Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser was a woman of several faces, no matter which century she found herself to exist within. Healer, Witch, Sassenach, Wife, Good-Sister, Friend, Physician, Ally: but there was one face in which she wore with the most pride, Mother.
She closed her eyes then, as the carriage began to settle, thinking about the children she left, both in the future and the past. ‘Where are you now? Are you safe? Cared for?’ She thought, sending a rare and silent prayer to Brianna, then to Roger: whose months of endless research and tracking led her back. Back to Scotland, to the 18th Century, to Jamie, but most importantly: to the daughter she had lost, to history and time.
‘May she be safe.’ Claire prayed silently once more, with hope that Roger had been correct. About A. Malcolm and his print shop, about ‘Freedom and Whisky’ , and about the apprentice mentioned within its record. The only way she could know for certain was to search herself, so search she did.
“Carfax Close, ma’am. Off to the right there, ye see? Malcolm’s should be down tha’ a ways to the left.” The coachman directed, pointing off in the direction of a stone-cobbled alleyway. Claire released the breath she didn’t realize she held, and nodded. As she paid the fare and stepped onto the stone and brick street of Edinburgh, she felt a hum sensation overtake her, practically vibrating from her fingertips. Each step closer to the print shop was closer to part of her heart, soul, and destiny.
The shop was large, with a staircase accompanying the door on the exterior. An iron sign that read "A. Malcolm: Printer and Bookseller” hung from hooks, pegged into the wooden beams. She softly grazed the lettering with her fingertips, the residues of soot, ink, and oil leaving a temporary stain.
“Now or never, Beauchamp.” Claire reassured herself, lifting her skirts as she ascended the worn steps. Opening the door, she stepped into the shop front, where a worn desk piled high with ledgers and books stood before her. Her breath steadied with every moment, as she glanced around the large establishment. Then, she heard a voice from the shop floor, Claire’s heart nearly leaping out of her chest.
“That you Geordie? Where’d you go to get ash, all the way to Glasgow?”
It was him. Claire knew that voice better than she knew her own mind, which instinctually drew her to the open window, viewing a printing press down below. A tall figure stood beside a table, covered with printed pages and various tools of publishing. His hair tied, with a mug in hand, his back to her. “It’s not Geordie.” Claire replied, before realizing that she had spoken.
His head perked up at her voice, turned slightly. “It’s me, Claire.” She said, in a near whisper. He slowly turned toward her then, his auburn hair catching light from the skylight above. As he met her eyes, Claire felt her soul become one again. Jamie.
Then, as sure as the man stood, Jamie collapsed to the print shop floor, the mug and a mess of paper following suit behind him. Claire hurried to the steps leading to the shop below, racing to the bottom, as she heard another voice echo through the room.
Claire’s heart nearly stopped as she heard the voice of her daughter, the girl lost to time.
“You’re alright, mo nighean donn. Just hold on, aye?” Jamie said, attempting to soothe the figure whose head was in his lap. Claire opened her eyes then, looking up into the face of her husband. So much pain, and the bleeding: she didn’t think to rest.
“It hurts, Jamie...please.” She said, with a weakened grasp to his hands. “Make sure the baby is safe, don’t worry about me...” Claire practically gasped, her vision becoming white and blue spots. Then, a hushed silence overcame her. “ Claire, stay wi’ me, look at me, Sorcha.” Jamie pleaded, his hands framed either side of her face as he moved to kneel beside the bed. Mother Hildegarde stood across from him, looking to Sister Angelique and Monsieur Foret, then to Claire. Jamie leaned over then, whispering quiet Gàidhlig into Claire’s curled mane of hair, loose from its pins. Servants rushed in and out of the bedchamber, in a mass of towels, tools, and stained linen.
“Monsieur Fraser, we’re doing all we can.” Foret answered, his arms up to his elbows stained with blood. Claire’s. Sister Angelique moved then, brushing a curl back as she felt for a pulse against the neck, then the wrist. “She’s still here, have Faith, Monsieur.” Jamie only squeezed his wife’s free hand, wishing that he could force life back within her. Silence then fell over the room, before a soft cry erupted from Foret’s hands. “You have a girl, she is whole, and alive.” He spoke, a soft smile appearing on his lips. Sister Angelique suddenly sprung into action, as Suzette practically materialized beside her. Jamie looked to Claire then, brushing a hair out of her face, and feeling for breath. She was breathing, they had made it.
Then, Mother Hildegarde brushed Jamie’s shoulder with her fingertips. He broke his gaze then, looking to the matron for a moment. “We will do what we must, Monsieur. Be with your daughter now. She needs you.” He shook his head, his feet felt bolted to the floor. “I canna, I willna leave!” He suddenly exclaimed, the hoarse tone in his voice nearly unrecognizable. It was then that he heard the wail again, his focus shifted from the blood covered linen, to the small bundle in Suzette’s arms. The bairn. Claire’s daughter.
