"We have thwarted him all we can, Claire. We may find ourselves staring into the abyss awaiting us at the bottom of Culloden Moor. So if anything should happen to me -"
"Don't talk like that."
"- I want there to be a place for ye. Someone to care for ye. For our bairn."
"I want it to be a man that loves ye."
"So. Now it's my turn to ask ye for a promise."
"Promise me that… if the time should come, ye will go back through the stones. Back to Frank."
We had both worried about my part in the war, even though we never spoke of it. I was fully committed to doing my part in the battles - I acted more the field surgeon than the field nurse at Prestonpans and the following battles, and when we realised all our best-led plans had all gone awry and the battle of Culloden would happen anyway, I had begun steeling myself for doing the same there. However, at the back of my mind, I knew Jamie wouldn't let me. Long ago, Jamie had made me swear I'd protect my own life, should we be unable to change the future. And now, there was more than me to protect.
And so in the end I had, reluctantly, agreed. To keep something of his, to keep it alive when he would be dead, if he wished it - I couldn't deny him that.
Still, he had to almost drag me up to the stones at Craig na Dún in the grey light of the morning.
I'm not ready, I begged him, because I wasn't.
He kissed me, shushed me, held me, and joined his body with mine one last time, before we heard the cannons, and his face turned to mine in desperate need - his need to leave and fight with his countrymen warring with his need for me to understand, to forgive him, to leave him in the past.
"I will go", I promised him, and taken his face between my hands, still shaking with tears, "but please… let me grieve first. No - no, listen," I interrupted as he started to speak, "I… know, I know what I promised, but I can't, Jamie, not yet. Not while you're here. Please don't ask that of me."
He had been silent for a long time then, until another cannon was fired in the distance and seemingly woke him up from his musings.
"Ye swear to me again Claire, that ye will go? As soon as ye see the slightest hint of red, or once the battle is over?"
"I swear", I whispered. "I promise you, Jamie, I will go."
His face was white, grief-stricken. "What ye ask of me now is the hardest thing ye've ever asked", he said slowly, and closed his eyes, "but I cannae fault ye for it. God kens I'd have wanted the same, if it were you."
"We're both asking the impossible." And for a moment, it really felt impossible - how could he leave, while I was here? How could I not follow him back?
"But we'll do it, all the same", he summed up, and I drew strength from his resolve.
"I will love you, always", I whispered, with our foreheads closely together, breathing the same air.
"As I will ye." He stroked my neck with one hand, and I leaned in to the touch. "'Til we meet again, Claire."
And somehow, I clung to the grass on the ground beneath me, and stayed put as he left. I didn't follow him down, and I let him go to his grave without me.
For our child.
It was early afternoon when I finally forced myself up on unsteady legs. I hadn't heard any battle sounds for hours, but I hadn't been able to move.
We had lost.
Jamie was dead.
And I, crushed as I was under the weight of those two thoughts, had a duty.
I turned to the Stones without looking back.
And once more, our best-laid plan went awry.
The buzzing never stopped, but it didn't grow louder when I approached the biggest stone either, as it had before. It turned out the Stones wouldn't let two lives in the same body through. I, carrying a child, wasn't allowed to pass. Stopped at the border, and no passport in the world could change it.
Oddly enough, it didn't feel like mercy. I hadn't wanted to go, had never wanted to go - had begged Jamie to let me stay, not to leave him now when he was about to die - but when the escape was taken from me, when the escape was taken from our child, I became terrified.
Nothing worked. Not pressing myself against them, not even - once I got desperate enough - hurling myself against them so hard I bruised both my shoulders with the effort and accidentally knocked my head into the stone in the process.
Eventually, I huddled up with my back against the largest stone, crying until my throat hurt and my eyes swelled up, surrounded by the loud, incessant buzzing - mocking me all the while.
Several hours later, I finally stood up, beginning to accept the naked truth of it.
My husband was dead. Jamie rarely failed, once he set his mind to something, and he had truly believed he would, and should, die on that moor.
And I, and his unborn child, was stuck here with his ghost nonetheless.
I don't remember the hours I searched the battlefield for his body very well, and I am grateful for it. I asked every man still able to speak whether they'd seen him, whether they knew if he was alive or dead.
No one had.
Then came the news that the redcoats killed any wounded Jacobite they came across still on the battlefield, and I knew hope was lost.
A day later, I joined the shell-shocked line of women going west, away from Culloden. Away from Jamie.
I straightened my back over the wash trough with a groan. Even though it mainly was diapers and smallclothes - shirts and chemises and the like - washing was heavy work. "Yes, Jen - Jenny, what on earth is the matter?"
Jenny was paler than I'd ever seen her, her eyes uncharacteristically round and vulnerable. "There's… there's been a letter, Claire."
"A letter?" I repeated questioningly and furrowed my brow. I couldn't imagine what kind of letter would scare Jenny that badly. Jenny Fraser Murray was generally the sort of woman who put the fear of God in people around her, not the other way around. "From whom?"
"It's from Jamie", she whispered. Her hand shook when she handed me a small note.
So small a note, to change everything I thought I knew. So painful still, the hope that quickly rose within me, as it had at every mere whisper, every rumour of Jamie's survival the past two years. Eventually, every lead had been a dead end, and the pain somehow grew worse every time our hope was quashed again.
"From... Jamie?" I whispered back. My throat felt too constricted to speak louder. "But… how?"
"He's been imprisoned all this time, apparently", Jenny said hoarsely. "A place called Ardsmuir."
My own hands also shaking, I held the note up to catch the fading light of the sunset.
Jenny, it read.
I humbly apologise for not being of sound mind enough to send you a note until now, to give news of my survival that godforsaken day at Culloden. The truth is I was badly injured for a long time, with long periods of fevers and delusion, my fellow inmates tell me, and even after that, it seems my mind was not keen to remind me to get back to my senses. Nevertheless, I should have written much sooner, and I can only ask for you to forgive your little brother despite his weakened mind.
Another reason it took me very long to finally write you this letter is because I have to bear ill news. I'm afraid Claire is lost to us all. I know you grew fond of each other when last we lived at Lallybroch and it saddens me to have to tell you this in a letter. I think of her every day.
I took a deep, shuddering breath and blinked the tears from my eyes before I could continue.
At present, I am an inmate at Ardsmuir prison. I would have died at the battlefield, or been hanged afterwards when they rounded up the prisoners, had not an English officer recognised my name, the name of Red Jamie, as that of the man who spared his little brother's life at Preston, the young boy Grey. Instead, he granted me the mercy of being imprisoned.
