They fall asleep in bed that night, and for the first time in close to a year, Jamie sends a thankful prayer skyward to a god he's not sure he believes in anymore.
A prayer thanking whatever quirk of fate spared Jim's life and returned him here.
Gradually, the days start seeming brighter and Jamie finds it easier to get out of bed in the mornings. He'll turn his head on the pillow, and more often than not, those impossibly keen blue eyes will be staring right back at him, alive with vitality and not a small hint of mischief.
Despite his mildly debilitating injury, Jim does tend to skimp on his recovery details. Even after a month of arriving at the cottage, he sneaks around to do daily chores when Jamie isn't looking, and despite the fact that Jamie wants to yell at him for chancing his health, he's never able to.
Two months later and Jamie's birthday arrives. He'd tried not to mention it, mostly so Jim didn't feel obligated to get him anything, but when he wakes and the opposite side of the bed is not only empty but cold, he panics.
Jamie searches their cottage and the surrounding fields for Jim, only to come up empty handed.
He's about to call in the local police from town, when he spots a figure cresting the hill leading to their home. He squints, seeing as the rising sun has backlit the new arrival rather spectacularly, unable to make out any real details.
It's only when the figure gets closer that he realizes yes, it's Jim, and yes, Jim is holding onto the lead rope of a magnificent bay Thoroughbred stallion.
Jamie gapes as Jim brings the stunning animal to a halt in front of him, then offers a deceptively innocent grin. "I've been watching the way you stare at that saddle in the barn for three months, Jamie boy," he says, petting the stallion's neck. "I've been planning your present for a while."
"You .." Jamie begins, forcing himself to close his mouth before continuing since words don't seem to be much of an option at the moment. "Jim, he's incredible but he's expensive."
Jim flips a hand, exhaling a disbelieving scoff. "I earned my wartime wages and I've been offering help around town; minor household chores and things like that. Most of the folks knew what I was trying to do, so they helped out here and there."
Jamie shakes his head once, trying to pull his gaze away from the horse that is apparently his thirtieth birthday present. "Jim ..."
"What?" comes the immediate reply, and he can tell Jim's laughing. "Dammit all, Jamie, I love you and I want you to know it. So stop being the wilting flower I know you aren't and get over here."
His legs are carrying him before he realizes he's even taken a step forward and he's kissing Jim like his life depends on it. Jim grasps his hip, using him for balance as they kiss, but he doesn't let go of the stallion's halter.
When they break apart, there's a whicker from somewhere in the vicinity of Jamie's ear and that's all the warning he gets before the animal gently headbutts him, clearly demanding attention.
"Knew you two would make a good match," Jim flashes a brilliant smile and Jamie can't remember the last time he was this happy.