He stood slowly then, his hand acting as a vice to his wife’s. Jamie looked to her then, and kissed the iron ring on her fourth finger. He nodded, as Suzette carefully placed the girl’s frail body into his arms, and walked him out of the chamber.
“Shhh, m’annsachd. It’s alright.” He whispered, gently brushing a finger across the tiny child’s forehead. “Your mam is the strongest woman I ken, she’ll be fine.” Jamie continued, unsure if he was speaking to the child, or himself. He was unaware of how long had passed, since he had left her. Minutes? Hours? But one thing kept him anchored into the moment, the girl settled in his grasp. Jamie had refused to send for a crib, and instead, had Suzette send for goat milk and a cloth. She needed to be fed, and that was the only option.
Until, Foret quietly opened the chamber door, motioning him to follow. Jamie rose from his chair, the girl asleep in his arms, after the child had been fed. He entered, and was able to breathe again, as Claire was sat up against the headboard, waking and alive.
That girl, so fragile and small as an infant, was in front of her now, grown and together with her father. Claire paused, before also joining her at Jamie’s side. Faith didn’t look her in the face then, her eyes focused on her father. ‘Does she remember me?’ Claire thought, hoping to any Gods that would listen that she did. She then gently traced her fingers over Jamie’s jaw, holding his face in her hands as he slowly centered back into the space. Faith stood then, backing up several steps, her eyes focused toward the floor. Jamie’s gaze focused, until he slowly returned Claire’s eye contact.
“You’re...real.” He said, unsure of himself in that moment, his hand tracing over Claire’s against his face. “So are you, I-I thought you were dead..” Claire answered. He shifted slightly, lowering his hand for a moment. “Claire.” Jamie breathed, almost like an answer. A sudden dampness became present, as Jamie quickly began to rise to his feet. Faith passed him a rag, still remaining silent, but her eyes studied the pair before her. “What is it?” Claire asked suddenly, her hands moving faster than her words. “Thought I pished myself, just the ale pot though.” He answered, almost with a lighthearted chuckle. She stepped closer then, and he followed suit, gently raising his hand up to take hers, his fingers grazed over the iron ring. His ring. The key to Lallybroch.
Faith felt her chest tighten suddenly at the sight of the ring, her heart rose to her throat. Memories of years past sprung to her mind: Lallybroch, chasing Fergus around the field, Helwater and the hay of the stable, Da telling stories of her Mam by the fire: the woman who lived among faeries, and the sibling she could not meet. She then realized that the woman was in front of her, her Mother had returned. Faith slowly moved to the back of the shop, to the small alcove of a cot and mantel. Sitting, and taking her head between her hands, she breathed. ‘How was she here? Why?’ She thought, trying to piece together the stramash her brain had conjured.
Faith had been having dreams as of late, ones that she did not speak of to Jamie. They were of her, at Lallybroch, in Paris when she was a bairn, and in a place she did not recognize. Strange machines and unknown noises surrounding her as she healed a patient, her face masked behind fabric. Faith had known her Mother was unlike anyone else on Earth, but who was she really?
The sound of a door opening brought the girl back to her senses, the hinge beginning to squeak as the oil wore off. Her Da entered, without breeks, followed by the woman. He quietly redressed, before looking to Faith. She looked to her father then, as he nudged his head in the direction of the woman as to say ‘it’s alright, say something.’ Claire stepped closer, and spoke first.
“You probably would not remember me, at least not compl-“
“Mama?” Faith cut off, her head raised as she looked into whiskey eyes, just like her own. Jamie looked between the two of them, then knelt beside Faith. Claire smiled, the beginnings of tears visible on her face as she gently took the girl’s hands, and nodded.
“Yes, it’s me Faith, your Mama.”
“We never thought of a name for a girl.” Claire had whispered quietly, holding the infant to her breast as she fed, moonlight streaming in from the windows of the bedchamber. Jamie shifted to sit up beside her, carefully allowing the child to grip his finger with her petite hand. He smiled then, a soft ‘Scottish noise’ came from him before he spoke. “Faith.” Jamie whispered in reply, just as the child let out a yawn. “Sister Angelique kept telling me that. To give me somethin’ to hold onto.” He continued, the first moments he held the child playing in his mind. “We dinna have tae, of course. But I thought-“
“It’s a beautiful name, but she’ll need more than one.” Claire finished, looking at her partner beside her. She took his hand with her free one, the mangled fingers of his right hand still healing from the Abbey surgery. “What about Janet? Since Jenny’s done so much, it’s the least we could do.” Claire inquired, looking for a reply in Jamie’s features.