Even written, I could hear the bitterness in the word mercy, and my heart broke anew.
Life here is dull, harsh and dreary, but it is a life. I owe my fellow inmates who cared for me at my worst a great debt, and I have tried to repay them in any way I can. Many need a protector, and it is the least I can do to try to be that for them.
I am of course anxious to here any news there might be from Lallybroch, if you would still wish to tell me. I pray with all my heart you and Ian and the children are well. Give my love to Fergus too.
Thoir maitheanas dhomh.
"Jamie", I whispered, without thinking. It was unthinkable. Unbelievable. I had long since given up.
"I know", Jenny said, and I saw that she cried - but her tone was triumphant, jubilant.
For a moment we stood staring at each other - and then we fell into each other's arms around Jenny's growing belly, laughing and crying and shouting incoherent sentences.
Jamie was alive. Everything else could be sorted out later, nothing else mattered except that Jamie was alive.
"Ma?" a little voice asked by our feet, and Jenny and I broke free of each other, still wiping our faces. "Why're you cryin', Ma?"
I laughed wetly and brought my apron up to dry my cheeks. The enormity of the situation hit me, as I looked down on the little girl, not yet three years of age, with the bright red hair, slanted eyes and the little wrinkle between her eyes I myself got when something troubled me.
I knelt down and put my hands on her arms, and took a deep breath. "Brianna", I said as gently as I could, searching her face for understanding I knew I wasn't likely to get. "Your… your Da is alive."
Amadan górach Jamie Fraser! We thought you were dead! If it was not for the fact that we are all so relieved to hear from you, I'd never speak to you again. I thank God that you are still with us and pray for Him to knock some sense into your thick head.
The most important things first, though. We are all well, and with all, I do mean all. I dinna ken why and how you got the impression that Claire is dead, and I do think she knows but won't tell me - but she isn't, Jamie. She lives here with us at Lallybroch. She encloses her own letter and you might want to read that first before you continue with mine.
Young Jamie takes after Ian, and both Maggie and little Kitty are well too. I had twins a last spring, called Janet and Michael, so the place is full to bursting with bairns these days, I don't know where we'll put them all - especially since I am expecting again this winter. We thank God for Claire and wee Brianna (I know, I tried to talk her out of it, but she was adamant she would be named for our Da even though the babe turned out to be a lass), because without them, we believe Lallybroch would have been taken from our hands long ago despite the deed of sasine, being the property of a traitor to the crown. As it is, the soldiers cannot well take the estate from the rightful heir and daughter of the Lady Broch Tuarach, despite what her father might have done in the uprising. Life isn't easy, but it is life - and I dare say a great deal better than the hand you were dealt.
We all send all our love - Fergus most especially, or so he as instructed me to write. Please write soon again, or I will. And of course I forgive you.
I miss you.
I left Brianna with her aunt, uncle and cousins that evening. Jenny was writing to Jamie, pausing every now and then to say something to Ian, either with indignation or anger that he hadn't said anything before now ("Three years he lets us believe the worst! Three years, Ian!") or with wonder ("It's a miracle, it truly is - how many haven't prayed for exactly this, Ian, that their loved ones would turn up living and breathing still?"). I hadn't yet begun writing, even though I (in theory) agreed very much with Jenny's suggestion that maybe I should write my own letter to attach to hers. My thoughts were far too jumbled to put any of them to paper at the moment. How to speak to someone you had believed dead for three years? Especially when speaking was out of the question, and ink on paper was the only means of communication available?
I didn't have to say anything to Jenny - she and I took turns looking after the children most of the time anyway and she certainly wouldn't begrudge me the time alone today of all days - but as I met Young Jamie on the way out of the door, I grabbed his arm, just to be sure. "Look after Bree for a while, will you?"
Young Jamie, all of eight and constantly worried about his very fragile manliness, bristled. "One of the lasses can do that, Auntie Claire."
"Yes", I agreed amiably. "But now I asked you."
"I'll tell Maggie", he muttered, tearing himself loose and running back into the kitchen. Normally, I would have argued with him, but today, I let the injustice towards Maggie slide, merely shook my head and drew my shawl tighter around my shoulders.
I had felt almost feverish all evening, and the cool night air felt good against my skin.
How to summarise three years worth of grief, longing, hope, sorrows and love? The birth of a child that was now ours, not just mine? The slow resignation to submissively bowed heads and too little food as the English did everything we had fought so hard to stop them from doing? The enormous debt of gratitude I would never be able to repay to Jenny and Ian, who put up with my anger, bad temper and fits of hysterical crying, as I slowly came to terms with the fact that I would give birth to my child alone?
How to explain the little things - the colour of Brianna's hair, and how it differed slightly from Jamie's? The warmth in my chest as Young Jamie, Maggie or Kitty climbed up in my lap and called me Auntie - me, who had always had the bare minimum of a family, if any? The heavy burden of the title Lady Broch Tuarach, when the tenants lost most of their harvest in taxes or to ill weather for the second year in a row, or the look in Jenny's eyes when Ian had to ask me for permission to spend money on mending the roof of the stables, or how Fergus looked at me and said milady with clenched teeth when he thought I made a decision Jamie would have disagreed with? How to talk of the lines growing on mine and Jenny's faces when we took stock of the food supply to last us the winters and knew we were just one unlucky harvest away from starving?
How to explain the lightening of my heart, which had apparently grown used to being heavy? How to describe how everything seemed to brighten, every worry seemed to lessen, just because he wasn't dead, he wasn't dead, he still lived, he was alive.
Without thinking, my feet had taken me to the slope in the hill I had used frequently the summer after Culloden - to hide, sometimes; to cry sometimes; and sometimes just to wish for an Aspirin or blasted toilet paper, as my pregnancy became ever more obvious to me and everyone around me. I had seen Jenny's pitying looks when she thought I couldn't see. To finally bear another child, her eyes had seemed to say, and to have to bear it now - that's cruel.
That summer, I had created a memorial here. Ian had helped me carve a fairly elegant cross, and I had myself, painstakingly, carved my first, still-born daughter's name in the wood.
Faith Fraser. It had never sounded more like a mockery than that summer, as I bent over my growing belly and screamed until my throat hurt.
Now, I touched the cross briefly before I sat down next to it, as I had so many times before.
