This gorgeous passage from Book 8 - set some 35 years after Book 1 - beautifully echoes Jamie and Claire’s wedding night: it’s set at an inn, where they barely have privacy; he extends one hand inviting her to lie with him; there is humor as he undresses her; he gets up close and personal with her bosom; they offer each other safety; he trusts her with his heart; she trusts that he will protect her.
And now it’s all underpinned by their deep, profound love for each other. This quiet, powerful scene beautifully illustrates how it’s all very simple between them.
“Are ye no coming to bed, Sassenach?” Jamie was already lying down, having found a remote corner behind the bar counter and spread out our cloaks.
“I’ve broken a fingernail trying to get this bloody thing loose, and I can’t bloody reach it with my teeth!” I said, on the verge of breaking into tears of frustration. I was swaying with weariness, but couldn’t bring myself to sleep in the clammy confines of my stays.
Jamie reached up an arm out of the darkness, beckoning.
“Come lie down wi’ me, Sassenach,” he whispered. “I’ll do it”…He squirmed down and bent his head to nuzzle at my laces, an arm round my back to steady me.
“Dinna fash,” he murmured into my midsection, voice somewhat muffled. “If I canna nibble it loose, I’ll prise it wi’ my dirk.”
He looked up with an inquiring noise, as I’d uttered a strangled laugh at the prospect…“My aim’s no that bad, Sassenach,” he said, pausing in his labors for an instant. “I’d only risk stabbin’ ye in the heart.”
As it was, he accomplished his goal without recourse to weapons, gently jerking the knot loose with his teeth until he could finish the job with his fingers, opening the heavy seamed canvas stays like a clamshell to expose the whiteness of my shift. I sighed like a grateful mollusk opening at high tide, plucking the fabric out of the creases the stays had made in my flesh.
Jamie pushed away the discarded stays but remained where he was, his face near my breasts, rubbing his hands gently over my sides…
I stroked his hair, tracing the curve of his skull.
“I love you, a nighean,” he said, very softly, his breath warm on my skin.
“I love you,” I answered just as softly, taking the ribbon from his hair and loosening his plait between my fingers. I pressed his head closer to me, not in invitation, but out of the sudden urgent need to keep him close to me, to protect him.
He kissed my breast and turned his head, laying it in the hollow of my shoulder. He took one deep breath, one more, and then was asleep, the relaxing weight of his body against me both protection and trust.
“I love you,” I said, almost soundless, my arms wrapped tight about him. “Oh, dear God, I love you.”