Author: Namariel PM
Scotland, April 1745. With the Battle of Culloden casting a shadow over their heads, Edward and Bella share their last days together. BPOV. One-shot for the Age of Edward contest.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Romance - Bella & Edward - Chapters: 2 - Words: 18,704 - Reviews: 118 - Favs: 126 - Follows: 55 - Updated: 06-11-09 - Published: 05-28-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5094145
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Thousands of thanks to lovely Babette for doing me the honor of editing this monster. Read her one-shot, it is suuuuper sweet!
I might do the other side of this story, Edward's POV. We'll see.
Age of Edward Contest
Your pen name: Namariel
Type of Edward: Braveheartward (Scotland, 1745)
Night is falling, and the sky is dyed a dying mix of bright orange and angry crimson. Sun rays escape shyly from behind a great white cloud, suspended on the great dome of the sky as if she owns it.
Half our lands lay in its shadow.
Earlier, it rained, as it is most common in Scotland. The remaining clouds now hover in the sky, subdued and calm.
An odd blanket of quietness has befallen the hills, and in it, the smell of clean grass washed away by rainwater is pleasantly sharp and fills my senses.
I find it unsettling.
One of our dogs walks slowly towards me, head bent low and ears sticking to his skull. He is worried, too. He is an old dog; any other man would have put him to sleep a while ago, but Edward refuses. The dog is thin and wiry, and has huge brown eyes that look up at me with uncertainty.
Something is in the air, some kind of charge, as if invisible thunder cracked silently across the sky.
I crouch down and scratch behind his ears, smiling at him. My affection seems to relax him, and he smiles as well, tongue hanging out and lips curling up, eyes bright.
A movement out the corner of my vision catches my attention, and I whirl around, alarmed. These are bad times, and it is best to keep on our toes, eyes wide open and ears perked.
A lone rider comes down the hill towards our gate. In the shadow of the cloud blocking the sky, I cannot tell who it is, but I do know he is a Scot, for I see the movement of his kilt as it billows around him in the wind.
As he abandons the shadow and enters a solitary patch of agonizing sunlight, I see his hair glint in fiery bronze, and I smile.
Edward Ruadh is home. Edward the Red.
The dog's ears perk up and he shoots away running like a bullet, barking enthusiastically. On his way he throws a wayward fierce bite to the aging grey cat, so that it will not think, for a moment, that its last offense has been forgotten. The feline mewls and huffs evilly; they will fight again tonight.
I hear Edward's loud greeting as the dog meets up with the horse, his voice carrying across the smooth undulations of our grounds. He doesn't stop to open the gate, as I knew he would not. His horse jumps easily over it, with a grace and elegance that its size would not hint at. I hear his laughs at the old dog's exuberance, and his loud praise in Gaelic.
Edward has a gift for leadership. Beasts and men alike feel the urge to follow him, to earn his praise and the hearty slap of his congratulating hand.
As he nears me, he slows his pace, but does not come to a full stop. He circles around me on his beautiful black stallion, smirking in the golden light of the sunset, his forest green eyes alive with mirth and joy.
"Mo duinne," he calls, "How beautiful ye look in the sunset."
"Only in the sunset?" I arch a brow, inclining my head.
He laughs, "Ye are like fairies! Any other time of the day that I should lay eyes upon ye, ye shall blind me."
"Come along, then. I should feed you for your praises."
He laughs and trots away towards the stables, the dog in tow. The cat comes to rub its side against my leg, surely seeking to earn my support. I ignore it, raising my skirts and shaking it off. He is on his own; he brought it on himself. Tonight, I will most likely let the dog sleep in, and the cat outside. That way, who's right will be clear.
Tabitha is working on the dinner. I am happy for that, because I simply cannot cook. Edward teases me that I am the most unhelpful housewife to ever be born. I do not cook, I do not sew, I certainly do not knit. But I have natural authority, and people listen to me.
One would think my independent character would collide with Edward's, but we are in love. And in a relationship, both sides will always fold a bit. We have a balance.
I help Tabitha set the table for us, and hold back from my urge to scold her little boy, Sawnie, as he runs around the house exuberantly. He is a boy of only six, and he is alone here, for his father and older brother have both joined the Jacobite Rising.
That thought makes me straighten from my position by the hearth.
