Brianna, being the early riser she usually was, started to stir. I rocked her gently, trying to get her to calm down despite being in unfamiliar surroundings. She yawned and moved her little head to the side, burrowing her face under my right breast, but didn't wake.
"Do ye think Brianna is going to wake soon?" Jamie asked, reaching his hand to caress her back.
I always knew he would be an amazing father. But to get to see, firsthand, how gentle and caring he was with our daughter, warmed my heart.
"She usually wakes not long after dawn. She's a really good sleeper." I answered quietly. "But she might sleep a bit longer if she's tired, and yesterday was a very eventful day for her. I don't think her little stomach will hold much longer without complaining, though."
"Too wee for so long without food, aye?" He confirmed.
"Aye." I mimicked.
I felt Jamie smile against my hair, and leaned back a little bit, reaching behind me with my hand to touch his face.
"Jamie, I recognize those shapes up ahead." I spoke before we moved any closer to the place I knew there would be an ambush by the English. "That's..."
"Cocknammon Rock, aye." He interrupted. "And there's an ambush ahead, I ken. Don't say anything, I have a plan for it."
Before I could think of saying anything, he led the horse to a trot until we reached the rest of the men.
"Dougal!" He called his uncle, drawing to a walking pace beside him.
Dougal looked at Jamie, then at me and Brianna safely tucked against my chest and rose an eyebrow in suspicion.
"As I left the ship from France I heard a rumor that the Redcoats were ambushing near Cocknammon Rock." Jamie spoke without ceremony. "I didna mention it before because I wasna sure we'd be going through this specific path to Leoch."
Dougal looked around, checking the area.
"Mmphm." He murmured. "It's a bonny place for an ambush, aye."
He seemed to consider the situation for a moment.
"Very well," he finally spoke, in a commanding tone. "Everyone keep your eyes sharp. There may be an ambush up ahead."
He proceeded to address the men in Gaelic, clearly distrustful around me.
"Jamie, you find a place to hind the lass and the bairn, then come stay with us until we're in the clear. If there's going to be a fight, we better be prepared." Dougal then told Jamie in English, clearly for my benefit.
"Sorry, uncle." Jamie immediately cut in a serious tone. "Ye ken very well I'd never turn away from a wee stramash, but I'd rather stay with my wife and child and make sure they're both safe."
As if on cue, at that precise moment Brianna stirred again, actually waking up this time. She moved from her spot against my chest and opened her dark blue eyes, looking attentively at her surroundings.
Brianna smiled upon realizing she was still safely in my arms and I caressed her back, reassuring her everything was fine.
She moved her little head to the side, looking intently at the others around, until her eyes rested on Dougal's face. She studied him for a moment and offered a toothless smile, along with a coo.
"Christ, I might've been a bit skeptic about tis' whole story of ye being married, lad," he shook his head. "But I canna deny the wean is yers. She's the spitting image of yer Ma when she was a bairn."
Dougal seemed thoughtful for a second, seemingly immersed in memories of his late sister.
"Yer right. Ye have family now, and canna risk putting them in harm's way." He said in a decided tone. "Hide with yer lasses close to the river and stay there until we come and fetch ye once it's safe."
"I thank ye." Jamie nodded and immediately got into motion.
He started the horse and we trotted until a river a few meters away came into view.
Brianna started to fuss, making angry noises, and rooted around my chest, clearly looking for her breakfast.
"Shh, a leannan," Jamie spoke softly above the noise made by the horse's trot. "We're almost there."
We stopped by a river fifteen minutes later, and by that time Brianna was on the verge of a full on meltdown, the only thing stopping her being her the movement from the horse.
Jamie dismounted first, then I took Brianna from the makeshift sling and handed her down to him so I could dismount too.
The second she saw herself free from the sling she'd been stuck in, she let out a loud wail, kicking her little legs angrily.
"Christ," Jamie snorted. "She won't let anyone be fooled into thinking she doesna have a strong pair of lungs. And a temper. Quite like her Ma."
