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The Silver of Moonlight

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Of-Ink-On-Parchment

John’s letter was crumpled angrily in Jamie’s hand. How could such a small piece of paper take up so much space in his mind? How could it carry so much weight in his heart? Jamie wondered at the profound impact of ink on parchment as he walked out the front door of the New House.

A sense of foreboding had been building since he recognized the seal on the letter, and it only worsened when he read the words. His first instinct was to find Claire, grab hold of her, and keep her close. If he smothered her with his body, with his soul, there’d be no room for anyone else. If he gave her a thousand more memories of love-making, perhaps there’d be no room for memories of John.

The swiving bastard. Jamie hadn’t thought about John touching his wife for weeks; now he wouldn’t be able to get it out of his head again for months.

He walked down the hill to the edge of the wood. Claire was certain to be washing at the creek after dealing with Bobby Higgins and his retching in her surgery all afternoon. No one washed more frequently than Claire on a normal day, but when she’d been mopping up vomit, she was certain to want a lengthy soak in the water.

It was a long, summer day, so the sun was still out, but just barely. The heat was giving way to a cool, evening breeze. The fire radiating off Jamie was at odds with the serene environment.

Despite his agitation, he was contained enough to walk quietly over the forest floor so that Claire didn’t seem to hear him coming. The only sounds were that of trickling water and the rustle of leaves on the breeze.

The creek flowed over a rocky riverbed through the Ridge. There were places where larger rocks and boulders manipulated the path of the water, creating little falls or sharp turns of stream. One of these rocks was long, smooth, and flat from years of abuse by the creek. It was submerged a couple inches below the surface. Claire liked to lie there after a long day in her surgery and let the water flow around her without having to worry about staying afloat.

She was there now, lying naked on her belly, her head resting on her arms to keep her above water. Her rambunctious, wet curls were beginning to defy gravity as was their wont when they started to dry. Her feet hung off the edge of the rock, moving with the flow of water.

With the sun close to setting, the world was losing its vividness of color. Claire, already pale white in the brightest of light, was starting to glow as she did when the sun went down. In a few hours, her skin would shine silver in moonlight.

Claire’s great, round arse might have been confused for the moon itself if it wasn’t lying there in the stream. Christ, he had a painful cockstand just at the sight of it.

In his youth, he’d recited the Act of Contrition a great many times as his mind raced in all manner of lewd places thinking of his wife’s glorious bottom. Of course, he no longer believed mere thoughts to be any great sin—and even if buggery was still against the law, it had been some decades since the crown actually beheaded anyone for the act. She was his wife, after all, and God did put the woman’s quim only inches from her arse. It was only natural his thoughts would drift in such a direction.

With John’s letter in hand, intrusive images of John and Claire pushed their way to the forefront of his mind. Jamie remembered asking Claire if John buggered her when they falsely wed. She raged at him for his audacity...but she never answered. The thought of John’s cock being in the only place of his wife’s body where his own had yet to venture maddened him.

Jamie had selfishly counted on John’s love for him to ensure Willie’s wellbeing, but he didn’t foresee that same love leading the bastard to swive his wife in their agonized state of grief. Claire belonged to Jamie. And John betrayed him! He wanted to beat the life out of the man!

As if to prove something, Jamie stripped out of his plaid and sark, leaving the crumpled letter bundled in the garments so the wind wouldn’t carry it away. He waded into the creek to come up on Claire from behind.

He was too impassioned to be gentle. He came upon her abruptly, making her shriek and jump as his hands took hold of her arse. She recognized his touch immediately and relaxed into his grip. “Christ, Jamie. You could’ve given me some indication you were there.”

He didn’t answer. He just squeezed the soft tissue, loving the feel of how it rose up between his fingers. He pulled her buttocks apart and nearly growled at the sight of what lay between.

“Oh,” she said with humor. “You’ve come with particular intentions, I see.” She lifted so she was perched on her hands and knees. God he loved her reading his mind.

His right hand gripped her hip while his left dipped in the water. He took a moistened finger and ran it down the split of her arse. He traced over her puckered hole putting pressure on the reluctant opening. “You’re mine, mo nighean donn.” His right hand squeezed her hip tighter and gave a hard shake. “All of you is MINE.”

His finger pushed slowly inside her arse, eliciting a squeal and a wiggle of her backside. He gave her a moment to adjust to the intrusion as he aimed his hips and lined up his cock to her quim. This wasn’t the first time he’d done such a thing to her, and by the way she squirmed against his hand, he knew she liked it nearly as much as he did. He took a deep breath before hammering his cock inside her.

He was rough, infuriated with John for touching what was his, determined to drive the memory of that bastard out of her body. His arms worked like pistons on either side, pushing her back and forth against him as he drove in from behind. Claire’s groans were loud as they usually were when she enjoyed herself. He wondered if she could feel his fury...if so, she didn’t seem all that bothered by it.

His finish was imminent, but he was determined to satisfy Claire first; it wouldn’t do to leave her wanting when he was driving away old lovers. He held off as long as he could before he stopped altogether to prevent spilling seed. He bent gasping, removing his cock and squeezing the base to stave off an untimely end.