For the first time, I came to terms with the name Mother Hildegard once had given my daughter, when I was unable to name her myself.
It seemed there might be reason for faith, even when I hadn't seen it before.
And for the first time in over three years, I was grateful beyond measure that the Stones hadn't let me through, back to my own time.
It was the yelling that drew my attention. The children got along well, for the most part, except for when they were very hungry. Some yelling was always going to be a natural part of their play, and my mind filtered it so well I barely heard it anymore. Still, every now and then, one or several of their voices would take on the shrill sound of a child on the verge of crying which broke through even that defence, calling for an adult to intervene.
I sighed, left the potatoes I was sorting and cutting into uneven pieces (but carefully with at least one eye on every piece) for planting, and hurried out of the kitchen.
I was too late for mitigation, it would seem. Brianna was red in the face with anger. Seven-year-old Maggie looked somehow both defiant and ashamed, as children tasked with a chore beyond their grasp might do, when they eventually fail. Kitty and Young Jamie seemed to want no part of the argument, looking carefully at the ground where they stood.
"But I want to!" Brianna shouted, and not for the first time, it would seem.
"You cannae have it", Maggie snapped. "Come now, Brionagh, and stop yer howlin', it won't change anything."
"Ma!" Brianna spotted me, and her little face was stubborn behind her fury. "Tell her!"
"We do not shout, Brianna", I said with a warning tone in my voice. "Tell Maggie what, exactly?"
"I want Da to come home and he will!"
The sharp pain in my chest made it hard to breathe for a second.
"I want it", Brianna insisted.
"Uncle Jamie's in prison", Maggie explained impatiently. "It means he cannae come home. He's trapped."
"Da will come home anyway." My daughter turned to me with the same set lines around her mouth that her father always had. "Tell her, Ma."
I sat down on the bench outside the kitchen door. It seemed Brianna had taken my words last autumn about her father's sudden appearance in our lives again very much to heart - perhaps too much, I thought wildly; was it cruel to give her hope this way, when so much still could happen? Was it truly better to have a father, alive but far away, who you couldn't touch, couldn't see, couldn't speak to, and who still could disappoint you by not coming when you wanted to, than to have stories about a heroic, kind, dead Da who loved you very much, even before you were born, Bree?
"Bree", I started, but I should have known better.
"I'm nae trouble!"
"Brianna", I corrected myself. "Da… can't come right now. You know that."
"But I want him to!" It was less of a whine, and more of a demand. Brianna had always been a very… decisive child, from the very beginning.
"I know, my darling. I want him to come home too, very much. We will have to… hope. And wait."
"I don't want to wait. When will he come?"
The Murray children, including Maggie (who I believed I saw roll her eyes before turning her back on us) had started to quietly sneak away. I couldn't say I blamed them. "I don't know, love." It hurt to admit it. Oh Bree, I want him to come home too, so badly. "He'd have to be let out of prison first." Or die. "Tell you what. We'll write him today, you and I, and you can send him some of the wildflowers we pressed and sign your name under them. How's that?"
Brianna looked sceptical at my mediocre attempt to distract her from her anger, but in the end she nodded. "He will come home, won't he, Ma?" she asked then, and all the indignation she'd had when she'd fought with Maggie was suddenly gone, and all that was left was a girl, missing something she'd never had.
I don't know, my darling, mo cridh. I don't know. "He will", I said, and pulled her close. "One day, he will come home. And we will be here to welcome him."
"All right, then", my daughter said in the exact same way Jenny did, and in the middle of my heartache I couldn't help but have to stifle a giggle.
Brianna let me hug her for a few seconds more, before realising her playmates had run off and starting to squirm. I let her run off with a small pat on her bottom. "Stay away from the stream", I called after her.
"Aye", she readily agreed, and disappeared around the corner, bad temper already forgotten.
So much like her father.
I stayed on the bench for I don't know how long, before I heard Mary McNab, the kitchen help, wonder out loud who on earth had begun with supper at this hour, and I had to haste back in to save my planting potatoes.
"'It is hard to be even further away from you, but I believe Lord John has done so out of the true goodness of his heart, to protect me from the colonies' - true goodness, he writes, from an English officer!" Jenny scoffed. "I'll believe that when I see it. Now - 'I am installed as a groom, and my spirits are greatly lifted. I have my own quarters above the stables (with no less than eight horses) and the work is sufficient to keep me occupied and my body in good health. Pray for me and for the chance that I might one day soon be pardoned and reunited with you all. Your brother James Fraser.' Well", Jenny said and lowered the letter, "I suppose that is something."
"Helwater", I whispered, feeling as if I'd been breathing water this whole time and just now come up for air. "Where is that, exactly?"
"He doesna say…" Jenny scanned the letter again with a frown. "No, only Lake District. But it cannae be very far south of the border, I'd wager, or he'd have said."
"Say a week of travel or so, then", I speculated, quickly calculating the distance in my head and longing for a motorcar - it wouldn't have been much more than a day's drive to the Lake District, with proper roads and a fast car.
Jenny looked sharply at me. "Aye", she agreed, "say a week. And what would you do once ye got there, Claire?"
"I didn't say I'd go there", I protested, but realised almost immediately that my longing had been all too obvious. "Yes, all right then. I'd… well." Truth was, just the realisation that Jamie was once again almost within reach fogged my senses more than a little. "I'd talk to him."
"And then what?" Jenny said harshly. "Kiss it better and ride back home again?"
"Jenny", said Ian, with a soft warning tone in his voice, and Jenny turned briefly towards her husband with her mouth set, just like her brother's.
"No, Ian, she must understand this. What do you think would happen if you showed up on the doorstep of his prison, Claire?" Jenny's eyes were burning. "For it is a prison still, no matter what they call it. Do ye think he'd be happy to give you a kiss and let ye go while he stayed behind? No. He's strong, but that's a cruel thing to ask him, and I wouldna be surprised if he couldna do it - I wouldna blame him if he couldn't, and asked if he might escape with you and follow you home."
"It might be possible", I shot back hotly, willing the prickling behind my eyes to go away - I was angry, damn it, and I was not about to start crying. "What's to say he couldn't escape, then? He's resourceful! And I could help him!" I was sure I could - and just the chance of it had made my heart lighter, my breath shorter with desperate hope. "And it's just someone's home, not an actual prison with guards and walls…"
"And then what?" Jenny yelled. (Ian said: "Jenny…" again, a little louder now, but she took no notice.) "Where will you go? They ken he's from here, they ken his name! This will be the first place they'll look!"
