One year later…

Henry watched Elizabeth as she stood in front of the picture window in the living room of the farmhouse. Her hands were curled around a warm mug and she was dressed in yoga pants and a gray sweatshirt, with fuzzy socks on her feet and her blonde hair, which had grown quite a bit in the last year, pulled up with a hair tie. Her back was to him, but he could tell by just a glance at her posture that she was relaxed and calm. She was framed by the early morning light that streamed in and beyond the window panes, snow fell lightly to the already-white ground. Next to her, the Christmas tree stood like a statuesque guardian above her five-foot-eight frame. It was a picturesque scene, and Henry's absolute favorite kind of scene to feast his eyes upon. He'd risen from their bed when he had awaken to find her missing; even a year after the ordeal that had brought them here, he didn't like to be without her if possible, and she was normally much the same. It was abnormal now for one of them to rise without the other, and on this early December morning, the house was very still. He'd been relieved to find her there in the living room, looking perfectly safe and happy. Now, he approached quietly and when he wrapped his arms around her from behind, she didn't jump at all, but rather just sank back into his chest.

"Good morning," he mumbled against her, his lips on the tender, smooth flesh beneath her ear. She felt her features being tugged into a smile at the contact and leaned her head back against his shoulder, turning to press a kiss to his jawline.

"Good morning," she replied softly.

"You doing okay?" he asked.

"Yeah, why?" Elizabeth replied, reaching out to set her mug on the nearby end table and turning to face him, his arms still wrapped around her.

"I just wasn't expecting you to be awake," he said. "It's early."

"Yeah," Elizabeth agreed, leaning her head forward to rest it on his shoulder with a slow, deep breath.

"Henry, do you know what day it is?" she asked, her voice uncharacteristically soft. Henry thought about that for a moment, and then it hit him

"Oh," he breathed. "I've been home for a year today."

"Mmhmm," Elizabeth hummed and Henry instinctively drew her in a little bit closer as he reflected on the last year. After Elizabeth had quit her job, they'd had an explosive family meeting in which a myriad of opinions on that were expressed, but in the end the children were understanding of the decision. They had spent one last Christmas together in the Georgetown house, and then taken a trip to visit Henry's family in Pittsburgh. Maureen, naturally, had accused Elizabeth of knowing all along that Henry was alive.

"With her CIA connections?" she'd scoffed. "Doubtful."

But Elizabeth saw the way Maureen hugged Henry, tighter than normal and with something akin to desperation hidden behind her tough front. Elizabeth didn't say anything to her sister-in-law. Gone were the days when Maureen's comments might have bothered Elizabeth. In early January, they'd begun their move back to the farmhouse. Stevie had deliberated over giving up her internship with Russell Jackson; her parents had been transparent with her when she had asked if Russell had known that Henry was alive, and ultimately she'd followed alongside her mother's decision-making process and quit, taking Russell's casserole dish with her to the office when she did. She, like the rest of them, were transformed by the whole experience. None of them were the same people they'd been. Stevie was pursuing law school again, and behind the scenes she had devoted herself to writing a book- a project that Henry and Elizabeth had both assumed was long-forgotten. Alison had taken a semester off from school, and she spent a lot of time with Henry once the move back to Virginia was complete. They toured churches together at Alison's request and in June, Elizabeth saw her sketching at her desk for the first time in a year. The change was, perhaps, most clearly seen in Jason. He maintained his sense of humor and his opinions on government; perhaps the latter had been fueled by the whole experience, in fact. But he was now reminiscent of the tender, loving child he'd been in a lot of ways. He was not hesitant to express affection to any member of the family, and Elizabeth had observed him more than once making an effort to reach out to and make up with his sisters after their bickering. He hugged his parents every day without fail, and never let Henry's I love you's go unanswered.

As for Henry and Elizabeth, things had been decidedly different. They both seemed to have reverted somewhat to their pre-Washington relationship. It was even better now, though- at least, as far as Elizabeth was concerned. She'd never appreciated Henry more, even now that things had settled into a new normal. They both loved being back at the farm; for the first eight months there, neither of them had worked. They had spent a great deal of time together, riding through the woods on horseback and cooking and playing very intense rounds of Scrabble. They also talked a lot; Elizabeth had to reassure Henry a lot at first, and he had woken up more than one time to find her in tears. It was healing to get out of DC, though; that had helped a great deal. At the farm, there were only happy memories of their time together, and no reminders of the six months they had spent apart. By the time they both took their jobs at UVA back in August, much to the eagerness of the staff, they had covered nearly every moment of the six months they'd spent apart- Henry couldn't help but laugh as she recounted her interaction with Alan in the elevator and he told her how grateful he was to her brother and to Blake, who had both been a great deal of help to her. Elizabeth's staff had been the only people who had objected to her giving up her job as Secretary of State. The first time they all made the pilgrimage to the farmhouse for dinner, however, and saw her in her element with her family, happy and relaxed, they decided that it had been the right choice after all.

Now, one year after Henry's return, Elizabeth wrapped her arms around her husband and settled herself against his broad chest, reveling in the way it felt to be in his arms. Not a day went by anymore in which she wasn't immensely grateful, but today most especially. She looked up at him and met his hazel eyes and Henry smiled slightly at her.

"Are you okay?" he asked. Elizabeth smiled.

"I have you," she said simply. "I'm okay."

"It's been quite a year," Henry said, and Elizabeth nodded her head. She traced her fingers over his cheek and he watched her eyes as she took in every inch of him. Sometimes, she looked at him like that; like she was seeing him for the last time. It was a reminder to herself, not to take Henry for granted, to love him fiercely, like she was running out of time- because she was. They all were. That was ultimately the lesson that Elizabeth had taken from the whole awful, heartbreaking, terrible experience.

"It has," she agreed. She stood up on her toes ever so slightly, bracing herself against him with her hands on his shoulders, her wedding ring catching the light of the Christmas tree, and pressed her lips against his. He kissed her eagerly, and his fingers settled at the back of her skull, drawing her in close while his other hand rested on her lower back. She didn't pull back until it became a necessity to draw in a breath, and then Henry, leaning down to her, rested his forehead against hers.

"Happy one year, Elizabeth," he breathed, and she echoed the sentiment back at him as she closed her fingers around the necklace that hung against the fabric of his War College sweatshirt. though it sounded odd, Elizabeth couldn't help but think that this landmark anniversary, which marked the end of the worst six months of her life, was exactly that- happy.

A/N: Hi everyone! Firstly, thank you a million times from the bottom of my heart for reading. You've all been so kind, both here and on tumblr and even on twitter. It's been quite a journey with the McCords and with all of you! I honestly don't have the words for the gratitude I have for you lovely and wonderful people. Your love for this story has made me so happy and continues to amaze me. My first foray into a Madam Secretary multi-chapter has been a raging success, and I have you all to thank for it so...thank you! Six Months (the original) may be ending, but if you haven't already, you can check out my series of Six Months-related one-shots (The Six Months Outtakes) and of course Collections From The McCord Files. Hopefully soon my next multi-chapter will be starting and you'll have something to beg me for again. :) I love you all to pieces, thank you for this beautiful journey. x