The moonlight filtered through the windows as he held her in his arms, illuminating the silver of her hair and the pearly canvas of her skin. She was real.
He had dreamt about this so often after Claire had disappeared through the stones. Of holding her in his arms once more.
It didn’t matter whether he was asleep or awake, he dreamt of her. Her, and the child that she bore. They appeared to him as silhouettes, walking in from behind the whites of his eyes and then disappearing into blackness.
They felt so real, more real than the blood coursing through his veins and the air burning through his lungs. As real as the beat of his thundering heart, but never tangible.
He had extended his fingers to touch them so many times in a burst of childish hope, only to be shattered when he realized they were but a mirage, so close to the touch but never quite there.
He called to them in those times, pathetically begging them to come back to him with his hands still reaching out and tears streaming down his face. Agonizing sobs wracked through his ribcage, causing his entire body to shake. But they never came.
No matter how much he begged.
Claire never touched him.
The shattering agony erupted like a hurricane within his very soul; endless winds screamed within him in torment, begging to be set free.
In those moments, all he could do was drop down to his knees and cry out at the heavens in desperation; dig his fingers into the dirt of the cold, hard ground and beg for relief. Moments when it took every single fiber of his being not to scream out curses at the Lord for taking them away from him.
His world, which was once painted in vibrant hues of colors he had never even imagined before her, turned pitch black in her absence. His Sorcha was gone.
He begged the Lord to take away the sun instead.
Take away the sun, the moon, the stars, for no amount of physical light could illuminate his world or thaw the impenetrable layer of ice encompassing his heart.
Take away the oceans, the rivers, the rain, for no amount of water could quench the violent firestorm of heartbreak ripping through his throat.
Take away the earth, the heavens, and all that existed in between, for none of it mattered.
Take everything. Anything. But not her.
Please. Not her .
He begged and he begged.
No one ever listened.
Loneliness and heartache crippled his every thought until he became but a shadow of his previous self, unrecognizable to anyone around him.
He was a man who had experienced much pain in his lifetime, but nothing compared to this.
His heart was shattered beyond repair into a thousand jagged fragments, cutting into him sharply whenever he was foolish and desperate enough to try and piece them back together. Each and every one of those fragments missed her with the unfathomable ferocity of its whole.
The agony ebbed and flowed through the years, but a quiet, raw ache remained, always , the embers burning slow but constant in the depths of his tormented soul.
People pleaded with him to move on from her, to find someone to help ease his suffering. He had only laughed humorlessly. As if such a thing were even possible.
The ache, the burning of longing for his family echoed through the very marrow of his bones, through every drop of blood coursing through his veins.
Many had told him he would forget her with time if he let himself. But if overcoming the pain meant forgetting them, he would have gladly chosen to suffer his entire life
He would forget her with time, they always said. Not them . For he had not told a single soul that not only had he lost his wife, but also his child. Another one.
Three pieces of his heart that were lost to him forever, lost in the sick, twisted abyss of time and space.
Without them, all that was left behind was a mere mass of useless muscle pushing blood through a lifeless body.
But now, by the grace of the Lord, he finally held his beloved in his arms again, and knew her and their child to be safe.
For that alone, he would have endured the same torturous agony a thousand times over.
He had already hesitantly reached out his fingers to touch her so many times during the night, afraid she would disappear into the air; unable to fathom that she was actually real. Tangible. Right here, soft skin under the rough pads of his fingertips.
The first time they made love that night was in a frenzy of passion and heat, their bodies taking over and rekindling a scorching flame that had been left in the cold for twenty years.
But now, as her lips searched for his again in the darkness of the night, there was no rush.
She let out a soft sigh of relief into his mouth when her lips finally found his, and he opened up for her readily as she molded her entire body against his own, warm flesh pressed against warm flesh. Living. Breathing. Here .
He wrapped his arms around her small waist and splayed out a hand across the expanse of her upper back, engulfing her body and pulling her even tighter against him, terrified she would slip away if he loosened his hold for even a second.
Their warm tongues tangled together slowly, caressing tenderly, savoring the taste and feel of each other.
