Open Arms

Lying beside you, here in the dark
Feeling your heart beat with mine

He'd been away from her for so long that he still didn't believe that she wasn't a dream. Eighteen months apart and here she was, clinging to him so tightly he almost couldn't breathe. Her mother had been scandalized when she'd run across the palace yard to throw herself into his arms. He dropped his rucksack and his horse's reins as his arms enveloped her of their own accord, recognizing instinctively the feel of her body. They had ached for this moment for so long…

He put a calloused hand in her hair, pulling her lips to his in a kiss that was anything but chaste. He didn't care that others were watching, didn't care what her mother would think about the lack of decorum, didn't care about anything except her. She was in his arms again and that was all that he would ever care about again. The embrace was hungry and desperate, and he was afraid that this was still just a dream. He was terrified that she'd be ripped from his arms.

Softly you whisper, you're so sincere
How could our love be so blind

They broke from the kiss, and she buried her head against his shoulder. He lowered his cheek to rest on her head and held her against him as tight as he dared, closing his eyes and concentrating on the feel of her in his arms. He heard her say those three precious words that he thought he'd never hear from her beloved lips again. Her simple I love you nearly melted him to the ground.

She moved from his arms, and they immediately began to ache for her again. She took him by the hand and led him across the yard and into the castle without a word to anyone else there. On their way through the halls, they passed a small nook that they had made good use of before their wedding, and he pulled her into it, bringing his lips to hers with bruising force. She let her lips part, submitting to his hunger. He again entwined one hand in her soft raven hair, letting the other wrap around her waist and pulling her against him with all of his strength. He kept his eyes open as his tongue dominated hers, watching her eyelids flutter and her cheeks blush.

We sailed on together, we drifted apart,
And here you are by my side

Reluctantly, he broke the kiss, pulling her out of the nook and letting her lead the way to whichever suite was now theirs. The Royal Residence was smaller than the Northern Palace, so it didn't take long. They came to the door, and she stood with her back to it, placing both hands on his chest. He opened the door and scooped her up off the floor, nearly loosing himself in her musical laughter. For what seemed like the first time in the entire eighteen months of his absence, he smiled from ear to ear. He was home again, with his beloved wife.

He carried her to the bed, lowering her onto it even as he crawled onto it himself, lowering his lips to hers. This kiss was sweet and light, still colored with hunger, but much more patient than before. He didn't care if the Queen herself burst through the doors…he was going to enjoy this and draw it out as much as possible.

So now I come to you with open arms,
Nothing to hide, believe what I say

He kissed down her jaw, tracing the line of it with quick, light touches. The fingers of one hand played with the ends of her hair which splayed out on the pillows. With his other hand, he began to pull at the buttons down the front of her bodice. He felt her heart beat quicken and heard her gasp lightly as he slipped his hand underneath the fabric and brush against her skin.

Lowering his lips to the creamy skin of her neck, he nuzzled on the spot which had formerly showcased his mark. Her delicate fingers began to run up his arms, igniting a fire in him that he thought had long grown cold. She wrapped her hands around his neck, guiding his lips back to hers, initiating an embrace in which he tasted her hunger and passion…with a slight tinge of sorrow.

So here I am with open arms,
Hoping you'll see what your love means to me
Open arms

He finished removing her bodice, tossing it over the edge of the bed. Never letting his lips leave hers, he began to pull at the laces of the corset that he knew she wore only grudgingly. She started undoing the buttons of his uniform, causing his suspense to increase each time her fingers brushed his skin as she opened the shirt. He was just beginning to slide the corset off her slender body when there was a knock at the door.

"Did you lock it?" he asked in a hushed tone as he broke the kiss and looked into her big blue eyes. He groaned as she shook her head, moving as quickly as he could to the door. Another light rapping sounded as he turned the key in the lock. He knew he was probably being summoned to a debriefing, but at that moment he really didn't care. Besides, Jeb and the other captains were there as well; they could do it without him. He had other pressing matters which required his attention.

He turned back to the bed, removing his shirt and boots on the way. She'd propped herself up on her elbows, corset still only partially removed, looking as frustrated as he'd ever seen her. He smirked at her as he knelt back over her, pressing a light kiss on her forehead as he finished removing the corset. She laid back as she let him finish removing her clothes, running her hands along the skin of his back. He made quick work of removing the rest of his own clothing and resumed his attentions.

She practically purred as he kissed her again with a bruising passion. He supported his weight with one hand as he kneaded one of her breasts with the other. Her hips began to buck against him as her breath hitched in her throat. Deciding that he couldn't contain his own need any longer, he entered her in one swift stroke. As they rocked in a steadily increasing rhythm, she burrowed herself in the crook of his neck. He whispered promises to her that he prayed that he could keep. He would never leave her again, never be apart from her again, never let any distance come between them again. They both fell over the edge of ecstasy at the same time and he fell onto her. She gathered him into her arms, clinging to him for dear life.