I rolled my eyes at the remark, sitting down on a log against a large rock and making quick work of my laces.
I was quickly realizing that undoing the laces in an 18th century dress was a lot more work than working the buttons of a 20th century blouse. However, I wouldn't trade any comfort in the world for having Jamie by my side, trying to settle our screaming daughter.
Jamie was rocking Brianna up and down, trying to calm her by speaking Gaelic into her ear. The sight, one that up to two months ago I didn't think I'd ever get the chance to see, brought tears to my eyes, despite the wailing coming from the infant in my husband's arms.
"I dinna think I'm her favorite person right now." Jamie spoke as he passed the fussy baby to me.
"I don't think anyone is her favorite person right now." I answered sympathetically as I finally freed my breast and got Brianna latching on. "Not unless you have one of these on your body." I pointed to her food source.
"Aye." He spoke, laughing.
He sat by my side on the log, reaching his hand to touch my knee.
Brianna started to settle upon finally being fed, and her cries quickly subsided to a heavy sigh every couple of seconds.
"She can hold a grudge then, aye?" Jamie wondered, moving his hand from my knee to caress her forehead, pushing away a strand of red hair.
"She's a Fraser through and through." I smiled.
I changed Brianna to the other breast and she nursed quietly. She reached her pudgy hand to touch her father's gigantic one that was still within reach and grabbed his forefinger, holding it captive as she ate.
"Thank ye for the gift of a child, mo nighean donn." Jamie spoke softly, kissing my forehead, Brianna still holding his finger.
I closed the distance between us and kissed his lips slowly. He immediately responded, moving slowly his lips over mine.
I placed my hand on his face, feeling the texture of his overgrown facial hair, and touched my forehead with his.
"I love you." I whispered.
"And I, you." He replied tenderly, kissing my mouth one more time.
We both knew it wasn't the right time for a more intimate physical contact. But for the both of us, just being close to the other, was enough for the moment.
Brianna finished with her nursing and started playing with her foot, trying to put it in her mouth.
"Can you hold her for a bit so I can wash?" I asked Jamie as I tied back the laces of my dress.
"Of course." He answered with a grin, clearly overjoyed to hold his child again.
I placed her in his lap, mindful of his injured arm, and stood up to wash in the river.
Brianna immediately started cooing, happy to be in her father's arms, and he started responding in Gaelic, the two of them immersed in an unintelligible conversation.
I walked to the edge of the river and kneeled on a large flat rock. I had showered just in the previous morning, but that seemed ages ago.
Since then, I'd travelled through time, been attacked by Black Jack Randall, killed said man, rolled in the dirt and rode for several hours. I felt utterly dirty, not that I'd never been much more dirty before.
I splashed water on my arms, neck and face, feeling instantly refreshed by the cold river water.
I looked behind to check on the two most important people in my life, and smiled at the sight.
Brianna was happily playing with Jamie's hand, and he had a fixed grin on his face.
I walked back and again sat on the log on the same spot I'd been moments before.
For a moment, I thought Brianna might want to go back to my arms, but she seemed content enough to be where she was.
"What do we do now?" I asked at once.
"We wait for the others to come back." He replied matter of factly.
"It's not what I'm talking about." I huffed. "Ad you know it."
"Aye. Just a wee joke. Well," Jamie started, "there's still the small issue of the price on my head."
"I'm aware." I pushed a strand of hair behind my ear.
The moment I'd decided to come back I'd been very much conscious of the fact Jamie would be a wanted man.
The only difference, I had realized, was the reason behind it.
"However, at least this time we don't have Jack Randall to worry about." I spoke, sighing with relief.
"Aye." He agreed. "I still canna believe the bastard can no longer haunt us. And all thanks to my wife."
I grabbed his hand in mine, caressing it gently, proud stamped on his face.
"However, the price on my head still stands, Claire." Jamie spoke somberly. "I ken I should do the right thing and leave ye and the bairn safely in Lallybroch with Jenny and Ian, then try to find a way to be released of the charges against me."
I immediately turned to stare at him, incredulous of the direction of his thoughts.
