The whole Scene:
He was desperately thin still, but the shoulders were broad and straight beneath the rough fabric of the novice’s habit, and the grace of his strength was returning; he sat solidly without a tremor, back straight and legs curled back beneath the stool, the lines of his body firm and harmonious. He was holding his right wrist with his sound left hand, slowly turning the right hand in the sunlight.
There was a small pile of cloth strips on the table. He had removed the bandages from the injured hand and was examining it closely. I stood in the doorway, not moving. From here, I could see the hand clearly as he turned it back and forth, probing gingerly.
The stigma of the nail wound in the palm of the hand was quite small, and well healed, I was glad to see; no more than a small pink knot of scar tissue that would gradually fade. On the back of the hand, the situation was not so favorable. Eroded by infection, the wound there covered an area the size of sixpence, still patched with scabs and the rawness of a new scar.
The middle finger, too, showed a jagged ridge of pink scar tissue, running from just below the first joint almost to the knuckle. Released from their splints, the thumb and index finger were straight, but the little finger was badly twisted; that one had had three separate fractures, I remembered, and apparently I had not been able to set them all properly. The ring finger was set oddly, so that it protruded slightly upward when he laid the hand flat on the table, as he did now.
Turning the hand palm upward, he began to manipulate the fingers gently. None would bend more than an inch or two; the ring finger not at all. As I had feared, the second joint was likely permanently frozen.
He turned the hand to and fro, holding it before his face, watching the stiff, twisted fingers and the ugly scars, mercilessly vivid in the sunlight. Then he suddenly bent his head, clutching the injured hand to his chest, covering it protectively with the sound one. He made no sound, but the wide shoulders trembled briefly.
“Jamie.” I crossed the room swiftly and knelt beside him, putting my hand softly on his knee.
“Jamie, I’m sorry,” I said. “I did the best I could.”
He looked down at me in astonishment. The thick auburn lashes sparkled with tears in the sunlight, and he dashed them hastily away with the back of his hand.
“What?” he said, gulping, clearly taken aback by my sudden appearance. “Sorry? For what, Sassenach?”
“Your hand.” I reached out and took it, lightly tracing the crooked lines of the fingers, touching the sunken scar on the back.
“It will get better,” I assured him anxiously. “Really it will. I know it seems stiff and useless right now, but that’s only because it’s been splinted so long, and the bones haven’t fully knitted yet. I can show you how to exercise, and massage. You’ll get back a good deal of the use of it, honestly—”
He stopped me by laying his good hand along my cheek.“Did you mean…?” He started, then stopped, shaking his head in disbelief. “You thought…?” He stopped once more and started over.
“Sassenach,” he said, “ye didna think that I was grieving for a stiff finger and a few more scars?” He smiled, a little crookedly. “I’m a vain man, maybe, but it doesna go that deep, I hope.”
“But you—” I began. He took both my hands in both of his and stood up, drawing me to my feet. I reached up and smoothed away the single tear that had rolled down his cheek. The tiny smear of moisture was warm on my thumb.
“I was crying for joy, my Sassenach,” he said softly. He reached out slowly and took my face between his hands. “And thanking God that I have two hands. That I have two hands to hold you with. To serve you with, to love you with. Thanking God that I am a whole man still, because of you.”
I put my own hands up, cupping his.