Any Other Way.
A chapter of ‘Beyond The Brink of Madness’ that occurred to me this morning so I decided to quickly write it up. Set immediately after ‘Scrapping’. H xxx p.s. full story (20 chapters) here: http://archiveofourown.org/works/5816776?view_full_work=true
Claire smiled as she felt the bed sag. Jamie stretched along the edge of the mattress and gently pressed his palm against her forehead.
“Mmm. Your skin is so cool.”
She murmured. The answering grunt from her left made her crack one eye open and squint into the dimly lit room. The light sent shooting pains through her head and made her stomach lurch and Claire promptly closed her eyes again and groaned.
“Ye’re burning up lass.”
The concern in his voice was prominent and Claire forced a thin smile
“It’s just a touch of cold and fever. Bree and Jenny had it last week, I’ll be fine.”
“But wi’ the bairn so far along…”
“We’ve a couple of weeks to go yet.”
Claire spoke with more certainty than she felt and forced her eyes open again. She could make out the fuzzy outline of her husband’s face, ruddy brows lowered in a worried frown and mouth set in a grim line.
“Stop it, Jamie. You’re worrying about a sniffle and a headache.”
She said sternly and was rewarded with another grunt and a gentle prodding at her throat.
“What are you … ah! No your hands are cold!”
Claire swatted weakly at him and the fingers withdrew
“I was feeling for ye glands.”
“They’re not swollen, I already checked.”
“Did ye no’ give me a fair terrible ear-bashing for self-diagnosis not two weeks past?”
Jamie clucked his tongue against his teeth as he pulled the blanket up over her shoulders
“You are not a doctor. I am.”
“Right now ye are a patient.”
He said firmly and the bed moved again as he stood up.
“I’ll bring ye a wee pot of tea and some soup.”
Claire shuddered at the thought of trying to eat.
“Ye must try a bit Claire, the bairn needs nourishment and ye didna take a bite yesterday…”
Claire knew this was true and although her stomach shivered at the thought of food, she nodded gently against the pillow.
“Alright, bread then. Dry. No butter.”
She could hear the satisfied smile in Jamie’s voice and imagined throwing something suitably heavy at him, bloody know-it-all.
A little while later the door opened again and Claire forced herself to sit up, not wanting Jamie to lift her. The huge swell of her belly made the task ungainly and undignified and she would just as soon manage alone.
“I brought you some bread, Mama.”
Claire startled at the little voice and blinked in confusion at Bree.
“Honey, you shouldn’t be in here. You could get sick again.”
“It’s OK Mama, I don’t mind.”
Bree padded over and carefully placed a neatly packaged tray on the bed before sitting on the edge and crossing her legs neatly beneath her. Claire settled back against the pillows and sighed. Her head was pulsing but the sight of the carefully sliced bread made her stomach growl and the baby stirred, pressing his heel against her in apparent encouragement.
“I baked that loaf.”
Claire looked at it and raised her eyebrows in pleasant surprise. Bree had not taken to baking with any great aptitude and Jenny had insisted that she keep practicing despite the continual stream of heavy, sunken bread that came from Brianna’s efforts.
“Yep, Aunt Jenny only helped me take it out of the oven, everything else I did myself.”
Bree smiled and Claire smiled broadly back at her. She seldom had the luxury of sitting in her child’s company with no task at hand besides the consumption of food, just the two of them.
“Have you tried it?”
“Not yet, but it smells good and the texture is right.”
Bree nodded happily and Claire carefully folded a piece in the cloth napkin on the try, breaking it in half and handing Bree the larger piece, making sure not to touch it. The bread tasted heavenly and Claire made sure to make many appreciative noises as they ate, watching Bree glow with pleasure at the praise of her baking skills.Once they had finished the bread Bree produced another slice from her pocket, lovingly wrapped in a clean handkerchief.
“Here Mama, have some more.”
Claire took it and raised the food to her lips, inhaling the scent and smiling as she bit into it, an exaggerated and elaborate bite that made Brianna laugh.
“How are you, baby?”
Claire asked when the food was finished and Bree had moved the tray onto the floor.
“I’m OK. I’ve been learning how to fight with Da.”