"So we won't come back here, we'd go somewhere else!" I regretted my words almost as soon as they were spoken. I saw them hit both Jenny and Ian as if I had stabbed them with them, saw the hurt in their faces before they both hid it - Ian with gentle understanding, Jenny with fury.
"I see. And in that case, what about Brionagh? Where would you take a four-year-old to keep her hidden when ye both turn into fugitives again, and away from all family she's ever kent?"
I stared at her. There was no good answer to that. That would be cruel, Jenny was right - and yet…
Jenny must have seen my sheer stubbornness behind the hesitation, because even if her voice was calmer next, it was colder than before. "And what about us, once Lord and Lady Broch Tuarach and the heir to the estate are all on the run from justice? What about Lallybroch? How long do ye think it would take for them to realise it's theirs for the taking - only another property seized from traitors to the crown? What about the people here, who depend on us? Young Jamie, Maggie, Kitty, the twins?"
She didn't say will more of our children have to die of starvation as wee Caitlin did, before she was even a day old?, but I heard it nevertheless.
I hadn't thought of that. I should have, but I hadn't. To my great frustration, I felt the tears I had tried to push back well up in my eyes. I slapped one hand to my mouth to stop a loud sob, but had to use the other for support on the wall as all my strength seemed to disappear.
"Once we said you must be from a kinder place, Claire", Ian said quietly. "You have learned much - and taught much, these past years while living here with us. But this is a time to listen and wait. Jenny is right."
I knew that.
I couldn't look at them. It took everything I had just to nod.
Two soft arms sneaked around my waist, and I clung to Jenny as I cried in her hair.
"Aye, lass, tha' 's all right now", she murmured. "Hush a-nis, gaol beag. Bidh e nas fheàrr amàireach. Hush, love."
I have done something terrible of which I must beg your forgiveness. (Scratched out)
There is no easy way for me to confess this, but I must. (Scratched out)
Please forgive me, Claire, for what I am about to tell you, and that this must be told in writing instead of in person, as you deserve.
To my great shame and dishonour, I haven't been faithful to you. There are many explanations for it but no excuses, except for my own cowardice. The woman in question is Lady Geneva Dunsany. My only reassurance to you is that it will not happen again - she is now married to the Earl of Ellesmere and will not come back to Helwater, nor has she reason to seek me out again.
All I ask of you is that you would give me the chance to tell you the rest in person. I understand if, after that, you wish that I keep my distance.
Your loving husband
P.S - I miss you so much it feels my heart would burst, Claire. Pray for me and for my weak soul.
Spring had come once more - the air was still cold, but the sun warmed my skin.
It had been a week now since Jamie's latest letter had reached us, and we had talked about little else since.
A pardon, he'd written. Lord Dunsany has been able to use his influence in London on the request of his wife, Lady Louisa, apparently, and Jamie hadn't said anything before now because he didn't want us to get our hopes up.
And now, he was on his way home. God willing, he'd, written, he'd start travel on the second of March, and most likely arrive at Lallybroch on the eighteenth the latest.
Jenny was ecstatic, which, as it often did with Jenny, turned into a frenzy of activities. She had ordered the spring cleaning to be done early - "with yer permission of course, Claire" - in the honour of the Laird's arrival, and while she normally wouldn't have cared less if there was dust on the shelves in the corners because Jamie might see it, every little detail was now of utmost importance. Ian was moving around the estate with an almost constant little smile on his face, humming quietly songs in Gaelic I knew he and Jamie usually sang together while working.
The general enthusiasm rubbed off on the children too. Young Jamie, who was the only one of the Murray children old enough to actually remember his namesake, told the younger ones what little he remembered he and Jamie had done together ("when I was just a wee lad, ye ken"). Most of the time, he was one-upped by Fergus, who didn't know quite what to make of himself - desperate to be seen as a man most of the time, sixteen-year-old Fergus reverted into telling his childhood stories about milord to any who would listen, to the great displeasure of Jenny, who didn't want her children to hear stories of whorehouses in Paris. Brianna had made herself almost sick with excitement when she first heard, and had been almost impossible with her frequent and sudden mood changes ever since - one minute wildly yelling in happiness about her Da coming home, one minute throwing a tantrum worthy of her Fraser blood over something petty, one minute big-eyed and worried her Da wouldn't like her very much.
And in the eye of the hurricane stood I.
I had missed him. I had missed him so much it often felt like he'd taken half of me with him when he left. No one had ever known me like he knew me, and I had never wanted anyone as I had wanted him.
But there was almost six years between us now - six years, of which we'd both believed the other gone from us forever for three of them. I had rebuilt my life without him, in a time that wasn't mine but with people who had claimed me as their own. And he had been imprisoned in in a place I suspected was little better than Hell, though he'd given very few details of his life at Ardsmuir in his letters - and then, somehow, found another woman. Or been found by one, from the way he'd phrased the letters.
True to my usual temper, I'd been livid, ready to let him know to keep his distance, as he said, or else. However, it turned out to be much harder to be furious when I'd had time to reread what little he'd sent me, and it became obvious I didn't have the whole picture. I wasn't at all sure I had forgiven him - but I was going to grant him the chance to explain it all fully, which he had asked for.
All in all, there stood a wall made out of six years, a child, an affair, a lost war and a prison sentence between us, and I wasn't sure what we did have left was enough to scale it.
Was love alone enough?
I turned around, wiping my face as discreetly as I could.
Ian leaned against his cane and looked down at me with a sympathetic smile. "Do ye want to be alone, or may I join ye?"
If anyone else had looked at me like that I would have lashed out at them, but Ian always had this way of looking at you like he understood you, without pitying you. Still, I didn't trust my voice, so I simply gestured that there was still room on the bench next to me.
We sat in silence for a while - an oddly soothing silence, with just the wind rustling the trees, the muted sounds of the cattle in their barn, and behind that, the low noises of bustle in the kitchen, for company.
"I like this place", I finally offered hoarsely, not quite knowing if I meant behind the barn or Scotland or the eighteenth century or something else entirely.
Ian only hummed in reply.
"It's going to change, isn't it?" I took a deep breath and leaned my head against the rough wood behind me. "All of it."
The house. The responsibilities. The problems. The solutions. The people. I.
"Aye", he agreed mildly.
