Claire steps outside into the crisp Boston air, her large anatomy textbook clutched tight against her chest, and breaths out a sigh.
“ Finally .” she thinks to herself. It’s often in moments like these she thinks about how grateful she is to finally be living out her passions again. Frank had been less than receptive to the idea of her trying to become a surgeon, but it wasn’t his opinion that mattered most to her.
With a slight shake of her head, she begins to make her way down the stairs and on her way to the car park to go home. The thought of Jamie was a constant ache inside of her and although she knows he must be watching down and beaming with pride at her tenacity -stubbornness if she’s being honest with herself- she still feels that omnipresent tug at her heartstrings.
“ This is what I’m meant to do, ” she tells herself for what must be the millionth time. “ This is what he would want. ” Claire lifts her head higher and begins the gut-wrenching process of trying to push the thoughts of her lost Highlander out of her head.
She becomes so wrapped up in the memory of his glowing red hair that she almost misses the young woman calling her name. Almost .
“Claire!” shouts the voice. Not wanting to be further delayed in returning home to her young daughter, Claire ignores the call and presses on. It’s not until she hears those two words together that she comes to a grinding halt, heels digging into the cobblestone. “Claire Fraser!”
“ That’s impossible. ” she thinks. There are only three people left on this earth that know that name and two are Scotland, the other her now-husband. None of them are the owner of this young female voice. Claire begs her feet to trudge onward, forcing herself to believe she’s just hearing things but it feels as if every single drop of blood has left her body. Her fingers and toes have turned to ice and her head swims as if underwater.
“Claire Fraser!” the voice shouts again, and the sound of running shoes behind her shoot her back to reality. She’s about to march on when suddenly a short young woman is standing before her. “It is you.” the woman says. “I wasn’t totally sure but you’re eyes are a dead giveaway. They really do look just like whiskey.”
The words flow right through Claire’s mind and she barely registers them. She knows this woman. But how? The familiar black eyes stare up at her, and a kind smile dances at her lips. Claire is certain she’s never seen her before, but something about her is causing her hands to shake and mind to race.
“I- I’m sorry but, d-do I know you?” Claire stutters. The woman’s smile grows and she shrugs her broad shoulders.
“Not technically, but I know you.” she reaches her hand out and Claire grasps it, still trembling violently too shocked to question what the hell was happening. “My name is Bernadette. You were friends with my grandfather.”
“How do you-” Claire starts but is unable to finish. She hasn’t heard her former name out loud in nearly three years. How on earth does this stranger know?
“There’s something I need to talk to you about. Can we go somewhere a bit more private?” says Bernadette.
“French, ” Claire thinks absently. “ She’s French. ” the accent isn’t strong, but it is there. Still reeling from her sudden shot back in time, she’s frozen in place.
“Please,” Bernadette grabs her arm. “You need to hear this.” Bernadette tugs Claire gently, leading her away from the throngs of students milling about.
They walk in silence, Claire beginning to regain feeling in her lower extremities. Unfortunately, though, this means her mind starts to race. Images of her past life shoot across her vision as she is led to a small park on campus away from prying eyes and ears. Jamie is at the forefront of her thoughts and she feels as though she’s about to cry. Or scream. Or maybe both.
“Who are you?” Claire says, surprising herself with how steady her voice sounds. Bernadette smiles softly and sits them down at a small table. Claire places her heavy textbook down and busies herself by fiddling with pages to try and hide how badly she’s shaking. “And who’s your grandfather?”
“I’m shocked you still haven’t figured that out, Madonna,” she says. “Many people say I bear a striking resemblance to grand-père.” it hits Claire like a bolt of lightning.
Master Raymond .
She can see it now. She’s soon not starring into the eyes of this strange Bernadette, but instead into the face of her old friend from Paris. The tall, wide forehead, the barrel chest, and short stature. This is Raymonds’ granddaughter.
“But-but how?” Claire whispers after a minute of silence. “He’s-he’s not dead?”
“Well, I’m not too sure how is now that he’s gone back,” Bernadette says with a coy grin. “Last he told me he was hoping to aid some American Indians trying to get to North Carolina. He was hoping to get them to Ocracoke in the 17th century I believe? I have every reason to think he was successful.”
“He’s a traveler too?” Claire nearly shouts. Despite how unique a man Raymond was, this thought never crossed her mind fully. She might have thought or assumed he was simply otherworldly or different, but a traveler like her as well? She tried to think back to everything he ever said to her and figure out if he ever left any sort of clue or hint but her brain still isn’t functioning properly.
“Oui,” says Bernadette, snapping her out of her inner spiral. “Same as me and my family for hundreds and hundreds of years.”
Claire looks away from the woman and tries to focus on anything but the feelings being flooded inside of her right now. Of all the ludicrous things she imagined happening to her today this was the last on the list. In fact, it must have been so incredibly far down you would need to travel thousands of miles to reach it.