“Aye, tis a fine name for a wee lass.” He answered at first, before continuing. “What about Elizabeth? We’ll be adding Beauchamp as well, for you.” Jamie inquired further.
“Faith Janet Elizabeth Beauchamp Fraser.” Claire spoke, allowing the words to will into existence. They had found a name, and it was hers.
Faith looked to the woman before her then, allowing the words of her response to sink in. Then, she did something that her dreams yearned for, since the moment they began. She wrapped her arms around the figure before her, her Mother, and embraced with a tight grip. She moved from the cot then, to kneel on the shop floor, as Claire slowly returned the gesture, one arm squeezed just as tight around the girl. Jamie looked between them, and nearly fought tears, as he gently took hold of Claire’s free hand once again, Their family was as whole as it could be, in the moment.
Claire gently released her hold, before taking her daughter’s face in her hands. Meeting Faith’s eyes, she felt her cheeks become damp with tears as the girl’s shoulders relaxed. Taking a breath, the woman spoke. “I will never leave you again, I promise.” Claire said in a near whisper, before then softly placing a kiss on Faith’s brow. Then, Jamie made an effort to rise, gently helping Faith and Claire to their feet, before the trio sat on the cot before them. It was then the woman realized, she had questions, both to ask and answer.
“Does she kn-”
“Indeed, Sassenach.” Jamie smiled, nudging Faith. The girl nodded replying with her own corner mouthed smirk. “Da told me what he kent, though I still have questions, if you dinnae mind.” She finished. Claire nodded, glancing at Jamie for a moment before she spoke again. “Anything dear, what is it?” The woman asked, gently resting a hand on Faith’s knee.
“Is my sibling alive?” She began, then looked to the odd bundle that her Mother removed from a pocket within her skirts. Jamie also, gazed momentarily, taken aback.
“What tae Devil?” He inquired, while Faith’s nose scrunched in confusion. Claire then unwrapped the small bundle, where a series of photographs were collected together. The images depicted Claire, seated with a small swaddle in her arms. “They’re called photographs, made with something called a camera. It’s like painting...but with light.” She began cycling through the images, Jamie and Faith taking hold of one, after another.
“You have another daughter, and a sister.” Claire stated, looking at the photographs with a fond smile. “Her name is Brianna Ellen.” The woman looked to Jamie, who had momentarily removed his reading spectacles. “I named her after your father Brian, like I promised. Ellen for your mother, so they would be together.” He smiled then, before reaching for Faith’s hand, squeezing her fingers. Faith was suddenly hit with a wave of feeling: Sadness of the sister she couldn’t meet? Jealousy? She didn’t know, in the moment. Claire paused, turning to Faith then, passing the photographs to Jamie as he set them beside the cot, his attention turned to the lasses before him.
“Does she know about me? How could ye leave her tae come back ‘ere?” Faith questioned, suddenly standing as she looked to the floor, then to her Mother.
“Faith... a leannan.” Jamie started, then trailed off.
“Stop, I want tae answer from Mam, if ye’d please.” The girl finished, her voice became thick with disdain. Claire exhaled, looked to the floor for a moment, flexed her fingers, and replied. “Yes, Brianna knows. About me, about Jamie, and about you, Faith.” She reached back within her pockets, removing a pair of letters, holding one out to each of them.
“Brianna asked me to come back, and to find you two. After Frank died, she knew my heart was here, and I did the best I could for her.” She added, her fingers gripped the parchment in her hands. “She didn’t want to risk going to Craig Na Dun, in case she couldn’t go through the stones. It was the same at Culloden, when you were small.” Jamie looked at Faith then, attempting to read her features. Unlike her Mother, Faith didn’t possess a glass face.
“But, there wasna way ye could’ve kent, I could ha’ gone!” The girl exclaimed then, not knowing if what she felt was anger. “What about Frank? Did he ken about her havin’ a sister? A family left behind?” Faith felt her insides practically boiling, at a man who would not live for another two centuries. Claire looked to her then, meeting her glare with her own whiskey eyes.
“Yes, Frank knew. He knew that you and Jamie had lived after Culloden, and the clearances, and Helwater. He kept that from me for twenty years, and probably would have longer, had he not died.” Claire stood then, Faith stepped back. She was fighting tears, her head began to throb from the tension in her brows. ‘How could someone with knowledge like that keep a family apart?’ The girl shook her head, her hands splayed across her face, as she exclaimed, stepping out from the back of shop, not caring to see what direction she left in. “Damn all Randalls then! To hell wi’ them!”
“Faith Janet Elizabeth!” Jamie stood, trying to follow as Claire held him by the arm. He looked to his wife then, unsure who to guide. Faith became a mass among the crowd of the Royal Mile, blending in with the traffic of the Edinburgh day life. She didn’t know where her brain was willing her to, but in that moment, she didn’t pay it mind. Her head raced with questions, most without answers.