I Carry Your Heart

Summary: "A child? We're having a child?"

A/N: I sat down to write the next chapter of 'I Will Always Find You' and this came out instead...what can I say, Daddy!Charming wasn't finished taking up space in my head ;) The title of this story comes from the E.E. Cummings poem I Carry Your Heart With Me.

Disclaimer: OUAT and its characters belong to ABC...all I own is a desire for my own Prince Charming but I think he must've gotten lost and is too stubborn to ask for directions...


Almost home.

James sighed, relinquishing one hand from the reins of his favourite steed to shield his eyes from the brilliant midday sun above. Beside him his entourage of six of the kingdom's best knights chatted animatedly, just as glad as he was that their journey was almost over.

The diplomatic mission to reinforce ties with Midas' kingdom had been necessary and fruitful yet James had spent most of it wishing to be back home with his beloved Snow. She had originally been planning to accompany him as the two of them had not been parted for more than a few hours since their wedding two months previous, but she had been struck by illness mere days before they were scheduled to leave. James had almost cancelled the visit completely, wanting to remain by her side but Snow had been adamant that she would be well looked after by Doc in his absence. He had reluctantly agreed, knowing that with the Queen's threat hanging over them they could not afford to unintentionally offend one of their closest allies.

Of course, Snow's reassurances that she would rest had not been enough for him not to seek out both Red and Grumpy and elicit a promise that they would ensure her well-being. He knew his wife well enough to realise that she would make a poor patient, her very demeanour not conducive to passively lying around for any period of time.

"There it is."

The quiet exclamation from the youngest of the knights drew James out of his thoughts, his gaze lifting to see the tallest spire of the castle peeking out from between a gap in the forest canopy. A smile spreading across his lips, James spurred his horse into a gallop leaving the knights bewildered in his dust. His heart pounding in anticipatory sync with the sound of his steed's hooves, James raced through the last stretch of forest which separated him from his home. Not the castle, which even after all these months still felt extravagant and strange, but his wife. She was his home, his heart's shelter from a world which had thrown up one challenge after another ever since he'd left the comforting tranquillity of his family's farm.

Soon enough, the forest gave way to the tall stone bridge which linked the castle to the mainland. Slowing only enough for the men standing guard to recognise him and move aside to allow him entry, James guided his horse through the twisting pathways of the lower town. People bowed and waved as he passed, cries of his return spreading quickly. It was something he did not believe he would every truly become accustomed to; the reverence bestowed upon him by the ranks of those to which he himself had belonged for most of his life. Usually, he would have slowed and greeted them in kind but his impatience to behold his wife trumped his subjects for the time being. Making a mental note to take a stroll in the marketplace at a later time, he finally reached the main entrance of the castle.

Dismounting, his cloak billowed out behind him as he took the steps spiralling up into the wing which housed the royal family's private quarters two at a time. He uttered a hasty apology to a young maid who he almost knocked over in his hurry and nodded his head in greeting to an amused Gepetto who was ushering Pinocchio down the stairs. Moments later, he came to a halt outside the ornately carved door of their room. With a gentleness which belied his eagerness, he pushed it open and slipped quietly inside lest his Snow was sleeping. Eyes scanning over the crackling fire in the hearth and the platter of food left half-eaten on the wooden table by the balcony, he let his gaze come to rest on their bed and found...

Nothing. It was empty, though the rumpled sheets spoke of an inhabitant who must have vacated its comforting warmth not long before. Sighing in frustration, James spun on his heel intent on finding his wayward wife. Exiting the room, he was about to head right to see if he could catch up to Gepetto and inquire whether he knew of Snow's whereabouts when a flash of movement at the left end of the hallway caught his eye. The door at the far end was open enough for a shaft of sunlight to filter through and upon seeing it, James' brow furrowed in curiosity. He knew that room was the childhood nursery of the twin brother he had never gotten the chance to know, a room which King George had made clear was off-limits when he was first given a tour of the castle and one which he'd had no inclination to explore in the time since the castle had come under his and Snow's control.

A tug in his heart pulled him forward and before he knew it, he was standing on the threshold of a nursery filled with dusty shelves, forgotten toys...and one beautiful wife, who was standing in the middle of the room seemingly lost in thought. Forgetting for a moment the strangeness of her presence in this place, he let a slow grin cross his lips.

"Snow."

The woman in question whirled around, green eyes lighting up in surprised delight as she took in the sight of her husband standing before her. James barely had time to ready himself before he found his arms full of soft skin and pale lace, a pair of ruby-red lips colliding passionately with his own. Wrapping his arms tightly around her, he tangled one of his hands in the luscious tumble of curls which poured down his wife's back while deepening the kiss, losing himself to the utter ecstasy being reunited with Snow brought upon him.