“How much do you know?” Claire asks dumbly. Obviously, she must know enough to be sitting in front of her right now.
“More than you,” she replies. Claire whips her head back to face her.
“What the hell does that mean?” she bites.
“That’s why I’m here, Madonna.” Bernadette replies calmly, resting a hand onto Claire’s now still one. It’s only then she notices the faint blue tint glowing around their connection. The very same as when Raymond healed her after the loss of Faith.
The remembrance of her first daughter sends a familiar pang through her but she pushes it away for now, alongside the memory of Jamie.
“You know what happened to him don’t you?” Claire tried hard to never think about the fate of her true love. Not wanting to confirm that he fulfilled his wish of dying with his men on Culloden Moor. Without that knowledge, she could continue to live in ignorance that he was still alive and with her somehow. Brianna helps her with that illusion well enough, but to hear for certain that Jamie died some painful, gruesome death at the hands of the Redcoats would be enough to finish her for good. The image of him charging into battle, squeezing his left hand against his sword to feel the carving of the letter C she left was death to her enough.
“That’s what I need to tell you. I promise that you want to hear this.” Bernadette once again interrupts her runaway train of thoughts.
“I don’t think I do,” Claire states, resolutely, and makes to stand up and run as far away from this ghost of a friend as possible, but is stopped by three small words.
“He is alive.” Claire turns to face her so quickly she briefly feels as if she’s about to faint. Spurred by her silence, Bernadette continues. “He survived Culloden. Barely, I might add. He was supposed to be executed along with the other prisoners that survived as well but he managed to escape.”
A humorless laugh bubbles from Claire’s throat. Of course, he bloody did.
“I’m afraid I’m unaware of the particulars but he somehow ended up back at Lallybroch and with the rest of his family.”
So it worked then? Young Fergus made it to Lallybroch in time? Claire begins to sit back down, both desperate to hear the rest of this story and not hear one more word at the same time.
“How do you know this?” Claire says, firmly. “How do I know you’re not just… making this up?” Bernadette chuckles.
“I knew you wouldn’t believe me without proof. Jamie arrived at Lallybroch gravely injured and at death’s door. Jenny Murray had absolutely none of it, however. She forced him to eat and drink when possible and remembered everything you said about keeping wounds clean and free from germs.” Bernadette pauses for a moment, seeming to choose her words with care. “Jamie tried to die. He tried as hard as he could. He couldn’t bear to live in a world without you. Or his child.”
Of course, Claire had thought millions of times throughout the three years the pain that Jamie must have suffered through, but she never quite realized the true depth of it. Not only was he going to be marching headfirst into certain death, he was doing so while grieving not just his wife but his second child he would never meet or know. Remembering the pain that she went through after losing Faith and how much she wished for her life to end as well, she now understands his desire to want to end as quickly as possible.
“How did Jenny save him?” Claire gets out. It’s just one of the thousands of questions she has, but it is the first one to escape her lips.
“She remembered how you used polticies and heat to kill bacteria so she did just that. When his infection got so severe he was bouncing back between dead and alive she poured boiling water into his wound to clean as much as she could.” Bernadette grimaces. The thought of scorching water being dumped into an open gash is enough to make Claire squirm on the wooden seat. She knew Jenny Fraser Murray was made of stout stuff, but this only goes to prove it even more.
“Well, Jamie eventually healed in and stayed at Lallybroch to help his family during the aftermath. You know all about the raids and the clearances I assume?” Claire nods silently, urging Bernadette to continue. “He lived in a cave for some years, only coming by the house once every month or no since it was too dangerous to be around more than that. Him being a wanted criminal and all.”
Bernadette goes on, telling Claire how Jamie, the Murrays, and Fergus survived the years following Culloden. She tells her about how Jamie turned himself into the Redcoats willingly in order to spare his family from the danger of harboring a fugitive. Claire then hears about his time after prison, spending years at an estate called Hellwater as a stable hand. It’s not until Bernadette says he eventually moved to Edinburgh and opened a print shop that Claire stops her.
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?” as much as Claire wants to believe every word she’s hearing, it still feels as if she’s listening to some fairytale. Some made-up story to help her sleep at night and not think about the fact that she’s essentially trapped in the 20th century for the rest of her days.
“That’s why I’m here.” Bernadette grins, and reached into the knapsack she placed on the table. “This is what I mean by you will want to listen to me.” Claire sits up straighter as she carefully hands her a weathered-looking rolled up document. “Open it.”
Once again shocked by how steady her hands had become, Claire carefully unrolls the paper. Along the top in a delicate scrawl reads, The Commonwealth of North Carolina .
“What does this have to do with me?” Claire says, looking up the paper.
“Look at the bottom,” Bernadette replies, pointing a stubby finger to the end of the page.
Claire freezes once more, eyes glued to the names written in cursive script gracing the document signed in 1767.
James Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser
Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Fraser
“I go back?”