Living without you, living alone
This empty house seemed so cold

She watched him as he slept in the aftermath of their passion. He'd soon rolled over, drawing her with him to rest on his chest as he had always done after they'd made love. Apparently, his fatigue from the war and the road had been deep and he'd fallen asleep almost as soon as he'd closed his eyes. When he'd started snoring, she'd disentangled herself from his arms. She'd risen from the bed to wrap herself in a soft silk dressing gown, then returned to sit beside him, facing the opulent headboard and drawing her knees to her chest. Crossing her arms and resting them on her knees, she'd laid her head on them and considered her dilemma.

How was she going to tell him? It would break his heart, but she couldn't just ignore that it had happened. Her mother had been the one who told her not to write and tell him. She'd insisted that the General of the Southern Force didn't need the distraction, for he would surely have insisted on returning home. It had been better for the war and the people of the Outer Zone in the long run for her daughter to deal with her problems on her own. The Queen had even advised her daughter not to tell him at all.

But she knew she had to tell him. What was he going to say? A tear ran down her cheek as she remembered. How do you explain something like that? She knew that he'd be angry that she hadn't told him earlier…he'd also be furious at her mother for not letting her tell him at the time.

She smiled as he stirred in his sleep, obviously in the middle of a pleasant dream if the smile on his face was any indication. Without having to be told, she knew he was dreaming of her. A wife knows those kinds of things about her husband. They both knew that they had a long road ahead of them in the aftermath of the bloodiest war the O.Z. had ever seen, but she was encouraged by the fact that he was already having good dreams. He was already allowing the joy of being home to push away the wounds of war…or was that her particular magical gift?

Wanting to hold you, wanting you near
How much I wanted you home

He awakened an hour later, smiling at her with a life in his eyes that warmed her soul. That smile fell slightly when he saw the look on her face, an echo of the sorrow he'd tasted in her kiss earlier.

"What's wrong, Princess?" he asked, employing the old term of endearment that had nothing to do with her monarchial title and position, as he drew himself up on his elbows. She only mutely shook her head, and he sat up fully, drawing her to himself in concern. "Come on, DG…tell me what's wrong."

She began to cry softly, reliving that terrible day before she spoke: "Mother told me not to write to you…she thought that you had enough to worry about on the front lines, and that I shouldn't bother you with something that couldn't be changed."

He pulled her away and held her at arm's length, tipping her chin up so that her eyes met his. "DG, you're startin' to worry me," he spoke in his old drawl, trying to coax the information out of her.

She only swallowed hard and shook her head, tears beginning to fill her eyes. He pulled her back against his chest, cradling her tightly against him and whispering assurances in her ear as she cried.

And now that you've come back, turned night into day
I need you to stay

She calmed down after a few moments, but he didn't relax his hold on her, choosing to allow the strength of his embrace to soothe her. Finally, she sniffled, pulling away from him slightly. It was time to tell him.

"About a month after you left, I started to feel really sick. Mother called in one of the doctors that wasn't on the lines. I was pregnant." She let that word hang between them for a few moments. He looked around, confused when he didn't see a crib or any other sign of a baby. And then, he knew, but she continued anyway. "I went into very premature labor at only seven months. It was a boy," she said with a small, sorrowful smile. "I named him Wyatt, after his daddy…but he was very small and very frail. The doctor did everything he could but the baby… He…he…" she couldn't finish the sentence. He drew her closer, not needing her to tell him the rest.

So now I come to you with open arms,
Nothing to hide, believe what I say

His heart broke, both for his wife and his dead child. All he could do was to hold her close. He didn't speak for a few moments because he knew that she didn't want to hear any words. Eventually, he tipped her head up to look in her eyes again. He kissed her, gently and sweetly, his lips playing at hers with a tenderness that nearly took her breath away.

So here I am with open arms,
Hoping you'll see what your love means to me
Open arms

When he broke the embrace, she lowered her head again, resting against his chest in the comfort of his arms, listening to the quiet strength of the beat of his heart. He placed another kiss on the top of her head.

"There will be other children," he said quietly. "And believe me, I will never let anyone or anything separate us again."

He brought her lips to his again, beginning again their private dance, this time sweetly and tenderly, praying to all the Ozian gods that he was right, and setting a steely resolve to make sure that he was.

Author's Notes: As promised: the reunion sequel. Sorry that this one took me a little longer than the other two. It took a few days to find the perfect song, and then I wasn't totally satisfied with the story until now. The song is "Open Arms," originally recorded in 1978 by Journey.

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, settings, or lyrics found in this story and claim no rights to them. I receive no compensation (other than reviews, upon which I am beginning to thrive).