Jamie winced as his daughter cried out yet again, the sound reverberating from her birthing chamber to the sitting room where a small assemblage of his family waited. His third grandchild was about to enter the world, and he was as terrified for his daughter as he’d been for Claire each time she’d given birth. He wasn’t sure which was the more difficult task--being in the room to watch his wife suffer through such pain or listening from below as their daughter endured it.
“Blessed Bride, Jamie, ye’ll wear a hole in the rug with all your pacing,” his Aunt Jocasta admonished him from her place on the sofa. She couldn’t see him, but her diminishing eyesight had only heightened her other senses.
“‘Tis been over twelve hours now. None of our bairns took this long to deliver.”
“Then, your wife was a lucky one. My first lass took nigh on twenty.”
Jamie shuddered at the thought of it. He’d always regretted his absence for the births of Fergus’ children, wee Germain and Joanie, but as they’d been born in France, there had been little help for it. He was now fairly certain he’d been better off, though of course he didn’t hold quite the same attachment for his daughter-in-law as for Brianna.
“Did they ever decide on names?” Murtagh inquired, guiding his wife’s hands to a fresh cup of tea.
“Aye, though they’ve no’ told anyone yet.”
“Perhaps they’ll be as creative wi’ them as Claire,” Jenny teased as she glanced up from her knitting.
Jamie chuckled good-naturedly, having long since grown accustomed to the typical reaction to his daughter’s unusual name. Although they had tentatively planned on naming their first daughter after Claire’s mother, his wife had insisted upon using Julia for a middle name instead.
“She just doesn’t look like a Julia,” she’d insisted. Jamie had laughed but opted not to ask precisely how a Julia was meant to look. Labor had been a long and grueling experience for his wife. “What about Brianna? After your father.”
He’d made a face over the name at first, and they’d spent a good while arguing about the pronunciation. They’d spent even longer bickering playfully over the lass’s nickname, but after Brianna had gained the ability to move about on her own, Jamie had been forced to agree with Claire’s initial assessment. His daughter was a Bree and no doubt about it.
As another anguished cry was followed by a round of shouted encouragements, Jamie grimaced and began to pace again. His aunt and sister sighed in resignation.
“Ye could always go outside wi’ the lads,” Jenny suggested.
He grunted indifferently but glanced out the window on reflex. His teenaged sons, Jacob and William, had been sent out to see to the livestock several hours ago. From what Jamie could see, however, they’d started a game of shinty with their Murray cousins at some point. Claire would likely have a few injuries to tend when she finished with Brianna.
His wife was a renowned healer throughout their part of the Highlands. She acted as midwife and physician for most of the Lallybroch tenants, and her skills had been sought by many in other parts of Scotland as well. There were still the occasional whispers of witchcraft and being a ‘faerie woman,’ but those on their own land knew better by now. Regardless of the extraordinary gifts Claire may have possessed, she’d never been known to harm anyone. She had the love and admiration of their people, and with that came their protection.
Jamie glanced upward, as though he might be able to see through the rafters to his daughter’s room. Births had made him nervous ever since he’d lost his mother and newborn brother. Jenny had borne Ian six living children and had a few grandchildren of her own now. Only the three youngest still lived with Jenny and Ian in the house they’d built on the other side of the lower fields. Once Brianna and Roger finished construction on their small house opposite the kailyard, the estate would be a proper compound.
Jamie had to admit a grudging new respect for his son-in-law, for the lad had scarcely left Brianna’s side since her pains had begun. Roger MacKenzie had come into Bree’s life just as bizarrely as Claire had entered Jamie’s. He had travelled by accident through the standing stones at Craigh na Dun.
After having concluded that Master Raymond had been a time traveller as well, Claire had begun to wonder just how many of them there might be and thought perhaps she wasn’t such a rarity after all. The best indication of the ability seemed to be whether or not a person could hear the terrible buzzing sound the stones made on certain days of the year. Suspecting that such an ability might well be genetic, Claire had insisted on taking their children to the henge a few years ago on one of the quarter days, when the veil between worlds--and presumably, time--was said to be thin. Better to know the danger, she’d said, and thus be able to avoid it.
Jacob and William had been unable to detect anything out of the ordinary, but Brianna had heard the stones calling just as Claire could. More shocking, however, had been the sight of a large, black-haired man materializing on the ground in front of the largest stone. He’d clearly been in a state of distress, and Jamie had barely caught his wife in time to stop her from rushing toward the stranger.
“Nay, Sassenach. Ye canna get too close to the stones. Stay wi’ the weans. I’ll go.”
Claire had agreed to stay put, clutching her eighteen-year-old daughter’s hand to keep her from moving any closer as well. Once Jamie had pulled the man far enough away from the stones, the women had knelt on either side of him, checking for signs of life.
After a few minutes, the man had awoken and introduced himself as Roger Wakefield. The surname had tickled something in the recesses of Claire’s memory, and she had eventually recalled him as the Reverend Wakefield’s young nephew. Her brief time in Inverness had been filled with more pressing concerns and no little amount of psychological trauma, and she had blocked quite a bit of it from her memory. To her surprise, however, Roger had vaguely remembered her, but more as a local legend of Inverness.
