It had been the sweetest of homecomings.
We met Ian a good mile out from the house, and Jamie went bounding to him across the field shouting a greeting in Gaelic. The shoulder pounding that transpired as Ian met Fergus, introduced as “our son” and little Faith was bound to leave bruises, but Jamie’s grin was a beautiful sight.
We rode at last under the gate at Lallybroch, dirty and happy to be home. I hugged Jenny, round already again with her third babe, and then we each handed over a daughter and received a niece. She smiled sweetly at Faith, while I reintroduced myself to Maggie who I had helped to deliver the year before.
The food and conversation lasted well into the night. I hadn’t realized how uncomfortable our time in Paris had been, despite the lavish surroundings and luxuries at our fingertips, it wasn’t home. Here, with the simple food and earthenware dishes was where we belonged.
I relaxed in the settee by the fire, holding Faith to my breast under the fold of a plaid and sipping the rich wine we had brought back from Jared.
Watching Jamie through the doorway, my eyes wandered over his face; truly relaxed for the first time since the abbey, probably since the last time we were here together before Wentworth. He laughed at his nephew’s antics and cradled little Maggie close to his chest.
Asking him to go to Paris, to risk so much of who he was in order to change the future, it had taken such a toll on him. On us.
Faith stretched and yawned in my arms, and I sat her up and patted her back. Her hair gleamed in the firelight, darker than her father’s but redder than mine.
Of their own volition, my thoughts touched on how frail and white she had looked in L'Hôpital des Anges so soon after birth. I blocked out the fear and pain that threatened to rock me when I was sure she would die, and I with her. If not for Master Raymond…
If not for him and whatever powers he invoked on our behalf, Faith and I would both be dead now.
I studied my daughter, remembering the blue light that had filled her body when Raymond touched her. I could somehow sense her lungs changing, strengthening in her little chest as they developed to maturity. I could tell that somehow his blue power was defying time and logic to give my daughter the body she needed to survive outside the womb.
And when he touched me, it was a dazed fascination that I remembered most. I could feel the fever pulling out of my blood, feel the draw as he coaxed the infection from my womb and called on the power of Jamie’s love to save me.
“ Mo nighean donn? ” I was startled out of my memories by his voice and a moment later his kiss, warm and longing.
“Will ye come to bed with me, then?” He reached out a hand and I took it, letting him pull me to my feet and take Faith from my arms.
“And ye, sweet lass, must sleep in yer own cot tonight, a leannan. I wilna have yer wee interference any more, ken?” She gave him a gummy smile and waved her arms, Jamie kissed each tiny fist.
I followed him up the stairs and into our room, feeling the remnants of Raymond and the healing blue power at the edges of my mind. I had lived my entire life with a very practical mind. Unexpected time travel had thrown everything I thought I knew about the world for a loop, so what was one more discovery? There were things in this world I had no knowledge of. I didn’t have any desire to dabble in them, but as long as they were working for my family instead of against it, I had no objection.
Jamie laid the baby down in her cot and wrapped her snugly for the night. “Sweet dreams, m’sannsachd. ”
He sat on the edge of the bed and drew me to his knee, wrapping his arms around my body and kissing my temple. “I have everything I want in life tonight, my love.”
The days grew longer and we spent them laughing and working the land. Jenny had taken my advice to heart and planted potatoes, and the first harvest was bountiful.
A new niece arrived in the spring. Maggie and Faith were obsessed with baby Katherine, patting her cheeks and putting flowers in the basket where Jenny laid her to sleep.
I felt my heart swell with love one afternoon watching Jamie and Fergus walking into the house freshly washed from the fields. His good hand was on the boy’s shoulder and he was listening intently to something Fergus was saying.
Then Faith, who had been standing by me holding onto a low table, saw her father and let go to step toward him.
“Da! Da!” She cried out, reaching out to him.
“Och, my wee Faith!” He was on his knees beside her in an instant, holding out his arms. “Come, a leannan, come to Da.”
I felt tears prick my eyes at the sight of her tiny body caught and enveloped by his large one. The hands that could tame beasts and fell enemies were gentle on his daughter’s back.
“What a bonny lass ye are,” he murmured to her, sitting down and leaning in to give me a quick kiss.
“Faith! Come try again, come to me!” Fergus was kneeling before us and Faith lurched off Jamie’s lap trying to reach him.
“Hold, mo ghraidh. Let me set ye down first.”
