scream, and another, and as our eyes met we realized at once that it was a girl, crying for help.

We ran down the hill, but the screams wafted in and out, carried on the wind. I was dimly aware that the road below was much more alive with cars than I remembered, but I didn’t bother to stop and wonder about it. Jamie, thankfully, hadn’t yet noticed at all.

We finally discovered the source of the scream, and could see a young man and woman, their car pulled over at a lookout spot off a side road, and he was trying to force her into the car.

“Get your hands off me!” She screamed. “I said NO!”

“Quit bein’ a bitch and get in!’ He screamed back. “Or ye can fuckin’ walk back.”

Jamie was charging toward the scene, drawing his sword before I could stop him, while my mind caught up to what I was seeing, (that was unlike any car I’d ever seen.)

“Get ye’re hands off her,” Jamie seethed, ripping the boy away from her and raising the sword to his neck.

“Th’ fuck ?!” The boy exclaimed, trying and failing to break Jamie’s hold on the scruff of his neck.

I hurried to the girl - because a girl was what she clearly was, barely more than a child - and touched her shoulder gingerly. “Are you alright, darling?”

She nodded jerkily, rubbing the tears off her face with her sleeve. “Yeah. H…he...we were on a date, he wanted to...to do... stuff ...but I said no.”

“And just what d’ye think no means, whelp?” Jamie hissed, giving the boy a shake. “Have ye no honor at all?”

“I don’t know what the fuck you’re on,” the boy snapped. “But if you don’t get yer damned hands offa me, I’m callin’ th’ cops. I didn’a lay a hand on her.”

I looked at the girl, who seemed to be fully grasping the situation concerning Jamie’s sword. “Let him go,” she said. “He isn’t worth it.”

Jamie sheathed his sword, but wrenched the boy up so that their faces were inches apart. “Ye owe th’ lass your life, ye wee shite.”

Jamie let him go with a shove that sent him sprawling to the ground, but he quickly picked himself up again and jumped into his car before driving away at a speed that made my jaw drop.

I realized then that Jamie had finally noticed the car.

“God almighty,” he whispered.

Casting a look at the girl who was picking up her purse and a few scattered belongings, I grabbed Jamie’s arm and pulled him close. “It’s alright,” I said. “I told you about cars, remember?”

“Aye,” he nodded, face white. 

“But Jamie, we have a problem. This isn’t 1945 or ‘48. I don’t know when the hell we are!”

“Oh no,” the girl said, starting to whimper.

I went to her side and knelt beside her. “What is it? Did he hurt you?”

She shook her head. “No, Ryan was just a jerk. But my phone...I must have left it in his car!”

“Your...phone,” I echoed. I knew what a phone was, obviously, but how could she have left one in his car?

“Do you have one I can use to call my mom?” She asked. When I only stared at her blankly, her eyes widened. “Oh God, I’m so sorry, I didn’t even thank you! Thank you, for helping me.”

“Think nothing of it, lass,” Jamie said, his hand on the hilt of his sword, as if expecting Ryan to reappear...or more likely, the car. “This might sound strange tae ye...but what year is it?”

I winced at his blunt question. Just great, we were dressed the way we were and asking what year it was...she was going to think we were lunatics. 

Luckily though, she only laughed. “Are you guys cosplayers?” she asked. “‘Cause those costumes are legit .

Alright, I knew what some of those words meant.

“Well yes,” I chuckled. “Staying in character, and all that.”

“Where’s your car?”

At our blank looks, her face fell. “Oh God, you really don’t have a phone on you, do you?”

We both shook our heads. “No, I’m afraid not. And in fact, we’re a bit lost. Our car broke down a way back and...”

“Yikes,” she said, making a face. “Well, town’s not that far, I guess we’re walking. That is...if you don’t mind walking with me for a while? It’s kinda creepy out here.”

“Of course,” I said, putting an arm around her shoulder as we started to walk. “I would prefer to take you right to your mother, if that’s alright.”

“Yeah,” she said. “Thanks. She’s going to be so pissed. She told me not to go out with that guy.”

“Seems she was right,” Jamie said. “Ye should listen tae your mam.”

“Not helpful, Jamie,” I said.

“Hey,” the girl said, turning to smile at him. “My name’s Jayme too! J.A.Y.M.E.”

Jamie made a face. “Odd name for a lass .”

Jamie ,” I said in exasperation before turning back to the girl. “Don’t mind him. My name is Claire.”

“No way!” Jayme cried. “That’s too crazy! My middle name is Claire! After my mom, it’s her middle name too. Family name, I think.”

Jamie and I exchanged a perplexed look over her head. I could tell that he was just barely holding it together, and I sympathized wholeheartedly. Like me when I first arrived in the 18th century, he’d had no time to slowly acclimate, and instead because of circumstances out of our control, he was forced to keep a straight face as best he could and just go along with it. But at least I’d had things like books and movies to prepare me, Jamie’d had nothing but my own stories.

I took his hand as we walked, hoping to ground him, squeezing it reassuringly every time a car zoomed by.

Jayme was chattering on in front of us, seeming none too worse for the wear from her experience with the boy. Until she suddenly shouted “Son of a bitch !” And ran ahead.

She picked something up off the ground, still muttering curses.

“Impressive for one so young,” I said under my breath to Jamie. “Reminds me of myself at that age.”

I expected Jamie to laugh, hoping to relax him, but he didn’t laugh, only frowned at the girl. “Christ, Sassenach,” he said. “She looks just like ye.”

“She does?” I asked, taking another look.

I supposed I saw where he was coming from. Tall, fair-skinned, a mop of unruly brown curls. And then her name was certainly... interesting.

Jayme was walking back toward us, carrying something in the palm of her hand. “That jerk threw my phone out the window!” She cried. “Thank God for Otterbox.”

Jamie cast another look my direction, but I could only shrug. 

The object in her hand, a slim rectangle that didn’t resemble any telephone I’d ever seen or imagined, suddenly lit up and made a sharp buzzing sound. Jamie leapt back, staring in horror, but I kept a tight hold on his hand, and Jayme didn’t seem to notice.

“Shit, it’s my mom,” she said. “She’s gonna kill me.”

She raised the rectangle to her face, yes, like a telephone, and spoke into it. “Hey, Mom, yeah, I’m...no, I’m fine! N... ugh , no, I lost my phone and just... God, Mom, will you let me talk?! Yes, okay? I went out with Ryan and you were right, happy? He was a jerk and ditched me on the side of the road…no! I’m fine! This couple was walking by and helped me, but I guess their car broke down and they didn’t have a phone...yes,” she glanced up at us. “I agree, but they were at some sort of con and they’re dressed like people out of that show you like...what’s it called? Yeah, that one. Look, we’re on that one highway leading toward Inverness. I don’t know which one!” She pulled the phone from her face, and I could hear a tinny voice through it, apparently yelling at her. “Do you guys know what road we’re on?” She asked us.

Thankfully, I did know, and nodded.

“Do you mind talking to my mom?”

I nodded again, hesitating briefly before reaching for the rectangle. It looked like a very small television screen, with the word Mom displayed across it.

“Hello?” I said, holding it to my ear and wondering exactly where the speaker was.

“Hi,” said the frazzled woman on the other end. Where the daughter had a markedly American accent, I thought I heard a hint of Scot in the mother’s. “I’m so sorry about my daughter, thank you so much for helping her.”

“Of course,” I said. “I’m only sorry that we couldn’t give her a ride back to town. My husband and I broke down and were walking back ourselves.”

“Where are you?”

I explained our approximate location as best I could, considering we were on a backroad. “About two miles from Craigh na Dun,” I finished.

“Shit,” she breathed. “What on earth was she doing...alright, thank you Mrs…”

“Fraser,” I said.

There was a brief pause on the other end. “Mrs. Fraser…thank you. Could I speak to Jayme again?”

I handed the phone back to Jayme, and listened to a few more “okays” and “uh-huhs” before she hung up.

“Well, Mom doesn’t have a car, obviously, since we’re visiting this country, so she’s gonna send an Uber for us.”

“Uber?” I enquired. 

She blinked, and I worried a moment that it was something we should have known. “Oh, do you guys not have Ubers in this country? Well, you know, whatever the ridesharing app is here.”

“You mean...like a taxi?”

She shrugged. “Yeah, I guess. Come on, she said there’s a gas station not far ahead we can wait at.”




Chapter Text

Thankfully the petrol station was fairly recognizable to me. But I watched Jamie carefully, seeing him pale at the sight of the garish lights and vibrant colors. And in fact, it did seem displeasing to the eye after so long of being surrounded mostly by natural beauty. At least the vibrance of Versailles had its own brand of beauty. This, this was just blinding.

“Y’all hungry?” Jayme asked. 

I was starving , but quite aware that Jamie and I had no money. At least, no money that they were likely to accept. The 18th century coins in Jamie’s sporran were no doubt considerably more valuable now than they were then, but I wouldn’t figure that the shop owner here would care.

“It’s cool,” Jayme said more softly when we hesitated. “It’s on me!”

“We can’t go in there dressed like this,” I pointed out.

Jayme shrugged. “What do they care?”

She had a point, so I took Jamie’s hand again and led him inside. “Christ,” he muttered, squinting in the glaring white light.

Sure enough, the man behind the counter took one look at us, then looked back down at his phone , not caring in the least. Interesting. In the corner, I could see a sign for the washroom, and sighed in relief. “I’ll be right back,” I said.

Jamie tightened his grip on my hand, looking at me in panic. 

“It’s alright,” I whispered. “Just look around a moment, try to blend in. Don’t draw attention to yourself and don’t under any circumstances draw your sword.”

Jamie didn’t look as though he’d follow that last instruction if he felt it necessary, but nodded and turned to wander down the small aisles, looking very large and comically out of place among the candy bars and bags of crisps. 

Jayme followed me into the washroom, and I grimaced at the size of the stalls. “Wonderful, I suppose I didn’t think about how I would manage my...costume.”

“When my cousin got married, she had to like, face the back of the toilet you know? To keep her dress out of the way.”

I could hear Jayme giggling while I was in the stall, cursing and muttering while I went about my business. But her advice did the trick, and it was still easier than a chamber pot. And thank the Lord, a toilet that flushed !

“Are you okay?” She asked when I finally came out seeming hesitant. “You can tell me, you know, if you’re in trouble or something. Your husband, he’s…”

“We’re fine,” I assured her. “We’re in a rather...strange situation that would be hard to explain, but I promise you that Jamie is a very good man. He’s just a bit out of his depth right now.”

She nodded. “Yeah, I mean he seems nice but the sword is a little weird. And you just never know these days.”

“That’s for sure,” I mumbled as we exited the washroom.

I found Jamie perusing the snacks like a curious child, and smiled at the sight.

“Sassenach, what th’ devil is this ?”

“A snack cake,” I told him. “They’re good.”

“Isn’t Sassenach an insult?” Jayme asked.

I smiled at her. “Trust me, he means it with nothing but love.”

 

We left the shop with several snacks and bottles of pop just as a car pulled up where a young man stuck his head out the window and asked for Jayme MacKenzie, making me start once again at the uncanniness of her name.

She checked something on her phone, then motioned to us. “Come on, this is our ride.”

“Like a carriage,” I whispered to Jamie while I opened the door to the back seat, while Jayme hopped into the front.

Like the man in the petrol station, the driver didn’t seem to notice or care about my and Jamie’s unusual attire. Did people in this time...whatever time it was...often dress unusually?

Jayme was wearing a dress not at all unlike something I would have worn in the 1940s. And the men I’d seen so far had all been in jeans and T-shirts. Nothing remotely similar to corsets, gowns, and kilts. So did people just generally not care?

I patted Jamie’s knee, encouraging him to look at the distant trees, knowing he would likely soon get carsick. 

“So fast,” he whispered. 

“Faster than I even remember,” I whispered back.

The car radio was quietly playing music, but I couldn’t hear it well enough to know if I recognized it or not. In the place where a car radio should be though, was a bright screen like that of Jayme’s telephone. There were several series’ of numbers, that at first didn’t make sense. Until they did.

The breath caught in my throat suddenly, and I stared in disbelief.

The screen was displaying the date.

April 26, 2020.

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.”

“Wow,” Jayme chuckled, twisting to look at me. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone but my mom say that. Is it a Scottish thing?”

“I...I’m not sure,” I said, taking a sip of my Coca-Cola, wishing it was whisky.

“Claire?” Jamie murmured, looking at me in concern.

“Two thousand-twenty,” I whispered, trusting the roar of the engine to keep the driver and Jayme from hearing me. “The year, Jamie. Two thousand and twenty.”

“How?” He whispered back.

“I have no idea.”

It didn’t take long to reach Inverness, and it was a surprise and a relief to find it hadn’t changed that much since the 1940s. But it was another world entirely from the 1740s. 

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and mutter “of course” when the car pulled up outside Mrs. Baird’s Bed and Breakfast.

At Jamie’s look I shook my head, silently telling him not to ask.

We stepped into the foyer, finally receiving an alarmed look from the B&B’s current “Mrs. Baird,” but she made no comment other than asking if she could help us.

“Mom,” Jayme called before we had to answer, getting engulfed in a crushing hug by a tall, attractive older woman with matching curly hair, only in black streaked in gray instead of dark brown. 

“I can’t believe you did this,” Jayme’s mother said. “What is wrong with you?! You’re sixteen years old, for Christ’s sake! And you only met him yesterday!”

“I’m sorry, okay?” Jayme said impatiently, her face reddening as she broke away. “It was a mistake. He seemed nice.”

The woman snorted. “They always do.”

I cleared my throat, and the woman remembered suddenly that we were there. “This isn’t over,” she warned her daughter before turning to us, taking in our attire with a frown despite having been told about it over the phone. “Thank you again, Mr. and Mrs…” she trailed off, looking back and forth between my and Jamie’s faces, her own paling. “...Fraser.”

“Mom, this is Claire and Jamie,” Jayme introduced. “Isn’t it funny? Like my name...hey, are you okay?”

“Have we met, Mistress?” Jamie asked, surprising me by speaking, since he’d been almost entirely silent this whole time, but I understood what he was feeling. I felt like I’d met this woman somewhere, but couldn’t place exactly where. Meanwhile, she was staring at us like we were ghosts and it was getting a little unnerving. 

“Jesus. H. Roosevelt Christ,” she whispered, and I felt Jamie flinch.

Jayme chuckled, a little awkwardly. “See what I mean?” She asked me.

“Could we talk upstairs?” The woman asked, her voice unsteady. “Jay and I have a suite…”

I looked at Jamie, who made a small gesture to inform me that it was up to me. It wasn’t like we had anywhere to go anyway, and a mother and daughter were unlikely to be much of a threat, so I nodded, and followed them up the steps, fully aware that the last time I did so had been either 3 years ago or 75 years ago, and with a different husband.

We entered a sitting area decorated in the same floral motif that Frank and my room had been all those years ago.

The older woman spun around to us, eyes wild. “My God…” she said. “What are you doing here?!”

“I…” I began, exchanging another confused look with Jamie. “I’m not sure…”

“It’s me ,” she said, looking on the verge of tears. “Don’t you know me?!”

“I’m verra sorry, Mistress,” Jamie said. “We...we don’t know you.”

She looked as if he’d slapped her, and honestly it rather broke my heart, even though I had no idea what was going on. I thought maybe that, for me at least, the reason I felt like I knew her was because she strongly resembled pictures I’d had of my mother, but the look she was giving us was more like a lost child.

“Mama,” Jayme said, touching her mother’s shoulder. “What’s going on? Who are these people?”

Jayme’s mother shook her head, rubbing quickly at her eyes. “I’m sorry, I just...I don’t understand how you’re here.”

“Here…” I hedged, unsure exactly what she knew. “In...Inverness?”

