This was originally intended to be part of my story 'The Road Less Travelled' but I think it stands better as a one-shot piece.
Patrick knocks softly on the bedroom door before entering the room. Although it is their wedding night, he expects nothing more of his new bride than she is willing to give. For her to spend the night in his arms would be close enough to heaven, he thinks.
He had carried her over the threshold of the modest house near the Kennington Row Maternity Hospital barely an hour previously. Setting her down in the hallway, her arms had immediately returned to encircle his neck, drawing him down into a lingeringly tender kiss, her reverence and wonder spoken softly against his lips. They had moved to the sitting room - the closest room to hand - where they had spent the next half hour or so learning to speak of other things against each others' lips; buttons were undone, ties and fastenings loosened, items of clothing shed.
Draped across his lap, clad in only her underslip, his hands curled in her hair, her fists bunched in his dress shirt, she had pulled back to fix him with an earnest gaze. "Patrick," - a little breathless from their kisses - "It's getting a little late..."
For once he had been unable to divine the meaning behind her words; her eyes were hooded and unreadable. He released her from his grasp and she stood before him, clasping his hands. "I think I will go up and get ready for bed." Two days before the wedding she had come to the house to place her overnight bag and going away suitcase in the bedroom - their bedroom. She had beamed with delight when she'd seen the flowers and candles with which he'd bedecked the room.
He kissed her fingers and smiled his acceptance. "All right, my love." She bent down and blessed him with another soft, sweet kiss before slipping her hands free of his. He heard her gentle footfalls ascending the stairs and sighed. He knew he had to give her time to become accustomed to married life and he was worried that he might have asked too much of her, too soon. After all, she had spent years in devout adherence to a strict schedule of prayers which began every day at dawn. He could not expect her to adjust overnight.
Fifteen minutes later he has changed into his pyjamas and dressing gown and is tapping gently on the bedroom door. He slips into the room without waiting for an answering call. Just inside the door he stops short at the sight which greets him. All the candles are lit, casting flickering flames and shadows all around. Their light dances in the reflection of the mirror above the dressing table, sparkling in magical abundance. In the soft glow they cast over the room he sees her raise her arm from the bed to beckon him. "You're here." There is relief in her voice, and a statement of certainty.
He reaches her side in two quick steps. Taking her outstretched hand in his, he bows down to kiss the simple gold wedding band now nestling next to her engagement ring. "I'm here," he affirms. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else but here. With you." His eyes are sparkling, his touch warming.
She smiles in delight - she feels it too. They have spent so little time alone together since their engagement. Patients, colleagues, wedding plans - and Timothy of course; all have placed strenuous demands on what little free time they have had.
But that's all in the past, he thinks. They are here now, just the two of them, and that's all that really matters. Shelagh is tucked underneath the bedcovers and his heart clenches at the sight of her, cocooned and contented in their marital bed.
"Come to bed Patrick, darling." She motions at the empty space beside her and he needs no more bidding.
He sheds his dressing gown, draping it over the chair by his side of the bed. He raises the corner of the bedcovers and begins to draw them back. All of a sudden he stops dead, his arm in mid-air. Beneath the covers Shelagh is completely naked. Her arms are wrapped around her torso protectively and her eyes are cast down. In the silence of the room he can hear her shallow breaths as she awaits his response. He is unable to formulate one; he is frozen in place.
Her hair is unpinned, tumbling silkily around her bare shoulders. Her arms can't quite conceal the soft contours of her waist, the gentle flair of her hips, the roundness of her breasts. He thinks she is the most breathtakingly beautiful sight he has ever seen.
"Shelagh," he whispers hoarsely. "Shelagh, look at me?" She glances at him quickly but then casts her eyes down again, her breath audibly hitching.
Gingerly he sits on the edge of the bed and then scoots nearer to her. He lays a reassuring hand on her arm and almost immediately she rolls into him, burying her face in his chest and clutching at his top. He places a protective arm round her shoulders and hugs her to him. She is trembling so he pulls the bedcovers up around her further.
He holds her a moment until he feels her calm. "Are you all right?" he probes gently. She makes a muffled noise and he feels a puff of breath against his chest. She looks up at him and he realises that she is exhaling a laugh.
She is embarrassed, adorably so. "I'm sorry Patrick. I meant to surprise you. I'm afraid I rather lost my nerve."
"It's all right," he soothes. "You didn't have to do that." He plants a kiss on her forehead and she relaxes further. "But I'm so glad you did." There is a roughness to his voice which she has never heard before and it secretly thrills her, to think that she might be the cause of it.
He gently disengages her from his arms and lays her back down. "Stay there a minute," he says in an urgent entreaty. Without breaking eye contact, he backs off the bed and quickly shucks his top over his head, throwing it behind him, not caring where it lands. Her breath catches in her throat as he discards his pyjama bottoms in quick succession and steals back into the bed.
He draws the covers back down again so that they are nestled around their waists. He is leaning over her and she looks up at him with a clear gaze, no hesitation or shyness evident now.
He had told her in one of his letters that he thought he could glimpse heaven in her eyes. Now it is revealed to him in all its glory: her look is liquid with love and longing for him.