We watched her carefully toddle forward and stumble into her brother’s arms.
“ Bien joué , sœur !”
Jamie wrapped his arms around my shoulders and I felt a wave of emotion crash through him. This was everything he had always wanted. To be home, pardoned and free. To be the laird of Lallybroch, and me his lady. To be a father, and teach these precious children how to be in the world.
The one cloud I could feel hanging over our happiness was my knowledge of the rising. Had we done enough to change history?
Jamie kissed my temple and laughed at Fergus and Faith’s antics, but I felt suddenly detached from the warm atmosphere of my family.
If Culloden came to pass all of our happiness could be stripped away. We needed to plan for Lallybroch and for our family as if the rising and the years of oppression afterward were a given.
Later that night I lay in the dark with Jamie’s arms around me, telling him all my fears. We sat in silence for a long while, watching the embers of the fire, stroking each other’s hands, deep in thought.
“We ken what is coming, and that will help us prepare,” he spoke at last, low in my ear. “If we canna change the course of history for Scotland, at least perhaps we can change it for Lallybroch.”
“Jamie, the promise I made you in Paris…” I steeled my voice with conviction. “I will not go back through the stones, even if we can’t stop the rising. Jamie, I will not leave you, or Fergus and Faith. Please, don’t ask it of me.”
His arms tightened, and I felt him swallow down emotion. Thickly he whispered, “ Mo nighean donn, I canna let ye stay if what ye say of history is true. Knowing that I could save ye from it. How can ye ask that of me ?”
“I would rather face it here, with our family, than run away. Even if Faith could go through, you and Fergus cannot. And I can’t run to safety and leave my family to die.”
We were both shaking and clinging to each other. At last he nodded stiffly. “Alright. Ye stay. But ye will not come to the battle, Claire. I’ll do what I must for Charles Stuart, and if in the end it canna be stopped, I’ll bring the men of Lallybroch home. But ye must stay here with the bairns. If ye will not go back, then at least do this thing for me.”
My mind ran through all of the possible scenarios. It had never entered my mind to not go with him, to let him go to war alone. “But you’ll need a healer…” I started, but Jamie cut me off, “Nae, Claire. Faith needs her mother more than I need a healer. You’ll give me yer word.”
The words stuck in my throat, and he tilted my head so he could see my face.
“Promise me this, Claire. Let me see ye safe in this way.”
The tears spilled over as I nodded. His rough thumbs smoothed them away and he murmured soft Gaelic to me while I cried. “Dinna weep, mo chridhe. Bidh e ceart gu leòr. ”
He turned me toward him, running his hands over my waist, my arms, up over my shoulders to cup my face. His whispers turned to kisses, soft and seeking against my tear-stained cheeks. He had just closed his mouth over mine when a hiccup jerked my throat and he pulled away with a laugh.
“S… sorry.” I stammered, giving him a watery smile.
“We canna pretend to know what God has for us, Sassenach.” Jamie grinned when I hiccuped again. “Let’s do what we can, aye? And enjoy every day we are granted.” He leaned in and I clapped a hand over my mouth as it betrayed me yet again. “Let me try, Sassenach,” he pinned my wrists to the bed and took my mouth with force.
I felt light headed as he stretched me out beneath him and devoured me, leaving my lips for my neck and then breasts. I felt it coming, and tried to hold it in, but the hiccup jolted my body and Jamie rolled away laughing and leaving me frustrated, amused, and very aroused.
“Get back here,” I was on top of him in one smooth swing of a leg, and I rolled my hips over his erection, smugly victorious when he gasped my name. Two more hiccups made his stomach shudder with humor, but then he filled me and my body focused all of its attention on the waves of pleasure as he thrust up into me.
“ A Dhia, Claire,” his hands closed over my breasts, kneading and tweaking, sending lightning bolts of sensation down through my body. My hips moved in time with his, muscles contracting on his cock.
I felt the moment he lost control, gripping my hips to hold me in place as he pounded into me like a jackhammer. I fell forward and braced myself, pushing back into his assault. Each thrust struck true, forcing me closer and closer until I free fell into oblivion, gasping against his shoulder. He tensed and held deep in my body as he released himself.
We lay there, panting and sweaty. The emotions of the past hour washed over me, and I held onto Jamie, praying the time would never come when he rode off to battle and I couldn’t follow.
The chest under my cheek shook and I heard his voice reverberate as he asked, “I suppose it didna work that time, should we try again?”