In the Wee Small Hours
The heat rolled over Jamie in waves. He had tried to close his eyes and get some sleep but to no avail, so he continued to lie there and stare at the ceiling of the Laird’s bedroom at Lallybroch. Even in the dark he could still make out the patterns on the dark blue wallpaper and the engraving on the fireplace. This was his home. His sanctuary.
He groaned quietly as another wave of humidity hit him, his nightshirt had long been discarded and he could feel the sweat starting to form on his naked chest. He smiled remembering just how the item of clothing had been removed.
It had been nine weeks since he had last lay with her, touched her, and loved her, not that he had been counting off course. Today had been a perfect family day at Lallybroch, making memories he would cherish forever. The sun had made a rare appearance even if it was summer and it was the warmest he could remember in this part of Scotland for many a year. All the children had been playing happily in the fields as the adults prepared a huge picnic. Today was the day he dreamed of all his life. He had a home, his family’s ancestral home, a beautiful family and he shared it with the love of his life. Her smile as she quietly closed the bedroom door behind her after reading bedtime stories and telling him to be quiet, had lit up the room better than the candles ever could and he swore his heart had stopped beating when he had placed their now sleeping son into the crib that he too had once slept in.
In two strides she was in his arms and they were kissing. Who removed the others garments first he had no idea he only stopped briefly to ask her if this was okay. Claire did not reply she took his hand and together they walked to their bed. He had made love to her as quietly and tenderly as possible, conscious of the fact of their sleeping baby at the other side of the room. Afterwards she fell asleep as she soon as she was curled into his embrace, but for him, the heat and humidity proved too much for him, sleep was evading him tonight.
Jamie smiled as he felt her start to stir beside him and he turned his head slowly and looked down at her sleeping form. He turned slightly on to his side as he continued to stare at her equally naked body glistening in the moonlight. He closed his eyes in attempt to burn the image into his memories. His fingers slowly started to trace along her bare shoulder and down her arm before lifting a stray dark brown curl behind her ear. He smiled hearing her sigh and watching her as she started to wake.
“Go back to sleep Sassenach,” he whispered.
“I would but I can’t,” she smiled back, lifting her hand to caress his face.
He frowned but then heard the baby starting to stir and he smiled as he bent down and kissed her softly on the nose. “Feeding time?” he asked as he glanced at her full and heavy breasts.
“Oh yes,” she smiled back as she carefully made her way out of bed and lifted her night shift and put it on despite the heat.
“Ye could always stay naked mo ghraidh,” he smirked as he watched her reach over in the crib and lift a fussing baby into her arms.
“I don’t think so,” Claire laughed as she tucked the baby into hers. “Maybe if I hadn’t carried three very large babies, I would consider it.”
“Yer beauty astounds me Sassenach,” Jamie replied in a firm but loving manner.
“Even after three children?” she asked as she cuddled the baby in her arms.
“Even more so,” Jamie said lifting her pillow up against the headboard and nodding for her to come and feed the baby in bed with him rather than in the chair on the other side of the room.
She briefly handed a now whimpering baby into his arms and carefully got back into bed and smiled as Jamie whispered to his son in Gaelic before handing him back to her.
“I’ll go and open the window, try and get some fresh air in here,” Jamie said as he quickly got out of bed and walked the short distance to the bay window and opened the latch. He leaned on the sill and saw the clouds starting to cover the moon “Clouds are gathering outside, there could be a storm tonight.”
“Oh yes please,” Claire smiled as she stroked the tender soft face of her son “this heat is unbearable I feel as I am going to melt.”
“Ye and I both,” Jamie smiled as he turned and watched her bond with their son.
“Imagine if he wasn’t due until now, I think being heavily pregnant in this heat would have finished me.”
Jamie smiled as he watched the image in front of him. “It is hard to believe he is eight weeks old already.”
“I know,” Claire smiled “he is such a good baby.”
“They all were.”
Claire looked up and watched him close the curtain “If you think there is a storm coming then you better put your nightshirt on, you know what will happen otherwise,” she smirked as they shared a knowing look.
“Tis true,” Jamie sighed as he reached down to the floor and reluctantly put on the offending garment before climbing into bed, watching Claire lift the baby onto her other breast. The brief interruption causing a small fist to wave in the air to the amusement of his parents.
“There you go laddie,” Jamie smiled as he watched baby William latch back on. “He loves his food.”
Jamie sat back, one arm resting on his thigh, the other gently on his wife’s shoulder. It was a sight that never stopped his heart from skipping a beat and he thought back to similar times with the girls.
