"Perhaps one day I shall deck ye in laces and jewels,” he said softly.
“I havena been able to give ye much, ever, save a wee silver ring, and my mother’s pearls.”
“You’ve given me a lot more than that,” I said. I wrapped my fingers around his thumb and squeezed. “Brianna, for one.”
He smiled faintly, looking down at the deck.
“Aye, that’s true. She’s maybe the real reason—for staying, I mean.”
I pulled him toward me, and he rested his head against my knee.
“This is her place, no?” he said quietly. He lifted a hand, gesturing toward the river, the trees and the sky. “She will be born here, she’ll live here.”
“That’s right,” I said softly. I stroked his hair, smoothing the thick strands that were so much like Brianna’s. “This will be her country.” Hers, in a way it could never be mine or his, no matter how long we might live here.
He nodded, beard rasping gently against my skirt.
“I dinna wish to fight, or have ye ever in danger, Sassenach, but if there is a bit I can do … to build, maybe, to make it safe, and a good land for her …” He shrugged. “It would please me,” he finished softly.
We sat silently for a bit, close together, watching the dull shine of the water and the slow progress of the sunken lantern.
“I left the pearls for her,” I said at last. “That seemed right; they were an heirloom, after all.” I drew my ringed hand, curved, across his lips. “And the ring is all I need.”
He took both my hands in his, then, and kissed them—the left, which still bore the gold ring of my marriage to Frank, and then the right, with his own silver ring.
“Da mi basia mille,” he whispered, smiling. Give me a thousand kisses. It was the inscription inside my ring, a brief quotation from a love song by Catullus. I bent and gave him one back.
“Dein mille altera,” I said. Then a thousand more.”