He reaches out and silently asks her permission before placing his palm on her hip. He tugs her to him slightly and she places a hand on his chest to steady herself.
His eyes travel down to where his hand is resting and he begins to move, stroking his fingers lightly down over her stomach and around her belly button. It tickles slightly but she suppresses the urge to giggle. She is too intent on watching him watching her. There is a look of wonder on his face as he begins to map the contours of her body. His eyes are intense, his focus unbroken.
She has known what it is to worship but she has never imagined how it would feel to be worshipped. In his eyes she feels like the most cherished and adored creature in existence. The fervour in his gaze, the adoration in his touch, are beyond anything. He makes her feel almost holy - and she feels whole, more complete than she has ever been in her life. How could she have ever lived and breathed and survived without this? His touch, so long withheld, now seems as necessary to her as air. She can deny nothing that he might ask of her, not tonight - not ever. Not when she wants this so badly for both of them.
He sweeps his palm reverently down from her shoulder. "You're so soft," he marvels, "So fragile. So delicate." She lets out an involuntary gasp as his fingers brush against her breast. She knows where his thoughts are heading, even without words. It has always been this way between them. She reaches up to still his hand and seek his eyes.
"Patrick, I won't break."
"Shelagh, my love, my own" he sighs. "You know I'd rather die than cause you any pain. I don't want to hurt you."
She moves her hand up to rest her palm along his cheek and instinctively he nuzzles into her touch, his eyes slipping shut and then fluttering open again.
She tries to reassure him: "I know Darling. But if you do then it's down to biology. Nothing more."
He feels the truth of her words and gives silent thanks to a God he has only just started to acknowledge for sending this angel to him.
"I should have thought you would know about biology better than anyone, Doctor Turner," she adds playfully, her eyes sparkling with amusement.
He grins ruefully at her rebuke and leans in to plant a tender, apologetic kiss on her lips. "Yes, Mrs Turner."
Her breath hitches slightly at the mention of her married name and he sees the flicker in her eye flare into a more intense flame. It sparks between them, burning and branding him.
He repeats her name huskily, savouring how it feels on his lips: "Mrs Turner, " he says. "You'll have to forgive your husband."
Her eyes burn even more brightly, if that were possible. She reaches for him and silently grants him permission, her hands resting on his waist as he settles into the cradle of her hips. His hardness meets her softness and they both gasp at the contact.
He has to hold himself in check. She is looking up at him so adoringly, so trustingly. 'I'm not worthy,' he thinks as he solemnly gazes down at her exquisitely tiny body. He considers what she has given up for him, of how little she knows of the ways of men, of love, and he wonders what he has done to deserve to be the one here with her now, like this.
Tenderly he seeks her approval once more: "Are you sure my love?"
"Darling," she says soothingly. "My heart knew when it was ready to receive you. My body does too." As if to emphasise the point she gently sways her hips upwards, drawing another gasp from him.
Her tone turns pleading: "Please. Darling, please. I need you to make love to me."
He leans down and captures her lips with his, breathing "I love you" brokenly against them before shifting his hips slightly. Slowly, agonisingly slowly, he presses into her. Their eyes lock; she watches hesitancy give way to a mixture of joy and delerium and wonder, flitting across his face. At first his gaze searches hers for any sign of reluctance or resistance, but she simply reflects love and certainty back to him. Only when she feels his full weight sink into her does she let out an unbidden whimper. Panic seizes him and she senses him start to pull away.
"No!" she whispers in a harshly ragged breath. He stills and she exhales softly. "Biology," she reminds him. "I just need to let myself adjust to you."
He nods almost imperceptibly, powerless to refuse her. Their entire knowing of each other has been about adjusting, about learning - gradually - to see each other in new ways. He has seen her anew so many times these past few weeks, has learned countless hidden sides to her. He suspects there are still many more left to discover; that she will continue to surprise him for many days - and nights - to come. Her boldness this evening has been the most exquisite revelation so far.
He leans down so their foreheads are touching and waits, trembling, for her to become accustomed to this new intimacy. Her breaths sigh in his ear in time with the slight tremors he can feel running through her body. He lifts his head and watches her carefully.
She meets his gaze fully and all of a sudden he is aching with love for her. She reads the tension in his face and tightens her body round his. Her eyes ask assurance of him that she is doing the right thing.
"You feel incredible," he affirms in a voice roughened by passion. She stretches up and kisses him with equal passion, granting her assent for him to move by rocking up against him. He draws back and sinks into her once more, eliciting a soft groan from her lips. He covers them with his own and, on his next stroke, her long moan is muffled by his mouth. He thinks it the most erotic sound he has ever heard.
Soon, instinct takes over and he is surging into her and then retreating, like an incoming tide sweeping all before it. She finds herself instinctively mirroring his rhythm, rising and falling with his every stroke. A soft stream of moans pours from her lips as he murmurs her name like an incantation.