With Faith, the eldest, he had missed the first three months of her life. He never saw her as a new-born nor was he there when Claire brought her home for the first time. He had been locked in a Bastille in Paris after duelling with his nemesis, Black Jack Randall. After he had found out what that bastard had done to Fergus, he saw red and he had to go after him. Justice. Revenge. Anger. Call it what you like, the only time the fog in his head had cleared was when he looked up and saw Claire standing at the clearing, heavily pregnant crying out to him as she collapsed in a pool of blood.
He wasn’t allowed to follow her to the hospital where Mother Hildegard was caring for her. He asked several times for someone at the Bastille to at least find out if his wife and child where still alive, but they refused. Day after day, night after night he sat in the dark cell tormented by the thoughts of both their passing and never finding out if the bairn had been a boy or a girl.
Then one day, his cell door opened, and he was told he had been pardoned by the King himself. He could barely speak with the shock and when he asked them how, all they told him was that his wife was waiting for him at home.
Claire was alive. His Sassenach had survived whatever hell had happened and as joy raced through his veins, the grief soon followed. It was not yet time for their bairn to be born and somewhere in his heart he knew he had to prepare himself for the fact that their child had died and it had been his fault. All of this mess was his fault.
He walked slowly home. It was not that he did not want to go home, he did, he just didn’t have the strength. His thoughts were weighing heavily on him and when he finally reached the apartment he was welcomed as per usual by the staff.
He barely looked up at them to see their faces. They would blame him for everything just as Claire was about to. He saw the large circular staircase in front of him and as he carefully stood and grabbed hold of the bannister he could hear a door upstairs open and then he heard it, her soft footsteps approaching the top of the stairs.
He was still looking down at each step as he climbed upwards and it was only when he was nearly at the top that he heard her voice.
The sound of her voice stopped him in his tracks and held on to the bannister for support and took a deep breath before continuing to climb the stairs.
He was still looking down at each step as he climbed upwards and it was only when he was nearly at the top that he heard her voice.
The sound of her voice stopped him in his tracks and held on to the bannister for support and took a deep breath before continuing to climb the stairs.
“Jamie,” Claire said again in a softer tone “look up, please.”
He couldn’t. He did not want to look up at the devastation that would be on his wife’s face. He stopped climbing again and was now standing just a few steps away from the top of the spiral staircase. As he was about to open his mouth and speak he heard a noise and he swore his heart skipped a beat.
It was the sound of a baby laughing.
‘It couldn’t be, could it?’ He had thought to himself as he looked up and saw his wife standing in a beautiful white and navy satin dress with a bouncing baby in her arms, facing outwards laughing and looking directly at him.
“Jamie,” Claire whispered as she too held back tears. “Would you like to meet our daughter?”
He can’t really remember what happened next apart from one-minute standing on the stairs and the next he had one arm wrapped around his wife and the other around his daughter. It was only the sight of Fergus appearing around the door that broke them apart. The muttered “Milord,” broke Jamie again as he embraced the young boy that he loved like a son.
Several hours later, a warm bath, a shave and the first decent meal in months, Jamie stood at the large window that overlooked the courtyard and watched as night started to fall around the city. He was still trying to process everything that Claire had told him.
He was a father.
Both Claire and the bairn had nearly died in childbirth and Mother Hildegard had named their daughter Faith so that she could receive a proper burial. He was that close to losing them both. On reflection it was definitely not a name that he would have picked but with everything that had happened he could not think of a more appropriate name.
Fergus was having nightmares after his ordeal with Randall. He couldn’t blame the lad. The bastard had haunted him too for months after the attack and he had made a vow to help the boy recover.
Claire had sex with the King to ensure his freedom and a pardon. It was a lot to take in and as much as he wanted to hate Claire for what she had done, he also understood. Had he not done the same thing to save her life back when he was imprisoned in Wentworth prison?
He was broken from his thoughts when he heard the soft cries of his daughter as Claire carried her into their bedroom and placed her gently on the bed whilst she removed her kimono dressing gown. Dressed now only in her shift she lifted Faith again before walking over and sitting down on the soft armchair.
“Is wee lass okay?” he asked frowning as he walked towards where they were sitting.
“Just hungry,” Claire said as she got comfortable and loosened her shift and Faith latched on to her breast. “It is easier for me to feed her like this without so many layers of clothing on.”
Jamie was speechless as he watched them and bent down on to his knee beside them and watched Faith suckling, her little fist waving in the air. He quietly touched it and smiled as she grabbed hold of his finger and wouldn’t let go to both parents’ amusement.
“Look at her wee fingers,” Jamie whispered in awe.