“Taken by the faeries?” Claire had asked with a laugh. He’d smiled pleasantly, still a bit stunned to find himself in the wrong century even after Claire’s thorough explanation.
“Aye, well, the police searched for you for months, even after your hus--er, that is, Mr. Randall, left the area. I know he corresponded with my uncle for many years afterward, but he never came back. More than a few of the locals thought he might’ve had something to do with your disappearance, but nothing was ever proven. The faerie abduction bit… That just fit with the folktales, you see.”
“Ye seem to be takin’ it a bit better than Claire did,” Jamie had noted curiously, grinning when his wife had stuck her tongue out at him playfully. Roger had chuckled as well.
“I suppose because I have no choice but to believe my own eyes. Besides, my uncle’s housekeeper and her granddaughter are full of stories about the faerie hill, so it’s not the first time I’ve heard of such a thing.”
“Mrs. Graham,” Claire had recalled fondly. “She was the one who told me about the stones in the first place, though she certainly never said anything about traveling through them.”
The conversation had continued as the family made their way back to Lallybroch with Roger in tow. Once he’d recovered a bit, he’d attempted to return by touching the largest stone again, to no avail. Jamie and Claire had decided to help him assimilate as well as possible until such time as he could find a way to return. By the time they’d reached Lallybroch, both Claire and Roger were fairly certain the vicar’s sweet old housekeeper had known what would happen when Claire visited the stones.
As a graduate historian, Roger had been slightly better equipped than most when it came to adapting to his new reality. He’d been born a MacKenzie and had decided to use it again in order to blend in. Roger hadn’t memorized enough of his family tree to be certain whether or not he was related to the MacKenzies of Leoch, but posing as one of Jamie’s distant cousins was believable enough, thanks to his stature, which was strikingly similar to Jamie’s.
It had been Roger’s intention to return to the stones on the next pagan holiday, which happened to be Samhain. By that time, however, he had fallen deeply in love with Brianna Fraser and, like Claire, had chosen to stay. They’d married the following year, and their first child would be making his or her appearance at any moment.
Or so Jamie hoped. The waiting was enough to make him daft, and he’d found himself accepting yet another glass of whisky from his brother-in-law.
“I dinna ken how ye held yourself together through so many births, a charaid.”
“Och,” Ian scoffed lightheartedly. “‘Tis no’ the men who do the hard part.”
“Ye’re damned right,” Jenny muttered. Jocasta smiled into her teacup.
Jocasta MacKenzie Fraser was the last of the elder MacKenzie siblings and had moved to Lallybroch with her youngest daughter shortly after the Rising, when her third husband had passed. She’d married Murtagh a few years later, having known him since childhood. Her brother, Colum, had died shortly before the Battle of Culloden, leaving Dougal to lead the majority of the MacKenzie fighting men into battle. Most of them had died alongside him, and those who hadn’t had been imprisoned and later indentured to the colonies.
The Rising had transpired exactly as Claire had predicted, and the years following Culloden had been difficult. Fortunately for the Frasers of Lallybroch, the English believed them to be loyalists even before the fighting had begun, and since the men of Lallybroch had stayed out of the conflict altogether, the estate had remained safely in Jamie’s hands. They had cooperated with the redcoats as much as possible, and while it hadn’t particularly endeared them to the surviving Jacobites, it had at least kept the Frasers from starvation. They had, of course, tried to help others when possible, and Lallybroch continued to fare better than most of the other estates in the region.
Jamie had always felt a mixture of relief and guilt when he contemplated his family’s circumstances. He certainly had no love for the British, but he wasn’t fool enough to go against them. There was simply too much at stake. Many Highland families had lost their homes altogether, and he counted himself lucky not to be among them. Lallybroch would eventually pass to William, though only because Fergus had insisted upon it.
When Fergus had reached his majority, he had expressed a desire to know more about his origins. Jamie and Claire had always been completely transparent with him about what they’d learned from Master Raymond, but it had taken Fergus a few years to warm to the idea of seeking out his biological mother’s family. To everyone’s surprise, however, it was his maternal uncle, the current Baron Amandine, who had found him first.
With no surviving legitimate heirs, Claudel Beauchamp had apparently spent years searching for his nephew and namesake. Tracing his sister back to the correct brothel had taken a long time, but once Madame Elise had confirmed the rumors of the child, it had been a simple matter to track young Claudel to the apothecary. By that point, Master Raymond had long since left Paris, but tales of the suspected sorcerer were still well-known. The baron had eventually learned of young Claudel’s adoption by none other than the notorious La Dame Blanche and her Scottish husband. He’d then sent a messenger to the Frasers in Scotland, inviting them all to his estate in Compiegne.
Fergus had initially been resistant to the idea of accepting the role as Amandine’s heir, and several years had passed before he’d even agreed to a visit. As much as he’d missed his homeland, being legitimized as a Beauchamp felt like a betrayal of those he considered to be his true family. Only when Claire had revealed her maiden name and her unique origins had Fergus finally relented.
