There was a knock on his door, and Thomeas looked up from the papers that littered his desk to see none other than Dorathia there, leaning against the wall, arms crossed over her chest and resting on her ever-growing belly. She gave him an exasperated, yet fond smile, and then she walked over to him, placing her hands on his shoulders as she stood behind him.
“Does the War Chief have some time for his wife?” she teased. “Or is the Laird workin’ ye to death?”
“Well…if ye want me, lass, tell him to stop botherin’ me,” Thomeas said, teasing her right back. “He’s yer Faither. He’ll listen to ye.”
“I dinnae think that me Faither listens to anyone,” Dorathia said.
It had taken Dorathia a while, Thomeas knew, for her to begin to call Colum her father, but once she had managed to say the word for the first time, she had never stopped. Both she and Colum seemed to be delighted ever since, and every time she said that word, her entire face would light up in the most delightful way.
He couldn’t be happier for her. Thomeas had spent several nights worrying that Dorathia would never recover from everything that had happened with Aaron, that she would never manage to be truly happy again. His worry that she would be scarred for life had kept him awake for hours, forcing him to toss and turn in his bed, unable to get any rest.
It had taken a while, but he could finally say for certain that whatever wounds had been left behind, they had healed, and the scars that remained had begun to fade.
It was good to see his wife happy. Before he had met Dorathia, he couldn’t understand how some people would claim that the happiness of others would fill them with joy, but he finally understood.
Thomeas stood from his chair, deciding that a break from his work was precisely what he needed. Besides, it was late at night, and his eyes had begun to water as he read under the candlelight.
He pressed a kiss on the corner of Dorathia’s lips, his hand coming to rest over the swell of her belly, where he could feel their baby move and kick, something that always fascinated him—and disturbed him, just a little. He couldn’t understand how Dorathia could handle the seemingly constant moving.
“Come to bed, Thomeas,” Dorathia said softly, and Thomeas nodded. He could never say no to her, especially ever since she had become his wife. “There will be time for everythin’ the morrow.”
“Aye, ye’re right,” Thomeas said, as he took her hand and led her to their chambers.
Even after the two years that he had spent in that castle, he was still not entirely used to all its luxuries. Every time he stepped foot into their chambers, he couldn’t help but marvel at all the details and the gold that had been put into the room.
He also couldn’t help but think that it was unnecessary. He would have been happy in a shack if it meant that he could be with Dorathia. She seemed to enjoy it, though, and ever since she had officially moved into the castle, she had become a proper lady.
She still liked to practice fighting with Thomeas every now and then, challenging him to duel after duel. The beautiful, ornate gown that she wore did nothing to stop her from beating him, to the point where her father joked that she would make a better War Chief than him.
Perhaps it wasn’t a joke at all. Perhaps it was just the cold, hard truth.
Thomeas pulled his wife to bed, the two of them in each other’s arms as always, though it had become extremely difficult those days, when Dorathia was due to give birth at any moment.
And then, she froze.
“Thomeas…” she said, in the kind of voice that Thomeas never wanted to hear from her. She sounded terrified, her eyes wide as she looked at him, and her hand a vice around his forearm where she was gripping it.
“What?” Thomeas said, alarmed, as he fussed over her, his hands hovering over her as they searched for something to do. “Is it the bairn?”
“Aye,” Dorathia said, her hand coming to her belly as she groaned in pain.
“Are ye…are ye all right?” he asked. “Is there somethin’ wrong with me son?”
Dorathia’s groan turned into a soft grunt, and then into words, ones that she shouted at him. “How do ye ken it’s a son?”
“I…I dinnae ken! It could verra well be a daughter!” Thomeas said. He stood, rushing to Dorathia’s side of the bed, his heart beating so hard in his chest that he feared it would jump straight out of his mouth, along with his dinner. “What does it matter? What’s wrong?”
“Nothin’ is wrong!” Dorathia said, but the way that her hand clutched at his night shirt, pulling him closer with what seemed like superhuman strength, told him otherwise. “I’ve been havin’ these wee pains all day, but now…now the bairn is comin’, ye bampot!”
There was fear, and then there was whatever Thomeas was feeling in that moment. It was something that he couldn’t describe if he tried, flooded as he was with terror, joy, and agitation. He all but spun around in circles, not knowing what to do, and then he stopped and simply looked at Dorathia, a sigh escaping his lips.
Once Thomeas had managed to calm down enough to regain his wits, he had called for all the help that Dorathia could possibly need. Their chambers were soon filled with women, all of them running around as they tried to make Dorathia as comfortable as she could be, though she would have much rather had her peace and quiet for a while longer, at least until she had to start pushing.