She has never before been fully able to imagine this sensation. Oh, she knows well enough the mechanics of the act; she knows what it can lead to and what it can drive people to. But she has never really understood what it means to lose oneself in someone else; to be completely submerged in them. She is drowning in the depths of his passion, clinging to him as he covers her body and captures her soul.
He rises up on his forearms to watch her. Her head is thrown back and her eyes are half-closed, a picture of utter abandonment.
"Shelagh" he gasps and her eyelids slide open again. "Look at me, my love. I want to see you."
She forces herself to focus on his warm brown eyes, now flecked with fire. The dazed desire he sees in her face sparks something elemental in him and his pace begins to quicken. She grasps his forearms to anchor herself, feeling herself starting to become untethered; it is too much and not enough all at once. He bucks into her, his words becoming almost incoherent: "Shel... She... My love...I can't! Oh God, Shelagh! I can't hold on...please. You're so... Please...!"
He reaches down desperately, fumbingly and presses his fingers to her centre. His thumb moves upwards in a circular motion and she cries out his name in sudden shock: "Patrick!" And then she is lost, all her senses converging in a single white-hot spike of pleasure. She feels herself swept up, swept away from all conscious thought; she is shattering, soaring and shuddering, spiralling out of control. Her neck arches and she clutches at his back to try to save herself. She is lost and splintered apart, yet found and made whole in the same instant. She senses him fall forward as he roars into her ear and then he is pulsing into her and she is pulsing around him.
His ragged breath in her ear brings her back to herself and he gathers her gently, oh so gently, into his arms. He rolls them both over until they are face to face, their hips still cradled together, her breasts pressed firmly to his chest, arms entwined around each other.
Still trembling, she buries her face in the crook of his neck and fights to gain control of her breathing. He curls a hand around her head and tangles his fingers through her hair.
"So beautiful," he murmurs. "You are so beautiful. To see you like this..." His voice is suffused with wonder and he is looking at her as if she is the most incredible thing he has ever seen. She feels utterly safe and adored in his gaze. A wave of love for him washes over her once again.
She begins to rain kisses on him; on the corner of his mouth, on his chin, under his ear, on his cheek, on his neck, his shoulder. She can't seem to stop kissing him; she finds she doesn't want to. She needs to anoint him with the same joy he has given her, this unknown, indescribable feeling of being one. She kisses his chest and buries her head there. He places a tender kiss on the top of her head in return.
His hand repeatedly strokes through her scattered locks, down to the curve of her neck. All the while he is muttering nonsense and endearments and words of love. He places a gentle finger under her chin and tilts her head up to look at him.
"Happy?" The tenderness in the simple question almost undoes her.
She can't formulate the words just yet, so she simply nods and presses her lips to his. He lets out a quiet moan, moving his hand back into her hair. Her lips part, inviting him to deepen the kiss. Slowly, sensuously, they move together and she speaks words of reverence and devotion into his mouth.
When they part she is slightly breathless, he slightly dazed.
"Patrick..." she begins. "I never realised it would be... I never thought... " She trails off; she is so wrung out with pleasure, so aching with love, that it seems to have robbed her of all coherent thought. She tries again: "I didn't know that..." Her eyes search his for understanding.
"I know, my love. I know," he soothes. He cups her cheek and she turns her head to press her lips to his palm in gratitude.
"I never knew it could be like this either." His softly spoken confession causes her to stutter in response:
"But...?" she starts to say, confusion in her eyes.
"Not like this. Never like this," he whispers fiercely.
She is held still in the warm intensity of his gaze. The intimacy of their embrace means she can feel his heart thudding in his chest. She places her hand over it to calm him, sensing that his mind is replaying a painful memory.
"I thought my life had ended when Sarah died. I had Timothy and I had my work and I thought that was enough." He clutches her tighter to him. "But I was wrong. So wrong."
"Patrick," she intones, her hand still on his chest, pressing into it for emphasis. "You don't have to..." She doesn't need to hear the words aloud to know their truth. She knows them just as surely as she knows how they mirror her own feelings.
"I do my love. I do have to." He kisses her softly, lingeringly, and she melts further into his embrace. "My darling Shelagh. You have given me my life back. I love you so much. I don't know what I've done to deserve you." He steals another tender kiss. "But you are everything to me. Everything."
They are forehead to forehead now, noses touching. Unable to focus on his face, her eyelids flutter shut and she gives back to him what she has just received: her fierce, undying commitment. "And you are everything to me."
It hits her anew that this marriage is God's chosen path for her. It is not a sacrament she will take lightly, knowing that this dear, wonderful man is now her husband. He is no longer the Dr Turner who had been both colleague and friend, nor even the Dr Turner who had ministered to her body when she had fallen ill and to her heart when she had fallen in love with him. No, this is Patrick, her beloved husband. She smiles to herself, her soul suffused with love for him, and for the God who has brought them together.
"I love you," she sighs, pulling back to look at him and pressing a butterfly kiss to his lips.
She feels him cover their entwined bodies with the discarded bedclothes. Ensconced in warmth and in each other, they sooth one another into sleep with tender kisses and gentle caresses.
Her last conscious thought before she finally succumbs to slumber is:
'Home. I am home'.