“I know,” Claire smiled back “She was even tinier than she is now, the first time I held her,” she said quietly “I didn’t think I would ever be bringing home Jamie, but here she is, our little fighter.”
“Just like her mother.”
“Just like her father.”
“Christ Claire, the thought,” Jamie closed his eyes and took a deep breath before continuing “When I woke this morning, I dinna think I would be here watching ye feed our bairn, it is truly a miracle. You, Faith and Fergus are my life.”
“And you are mine,” Claire whispered as their foreheads touched. “Take me, no, I mean take us home to Scotland.”
“Aye!” Jamie replied eyes lighting up “I will write to Jenny in the morning and start preparing passage for us. I also need to contact Jared and let him know, but that too can wait until tomorrow. I just want to watch this wee one tonight.”
Watch her he did. He was so mesmerized by little Faith that he held her and burped her after her feed and let Claire get an early night. He kept Faith in his arms the entire night, holding her, changing her and talking to her, sharing with her all his hopes and fears for when they returned to Lallybroch. He only had to wake Claire up once during the night for another feed, and even then he continued to lay beside them and watch the bond between mother and child, and he thanked God that he was finally here to witness it.
The journey home had been long and arduous for everyone, well except Fergus who had the time of his life on board the ship acting like a real-life pirate with all his antics. Claire was expecting the crew to throw him overboard, but it turns it that the sailors liked the lad as much as she and Jamie did.
Jamie had been seasick the entire journey, which she had expected, and Faith found the entire journey unsettling leaving Claire with little to no rest. When they finally docked in Scotland, they were met by Ian who had purchased a wagon for them to use for the long and bumpy journey back to Lallybroch.
When they finally reached their land and saw the house at the bottom of the hill, Jamie could not sit on the wagon any longer and helped Claire, with Faith in her arms, down on to the hallowed ground.
Jamie stood still and took a deep breath of the fresh highland air before wrapping his wife and child in one arm and Fergus in the other. For Claire she simply enjoyed the feeling of standing still, something she had not experienced since they left Jared’s apartment in Paris. Faith had been sleeping in her arms and was now beginning to fuss.
Jamie watched as Claire kissed and soothed their daughter and together, they all walked down the hill, under the arch and along the courtyard to the steps where Jenny was waiting.
He stood and watched as sister embraced his wife and child first, his face beaming with pride as Jenny remarked on how bonny Faith was and her shocking copper hair. Definitely a Fraser was everyone’s first remark when they met her.
Life settled very quickly for the four of them. Jamie was straight back to being the Laird Broch Tuarach the next day and helped Ian out with the farming. It took a few days for Faith to settle into her new home, but Claire soon had her in her wrap and was out helping Jenny with the chores around the house.
Both Jamie and Claire were worried about how Fergus would find life at Lallybroch after living in a city such as Paris, but he loved it here. He followed Jamie everywhere wanting to learn how to do everything on the farm as well helping Jenny with looking after the children.
He didn’t dare to tempt fate, but life at Lallybroch was everything they wanted and as happy as they were the news of the Jacobite Rebellion was never far away.
They both knew that their efforts in France had failed and Claire often wondered if Jamie would rather be out fighting for the cause then being here with them only for Jamie to stand beside her in her little herb garden, watching Faith as she walked around the small area laughing and giggling to herself, reassuring her that there was nowhere else in the world that he wanted to be.
Later that evening after all children were in bed, they both decided that they needed to start preparing for a life after Culloden. They knew that Jenny would never fully understand Claire being from the future so when they sat down with their glasses of whisky later that evening Claire explained to her in-laws that she had learned how to be a healer during a previous war and that she knew what the English redcoats were capable off. She explained that if the Jacobite’s lost and the English did what she suspected they would, that life would change dramatically for everyone in Scotland. Their tartans and traditions would be removed and banned.
The next morning the planning had started and over the next few days family jewels and heirlooms along with Jamie’s best Fraser tartan plaid were hidden in various chests in the secret compartment beside the Laird’s chambers. From the hallway no one would know it was there, and if the redcoats entered their chamber the latch was hidden behind a chest of drawers and out of the line of sight.
The morning of April 16th, 1746 started with Jamie waking up to find his wife’s side of the bed empty. He blinked a few times before he saw her standing looking out the bedroom window clutching the plaid tightly around her shoulders.
“Sassenach?” he whispered; his voice still groggy with sleep.
“Sorry I didn’t mean to wake you,” she smiled as turned back to look out the window.
“It is usually me who wakes first,” he smiled as he quickly got out of bed “What is troubling ye lass?”