Claire pulled gently away from his other hand, sliding his finger out slowly. She turned over to sit before him on the rock, her legs spread as the water flowed passed.

“A little worked up today, are we?” she asked with a smirk.

“Hmphm.” He wasn’t going to talk about John when she was spread before him as such.

Claire shrugged and lay back on the rock with humor in her eyes. The water soaked her hair once again, flattening the spiraling locks. A spot of red out of the corner of his eye had him looking at her knee. There was a small scrape dripping blood from where she knelt on the rock.

A vise squeezed his heart at the site of injury. This wasn’t the first time she suffered a minor wound in their love-making. Biting, scratching, and scraping were fairly regular parts of their sexual encounters, but this was different, as small as it was; it wasn’t given out of love like the others...but out of jealous, possessive resentment.

“O Dhia. Tha mi duilich,” he said, gently. He bent down and kissed the scratch as she sometimes did to his own wounds; the taste of iron lingered on his tongue.

“Oh, it’s alright. It’s just a little scratch,” she smiled and nodded to his legs. “You’ve probably got a few matching ones on your knees.”

He shook his head, “They dinna signify, mo chridhe.”

He lay on top of her, circling his arms around her so her back wouldn’t rub against the stone while they finished what he started. He was gentler this time, guilt-ridden that he let his anger result in injury. He kissed her as they made love, trying to apologize with his lips and the soft rocking of his body. She tasted of creek water and the ginger tea she made whenever someone was nauseous.

He rubbed his full body against her, knowing it would set her off quickly if he pressured the right place. The creek water made their bodies cool and slick as they carried on. When he brought her to the height of her pleasure, he followed right behind as she squeezed and milked his cock from deep inside.

He rolled over and pulled her up on his chest so she would no longer be touching the offending rock. The cool water rushed by, wetting his sweat-drenched hair even further. The sun had set and the sky was aglow in purple twilight. For a time, they lay there, catching their breath and listening to the slowing of each other’s hearts.

Claire lifted her head to look in his eyes. “What’s the matter, Jamie?”

“Hmphm.” Of course she would know something was wrong. He sighed heavily, making Claire’s body rise up with the inflation of his lungs. “I received a letter from John.”

Her eyebrows raised, “I thought he’d been sending all his correspondence to Brianna?”

“Yes, weel, it would ha’ been poor manners to invite himself to the Ridge wi’out notifying me directly.”

“What? He’s coming here? Why?”

Jamie could tell by the fear in Claire’s voice that she was concerned Jamie might harm John again. Jamie chuckled at the memory of his fist colliding with John’s face.

“He’s accompanying Willie. The lad wants to check in on Fanny. He refuses to come wi’out John. I’m guessing he wants his stepfather to run interference wi’ me so Willie doesna need to engage in the niceties of being the guest of honor in my house.”

“John probably did not share with William the details of your quarrel.”

“No. He did not. He attempted to find an alternative companion for Willie, but the lad refused. John said that he didna want Willie to miss an opportunity to...” Jamie took another irritated breath, “...to get to know his father.”

Claire sealed her lips tightly.

“Hmphm,” he grumbled, knowing she was appreciating John’s generosity. Jamie was still far too angry at the man to appreciate the gesture. “How should I be expected to entertain the bastard wi’ my best whisky and fine feasts, when all I’ll be thinking is how he had his way with my wife who’ll be sitting nearby at the same table?”

“Oh, I don’t know, probably the way I was expected to endure you pandering to Laoghaire when we last went to Scotland.”

Jamie grinded his teeth at the mention of his own false spouse. Since he found out the bitch was responsible for Claire's arrest and near death, the thought of her made him want to break something—in truth, she made him want to break things long before then. Seeing as how Claire was the only thing in reach at present, he stifled his destructive impulses.

“I’d hoped,” said Claire, “that your anger with John would’ve settled by now. He saved my life, Jamie. And...and what we shared was all about you. You know it’s true.”

Claire’s drying hair was starting to curl up tight and stand on end once again. Jamie ran his fingers through her wild, wet locks. “You’re no’ a foolish woman, Claire. If ye think I’m all that was between ye and John, ye’re being willfully ignorant, lass.”

“It’s you I love, Jamie...with all my heart.”

“I ken that, but it doesna mean ye’re no’ fond of the man...that ye didna share intimacy wi’ him. I reserve my right to resent him for it.”

He sat up and held her in his lap, ready to head back to the house before full dark. He took a few moments to admire her silver skin in the fading light.

“Do you resent me?” she asked.

He kissed her temple and rested his forehead against hers. “No, Sassenach. I canna resent ye anything...because it’s ye I love.”

Chapter Text

The-Glimmer-In-Dreams

Quiet footsteps echoed through the house. I looked up from the pot of berries I was in the process of preserving to see who was coming. It was tedious work, and far too hot in the summertime to be spending so much time near a fire. I wiped my brow with a towel and listened to long strides and heavy footfalls come closer. I thought it might be Jamie, but he was rarely so heavy-footed.

