#Excerpt #OUTLANDER #HappyBirthdayClaire
[From OUTLANDER, Chapter 25]
“I believe you,” he said firmly. “I dinna understand it a bit—not yet—but I believe you. Claire, I believe you! Listen to me! There’s the truth between us, you and I, and whatever ye tell me, I shall believe it.” He gave me a gentle shake.
“It doesna matter what it is. You’ve told me. That’s enough for now. Be still, _mo nighean donn_. Lay your head and rest. You’ll tell me the rest of it later. And I’ll believe you.”
I was still sobbing, unable to grasp what he was telling me. I struggled, trying to pull away, but he gathered me up and held me tightly against himself, pushing my head into the folds of his plaid, and repeating over and over again, “I believe you.”
At last, from sheer exhaustion, I grew calm enough to look up and say, “But you _can’t_ believe me.”
He smiled down at me. His mouth trembled slightly, but he smiled.
“Ye’ll no tell _me_ what I canna do, Sassenach.” He paused a moment. “How old are ye?” he asked curiously. “I never thought to ask.”
The question seemed so preposterous that it took me a minute to think.
“I’m twenty-seven…or maybe twenty-eight,” I added. That rattled him for a moment. At twenty-eight, women in this time were usually on the verge of middle-age.
“Oh,” he said. He took a deep breath. “I thought ye were about my age—or younger.”
He didn’t move for a second. But then he looked down and smiled faintly at me. “Happy Birthday, Sassenach,” he said.
It took me completely by surprise and I just stared stupidly at him for a moment. “What?” I managed at last.
“I said, ‘Happy Birthday.’ It’s the twentieth of October today.”
“It is?” I said dumbly. “I’d lost track.” I was shaking again, from cold and shock and the force of my tirade. He drew me close against him and held me, smoothing his big hands lightly over my hair, cradling my head against his chest. I began to cry again, but this time with relief. In my state of upheaval, it seemed logical that if he knew my real age and still wanted me, then everything would be all right.
Jamie picked me up, and holding me carefully against his shoulder, carried me to the side of the fire, where he had laid the horse’s saddle. He sat down, leaning against the saddle, and held me, light and close.
A long time later, he spoke.
“All right. Tell me now.”
I told him. Told him everything, haltingly but coherently. I felt numb from exhaustion, but content, like a rabbit that has outrun a fox, and found temporary shelter under a log. It isn’t sanctuary, but at least it is respite. And I told him about Frank.
“Frank,” he said softly. “Then he isna dead, after all.”
“He isn’t _born_.” I felt another small wave of hysteria break against my ribs, but managed to keep myself under control. “Neither am I.”
He stroked and patted me back into silence, making his small murmuring Gaelic sounds.
“When I took ye from Randall at Fort William,” he said suddenly, “you were trying to get back. Back to the stones. And…Frank. That’s why ye left the grove.”
“And I beat you for it.” His voice was soft with regret.
“You couldn’t know. I couldn’t tell you.” I was beginning to feel very drowsy indeed.
“No, I dinna suppose ye could.” He pulled the plaid closer around me, tucking it gently around my shoulders. “Do ye sleep now, _mo nighean donn_. No one shall harm ye; I’m here.”
I burrowed into the warm curve of his shoulder, letting my tired mind fall through the layers of oblivion. I forced myself to the surface long enough to ask, “Do you really believe me, Jamie?”
He sighed, and smiled ruefully down at me.
“Aye, I believe ye, Sassenach. But it would ha’ been a good deal easier if you’d only been a witch.”