“I don’t know how I can act normal today,” Claire replied quietly. “Knowing what is going to happen in just a few hours time.”
Jamie nodded silently “Well ye have done a braw job already.”
“It doesn’t feel like it.”
“Claire,” Jamie said as he came and stood behind her, wrapping his arms around her. “We are prepared for what happens next, thanks to ye. We are more ready than most are people are,” he said as he kissed her neck.
“I know, it’s just hard standing here looking out at a quiet and peaceful Lallybroch knowing that the canon is being loaded as we speak and that in the next few hours over a thousand men will lose their lives.”
“It chills me to the verra bone Sassenach,” Jamie said as he pulled her closer to him and let her rest her head on his chest. He closed his eyes and gave a silent prayer to God that he and his were safe and another to pray for the souls on Culloden moor.
They stood in silence for a few more minutes before Jamie brought his hand down to rest on her belly and whispered, “I ken,” before kissing her again on her neck.
“Know what?” Claire asked him quietly.
“About the bairn,” Jamie replied, smiling as he watched Claire turn in his arms and frown at him.
“How could you possibly know, it is far too soon,” she muttered.
“Sassenach you have not been a day late in your courses in all the time since ye first took me to yer bed, but it has been two months now,” Jamie smiled as his hand now rested on top of hers on her tummy.
“You kept track?” Claire asked as Jamie smiled softly and nodded. “In the middle of everything, you kept track!?”
“Aye, how long have you known?”
“Not long,” Claire smiled as she stared into his eyes “With everything that is going on, I wanted to be certain before I told you.”
“If what ye have said happens Sassenach then this bairn will be the light and joy that this family will need in the dark days to come.”
“You’re happy then?”
“Of course I am! Claire a bairn is a cause for a celebration!” Jamie replied, almost giddy with happiness, his suspicions at last confirmed. He smirked “Well we have Fergus and Faith and now this one,” he smiled his hand still on hers, “that is three spoons down, only nine more to go!”
It took a Claire a few seconds to get what he was referring too, the twelve spoons that Jenny had sent them when she was pregnant with Faith. “You seriously still want twelve children James Fraser!”
“Cannae see why not!”
“You are unbelievable!” Claire laughed “You do not have to give birth to them!”
“I dinna care how many bairns we have; I will love and care for each and every one of them, I just want them to be happy and healthy.”
“Now,” Jamie said as he lifted Claire into his arms “I want ye Sassenach, will ye have me?”
“I will,” Claire whispered as she felt her husband lay her down gently on the bed.
The next few months had gone as Claire had feared.
The Jacobite rebellion had failed, and the Bonnie Prince had fled to goodness knows where and the English took their revenge. Lallybroch had been invaded at dawn break several weeks later and any possessions and tartans found were taken. Little did the redcoats know about the secret chests hidden away and the tartans they seized and destroyed where the old plaids that were no longer any good to them.
The raids became a weekly occurrence and then they arrested Jamie and Ian accusing of them of being Jacobite loyalists. Jamie had shown them his pardon and swore he had no part in the rising. As he was dragged from Lallybroch he had shouted to Claire to name the bairn after his father.
Claire was beside herself with worry, especially after Jamie’s last words to her, would the redcoats believe that he had no part to play in the rising because if they didn’t, he would hang. Claire had barely slept for the two weeks that both men were gone, it was only the thought of the baby and little Faith that had kept her going.
She was sitting on the stone steps, reminiscing of the time when little Maggie had been born, this time with her daughter on her lap when she heard the dogs barking and she looked up in time to see Jamie helping Ian walk under the arch. She yelled for Jenny as she carefully stood up, holding her barely their baby bump as Faith flew down the steps and ran into her father’s arms. Jenny was beside her in seconds and took over helping Ian into the house as Jamie, Claire and Faith embraced in the courtyard of their home.
“The bairn?” Jamie asked in his wife’s ear.
“Is fine,” Claire smiled back as she tried to hold back the tears of joy. “I felt a kick last night.”
“Thank Christ,” Jamie whispered and kissed her, relief coursing through him.
Jamie and Ian would be arrested another two times in the next couple of months, the last one being when Claire was in confinement with only weeks until the baby was due. The same thing happened, the house had been raided, the men arrested, food and possessions seized. This time they were both released within the week and when they arrived home, Jamie had rushed up the stairs and into their chambers to find Claire resting in the rocking chair, with Faith sitting on her lap, her tiny hands resting on top of Claire’s swollen stomach.
“Da! Baby ick!” the little girl giggled as she saw him standing in the doorway, his heart melting as he watched the scene in front of him.