She propped a hand on her hip, seemingly frustrated with my evasiveness. “In the 21st century. The stones brought you here. But from when ?”

“Wow, Mom,” Jayme began. “What are you talking about? Are you drunk?”

She turned to her daughter. “Sweetheart, listen, the reason I brought you here is because there are things about our family that you don’t know. I was waiting for your grandmother to get here...look, I know this is impossible to understand, but if you can just hold on a bit, I swear I’ll explain everything.”

Jayme looked far from convinced, so her mother sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “If you go downstairs right now and stay in the lobby until I call you, you’ll only be grounded for one week…instead of four.”

Jayme appeared to consider that a moment before giving a teasing salute with her fingers. “Later.”

“I’m sorry…” I said after Jayme had left the room. “You know about the stones? Are you from another time like me? Like...us?”

She chuckled, and gave me a simple year, much like the only other traveler I’d ever met had, two years ago. “1806.”

I shook my head, barely able to believe it. “You’re from the past ?”

“I don’t know if I can be considered from any specific time. But yes, even though I spent much of my life in this century, the other will always be home.”

Jamie was shaking his head too, and I wondered if I needed to offer the poor man a chair. “And ye ken us? How? I know that Claire is able tae travel, but she never knew anything about me…”

She crossed her arms. “I think I should have kept my big mouth shut. I don’t know how this happened. Gr...Jamie, you should not be here . You can’t travel, you never could. It’s an inherited trait that you weren’t born with.”

“Well, clearly he can travel because he did,” I pointed out. “How do you know that it’s an inherited trait? I’ve only known one other like me, and she didn’t seem to know anymore than I did about how all this is supposed to work.”

“Geillis,” she said. “Yeah, I know. Look, Claire, if you haven’t figured it out yet, the year is 2020. A lot has happened. My family are all travelers and we’ve learned a lot about how it works and one thing that’s always been constant is that only those with the inherited trait can do it. This doesn’t make sense. Where...I mean... when did you come from?”

I crossed my arms as well, getting an odd look from Jamie for some reason. “Jamie was trying to send me back, because of Culloden.”

Her eyes went round. “Culloden?” She gasped. “Oh no…no, no, no…”

“Mistress…” Jamie said. “I think ye need tae be honest with us now.”

“This didn’t happen…” she continued, starting to sound rather crazed as she paced back and forth. “This isn’t right.”

“Mistress!”

“Don’t call me that!” She cried, stopping her pacing. “I was a leannan , or lass, or wee Mandy, not Mistress...I…” she trailed off and crumpled, and a strange part of me ached to comfort her. “Oh God, what am I doing? You’re...fuck, you’re not even ten years older than my daughter…”

She sat down hard on the small sofa, putting her head in her hands. After a pause, Jamie approached her slowly, like he would a startled mare, and touched her shoulder. “Lass,” he said. “We kent ye as a child, is that it? What are ye not telling us?”

“I shouldn’t,” she said. “I don’t think I’m supposed to tell you anything. This hasn’t happened before.”

“But it has happened,” I said. “And I think Jamie and I need all the information we can get.”

She looked up at me, eyes red. “You’re pregnant, right?”

I nodded, a sudden chill going through me as I touched my stomach. 

She smiled, though it was strained. “My name is Amanda Mackenzie. You’re carrying my mother.”

 

Chapter Text

“...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?”

“Oh...right.”

“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 sorry.”

“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.”

 

Chapter Text

It was the best sleep I’d had in months, but I was sure that had a lot to do with the warm, comfortable bed and the husband snoring away beside me. Safe, sound, and here with me.

I smiled down at him, not thinking I’d ever seen him sleeping quite so deeply, at least not without being very drunk the night before.

There was a soft knock at the door, and I was reminded where we were...and who it likely was. I slipped my shift on, wishing I had something cleaner, made sure Jamie was fully covered with the quilt, and opened the door.

“Morning,” Jayme chirped, although her cheerfulness seemed a little forced. I supposed that she and her mother’d had that talk the night before.

“Mom and I went out this morning and bought you and Jamie some clothes,” she said, then chuckled. “Didn’t figure you’d wanna go running around in your...uh...costumes…”

I smiled taking the plastic bags from her. “Thank you, Jayme.”

“Call me Jay,” she said. “Might be easier than trying to keep track of two Jamies in conversation. If you guys want, they’re serving breakfast downstairs.”

“I know,” I said without thinking.

Jayme raised a brow. “Yeah?”

“I um...I’ve been here before. Long ago. With my...erm...previous husband.”

Jayme’s mouth went wide as she said, “Ohhh. Frank, right? I’ve seen pictures of him, in Nana’s albums.”

“What?” I said, more sharply than I meant.

She blinked. “Nana’s dad...well...her stepdad, I guess? Looks like an old timey gangster in some of the pics.”

I’d understood that our daughter had gone to the 20th (21st?) century so that her husband could receive medical attention. How in their history had Frank become the stepfather of my and Jamie’s child? I wasn’t sure I even wanted to know.

“Sorry,” Jayme said, no doubt seeing my discomfort. “Mom and I will be downstairs whenever you guys are ready.”

With that, she fled, and I shut the door behind her.

“Was that th’ lass?” Jamie asked, sitting up. “Everything alright, Sassenach?”

“Yes,” I lied, but there was no sense in upsetting him with this right now. He was oddly happy about being here with our...granddaughters. Though I was still having a hell of a time wrapping my mind around it. “Jay brought us some clothes.”

Jamie poked through the bags curiously, (after poking the bag itself curiously.) “Canna tell what’s supposed tae be mine, or yours.”

I rolled my eyes at him. “The sizes aren’t tipping you off?”

For Jamie, Mandy and Jayme had picked out a pair of blue jeans, and a pair of cotton pants (either to sleep in, or perhaps in case the jeans didn’t fit,) along with a button down shirt and a couple of white undershirts, and a heavy brown leather jacket. Not at all unlike what I was used to seeing men wear in the 1940s, if a little more casual than usual.

For me, a pair of buttery soft leggings, a long cable-knit sweater, and a gray coat. They’d included everything else we could need as well; underwear, toothbrushes, combs, antiperspirant, razors, and more.

“Leave it to a mother to think of everything,” I said wryly.

Jamie held up the simple but rather skimpy flesh-colored brassiere between his finger and thumb. “What the devil…”

“That’s definitely for me,” I said, laughing as I snatched it away before gratefully shedding my grubby shift in favor of the soft undergarments.”

“Is that a corset ?” He asked, watching me dress in total fascination.

“Of a fashion,” I said laughingly. “Only considerably more comfortable. And this is astonishingly more comfortable than even I remember.”

The bra had none of the wire and shape I expected, but that meant that Mandy and Jayme hadn’t needed my exact size. It was a little big, but certainly did the trick for the moment.

Once I had the leggings and sweater on, Jamie continued to stare, but then frowned when I was done, looking around at the scattered clothing. “Is that it?”

“Other than the coat, yes. My own boots will be fine.”

He shook his head slowly. “Ye canna go out in public looking like that Sassenach. Th’ shirt…” he stood up, going to stand behind me. “It barely covers your arse! And those stockings show every curve of your legs! Ye might as well be naked! It isn’a decent!”

Honestly , Jamie!” I laughed. “How is this any different from what Mandy and Jay were wearing yesterday?”

“Jayme is scarcely more’n a bairn, no’ a marrit woman, like yourself.” he reasoned. “And Mandy was at least covered completely.”

“You want to stay in this time period?” I asked him. “Then you are just going to have to overcome your prudish sensibilities, Mr. Fraser.”

Jamie grumbled, but didn’t argue further, and I sat down to take my turn at watching him dress. 

“Wear the shorts,” I told him, opening the package and tossing him the pair of “boxer briefs” when he made to put the jeans on without them.

“Why?” He asked.

“One, those look like they might be a little tight, so it might be more comfortable for you. Two, I want to see you wearing them. Only them, for a moment, if you don’t mind.”

Shaking his head, Jamie obliged me, pulling on the underwear before standing before me with his hands on his hips. “Happy?”

“Very,” I said, smirking. “Now go on, they’re waiting for us.”

 

It was a good thing I restrained myself from tearing Jamie’s clothes off once he’d put them on, because I was starving for something more substantial than petrol station snacks. I understood Jamie’s feelings about my leggings, though, because the thought of other women getting a look at Jamie Fraser in a pair of tight jeans was uncomfortable, to say the least.

It was difficult to even reconcile the Highland warrior I’d known for three years with this thoroughly modern man. His long hair and short beard weren’t even out of place here, judging by the other young men I’d seen.

I’d convinced him to leave his sword in the room, insisting it wasn’t needed here, but his hand twitched over the area of his hip nervously as we descended the stairs.

Sure enough, heads turned as we entered the dining room, drawn to Jamie like always, but I could see the way the women (and a few of the men) eyed him from top to bottom.

“Nice,” Jayme said when we approached their table, although the way she said it made it sound more like “noice.”

Mandy was shaking her head, gesturing toward the empty chairs. “It’s so strange, seeing you dressed that way.”

“You’re telling me,” Jamie muttered, narrowing his eyes at me.

“Jamie doesn’t approve of leggings,” I explained.

Jayme grinned. “Yeah, that’s why I picked them. Wanted to see what Mr. 18th Century would think. Mom talked me out of the miniskirt.”

“It’s too cold,” Mandy said. “Besides, I’m not prepared to see my grandmother in a miniskirt.”

“So you did tell her,” I said to Mandy, opting to ignore the rest of that. “She seems to be taking it well.”

Mandy stared at her daughter. “I’m not sure she thinks it’s real.”

Jayme held up her hands. “Hey, if I can believe that our president is real, that flamingos are real, and that Zendaya is real, I can believe that my family is all time-hopping Whovians. I mean, this is the kind of secret that people Naruto-ran to Area 51 for.”

Jamie and I looked from Jayme to Mandy, who only shrugged. “Relax, I didn’t get most of that either.”

“So what now?” I asked, smiling as Jayme slid over a plate on pancakes. Jamie had bacon and eggs, but he was eyeing my pancakes so covetously I swapped our plates.

“Well,” Mandy began. “This was just a stop on our way. Jay and I were going to head out this morning. There are some important things we need to discuss, but I suppose it can wait until we get there.”

“Get where?” Jamie asked.

Mandy smiled at him. “Home, Grandda. Lallybroch.”

 

I knew that Jamie didn’t relish the prospect of another car ride, but he was alive with interest at seeing Lallybroch, some 300 years after the time he’d lived there.

I wondered if he realized what we were getting ourselves into. I didn’t know if he was prepared to see his home either in ruins or perhaps torn down entirely and replaced with something else. 

This time, instead of an “Uber,” Mandy had rented a car that morning while she and Jay were out shopping. She admitted though that she’d never had cause to drive in Europe, and so was accustomed to driving on the other side of the road.

A part of me wanted to offer to drive myself, wondering what it was like driving one of these new automobiles that went so quickly yet so smoothly, but I was too nervous.

We collected our belongings, Mandy informing us that we wouldn’t need to return to the hotel, and Jamie stared forlornly at the shower until I told him that hotels weren’t the only places that that had them.

The ride to Lallybroch wasn’t long compared to how long it would have taken on horseback, and Jamie’s motion sickness didn’t seem to be as effected by the smoothly rolling car, especially when Mandy invited him to sit in the front seat, apparently well aware of his issue.

Meanwhile, I sat beside Jayme, watching her with bemused interest.

Music was playing from her phone, and she was holding up to her face, mouthing along with the words.

It was a catchy tune, but strange to my ears, and I leaned over, wondering what Jayme was looking at.

In response, Jayme tilted the phone toward me and I was shocked to find myself staring into a mirror image of myself.

“How did you make it do that?” I asked, startled.

Jayme laughed, then pressed a button, which replayed the entire interaction.

“You can film motion pictures with that?!” I exclaimed.

Jayme laughed again. “We call them videos, but yeah. Come on, move your mouth along to the song.”

“I don’t know that song.”

She shrugged. “Okay, what’s a song you know?”

I eyed her skeptically. “Nothing I’m sure you could play on that.”

She eyed me back. “Try me.”

“Fine, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

Jayme’s thumbs made a minuscule keyboard appear on the screen, then they flew across it lightning fast and before I knew it, the familiar trumpet tune started clearer than I’d ever heard it before.

“Okay, now lip sync,” Jayme ordered. “Mouth along to it.”

I shook my head, uncomfortable with seeing myself recorded like that, but she pleaded and weedled until I gave in, getting vivid flashbacks of my very short stint as a stage performer. I thought perhaps I ought to tell her of it sometime; she would probably enjoy that story.

It was only a line, ‘he’s in the army now, blowing reveille, he’s the boogie woogie bugle boy of Company B ,” but that was all she needed before she was cackling merrily and replaying it. “Mom, guess what?” She said into the front seat. “I just got Claire to make a Tik Tok.”

Jamie twisted around in his seat, looking back at us with his brow furrowed. “Ye’re making clocks back there?”

That, evidentially, was positively uproarious to Jayme, who likely would have fallen out of her seat laughing had she not been strapped into it.

“I got that too! Oh, this is everything.”

“Jay,” Mandy said, her voice low and authoritative, eyeing her daughter through the rear view mirror. “Don’t go sharing those with people.”

“Why?” Jayme asked. “I just sent it to my friends, I didn’t make it public. And I just said that they were an aunt and uncle.”

Mandy scowled. “Jayme, no more. Claire and Jamie have no existence here, and we can’t afford to have anyone asking questions.”

Jayme rolled her eyes. “Mom, my friends are not going to ask questions…” she trailed off, looking at her phone. “Okay, well, Leanne has one. “Since when do you have the hottest aunt and uncle in history?”

“Hottest?” Jamie asked, bemused.

“That means she finds you attractive,” Mandy explained laughingly.

“Mmhm,” Jayme continued. “She says she thinks “Uncle Ginger” would treat her right but “Aunt God Yes” is free to murder her at any given time.”

“Jayme!” Mandy admonished. 

“I didn’t say it!”

I looked back and forth between them. “What in God’s name are you talking about?!”

Mandy shook her head. “I promise, it’s much better not to look that closely into it. You’ll only upset yourself.”

 

Jayme was content fiddling with her phone the rest of the drive, and I kept my eyes firmly away from it, a little afraid to accidentally get sight of whatever her friend was saying (because apparently you could type to people as well as call them,) or get pulled into another “video.”

I saw Jamie sit up straighter once we neared Lallybroch. The area wasn’t nearly as secluded as it once was, with houses and farms and businesses everywhere. But once we reached the familiar pathway, now paved over, it was just countryside again.

The archway was still as it always had been, and, astonishingly...so was the estate.

“It’s almost like we never left,” I said in awe.

“The inside will be different,” Mandy said. “My parents renovated it when I was little, and it's where we lived until I was four and we went back home.”

“Who has owned it since then?” Jamie asked, his laird eyes going over the estate appraisingly as he stepped out of the car.

“Mom left it to a family friend when we left,” Mandy said. “I don’t think she knew for sure whether or not if we would ever come back, but there was plenty of money in the estate that he was able to keep the place going right up until he died. His kids didn’t know what to do with it after that, so it just sat until my parents and I came back. Since they’d never actually had to put any money into it, and since our families were so close, they had no problem signing back over to Mom.”

“So Nana owns all of this ?” Jay asked breathily. “How come she lives in a condo in Florida?”

Mandy chuckled. “That’s where the doctors were, sweetheart. Trust me, neither your Nana or your Pop were thrilled about it, initially.”

I listened to them talk, but I looked at the stoop where I’d spent so much time, what felt like a lifetime ago. Rocking Jenny’s children, peeling potatoes, waiting for Jamie to come home.

