Her jaw dropped in surprise, in shock yet not quite disbelief at the sight before her, at the man stood in her doorway. She had dreamt of such a moment so many times that she knew it to be real, imagination never could compare. Breathless, she threw her arms around him. “Harry.” Clutching him to her as tightly as she could, although it didn't feel tight enough, she pressed her face into his shoulder. “You're alive.”
Smiling, he kissed the top of her head, surrounding her in is embrace and cradling her head in his palm. “I love you, old thing.”
“Oh, Harry.” She leant into him more, as if that could somehow bring them even closer together. “You're alive. You're here. Where have you been? I thought you were dead.”
“Missing in action doesn’t always mean dead. Sorry for scaring you.”
Grinning, she shook her head. “I’m just glad you’re alright.”
He laughed. It was the softest and quietest he'd ever laughed, but it was also the first in many years, falling on two pairs of welcoming ears. “I know. I feel it too. But I'm grateful to be home.”
Pulling back from him, she took his face in her hands, refamiliarising herself with his eyes. “Look at you.”
For a second he let the silence dwell between them, then as he curled an arm around her shoulders to draw her close, kissed her forehead. “I know. Haggard.”
Sarah shook her head vigorously. “No, beautiful.”
He scoffed. “Says you. Well I feel haggard.”
Despite the concern, and the crease that formed in her brow, she smiled. “Sorry, come inside. Let's get you some food, a wash, some rest.” Withdrawing herself from his arms, she took his hand to lead him through the door, but he tugged her back to him.
“Hang on, hang on.” Cupping her cheek, he just gazed at her for a few seconds; soon there would be so much to do and explain, but for now, as long as he could, he wanted to enjoy the peace and freedom he had in being with her. Leaning towards her, he softly, carefully pressed his lips to hers, free hand falling against the small of her back and pulling her body against his.
Once he let go, though breathless, she grinned. “I love you too. I love you and I never stopped.”
His smile softened, for the first time in more months than he dared to count tears started to form in his eyes. “Thank you.”
“What?” He had always been incredibly sweet, she was infinitely glad that despite everything he must have been through, that hadn't changed. “Harry, thank you for making it home to me.” She took his hand in hers, squeezing it and once again pulling him towards the house. “Come on, what do you want to eat?”
Harry lay back in the bed, it was odd to think it was his bed, and closed his eyes, spreading his arm out for Sarah as he felt the mattress dip beside him. He sighed as her head came to rest on his chest, holding her close and kissing the top of her head. They lay in silence for a few minutes, listening to the soft sounds of each other's breathing, until she moved her head to his shoulder. “Are you staring at me?”
She smiled. “Sorry.”
“No, you keep staring.” He stroked her hair, turning his face towards her and relaxing once more, welcoming the rest he was getting even without sleep. “I think I must have died out there, old girl.” Half asleep, she mumbled half a question, and though the words were not quite intelligible, it only made him smile more. “This, right here with you, is heaven.”
She nodded. “Yeah it is. Thank you.”
Hushing her, he pressed a kiss to her forehead. “My pleasure. Goodnight, I love you.”
“I love you too.”
As they drifted off, wrapped in each other's arms, she was almost sure she heard him whisper under his breath to her. “Please be real.”
Sarah woke gently the next morning, warm and cosy and bathed in the soft glow of sunlight filtering through the curtain. She soaked in the feeling of her beloved’s embrace, and opened her eyes to find Harry watching her with a smile. Lips curling upwards in response, she gazed back with sleepy contentment. “That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever woken to.” Her smile grew as he grinned at the compliment.
“Good morning. Oh, Sarah Jane, you’re a sight for sore eyes, so beautiful.”
“How do you feel?”
He waited just a second before answering. “Happy. Loved.” With that he dipped his head closer to kiss her, soft and gentle, his hand moving to her cheek. Satisfied, sure happy included healthy, she tenderly brushed her fingertips through his curls. “I love you.”
“And I love you. You seem rested, sleep well?”
“Didn’t sleep much at all. But I’ve had a night in a warm cosy bed for the first time in years. And my heart is at peace, calm, contented from watching you sleep. You are so beautiful and I just needed to soak that in, absorb it for a few hours. I hope you don’t mind.”
