"But I didn't get you anything."
"Oh but you already have." He took out a small rectangular parcel. It was wrapped in a bit of flannel, and had just fit in his sporran. James placed it in her palm, and holding his hand atop hers, said, "You've chosen to stay here with me. I can think of no greater gift than your very self. But this'"—James looked down at their hands clasped around his gift to her—"this is my way of saying that I do not take lightly what you offer. I know all that you've sacrificed. You lost your brother long before we met, and in choosing to stay by me, you've now lost your future as well. A chaoticworld it seems to me," James said with a small laugh, "but none the less magnificent for all its wonders."
"I don't miss it. James. That world "—
"You may not miss it now, but the day might come when you do. I just want you to understand that I appreciate all that you've sacrificed. I will spend my days trying to be a man equal to it."
He squeezed her hand and let it go, and the bit of flannel parted to reveal the gift beneath. It was a miniature portrait, done in oil on a small, square panel of wood. A young man bearing Magda's wide forehead, her aristocratic nose, and her full mouth. But it was his bright red hair that made him the image of Peter. The brother she'd lost. Her tears came in a rush. The image was tiny, but somehow it was precisely those hair-thin brushstrokes, and the way they picked out the fine details yet omitted the broad ones, that made the portrait such an uncanny a representation of her brother.
It was a shock to see his face again, but it filled her. James clearly understood her feelings for her brother and the profundity of her loss. Holding this tiny image that James had commissioned to honor Peter's memory gave her a feeling of completion. She mourned her brother, and it was James's recognition of the depth of those feelings that let her feel she could finally move on.
"Is it a good likeness?" he asked tenderly. "Yes… I can't believe it. How did you… ?"
"Our fine Brother Lonan. I told him what you've said about Peter."
Magda smiled to hear her brother's name on her husband's lips.
"That you were a pair, but he with his bright ginger hair." "You remembered."
"Of course I did, hen. You have me bewitched. I hang on your every word." His tone was more serious than playful. "Or do you not know it yet?"
"Thank you, James." She held the portrait to her breast. "I'll treasure this."
"As I'll treasure you, Magda." He cupped her cheek in his hand. "And, if you ever tire of me, well, you can see this wee painting as acknowledgement of your freedom. I know it's different for lasses where you came from, and I will try to make you my equal in every way, but you will always have this portrait, and the promise of the power Lonan assures me it wields."
"But I could never leave you." She leaned into James, savoring the reassuring solidity of him. Magda had come to know the hard feel of his body and his smell of musk and spices that she knew like her own self. "I know that now." "And I will spend my every day trying to make myself worthy of that pledge, hen." He kissed her brow, then skimmed his lips gently down to take her mouth in a slow kiss. "Now, wife, shall we? Our party awaits."
Magda just smiled as James brushed the last of her tears from her cheeks. Everyone turned to them as they entered, and the open joy on their faces told her she was home.