The climate of political unrest that has spread like wildfire on a dry crop is convulsing mother Scotland like a girl in the throes of epilepsy. This is certainly not the first Jacobite Rising; in fact, the Jacobites have been rebelling and attempting to restore the House of Stuart to the throne since 1688, when James VII of Scotland and II of England was deposed by Parliament during the Glorious Revolution.
This is, however, the greatest rising since the First Rising in 1715.
Edward is concerned. He is a Cullen, a small branch of the Cameron Clan, and the Camerons thirst for war. They have already sent a letter calling for war, and Edward burned it. He does not want to fight. He wants to be a quiet farmer on his land and be left alone. We want peace and calm, not blood and the clang of swords.
Edward's ancestral land, Coille an t-Suidhe, is well situated. It could become an exceptional advance point for the Jacobites, and I fear he will be called on again.
I am strayed from my thoughts by the man himself, bursting through the door like he always does, and making a show of smelling the food. I chuckle and his eyes zero in on me. I give him a warning look, but it does not deter him, and suddenly I am enveloped in his arms, and he is rocking us, as if he could dance—which he can't. It is not one of his many, many talents.
"You brute! Put me down this minute!" I cry, laughing.
"I missed you," he murmurs against my ear, hugging me tightly.
I giggle like a child and hug him back, kissing the side of his neck, for he is so much taller than me that I must tiptoe to reach his shoulder. I like it when he leans forward like this.
"Mo duinne," he breathes against my ear, crushing me to his chest. "Mo nighean donn, gráím thú."
"A chara," I say gently, taken aback by his intensity. "What's wrong, my love?"
Edward sighs, squeezes me one last time and finally releases me, kissing my forehead.
"Let us eat, mo duinne." he says, leading me to the table by the hand. I sit and he sits in front of me, and we eat in silence. Tabitha has left with Sawnie for the day. They live not far from us, and so I am comfortable leaving them to walk alone at night. Edward sometimes offers to walk them, but tonight he didn't, and I am worried.
When we are finished, I clear the table and Edward opens a bottle of whiskey, pouring us each a drink. I stall with mine; I am not a good drinker, and he knows it. He swallows it quickly and pours another one. I watch him, patient.
"So, I hear ye got a visit from Duncan tonight, eh?" he asks, smiling and finally looking up.
"Oh, aye. He left a letter for you."
I get up to get it from the dresser. Edward's accent is stronger and deeper than mine; I am from the Lowlands, and he is a Highlander. I love his rich, deep voice as it carries it. It delivers the words with a special ring that makes me warm.
"I saw Carlisle today," he says as I look for the letter.
"What did he want?"
Edward chuckles, "You liked Carlisle, a chara, until a little while ago."
Until he declared himself Jacobite, he means.
"Yes, well, your uncle has a big mouth. And as they say, Is minic a gheibhean beal oscailt diog dunta."
Which means, 'an open mouth often catches a closed fist'.
Edward laughs out loud.
"He says, congratulations." He says, eyes bright with pride and happiness, and I smile, because when he looks at me like that, what else can I do? I nod in approval, and return to looking for the lost letter.
I cannot have lost it. I know I left it here this noon. I wonder if Sawnie has perhaps—
"He also says, I am to join the Cameron of Lochiel's Regiment, part of Lord George Murray's Division."
I freeze. My blood runs cold and the world suddenly comes to a screeching halt, and my fears crash around me like shards of stained glass falling off the windows of a Church.
"Bella," he sighed.
"No! Edward, this is insane—they will annihilate the Clans!"
"Prince Charles is in Scotland."
My hand flies to my mouth, and I sit down abruptly.
"He's leading the Rising himself… there is going to be a battle in Blàr Chùil Lodair. I am to join the Camerons in Lochiel with my men, and travel to the field from there."
"You can't go," I murmur.
Edward rises from his chair and kneels in front of me, grasping my hands gently.
"I must, my love."
"Bella, they will never leave us alone. There will never be peace. The English—they will never leave us—"
"What will it change if Charles is in the throne!?" I demand, standing and moving away from him. He stands as well, forcing his long hands through his bronze hair.
"He is the King," He insists for the hundredth time, and like any time before, it means nothing at all to me.
"Being oppressed by an English King—being oppressed by a Scottish King—I don't see the improvement!"
"Bella! Charles is the legitimate King of Scotland!"
"Would he die for you!?"
