4 months later…
September 19th, 1747
“Just breathe, Sassenach,” Jamie said softly from beside me. I’d been in labor since yesterday afternoon and I remember hearing that with the third child, it was supposed to be easier… not this one.
“He’s stubborn thing,” I groaned. “Just like his father.”
“Or a stubborn lass…” Jamie smirked. “Like her mam.”
Narrowing my eyes at him, I let out a deep breath as another contraction came, this time much closer than the one before. Jenny and the midwife were helping me — wetting my forehead with a damp cloth, making sure I stayed hydrated. Jamie hadn’t left my side all night, he’d barely slept either.
I considered myself to be a patient person, but when matters of my body were concerned and an immense amount of pain… I wasn’t.
“Do ye wanna go for another walk, mo nighean? See if it helps,” Jamie asked.
“No,” I said through gritted teeth. “I do not want to go for another bloody walk, I want this baby out of me!”
Gripping Jamie’s hand tight, another contraction passed. The last time I had given birth to our son, William, it had been dangerous for the both of us. I was scared and I knew Jamie was too. In my own time, I would be in a hospital with clean linen’s and medicines to help with the pain — giving childbirth in the 18th century was exactly what I’d thought it would be.
“Is there anythin’ we can do, Jenny?” Jamie asked his sister who had just returned with freshly boiled cloths.
“If she doesna want to go for a walk, aye, there are a few things…” she smirked.
“Well what is it?” I tried to sit up. I knew of a few things all right… and I knew why she was smirking.
“Intercourse helps progress the labor quite well,” she said and I felt Jamie shift in the bed. He was so nervous to touch me near the end, afraid that the baby would some how feel an intruder. “Nipple stimulation, and of course wee walks.”
I looked over at Jamie who’s face was red, “Well?”
“I dinna want to hurt ye, Sassenach… or the bairn.”
“You won’t hurt us, Jamie. How many times do I have to tell you this,” I smiled, cupping his face. “If you’re too bloody afraid to have sex with your wife, then the least you can do is touch me.” I reached for his hand and laid it on my breast.
“I’ll come back later,” Jenny smirked and left the room, closing the door behind her.
“Ye think this will work, mo ghraidh?” Jamie moved closer, pulling my shift down from my shoulders until both breasts were exposed.
“Oh yes,” I nodded. “I’ve heard of many women’s labors being sped up this way and of course by having sex, but…” I gave him a look. “My husband won’t do that.”
“Och, ye ken I want to, Sassenach… I just—“ He said a bit shyly as he glanced down at my massive belly. “I dinna want to hurt ye and I dinna want to poke the poor fella.”
Jamie moved his fingers around my areola, pressing gently and then firmer as I touched his wrist. My nipples hardened at his touch. Sex was the last thing on my mind, having been sweating and feeling like I was about to explode for the last eighteen hours.
“Jamie, will you try?” I said.
He bent down to kiss me, his hands moving to my shoulders. “I’ll try for ye, Sassenach.”
It took a bit of effort, but I managed to move onto my hands and knees — there was no possible way Jamie could manage to curve himself around my stomach and I was too heavy to straddle him.
“If ye feel any pain at all, Claire…” he placed his hands on my hips. “Ye tell me to stop and I swear I will.”
“I won’t,” I urged, backing my hips against him, feeling how hard he was. It’d been months since we’d been together like this, I knew no matter how much he protested, he wanted me.
Slowly and carefully, Jamie pressed into me and a deep sigh left both of our lips. It did feel different, somehow fuller. My stomach was against the bed, and I raised myself best I could on my hands as he began to thrust into me. He was being so gentle, so tender.
“It feels good, Jamie,” I encouraged him and turned my head to see him looking down at the place of our joining. I could hear it then, the wetness as he pushed forward. “Oh!”
“I’m almost,” he grunted. “I canna last much longer, Sassenach.”
Both his hands pressed into my hips, holding me to him and I hung my head forward as he finished with three more thrusts. Every nerve in my body seemed to come alive and it took all the energy in me to roll onto my side, collapsed and spent.
Jamie laid behind me, his hands softly stroking my belly and then I arched against him as another contraction came.
“That was quick,” Jamie chuckled.
Within the next hour, I was pushing, leaning against him for support and squeezing the bloody hell out of his hand. Once I felt the need to push, it all happened rather quickly from that point and now I lay back in bed, holding our precious baby boy.
“I told ye it would help quicken things,” Jenny snorted from the end of the bed as she gathered the used cloths and bedsheets.
“Aye, ye did,” Jamie narrowed his eyes. “Now, will ye go and get the other wee bairns of ours?”
A moment later, Faith and William came running in, excited smiled on their faces. With Jamie’s help, they crawled up onto the bed, sitting around us.
“This is your new baby brother,” I smiled and turned him towards them. “His name is Brian… like your grandda.”