I half expected wee Jamie or Rabby to come careening around the corner, perhaps with Fergus in tow. For Ian to shout at them to behave themselves, and for Jenny to call everyone inside for supper.

It was so quiet without all that, without the dogs and chickens and goats and horses and family. It seemed cold without the smell of cooking fires and drying herbs. Just a building, not a home.

And I knew that Jamie felt it too, so much more acutely than I. I slid my hand into his, intertwining our fingers.

“D’ye ken anything at all?” Jamie asked, voice gruff with emotion. “About those who were here before?”

“What do you want to know?” Mandy asked.

“Fergus,” I said, when Jamie didn’t immediately answer. “Do you know anything of him? Do you know if he made it to Lallybroch safely?”

Mandy chuckled. “You mean my favorite uncle? He was brought up here, married a girl from town, but settled in...well, with you.”

I surprised myself by letting out a sob, not having realized that I’d 

started to cry, but that worry had been in the back of my mind ever since I watched the little boy ride away, and I’d thought that I’d perhaps never know if he made it. Jamie put his arm around my shoulder, pulling me tighter to him.

“And Jenny and Ian?” He asked. “Their bairns?”

Mandy winced, and my stomach plummeted. “Look, I don’t know if I should…”

“Mandy, please, lass,” Jamie said. 

“Last I knew, Aunt Jenny was alive and kicking. But that of course was eighteen years ago for us. I’m afraid I never got the chance to meet Uncle Ian. Mom talked about him a lot, though. So did you.”

Jamie sighed. It was devastating to hear of Ian’s death, but we had to remind ourselves that at this point, they were all gone.

“You left the estate to their oldest, James,” Mandy continued, and Jamie nodded. He’d done that only a couple of days ago. “And it stayed in the Murray family for generations until it sort of fell by the wayside. Then Mom and Dad bought it when we came back when I was a baby.”

“Why did they come back?” I asked.

“Me,” she answered. “I was sick as a baby, and Mom said that you weren’t able to help, so they had to bring me.”

“But then you returned again?”

She nodded. “When I was four. There was a whole situation where my brother was thought to be kidnapped, but wasn’t, and Dad went back to find him so then the rest of us had to follow...I don’t really remember all of it, but we all wanted to be with you anyway. You were our family. So that time we stayed, until Dad’s health didn’t allow for it. We would have moved back here, but the best doctors were in the states.”

“So Jamie, you used to live here?” Jay asked, squinting up at the house.

“Aye,” he replied quietly. “I was laird here, once.”

We entered the house, where it was as Mandy said, the real differences began. Stone floors were covered in carpeting, that in itself needed replacing. The walls were covered in well-insulated drywall instead of tapestries. A flick of Mandy’s finger turned on electric lights that made Jamie flinch in surprise even though he’d dealt with them already at the hotel.

“So, you remember a completely different reality than what has happened to us,” I said, looking up at where part of the original stone wall was left untouched, a slash running through it, as if from a sword. I looked back at Mandy. “I should have gone through the stones without Jamie, shouldn’t I have?”

“Don’t say that,” Jamie said, blanching when Mandy answered.

“You went back to your own time,” she confirmed, hesitantly. “Gave birth to my mother, and lived your life for twenty years, all the while believing that Jamie died in Culloden.”

The phrase, ‘felt like someone walked over my grave’ had, up until that moment, only been just that. A figure of speech. But right then, I felt the sudden chill roll over me, the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, the distinct feeling that something had changed. What exactly had changed, I had no idea, but if felt bigger than me somehow. Otherworldly. I thought perhaps I had felt that way before...but when?

And then I remembered, it was the night before I went through the stones, when the power had gone out at Mrs. Baird’s and I was hurrying to light candles. I said it was to surprise Frank but something in the pit of my stomach hadn’t wanted to be in the dark. It wasn’t fear, exactly, just that otherworldly sense of differentness. And then I thought perhaps I’d had that feeling many times in my life, I just hadn’t given it a concrete thought before. 

“And...after twenty years?” Jamie asked, his voice tight.

“She went back to you,” Mandy said, smiling. “Mama and Dad followed not long after, had my brother and myself.”

“So this uncle that I’ve never met,” Jayme broke in suddenly. “You always said he lived in Scotland. I always assumed you just weren’t that close since he never even Skyped or anything. You’re saying he actually lives in 18th century Scotland?”

“He lives in North Carolina,” Mandy corrected. “And it’s the 19th century there now.”

I walked over to where Jamie was staring up at the same slash in the wall that I’d been looking at. “Are you alright?” I asked him. 

“No,” he answered bluntly. “Are you?”

“No,” I agreed. “We’d all but decided that we can’t change history, but now we’ve gone and done it without even trying. What does this mean?”

“It’s means we’ve been given a second chance,” Jamie said, turning to me and putting his hands on my arms.

“Have we?” I asked. “Or have we just messed everything up? Nothing will happen the way Mandy remembers, therefor nothing will turn out the same. Perhaps Mandy and Jayme won’t even exist.”

“But they do exist,” Jamie said. “They canna just cease to exist.”

“Can’t they?”

Jamie made a face, then looked back up at the wall. “Are ye saying ye wish to go back? And then return through the stones wi’out me? Put things to right?”

“No!” I exclaimed, then growled in frustration. “None of this makes any goddamned sense.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Mandy said, coming up behind me. “But we’ll work it out, you’ll see. One thing we know, is the time and place that the stones send you has to do with who is on the other side.”

“What d’ye mean?” Jamie asked.

“The first time Granny traveled, was to reach you, Grandda,” she continued. “Whether she knew it at the time or not. When she returned, it was because you sent her back to Frank to protect my mother. Mom went through to find Granny, and Dad to find Mom. I think, this time, you were called through, for Jayme. Maybe you can’t change the past, because it happened, and it happened the way it was supposed to. I can’t explain what’s happened here, but I have to believe that it was for a reason.”

“Then what do we do next?” I asked.

Mandy raised her shoulders, then let them drop. “I really don’t know. But, I know someone who might, and she’ll be here tomorrow.”

“Nana?” Jayme asked, perking up.

I swallowed, feeling nauseated, while Jamie appeared delighted. Meeting Mandy and Jayme were one thing, but meeting the daughter currently growing in my stomach didn’t feel right. And Mandy had said that you can’t travel to a place where you already exist. How did that work with unborn children?

There was also a niggling part of me that just didn’t want to see her. I wanted to see my baby . I wanted to watch her grow. I didn’t know how I felt about seeing a version of her old enough to be my own grandmother. Would it affect how I saw her when she was born? Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, I hadn’t even considered a name for her yet.

I guess I was about to find out, though.



Chapter Text

“I don’t know why I didn’t think to stop at a grocery store on the way,” Mandy said later, as she tapped at her own cellphone.

Jamie had offered to catch us a rabbit or such, but Jayme’s reaction to that had been equivalent to if Jamie had suggested we eat her .

“Oh, don’t be a priss,” Mandy teased. “You like meat, right?”

“Yeah, but I don’t have to see the process of how it gets to my plate.”

“Do people here no’ hunt?” Jamie asked.

“Only for sport, really,” Mandy answered. “It isn’t necessary, anymore.”

“Sport,” Jamie snorted. “Killin’ for food or protection is one thing. There’s no’ honor in killin’ animals for sport.”

I looked at him. “The Mackenzies had a boar hunt,” I pointed out. “That was sport, was it not?”

He smiled back at me. “And did I go on that hunt, Sassenach?”

I had to think back a moment, remembering, then realized no, he hadn’t.

“There is exactly one pizza place in deliverable distance,” Mandy declared. 

“I don’t think I’ve had pizza since before the war.”

“What war?” Jay asked.

“World War II,” Mandy said. “Granny was a combat nurse.”

“For real?” Jayme asked, eyebrows raised. “Cool! This is like, before women could be soldiers, right?”

“Women can be soldiers? ” Jamie asked. “Ye dinna mean they see battle?”

Mandy leaned forward on the sofa where she sat. “Women here do everything men do, Grandda,” she said, grinning. “They can be generals, politicians, you name it,” she gestured at me. “You already know they can be doctors.”

“Of course they can ,” Jamie said, but trailed off, no doubt sensing he’d only dig himself in further if he continued. Smart man.

“What do you do,” Mandy?” I asked her.

She smiled. “ Actually , I took a page out of your book. I’m a nurse.”

I grinned back at her, a curious warmth blooming in my chest.

She looked over at Jamie. “Now my brother? He is all you . I think my Dad might have liked him to turn out a bit more like him, but he was always just a mini Jamie Fraser.”

I cut my eyes over to Jamie, seeing the wistfulness in his. I knew, at that heart of it, the sex of our child didn’t matter to him. He wanted to be a father, plain and simple. But like any man, he of course longed for a son. Mandy had been fairly open with her family history, and had made no mention of us having another child, so I had to assume that the one I carried may be our last chance to raise one together.

After a time, there was a knock on the front door, and Mandy opened it to a wide-eyed delivery boy.

“Never been out here, b’fore!” he explained while Mandy exchanged her money for the flat boxes.

“What is it?” Jamie asked, though he almost looked like a dog, sniffing the air.

“Oh, my guy,” Jay said. “We’re about to rock your world, man.”

“Aye,” Jamie said, with that same tone of voice he always used with me when I said something he didn’t understand, but didn’t want to sound “daft” by asking about it.

It was better than I remembered, but I carefully watched for Jamie’s reaction to his first bite of the pepperoni pie. 

Ah Dhia ,” he breathed, eyes going round before promptly stuffing the entire slice into his mouth.

“Might should have sprung for three,” Mandy murmured before talking more clearly to Jamie. “Take it easy. You’re not used to this kind of food...I don’t want you to get sick.”

I huffed. “If the man can eat grass, he can probably handle pizza.”

 

He couldn’t.

“I think I’m havin’ a heart attack, Sassenach.”

Mandy told us that we could take the master bedroom, and had started to lead the way but Jamie had simply gone on, knowing these halls like the back of his hand, no matter how much they’d changed.

The laird’s bedroom was less changed than the rest of the house. The bed wasn’t the same, but it was of a similar style, and the general decor, or what was left of it, was clearly meant to reflect the original. 

I busied myself with putting fresh linens on the bed while Jamie made the task difficult by wallowing on it in agony.

“You have indigestion, Jamie,” I said, trying to shove him out of the way. “We told you not to eat so much.”

“But it was delicious.”

“Is that any reason to make a glutton out of yourself?”

The pout he gave me was positively childish, and I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. No sense encouraging him.

“Here,” I told him, handing him the calcium tablets Mandy had given me. “Eat these.”

He did, then sat up, staring over at the window. “I feel like I’m home...but I don’t.”

“I know what you mean,” I told him. “It isn’t the same without the family here.”

“But we do have family here,” he said, smiling wistfully. 

I gave him a strained smile back, then shooed him off the bed so I could finish making it. 

It wasn’t as if I didn’t like Mandy and Jay. On the contrary, I found myself becoming quite fond of them. But to me, they were friends. Every time Mandy called me Granny it felt like a punch to my stomach, a reminder that to everyone else, Jamie included, we were connected far more strongly than by simple friendship.

The question in my mind was why did it bother me so? Had I not always longed for a family to call my own? Those months living at Lallybroch with Jamie and Jenny and the rest were some of the happiest of my life.

Perhaps I just didn’t feel like I’d earned this one, yet.

“Strange how unchanged this room is, compared tae th’ others,” Jamie said, echoing my earlier thoughts.

My smile this time was more genuine. “Other than the en-suite washroom, you mean?”

He chuckled. “Aye,” he reached his hand down under the bed, where he and his father before him had always kept a blade. “There willn’a be a…” his eyes widened suddenly, and with a start, withdrew an ornate dagger.

It wasn’t Jamie’s father’s Viking sword, and this was hardly the original bed frame, so that only meant…

“Who put that there?” I wondered.

Jamie smiled. “It must ha’ been her.”

“Her…” I touched my stomach, unsure if the fluttering there was anxiety or sign of life.

“We’ll meet her,” Jamie said softly. It wasn’t a question. 

I nodded, unsure what to say. I knew he was excited. I didn’t want to damper that at all.

“You don’t want to,” he said, able to read me, as always.

“Of course I do,” I said. “But I want to meet her ,” I touched my belly again.

“This is a gift, Sassenach,” he said, taking my hand, kissing my fingers. “A look into our future.”

I nodded again, unwilling to voice my thoughts.

Jamie sighed, then stood up, running a hand over his face. “I need a shave,” he said. “Think I can find a razor around?”

“Mandy included some in the things she bought us,” I told him, going to the plastic bags in the corner. 

That ?” Jamie asked, wrinkling his nose when I showed him the package of plastic blue razors. 

I chuckled and waved him in the direction of the washroom. “Go on, I’ll help.”

I pushed Jamie to sit on the closed toilet lid, startling him when I dispensed some shaving cream into my hand.

“Relax,” I murmured with a smile, running the surprisingly lightweight razor across his cheek. I’d shaved him before, with a straight edge of course, but his reaction now was the same; slanted cat-like eyes squinted to slits as he watched me, breathing deep in a way that I knew was him smelling me, enjoying my closeness.

“Women in these times seem to keep everything shaved, like in my own,” I informed him, tilting his face in the direction I wanted it.

Jamie huffed. “Pointless, if ye ask me.”

“Why? You like to keep your face smooth. Women here tend to show off a lot of body parts. Why shouldn’t they like to keep them smooth as well?”

He narrowed his eyes at me. “Because in my opinion, those parts are for their husbands’ eyes, no’ the world.”

“Why?” I asked again. “You show your legs in a kilt. Men never hesitate to shed their shirts. Why is it any different?”

“I...because…” as I knew he wouldn’t, Jamie didn’t have an answer, and I chuckled, letting him off the hook for the moment.

“You’re taking everything remarkably well, you know,” I said. “I would expect a man from the 18th century to be a bit more thrown for a loop by all of this. I wouldn’t even blame you for being frightened.”

His smile was sweet and loving as he put his hands on my hips, pulling me a little closer. “Because you’re wi’ me, Sassenach. What have I tae be afraid of, when we’re together?”

 

“Nana texted during the night,” I overheard Jay saying to her mother the next morning. “She was just checking in, saying she was waiting for her next flight.”

“Oh, good,” Mandy said as I snuck past the sitting room and into the kitchen. “I’ll need to leave around noon to pick her up from the airport.”

“Have you told her yet? About...you know.”

I paused in the doorway to the kitchen, listening.

“No,” Mandy sighed. “I just wasn’t sure what to say. I told her that we had a bit of a situation to figure out, but that’s all. I thought maybe it’d be better to explain on the car ride here.”

“Yeah,” Jay agreed. “No easy way to tell your mom that her dead parents are here.”

Shuddering, I escaped out the back door, anxious to leave their conversation behind.

I’d left Jamie asleep, glad about the amount of rest he was managing to get. It was long overdue. 

But I was hardly able to rest at all, and so not to risk disturbing him, I thought perhaps I would look at the garden, and see what sort of shape it was in.

It was obviously very overgrown, but I could tell that it had been well taken care of in the not-too distant past.

Had it been her? I knelt in what must have been an herb garden once, as it was still alive with the fragrance of rosemary and sage. 

There was little point in it; Jamie and I couldn’t very well stay here, but it was comforting, putting my hands in the dirt and making a start at bringing the herb garden back to its former glory.

The time slipped by, absorbed as I was in the plants and weeds. The sun rose higher, warm enough to make sweat break out on my brow that was quickly whisked away by the cool breeze. 

“You look just like your grandmother you know, sitting there.”

My entire body froze, even as the world turned on its axis. It was a feeling remarkably like that of when I went through the stones, like the ground was pulled out from under me like a rug, and my skin prickled and tingled like I’d stuck my finger into an electrical socket.