"If I don't do this, they'll come to Coille an t-Suidhe and get me. If not the Scots, then the Sassenachs. Don't you see, mo duinne? There is no way out of this."
He tries to be rational and calm and I see the irony in it. It is usually me holding him back, telling him to calm down. He has fire within, untamed and wild. Like a creature of the forests and the mountains he moves by instinct and thinks with his heart. Like a Scot, he is undomesticated; a savage mountain lion lounging in a meadow, he appears calm until he pounces.
"My love, this must end."
"And so you must die for it to come to an end?"
"I must do what my duty, my motherland and my blood demand of me."
"And do I mean nothing to you?"
"Bella!" he crosses the room in two strides and cradles my head in his hands, his face inches from mine. "You mean everything to me. Everything. You are my life. Tá mo chroí istigh ionat. Ádhraím thú." 'My hearts is with you', he says. 'I adore you'.
"But what life can I offer you, mo nighean donn? A life under the Sassenachs? A life lived on our knees? A life in which we cannot proudly be Scottish, we cannot speak Gaelic, we cannot rule ourselves? What life is that, my beautiful love, but the life of a slave? And the life of a slave… is no life at all."
"You and your pride," I cry.
He shakes his head, snaking his arm around my waist and bringing me flush against his body. He sways gently from side to side, dancing to the rhythm of music in his mind. He misses his violin, which Sawnie broke two months ago in an accident.
"It's not pride, a chara. It's love."
I snort, "You're a Highlander. It's always pride."
He chuckles, "And you, Lowlander, you always shy away of combat."
I could reply, but his mouth is on mine a second later, his lips slanting over mine. I snake my arms around his slim waist, feeling him. He is all coiled power and tense muscles, graceful seduction in elegant lines. I can feel his hard muscles under his shirt, I can smell his scent of sandalwood and leather and the steel of his broadsword, and sweat and man and Edward.
I slide my hands over his hips and find the buckle of his belt.
The next morning, when I wake, he is already dressing. I sit up, understanding.
"I have to gather the men and have them ready to travel in a week." He says, throwing the rest of his tartan over his shoulder and gathering his fiery bronze hair in a ponytail low at the nape of his neck.
"This is so unfair."
He pauses, his tall figure a dark silhouette against the light streaming from the window. He leans his head back and sighs.
"War is never anything but, mo nighean donn."
And he leaves.
I feel his loss as though he has left forever. I want to curl in bed and weep for both of us. And not only us, for we are not the only ones who are tangled in this web of pointless sacrifice and luckless loyalty. The Highlanders are taught to love their land and fight for their beliefs. It is our duty and our destiny to fight for mother Scotland. If I were a man, I would not hesitate to follow Edward into battle—but I am not, and women cannot go to war.
Blàr Chùil Lodair. Culloden, for the English, the Sassenachs.
I navigate through the chores of the day like a ghost. I do not feel hunger at noon; Tabitha worries. I feel numb like ice and ethreal like fog. I fear that if I am pushed too hard, I will shatter.
Edward does not return home for tea or dinner. He sends a message letting me know he will dine with the McLachlans. He likes their new son in law, a tall blond born in Wales who says his name is Jasper and his last name is nonexistent. He is quiet and calm, and appears as though he could kill a man without batting a lash. His silence is sharp against his wife's chirpy behaviour. They fit one another.
I wake in the middle of the night as the bed shifts below me, and Edward hugs me tightly, pressing his long body to the length of mine and shivering.
"It's cold outside," he murmurs. "We must take blankets to battle."
I don't answer. He becomes quiet and eventually, we fall asleep.
The next morning when I wake, he has left already.
We are avoiding each other.
It is the last week we may be together, and we cannot be together.
I know I ought to break the circle, but he is away organizing war supplies in hopes of having everything ready by the end of the week, and I cannot tolerate to see him pack swords and weapons. Instead, I do my usual rounds on the tenant's houses, checking to see if everyone is alright.
I see not one man above the age of sixteen. Edward refuses to take boys to battle, and for that at least I am thankful.
I am angry and disappointed, but above it all I am terrified.
Edward has kept an eye on the movements of both Jacobites and Sassenachs and we know the Scots don't stand a chance to win this battle. The Jacobites are emboldened by their victories, and think they have a chance at defeating the Hanoverian British Government. They are supported by the French as well, though little physical help has come from that side. Most of the Jacobite army is embodied by Highlanders and a small portion of Jacobite Sassenachs. The Hanoverian army, lead by the King's youngest son, the Duke of Cumberland, is well armed and much more numerous.