She tentatively shook her head. “Oh, Harry, thank you so much for coming home. I think you need to get some more sleep though, just a couple more hours; you need to rest.”
He held her tighter. “What I need most is you. Just to be here with you, old thing.” Utterly content, he beamed as he watched her, knowing she’d fall back asleep before long. He could hardly believe that after all those years of missing her, of yearning to see her face again, call her ‘old thing’ and hear his name on her lips, she was curled up in his arms. “You will never know how much I needed this.”
Harry stood in the corridor, waiting, though not sure what for. But as Sarah came out of the kitchen to find him, and his gaze settled on her face, he realised what it was he'd needed, the courage she gave him.
“Ready to meet her?” She smiled, wary that it likely wasn't just nerves causing the crease in his brow. Taking his hand, she rubbed his fingers to give him something soothing to focus on instead of the prospect of meeting Sky and later Luke since he was on his way home already, just to meet him.
“What if they hate me?”
“But what if they do?” The last thing he wanted was to hurt her family, they had both waited so long for one together, and having not managed to give her one, he'd never take that away from her when she'd found it herself.
“They won't. All the things that I love in you, they will love too. I promise; I know them well enough to promise that.”
“And I do trust you.”
“So don't worry. You're my family too; you were family first. I'm not giving any of you up.”
“But I'm telling you they come first.”
Raising her hands to the back of his neck, she brought her lips to his to curb his fears with a kiss. “They will love you. I know they will choose you like they chose me.”
“Come on then.” He let her lead him through to the kitchen where the girl was eating breakfast.
Sky looked up as he entered, an adorable display of surprise crossing her features and for just second he forgot how to walk and just watched. Despite the logic disputing it, he wanted to pinpoint little pieces of Sarah in the young teen, but instead just smiled.
“Sky, this is Harry, my husband. You remember I told you about him, and how he was missing—”
The journalist nodded. “Well he's not anymore.”
Standing, she approached the man, her mum's trust preventing any hesitancy that might have otherwise formed. “You're Harry?” He nodded, somehow dumbstruck. “I'm glad you came back.”
Once again, Harry nodded his head, searching for his voice. “Me too.”
“So are you my dad?”
He broke into a grin, having long since believed no one would ever call him that. “Only if you want me to be, but let's get to know each other first.”
“I'd like that.”
“Me too. You are so bubbly and beautiful, Sky.”
She grinned at the compliment. “Thanks.” Returning to her breakfast, she took another mouthful of cereal, watching him watch her. “Well, sit down.”
The simple touch of Sarah's hand in his hair, coaxing him forwards, drew his attention back to her to see her broad grin. “I'll make you some breakfast.” Then, as she walked away, she patted Sky's shoulder, stooping to her level. “Go easy on him, okay?” The girl nodded eagerly and was soon babbling away to her new father. Months later Sarah would tell him how for the first few minutes she wasn't preparing food at all, but just listening to them talk, forming the foundations of a bond that would last the rest of their lives.
“Hello, boy.” Harry grinned as K9 trundled towards him.
He laughed. “Good dog.” Crouching down, he wrapped his arms around his neck to pull him close and whisper to him. “And good dog for looking after Sarah Jane, thank you.”
K9 lifted his head. “I will always protect Mistress. It is my duty.”
“Shh, K9!” Harry hurriedly hushed him, lightly tapping his side.
Sarah Jane stood fondly watching him, a smile on her face. “It’s okay, I know. I’ve known for years.” She’d missed it the first few times, but a couple of years after she’d received K9, she caught Harry knelt down beside the dog and whispering to him. He was just about to leave, for an assignment with UNIT the other side of the country, and even though it was a dangerous trip, one she feared he wouldn’t make it back alive from, he was telling K9 to look after her. It was something she took to spying on when he had to leave, and every time, when he asked for her protection until he returned, she stored it in her heart to stop her worrying about his welfare in his absence. It had worked almost perfectly until she was told they’d lost contact and he was missing in action. That night she’d cried her heart out, sobbing for hours, and not even K9’s reminder of his promise to return helped, not for a few weeks anyway. “Thank you.”
He smiled as he looked up at her. “You’re so important. Especially to me.”
