The whole Scene
“You won’t leave me?” I asked at last. “You won’t die?”He shook his head, and squeezed my hand tight.“You are my courage, as I am your conscience,” he whispered. “You are my heart — and I your compassion. We are neither of us whole, alone. Do ye not know that, Sassenach?”“I do know that,” I said, and my voice shook. “That’s why I’m so afraid. I don’t want to be half a person again, I can’t bear it.”He thumbed a lock of hair off my wet cheek, and pulled me into his arms, so close that I could feel the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed. He was so solid, so alive, ruddy hair curling gold against bare skin. And yet I had held him so before — and lost him.
His hand touched my cheek, warm despite the dampness of my skin.“But do ye not see how verra small a thing is the notion of death, between us two, Claire?” he whispered.My hands curled into fists against his chest. No, I didn’t think it a small thing at all.“All the time after ye left me, after Culloden — I was dead then, was I not?”“I thought you were. That’s why I — oh.” I took a deep, tremulous breath, and he nodded.“Two hundred years from now, I shall most certainly be dead, Sassenach,” he said. He smiled crookedly. “Be it Indians, wild beasts, a plague, the hangman’s rope, or only the blessing of auld age — I will be dead.”“Yes.”“And while ye were there — in your own time — I was dead, no?”I nodded, wordless. Even now, I could look back and see the abyss of despair into which that parting had dropped me, and from which I had climbed, one painful inch at a time.Now I stood with him again upon the summit of life, and could not contemplate descent. He reached down and plucked a stalk of grass, spreading the soft green beards between his fingers.“ ‘Man is like the grass of the field,’ ” he quoted softly, brushing the slender stem over my knuckles, where they rested against his chest. “ ‘Today it blooms; tomorrow it withers and is cast into the oven.’ ”He lifted the silky green tuft to his lips and kissed it, then touched it gently to my mouth.“I was dead, my Sassenach — and yet all that time, I loved you.”I closed my eyes, feeling the tickle of the grass on my lips, light as the touch of sun and air.“I loved you, too,” I whispered. “I always will.”The grass fell away. Eyes still closed, I felt him lean toward me, and his mouth on mine, warm as sun, light as air.“So long as my body lives, and yours — we are one flesh,” he whispered. His fingers touched me, hair and chin and neck and breast, and I breathed his breath and felt him solid under my hand. Then I lay with my head on his shoulder, the strength of him supporting me, the words deep and soft in his chest.“And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours. Claire — I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you.”
The wind stirred the leaves of the chestnut trees nearby, and the scents of late summer rose up rich around us; pine and grass and strawberries, sunwarmed stone and cool water, and the sharp, musky smell of his body next to mine.“Nothing is lost, Sassenach; only changed.”“That’s the first law of thermodynamics,” I said, wiping my nose.“No,” he said. “That’s faith.”