Numbers don't win battles, but they sure help.
And what's the Highlander's famous fierceness when they cannot reach their enemy for a sword-fight, because they are shot down at a distance? The Jacobites are ill-prepared.
But their pride—always their pride—makes it impossible for them to remain calm under the realdership of an undesired King. The English have taken far too many liberties already.
And where does that leave my husband?
My husband, son of Elizabeth Cameron, married to Edward Cullen. Nephew of Carlisle Cameron, head of the Cameron Clan. I am a Lowlander, and as such my names holds little value—in fact, it is British in ascension. Edward could have been a great leader of the Clan, but he married an English-blooded woman, and thus became unsuited.
And where does that leave me?
Life on one's knees might be the life of a slave, but life without Edward is no life at all, for me.
The afternoon of the second day, as night falls over , I stand in our meadow, a small patch of clean grass in the forests, nestled between a wall of rocks and a small stream, and I think. I am trained in sword-fight, for Edward likes teaching, and I am skillful and small. I can treat a wound. I can speak English with a perfectly feigned British accent.
Yes, I could go. I could join him in the battle and help care for the wounded. I might not be with him all the time, but I would be close, I would be there, with him.
Yes, I decide. I will go to Blàr Chùil Lodair.
Edward does not return tonight, either. I try to wait up, but the day's stress and pain have made me weary, and I fall asleep too soon for my liking. I do not wake when he slips into bed, but I do when he gets up before dawn.
We move like spirits in different astral planes. We see and feel each other, but we do not connect, as though we are separated by a thick membrane between our worlds. His touch on my skin is rough, and I feel his desperation. I offer what comfort I am capable of, but it doesn't soothe him. He is breaking inside, as I am.
He leaves after breakfast to gather more men. Today he will ride farther, and he will not come home to sleep. The empty bed terrifies me and I sleep curled in the rocking chair by the window. I wake late in the morning, sore and lonely.
He doesn't come home during the day either, and time slips away from me reluctantly. The clock over our fireplace doesn't want to tick. Every second I am closer to splintering. The pain in my chest consumes me, and I wonder if this is how it will be, when…
He comes home for tea.
"I am going with you." I say firmly.
He chokes on his toast.
"What? Have ye lost yer mind!?"
"You can't expect me to stay behind while you go off to die!"
"I certainly can!" he thunders, standing abruptly.
He looms over me but I am not scared. He would never hurt me; not physically at least, as he seems quite willing to hurt me by abandoning me.
"You are not coming with me to Blàr Chùil Lodair, Isabella!"
I can tell he is agitated because his accent deepens and his eyes grow narrow. He has been thinking I would request this. And he has already made up his mind to deny me.
"You are my husband! I go where you go!"
"Aye, I am your husband—so you do as I tell you! You stay here, Isabella!"
"This is ridiculous. This is because I am a woman!"
"Yes! Of course! A battlefield is no place for a lass!"
"But is the place for seventeen year old boys who have done nothing but crop the fields! It is the place for you, who do not wish to be there!"
"This is my duty and my destiny, Bella. I owe this to my nation, to my family—"
"Your family that never lifted a finger for your father when he was unrightfully called a thief and hanged!"
He straightens, livid.
"Those are the Camerons you are going to follow to your death?" I say, my voice low and cold.
He remains silent.
"I want to go," I say. "Because I can't live without you." My voice breaks at the last word and I take my hands to my throat because the pain there is asphyxiating me. My throat is closed and I cannot breathe.
"Bella," he stands in front of me, his eyes pleading. "I can't take you with me, mo duinne. I won't be able to fight, thinking you are there, thinking you are in danger and I am not by your side to defend you. When you are with me, I can't think of anything but you. I would lose my mind, and I need to lead my men. They trust in me, Bella, they trust I will lead them well."
"You can't ask me to stay behind and let you go!" I cry against his shirt. He hugs me and crushes me to his chest, murmuring soothing words in Gaelic and running his hands through my hair.
"I have to, mo ghrá. You have to live. I cannot fathom a world in which you do not exist. You.. you have to be alive, Bella."