Harry watched from the doorway with glee as Sarah greeted her son, hugging him and excitedly pulling him up to the house to introduce them to each other. Smiling at the sheer wonder on her husband's face as he looked at Luke, she wrapped an arm around each of their shoulders, kissing both their cheeks. Taking in the sight of them both for just a few seconds more, she then left them be, easing the pressure she knew Harry felt by leaving them alone; Luke would soon have him at ease.
“It's great to meet you.”
Harry nodded. “I'm really glad I got the chance to meet you too.”
“Mum has told me a lot about you.”
Luke nodded. It was strange that despite having just met him he felt like he knew him well, but that was what came from having a mum who loved him the way she did, and he remembered every story she'd told him. “She's very proud of you. Talked about you a lot, sometimes more often than she realised.”
The older man smiled. “She's so proud of you too. She's been talking to me about you this morning, how intelligent you are, brave, kind, loyal, strong. She talked about you saving the world, over and over, and going to university early. It sounds to me like there's a lot of her in you; I think she's right to be so proud.”
“Well she's an incredible mum.”
“I always knew she would be. And I'm sure you must be protective of her, I understand that feeling, I love her too.” He leant forward a little, looking him in the eye. “Luke, you don’t have to let me be your dad just because I love your mum and she loves me. In fact I think I’d feel rather sad if that was the only reason you let me. Honestly it would be wonderful just to be your friend, but I ask that you give me a chance, I would really, really love to be your dad, yours and Sky's.”
“Of course I will.”
During the hours that followed, Luke watched as Harry paused to look over them all, watched him smile and joke, the laughter doing his whole body good. He saw the man gazing at his mother, and the joyful surprise that crossed his features every time she sought out hugs and kisses from him. He caught the awe on his face whilst listening to every word Sky said to him, and the way he closed his eyes when the girl hugged him. Everything he saw told him that this man was finally where he belonged, with them.
“Thank you for coming home to her.”
Harry shook his head, smile slightly lopsided. “She is so welcome. It was my pleasure. It's worth everything.” Turning his head, he caught Luke's gaze and held it. “I hope you understand that I never chose or wanted to leave her, that wasn't my choice. I never wanted to upset her or cause her pain, I didn't mean to, I never would. I love her, I always have.”
“I know.” Rocking in his seat slightly, he bumped their shoulders together. “I know, Dad.”
“Dad? Are you sure?”
The teen smiled. “I knew Mum was my mum in less than a day, I don't need any longer to know you're my dad.”
Wrapping an arm tight around his shoulders, he gave the lad a squeeze. “Thank you, I won't let you down.”
“I know that too.”
Letting himself into the bedroom, Harry took in the sight of his beloved, her dark hair loose around her shoulders, soft skin freshly moisturised, all so normal and routine but to him a beautiful treat to end an incredible day. Sarah had given him everything; home, life, love, and strength were but a few, and she was now adding two breathtaking teenage children to that list. There were still days when he didn't quite understand why she never asked for anything in return.
“Thank you for trusting me with them.”
She smiled, even as she kissed him. “You always were going to be the father of my children. We just sort of went about it the long way. I never doubted you'd be an amazing dad, I'm just sorry it took so long for you to get the chance to prove it, and see that for yourself.”
“Well, you are a wonderful mother, I am so proud of you for that. I love how strong you are.”
Resting her hands in the small of his back, she drew him closer once more. “You're the one who made it home after so long.”
“Because I had you waiting for me.”
She stared for a second, the next her lips were crushed against his, kissing him urgently, her fingers tangled in his shirt. Strong arms wrapped around her back as, pulling her against him, he kissed her in return, forgetting anything existed beyond her, beyond her fingertips caressing the skin at the nape of his neck then cradling his jaw, and her soft lips against his. “Harry.”
Lingering with his forehead touching hers, for a few breaths he stood in silence, palms resting against her back, pressing with just enough force to hold her to him. “You wanna make love?”
Sarah nodded just slightly, beaming at him. “Yes, so much.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah.” She tilted her head up slightly. “I've missed you.” Withdrawing a little to look him in the eye, she ran her fingertips along his jaw. “No pressure; are you sure? After what you've been through, are you ready? I honestly don't mind waiting for you to recover.”
He kissed her in gratitude. “Oh, old girl, I love you so much for that. I am fine, more than fine, let's just take it slow.”