A sense of wrongness. A sense of rightness. All warring within me like a storm.

“Mandy?” the voice said again, tinged with concern.

I stood up, slowly, petrified of turning around, though at the same time I was pulled to, as if I were attached to a string, tugging me toward her.

When I turned, I kept my eyes down, seeing first a pair of feet in a pair of sensible black shoes. Those shoes took a sudden step back, and there was an intake of breath, and I looked up.

She was beautiful .

Tall and stately, with a natural youthfulness at odds with the lines on her angular face. That face was framed with soft, close-cropped curls in a light blonde of the sort that one could tell was once a vibrant red.

When I finally managed to meet her eyes, I found that if you took every one of the most beautiful physical aspects of Jamie and put them on a woman, that would create the person before me.

Those familiar cat-like eyes, however, were widened in horror and disbelief before they squeezed shut, and she shook her head, as if expecting me to disappear when she opened them next.

When I was still standing there when she opened her eyes, she took another step back. “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ…” she whispered. “I’ve finally lost it.”

“Not quite,” I said, and she jumped at the sound of my voice. “No more than I have, at least.”

For a long moment, she only stared at me like I was a unicorn. A unicorn that was about to launch an attack at any second. Or perhaps like a parent that had already died.

“How…” she began. “ How?”

I raised my shoulders, and let them drop. “I don’t know. We came through the stones, and found Mandy and Jay. None of us have any clue what’s happened.”

“You’re real?” she whispered, turning her head and looking at me from the corner of her eye, like Jamie did sometimes. 

I nodded, not sure what else to say.

I wasn’t even aware of her moving closer until I was in her strong arms, feeling her tears against my neck. 

“Mama,” she whimpered, sounding so like a little girl and not the mature woman she was that my heart absolutely shattered, and my own arms came around her at once, cradling her head in my hand.

My baby .






Chapter Text

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.”

 

Chapter Text

“How’s Granny?” Mandy asked as Brianna came back downstairs.

“Resting,” Brianna said, removing her glasses to rub the bridge of her nose. “Da’s with her. How could this happen?”

“Everyone keeps asking that,” Jay said, resting her elbows on the kitchen table. “But what good does asking “why” do? It happened, but me and Mom didn’t poof out of existence, did we? So what does it matter?”

“It matters ,” Brianna said. “We know from experience that my mother made small changes in history wherever she went, but they were still changes . We may not even know yet the full weight of what this has done. Now that they know they’d be faced with twenty years apart when they didn’t have to be, there’s no way they’d do it willingly !”

“Would you really ask that of them?” Mandy asked. “I know you loved Grandfather, but imagine how it might have been for you, raised by Grandda.”

“It’s not just Daddy,” Brianna said, sitting down. “If Mama doesn’t go back to the twentieth century, she’ll never become a surgeon, and that was always such an important part of her life. Even she admitted that to me. And you both are forgetting the very important point of me meeting your father! Maybe I could live with giving up my life with Daddy, but I can’t give up my life with Roger, or you, and Jem. And the Mama and Da I knew wouldn’t either.”

“But they’re not the parents you knew,” Mandy pointed out softly. “They’re a pair of scared, tired young people who have nothing left in the world except each other and an unborn baby.”

Brianna sighed. “I know. God, at first seeing them, seeing them so young took my breath away, but then I looked closer, and saw how thin and gaunt they are, especially Mama. I knew from what I was told that the march to Culloden was hell but…”

“Can we at least try to put away all the “what-ifs” of this whole situation for a while?” Mandy asked, covering Brianna’s hand with her own. “As far as we can tell, you’re safe until she gives birth. She’s only around four months along, so there’s time. She needs rest, Mom. Rest, and nourishment, and safe place to have it. So does Grandda for that matter. Speaking as a nurse, I can’t ask them to make any sort of decision until they’ve had a chance to recuperate.”

“No, you’re right, of course,” Brianna said. “I don’t think Mama even can travel right now, not safely. But we can’t wait too long either. I have no idea what effect the stones would have on someone who’s heavily pregnant.”

“Damn,” Jay said, shaking her head. “This sure is convoluted.”

Brianna whipped around to her granddaughter, eyes narrowing. “Yes, it is, and I am going to ignore your language, but you and I are about to have a very long talk about you running off in the middle of the night with a strange man.”

Jay gulped. “Mom?”

Mandy smiled serenely. “Don’t look at me, darling. I told you your grandmother was going to have something to say about this.”

 

I heard a rhythmic knocking on the door, a beat I didn’t recognize but thought it must be a song. “Come in, Jay,” I said, sitting up in bed.

“How’d you know it was me?” she asked, opening the door and skipping into the bedroom.

“Lucky guess,” I chuckled.

“Nana told me to come wake you guys up for supper.”

“Supper?” Jamie asked, propping himself up on one hand and rubbing his eye with the other. He looked out the window. “Christ! The day has gone!”

“My mom said your bodies are recuperating,” she said, then gave a yelp and spun around when Jamie started to push back the covers and they fell off his bare chest. “ Please tell me you’re not naked!”

“He’s wearing pants, Jay,” I laughed. “But be aware for next time that normally he doesn’t.”

Jay turned back around and froze, and I knew without having to look, that she’d caught sight of Jamie’s back. “Whoa.”

Jamie looked over his shoulder at her, then pulled on his shirt. “Dinna fash,” he said. “Doesn’a pain me.”

“Looks like they had to at some point,” she said, then shrugged. “They look pretty cool now, though.”

Jamie gave her a curious look and Jay came and plopped down on the bed beside me. I smiled at both her reaction to Jamie’s scars, and her easy nature around us.

“I was hoping to go explore Broch Mordha with you guys tomorrow,” she said. 

“I’d like that,” I said. “What do you think, Jamie? Think you can handle it?”

“I think there’s little left that can surprise me,” he said with a smirk.

“I was hoping ,” Jay repeated. “But Nana grounded me.”

“Grounded?” Jamie asked. “What d’ye mean by that?”

“She means she’s being punished,” I explained, arching a brow. “For running off with that boy, I assume.”

“Well, you’re her parents!” Jay cried. “Can’t you make her let me off?”

“Would ye rather a thrashing?” Jamie asked. “Be over a lot faster.”

“A what now?” Jay asked, blinking slowly. 

“A spanking,” I said. “And he’s joking...sort of.”

With a long sigh, Jay rolled over and pulled her phone out of her pocket. “If only Leanne could have heard that one. Smile, Grandda!”

Jay held up her phone quickly, and I could see her capture Jamie’s bemused expression. 

“Jayme, stop that,” I said.

“I’m not sending it to anyone!” she said. “But if you guys don’t stay here forever, I want something to remember you by.”

“And Jamie frowning at you from over his shoulder is what you want to remember?”

“It’s called candid ,” she said with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. “I can take more of you, real ones if you want, and print them out so you can take them with you.”

I smiled. “I’d rather some of you .”

“Easy!” she exclaimed, rolling back over my legs. “Selfie!”

What ?” I asked, trying to dodge away from what I thought was another TikTok

“No, no, smile!”

With a roll of my own eyes, I leaned around her head and smiled, watching the image captured in a second. 

“We could take a bunch more,” she sighed dreamily. “In Broch Mordha.”

Sighing deeply, I nudged her off me. “I’ll talk to them.”

Jay squeaked excitedly and kissed my cheek. “Thanks, Sassy!” she called as she bounded out.

“Every time she leaves a room, I get the uncanny feeling that I didn’t understand a thing that happened,” I said. “Is that how you feel with me sometimes? And what did she just call me?” I looked over at Jamie, who was laughing. “What?”

I’ll talk tae them , ye said. She did wrong, Sassenach, and she does deserve tae be punished. Ye’ll no’ be able tae discipline this bairn at all, will ye?” he pointed at my stomach.

“You don’t know that!” I said defensively. “These are extenuating circumstances, and we don’t know how long we have to spend with them! Jay can be grounded later .”

“Ye’re verra fond of her,” Jamie said, still smiling.

“Of course I am! She’s my…” I trailed off, realizing what I was about to say. Obviously it hadn’t escaped my husband how uncomfortable I was with acknowledging our relation to the three women downstairs. 

“Oh hush,” I scoffed, whirling about to head downstairs.

 

“How are you feeling?” Mandy asked as we came downstairs. 

“Better,” I said. “Dinner smells good.”

“Roast, vegetables, and potatoes,” Brianna said. “I thought something a bit more... traditional was in order after Da’s experience with pizza last night.”

“Ye might be right,” Jamie said. “But it was good.”

Brianna smiled at him. “Yeah, well, I also made brownies.”

“Dinna ken what that is,” he said. “But if it’s as good a Pizza , I’ll eat it.”

I sat down at the table next to Jay, who was giving me a meaningful look. “Jamie and I thought we’d like to see Broch Mordha,” I said. “See how it’s changed.”

Mandy gave me a skeptical look. “Are you sure about that? I don’t know if you’re ready to be let loose on the world.”

“Well, I thought Jay could take us,” I said.

Brianna narrowed her eyes. “Jay’s grounded.”

From the corner of my eye, I saw Jay start to speak, and I laid a hand on her knee. “Now, isn’t this her vacation? And God knows how long we’ll be here…” I trailed off, then squared my shoulders. “I want Jay to take us,” I said more firmly.

Brianna, Mandy, and Jamie all exchanged a wide-eyed look.

Brianna stared me down a moment, before her faced relaxed into a smile. “Yes, ma’am.”

“It worked !” Jay whispered, and I hissed at her to shut up. 

“It always did,” Mandy said, resting her chin on her hand. “Back when Jem’s kids were growing up, what Nana said went. Unless Granny was around, of course.”

“And what of Grandda?” Jamie asked indignantly.

Brianna put a hand on his shoulder. “Do you really need to ask?”

He looked at me. “No. What Granny says, goes, aye?”

“Do you really want to go to Broch Mordha, Da?” Brianna asked. “I thought maybe you’d like to go hunting tomorrow.”

I grinned at the way Jamie perked up. “Wi’ you, ye mean? Are ye saying ye hunt, lass?”

“Oh, well, it’s been some years, but yeah, of course! I checked, and our old rifles are still locked up in the storage shed.”

Jamie looked to me hopefully, and I put my other hand on his knee. “You go,” I said. “Jay and I will be just fine on our own.”

“Are you sure you should be traipsing out in the woods, Mom?” Mandy asked. 

“I’ll have you know, my doctor gave me a full bill of health just before I flew here,” Brianna said, her chin tilted up. 

“I’ll look after her,” Jamie said softly.

Mandy smiled at him. “But that reminds me, I want to make an appointment with a doctor here, for Granny.”

“But ye’re a healer,” Jamie said. 

“I’m a nurse, but I don’t have the equipment here necessary to see to Gran’s health.”

“She’s right, Jamie,” I said. “Better safe, than sorry. But what about all the questions we won’t have answers to?”

“I’ll see to it,” she said evasively. 

“What will you do tomorrow?” Jamie asked.

“I think I’ll just stay here and do some tidying up,” she said. “And maybe enjoy some peace and quiet and hope my mother and daughter don’t get you two into trouble,” she took a sip of her wine, muttering under her breath as she did so. “Or vice versa.”

 

Chapter Text

The cab dropped us off in the middle of town, and I stepped out, aghast - despite having been prepared - of just how busy it was. People rushed around like they were in a hurry, and I supposed that wasn’t so different than places like London in my time, but after so long spent in the past, I just wasn’t so used to...well...the noise. Not anymore.

“Oh, this is cool,” Jay said, looking all around. “A lot less touristy than Inverness.”

A pair of young men walked by us, craning their head around as they went, smiling at us.

Jay smiled back, and wiggled her fingers at them. “Ugh, they’re looking at you, not me.”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “It doesn’t matter anyway, boys are what got you into trouble to start with.”

“Boys are the reason I found you ,” she shot back. “It’s too bad you’re married.”

I frowned at that strange non sequitur. “I’m sorry?”

“If you were single, then we could both get some action!”

“Jay!” I admonished. “You’re sixteen years old. That’s way too young to be getting action .”

“Oh, come on ,” she groaned. “How old were you then, when you lost your virginity?”

I thought back, then scowled. “Not much older than you, but it was a different time and…”

“I know, I know, you were married.”

“Well...no.”

Jay turned to me with wide eyes. “Wait, Frank wasn’t your first?!”

I bit my lip and inwardly groaned. Me and my big mouth. “No, he wasn’t.”

“Oh my God, Sassy! Does Nana know that?! Does Jamie?!”

“Jamie, yes,” I replied. “As for Nana...how in God’s name should I know?!”

“Oh, yeah, forgot. Well what other scandalous things have you done that I shouldn’t know about?”

I thought a moment. “Well, first of all, why have you been calling me Sassy?”

Jay blushed slightly, and shrugged one shoulder. “Well, I don’t feel right calling you Claire, but I can’t very well go around out here calling a thirty-year-old Granny, either, can I? Grandda calls you Sassenach, so...do you mind?”

I gave it a thought, then smiled. “No, I don’t mind.”

“Good,” she said. “Oh, look! Ice cream! Let’s get some, and you can spill the tea.”

“Spill the tea?”

“Oh, you know! Spill! Dish! Tell some stories!”

I laughed, then linked my arm through hers. “Oh, very well. I haven’t had ice cream since before the war! And then I’ll tell you all about a friend of mine from Paris named Louise.”

 

~~~

 

Jamie followed behind Brianna, marveling at how easily and confidently she traversed the countryside. Mandy had taken him aside before they left, asking him to just make sure she didn’t over-exert herself, but as far as he could tell, she was perfectly fit, especially for a woman her age. 

He was hyper-aware of her though, in a way he’d never been with anyone but Claire. Ever mindful he was of her every step, eyes scanning the region for possible danger or hazard. And at the same time, he just felt amazed at how very beautiful she was. 

“The caves are this way,” she said. “Sometimes deer graze around them.”

“Ye ken your way around well,” Jamie said. 

She smiled. “Yeah, well, Roger and I lived here, for a time.”

“Aye, Mandy told us. I’m glad, that in the end, Lallybroch did belong tae a Fraser.”

“We’re thinking about going back,” she said suddenly. “Don’t...don’t say anything to Jay, because we haven’t talked to her about it yet, but that was the whole point of us coming here to start with, to tell her the whole truth, and hopefully see that she can travel too, and if she can, go back home. I miss Jem, and my other grandkids, and Fergus and Marsali, and Ian and Rachel, and W…” she trailed off, giving him a peculiar look before shaking her head and continuing. “There’s really nothing left for us in this time anymore. Everyone we love is there . I guess the only thing making it hard to go back, besides convincing Jay to agree, is this place. I don’t want it to fall to disrepair again, or worse, get paved over and a parking lot put in.”

“One thing I realized since marrying your mother,” Jamie said. “Is that home isn’a a place. It’s being wi’ those ye love. There was a time when going back tae Lallybroch and taking up my place as Laird was all I wanted in th’ world. But then I found Claire, and it just didn’a seem to matter much anymore.”

“That’s not wholly true,” Brianna said, smiling. “You still love the place.”

Jamie smiled back. “Oh, aye, I do. But just knowing that it’s here , that it still stands over 250 years later, that my sister’s family, and then my family lived within its walls, that my grandchildren roamed its hills, is enough for me. Even if they pave it over tomorrow and turn it into a... Parking Lot , it’s enough.”

Brianna looped her arm through his. “Jem’s going to be so jealous when we tell him about all this. You were his hero, you know.”

“I hope I get tae meet him someday,” Jamie said. “Will ye tell me about him? And Fergus, and his wife, and Young Ian? I dinna ken if I’ll ever know for myself. And this...Roger, I’d like tae hear about him, as well.”

Brianna chuckled. “Well, alright. I suppose there’s no harm in it at this point…”

 

~~~

 

After ice cream, and regaling a captivated Jayme about the exploits of Louise de la Toure and Prince Charlie, as well as Versailles espionage and body waxing, we continued on to some of the shops, where I became enamored with a black leather jacket for men.