The eldest Brian Fraser stood in the doorway, his arms crossed and I thought I saw a few unshed tears in his eyes. I smiled at him and he at me, then turned back to my children. I never thought I would have a family of my own — a distant thought perhaps in the back of my mind, but never did I think I would be surrounded by my husband and three beautiful children, all with a mop of red hair.
Ever since Brian’s return, we had all gotten into a routine of sorts. Life was beginning to take shape again and after so many years of traveling and never feeling settled, Jamie and I found peace here at Lallybroch.
Brian had grown healthier day by day, returning once again to the man he once was. He didn’t want to be Laird of Lallybroch anymore, it was Jamie’s duty he said. I saw how Jamie took on that responsibility so seriously, always caring for his tenants and family. Caring for us.
I helped around the estate with Jenny, whether in the garden that I had helped cultivate or with daily tasks inside. And once a week, I went into the village and houses nearby and healed people with cuts and diseases, using my knowledge in any way that I could.
We were slowly outgrowing Lallybroch, with three children of our own as well as Jenny and Ian’s never ending offspring. Which is why Jamie had begun building a smaller house just on the edge of the property for us. He said that while he was Laird of Lallybroch, it didn’t mean we had to live in the house. I think he mostly wanted his privacy from all the coming and going of the bigger house.
I had to admit, it would be nice to get away from all the noise that a big house and all its servants and inhabitants brought along with it. Of course we still had three children of our own that made plenty of noises.
I was up at the smaller house now, it’d been a month since Brian was born and I wanted some fresh air. Jamie came out, his shirt covered in dirt and his face with it.
“My Sassenach,” he kissed me and then Brian. “My wee lad.”
“To what do I owe the honor?”
“Just wanted to get some fresh air and see how the house was coming along,” I smiled.
“I expect in the next couple weeks, it’ll be done and we can be in before the cold comes,” he said proudly and slid his arm around my waist.
“It’ll be beautiful, Jamie. I love it already,” I said and then passed Brian into his arms to give mine a break. “Did you ever think that when we first met, we would have all of this?”
“Och, nah.” Jamie smiled as he stroked Brian’s small cheek. “I was an outlaw when we first met, on the run. I never thought I would live to see the day I would return to Lallybroch, especially no as Laird.”
“And I never thought that I would marry that dirty highlander with a dislocated shoulder,” I smirked, crossing my arms.
“I’m glad ye did, Sassenach,” Jamie kissed me. “I remember that night like it twas yesterday, ye comin’ in wi’ Murtagh, dressed in yer shift wi’ yer wet curls drippin’ down.”
“You bloody scot!” I hit him on the arm, “You just wanted to see through my dress, even back then.”
“Aye, I did,” he laughed. “Ye were so bonny and the I’d never seen anyone as beautiful as ye, Sassenach. Can ye forgive me for wantin’ ye? Even then?”
I pressed my lips to his, then laid my head against his shoulder. “I forgive you. Only because I wanted you too, from the start.”
4 years ago….
The strange man I was with that had saved me from the English soldier — the same one that bared a striking resemblance to Frank — pushed open a door to a small cottage. Inside was a group of men, huddled around a fire.
They spoke a language I didn’t understand and I began to feel like I wasn’t entirely safe.
A man rose from the corner, pulling my arm aside to bring me closer to the fire, “Let’s have a look at ye, lass.”
“I trust you’re able to see me now,” I said, trying my best to hold myself together.
“What’s yer name?” he said with a thick Scottish accent.
I decided to keep using my maiden name. If they intended to ransom me, I didn’t want to lead them back to Frank. “Claire,” I said. “Claire Beauchamp.”
“Claire Beauchamp,” he said.
“That’s right! What the hell do y—“
“You said you found her?” He interrupted me, talking to the man who had brought me here.
“Aye,” the other man said. “She was havin’ words wi’ a certain Captain of Dragoons, wi’ whom we are acquainted.” He looked over at me, “There seemed to be some question as to whether the lady was or was not a whoor.”
“And what was the lady’s position in the discussion?”
“I am not!”
“We could put it to the test,” another man said from the corner.
“I don’t hold wi’ rape,” the man beside me said, but I found little comfort in his words. “We don’t have the time for it anyway.”
“Dougal,” the first man said, “I have no idea what she might be, but I’ll stake my best shot, she’s not a whoor.”
“We’ll puzzle that out later,” the man Dougal said and then went back to the fire behind me. “We’ve a good distance to go tonight, we must do somethin’ about Jamie first.”
Escape was my chief concern, but I had no idea where I was and trying to find the road back to Inverness in the gathering darkness felt like a fool’s errand.
All the men had crowded around a man with red hair.
“It’s the joint, poor bugger. Ye canna ride wi’ it like that can ye?”
“It hurts enough sittin’ still, I couldna manage a horse,” the injured man said.
“I don’t mean to be leavin’ him behind.”