His voice breaks in my name, and he hugs me to him as a man hugs a piece of wood as he is adrift alone at sea. His tears wet my hair and mine his shirt. I clutch him to me for dear life, and the world smashes around us like the finest crystal.
Without one another, we are nothing.
He is my life, the air I breathe, my sunlight in the morning and the moon shining at night. The stars and the sea, and everything between them.
"Mo ghrá," I cry, kissing his full lips in between out tears, "Ádhraím thú."
"Mo duinne," he sobs, falling back on the bed and holding me tightly in his lap as his body is shaken with broken sobs.
I am scared, but mostly I am broken. To see a man cry is always heartbreaking, but to see my Edward cry, my rock in the storm crumble, destroys me. I stroke his hair back and rock him back and forth. I am the comforter now, I am the strong one. This is the beautiful thing of a man… this capability to be simultaneously man and child, to go from being a warrior to a boy scared of war.
And he is scared. He is terrified; he doesn't want to die, nor does he revel in his chance to prove his worth, his valor. Edward is peaceful by nature, tranquil. He will always choose a book over a broadsword.
We don't make love that night. Edward curls in bed and I curl around him, the protector for once, and I sing him an old lullaby to sleep.
Roses whisper "goodnight"
'neath the sil'vry light
asleep on the dew
they hide from our view
when the dawn peepeth through
God will wake them and you
when the dawn peepeth through
God will wake them and you
Slumber deeply my dear
For the angels are near
to watch over you
the silent night through
and to bear you above
to the dreamland of love
and to bear you above
to the dreamland of love
The next morning, I realize this is the last day we will spend together. Edward is still asleep, and this is the first time I awake before he does. He was exhausted last night, and I slip out of bed making sure not to wake him.
I dress in silence and leave the house wrapped up in his long winter cape. I know it drags across the wet grass, but wearing it makes me feel closer to him, as though he were here and it was his arms around my shoulders instead of the thick cloth. His scent permeated the cape; forests and rain. Edward.
There is one thing to be said of the Cameron Clan, and it is that they are stubborn. Edward might not have their name, but he does certainly have their blood.
I stood in our meadow again, soaking in the silence of the solitude. Here, alone, I could think clearly.
The promise of my blood, he had said that night, stroking my stomach. My hands now cupped my slightly curved abdomen, thoughtfully.
Scotland the Brave was at the cliff's end. Beneath it the void was endless.
I knew what was coming.
The Jacobites would be defeated. In this last ill-prepared attempt at overthrowing the Hanoverians, all Scots would pay for their foolishness. Taxes would rise; oppression would asphyxiate us. The guards would double in numbers and cruelty. The Highlanders would be crushed underfoot, their traditions stolen and thrown away, forbidden, left to be forgotten.
But Scotland would never die. Scotland was within us, in our spirits… in the edge of the blades of broadswords and the points of arrows and lances. Nothing could break our spirit, nothing could bring a Highlander to his knees.
We could be drowned in ashes and fire, but so long as a small little plant survived, our spirit would survive within it.
So long as Scotland had a child, she would live on.
She lived in me, now… that small flicker of hope and future.
I cannot fathom a world in which you do not exist.
Neither can I, mo ghrá, without you.
But with the possibility of a world without Edward, that of a world of no colors and devoid of happiness, and one I do not wish to survive in, I no longer belong to myself. I belong to the life growing within me and to this life's future and destiny. I owe this life a chance to live, and so I cannot sacrifice myself for Scotland… I am no longer free to do that.
This is Edward's child. His boy. His girl. His promise.
I belong to him, too. And like him, I have a duty to honor my commitments.
Women and men are strong in different ways.
It's my time to be strong in a way dissimilar to Edward's.
I cannot fight by his side.
But gone the moon… still the stars will shine. Not as bright, not as beautiful… but shine nonetheless.
My decision is taken, but as the meaning of it crashes over me on the teardrops of the rain, I fold in on myself and fall to my knees, sobbing. No need to keep quiet here, and for a moment, I allow the sorrow and the pain and the loss to come to overtake me.
The agony makes it impossible to breathe. I heave and try to fill my lungs, but I am unable. Strangled noises leave my throat and drop to the wet grass of the meadow. In this place, where it all begun between us, I draw it to an end. I must set him free, and let him follow his spirit, wherever it may take him.
And as Highlander spirits go… it takes him to battle.
When I finally pull myself together and return to the house, he is waiting by the fireplace.