“You’re right,” Jay said. “Give Jamiff that and a pair of sunglasses, and he’d look awesome.”

“Jamiff?” I asked. “Oh, is that a play on that silly acronym you gave him?”

“That was my Grandpa who did that and, yes, I’ve decided that’s his new name. Wanna take bets on how long it takes him to notice?”

I chuckled. “You’re on.”

“You’re not feeling tired are you?” she asked. “My mom told me to make sure you take lots of breaks and don’t overdo it.”

“I feel fine,” I told her with a smile. “I’m pregnant, not ill.”

“But tell me if you get tired,” she said, looking like her mother as she did so. We strolled on to the next shop, and I stopped short at the sight of a pretty blue vase in the window.

“What is it?”

I shook my head. “Nothing. Just...I remember seeing a vase like that, right before I went through the stones for the first time. I considered buying it, and for some reason I’ve always felt like if I had, that things would have happened differently. I know, that sounds silly.”

“Not really,” Jay said. “Isn’t that was Nana keeps saying? That our choices in life impact history, even the small ones? Maybe you feel that way, because it’s true. If you’d gone in, and bought the vase, you never would have gone back in time. But you were supposed to go back. Nana said you changed history wherever you went, just by being in the wrong time, but I don’t think you were in the wrong time. I think you were always where you were supposed to be, and even now that things have changed, everything will still end up the way it should.”

“But how can we be sure?” I asked.

She shrugged. “I guess you can’t. You know what I really think?”

I shook my head.

Jay looked back into the window at the vase, her brow furrowed in thought. “I kinda feel like it’s not about the rest of us, not really. Not saying we don’t matter , but...I think it’s about you and Jamie. In Nana’s history, you were apart, but you found each other again. I think , that in the end, as long as you two are together, the rest works itself out.”

I smiled, though it was a little wobbly. “I sure do want to believe you’re right, Jayme. Because I don’t see any other way for us, but together.”

“Want me to buy you the vase?”

I chuckled and shook my head. “No, thank you. Besides, I still haven’t got a home for it.”

She took my hand and led me on, but the next shop was just a tattoo parlor. 

“I want to get a tattoo so bad,” she said. “But I can’t without my mom’s permission until I’m eighteen. Hey…”

“Oh no,” I cut her off, laughing. “Don’t even bother. I helped get you out of your well deserved punishment, but I am not helping you get a tattoo against your mother’s wishes.”

“But I meant lets both get one!” she exclaimed, tugging on my arm.

I spluttered at her in shock. “What? I don’t want a tattoo!”

“Just a tiny one!” Jay wheedled. “We could get matching ones! Come on, come on ! Just think about it! You can’t stay here forever, we know you’ll have to leave before the baby is born because we live in a convoluted fanfiction and, let’s be real here, we’ll never see each other again, which, really really sucks because you’re the most awesome great-grandmother in history. It’ll be something we can remember each other by!”

I could believe the fact that this child was actually making me consider it. “Well, what about the photographs you talked about?”

“Those’ll fade, or you could lose them! Something real small, and hidden, and nothing decade-specific so you don’t get burned at the stake or something. Like this!” she held up my hand, where the still-healing J sat below my thumb that I’d begged Jamie to carve there when I thought I’d never see him again, so that I’d have something physical to take with me forever. “Nana told me about these. Jammif has a C on his palm, right? Most romantic fucking thing ever, and I knew about that long before I knew about all this other...stuff.”

“But...a tattoo ,” I hedged. “You’re only sixteen. You could very much regret it later on.”

Jay dropped my hand, and tilted her head. “I could never regret having a reminder of you, Sassy.”

Something in the way she said “Sassy,” with a childlike inflection, made it seem every bit as loving as calling someone “Mama,” and it was strange how warm it made me feel.

“What...what would we even get ?”

“What’s something that’s you ?”

 

A few hours later, we walked out of the shop hand-in-hand, although my free hand was on my forehead.

“Your mother is going to kill me,” I muttered. “And then her mother, and then Jamie.”

“Nah, he’ll like it!” Jay chirped happily. “And Mom and Nana can’t kill you. We’ve well-established why that wouldn’t be a good idea. Besides, I don’t plan on either of them knowing, not right away at least. That guy didn’t even think twice when you said you were my mother! If he only knew!”

“Well, there does seem to be a family resemblance,” I admitted. “You were very brave, you know. That damned well hurt .”

“Yeah, but worth it!” she looked up at me and squeezed my hand. “Thanks.”

“You paid for it,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but I mean, I just want you to know I meant it, okay? I wasn’t just using you to get a tattoo out of it. I’m glad I’ll always have this to remember you by. This and...well, today.”

I smiled back, but looked away, worried I might cry. “I’m glad too, Jayme. If nothing else good came from all this happening... this was.”

I took a deep breath, then tried to shake off the emotion. “Now, come on. This tattoo hurts like hell and your grandmother,” I pointed at my abdomen. “Wants french fries to take our mind off it, and possibly some whisky, and yes, you can have some.”

“Can’t leave poor baby Nana wanting!” Jay exclaimed, pointing to a pub across the street. “But...you do know that pregnant women shouldn’t drink, right?”

 

~~~

 

Brianna groaned as the buck leapt safely away. “I guess I’m just gonna have to admit it,” she said resignedly. “My eyesight isn’t what it used to be. I’m getting old.”

“Nah,” Jamie said, playfully nudging her shoulder. “That wily old thing was just too quick.”

“Come on, Da, can’t you lie to me better than that?”

Jamie chuckled. “I only hope I’m fit tae run and hunt when I’m seventy-five, and no’ a feeble old coot.”

“Murtagh was the old coot, Da, not you.”

“He remained wi’ us, then? Murtagh?”

Brianna smiled, but Jamie could see that it was a little sad. “Of course.”

“And…” Jamie hesitated, wondering if he even wanted to know. “How old was I when I...when I…”

“Da, no,” Brianna said firmly. “We’re not talking about that. Your life is yours to live, and I’ll not have you marking a day of your death. Trust me, we’ve been through that, and it was hard on all of us.”

“But we were auld, Claire and I?”

Brianna sighed, and nodded. “You lived good lives. It wasn’t easy getting there, but it was good .”

“Good,” Jamie echoed softly. “Except for twenty years wi’out your mam, or you.”

“Da,” she groaned. “Look, Mandy and I agree, we don’t think you or Mama should try to make any decisions until you’ve had a chance to heal. And I can’t...I can’t try and force you one way or the other.”

“But ye can give me th’ details I need,” he said. “Claire and I learned in France that we canna change history, but we can change our lives. I’ll have ye know, lass, that I’ll no’ be parting from your mother. I’m sorry, I ken ye loved Frank, but I’ll be raising my daughter myself.”

Brianna didn’t respond, but set her gun down and threw her arms around his neck. 

Jamie hugged her tightly, then pulled back and tapped her chin with his finger. “Have I ever told ye about th’ first time my da took me hunting wi’ my brother, Willie?”

Brianna’s eyes sparkled. “What? No! Tell me!”

Jamie chuckled. “Well, I didn’a shoot a thing...save Da’s foot…”

 

~~~

 

“Did you have a nice time with Brianna today?” I asked that night, as we readied for bed. I sat at the old vanity table, lightly combing at the tangles in my hair.

“Oh, aye,” he said with a smile. “She’s a braw woman...like her mother.”

I grinned at him, and accepted his kiss, then leaned back as he bent over to press another kiss to my stomach.

“I was just imagining how I would feel, if my Uncle Lamb suddenly appeared, as young and healthy as I remembered him as a child. It would mean the world to me, so I can only imagine how it is for her.”

“Means quite a bit tae me, too,” Jamie said. “And you? How was your time wi’ Jay? Didn’a get in tae too much trouble, did ye?”

“Well…” I sang. “Depends on your definition of “trouble.”

Jamie squinted his eyes at me. “What did th’ wee troublemaker do?”

Biting my lower lip, I unbuttoned my blouse, then slid it off my shoulders.

“What happened?” Jamie asked in concern, resting his hand on my shoulder, along the outside of the white bandage there.

“It’s fine,” I said nervously. “Take the bandage off.”

Carefully and gently, Jamie peeled off the stick-on bandage. I couldn’t see his face the way I was turned, but I heard his slight intake of breath.

“Sassenach...what did ye do?”

“It’s uh...a tattoo.”

Jamie leaned around my shoulder, glaring at me. “I ken what a tattoo is. Is it permanent?”

“I thought you kent what a tattoo is,” I teased him, then grew serious when he didn’t laugh. “Yes, it’s permanent. Jay and I...we...we both got one.”

“Christ! Sassenach, ye let that child permanently mark her body?! Why would ye do that?”

“Same reason we did this,” I took his hand, pressing my thumb into the C-shaped scar there. “It was her idea, and I admit, I let her goad me into it. But I don’t regret it. Look at it again.”

Jamie leaned into closer to my shoulder, and I felt the slight sting of him brushing a finger over it. 

Small enough it could almost be mistaken for a birthmark from a distance, was an amber colored dragonfly, made up of delicate Celtic knots.

“There’s a J woven into the wing,” Jamie said. 

“I have two on my body now,” I said softly. “One for you, and one for her. Look at the opposite wing.”

He chuckled. “2020. It’s a bonny thing, Sassenach.”

I craned my head around to see him. “Then you don’t mind it?”

“Nah,” he gave me a loving smile, then leaned in and kissed the tattoo. “No I...I find I rather like it indeed, mo nighean donn .”

Judging by the way he seemed rather transfixed by the little dragonfly, I could see he did indeed like it, and I smiled.

“Jay has the same?” he asked.

I nodded. “Only with a C on her’s. Hopefully her mother and grandmother won’t see it until after we leave.”

Jamie made a sound in his throat, and kissed my shoulder again. “I ken Mandy and Brianna think we need tae take some time before we make a decision, but we need tae talk about it, Sassenach.”

“I know,” I sighed. “It’s only going to get harder, the longer we’re here. But I just don’t know what to do.”

Jamie pulled up a foot stool to sit beside me, the height advantage giving me the chance to see him looking up at me, the firelight dancing in his beautiful eyes. “I’ll no’ leave ye, mo cridhe , or let ye leave me, not this time. I dinna care about th’ cost...and I feel like th’ worst sort of person for it.”

“Don’t,” I told him, cupping his whiskery cheek in my palm. “Don’t feel badly for wanting to be happy , and for wanting your wife and child to be with you, and safe. Truth is, no matter what happens, we go through life every day never knowing what could happen. Jayme seems to believe that the path is written, and whatever is supposed to happen, will. And I think I agree with her. We can’t obsess over making things right the way Brianna sees them. We have to find our own sense of “right.”

“But dinna we owe it to her tae try ?” he asked. “If we stayed here, or went back tae our own time, Brianna wouldn’a marry Roger, and Mandy and Jay willn’a exist. They canna.”

The thought of Jay not existing hit me like a punch to the stomach. Even though I knew I wouldn’t live to meet her again, I simply couldn’t imagine being able to live with myself knowing I created a world where she and Mandy didn’t have a chance to come into it.

“So what are our choices?” I asked. “How in the world can we possibly assure this child will grow up and marry a man we’ve never met?”

Jamie raised an eyebrow. “According tae Bree, ye ken Roger already.”

“I…” I shook my head, both caught short by what he’d said, and his sweet nickname for Brianna. “I do?”

“Aye, she told me about him today. He’s th’ son of a man ye met in Scotland before ye went through th’ stones. A Reverend...Wakefield.”

“Wh... that Roger?!” I exclaimed, remembering well the adorable, cherub-cheeked boy who ran about the Reverend’s home asking for biscuits. “She married that Roger?” I shook my head. “No. You’re saying the only way to assure Mandy and Jay’s lives are to go back and let Frank raise this child. I can’t do that, Jamie.”

“No, I know,” he said, sighing. “I just dinna ken what to do.”

“Me either,” standing and stretching my back, I took my shirt the rest of the way off and reached for my shift. “Mandy made an appointment for me to see a doctor tomorrow,” I said. “I suppose she’s given some sort of story that will allow me to be seen without too many questions.”

I could feel Jamie’s eyes on me, and knew that he was watching me change with interest. “I should go wi’ ye.”

“Might be better if you don’t,” I said. “A doctor’s office here will no doubt overwhelm you, and you would not be comfortable with the sort of examination I’ll be getting. Brianna seems intent on taking me,” I chuckled. “A bit of an odd, poetic loop, isn’t it?”

“Aye,” he agreed, but I could tell that he’d stopped following the conversation. “That tattoo is bonny. I’d never have expected tae like it.”

I grinned at him over my shoulder. “I rather thought you might, after a time. Would you like to come look at it again?”

Jamie stood up and wrapped his arms around me from behind. “Perhaps I should get one, too. Would ye like that?”

I chuckled. “Only if it was in a place only I could see, just like I don’t intend many people to see this one, but you. Jamie?”

“Mhmm?” he hummed, his mouth busy giving me a brand new mark on the side of my neck.

“I think you’d best go lock the door. Won’t do to have Jay wake us again in the morning. I think you won’t be decent enough for it.”



Chapter Text

I woke up early the next morning for my appointment with a Dr. Grant (much to Jamie’s lighthearted chagrin.)

I still felt a little awkward around Brianna, and had privately hoped that Jay would volunteer to come along and provide constant conversation, but the girl heard the word “gynecologist” and waved Brianna and I on our way like we had the plague.

“Are you sure this isn’t a little...strange for you?” I asked Brianna as we exited the car she’d rented. 

“Yes,” she admitted. “But interesting. How many people can say they attended their own ultrasound?”

“Ultrasound?”

She looked at me. “Oh that’s right! They didn’t exist in the forties. It’s a bit like an X-ray, but it basically just uses sound waves to create an image of the baby inside. They can see if it's healthy, and even if it's a boy or girl...though I think it might be too early for that.”

“We know whether it’s a boy or girl,” I quipped.

“I dunno, with the way everything has gone cockeyed, for all we know that’s a little Brian in there, not a Brianna!”

I chuckled, but still knew, somehow, that it was a girl inside. The same girl who was leading me confidently into the clean, bright doctor’s office.

Dr. Grant was a friendly, funny older man who flirted shamelessly with my “mother,” having made the assumption himself and we didn’t bother to say otherwise. He frowned at my weight, insisting firmly that I needed to gain, but made no comment on how I came to be that way, owing I was sure to whatever Mandy had told them.

“Are you ready to see th’ wee’un?” he asked, slathering a cold jelly over the barely-there bump of my stomach.

“I think so,” I said, feeling strangely nervous.

“Ye can come closer, Mom,” he said to Brianna. “Hold your lass’s hand.”

Brianna did as he said, and I felt grateful for the contact as a sudden sound filled the room; a low, rhythmic beating.

“Her heartbeat,” I whispered, awed, feeling a sharp pang at the remembrance of listening to my other daughter’s heartbeat, what felt like a lifetime ago.

“So certain it’s a she?” Dr. Grant asked with a smile. “Might be too soon tae tell, yet. I’d put ye at right around seventeen weeks. But he or she looks bonny…have a look!”

He turned the screen around, and I could see the clear profile of a face in black and white. I tried not to look surprised, but I felt my mouth drop.

“Wow,” Brianna whispered, squeezing my hand.

I reached out, slowly, as if the image would disappear, and touched the screen. Then, just as slowly, I turned my head, seeing that same profile standing right next to me, as transfixed as I. A love of the sort I’d never felt before suffused my entire being, and I was breathless. 