“There’s no help for it then,” another man said, “I’ll have to force the joint back.”
The wisest course of action would have been to keep my head down, my mouth shut and wait for the search parties Frank must have sent out by now. But I couldn’t stand there and do nothing as I watched these grubby highland men surround the injured one, starting to pull on his arm while he choked down ale.
“Don’t you dare!” I rushed forward and the pulled their knives on me. “Stand aside at once, you’ll break his arm if you do it like that!”
They all just looked at me as if they’d never heard a woman speak before, “You have to get the bone of the upper arm in the correct position before it slips back into joint.” The man Dougal moved aside to let me attend to the injured man.
He was covered in blood and sweat and I laid my hands gently on his arm, he winced slightly.
“Hold him steady,” I said to the men behind him and then looked at the red haired man, nodding once to let him know I was about to do it. I moved his forearm, twisting it and he let out a groan, “This is the worst part.”
He nodded, breathing heavily as I then took his arm and pushed it back into place.
“Taing Dhia!” He said, looking up at me. “It doesna hurt anymore.”
“It will,” I said checking his arm. “It’ll be tender for about a week, you’ll need a sling.”
“You,” I nodded to a man nearby, “Fetch me a long piece of cloth or a belt!”
“Fetch me she says,” he mocked me. “Did ye hear that lads?”
“Give her yer belt…” Dougal said.
“Takin’ a guess ye’ve done this before?” the red haired man I heard referred to as Jamie, said.
I nodded, my arm still holding onto his, “I’m a nurse.” Sets of eyes drifted down to my breasts, “Not a wet nurse!”
I took the belt from the man, wrapping it around Jamie’s arm. “You mustn’t move the joint for two or three days. When you begin to use it again, go very slowly at first. Stop at once if it hurts. And use warm compresses on it daily.”
“Alright,” I hooked the belt, “How does that feel?”
“Better,” Jamie smiled. “Thank ye.”
“Can ye ride?” Dougal said, tossing him his jacket.
“Aye,” Jamie said, still looking up at me.
“Good, we’re leavin’.”
We all made out way outside, now dark and raining. Jamie followed behind me and I looked out at the dark night, “Where is it? Where is the city? It should be visible from here…”
“Inverness?” Jamie said, nodding forward. “Yer lookin’ straight at it.”
There were no electric lights as far as the eye could see, so as much as my rational mind rebelled against the idea — I knew in my heart, I was no longer in the 20th century.
“Get yerself up,” Dougal came behind me, grabbing my arm and pulling me towards Jamie’s horse that he was already seated upon. “You be sure to stay close to the rest of us and should ye try anythin’ else, I shall slit yer throat for ye. Do ye understand me?”
I nodded, scared out of my mind. “Give me yer foot,” he said and hoisted me up onto Jamie’s horse. I sat in front of him, feeling his warm solid chest behind me. He moved around me, pressing against me, “Careful. What are you trying to do?”
“Get my plaid to cover ye,” he said. “Yer shiverin’,” Jamie said softly as he pulled the plaid around both of us.
“Thank you, but I’m fine really.”
“Yer shakin’ so hard, it’s makin’ my teeth rattle,” he laughed. “The plaid will keep us both warm, but I canna do it one handed. Can ye reach?”
I reached behind me, helping Jamie to cover us. I was thankful for the plaid he had and for the heat his body was emanating — he was like a furnace and for the first time that day, I began to feel safe, sitting here in his arms.
“No need to freeze before sun up,” he said.
“Sun up? You mean we’ll be riding all night?”
“All night,” he confirmed. “And the next one too, I reckon.”
We set off, moving further and further away from Inverness — from Frank and from my once chance of returning to where I had come from. All through the night, I felt Jamie’s arms wrapped around me and had to admit to myself that it felt quite nice. He was big, much bigger than Frank and I felt protected.
I found myself in a strange time, still trying to figure out just when that was.
“Are ye alright, lass?” Jamie said some hours later.
“Yes, I’m fine, thank you,” I said. “Just where are we going anyways?”
“Och, we’re goin’ to Castle Leoch, still a days ride away.”
“Aye, ye know it?”
“Sort of,” I replied. I had been there with Frank only yesterday and it seemed odd to be going there again, only this time alone and perhaps in a different century.
As the night went on and the sun began to come up, I found that my companion was still holding me tight to him — not that there was anywhere else to go. Thoughts of Frank were slipping from my mind as the cold seeped into my bones. At one point, I thought I felt something hard against my lower back, but shook my head, it couldn’t be.
But if I was honest with myself, the man, Jamie was quite handsome and more than once I had drifted off to sleep in his arms, finding myself dreaming of him in ways I shouldn’t have.
No matter where I was, or what century I found myself in — all I knew was that I wanted Jamie, this strange highlander by my side at all times. For when I was with him, I felt safe and protected — as if he would let no harm come to me and my well being. I barely knew him and yet I trusted him completely.