"You don't even think about it, James Fraser." I looked him in the eye. "I didn't come all this way to be away from you."
"Dinna fash, Sassenach." He kissed my lips softly. "I'm too selfish to be apart from ye."
"You better. Bad things tend to happen when we're separated."
"Aye. They do." He agreed.
"What's the plan, then?" I pushed.
"Well, if we head to Leoch, we shouldna raise suspicion and it would be the safest place in Scotland while I am still a wanted man. Dougal kens we are already wed and have a child together. And no one can doubt Brianna's paternity after seeing her." He proposed. "Colum won't be able to question it either. I think the wisest thing to do is get to Leoch, then try to send word for someone in the high ranks in England so I can be pardoned."
"You have a point." I said after thinking about it for a moment. "We have to make sure to stay clear of Leoghaire, though."
"Aye. I ken the lass is already smitten from my time at Leoch when I was a lad, but if she knows from the start I'm a married man and I simply don't offer her any attention, she might just ignore us."
I gave a slight nod, thinking about what would wait for us at Leoch. Leogharie had been a real problem the first time around. She'd been the one to send me to the witch trial, pretending Geillis Duncan, the fiscal's wife, had summoned me to her house. It had obviously been a pretense, and Geillis, having been accused of witchcraft, had been imprisoned, and I along with her.
"Jamie, I'd like to try and help Geillis, if possible." I murmured before I could think farther on the subject. "I know we haven't had much luck changing the future. But I'd like to send her some signal that maybe she shouldn't draw so much attention to herself. I don't know." I signed in frustration.
Jamie raised an eyebrow. He had never been much enthusiastic about Geillis Duncan, and he did warn me to stay clear of her the first time. But he also knew she had been the reason I didn't burn on a stick.
The point was we had no idea what were the limits of trying to change the way things would happen. I'd been able to kill Jack Randall and that would certainly mean change. But whatever else was a huge blank.
"To say we didn't have much luck changing the future is an understatement, Sassenach. But I ken what you mean." He took a breath. "Geillis Duncan wasna my favorite person, but she did help set ye free, and for that, I am grateful. Perhaps we can figure out some way to let her know she's in danger, but without compromising ourselves."
I intertwined our fingers and brought his hand to my face, kissing the back of his palm.
"There's also someone else I'd like to get to sooner rather than later, Claire." Jamie added with a smile.
"Fergus." I offered, knowing how fond of the boy we both had grown. "I don't think I'd like to be in France for long. But I want to get our son as soon as possible."
Jamie closed the short distance between us and pulled my chin up, meeting me with a kiss. Our lips moved together for a few seconds before the sound of hooves caught our attention.
"Och, there are the three of ye!" Murtagh announced their approaching.
"Ye lost all the fun!" Angus mocked with a grin.
"Mmphm. There's nothing better than staying with my family." Jamie replied earnestly, kissing the top of Brianna's head. "Not even a wee fight."
Angus stared up and down at the three of us, raising an eyebrow.
"I may not be sold on this whole being wed to a Sassenach of yers. But there's no denying the wee lass is yers for sure." Angus spoke in a serious tone, perhaps for the first time in his life.
"Aye. The lad now is a family man." Rupert added with a large grin.
The men all dismounted and took the time to water the horses.
Rupert and Angus took turns making faces at Brianna, who was contentedly sitting in her father's lap giggling loudly at the duo.
When everyone was ready to go, we mounted the horses once more and headed towards the road that would take us to Leoch.
I leaned back slightly in the saddle, moving closer to Jamie, and smiled to myself. I was in the arms of my husband and he was safe, not having been shot like the first time we'd been near Cocknammon Rock.
Jamie must've felt the small change in my demeanor, because he soon kissed my neck and asked, "What is it that has you smiling about, Sassenach?"
I smiled again, feeling absolutely content and safe.
"Perhaps we can make some changes, after all." I poked the shoulder that would've been shot.
I heard a muffled laugh against my hair. "Aye. Perhaps we can."