He walked into the room and bent down in front of his girls and kissed them both, he could see the relief on his wife’s face as Faith continued to tell him all about her baby and how excited she was going to be at being a big sister.
“He da!” Faith said as she grabbed his hand and placed it on Claire’s tummy just in time to feel a strong kick from within.
“He is lively tonight, mo ghraidh,” Jamie smiled as he reached up and caressed her face.
“She is,” Claire smirked back as she grimaced with another kick “he or she loves my ribcage.”
Jamie bent over and rubbed her belly before whispering in Gaelic to their unborn child. Faith started to giggle as Claire reached over and stroked her hair. “I think it is time for this little princess to go to bed.”
“No sleepy ma,” Faith said as she tried to hide a yawn to her parents’ amusement.
“Time for bed lass,” Jamie smiled as he stood and lifted Faith into his arms and whispered in her ear. He leant down so Faith could kiss her mother goodnight and winked at Claire as lifted Faith back into his arms, telling her all about the dreams she would have tonight.
Claire sighed in contentment watching them leave the room and embraced the silence of the room for a few minutes before carefully standing as the baby delivered another strong kick to her ribs. She smiled and as she turned to walk over to the bed a searing pain wrapped around her.
Biting back a scream she held on to the chair for support. She knew what was happening and was thankful that Jamie had arrived back home in time for the birth of this child. She was still standing there several minutes later when Jamie entered the room, telling her about Faith demanding two stories and it was when he turned from closing the bedroom door that he noticed her standing there.
Claire was just about to reply when she another pain gripped her causing her to double over in pain.
His heart stopped beating as he rushed to her and carried her to their bed. He had once told her that he could handle pain, but he couldn’t handle hers and that was becoming apparent to everyone at Lallybroch.
Twenty-four hours later and Claire was still in labour. Jamie was going out of his mind. In the beginning, he had gone with Ian to fetch the midwife from the village, but she was ill and unable to attend. For the entire journey back to Lallybroch he prayed that his sister and Mrs Crook would be able to deliver the bairn safely.
Unknown to him, during his latest spell with the redcoats Claire had told Jenny about her experience when delivering Faith and what to do if the same thing happened this time. Jenny was nervous but she never let it show. In the morning she had ushered her brother and husband to take the children out of the house for the day, mainly to save everyone from Jamie’s outbursts at the sound of his wife as each contraction hit.
By dinner time Ian and Fergus had been sent back to the village again for the midwife, but again she was still too poorly to attend.
Jamie had managed to get Faith settled into her own bed for the night and as he left his daughter’s room, he met his sister on the hallway.
“Donna fash brother. I was twice as long as this with wee Maggie,” Jenny said trying to keep him calm whilst trying not to show her own concerns.
“This…” Jamie started “This, is tearing my guts out Jenny, ye will tell me if something is wrong…”
“Jamie,” she replied not meeting his eyes.
“What are ye not telling me?” he demanded as he grabbed her arm.
“Is Milady okay?” Fergus asked as he crept out of the darkness.
“Ye should be in bed,” Jamie replied tersely.
“Not until I know maman will be okay.”
“Nothing is wrong,” Jenny bit back. “Why don’t ye go and watch yer sister lad,” Jenny said to Fergus. Waiting until he was out of earshot she continued “Claire is just tired and weak. Which ye would expect…” but she never got to finish her sentence as Jamie all but ran past her and into the his bedroom.
“My Laird, you shouldna…” Mrs Crook said as Jamie stormed past her and went straight to the bed where Claire was lying.
“Sassenach,” he said quietly as he watched his wife fight through another contraction, with the sweat pouring down her face.
“Jamie,” she whispered as the contraction ended. “I am so tired Jamie.”
“I know ye are, that is why I am here.”
“What…” Claire whispered as Jamie climbed onto the bed behind her and pulled her back to lean against his chest.
“I am not leaving ye, take whatever strength ye need from me lass,” He whispered in her ear as his sister entered the room “I love ye.”
“I love you too Jamie,” Claire said as another contraction hit.
An hour later and Jamie witnessed the birth of his second daughter who entered the world with a load cry and a full head of ginger hair. He fought back the tears as he held her in his hands and stood at the window while Jenny helped deliver the afterbirth.
“Brianna,” Claire said a short time later after Jenny had finished and they were alone.
“What?” Jamie asked to engrossed watching mother and daughter bond.
“You asked me to name this child after your father,” Claire explained. “We can’t use Brian, so what about Brianna….. Brianna Ellen Fraser?”
“Ye want to name her after both my parents?” he whispered as a tear rolled down his cheek.