With a nod, she closed her eyes as his lips returned to hers, happily letting him take complete control of the kiss for a minute or two, enjoying his strength and warmth, and all the joys of being truly, genuinely wanted and so deeply loved. Sliding her hands under his shirt, palms against his back, she pushed his shirt out the way until he helped her with it, freeing himself from the garment. Sarah smoothed her hands over his skin and round to his chest, feeling the firm muscles beneath her fingertips. Taking a step back, her gaze dropped to meet her touch at his abdomen, brow furrowing. “Oh my god, Harry.” His eyes followed hers. “Look at you, those weren't there before.”
After so many years without a mirror to look into, or even a change of clothes, he had forgotten most of the scars he bore, including ones she'd seen before. One hand on her hip, he coaxed her to step to the side and sit on the bed with him, letting her stare. “Go on, touch.”
“What happened to you?” To a certain degree she could see the answer; a bullet wound and a couple of new knife marks told part of the story on their own. “Oh, Harry.” She ran her fingers over the marks again.
“Sarah, I'm okay. It's all healed, I'm okay.”
“But that doesn't make it okay.”
With a fingertip, he tilted her chin up, taking one of her hands in his. “Sarah, I love you; please don't let it...” He touched her palm to his right shoulder. “Please look at them the way you look at this. I got this saving you, and I got them getting back to you.” He placed her hand back onto his stomach, stroking her fingers.
Her brow furrowed more and he kissed the same spot to diffuse the tension. “Harry, I'd never... I'm not repulsed, I couldn't be. You aren't any less attractive for them, maybe more for your strength. It's just a shock, hard to think someone would do that to you, to someone I love so much.” Kissing her forehead again, he curled around her to catch her before the tears in her eyes overflowed. Holding tight, heads rested on each other's shoulders, they sat together for a few silent minutes until her emotions finally calmed. “There's something you need to see too.” Reluctantly, Sarah pulled herself upright, leaning against him for just a couple of seconds more and letting him nuzzle against her.
“I love you.”
She closed her eyes, relaxing into his touch as he kissed the bridge of her nose and then her lips, tender and reassuring, just as she needed. Kissing him back, she undid the top button of her shirt, smiling as he moved her hands out the way to continue unbuttoning himself. Once he pushed the fabric off her shoulders, hands running over the the bare skin it revealed, she pulled back slightly, placing his hands against her stomach. “Harry, look.” Confusion crossed his features as he looked at her. “Here.” She pressed her hands over his, then let go so he would too. So he did so, moving his hands to her back and taking her in.
His brow creased, she lifted her hand to cup his face, stroking his cheek. After so long apart she had expected to worry about ageing, to fear that her body had changed beyond recognition, become weaker and unappealing. Yet when finally he returned, those fears never surfaced with the love radiating from him. Instead, even with new scars of his own, it was the marks that had been inflicted on her skin which had filled her with fear. Despite her head knowing they simply proved her stronger than the attack, her heart hated the sight whenever she looked in the mirror; it seemed her heart needed his to love her scars before it would too; they were the one thing she was nervous about him discovering.
“Oh, Sarah.” Sweeping his left thumb over the round marks, he used the other to tilt her head up to meet his gaze. “You are beautiful.”
He nodded. “More so every day.” The absent-minded stroking of her skin reassuring her, she let herself fall back against him, into his arms. “But, you were shot? What happened? Who shot you?”
“Doesn't matter, that's not important right now, they're gone. It's okay, like you said, it all healed, I made it, I'm okay.”
He leant his forehead against her temple, holding her to him as a few unpreventable tears escaped. “You never deserved that. Thank you for surviving.”
Turning her head into him, she grinned, touching the remnants of a cut on his hip. “I couldn't have you come home, after all of this to find I didn't fight too. Every time I thought I was going to die, you kept me going, you and our children.”
“Sarah.” Shifting on the bed slightly, he pressed his forehead to hers, beaming at her as he then feathered kisses over her features. “You are so strong, amazing, intelligent, so so beautiful, every single part of you is beautiful. I love you so much for making it through everything to be here now, for standing up for what's right, for fighting, for mothering, for having faith, for caring, for loving, still always loving me. Oh if you knew... if you knew just what you are—”
“Then I would still be right here. You deserve this as much as me, and I love you.”
Gently he lay her back on the bed, and leaning down, pressed a kiss to each of her scars. “You are beautiful.”