The entire time, she could have sworn that she could hear not only Thomeas, but also her father pacing up and down the corridor outside the chambers, their distinct footsteps echoing all around her. They seemed to be even more nervous than she was, impossible as that sounded to her when her stomach had all but turned upside down with nerves.
It took a while for the baby to arrive into the world—a long while, longer than Dorathia would have liked. Eventually, though, in the small hours of the morning, it was finally all over, just as suddenly as it had begun.
Dorathia didn’t think that there was such a thing as an easy labor, but once it was done, once she had her child in her arms, she forgot everything about her ordeal. All that mattered was that she had her boy in her arms, and that he was safe and healthy.
She slept for a long time, and she was unsure of just how long, but when she awoke once more, Thomeas was right there, next to her, and he had their boy in his arms. She could only look at them, she could only stare at her child in wonder with a smile, staying quiet as she did.
“Ye’re awake,” he said, once he noticed that she was looking at them, and he moved to the bed, sitting down with his back against the headboard. “This is our son.”
“Aye, I ken,” Dorathia said, and she couldn’t help but giggle. She couldn’t remember a time when she had been as happy as she was in that moment, and she couldn’t contain her own excitement.
This isnae happiness…it isnae joy…it’s somethin’ more, somethin’ that I havenae felt before.
Happiness wasn’t enough to describe what she was feeling, after all.
“Ye got what ye wanted,” Dorathia added then, a hand reaching for the baby and gently touching his own hand. “It’s a boy.”
“Well, this one’s a boy,” Thomeas said. “I hope the next one will be a lass, one that looks just like her mother.”
Dorathia frowned a little at that, leaning closer to the baby to take a good look. Admittedly, he looked like a baby, with his wrinkly, red face and the big, curious eyes, and not really like either of them, but she decided to tease Thomeas regardless.
“I think he looks like me,” she said with a small shrug. “Dinnae ye think so? I think he’ll be the spittin’ image of his mother.”
Thomeas responded with a frown of his own, taking a good look at the baby, as well. “He has me eyes, lass! What are ye talkin’ about?”
It was true, their son had Thomeas’ eyes, but Dorathia had heard from every woman in the castle that children’s eyes changed as they grew, so she simply shrugged and held some hope, though she wouldn’t mind her son looking like his father one bit.
He’ll be verra popular with the ladies if he looks like Thomeas.
“What should we name him?” Dorathia asked.
“Well…if it was a lass, I thought we could call her Eilean,” Thomeas said, and that was more than enough to bring Dorathia to tears. It seemed to her, even the slightest things could make her cry, but she attributed that to her pregnancy.
And she really hoped that it would soon come to an end.
“Ach, mo ghraidh…” Thomeas said, leaning closer to press a kiss on the top of Dorathia’s head. “Are ye all right?”
“Aye, aye,” Dorathia assured him, as she furiously wiped at her tears. She didn’t want Thomeas to see her like that. In fact, she didn’t want anyone to see her like that. “I’m fine, I only…I think that’s a verra bonnie name for when we have a lass. But what about this one?”
Silence fell between them as they both tried to come up with a name. Then, Dorathia had an idea.
“What about yer Faither’s name?” she asked Thomeas. “What was it?”
Thomeas hesitated for a moment, and Dorathia wondered if she had done something wrong by asking, but then he smiled, soft and sweet.
“Well…ye willnae believe it,” he said.
“It was Artair.”
Dorathia couldn’t stop the groan that escaped her lips. She and Thomeas had kept in touch with Artair and Sìne, the two couples exchanging letters and visiting each other whenever they could, since Balinmuir was not too far from Brothaig. Ever since Artair had found out that Dorathia was expecting, he had been suggesting his own name for the child, claiming that Sìne wouldn’t allow him to give any of their sons his own name.
Despite that, Dorathia wanted her son to have the name of his long-lost grandfather, knowing just how much it would mean to Thomeas. And perhaps if they gave the boy that name, then Artair would be satisfied enough to stop pestering them.
“I think it’s a beautiful name,” she said. “He looks like an Artair.”
Thomeas hummed, taking yet another good look at the baby. “I suppose he does…well, Artair Fraser it is.”
Dorathia’s smile didn’t fade from her face for even one moment. She was enamored with her son, unable to take her eyes off him, and she wanted nothing more than to hold him in her arms, though she knew there would be plenty of time for that.
The other thing that she wanted was some rest, as even though she had just woken up, her eyes still felt heavy, and the pain was quickly becoming too much of a burden for her.
So, she closed her eyes once more, and then she felt Thomeas’ hand on her own, rubbing small circles on her skin with his thumb. She smiled, and within moments, she had fallen into a deep sleep, one that bore no dreams.
How could she dream, when her reality was so much better than a dream could ever be?
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