“You’re our son,” she’d told him simply. “You’ll always be our son, no matter where you are or what you’re called.”
He hadn’t been willing to give up his chosen name entirely, however, and had now been legally recognized as Fergus Claudel Fraser Beauchamp, heir to the title and estate of the Baron Amandine. His wife, a Scottish woman named Marsali who was distantly related to Jamie, had relocated with him to Compiegne and had given him two children thus far.
As Jamie’s thoughts lingered on his grandchildren, he lamented only having been able to visit them a few times in France. Still, Fergus and his family were doing well, and he was grateful his son had found a solid place in the world, even one so far away. Claire had warned them all of the revolution that would take place in France a few decades hence, but Fergus had been raised with a good example of leadership. He was fair-minded, compassionate, and not a man prone to hoarding his wealth, unlike most of the French aristocracy. Jamie suspected his son’s humble beginnings might well align him with the revolutionaries, who would prove to be the victors.
Jamie’s distracted musings were cut abruptly short by an altogether different sort of cry coming from the second story, and his feet were propelling him up the stairs before he could think twice about it, his heart pounding with anticipation. Just as he reached the landing, the door to Brianna and Roger’s bedchamber opened, and his wife emerged, looking weary but relieved.
“Brianna? The bairn?” Jamie asked, rushing toward her. Claire beamed.
“Brianna and her son are perfectly fine.”
He stood in the doorway, holding his wife and following her gaze to the bed, where his daughter and her husband smiled down at their newborn son. Jamie released a long sigh, feeling almost lightheaded with relief as he watched them. Claire tugged him gently into the room, and he moved to get a better look at his grandson.
“Christ, he looks so much like ye, lass. Look at that hair,” Jamie crooned, reaching down to stroke the baby’s thin red hair, still damp from washing. “Aye, he’s a braw lad. Heard him all the way downstairs.”
“Good strong lungs,” Claire agreed. She leaned over to kiss Brianna’s clammy forehead. “Now, will you tell us his name?”
“Aye,” Roger said softly, practically glowing with pride. “We decided to call him after my father. Jeremiah Alexander Fergus Fraser MacKenzie.”
Jamie’s eyes burned with tears, and he couldn’t seem to dislodge the tightness of emotion from this throat. Claire squeezed his hand.
“It’s perfect,” she whispered, wiping at her own teary eyes.
“Aye,” Jamie finally managed to say. “And ‘tis a great honor ye do me. I ken Fergus will appreciate it as well.”
The rest of the family met the new baby in small groups, and when Brianna was finally ready to rest, Claire handed the baby back to Roger.
“Don’t hesitate to knock on our door if you need anything,” she advised him. “You need rest too.”
Roger nodded and kissed her cheek in thanks, leaving Claire and Jamie to retreat to the laird’s bedchamber.
“We must write to Fergus first thing tomorrow,” Jamie announced as they settled into bed for the night. His arms wrapped themselves instinctively around his wife, and he pressed his lips into her curly hair.
“Yes. He’ll be thrilled. I just wish he were here to meet his nephew in person.”
“Och, I’m sure they’ll manage a visit when the bairns are wee bit older.”
“That’s assuming they don’t have more,” Claire chuckled. “Marsali’s last letter hinted that she might be expecting again. She wasn’t sure yet, though.”
“True. Well, perhaps we’ll just have to go to them, aye? I miss them too, but they’re doing well in France, Sassenach.”
“I know. And I’m happy for them. I just… miss them. I suppose I’m getting sentimental in my old age.”
“Old age?” Jamie echoed with a laugh. “You’re no’ quite fifty, and ye hardly look thirty-five. Still every bit mo nighean donn as ye were the day we met, too. You’d think the lads would ha’ left ye with a bit more gray hair.”
“Fergus gave me plenty. And William and Jacob are only fifteen and thirteen. Give them time,” she answered wryly. “But even if we’d never had any of them, you would’ve no doubt put me in a similar state by now.”
He responded with a Scottish grunt of amusement and brushed his knuckles over her cheeks, smiling into her whisky-brown eyes. It was still so easy to lose himself in them, to let the abundant happiness he’d found with her wash away every worry and fear.
“Aye, I’d probably no’ have lived half this long were ye no’ such a bonny healer, mo ghraidh.”
“And my work is never done.” They shared a chuckle and a soft kiss.
“Twenty-three years, Claire. Magic brought us together, and love made us one.”
“I was alone in the world and practically frightened of my own shadow.”
“And I was an outlaw wi’ a price on my head, but ye chose me just as I chose you. I hope I’ve never given ye cause to regret it.”
She laid a hand gently against his stubbled jaw and smiled at his words, shaking her head gently.
A/N: That's a wrap! I hope you all enjoyed this little tale. Special thanks to my amazing beta, my loyal reviewers, and to those who took a chance on a new writer to the fandom. I will undoubtedly write more Outlander fics in the future, and in the meantime, you can find my contributions to other fandoms here: Fifty Shades and Twilight or Bones (TV).
I also have five contemporary romance novels on Amazon and always keep my prices low. :)