"Bella, you're soaked," he gasps, grasping my hand and tugging me closer to the hearth, where he begins undressing me.
"No preparations today?" I murmur.
He shakes his head, concentrating on undoing my buttons, "We are as ready as we will ever be. We could have left yesterday… but I wanted everyone to have a day with their families."
I wrap my arms around his neck and he leans down to hug me tightly. He has stripped me down to my petticoats and camisole, and I am cold despite the hearth's lively fire. I feel the hard planes and sharp angles of his male frame against my soft flesh, and I feel him sigh.
"How will I live without you?" I sigh against his ear, my tears all spent.
"One day at a time, head held high and eyes in the future," he answers, his voice muffled against my hair.
"You'll have it easy," I cry.
He chuckles breathlessly, "To see you from afar, as an angel, and not be able to touch? No, mo nighean doon, it will be torture."
I kiss his lips and he leans forward and takes me in his arms, cradling me against his broad chest. I kiss his neck, gentle and soft, and feel him shudder. He sets me softly down on the bed and lays at my side, kissing me deeply and sensually, his lips and tongue slow against mine.
I find the threads at the collar of his shirt and untie them slipping my hand between the linen and the skin of his shoulder and dragging it down between his shoulder-blades. He has such a strong, beautiful back.
He is a beautiful man indeed. Skin roughened by work, life and many seasons under the sky stretched over steely muscles flat against long, elegant bones. He is almost feline in his movements, granted with a liquid grace uncommon in men his height.
I find the leather strap at the base of his neck and yank it, untying it. His bronze hair tumbles in soft curls around his face, and his hand finds the back of my neck and pulls me closer to his face as I run my fingers through it, scratching his scalp with my blunt fingernails.
He shifts and his thigh finds its way between mine, his weight falling on half of my body. I love the feel of his body against mine, his weight, and the length of him pressed against my stomach. At first, when I first told him I was with child, he was careful of touching me, fearsome that I would break.
He is over that now.
"A ghrá," he murmurs against my ear, and I un-tuck the shirt from the waist of his kilt and drag it up across the hard planes of his stomach and sides. He lifts off me a moment to pull it over his head, and when he lies against me again, he smoothes down the hair off the sides of my face, looking down at me with such love and devotion in his eyes, that I cannot tolerate it.
I push at his shoulders, and a flash of confusion shines in his jade eyes.
"Stand," I ask.
He moves to grant my request as though his body can do nothing but. He stands at the foot of the bed, and I stand in front of him. I ghost my fingertips over his tight abs, and his muscles shudder beneath my touch. I want to be the one to worship him, for a change. So much has happened to us, and through it all he was a rock, grounding me and protecting me.
I sink my fingers in his silken hair and bring his head down to mine, kissing him deeply. His hands grip my hips, and I can feel his erection through the layers of my wet petticoats and his kilt.
I break the kiss and caress his sharp jaw line to the side of his neck, licking that little spot under his ear that makes him shudder. I am so attuned to his body, to what pleases him that I move instinctually. I know scratching his scalp makes him purr, and that caressing the trail of hair under his navel causes twitches and breathless laughs.
He loves it when I lick the small hollow between his long collarbones and nip at the skin above them. He has sensitive nipples; not all men do, but he does. I brush my lips over his right nipple gently and hear him gasp. Scratching my nails over his taught abdomen, I slip under his arm and run my hands down his long spine.
My fingers are cold against his skin and he shivers as I trail the back of them up his spine to the back of his neck. He leans his head forward, allowing me access. I kiss the smooth elevation over his first vertebrae and spread my fingers over his shoulder-blades, licking the small white line of an old scar close to his left shoulder.
He earned that saving me.
I search for the other small scars and kiss them all, thanking him silently for all he's ever done for me, for loving me, for fighting. For existing.
Edward makes a strangled noise low in his throat and reaches back, catching my hand and pulling in front of him.
"A ghrá, my Bella, I love you so much," he says, kissing me and clutching me to him.
I push against his hips, turning him so he'll sit on the edge of the bed. I stand between his spread knees, stroking back his hair. He sighs and rests his forehead in the valley between my breasts. His fingers gather the cloth of my wet petticoat on my hips, and I pull back to let him pull it over my head. He kissed the swell of my right breast above my heart and lays his ear there, listening.
It beats faster now.