“I think he or she is going tae have their grandma’s nose,” Dr. Grant said. “Don’t you?”

Poor Dr. Grant probably thought Brianna and I were crazy, the way we suddenly dissolved into hysterical laughter and tears at once. 

Dr. Grant shook his head in bemusement. “I suppose I’ll just print a couple of these out for you tae take home.”

 

With prenatal vitamins, a strict diet plan, and two copies of the sonogram in hand, Brianna and I made our way home. I had informed Dr. Grant of my miscarriage, which he murmured sincere condolences for, and he told me that without having my records, he would have to assume that my pregnancy was high risk, and that it was important for me to take it easy, and take care of myself.

“Jamie’s going to wish he’d come after all,” I said, smiling down at the sonogram. “Knowing he could have seen the baby.”

“We can have you go for another checkup before you leave,” Brianna said, then grimaced. “I feel like I should probably tell you...it was a hard birth. You’ve said before that neither of us would have likely survived if you’d given birth in the eighteenth century.”

I cradled my stomach, her words giving me a chill. “Did it have anything to do with the miscarrage?”

Brianna was silent a moment before answering. “Yes. And that...that reminds me of something else I need to tell you.”

I looked at her. “What?”

She shook her head. “I’d rather tell you and Da together, if that’s okay.”

“Alright,” I said. “Bree?”

Brianna grinned, but kept her eyes on the road. “Yeah?”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Mama. Now...I noticed something when you were changing, but I didn’t want to ask you about it in front of Dr. Grant. Is that a fucking tattoo on your shoulder?!”

I gulped. “...Maybe.”

“When the hell did you get a tattoo?! I’ve seen my mother’s back a thousand times and you never had a dragonfly tattoo!”

“Erm...yesterday.”

Brianna’s jaw dropped, and she nearly swerved the car. “You...Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ! You let Jay talk you into a tattoo ?!”

When I couldn’t hide my guilty expression, Brianna gasped. 

“YOU LET MY GRANDDAUGHTER GET A TATTOO?!”

 

When we got home, (and after I was roundly scolded like a child, but promised that Mandy wouldn’t find out,) we found the house empty, but followed the sound of music outside the kitchen. And there, near the tower, was possibly the strangest sight I had ever seen in my entire life...and I had seen some very strange sights.

Jay was presumably playing an upbeat, wordless tune on her phone, while simultaneously using it to film Jamie... dancing... sort of.

They hadn’t noticed us yet, so Brianna and I stood back and watched, wide-eyed, as Jay called for Jamie to start over.

Whatever it was, it involved Jamie touching his shoulders before raising his arms above his head, all the while undulating his hips in a manner which I admittedly found intriguing, all with the most serious of expressions on his face.

“Oh my God,” Brianna whispered from next to me. “This is the best day of my life.”

“Mine too…” I said dazedly, still eyeing his hips.

“Ew, Mother…”

“What? I can’t help it!”

“Done!” Jay exclaimed, cackling with laughter. “Well done, Jammif!”

In response, Brianna and I broke into applause, and Jamie spun toward us in surprise, his cheeks darkening. “Sassenach!” he cried.

“Well done indeed, darling,” I said, still clapping. “Now would you like to explain what in the world that was ?”

“TikTok,” Jay explained, grinning almost evilly. “My life is complete.”

“You…” Brianna began. “You convinced your great-grandfather, Highland soldier, Laird of Lallybroch, Colonel Fraser...to...film a TikTok dance?”

“Yes,” Jay said satisfactorily. “Yes I did Nana.”

From behind her, Mandy shrugged. “Don’t look at me. I was somehow roped into helping teach it to him.”

“Come on,” Brianna said. “Let’s go get dinner started.”

We all turned to follow her, but I held up for Jay. “Say, could I watch that? A few...hundred times?”

“Absolutely,” Jay said, grinning and handing her phone over.

 

“Unbelievable,” Jamie whispered, stroking the outline of the baby’s face with his thumb, similarly to how I did when it was on the screen. “What a miracle, tae take a...a Photograph of a bairn while she’s still in her mother’s womb!”

“It was amazing,” I agreed. “Brianna thought perhaps we could have it done again, with you there to see.”

Jamie smiled. “Aye, I’d like that, Sassenach. Verra much.”

Brianna took a breath, taking her seat after she and Mandy finished clearing away the supper dishes. “Mama, Da? There’s something I need to tell you. I didn’t think about it until this afternoon, but you should know...and see it.”

“Sounds ominous,” Jamie said.

I looked over at Mandy, who appeared to understand what Brianna was talking about, and her expression made me a little nervous. “What is it?”

Brianna smiled and took my hand. “It’s alright. But come with me, there’s something I want to show you.”

 

Jay and Mandy stayed at the house while Jamie and I followed Brianna outside, past the tower, toward the mill. 

“Th’ mill looks in good working condition,” Jamie remarked as we passed it.

“It should,” Brianna said. “It’s been some years now, but I rebuilt it and updated it myself.”

Jamie whipped around to her, eyes wide and impressed. “Truly? On your own?”

“Well yeah,” she said with a shrug. “It’s what I do. I’m an engineer.”

“That’s incredible, Bree,” I said fondly, even if I didn’t understand what all went into rebuilding a grain mill. 

Brianna slowed, and folded her hands in front of her. “This isn’t...going to be easy to hear. Especially how...recent it is for you. About ten years ago, the church in France that used to be Le Hopital de Agnes burned down. Most of the grounds were destroyed in the fire.”

I stopped walking, feeling my legs grow weak, and might have fallen if Jamie hadn’t seen it and wrapped his arm around my waist. “No…” I whispered.

Brianna nodded sadly. “The cemetery burned. I only heard about it about a year later, when a controversial decision was made to relocate the bodies, and most of them would be in unmarked graves since so many of the gravestones were burned beyond recognition.”

My head was shaking without me even realizing it, and I tried to walk away, but Jamie held me firm. “No,” I repeated more firmly. “I can’t hear this, Brianna.”

My baby...my poor little girl. It was bad enough that Faith was laid in a grave in another country, left alone for generations. Now to hear that even that grave was lost, was unbearable.

“Mama, listen ,” Brianna insisted, grabbing my arm. “I had to do something . I went to France, I looked at the graves. And I found her.”

I stopped struggling against Jamie and stared at her. “You did?”

She nodded, smiling. “Her grave marker was scorched, but readable. It took some doing, and money, and a few called-in favors from Roger, but we managed to convince them that she was a distant relative and that we wanted her relocated to Scotland. They wondered why we cared so much about a 300 year old infant, but because of that, it didn’t really matter to them anyway. Come on.”

I looked up at Jamie, seeing my astonishment reflected in his eyes. We followed Brianna dazedly to a lone Scots pine, standing proudly at the top of a hill. Underneath was some sort of flowering bush, and there, resting peacefully on the ground, was a small grave marker.

It wasn’t the same one from France. This one had an image of St. Andrew etched on it, and read, “Faith Fraser, beloved daughter and sister.”

I fell to my knees before it, touching it gently, as I had two years ago in France. And as I had then, I reached out, and Jamie’s hand found mine at once.

“I couldn’t just leave her there,” Brianna said. “I knew you’d want her to come home.”

“You did this for us,” Jamie whispered. “Even though we were dead and gone?”

“You were never gone to me,” Brianna said just as quietly. “And I still like to think of you, somewhere, with her. And Roger, too. Watching over me.”

I leapt to my feet, releasing Jamie so that I could wrap her up in my arms. “Thank you,” I murmured.

Brianna pulled back suddenly, her eyes red. “You...I was away when you...you went. I didn’t get to say goodbye…”

“Well don’t,” I said. “Not yet, at least. We still have time.”

Brianna nodded, sniffling. “I love you, Mama.”

I yanked her back into my arms. “I love you too, baby.”

I felt Jamie wrap his arms around us both, and we simply stood there for a time underneath the pine tree, all together, at last.



Chapter Text

“So…when ye touch th’ wee letters, it’s th’ same as writing them...and then when ye touch Send th’ message appears in your friend’s Phone instantly? Even though she’s all th’ way in America? How is that possible?”

Jay chuckled, leaning against him on the sofa as another Text Message from Leanne appeared on her Phone. “Okay, well, see there are these things that float around in space, right? Called satellites. And they accept and transmit signals from the phones.”

Jamie frowned. “How did they get up there? These Satellites?”

“They were...sent up there. In rockets. Sort of like planes, but they go straight up.”

“Oh…but...tae outer space ?”

She nodded. “Yeah. There’s a whole Space Station up there, and some people are able to go up and stay there.”

“Christ.”

Jayme spoke about the wonders of the twenty-first century like it was naught but a bowl of parritch. Jamie thought he was used to being baffled by the future after so long of knowing Claire, and then seeing some of it for himself, but this child continued to astound him. 

Another Text from Jay’s friend appeared, but since Jay didn’t seem inclined to hide it, Jamie assumed that it was alright to read. “Yer uncle is viral? Lass, d’ye have an ill uncle?”

Jay laughed. “She means you. I told my friends you were my uncle.”

Jamie frowned at her. “Well, why does she think I’m sick?”

“She doesn’t! She means the TikTok we made the other day. It’s gone viral! That means, a lot of people have seen it, and liked it.”

“I dinna ken how I feel about that.”

“Don’t worry,” she said. “No one actually knows who you are or anything, and they don’t really care. Except, ya know, the legions of women who want to jump you. And men for that matter.”

“Jump me? Never mind...I dinna think I want tae know.”

“See?” she pointed at the wee image of him dancing, and he grimaced in delayed embarrassment at the sight of it. “That’s how many have watched it,” she said. “And look, here’re all the comments.”

Jamie scanned through some of the things strangers were apparently saying about him, but very little of it made any sense to him. “Daddy? I thought ye said that you were telling people that I was your uncle?”

“That’s um...not what she meant by that.”

“Then what did she mean?!”

“Jay, what are you doing to that poor man now?” Mandy asked, coming in from the kitchen.

“Just trying to educate him is all,” Jay said innocently. “You know, teaching him about rockets...important stuff like that.”

Mandy gave her a narrow look. “Mmhm. Which reminds me…” she turned to Jamie. “You’re really interested in the planes and things, aren’t you?”

“I just canna quite wrap my head around them,” Jamie admitted. “Th’ Cars I can understand...but machines that fly? It goes against physics.”

Mandy hummed again. “Well, anyway, we’re going into town, go get ready.”