"It scares me", I finally admitted - a thought I had barely allowed myself to think the past week, much less say out loud. "What if -"
"Dinna start with that, Claire", Ian interrupted firmly. "It never does any good."
"No, I know", I said, "but what if -"
"I said no." Ian turned so he faced me and glared at me. "Ye hear me, lass? No. What will come, will come, and what will be, will be. Say a prayer, if ye like, it cannae hurt. But then ye should let it go."
"I know", I wailed. "But I can't! I've tried, Ian, I try, but everytime I push one thought away there's another! What will he look like? Will he recognise me? He says he loves me still, but will he? Will he approve of Brianna? Do I need him to? How will you feel once he comes home and pushes you away from being head of the family? How will Jenny feel?"
"Now, now." Ian put his arm around me and pulled me close, and I allowed him to. "As for what I and Jenny will feel, I can reassure you on that at least. I will be glad to have someone share the burdens, and Jenny will too, once she gets used to the idea - I don't suppose it will be easy for her to take orders from her little brother, if they ever were to disagree on something, but she'll manage." He gave a wry smile and I giggled against my will. "She has missed him terribly, though - we both have - so having him here will be much easier than having to worry about him far away."
He straightened a little, looking thoughtful. "We've always kent that Lallybroch isna ours, Claire. It's yours and Jamie's, and one day, it will be Brionaugh's. We've kept it for ye both, while you have needed us to - and we've done so gladly. But dinna fash, lass, if this means that Lord Broch Tuarach and his Lady take their places as they should." He shook me a little. "We'll be happy for you."
I sniffled. "I know. Really, I do - I don't think that of you or Jenny, that you'd… begrudge us any of it. It's just…"
"It's hard", he nodded. "I know. And I cannae promise you that everything will be just as it was, or that it won't take hard work from both of ye. But I do think… in the end, ye are two people who love each other very much. You'll be just fine, eventually."
Oddly enough, it seemed like that was exactly the right thing to say, despite all the uncertainties.
"I suppose so." I sighed.
Ian gave me one of his close looks, the ones that made it feel like I was see-through. "Is there… something else, Claire, to make ye doubt so? Something ye havna told us?"
I bit the inside of my cheek. I hadn't told either Jenny or Ian about the contents of Jamie's letter last autumn. They'd seen both my fury as I'd crumpled it in my hand and stormed out and, no doubt, my eyes red from crying later. Jenny had asked several times, but I had brushed her off while I still was angry, not wanting to risk her taking Jamie's side since that would mean I'd have to be furious with her too - and later I didn't know how to broach the subject. It seemed, however, that Ian was perceptive enough that he'd guessed something, at least.
Was it fair to speak, though? It would change the way Ian and Jenny viewed him - I knew that, because it had changed how I viewed him. Could I spoil their longing, their happiness, with something I didn't even know what to think of anymore?
"There is something else", I admitted at last. "But I'm not sure if I should tell you. Not yet."
After a long pause, Ian nodded. "As ye say, piuthar."
A wave of affection swept over me. "Thank you." I took Ian's hand. "I know I say that too much, that I keep too many secrets." The lack of explanation regarding the potatoes was just the start of it. I was constantly looking for hints that might jog a half-forgotten memory of an eighteenth-century fact from a history class, a book I'd once read, or one of Frank's ramblings, that might help Lallybroch in the hard years to come, but more often than not, I was frustrated with my bad memory. Which town would be dangerous to travel to due to fire this year; which illness would spread next winter and from where; which clan leader had already turned their loyalty to England? I often didn't know - I just remembered enough to know I should know - and I could work myself into a right state over quick mentions from neighbours and tenants regarding the current affairs, that Jenny or Ian would have thought nothing of, had I not been snappy and distracted for days afterwards.
And yet, that kind of secrecy was nothing, compared to the guilt I felt from not telling them almost anything about myself.
Whenever one of the children asked me where I was from, I obliged with "England". I'd told them my parents were dead and that I had no family apart from them - which had led to a flurry of reassurances that I was kin, och aye Auntie Claire, definitely so. I'd once told Jenny, when she asked about the gold wedding band I still wore, that I'd been married once before, and that his name was Frank. They all knew I'd once been called Claire Beauchamp. Other than that, I'd tried to tell them as little as possible.
It seemed, though, that living in the same house for years on end with people who considered me family - a novel concept to me still - meant that people asked questions, were interested in comparisons, told stories and remembered times gone by together, and I couldn't dodge everything. The truths, half-truths, half-lies and outright lies were incredibly difficult to keep track of, even when I did my best to stick to one word answers, or one sentence only, whenever a word was deemed too little. I knew I'd probably been caught in a lie more than once, judging by how Ian's or Jenny's gaze sharpened sometimes, or if I slipped up and mentioned something I shouldn't have knowledge of, had I been a normal English widow born in the early seventeenhundreds.
And yet, Ian only smiled at me. "Aye. Ye do say that a lot. It's no matter, You'll tell us when you're good and ready."
I swallowed my guilt. "I will." And then added, with sincere gratitude: "Thank you. Again."
Ian shifted into a more comfortable position and leaned his head on the wall behind us. "Dinna trouble yerself, piuthar."
Don't worry, sister.
Well. I guessed that was that. There was nothing else to be done until he came. I could worry plenty once he did come, but until then...
I followed Ian's lead, leaned back and closed my eyes against the sun.
I started a new routine on the fifteenth of March.
Knowing full well it was probably too early to expect Jamie's arrival and that it would probably take several days more before there was a chance he might show, I'd taken to rising early, dressing warmly, and bringing any work I thought I might do for the day with me in a basket. Mending, letters to write, sewing, grinding herbs or preparing medicines - anything light and portable, really. Then, I sat down on the slope next to the road, just outside the gates to Lallybroch - with full view of the road leading up to the house. If anyone came - and it happened every now and then that one of our neighbours did, sometimes for business, sometimes as a social call - I was the first to see them, and greet them.
I sat there from first light to last - sometimes watching a child or two so that they would be out of the way, sometimes with an half-hour or so in Jenny's company and sometimes Brianna came to join me, but most of the time, I sat alone. The solitude suited me just fine.
It gave me time to sort my thoughts - one stitch, one dip of the pen, one sealing of a bottle a time.
He loved me still.
He was coming home to me.
He loved me still.
He was finally free.
He loved me still.
He had missed me.
It might be enough. It was reasonable to hope it could be enough. I could let myself hope.
