His hands are shaking.
They haven't stopped, not since Germain whispered those five words and he'd run into the house, finding the surgery in disarray, Marsali passed out on the ground with Claire nowhere to be seen.
She'd been taken, ripped from the safety of their home, the one he'd built to protect her, to keep her safe, to keep their family safe.
God, he can't even bring himself to think of it, to wonder, to hope.
It had been the only source of comfort, the only light in their hearts after Brianna had made the decision to leave them, to go back to her time. The wee thing, nestled in Claire's belly, only just beginning to make its presence known. They hadn't told anyone yet, only their daughter, letting her know that she'd have a new sibling, one who would grow up on stories of her.
He'd spent many an evening lying beside his wife, marvelling at her body, the curve of her belly where their wee miracle slept. She kept her condition hidden during the day, under all the bindings and skirts, but alone in their room, he watched her flourish and grow. They had planned to let the rest of their family know soon, just wanting to wait until she was further along, where there would be less chances of things going wrong.
Christ, he had so many fears, losing another child, losing his wife, or both, having to watch her in pain or bleeding out, helpless to save her.
He'd even asked if she wanted to go back through the stones with Brianna, to make sure the bairn was safely delivered. She'd gotten so angry at him then, fuming and raging and then crying, clutching at his shirt with both hands and begging him to never ask that of her again.
He cannot bring himself to picture it, cannot do anything but fall to his knees and pray.
God shield my beloved, my white dove, and the child within her. Preserve her from violence and from harm, wherever she may be, on this night and every night until I find her.
When he finds her battered, bloody and broken, curled up on her side, arms wrapped around her belly, he cannot bring himself to ask.
Had the bairn survived?
All that matters to him is that she is safe and whole and in his arms once more, but the sight of her pains him, seeing her tears, tinged red as they run down her bruised cheeks - it makes his blood boil. It takes all the control he's mastered in his fifty years to not turn around and kill those men that dared to harm her, tear them limb from limb with his bare hands.
But she needs him, beside her, holding her.
The whimper that escapes her lips when he lifts her into his arms causes a crack in his heart, but he keeps steady, pulling up his tartan around her, swallowing back tears himself when he sees the splatters of dried blood on her shift.
She was safe, she was whole.
Nothing else mattered.
They stop by a river on their journey home, and he cannot take his eyes off her, watching her each and every movement.
The single crack grows into two, branching off, his heart dangerously close to shattering each time she winces. She hides it well, his Sassenach, but he's always been able to see right through her.
He stands at a distance, wanting to give her any space she might need. She’d flinched when he helped her down from the cart earlier, but he doesn’t know if it’s from her physical injuries, or that she’s now lucid enough to not want him near her. God, it was his fault she had suffered like this, his fault that she’s here with him, and not safe, in the future with their daughter.
When she asks about Marsali, he feels pain, deep in his chest, and it takes everything within him to hold back, to not ask her if their child had survived. He tries to be reassuring when he gives her the news that Bree has come home, hoping that a small piece of good news would help her rest easier, to make up for all the pain.
When she yells, delivers a speech that will forever be ingrained in his mind, he finds he can only focus on one thing.
I have lost a child.
They rarely speak of Faith, but he thinks of their wee lass everyday, carries her within his mind and within his heart and he knows that Claire does the same. The time they spent in Paris is still a sore subject, even after all these years, tainted by the loss of their firstborn, something they both blamed themselves for.
She’s turned away from him, shaking, trembling like a leaf in the wind and what he wouldn’t give to walk up behind her, hold her in his arms and promise to protect her.
But he’d made those promises before, had he not?
And yet here he is, having failed her once more.
It gives him a flare of hope though, that the child may still live, but he doesn’t know how to ask.
Have I killed this one also? Is it my fault that you suffer so?
He gets his answer a few mornings later, when Claire is sitting up in bed, staring out the window and watching the sun rise, her hands resting over the swell of her belly. The entire scene before him is so peaceful, save for the horrific bruises on her face and the knowledge of what she’s been through.
What he wouldn’t give to raise those men from the dead so he could kill them all over again, make them feel just one bit of the pain they’ve brought upon his family.
He sits down on the bed beside her, careful to keep a little distance between them. She still curled up to him when they slept, but the moment she was conscious once more he could feel her withdrawing and he’s never hated himself more. When he sees the frown forming on her face, her hand raising to cover her mouth, he moves closer.
“Are ye in any pain, mo ghraidh?”
She shakes her head, looking down at where her other hand is resting and then back up at him.
“Could you get me some ginger tea?” she whispers, voice cracking as she speaks, and then he’s out the door, racing downstairs to the kitchen, heart pounding in his chest.
Thank you, Lord.
They’re sitting together by the fire one night, the rest of the house having gone to sleep, but Claire had been restless and quietly asked for his company.
Did she not know that he would give her his life?
“I thought of you,” she tells him, head resting against his shoulder, her hand over his heart, covered by his own.
“In the night, when I had nothing else to hold on to,” she continues, and he feels it, the moment the first tear hits the fabric of his shirt. “I thought of you, holding me, and our baby.”
She cries and cries and he does too, out of pain, out of relief, that by some small miracle they’re here together once more, and have something to look forward to.
Their daughter had returned to them, and their fifth grandchild would soon be born.
They had been given a second chance, to raise a family together.
The bruises on her body are beginning to heal when she finally allows him to see her again.
He’s sitting in bed, readying himself to go to sleep when she sits down beside him and slides her shift off.
The fabric pools around her waist, and he takes it all in, the purple-blue markings on her pearl-white skin, the angry gash above her right breast and the curve of her belly, more pronounced than when he last set eyes on it.
He holds her tightly in his arms as they make love, near to silent gasps as they breathe each other in, each trying to consume the other, to become one as they are meant to be.
“How do you feel,” he murmurs, looking down at her, feeling her relax into his embrace.
They lie there until the air of the night chills their skin, and he’s about to move and grab the blanket from the foot of the bed when he feels it, a gentle nudge against his hip.
“Was that…” he begins to ask, trailing off when she nods, bringing his hand to rest over their child, who greets him with a kick.
It’s he who begins to weep then, having so many things he needs to say to her, to thank her for protecting their wee miracle, to apologise for all of his past mistakes, to renew his promise to protect her, but she silences him with a gentle kiss, hand cupping his jaw as she brushes her lips over his.
“We love you.”
There’s a storm brewing in the distance, the quiet patter of raindrops against the roof, and so many uncertainties in their future, but it is in this moment that his heart begins to heal.