The rest of the world blurred around him. Nothing existed but the woman in his arms. The only thing that mattered was kissing her lips, touching her face, her breasts, her stomach, her hips. Memorizing her again.
Not that he had ever forgotten a single thing about her, but she was different now. Breasts a little fuller, hips a little wider, thighs a little thicker.
A few more creases adorning her face.
A few additional silver lines decorating her stomach. His heart stuttered in his chest as he grazed over the beautiful markings with his fingertips, constant reminders of the two lives they had created through their love for each other.
She was different, but just as breathtaking, putting every vision of his imagination to shame.
And in many ways, still the same, he thought, pulling back to look into her golden eyes that gazed back at him exactly as they did 20 years ago.
Infinite depths of love, for his eyes only.
She was still his Sassenach.
Every nerve in his heart, mind, and body was electrified as he lifted her leg over his hip and connected their bodies. Her swollen lips parted in a soft gasp as he filled her slowly, her body not yet used to the intrusive but welcome stretch.
They entwined their limbs together as much as possible, hugging each other closer as their hearts and bodies fused into one.
He reveled in the feeling as his hand softly glided over her hair, pushing an errant curl behind her ear tenderly. He grasped her arse firmly as they began a slow, sensual dance guided by their hips and flowing through the rest of their bodies.
To move inside her was like a breath of life into a dying body, nourishment for a tired soul. It was living in a world where pain ceased to exist.
His eyes never strayed from her own which glowed brightly in the slivers of moonlight peeking through the windows, her gaze searing into his.
In that moment, they were not simply baring their bodies to one another again. There, entangled in each other’s arms, protected and safe from the world, they shared their vulnerabilities. They shared their fears. They shared the true depths of their pain for the first time.
They pulled down the walls that hid them from everyone else and bared themselves completely, heart and soul.
When they interlocked their fingers in between their bodies, they did the same with their hearts.
His eyes brimmed with tears as their bodies continued their slow dance, finally feeling seen for the first time since he lost her. His heart could barely contain itself in his chest.
When a single tear slipped down his cheek, she gently brought a hand up and wiped it away with her fingers, looking at him with such tenderness and love that he could not for the life of him hold back the rest from silently falling.
She kissed him then, resting her hand on his wet cheek, swallowing the breathy gasps escaping his throat and gifting him her own in return.
Their hips quickened just slightly in the midst of the desperate emotions wracking through their bodies, and their kiss became messier and messier until it came to a halt altogether as they gave each other everything, watery gazes locked and bodies trembling.
As soon as he had emptied everything he had inside of her, he buried his face into the curve of her neck.
The tears flowed freely.
“Yer real,” he sobbed, voice cracking with emotion as he desperately tried to convince himself she was actually here in his arms and not just a figment of his imagination.
“Yer real,” he clutched her closer, heart thundering in his chest, terrified his words weren’t true.
“ Please be real .”
The words broke apart halfway up his throat, turning into a soundless plea.
“Jamie, I’m real, I’m here,” Claire’s soft, throaty voice entered his ears, and he felt her touch as she hugged him tighter to her body and tangled one hand into his hair, keeping his head pressed against her neck. Keeping him safe.
Christ, how he had missed her. The woman who could heal even the greatest torments of his soul with just the sound of her voice and her gentle touch.
“My love, I’m here,” she whispered into his ear.
Shaky, shuddering breaths escaped his quivering lips as he tried to control himself, his large body trembling in her small arms.
“I’m here, I’m yours,” her lips brushed against his shoulder.
She was touching him. She was real. She was his .
His to hold, his to love, his to protect.
Her hands found their way to his cheeks and she gently brought his face up slightly, looking at him lovingly with her watery eyes.
“Always,” she promised softly.
His heart, left alone in the cold for the past 20 years, was finally blanketed in warmth as she held him and stroked his skin tenderly. She constantly maintained contact with his body; not parting even for a second as they whispered to each other through the night.
His Sorcha had come back to him, and in her arms, light and warmth entered his soul once more.