Even then, I slept fitfully on the night to the eighteenth of March. When I finally had to admit defeat, I dressed carefully, took my time to address my hair (which, as usual, was less than helpful), and took a quick peek through the half-open nursery door to make sure my daughter was still asleep in her bed next to her cousin Kitty.
I snuck out through the kitchen with my basket without more than a nod to the bleary-eyed help Mary McNab, ever the first to rise in the household, who was busy stoking the fire and gave me little notice.
I judged it to be at least an hour until sunrise, but not too long until first light of dawn - but I was admittedly still poor at judging the time when the sun wasn't clearly visible in the sky, even after almost eight years in a century without clocks or watches readily available. The air and ground were cold, but I had brought enough blankets both to sit on and to wrap myself in.
I had forgotten the basket with things for mending in my room, I now realised, but I didn't want to go back for it just yet. It was too cold to do anything else than huddle up in the blankets and shawls anyway, barely above freezing.
I felt stupid, curling up with my feet and hands well tucked in - stupid, and a little cold - but I was as usual also stubborn enough not to give up, and I settled in a more comfortable position to wait for dawn.
I must have fallen asleep, even though I had no memory of it. When I next opened my eyes, seemingly only a few moments later, it was light - a grey, foggy light which told me we'd be very lucky to see the sun at all today. The grass around me was glistening with frost just about to melt, but I was warm and drowsy in my little cocoon and didn't mind.
It took me a moment to register that someone was standing not ten feet away, but once I did, I sat up so quickly my head almost spun.
We stared at each other for what felt like a very long time.
He hadn't changed, was my first thought, and then - yes he had. And somehow both were true. He was everything I remembered - tall, red flaming hair, eyes slightly slanted, with broad shoulders and head held high. He was also thinner than I'd ever seen him, his look more guarded, and when he took a few small, hesitant steps forward, I could see that he had a limp - not a heavy one, but unmistakable.
"Sassenach." Just slightly above a whisper.
And just like that, none of my worries, and none of my fears, mattered at all. Jamie was home. I threw the blankets off of me in an ungraceful waggling motion and staggered towards him. "Jamie."
His eyes searched my face for something - what, I didn't know - but it seemed he must have found it, because some of the wariness in his face gave way. He opened his arms and I threw myself against him, breathing deeply into his chest and trying to will the burn of tears in my eyes away. "You're home", I said, muffled against his coat, not quite yet believing it myself. "You're home."
"I'm home", he whispered into my hair. "Christ, Claire, I've… I've missed ye so."
"As have I." I turned my face up and leaned slightly backwards so I could see him, taking his face in both my hands as I hadn't done since that day on Craig na Dún. "Like my heart would burst."
I knew I grinned stupidly, but I couldn't help myself - and it was mirrored on Jamie's face; a wide, face-splitting grin while we took in each other's sights for the first time in six years, greedily collecting every detail, touching each other's arms, shoulders, hands. I knew what he would see - discreetly graying hair and small wrinkles by my eyes revealed I wasn't twenty anymore, but mostly, I looked the same as I had. Thinner, though, as everyone in the Highlands.
His face was a little dirty by the roots of his hair, as if he had washed himself quickly recently without a mirror at hand. He had a short beard, probably just overgrown stubble for it didn't seemed cared for, and a small scar underneath one of his eyes which hadn't used to be there. He smelled of wet earth and sweat, and I briefly wondered if he'd walked all night.
Then his hand slowly, hesitantly, as if not knowing what reception he might get, came up to my cheek and rested there. I suddenly remembered I was angry with him, and that must be why he was so skittish - but I also found that didn't matter right now. Right now, all that mattered was that he was here.
I leaned into his touch. He exhaled sharply - with relief? Lust? Something else entirely? I didn't know - and then he kissed me with wild abandon, and I kissed him back - his hands on my shoulders, the small of my back, my hips; my hands on his back, his collarbones, his arms, his neck -
We were interrupted by a hesitant voice. "...Ma?"
I hastily broke our kiss and took a step back from Jamie, who had stilled so instantly it seemed he was turning into stone. I sneaked a sideways glance at him - frozen and staring like he couldn't believe his eyes - before I, too, turned towards our daughter.
At five and a half years old, Brianna was what around here was called a bonnie lass. Her face was thinner than I would have liked, and her eyes now wide and unsure, so different from her usual stubborn confidence. We usually braided her hair, since letting it hang loose made all sorts of things get stuck in it - only God knew how - but apparently, no one had caught her yet today and helped her, because it was still in the messy night braid she had slept in, with strands of red hair sticking out all over the place. She'd apparently dressed herself without any adult there to assist her too, because she was wearing Kitty's jacket, I noticed wryly - probably because it had no fastenings like hers did, and was only to pull over her head.
"Brianna", I said as calmly and reassuringly as I could with my heart beating hard enough I could hear it, "this… this is your father."
"Aye", she said quietly - acknowledging the truth in what I said, but passing no judgement. How very Scottish of her.
"This… is Brionaugh?" Jamie whispered, and my heart took a painful leap to hear her name from his mouth. Brionaugh, not Brianna, like all the Murrays also pronounced it - and yet, it sounded new, coming from him.
"Yes." I smiled, a shaky smile but a smile nonetheless. "This is Bree."
Jamie snorted, and I shot him a glare - then my irritation melted away (just to hear him laugh!), and I had to hold back a giggle. Well, it hadn't been my fault Jenny and Ian hadn't informed me of the Scots meaning of my daughter's pet name until she had been over a year old. It had stuck by now, and I wouldn't apologise for it.
Slowly, Jamie got down on one knee next to me, intently staring at his - our - daughter. "Hello, Brionaugh", he offered, sounding infuriatingly collected. "I am James Fraser, and I'm your father. I ken ye don't know me. I'm so very sorry for that, and that I've never met ye. But I would very much like to get to know ye, if you would be amenable."
Brianna looked at him for a moment, with her brow furrowed as in deep concentration. "Would ye be my Da?" she asked then. "And live with me and Ma and the Murrays? Here at Lallybroch?"
Jamie nodded solemnly. "I would."
"Well, then I'd haveta get to know ye", Brianna reasoned, still frowning. "Wouldn't I?"
Jamie shot me a very amused look from where he was sitting. "It's a clever lass ye've got there, Sassenach."
"It is", I said, half exasperated, half trying to stop a grin break out on my face.
