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The barn’s only just been raised when the tiny thing makes its appearance. It’s covered in mud and so are the children and Claire, on the other side of the clearing diligently hammering at a table leg and chatting with Murtagh, has yet to see them. Jamie holds his makeshift hand-saw and groans.

“Five minutes,” he says, removing the nails he’d been holding onto between his teeth and sounding rather more pleading than he’d like to admit. He looks at Fergus; Fergus, too, is muck-covered. “I turned my back fer five minutes. How?”

Bree’s got the trembling bundle clutched to her chest. It’s nearly as big as her head, though that is not saying much, and Willie, who picked up on the art of walking during their tumultuous ship’s passage here, now wobbles slightly on his toes, leans backwards, and in an elegant move plops down onto his bum, one hand belligerent clutching the hem of his sister’s skirt.

From within her arms, the kitten meows.

“He was under th’wagon, Da,” Bree explains, with huge blue eyes. She has gotten that from Claire, Jamie decides obstinately. Certainly he never had such a pout as a child.

“Kitty!” Willie agrees.

“We may keep him, Milord, no?” says Fergus, looking despite his teenaged features every inch the cherubic hellion he’d been at ten.

He wants to reprimand them. He very much should; that wagon’s wheels are dangerous on a good day, and never things to be crawling under. But perhaps it is the months of instability that have Jamie now, unbidden, a little shaky with relief that his children may get up to mischief at their total leisure. 

He glances back to the other side of the clearing, once, then leans in close.

“Aye,” he says lowly, “but ye’ll clean up first, an’ then we can offer the wee rattin tae yer Mam as a gift, or she’ll no’ be well pleased.” 

He’s rewarded with three identical grins of delight right before the unmistakable tones of his wife’s melodic voice sound behind them: 

“Not be well pleased about what, exactly?” 

The cat meows again, beatific.