"Tha mi duilich." He whispers. 'I'm sorry.'
"You are forgiven," I say, and set him free.
"Ádhraím thú," he whispers. 'I adore you'.
"Gráím thú," I reply. 'I love you".
I kneel down between his legs and begin untying his shoes. He protests, saying he doesn't want me to serve him, but he has done so much for me. When he holds my hand, I kiss his wrist and move it away.
I remove his shoes and the cloth around his calves and gently massage the strong muscles below the back of his knees. He groans in pleasure and leans back on his hands, allowing his head to roll back. I massage my way up, kissing his right knee before gently allowing my hands to wander below the tartan of his kilt.
I feel the strong, long muscles at the tops of his thighs and hear his intake of breath as I grow closer to where they connect to his torso. I smile and ghost a caress back down to his knees, leaving him untouched.
He groans, but I have no intention of teasing him.
I touch the line of an old scar over the right side of his chest, above the ribs. He laughs, tickled as I knew he would be, and catches my hand. He sits up to kiss me, and my hands find the buckle of his kilt belt. I fumble with it—I always have trouble with the damn thing.
He laughs, as he always does, and guides my trembling fingers with his sure ones. I undo the belt and gently move the cloth away, bearing him completely. I smile at him and take his length in my hand, kissing the head. He hisses, but grips my wrist.
"No," he says quietly, "I need you, please."
I nod, feeling the same need to be connected to him, to become one. I get up and he slips his arm around my waist and rolls me to my back on the bed, hovering above me and settling between my legs. He kisses me deeply, his lips heated and hungry, and I scratch his back with my nails, surely leaving marks. He moans loudly. I drag my fingers from his shoulders down to the swell of his buttocks, following the sensual curve of the low of his back.
"I love you," he breathes before he moves and in one long stroke, he fills me. I moan and grasp his shoulders. He holds steady for a moment, savoring the feeling and pushing his forehead against my temple. He lowers his body so that every inch of our skin is in contact, and he moved slowly, rhythmically. I feel every inch of him sliding within me, stretching me, caressing me.
He slips his right arm below my back and keeps me impossibly close, almost too close to move, but he manages. He breathes against my lips when he's not kissing me, and his left hand travels up and down my side, gripping my hip, caressing my breast.
I want to remember this. I want to never forget the way our bodies slide and fit perfectly together, the way his hard planes mold to my soft curves like water molds to a vase. I want to be able to close my eyes and remember, the residue of a memory, the ghost of a touch on my skin. The feel of his breath in my ear and his whisper of my name.
Something to remember when he is gone.
All I can hear are our pants and breaths and our thundering heartbeats. We move slowly, gently, making love. He pressed his forehead to my neck, tucking it below my chin, struggling to breathe through our motions and our feelings.
His climax overcomes him, gentle and gradual, a slope instead of a brusque fall. He shudders in the wave, faltering in his movements and releasing a long moan.
I don't reach my peak, but I don't mind.
Like a child, he curls and rests his head in my chest, listening to my heartbeat and my breaths and enjoying the rising and falling. I stroke his hair, undoing the tangles and small snarls. I find a leaf and a small little piece of wood, and carefully pick them out.
He falls asleep like that, hugging me and making it impossible for me to move.
I lay awake a few more minutes, but eventually drift asleep as well.
He wakes me sometime in the night and we make love; this time, he makes sure I reach my peak long before he reaches his. He presses my back to his chest and hums an old lullaby, trying to follow the raising and dropping of the bagpipe's sorrowful cry with his deep smooth voice.
He sings me to sleep, and he wakes me again at some point of the night, and this time, we are both desperate. Time is running out; with every second closer to the dawn, we are closer to being apart.
It's not an act of love, this last time. He is breaking inside and needs the connection to me to ground him, to settle his soul. I know because I feel the same. We are drowning and cling to each other desperately. He is rough and fast, and bruises my left wrist. He apologizes, but I like it. It is yet another reminder that he exists, that he is here with me this moment.
We tell each other we love one another over and over, in English and Gaelic, in words and in motions.
I wake next early in the morning.
In an empty bed.
I sit up, holding the covers to my body. The room is warm, but the fire in the hearth is out. The embers are still glowing.
He left the fire blazing for me.
Silence rings in my ears. I don't know if it is outside my head or all around me. It doesn't matter.
I get up and dress. Make my breakfast and eat.