“Yes,” Claire replied looking up and smiling.
“Welcome to the family Brianna Ellen Fraser,” Jamie smiled as he kissed them both. “Get some slept mo chidhre, ye must be exhausted.”
Jamie sighed as he leaned back against the headboard. Remembering his two wee lassies as bairns made him smile as he has thought back to this time last year, little William who was happy and content in his mother’s arms wasn’t even thought of.
Since arriving in Lallybroch, Claire had taken the role of Lady Broch Tuarach seriously and wanted to do something to help not only their tenants but the families who lived in the village nearby and very soon everyone knew she was healer. Over the years she had treated everything from sore throats, to farming incidents and even assisted the town midwife from time to time.
It was a few days after Briana’s first birthday when calm had been restored to Lallybroch that he found her in her herb garden, selecting what she needed for the day ahead when visiting some ill tenants in the village.
He looked at her standing there, wrapped up warm against the November chill and she was glowing. He walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, placing a quick kiss on her cheek in the process.
“It is as well I heard you coming,” Claire smiled back as she leaned into his embrace. “Even in winter you are still warm,” she said as he grinned. “Where are the girls?”
“With Fergus in the playroom,” Jamie replied smiling “Faith is demanding a story and I ken Bree only wants to drool and eat the toys.”
“She is teething,” Claire sighed remembering Bree’s bright rosy cheeks after breakfast that morning.
“Sooner the bugger comes the better,” Jamie said, “We might get a night’s sleep.”
“Well it could be a while before we get that again,” Claire smirked as she turned around and watched Jamie’s expression change from a frown, to a glance to her tummy and then into a smile as he lifted her hand and joined it with hers. “Yes, I think I may be pregnant again my lord Broch Tuarach.”
“I had suspected,” Jamie smirked giving her a knowing glance.
“Well I wanted to wait a bit longer to be sure, but I actually wanted to tell you this time,” Claire smiled looking her husband in the eye. Even now, after all these years she could still see in his eyes the level of his love for her.
“I love ye.”
“I love you too,” Claire replied, “You are happy about the baby aren’t you?”
“Christ Sassenach, I am verra happy, ye ken I want to fill this place with our bairns!”
“I do, I still think twelve is over ambitious though,” Claire laughed.
“We’ll see Sassenach,” Jamie smiled “But for now have ye got everything ye need, I will be going into town with ye.”
“Jamie,” Claire sighed rolling her eyes.
“Ye are carrying my child Claire, no more solo trips into town, or elsewhere, healer or no, do ye understand?”
Claire smiled and nodded as Jamie took her arm and led her to the stables. Even now after all these years together his over-protectiveness both infuriated and soothed her.
This pregnancy had been much different from the previous two. Hardly any morning sickness and an appetite that could rival Jamie’s. The only ailment she had was a constant sore back which she had put down to the fact that she began showing very early on and by the time June came Claire was convinced that she looked how she felt, like a whale.
It was a beautiful early June day that they had decided to spend together as a family. Jenny and her children had gone into the village to pass on Claire’s herbal medicines to those who needed it while Ian tended to the farm. Jamie and Claire both knew it would probably be their last time as a family of five before the new baby arrived. Her due date was still a few weeks away but with the heat and not being allowed out of the house was starting to drive Claire insane.
Claire had sat on a small wall bordering the garden from the fields as she knew that she would never be able to get up and down from the rug Jamie had placed on the grass. The bairn was kicking up a storm and her back was aching, but she wouldn’t have missed this for the world watching Faith and Brianna run around the field after Fergus all morning and afterwards watching Jamie make floral headbands for their daughters. Never in a million years did she ever imagine her strong highland warrior making daisy chains with his daughters, never mind wearing one with pride.
After Lunch, Jamie came and sat beside her, rubbing her back with one hand, the other on her swollen belly, watching Fergus tell his sisters another story.
One thought had troubled both of them during this pregnancy, and that was the birth. Neither Faith or Brianna’s had been an easy one and they both feared complications with this birth. However, as the time grew nearer, a calm came over Claire whilst Jamie was nearly demented by it. He couldn’t wait to meet the new bairn but at the same time he dreaded it. The image of Claire lying deathly pale in bed in agony for over a day with Brianna still haunted his dreams.
As the pregnancy had progressed Claire was calm throughout, she felt more at ease during this pregnancy and was able to enjoy it more. Yes, her back hurt all the time but she could handle that. So, sitting on the wall watching her family with an aching back didn’t cause her any alarm. It was only when she went to stand up, holding on to Jamie as she did so, that she felt the first cramp followed by a gush of water.