“Uh …right well,”
Claire frowned and then shrugged
“How is that going?”
“Pretty well, I just need to practice more.”
Bree grinned. Claire cocked her head to the side, the food seemed to have helped with her headache as well as the nausea and she became aware of the changes in her daughter in a way she had not noticed before amid the hustle and bustle of life at Lallybroch. In the seven months they had been back, Bree had lost almost all of the puppy-fat she had when they arrived. Her face had slimmed down and the strong, Viking bones she had inherited from her father were more prominent. Her arms were slim and muscular from the increase in her outdoor play and her movements had become more graceful, more self-aware. Even sat on the bed in her older-cousins cast off breeks and shirt, there was a poise and a readiness about Brianna that had not been there before. Bree had not simply survived the huge upheaval in her life, she had thrived!
“You’re growing up so fast, Bree!”
Claire smiled, her eyes wet with memories of the fiery haired babe who had come squalling into the world nearly a decade ago and changed Claire’s life forever.
“Don’t cry Mama!”
Bree scooched up the bed and pressed herself against her mother’s side, small arms encircling her as best she could.
“I’m sorry. I’m not crying, not really. I’m just so damn proud of you Brianna Ellen. I don’t tell you it enough but I am so, so proud of you.”
“You tell me plenty Mama!”
Bree laughed, and Claire snorted wetly into her handkerchief.
“Alright well I still want to tell you more. You’re such a wonderful daughter and I know you are going to be a simply exceptional big sister to this baby.”
Bree looked up at Claire before tucking her head under her mother’s chin and letting Claire smooth her hair.
“I’m going to try.”
Bree slid down the length of the bed and rested her chin on her hand, pressing a kiss on Claire’s belly.
“Hi Baby. This is your sister, Brianna. I cannot wait to meet you.”
“I’m sure he canna wait to meet ye either.”
Bree looked up at her father, leaning against the door and grinned
She said firmly and Jamie nodded
“He or she. I dinna mind as long as they are less trouble then their older sister.”
He teased, stepping into the room and placing a delicate kiss on the top of Claire’s head before settling himself next to Brianna on the bed.
“Did you get her to eat it all?”
He murmured in his daughter’s ear and Bree nodded almost imperceptibly. Jamie squeezed her shoulder gratefully and Bree’s lip quirked up in a small proud smile.
“I should get up.”
Claire began to push the bedclothes off but a large hand covered her fingers and she looked up to see identical blue eyes giving her identically stern looks.
“Ye are to stay in bed, Sassenach. Dinna make me tell ye twice.”
“Yeah Mama. You need to rest.”
Claire opened her mouth to protest but closed it again. She might have stood a chance against one Fraser, but two … it was a lost cause.The three of them spent the next half an hour talking and catching up on the events of the past few days. Claire and Jamie listened proudly as Bree recited a poem she had written at school and received an actual smile from the school master, a formidable old chap who was slow to praise and quick to scold.
“You must get your gift of language from your father; I was never any good at poetry.”
Claire sighed and Jamie grinned
“I dinna ken about that Sassenach. Ye told me that one about beans being good for the heart…”
“Ha! And even that was cribbed from someone else.”
“I know that one too!”
Bree cried and recited the verse with a theatrical finish, pressing the heels of her hands against her mouth and filling the room with a raspberry before collapsing into giggles.
“Aye verra good.”
Jamie said dryly and stood up, seizing the back of Bree’s shirt and breeks and lifting her like a drunk about to be thrown from a tavern.
“I think we ought to let ye Mam get some rest.”
Bree called, still fizzing with mirth as she was carried from the room, Jamie pretending to throw her ahead of him.Claire watched them go and thanked all the God’s she could name for her good fortune in being here with her family, for the love they shared and the joy that filled her soul like a balloon filling up with air. She swung her legs out of bed determined to get up and join the rest of her family.
Jamie’s head poked around the door and Claire looked up at him, still lost in her warm thoughts about her sweet and gentle husband.
“Keep your arse in that bed. I’ll bring ye soup later and if ye dinna eat it, I’ll be shoving my cold fingers down your shift again.”
Claire lay back and sighed. She wouldn’t wish to have him any other way.