 

~~~

 

Jamie fiddled with the bracelet around his wrist that Mandy had given him. Apparently it helped with motion sickness, and so far was doing a remarkably good job of it.

“Still feeling alright?” I asked him, touching his knee. We were in the backseat of Brianna’s rental car, with me in the middle, and Jay and Jamie on either side of me. Brianna was driving, and Mandy was giving her directions.

“Aye,” Jamie said. “Canna understand how having this on my wrist does that...but aye.”

“I’m not sure I understand it either,” I admitted. “But if it works, it works!”

“D’ye ken where we’re going?” he asked me for the third time. 

I patted his leg. “We’ll find out soon enough.”

I did, in fact, know where we were going. Mandy had approached me with the idea that morning, and I was quick to agree to it.

And I couldn’t wait to see Jamie’s reaction.

“I wish someone would’a told me ,” Jay said grumpily.

“We would have,” Mandy said. “But you can’t keep a secret to save your life.”

“I can too !” 

“I am actually shocked that everything about this hasn’t ended up on the internet yet.”

Jay snorted. “As if anyone would believe it.”

“Why won’t ye tell me where we’re going?” Jamie asked, as impatient as his great-granddaughter. 

“We’re almost there,” Mandy said, laughing. “In fact, if you keep an eye out the window, you might get a clue.”

Jamie risked a glance out, then shook his head. “No...better no’ take th’ chance on this wee bracelet running out of...whatever makes it work.”

“We’re here,” Brianna announced, as we slowed to a stop.

“It’s an empty field,” Jay said in clear disappointment as we all got out, turning a slow circle. “An empty field next to... ohhh …”

“Oh?” Jamie asked. “I dinna understand, what is this place?”

“Look over there,” Mandy said, pointing across the field where the large, brightly lit building was, surrounded by miles of tarmac.

“What is it?” Jamie asked. “What are...are those planes ?”

“Jamie…” I said, tapping on his shoulder. “Turn around, love.”

Jamie looked at me, then behind him, his eyes blowing wide and his mouth dropping.

The commercial jet, even bigger than I was used to seeing, was coming in for a landing, and we were seemingly right in its path.

Jamie grabbed my hand tightly, taking a fearful step back.

“It’s alright, Grandda!” Mandy said, having to raise her voice as the roar of the engine grew louder. She took his other hand. “It’s safe! It’s going to land over there! It won’t come anywhere near us.”

Trusting her word, Jamie stood still, but I could tell that it took every ounce of his willpower not to grab us all and run.

The sight of the enormous plane was amazing, but I simply couldn’t take my eyes off of Jamie’s face, watching the myriad of emotions play out there. 

The plane flew so low overhead, it almost felt like we could reach up and touch it. Jamie’s head whipped around, watching it’s path intently, never even blinking until the plane made its safe landing on the tarmac a mile away.

It was then I saw the tears in Jamie’s eyes, though he quickly blinked them away.

“That was...incredible…” he whispered. “I still...I still dinna understand .”

“I know,” Mandy said, squeezing his hand before releasing it. “But we’re gonna fix that soon, too. But do you want to watch for a little longer first?”

Jamie gave her a shy smile and nodded, so Brianna got a couple of quilts out of the car and we all laid on our backs, watching the planes take off and land for at least an hour.

 

Finally, after checking her watch, Mandy declared it time to leave, though Jamie was extremely reluctant to do so.

This time, Jamie sat up straight in the car, looking out the window like an excited golden retriever. It made my heart feel fit to bursting, seeing such complete and total happiness and excitement on his face. I hadn’t seen him like this since we first went to Lallybroch, and I’d despaired of ever seeing that particular smile ever again.

The drive was short, and before long we were pulling up to another airport, only this one was much, much smaller. 

“Those are planes too?” Jamie asked, hopping out of the car.

“Yep, those are private planes,” Mandy explained. “And that one over there? That’s a helicopter. They can hover in just one spot, whereas a plane has to stay in motion.”

I pointed at one of the larger private jets. “That’s a little more the size of the kind I was used to riding.’

Jamie grinned. “Canna imagine what it’s like to be up in one of those.”

Mandy chuckled. “Funny you should mention that.”

“Jay,” Brianna called. “Come here, I have a job for you.”

Jay listened, smiling as Brianna whispered in her ear, and I gave Jamie a shrug to let him know that I wasn’t in on this particular secret.

A tall, older gentleman came out of one of the buildings and made his way toward us. “Afternoon! Ye must be Mandy. I’m Thomas Duncan.”

“Hi, Thomas,” Mandy said, shaking his hand. “I can’t thank you enough for doing this on such short notice.”

“Och, it’s no trouble,” he said. “It’s a slow day, anyhow. And ye must be the birthday boy.”

Mandy laughed before Jamie could enquire about that . “Belated birthday, anyway,” she said.

“What does he mean?” Jamie asked.

Mandy grinned up at him. “This is your surprise! Mr. Duncan here is going to take you up in a plane!”

Jamie blanched slightly, and looked at me.

“You said you couldn’t imagine,” I whispered. “Now you can!”

“My brother is a little nervous,” Mandy said to Thomas. “He’s never been in a plane, but has always wanted to.”

“Not a problem,” Thomas said. “Ye have nothing to worry about, son. It’s safe as can be!”

Jamie grabbed hold of my hand. “Can my wife come?”

Thomas chuckled and winked at me. “Of course. There’s room for three, actually, besides me.”

“Oh! Me!” Jay exclaimed. “Mom?”

“Yes, yes,” Mandy laughed, giving her a shove. “You, too.”

“And actually,” Jay said, trotting to catch up to Thomas when he started leading us toward the planes. “I was wondering if you would mind telling me a bit about how planes work. I know I could ask Google, but I’m doing a paper for school and I’m supposed to ask somebody who knows.”

Jay looked over her shoulder at Jamie and I, then winked, and I became aware of two things simultaneously. One, the paper for school was fictional, and it was just so Thomas could explain the workings of a plane in a detailed manner without Jamie having to be afraid of sounding “daft” by asking, and two...Jay had inherited her great-grandfather’s complete inability to wink.

Thomas started off by explaining the various outer parts of the plane. When it was clear that Jamie was a rapt audience, Thomas grew more animated, happy to explain something he loved to people who truly wanted to learn.

Jamie excitedly got into the cockpit right beside Thomas, staring in wonder at all the controls while Jay and I buckled ourselves into the back.

“Ye need all of these tae make it fly?” Jamie asked.

“Well, your set of controls and mine are the same,” he said, already flipping switches and pushing buttons with practiced ease. “Yours wouldn’t work, unless I flipped this switch here that would make you the pilot.”

“Oh.”

Thomas had us all put on headphones with microphones so that we could talk once the loud engines started up. 

I could only see the back of Jamie’s head, and the way his shoulders were tensed in fear. I reached out and squeezed one, and he relaxed marginally. 

Thomas patiently explained the process of starting the plane, then requesting permission from the tower to take off. Once the plane started rolling, I could hear Jamie’s intake of breath through the headphones. 

“Hang on, lad,” Thomas said. “Th’ first takeoff is th’ best one!”

Since I couldn’t do much to comfort my husband, or see his no-doubt priceless expression, I turned my attention out the window, and smiled as I watched the ground suddenly start to move away, enjoying the little belly-flop I always experienced when taking off.

Ah Dhia! ” Jamie cried, followed by a string of Gaelic that I couldn’t even try to decipher.

“What was that ?!” Jay asked.

“Ye know th’ Gaelic!” Thomas exclaimed. “No’ too many folks your age do!” he then asked Jamie a question in Gaelic, to which Jamie answered in kind, though his voice still wobbled nervously.

“How are you doing, Jamie?” I asked.

“Weel, I think I left my wame somewhere on th’ ground but…” I saw his head turn to look out the side window, his eyes almost perfect circles. “ Ah Dhia ,” he said again, only this time in a breath of wonder. “Look Sassenach...it’s like ye said! They look like doll houses!”

“And ye call your English wife Sassenach?” Thomas asked, laughing. “She knows that doesn’a mean sweetie pie doesn’t she?”

“I know,” I drolled. “But it’s just his funny way of calling me sweetie pie .

“If ye look down now, ye’ll see a beautiful old estate called Lallybroch.”

Jamie practically plastered himself to the window to see, grinning like a loon. “It’s so wee , Sassenach!”

I chuckled, exchanging an amused look with Jay. “My husband’s family owns it,” I said. “It’s been in and out of his family for generations.”

“That so?” Thomas said, turning to glance at me. “Mine as well! It stayed in th’ Murray family for some time. My mother, God rest her soul, was a Murray.”

Jamie turned around to look at me, and we gaped at one another in amazement. Thomas didn’t seem to notice, so neither of us said anything.

“How are ye feeling, lad?” Thomas said after a time. “Ye feel ready tae take th’ controls?”

“Th... what ?!” Jamie exclaimed.

“Take hold o’ th’ yoke,” Thomas said, nodding toward the control wheel. “Like I told ye. All ye’re going tae do is steer a moment. It’ll be fine.”

“Come on, do it!” Jay cried. “Just don’t crash us.”

I elbowed Jay while Jamie looked back at us in alarm. 

“Ye won’t crash us,” Thomas said. “I’ll still have control.”

Jamie took a breath, then nodded and grabbed the yoke. Thomas flipped a switch, and Jamie’s whole body jerked when he felt the sudden resistance in the control wheel. 

Jamie turned it slightly, laughing in nervous delight when the plane obeyed, thus proving to him that he was actually in control. “Christ,” he said. “Claire, d’ye see this?!”

“You’re doing wonderfully, Jamie!” I exclaimed, now feeling tears of my own sting my eyes. 

I was grateful that Jay was busy snapping a thousand photos of Jamie, and that she was sitting at the angle where she could see his face a little better, even though at the very moment I dearly wished that I could. 

But I could just make out his reflection in the windshield, and his smile took up his entire face.

 

After letting Jamie steer the plane, (even when he grew brave and made us do a tight circle that admittedly made me a little nervous,) Thomas finally had to switch the controls back so that we could land, explaining how it was done the entire time.

Jamie’s legs looked a little wobbly when we first exited the plane, but that didn’t stop him from turning to me and sweeping me up into his arms, kissing me firmly. 

“Did you have fun?” I giggled when he released me and let my feet touch the ground again.

“Aye,” he said simply, even though I knew the answer was far from simple.

“It’s clear ye have th’ interest,” Thomas said, offering his hand to Jamie to shake. “Ye ought tae look into flight school.”

“Flight school?” Jamie asked. “Ye mean, learn tae...pilot?”

Thomas nodded. “Aye, it isn’a too difficult. There’s information on our website about it. It only takes about three months, usually.”

“I’ll um...think about it. Thank ye, Thomas.”

“Ye’re welcome, and happy birthday!” he shook my hand, then Jay’s. “ Beannachd an-drasta!” 

Mandy and Brianna were waiting for us by the car, and Jamie ran over to them to pull Mandy into a hug.

Thank ye,” he said. 

Mandy patted his back, chuckling. “Don’t mention it. Did you enjoy it?”

“That crazy pilot even let him fly it!” Jay exclaimed.

“He said a person can learn tae pilot a plane in just three months,” Jamie said, seemingly in awe of the fact.

Mandy smiled, but this time it was a little strained, and I knew why.

Jamie would no doubt love to get a pilot’s license, but that would require staying in 2020, which was something we just couldn’t do. No one wanted to mention that, however, and dampen Jamie’s mood, so instead we all just climbed back into the car as Jamie filled Brianna and Mandy in on all the wonders of flying.

 

Chapter Text

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!”

“Is not!”

“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.”

“Laoghaire.”

“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.

“But Mom…”

“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.”



Chapter Text

We sat up all night, waiting for word from Mandy.

In my panic, I’d wanted to take off for the stones right then and there, but Jay had cried and begged us not to leave her alone in that big empty manor, and in the end the only thing worse than the possibility of having been inadvertently responsible for Brianna’s death would be leaving Jayme and Mandy all alone in the aftermath without so much as a goodbye.

We must have all fallen asleep, Jay and I curled up together on the sofa, and Jamie a few feet away in the recliner. I awoke in the morning to the feeling of someone brushing hair out of my face and I gasped, coming to full wakefulness at once.

“You look just like Jay when you sleep,” Mandy commented with a soft smile.

I bolted upright, which dislodged Jay, but she only snored and flopped into another position. 

“Brianna?!” I asked desperately.

“She’s alright,” Mandy said, sitting across from me on the coffee table. “The hospital admitted her. They said it was a mild heart attack.”

I slid my legs out from underneath Jay and planted my feet on the floor. “Was it me? Was it...us?”

“I don’t know,” Mandy admitted. “It’s possible. It’s also possible that she just had a heart attack. I mean, she’s healthy for her age, but, the years have been rough, you know? Losing Granny and Grandda, Dad’s cancer, leaving Jem and the rest of the family, everything that happened between me and Jay’s father...seeing you again has been a blessing, but...it’s also been a lot.”

“Either way, we have to go,” I said decisively. “Every moment we’re here is just more risk. Just being here at all was a mistake.”

“Don’t say that,” Jay said sleepily, sitting up. “You being here has been...the best thing that ever happened.”

“I’m afraid I have to agree with my daughter there,” Mandy said. “And so does Mom. Yeah, maybe it’s time, but none of us are sorry that you’re here, or that you have a chance at a life together.”

I smiled at her. “I’m glad too. I’m so glad that I got a chance to know all of you,” I turned to Jay, and reached over to squeeze her hand. “Especially you. But we’ve delayed long enough. We have to go.”

“You’ll wait a few days at least,” Mandy said. “Until Mom’s out of the hospital.”

I shook my head. “No, Mandy, we shouldn’t risk it. It’s better if we go right away.”

“Granny...no…” she said, grabbing my hand. “ Please . I get you’re trying to protect her, but it would devastate her. You can’t leave without saying goodbye...not again.”

I remembered then what Brianna had told Jamie and I at Faith’s grave...that when her mother died, she hadn’t gotten a chance to say goodbye. I knew Mandy was right, though the knot of anxiety refused to dissipate. 

 

~~~

 

Jamie held Claire’s hand as they mounted the hill to where wee Faith was laid to rest. Depending on where and when they ended up, there was no telling when or if they would get a chance to visit their firstborn daughter again. 

They knelt at the grave, placing flowers there, both lost in their own thoughts, until they stood together as one and turned to face Lallybroch.

“I wish we had more time,” Claire said.

“Aye,” Jamie agreed. “I dinna want tae say goodbye tae them.”

Claire turned to him, and he gently brushed the curls out of her eyes where they blew in the wind. “We need to make a decision,” she said. “Do we go back to the 18th century and just...lay low? We could go to America...Brianna said that there are stones there, it would be easier to reach them by plane than by ship.”

“That’s all assuming we’ll get a choice ,” Jamie said. “Despite all of Brianna and Roger’s research on th’ matter, it doesn’a seem at all like anyone knows for sure how th’ damned things work . I wasn’a supposed tae be able to travel through them, ken.”

Claire groaned. “I know.”

Jamie looked back down at his ancestral home, and this time could see Jayme standing in the courtyard, watching for their return. His breath caught, heart breaking at the thought of saying goodbye to that rambunctious lass forever. 

All he’d ever wanted was to be a father, and in the last month he’d found out what it was to be a father, a grandfather, and a great grandfather, all at once, and it was going to be difficult to give it up, even knowing he could still have it all again someday.

He supposed he’d just have to learn how to be patient.

“If all this has taught me anything,” he said, turning back to his wife. “It’s that I never want tae live a day wi’out you by my side. It wasn’t long ago that I was willing tae send you away from me forever, for your sake, and th’ sake of our child. But never again, mo nighean donn ,” he ran us thumb lightly down her cheek, her lips. “You belong wi’ me, always, and we will face whatever is tae come, together.”

Claire nodded, rising up on tiptoe to kiss the word “together” on his lips.

“Sassy! Jammif!” Jay called up the hill. “Mom and Nana are home!”