"Aye, 'tis true", Jamie said, again turned towards Brianna. "Ye would have. But it would give me great pleasure if ye also wanted to. If ye would let me be your Da proper like, not just in name."
Brianna's face cleared. She looked hesitantly at me. Not quite daring to breathe, I nodded in encouragement. "I'd like a Da", she then said with uncharacteristic shyness.
Jamie's smile was brilliant in response, and I noticed that his eyes had teared up. I couldn't very well blame him - so had my own. "Very good, then, mo cridh."
There was a short pause, where we all stood, grinning stupidly at each other, before Brianna inched forward towards me. I put my arm around her slight shoulders and hugged her tightly to my side. "Now, shall we go tell the rest the good news?" I asked softly. In truth, I wasn't very eager to let Jamie be swallowed up by the whole of the Murray clan instead of spending more time on our own, but I couldn't in good conscience keep him from Jenny any longer.
"Aye", Jamie began, before being interrupted by an: "I'll do it!" from an elated Brianna, who took off running before either of us had time to say another word.
I huffed a little, but let her go for now, while we followed at a slower pace. "She never sits still", I warned him. "You'll find her in a tree, in the brook or on a roof, sooner than you'll find her where you left her. And Michael and Janet wants to do everything she does, and she goads Kitty into doing things she might have been wise enough to avoid otherwise. She's a horrid influence on her cousins, really."
"Ye sound proud, Sassenach."
I looked at him. "I suppose I do", I conceded. "I am proud of her. She's… very much like her father. Always has been." The damned lump in my throat was back, and I had to swallow to try to get rid of it.
His eyes were wary again - careful, judging my every word, every action. "I thought…" He broke off, took a deep breath, and started again. "I thought ye would take her… home with ye. Through the stones."
He must have taken great care not to sound accusing, because I didn't even become angry with him. "They wouldn't let me through." I shook my head. "I don't know why. Maybe - probably because I was carrying her. Maybe you can only get through one person at a time. Maybe only pregnant women are excluded. Maybe Brianna can't travel at all. Maybe someone so young wouldn't have been able to travel and the stones protected her from…" I broke off. "Well."
A vague sound of alarm could be heard from inside the house, and several children yelling.
"For now", I nodded towards the doors of Lallybroch and smiled wryly, "I think you should brace yourself."
There would be time to tell all of our stories later, when we were alone.
Jamie actually looked a little afraid. "I suppose I should, aye." But there was longing in his voice.
The door slammed up and a brightly smiling Jenny Fraser Murray practically flew down the stairs with Brianna and three or four Murray children in tow. "Jamie! Ian, Jamie's home!"
"How's your leg?"
I let my fingers trace the skin of his chest, his side, his hip, his thigh. Lazy and sated in the afterglow, I still kept feeling that if I didn't touch him, he might disappear.
"I'm not complaining just now", Jamie murmured, closing his eyes with a small, contented smile on his lips, allowing me to keep refamiliarising myself with his body, taking small mental notes of what had changed and what hadn't.
I wouldn't let him get out of this conversation that easily, and swatted his thigh lightly. "I saw you limping earlier."
He opened one eye. "Ye noticed that, did ye." He sighed and sat up, leaning against the headboard of the bed. "It's not usually this bad, but two weeks of walking every waking hour hasna done it any favours. I expect it will be better in a few days."
My wandering hands found the scar and touched it lightly. It was big - almost the entire length of his thigh - and even though it had clearly healed by now, it was still red and welted in the light from the fireplace, showing clearly that the healing process hadn't been either fast or easy. "Culloden?" I asked quietly, already knowing the answer.
"Aye." He met my eyes. "Black Jack Randall."
I drew a sharp breath and sat up. "I should have guessed. Did you two…?" I hesitated.
"Did we fight? Did I kill him?" His voice was sharp. "If that is what you're guessing you'd be right, Sassenach, and it wasna a pretty sight." He quieted, then continued in a much softer tone: "I'll tell ye, if ye want me to."
I did, I realised. I needed to hear the details of that man's death, to feel entirely safe - even though I'd known his death date for a long time. But other things mattered more just now.
"I do, at some point, but… there's something else I think that we need to talk about first." I drew the blanket up to cover my body, because somehow it felt inappropriate to say what I felt I had to completely naked. I took a deep breath. "Your letter. Last autumn."
He'd sent several letters last autumn, but I didn't need to clarify further.
Jamie looked unhappy, but said: "Aye, we should."
Some of the hurt and anger I'd felt resurfaced at that very unsatisfying answer - who did he think he was, to waltz back into my life and my bed without so much as a proper apology?! - and I fought to keep my voice steady and calm. "You said you wanted the chance to tell the whole story. Now is the time."
"Aye", he said again, and then sighed. "I'll have to start a bit earlier than last autumn," he warned then, and I said somewhat harsher than I'd planned: "I have time."
The story was rather long. I didn't understand at first why he began with chess matches against Lord John Grey at Ardsmuir, but slowly, the web of relationships between people I had never met - including the hateful lady Geneva Dunsany - grew clearer. I had to clench my teeth tightly to not interrupt, when he told about the invitation to her bedchambers and the following discussion they'd had there (he, mercifully, glossed over the details of what followed with only a "well, I was… kind to her", with a slightly reddened face and without looking me in the eye). When he spoke of the birth of her son - Jamie's son - it felt like my heart would shatter into pieces. Not even her redeeming quality of having died in childbirth and by doing so being pitiable could save her from my hatred for a while - until I reminded myself that her story, despite the fact that she had become a villain in mine, was a very sad and very lonely one. The story ended with Lord John - who I still didn't quite understand where he fit in the puzzle, but I wasn't about to interrupt and ask - agreeing to care for Jamie's son together with lady Geneva's sister Isobel.
Jamie's voice was hoarse from speaking when he finally finished with: "I understand if… ye need some…. time to think."
There was a lump in my throat which made my voice equally hoarse. "I… no. But I do have one question."
"Ask it", he said immediately. "Anything ye wish to know, Claire."
"When you… agreed to her proposition", I said slowly, trying to separate my own hurt feelings from the need to know the truth. "Was it because you were feeling... sorry for her?"
He looked at me closely, as if trying to figure out the reason for my question. "I was feeling sorry for her," he said then. "There were many things about Geneva Dunsany anyone would feel sorry about, if they had known about them. But no. That wasna the reason. I was scared, Claire."