Eventually air became an issue and he pulled back just far enough to rest his forehead against hers while his lungs strived for breath. Bestowing a series of tiny kisses upon her brow as his heart returned to its normal rhythm, he untangled his hand from her hair and tenderly stroked the side of her blush-filled cheek.

"If that is what awaits me after a period of absence, perhaps I should leave more often."

"Don't you dare," Snow replied softly, hands unconsciously stroking his leather-clad chest, "I missed you."

"I missed you too. So much...I do not think I can be parted from you again, diplomacy be damned. Next time we travel together or not at all."

"You'll have no argument from me."

Snow raised herself on her tiptoes to kiss him again, and this time he allowed himself to slowly savour her mouth, his tongue curling around hers in a dance as old as time itself. Too soon however, the lingering concern about the state of her health pushed its way forward in his consciousness and he pulled back from her once again. To his mind, she no longer appeared to be ill; the shadowed eyes and drawn expression he'd last seen upon her face now replaced with her usual vivid green stare and healthily flushed cheeks but he needed to be sure.

"Are you alright? Has your illness passed?"

To his consternation she bit her lip and looked down, but not before a look of uncertainty flashed across her features.

"Yes and no," she said softly before she pulled out of his embrace, crossing the room to stand by the long disused crib, its bedding yellowed with age.

"This is beautiful workmanship, I doubt Gepetto could better it. Do you like it?"

James blinked non-plussed as she laid a lingering hand upon the curved edge of the crib.

"I don't care about the crib, I care about you! What do you mean yes and no? Snow..."

"You should," she interrupted briskly before her countenance softened as she took in the panicked look upon his face, "And I mean yes, I am alright but no, my...illness has not passed."

Worry gripped his heart with vice-like strength as she took in a deep breath, seemingly steeling herself for whatever news she had to impart.

"It has not passed because I am not ill in the strictest sense of the term. And I asked about the crib because in seven months...in seven months it will hold the most precious gift you have ever given me."

At her words, Snow placed a protective hand across her stomach, his mother's ring catching the light.

For a moment James stood dumfounded, his eyes wildly switching from the crib to Snow's eyes to her stomach and back again as his brain processed the meaning behind her cryptic words.

"You mean...a child? We're having a child?"

Snow nodded, warily awaiting his reaction.

A child!

The worry in James' heart dissolved in an instant to be replaced with rapidly rising joy. With a shout of excitement he crossed the room in a single stride and swept up his wife in an enthusiastic embrace. She squealed in surprise as he swung her around in a circle, laughing as she was caught up in the absolute elation emanating from her husband.

When he placed her back upon her feet, he dropped one hand to splay across her still-flat stomach while the other brushed a stray curl from the side of her face.

"I love you," he breathed, his beaming grin permanently etched upon his face as tears of joy pooled in his twinkling blue eyes.

"You're not upset?" she questioned with slight disbelief, "I know the timing is not ideal. Our position here is still somewhat tenuous and the Queen..."

"It doesn't matter," James stated emphatically, as he came to understand her initial uncertainty, "All that matters is you and I...you and I are having a baby. And as long as we have each other, everything else will fall into place."

A brilliant smile was her response but one that quickly turned quizzical as James dropped to his knees in front of her.

"Charming? What are you doing?"

"Saying hello," he replied before pressing a reverential kiss to her stomach, "Hi little one, I'm your father. I just wanted to let you know that I love you already, and that I give you my promise that I will always protect you, no matter what."

Snow choked down tears at the absolute devotion and happiness in her husband's voice, pulling him up impatiently because she could not go a second longer without feeling his lips upon hers. James had no complaints as to her actions, the two of them entwined in an embrace of mutual delight.

"I love you, husband of mine," she sighed when they parted, stroking her thumb along the hand he still had splayed lovingly across her stomach.

"As I love you, wife of mine...now, I do believe a celebration is in order."

"Yes, I suppose we have some announcements to make," Snow started, before she was interrupted by James shaking his head with a slow smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth.

"Actually, the kind of celebration I was thinking of is much more...private."

"Oh?" she questioned, a bemused yet lascivious gleam making itself known in her eyes, "And would I be correct in assuming this celebration would require the use of a bed and much less clothing than that in which we are currently attired?"

"Perhaps," he grinned.

"In that case, my dear Charming, lead the way."

James did not yet know what the future would bring, but with his wife in his arms and their child held safe within her, he believed that there was no other place in any realm he would rather be.

Home indeed.