Home is not a place, it’s a person.
Claire ruminates the truth of it as she watches Jamie get ready for work while she enjoys a day off. Gone is the tension in his shoulders; the lines around his eyes became more pronounced, but the light in his bright blue eyes is there all the time, as is a ready smile for her.
Leoch Holdings is no more. Cleared of all charges, Jamie had quickly secured employment elsewhere—with Murtagh’s help—at a book publisher. Fortunately, the home they share at the moment was legally Jamie’s, in no way tied to the industry behemoth that had been his uncles’ empire. They are back in Jamie’s fancy flat for the time being, now that Laoghaire is back from America, preparing to testify. But Jamie’s put it up for sale, and for the tidy sum he will get they have plans to relocate to Broch Morda, the small town near Lallybroch.
She wraps her bathrobe tightly against the morning chill, her hand almost instinctively tracing over the scar on her right side. Her recovery had been slow at first. She hadn’t left the flat for a month, bedridden with her injury. Jamie fussed and coddled, and both discovered doctors really made for the worst patients—like Jamie insisting on practically spoon-feeding her, Claire demanding he let her check the bedpan for any possible traces of blood in her urine, until she could hobble to the toilet herself. They are adjusting, they are managing, they are on the mend.
Six months later, and the courts’ verdicts are finally in—Colum and Dougal MacKenzie guilty on an infinite number of counts: extorsion, racketeering, tax evasion, bribery, and not least of all, responsible for Alexander McGregor’s death. Leoch and all other associated corporations had been practically dismantled, and most of the MacKenzie’s co-conspirators sentenced or awaiting trial. Colum and Dougal themselves were being detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure and would face a mandatory life sentence.
Jamie, as a key witness for the prosecution, had spent much of his time at the courthouse for those first few months. As soon as Dr. Hunter had given her a clean bill of health, she had accompanied Jamie to court, offering her steadfast support. It was there that she had finally met the famous Laoghaire, who had greeted her with a hug and a kiss, much to her befuddlement. They had secured an invitation to her and Joseph’s wedding in New York City next summer. Claire finds herself looking forward to it, hoping they will be able to travel. Knowing there would be a next year with Jamie, a future with him… that was more than she had dared to imagine.
The left side of her face quirks into a smile, which Jamie catches in the mirror.
“What is it, Sassenach?”
“Nothing. Just you. Us. All this.” She gestures around them, stroking her side gently. “Sometimes I still can’t believe we made it.”
“We did.” Jamie takes her into his arms. “I am sorrier than I can say for what you went through, mo nighean donn—for what I put ye through.”
“I’d do it all again, for you. Only for you.” She touches her forehead to his, and they stay that way for a few minutes, breathing the same air, listening to each other’s heartbeat. Their hands tangle together, the small but sparkling diamond on Claire’s finger between them.
“Ye willna have to. It’s behind us, and a whole new future before us.” He kisses her forehead. “And when the day shall come that we do part, if my last words are not ‘I love you’ ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”
“We have time now.” Claire smiles mischievously. Jamie raises an eyebrow as she pulls him towards their bed.
That night, Jamie watches his future wife as she brushes her hair. This ritual holds endless fascination for him; he observes until he stands and takes the brush from her hands, running it through the curls himself. Claire groans in pleasure, her eyes closing, and he bestows a kiss to the nape of her neck. She shivers, half with cold, half with delight.
“Come here Sassenach, let me warm ye.” The winter night outside is bitter, but the heat of their bodies mingling beneath the covers is irresistible.
Claire lies on her left side and feels him slide behind her. “Jamie… with all the media attention, I worry… what if there’s something still out there, waiting to hurt us?” She knows it’s the old anxiety talking; but she is so blissful, she fears the gods don’t like to see mortals too happy.
Jamie curls his legs behind hers, fitting perfectly like two spoons nestled in a drawer. He traces patterns on her lower back, pushing harder on that spot he knows is starting to pain her these days.
“Hush, mo chridhe, my own—none of that. Dinna be afraid, there’s the two of us now. Let me tell ye in your sleep how much I love you. For there's no so much I can be saying to ye while ye wake, but the same poor words, again and again.” Jamie burrows his nose into her hair. “While ye sleep in my arms, I can say things to ye that would be daft and silly waking, and your dreams will know the truth of them, Claire.”
She was his and he was hers, as they ever would be. The moon outside was a Christmas moon, so large it seemed to fill the window. Jamie’s large hand curves over the small swell of Claire’s stomach; the knowledge of their freedom races through their shared blood, their gift to each other.
And the world is all around them, new with possibility.