 

~~~

 

I approached Brianna timidly, petrified that coming too near to her would put her in cardiac arrest.

She looked remarkably well for a woman who’d just been released from the hospital for a heart attack, and the doctors said that everything appeared back to normal, which only reinforced in my mind that it wasn’t natural causes that had led to attack.

But Brianna took one look at me, no doubt reading the fear and hesitation on my face, and came up to me in two strides of her long legs, bracing her hands on either side of my stomach.

“Well, I’m not dead,” she said dryly.

“That’s not funny,” I said.

She smiled, then pulled me into a hug. “I know. Maybe you were right, maybe it was a warning. But she isn’t going to be born tonight, so why don’t we just forget it for now, and focus on having a nice evening?”

“Are you sure you feel okay, Mom?” Mandy asked. “Do you need to go lie down?”

“I’m fine,” Brianna said patiently. “I’d kill for a whisky,” at her daughter’s look, she hastened to continue. “But I’ll settle for tea.”

 

“Okay, wait, start over!” Jay laughed as she and Jamie stumbled over one another.

The two of them had built a roaring bonfire outside, and we were gathered around it, wrapped in blankets, as Jamie attempted to teach Jay his own “TikTok” dance, something he called the Highland Fling.

“I had no idea you could do this!” I exclaimed, clapping my hands.

Jamie grinned cheekily and bowed, first to me, then to Mandy, who was recording everything on Jay’s phone, which was also playing upbeat, Celtic-sounding music.

“Dance w’ me, Sassenach,” Jamie said, holding out his hand.

“Oh no, I don’t fling .”

Not taking no for an answer, he snatched up my hand and pulled me to my feet, only instead of attempting to get me to do whatever he and Jay had been doing, he wrapped me in his arms in a pretty good imitation of a waltz.

“And where did you learn this?” I asked him, grinning.

He winked...or tried to, rather. “Jay taught me.”

“You know,” Brianna said, standing up and tapping on his shoulder. “I never did get a dance out of you at my wedding.”

Jamie’s eyebrows shot up and he released me in favor of reaching for his daughter. “Ye dinna say? We should remedy that.”

I watched them a moment, my heart warm, but then Jay grabbed me and we proceeded to fight over who was leading who.

After a time, I grew tired, and sat back down beside Mandy, who smiled at me a moment before handing me a small book.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“I had them printed today,” she said. “I can’t very well send you off with a phone so you can watch TikTok videos, but I can send you with these.”

I flipped through the little photo album, seeing all of the pictures Jayme had been taking on her phone the past month. Of the day she and I had gone out and gotten tattoos, of her hanging on Jamie’s back, the “selfie” of all of us piled on the bed. There were even candid ones I never knew had been taken, of Brianna and I walking outside, Jamie and Mandy deep in conversation...Jay and I looking so alike we could almost be two pictures of the same person at different ages. There was even one of just Jamie and I, his arm around my waist, pulling me to him, me grinning up at him with every ounce of love I felt for him. It was a treasure unlike anything I could have ever hoped to have.

I chuckled through my tears. “How did you get a photograph of that ridiculous dance Jamie did?”

“Called a screen cap,” Mandy explained. “I couldn’t resist. I’m only sorry there won’t be any pictures of tonight.”

“It’s alright,” I said, setting aside the photographs in favor of watching Jamie and our daughter dance while our great-granddaughter did her own little odd dance alone. “I won’t need photographs to remember this night.”

“Have you and Grandda decided what you’re going to do?”

I nodded.

“Are you going to tell us?”

“We think maybe it would be better if we didn’t,” I said. “We need to just let life happen...and so do you.”

Mandy hummed. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right.”

“And you? Will you, Brianna, and Jay go back?”

Mandy took a deep breath. “I’m not sure. In all this, I haven’t even presented the idea to Jay yet. To her this is a summer vacation, she still has friends back in the states, and her father, for what little he’s in her life. And Mom...I suppose we’ll have to wait and see if Wee Bree there really was the reason for the attack, because I am not ready to lose her.”

“Well, whatever happens,” I grabbed her hand. “I hope you all find happiness, especially you.”

Mandy blinked at me. “Why especially?”

“Because you’ve been taking care of everyone for a long time, darling. Your parents, Jay, your wretch of an ex-husband...you deserve to just be happy, perhaps with someone who makes you happy. You deserve to be loved the way Jamie loves me.”

Mandy nodded, and squeezed my hand. “I’m not sure anyone could love anyone as much as he loves you, but thank you. I am happy though. I have my kid, and that’s really all I need. But...maybe...someday I could be open to something else.”

“So long as you’re open for it.”

“You know, this is the first time since you’ve been here that you really sound like my Granny.”

I scoffed in mock affront. “Are you saying I sound old?”

Mandy grinned. “No, but I think I might see a grey hair!”

“What?!” I exclaimed, my hand flying to my head. “You do not!”

“No! It’s a good thing. Trust me...it’s a good thing.”

 

We were all quiet in the car. Jay had both her arms wrapped around one of mine. Jamie was staring out the window, watching the planes fly overhead. Brianna kept glancing at me through the rear-view mirror.

When we stopped at the foot of the hill leading to Craig na Dun, it was almost like the first time I arrived there with Frank. Only this time, I was an entirely different person.

The first time I went through the stones, I’d been terrified. The second, heartbroken. Now...well, my heart was still breaking, but the future no longer seemed so dim.

“Maybe we should say goodbye down here,” Mandy said, wincing already at the sound of the buzzing.

“What is that?” Jay asked. “Is that the stones?”

“I still dinna hear it,” Jamie said. “What if I dinna go through this time?”

“You will,” Brianna said firmly. “Just hold on to Mama, don’t let go of her, for anything .”

Jamie smiled and put his arm around my waist. “I dinna plan to.”

I turned to Brianna, barely even able to look her in the eye. “I don’t know if I can say goodbye to you.”

“Neither of us were ever very good at saying goodbye,” she whispered. “But I...I love you, Mama. I’ve been... so glad to have been your daughter.”

I pulled her into my arms, cradling the back of her head, sensing that she was speaking more to the mother she’d lost than to me, but that was okay, because I thought I knew what her mother would say.

“I love you, too, Brianna. And I’m proud of you.”

She pulled back, nodding tearfully in thanks, then threw her arms around Jamie’s neck.

“I so verra grateful tae have known ye,” Jamie said into her hair. “My wee lass.”

Brianna gave a watery chuckle. “I’ll always be your wee girl. I love you so much, Da. Whatever else happens, I’m glad this child will always have you as a Da.”

“Well…” Mandy sniffed, her shoulders deliberately square. “Do you have everything, Granny? The photo album? The antibiotics? Grandda’s motion sickness bracelets? The notebook I gave you? It has all the information you may need.”

I nodded as she checked off the items. 

“Now, depending on where you end up going,” Brianna said. “I do want to just warn you of a couple of things. Watch out for house fires, stay the hell away from anyone with the last name Bonnet, or Brown, and...again... house fires .”

Jamie and I nodded solemnly, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to know. 

I realized suddenly that Jay had been absent from the conversation, and I looked around for her, finding her standing beside the car, staring up the hill.

I went to her, gently taking her hand, but she bit her lip and turned away.

“I just found you,” she said quietly. “I’m not ready for you to go.”

“Me either,” I said, struggling to even say the words. “If I had a choice...if there was no risk…”

“I know. I just…” she looked at me then, but I could barely stand the sight of her big, teary eyes. She forced out a chuckle. “I just can’t believe that my 500 year old great grandmother is...my best friend.”

“Hey,” I said, trying, like her, to remain lighthearted. “I’m old, but I’m not that old. I’m...I’m never going to forget you, Jayme. For as long as I live.”

I pulled her gently into a hug, and she broke in a sob, burying her face in my hair. “I’m gonna miss you so much .”

“You’ll still have me,” I whispered. “You have memories, selfies ...a tattoo.”

She giggled, patting the spot where my matching tattoo hid beneath my blouse.

“And who knows,” Jamie said, coming and putting a hand on both of our backs. “Maybe we’ll haunt ye.”

Jay laughed in earnest then. “Yes! Haunt me. That’d be awesome. Here, Jammif. I know Sassy and I have, well, our thing, but I made these for everyone.”

Jay proceeded to tie a simple braided leather band around Jamie’s wrist. “I know it’s not much,” she said, tying a matching one around mine, and then I could see that she had one just like them. “And I know friendship bracelets are a bit cheesy, but I didn’t want to make them anything that would stand out in...whatever time you end up in. Here Nana, Mama, I made some for you too.”

“Thank ye, Jay,” Jamie said, wrapping his arms around her. “I’ll never take it off. Ye’re a verra special girl, ye ken that? And ye’re better than th’ sort of fool ye were with th’ night we met ye.”

“I know,” Jayme said. “And don’t worry. I’ve figured out that I don’t ever want to settle for anyone short of my very own Jammif .”

“Good,” he said, kissing her brow. “Cause I’ll be watching.”

“Thank you,” she said quietly. “Because now that I’ve known you...I also know what a dad is supposed to be like.”

Jamie pulled her back into his arms, letting out a breath. “Goodbye, Jayme Claire MacKenzie.”

“Bye, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.”

Mandy was waiting for us at the base of the hill. “I can’t help it,” she said. “I have to see you safely go.”

I grinned and grabbed her hand, and let her lead us up the hill. In the end, Brianna and Jay trailed behind as well, though Brianna held Jay a good distance back with a firm hand on her arm.

The wind had picked up, and the stones were screaming in my ear. I took Jamie’s hand in a vice grip, letting my nails dig into his skin.

“Mandy?” I said, raising my voice against the din. “You don’t have to worry, you know. You’ll be fine.”

Mandy smiled. “I know. And so will you.”

Jamie and I hugged her together, neither of us willing to release the other for even a second.

After we let Mandy go, she went to join her mother and daughter, and Jamie and I turned to the stone.

“Do you remember what to think of?” I asked him.

“Aye,” he said. “Th’ same thing I thought of before. You.”

I smiled at him. “Promise you won’t let go?”

Jamie pulled me to him, my back to his front, the way we were before. 

I closed my eyes, thought of home, and safety with my daughter and husband.

Our hands touched the stone as one, and this time, when the world slipped away, it was peaceful. 

Chapter Text

I frowned, not sure if I was happy with the arrangement. The color of the flowers would be better suited in a white vase, but the blue one was my favorite.

My flower contemplation was distracted by the front door opening and shutting with a bit more gusto than was strictly necessary, meaning that it could only be one person.

“Brianna Ellen Fraser,” I called, turning down the record player. “You’re late!”

Bree popped her head into the living room, her iron-straightened, red hair swinging. “Sorry!”

“And just where were you?” I asked, arching a brow. “And don’t try to tell me that your class went long, because I know fine well that you don’t have a late class on Tuesdays.”

“I’m eighteen years old, Mama,” she said, sauntering back toward the kitchen. I couldn’t see her rolling her eyes, but I didn’t need to to know that she was. “ Technically I don’t have to answer to ye anymore.”

“Mmhmm,” I said. “Nice try. Would you like to say that to your father when he gets home from work?”

Brianna grinned cheekily. “No, I do not.”

I sat down at the kitchen table. “Please tell me? I can tell by your face that it’s something .”

She bit her lower lip in indecision a moment before plopping down in the chair next to me. “Oh, alright! I’ve actually been dying t’ tell ye, but I knew once I told you , ye’d tell Da, and then he’d go all...Da about it.”

“I knew it!” I crowed. “It’s a boy! You met a boy, didn’t you?”

Brianna blushed, but her eyes shined with the excitement of young love. I knew it would happen eventually. My little bookworm had always been more concerned with school than boys, but I knew one of the many hopefuls around her at the college would catch her eye eventually. But it was alright, she was entitled to first love. There was always time.

“I met a boy,” she admitted sheepishly. “Well, he’s a wee bit older, actually…”

“And?” I prompted excitedly. It never failed to delight me that even after hitting her moody teen years, Brianna had always told me everything, and our honest and open relationship as mother and daughter was one that I was proud of. “Tell me about him!”

“Ye know him!” she exclaimed, then grew nervous. “It’s um...Reverend Wakefield’s son, Roger. He just moved back here and we ran into each other at th’ coffee shop, and started talking, and he asked me out. He’s really cool, Mama, and smart, too! D’ye think Da is going to flip?”

I tried to hide my shock, collecting my jaw up off the floor. “Uh...no...no. Roger is a fine young man, I think Da will be okay with it, once he gets used to the idea of you dating anyone that is. You are his wee girl, after all.”

Brianna rolled her eyes, and this time I saw it plainly, but there could be no mistaking the fondness there. “I know. I just hope he warms up tae Roger...cause I think Roger is a wee bit afraid of Da.”

I laughed, then turned at the sound of the door opening and shutting again, this time with far more calm.

Standing up, I went to the doorway to the kitchen to greet my husband.

“Welcome home, soldier,” I purred, standing up on tiptoe to kiss him as he removed his hat, curls trying to rebel against the neat, side-parted hairstyle he fought to submit them to every morning. I ruffled them lightly to help them along, preferring to see them in their natural, wild state anyway.

“Welcome indeed,” Jamie said, chasing my kiss with a kiss of his own. “Is that my favorite perfume I smell?”

I hummed. “You’ll find out later.”

“Ew…” Brianna groaned. “Can you two not for two seconds? Ye’re going tae ruin my appetite.”

Jamie and I glanced at one another, counted to two in unison, then kissed again.

Brianna made an exasperated sound and dropped her head to the table.

“Alright,” I said, patting Jamie’s chest. “You best go wash up for dinner before we traumatize our daughter.”

Jamie chuckled, then kissed the top of Brianna’s head before going to the sink.

“Why do you call him soldier all the time, anyway?” Brianna asked. “He’s a pilot.”

“He was once a soldier,” I reminded her, then winked at my husband. “And I happen to just like his pilot’s uniform.”

“I keep saying ye ought tae become a stewardess,” Jamie said. “Or at least let me buy ye one of their uniforms.”

I wrinkled my nose. “I think I’ll stick to scrubs, thank you.”

“Weel, I think ye’re right bonny in those as well,” Jamie said.

“I’m sorry I said anything,” Brianna droned.

“How was work?” Jamie asked me before sticking his tongue out at his daughter.

“Good,” I said. “Tiring. Gallbladder surgery, but it went very smoothly.”

“That’s wonderful, Sassenach.”

“Oh, and guess what? Do you remember my friend from medical school, Joe Abernathy? He and his wife are visiting Europe this summer! I invited them to come for a visit.”

Jamie smiled. “Good! We really ought tae have more guests, wi’ as much room as we have.”

Brianna propped her chin on her hands. “Do we have to tell them about Da’s boyhood living here 500 years ago?”

I narrowed my eyes playfully at her. “Your father’s old, but he’s not that old.”

“I’m younger than your mother, thankyouverymuch .”

“Not when you were born in the 1700s, Methuselah!”

“Alright, alright, enough you two,” I swatted them both with a dish towel. “Bree, go tell your brother that it’s time for supper.”

Brianna opened her mouth to scream her brother’s name, but a glare from me had her scampering out to hunt him down herself.

“Dinna ken what tae do wi’ those two,” Jamie said, wrapping his arms around me from behind and kissing me behind the ear.

“She met Roger today,” I said without preamble. 

I felt Jamie freeze, then he squeezed me tighter. “I dinna think I’m ready,” he said. “I’m glad of it...but I’m no’ ready.”

“I know,” I said, turning around in his arms to loop mine around his neck. “I’m not either, and it’s earlier than we expected, but won’t you be happy to see Mandy again someday?”

“Oh aye,” he said. “But I’m in no rush, ken. I’m verra happy wi’ th’ family we have now.”

“Me too.”

A dark blur went past my peripheral vision, and I snapped my son’s name before he could reach the table, not even needing to look. “William Quentin Fraser, wash .”

“I’m no’ dirty, Ma!”

“Willie,” Jamie said firmly. “Obey your mother.”

Big blue eyes and a head of dark curls shot to attention at his father’s firm tone and hurried to the sink. I smiled, for every time I saw his loping gait, or his mischievous smirk, I saw Jay.

“I bet when we go back in time, I willn’a have tae wash so much,” he grumbled.

“That’s where you’re wrong, my love,” I informed him. “I intend to make you wash more .”

“Do we have to talk about that?” Brianna asked, grimacing.

“What’s your problem?” Willie asked.

“Your sister’s met a boy,” Jamie said, ignoring my glare.

“Mama! You told him already ?!”

“What can I say?” I shrugged. “He’s my husband.”

“And that’s not why ,” Brianna insisted. “I just so happen to like the 60s. The 19 60s.”

“But what about meeting Fergus, and Auntie Jenny, and everyone else?” William pointed out.

Jamie and I had made an agreement, some nineteen years ago, to return to my own time, where I could give birth to our child - our children, as it turned out later on - in the relative safety of the 20th century, with the intention of traveling back to the 18th century when the time was right. 

It had been a strange situation...first with Frank, the poor man, then with establishing Jamie in 1948 Scotland. But we found our way, and were eventually able to purchase and make our home at Lallybroch, (after years of back-breaking remodeling and repairs.)

We’d been as honest as we felt we could with the children from the start, so that there would be fewer nasty surprises later on. The only thing we’d kept back was the main reason we waited...not just for the children to be old enough, but to give Brianna time to meet, and fall in love, with Roger. Convincing him to come along later on might prove difficult, as would leaving the life that we’d spent a lifetime building, but Jamie and I had faith that whatever was meant to be, would be. 

“So, tell us about yer beaux.”

“Da, no one says beaux , and he’s not! We’re just friends, and ye already ken him!”

“But I dinna ken what you think of him.”

“Mama!”

“Jamie, leave her be.”

“Ma, can I get a tattoo?”

“Absolutely not, William.”

“But you have one! And ye’re a mum .”

“And you’re ten! And...what does being a mum have to do with having a tattoo?!”

“Willie, ye can get a tattoo when your sister admits she has a beaux. In those words.”

“Well, I guess ye’re never getting a tattoo!”

“Ma!”

“You heard your father, now eat your supper.”

 

~~~

 

“Are you ready?”

“I dunno...am I?”

Mandy took her daughter’s hand. “It’s not too late to change your mind, honey.”

Jay gave her mother a wry look. “Are you trying to reassure me, or yourself?”

“She just knows what you’re giving up,” Brianna said. 

Jay puffed out her cheeks and blew out a stream of air. “Ah, yes. Civil unrest, global pandemics, radioactive dolphins, I’m gonna miss it all so much.”

“You’re forgetting that we’re likely walking into yet another war.”

“Yeah...but, history, right? And…” Jay smiled, squaring her shoulders. “It’ll be nice to have more family.”

Mandy thought for the millionth time how much like Claire Jay was. Right down to the remarkable birthmark on her shoulder, inexplicably shaped like a dragonfly. So much like the tattoo that her grandmother had had since before even her mother was born.

It had been a long road, and a strange one, living with the knowledge of another future. But it had also been a good one, full of family, happiness, and love. Life had still happened. Mandy’s heart had still needed surgery, her dad had still gotten sick, and Claire and Jamie Fraser still couldn’t live forever no matter how much their loved ones wanted to believe that they could.

But Mandy liked to think they’d still managed to choose their own fates, make their own paths. She might not have known the purpose of their entire family’s deeply ingrained distrust of anyone named Bonnet or Brown, or why her grandparents were borderline obsessed with fire prevention, but so be it.

“I, for one, will be more than happy to spend my twilight years far away from modern civilization,” Roger said, taking Brianna’s free hand.

Mandy smiled at her parents. Dad had been doing well. Eight years in remission, thanks to the ominous early-warning courtesy of time travel. They’d decided that they were ready to go home, and let the rest of their lives just happen. Mandy...well, she was excited to go home to her own time again, back to her brother and cousins and the family she loved.

And, in the back of her mind, she just couldn’t help but wonder if he was still there.

Oh, he was likely married with a family of his own, but her heart had never forgotten him, even when she made the decision to go with her parents to the future. Even during her ill-fated relationship with Jay’s father, she never forgot her childhood best friend, and wondered what it might be like to see him again after all these years.

But, like their family always said, what is meant to be, will be. She looked at Jay again, at the way she was twisting the old leather bracelet on her wrist, passed down from a generation before. A metal charm hung there, with the inscription “Love, Sassy + Jammif” but no one knew why.

“Let’s go home,” Mandy said at last, taking a deep breath and feeling a warm rush of calm go through her. She smiled, imagining that it was her Granny and Grandda, arriving to help them through.

Mandy, Jayme, Brianna, and Roger brought their joined hands up to the stones. They thought of home, they thought of family, and then they were gone.

 

Never the End...