The next few days are a blur. I am not aware of anything around me. Time passes like water in a creek, silent.
There is no news from the battle of the survivors—or the losses.
Two days after the battle of Blàr Chùil Lodair, Cumberland's order of 'no quarter' is obeyed and the Moor is searched. All wounded Jacobites are immediately put to death. Indiscrimnate killing begins, with all men bearing arms hang on the spot and their women are raped.
Families flee their scorched hovels and are left to starve to death. Livestock, sheep, and goats are driven off and sold at Fort Augustus, where the soldiers split the profits. Men and boys are murdered without trials.
Even if Edward has survived—something that proves to grow steadily unlikely as the days pass—he will not return here.
He will not endanger us by hiding in Coille an t-Suidhe.
Scotland is being decimated, one son at a time.
Edward is gone.
What holds me to this land?
But Scotland slowly bleeds out, and I find my pride means nothing to me.
This is Edward's ancestral land. This is where he was born. This is where he lived. This is where our child was conceived.
But he is gone… and Scotland is no longer our Brave. She's not the motherland he loved and cherished, the one he was so proud about.
I wonder, what is a Scot, if not his tartan, his bagpipes, his Gaelic? All that is left is pride—and that I have no more. Why am I still in this place, like a butterfly on amber, stuck in the sorrow of loss?
Farms and lands are being taken away everywhere.
Soon the Sassenachs will know Edward Cullen of Coille an t-Suidhe fought in Culloden—and they will come claim their prize.
I walk to our meadow in the twilight. I want to listen to the creek's soft laugh and the bird's gentle chirp—but as I get there something catches my eye. Orange light shatters against the steel blade of his long knife. It sits there, in the middle of our meadow, where he knew I would come looking for his memory.
I crouch down and pick it up, stroking the smooth cool metal with my fingertips.
Coille an t-Suidhe.
They can never have it.
How fitting I should make this decision in this meadow. Here, in this small sacred place, everything began—and everything ends.
I get up and walk to Emmett McCarthy's hovel. He has lost a leg and has a wooden replacement; Edward forbid him to go to war. I know he has asked of him to watch over me, because Emmett has been hovering. He has a sweet soul, but he is about as subtle as any Highlander can ever hope to be.
Not at all.
"The Sassenachs will come," he agrees after I explain my fears. "What will we do?"
"Everyone has a place to go, do they not?"
"Yes," he nods. "Not many are left anyway."
I turn away and look out the window to the rolling hills of emerald green, to the smooth expanse of golden crops.
"Burn it," I say calmly. "Burn it all. And when the last ember has died away, salt the lands. They want a deserted wasteland… I will give them a deserted wasteland."
The next day, I stand in front of my home and the world is a living, breathing mass of orange flames licking the fields and reaching up to the sky. The heat slams against me with the few breezes of reluctant wind. Scotland's weather is lazy today; she does not feel like raining. The fire burns quickly.
By nightfall, the fields are a blackened mass of charred dirt. Nothing had survived—as nothing should.
I am heartbroken. I want to curl up and cry my heart out.
But no one will ever have the Cullen's land, but the Cullen last-name.
This is the Scottish way; to die on your feet, instead of living on your knees.
This is Edward's wish.
I return to my house and cut my hair close to my skull. I change and dress like a boy.
By closed night, I am already on the road towards Edinburgh. It will take me two weeks by horse-ride to get there. In the city I must meet an old friend of Edward's, Jacob, and he will help me cross to France. Once there, I am to return to my old family's house on the Riviera.
If he lives… Edward will meet me there as soon as he can.
I remember our wedding vows.
"Ye are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my Bone. I give ye my Body, that we Two might be One. I give ye my Spirit, 'til our Life shall be Done."
"You cannot possess me for I belong to myself. But while we both wish it, I give you that which is mine to give. You cannot command me for I am a free person. But I shall serve you in those ways you require. And the honeycomb will taste sweeter coming from my hand."
I leave Scotland behind in ship, and she blows her wind towards us, in silent approval.
I am sad to leave, but I bide my time. I will return. But I will not live under the Sassenachs' foot. I will not raise a child beneath their soles.
This life growing inside me, this was Scotland's promise.
I know, i know, angsty! But hey, that's an open ending. She hasn't seen any bodies, so we don't know if he's dead.
Maybe his POV will enlighten us.
Thanks for reading!