Whilst Claire was calm, Jamie was not.
Fergus was hastily instructed to take Faith and Brianna back to the house and to stay with them no matter what happened.
He wrapped an arm around his wife and they walked as quickly as Claire could manage back to the house, meeting Ian along the way who was ordered to head to the village for his wife and the midwife.
It took nearly twenty minutes and several contractions later before they reached the house. He had wanted to carry her, but Claire insisted that she wanted to walk as it helped to ease the pain. Mrs Crook was waiting for them and was in the middle of getting everything prepared.
As soon as they entered the house, Claire let out a scream and Jamie, nerves frayed already, scooped her up into his arms and all but ran up the staircase and into their chambers where he placed her carefully at the end of their bed.
He was trying to figure out the best way of undressing her when he saw Claire grab the bedpost and start lifting her skirts.
“I need to push Jamie,” Claire groaned as she could feel the baby coming now.
“Need to get ye undressed first Sassenach,” Jamie practically rambled as he nervously paced around the room as he approached her.
“Jamie!” Claire yelled getting his attention. “I need to push; I can feel the head.”
“You need to help me deliver the baby,” she said as she looked at her now shaking husband.
“I have no idea…”
“Lift my skirts,” Claire screamed as another contraction hit “Can you see anything?”
“Christ…” Jamie muttered as he did as she told and then looked at her, “I see the head Sassenach, I see his wee head.”
“Oh God Jamie…”
Jamie looked up at Claire and crossed himself “Grab hold of the bed post Sassenach and push…”
Five minutes later, just as Jenny walked in through the front door after meeting Ian at the end of the lane the sound of a newborn baby rang through the halls of Lallybroch.
Jenny smiled, then she too crossed herself as she raced up the stairs and towards the master bedroom, the door still open and tentatively walked in and immediately gasped.
“Jenny!” Jamie beamed as he sat beside Claire on the bed watching her hold the newborn in her arms, “Would ye like to meet our wee lad, William Brian Lambert Fraser?”
“A lad?” she all but screamed in joy and trying her hardest not to cry. She looked at a flushed and elated Claire “Did he land on his feet?” she laughed.
“Pretty much,” Jamie said smiling down at his son “it all happened so quickly.”
“Let’s just say he was in a rush to get out,” Claire smiled as she tried to change position on the bed. “Jenny, can you?”
“Jamie?” Jenny asked knowing that what Claire needed and marched towards the bed. “Jamie?” she asked again
“Aye,” he replied never looking away from his son “He has your dark hair Sassenach!”
“That he does,” Jenny smiled as she looked at her brother as Mrs Crook entered the room “Jamie, why don’t you go with Mrs Crook and get him cleaned up and then Claire can feed him?”
“Aye,” Jamie said as he quickly stood and walked round to the other side of the bed still in shock at everything that happened and still grinning like a loon.
Claire held back the tears as she watched her husband carry their son out the room already talking to him in Gaelic.
The flash of lightning followed by the rumble of thunder brought Jamie back to the present and he smiled as Claire finished feeding William and quietly moved him so his face was resting on her shoulder. The baby was starting to fall asleep despite the incoming thunderstorm.
“How long do you give it until they are in our bed?” Claire smiled as she continued to rub little William’s back.
“Another few minutes if we are lucky,” Jamie said as he stroked his son’s soft hair.
They sat in silence listening to the storm brewing outside until William let out a huge burp seconds before a blinding flash of white and a deafening rumble of thunder.
“That’s my lad!” Jamie grinned as he kissed the baby and heard the movement from the room next door, a bed creaking then a shriek of “Ma! Da! Scared!”
“I’ll go get them,” Jamie said as he quickly left the room and heading into what was their daughter’s shared bedroom.
“At least you don’t seem to be scared of the thunder yet William,” Claire sighed as she felt William drift off into a sleep.
“Now remember,” she could hear her husband say as he came to their bedroom door carrying both Faith and Brianna in his arms, “ye have to be quiet yer baby brother is sleeping and ye don’t want to wake him.”
“Ma!” Both girls said in unison once they saw their mother sitting up in bed, already patting a space for them to sit beside her.
“I found this one loitering in the hallway,” Jamie smirked as he nodded behind him and Fergus quietly entered the bedroom.
“I am not afraid milord,” Fergus muttered nervously when another flash lit the room making the young boy jump out of his skin. “I wanted to check on the girls, make sure they were sleeping.”
“Course ye did laddie,” Jamie said as he sat on the bed and pulled Brianna onto his lap just as the thunder roared over their heads.
“I am scared da,” Faith said her bottom lip quivering.