I started, and the burning in my throat seemed to lessen simply from the surprise. Jamie had always been good at acknowledging his and others' feelings, but even from him, I'd never heard such a direct, plain admission of something that most would see as shameful. "Of what? Of lady Geneva?"
He must have heard the disbelief in my voice because he gave me a small, humourless smile. "No. Of the power she had at her disposal."
"Power?" I scoffed. "What power?"
"Think, Sassenach." Six years ago, he would have said it with impatience or annoyance, but now, there was only tiredness. "Suppose I had said no. Left her chambers. She might have screamed, and accused me of being there to rape her, and I would have hanged at her word - I don't think she would have, she wasna a cruel person, but I didn't quite ken that at the time. Or suppose I hadn't shown. Suppose she had been desperate enough to make true on her threats, to send me back to prison. I confess I dinna ken whether I would have gone or whether I would have fled - I havena told you much abour Ardsmuir yet, but for now, let me just say I wasna… keen to do so. Suppose I'd have dragged all of ye at Lallybroch in it with me. I ken now she probably wouldna have done either of it, but… I was still frightened she might. I believed her to have that power."
"I believe it too", I whispered. And I did.
There had already been other people in our marriage bed with us - Jack Randall was by far the most sinister one, but King Louis hadn't been ideal either. And yet, we had endured. Why should we not endure Geneva Dunsany, far less influential and far less dangerous than either man had been - and, for that matter, dead since two months and highly unlikely to ever bother us again?
She had left no brand on Jamie's skin I'd have to cut out with a knife, to let him believe he was finally free - he knew that already. He would never have chosen her, if he had had a proper choice - I knew that, too. There was no reason to let her come between us anymore.
"What about the baby?" I asked quietly, more coldly than I'd intended. "Will you be contented with leaving him there? When he's yours?"
Jamie's eyes took on a faraway look. "Contented? No. No, I will probably never be contented with being separated from my own blood. Leaving Willie behind was one of the hardest things I've done and hope ever to do. It sometimes feels like… like it was never meant to be so, because kin are meant to stay together, but… it seems that life now is to… to feel like I've left pieces of myself with different people, in different places, and to go back for one piece would be to leave another behind. I'm sure ye ken what I mean, ye who have travelled all these places in yer days." Then he looked at me intently, his blue eyes almost black in the darkness of my - our - room. "But ye are also blood of my blood, and ye are bone of my bone, and ye were so first, Sassenach. I owe ye my loyalty, and I have sworn to love you always. How could I have stayed with my son, when my wife and daughter had been waiting for me for three years already? Do ye not need me more, than my son who will grown up to be an earl, every whim satisfied by a servant - ye who have fought famine and redcoats and grief and I dinna ken all? That was my thinking, in leaving William behind."
I could choose not to say anything about it, but I couldn't choose not to feel, and the pain when he spoke his son's name took my breath away. Jamie must have seen it on my face, though, because he hesitantly reached for my hand on the covers. I let him take it.
It was almost like magic, I reflected, as he silently stroked my knuckles with his thumb - his bad hand, I noticed, the one with the stiff fingers - the way his touch could make even the hardest situation a little bit better. I had known magic powerful enough to send me from one time to another, and yet… somehow, this was stronger.
I sniffled and wiped my nose on the back of my free hand, surprised to find I was crying.
"I am glad you came back", I managed to get out.
"So am I, Sassenach." He hesitated, then said, very carefully: "I ken it isna the same. The reasons, I mean - that we cannae compare one person to another, and why we would… sleep with them. And I also ken that if we were to compare, we've each saved each other once, before this, by sharing our bodies with others outside our marriage - and this time, I did not do it to save ye, but to save myself."
"You're right", I broke him off, suddenly not able to stand the pain in his voice he was trying to hide - trying to protect me from. "We can't compare. So we shan't. I - I won't say your letter didn't hurt me, because it did. It does. It might hurt for a long time. But… I do understand, Jamie. I won't blame you for… choosing what you did."
"So ye forgive me, then?"
"I forgive you." I slowly reached out and touched his face - somehow a much more intimate moment than our desperate touches to bring the other closer during sex earlier. "James Fraser, I forgive you, and I love you." I smiled shakily, and added in dry humour: "But if you ever leave me again, I'll kill you myself."
He laughed, a wet laugh, and wiped his own nose on the back of his hand - then looked horrified at what he'd done, and reached out for a hankerchief on the bedside table. I couldn't help but burst out laughing.
"She loves ye, she says, and then in the next breath laughs at ye", Jamie grumbled in good humour.
"Yes, well", I said briskly, "you were used to it once, you'll simply have to get used to it again." A big yawn came over me, fast enough that I didn't have time to cover it with my hand.
"Aye, I suppose so." Jamie grinned. "But let me do that in the morning, hm?
"I'm not tired", I said stubbornly, but truth was, I was exhausted. We'd spent the day surrounded by people - not only the Murrays, but neighbours ready to greet their Laird who had come home from war at last, and there had been tenants and servants and children everywhere. And on top of that, there had been a tension between us, not entirely knowing where we had each other; constant surprises over small things that had come up in conversation we'd thought we'd mentioned in our letters but apparently hadn't; an uncertainty whether to touch or not, whether the other would welcome it; and then eventually, a reconnecting of our bodies which had left me completely spent - knowing afterwards there was a conversation to be had, and that I couldn't allow myself to relax yet.
But now, I could relax with him, the air cleared, and I didn't want to let that go yet.
"I think I've kept ye up for too long for today, Sassenach."
But at at closer look at Jamie, I countered: "I think I've kept you up too long, actually. You look worn out."
"I admit it readily", Jamie said frankly. "I'd been walking since yesterday morning when I arrived at Lallybroch this morn."
"Then we shall sleep", I allowed, snuggling down underneath the covers and sneaking my foot over his shin so that we lay entwined - as we had always done before, amazed at how natural it felt. Jamie put his arm around me and we lay silent for a while, forehead to forehead, getting used to the proximity effortlessly, as if we'd never been apart.
"Isn't this incredible?" I asked sleepily without being able to elaborate.
Jamie gave a Scottish hm in agreement, without opening his eyes.
I inched closer, and closed my own eyes.
There was time for worries tomorrow. For now, we could sleep.
Thoir maitheanas dhomh = forgive me
Do bráthair = your brother
Amadan górach = stupid fool
a-nis = now
gaol beag = little love
Bidh e nas fheàrr amàireach = It will feel better tomorrow
Piuthair = sister
Sassenach = outlander, stranger