“See!” Fergus said gesturing towards a trembling Faith as he came and sat down beside her on the bed “women!”
Jamie and Claire both looked at each other trying to keep their faces straight.
The sound of the new occupants was making William restless in his Claire’s arms and she gently lay him on the bed beside her as she turned and lay on her side facing him. She rubbed his chest as he opened his blue eyes and stared up and smiled as he started waving and kicking his little arms and legs in the air.
“Did he just?” Jamie asked his voice full of wonder even now watching this milestone with his third child.
“He did, he just gave his first smile,” Claire smiled as she reached out and brought Faith closer to her.
“Why is it so loud?” Faith asked quietly as she lay down on the bed, her head resting on the top of Claire’s legs. “The funder?”
“Well,” Jamie said as he looked down at each daughter, “Even God doesn’t like the heat and it puts him in a bad mood, a verra bad mood!”
“Like Auntie Jenny?” Faith asked and Fergus giggled. They all knew not to mess their aunt.
“Worse!” Jamie replied laughing “He is so mad that he starts stamping all over heaven, and that is why it is so loud.”
“I wish he would move to another room so we can get some sleep,” Fergus sighed as lay down across the bottom of the bed.
“He will soon,” Claire smiled as both girls covered their ears as the thunder continued outside.
“Ory da!” Brianna said as she nestled closer to his chest.
“What story would ye like?” Jamie asked as looked from Brianna to Faith to Fergus.
“The one about the fairy lady,” Fergus yawned “they like one.”
Jamie and Claire quickly glanced at each other before Jamie enthusiastically started telling the story.
By the time he was finished the worst of the thunderstorm had passed with only the occasional rumble heard in the distance. The rain had come and took its place and it could be heard beating against the windows as Jamie and Claire looked at the now sleeping children in their bed.
William was lying like a starfish, arms and legs all stretched out and snoring away to himself.
Fergus was fast asleep at the bottom of the bed
Faith’s head was now on Claire’s tummy and Claire’s hand was softly caressing the red wavy hair.
Brianna was fast asleep and drooling all over her father’s nightshirt, he too was gently soothing her red and curly hair.
“They could pass for twins,” Claire yawned.
“That they could,” Jamie said quietly smiling almost at peace.
“What?” Claire asking frowning slightly.
“I am happy Sassenach. For the first time in my life I am happy. I am home, at Lallybroch and the people I love more than life itself are lying in my bed with me. I am content.”
“Hush, get some sleep mo chidre, get some sleep before the wee lad wakens for another feed.”
Jamie lay there in the dark listening the chorus of soft gentle snores contrasting with the sound of the rain outside and closed his eyes.
When he woke sometime later, he could feel a body almost pressed on top of him. He sighed thinking that Claire had been up again with little William and put the children back into their own beds and was now snuggled against him.
He could feel the heat again, this time he thought he was on fire and could feel something wet hit him on the face.
“Jamie,” he heard quietly in the distance. He opened his eyes, and everything was dark. Pitch dark. It looked almost like snow falling as he turned his head and saw Claire, a vision in her white shift and gown walk towards him.
If Claire was walking towards him then who was lying practically on top of him?
He blinked and focused his eyes.
He was not lying in his bed at Lallybroch. He was lying in the middle of Culloden Moor amongst the dead and dying highlanders and he watched as Claire walk amongst the bodies of his fellow highlanders.
Everything was coming back to him.
He killed his uncle.
He had sent Claire and their unborn child back through the stones at Craig na dun for safety.
He had killed that bastard Black Jack Randall whose body was currently on his side.
The pain of his injuries came back to him as realisation hit. He was in a fever, hence why he was so hot. The dream, the perfect day with his family had all been a fever dream, a hallucination. He looked up at the sound of someone saying his name again.
“Jamie… are ye alive man?”
It wasn’t Claire, it was Rupert. He had survived and he was pleased. But for him he wanted to die. The pain and heartbreak would be easier to bare if he died and waited in purgatory for Claire. Two hundred years or not.
“Dunno,” he managed to whisper before groaning as Rupert shoved Randall’s dead body aside.
“Quiet,” Rupert whispered “There’s redcoats still about and they’re killing the wounded where they lie. Can ye stand?”
“No,” Jamie groaned the pain and despair was too much “Let me be.” In the wee small hours, he groaned again “Let me be.”
“I’m not gonna leave ye to die in the mud, even if ye are a pig-headed loon who canna hold his whiskey.”
“Drink ye under the table,” Jamie muttered as he felt himself being lifted as he drifted back into unconsciousness and prayed for the life he could have had.