Pleased with the momentary opportunity to step away from domestic duties, I grinned broadly in anticipation of his unexpected interruption. The reason for his noisy approach became clear as he entered the kitchen.

He carried a heavy barrel of whisky on his shoulder. He set it down on a large, sturdy table in the corner. I took one look at the barrel and my smile turned instantly to a frown when I realized what he was up to.

“Jamie,” I chided, “that’s the raw whisky, and you know it. It hasn’t been aged more than a couple of weeks. It’s clearer than creek water.”

His upper lip curled into a snarl when he said, “Ye dinna expect me to bring the fine aged whisky solely for the purpose of entertaining John Grey, do ye?”

I crossed my arms, “And what about your son? Are you going to serve William that foul firewater, as well?”

“As a matter of fact, I shall be giving him our last bottle of the three-year upon his arrival.”

“Christ, Jamie.” I turned and stepped to the window. My eyes found Jemmy and Brianna digging some sort of trench not far from the house. I yelled out to summon Jem. Our grandson came bounding up to the window covered in dirt and filth from head to toe.

“D’ye need something, Grannie?”

“Yes, darling. Take Germain up to the still and bring a barrel of your Grandda’s five-year whisky.”

Jemmy’s eyes went wide and he tried to look over my shoulder at his grandfather.

“I said go,” I reiterated firmly.

“Aye, Grannie.” The boy took off in a rush down the hill.

“The FIVE-year?” Jamie said, incredulously. “Are ye mad, woman?!”

“I am not. You were planning on selling most of it at Wilmington in a month anyway. We might as well get started bottling now.”

“I’ll no’ waste a drop of it on the likes of yer false husband!”

“I won’t allow you to serve John a whisky that’s more likely to poison him than intoxicate him. Do you really think it will endear you to William that you abuse his stepfather so blatantly?”

Jamie’s mouth moved without sound and his fists clenched at his side. We’d been married long enough for the man to know when he shouldn’t cross me. Finally, he turned on his heel and stormed away, nearly barreling into Jenny who had come to help with the preserves. He pushed passed his sister and left without another English word—there were plenty of curses in all manner of other languages that drifted on the air behind him.

Jenny walked in with her hands on her hips and her lips pursed in disapproval. I made the mistake of assuming the disapproval was at Jamie’s behavior and had nothing to do with me.

“Sorry about that,” I said. “Jamie’s a bit tense about John and Willie’s visit.”

“Come now, Claire,” she said, tying an apron around her waist and rolling up her sleeves. “Ye canna expect a man to be comfortable in the presence of another who’s shared a bed wi’ his wife,” said Jenny. “At least, no’ a Scot. Perhaps a Frenchman or a sassenach might pay it no’ mind, but certainly no’ a highlander.”

Of course she would take her brother’s side.

“And how would you know what did or did not occur in my marriage to John?”

Jenny rolled her eyes, “As if Jamie’s sudden hatred for the man could be explained by the weather?”

“We thought Jamie was dead. We were grieving.”

“That doesna change a thing, Claire. Ye wouldna care to entertain Laoghaire now, would ye?”

“Laoghaire tried to have me killed. John saved my life. You cannot equate the two.”

“But Jamie does, and that’s all there is to it. How often in yer 35 years of marriage have ye been able to change his mind once it’s been made?”

“Hmphm,” I gave my own Scottish grunt as I poured myself a shot of the raw whisky into a glass of water. It burned something fierce all the way down, making me cough and sputter. “Frasers!” I grumbled under my breath. “And it’s 36 years, not 35.”

Jenny chuckled superiorly behind me. I regretted the lack of illness and injury at present in the Ridge keeping me from being called away to my surgery.

“When will they be arriving?” she asked.

“Depending on the speed of their travels, anytime in the next few days.”

“I’ll be best pleased to see more of my nephew. And Jamie will put Willie before his quarrels with John. I dinna ken why ye’re so fashed about it, Claire.”

“I’m not fashed.”

She gave her own Scottish, “Hmphm,” before tasting the preserves. She scrunched up her nose in distaste and snuck in another cup of sugar.

The truth was, I didn’t know why I was so worked up about Jamie’s behavior toward John. They were grown men perfectly capable of sorting through their own squabbles without my interference or righteous indignation. John loved Jamie nearly as much as I did, and he certainly anticipated Jamie’s reaction to his visit. Perhaps I should’ve just left it to the two of them and kept my silence.

I spent the rest of the afternoon pondering my role in the relationship between the two erstwhile friends. It wasn’t as if I was sticking my nose where it didn’t belong. They were both my husbands at one point. I had a vested interest in their wellbeing. However, I was neither their psychiatrist nor their relationship counselor. It wasn’t exactly my duty to fix their problems.

Jamie stayed away until suppertime. Even then, he was quiet when he returned save the occasional grunt of acknowledgement when addressed directly. More evidence of his agitation was in the tense set of his jaw and the quietly incessant tapping of his right hand on the table.

He retired early and didn’t invite me to join him as he normally would. After tidying the kitchen, I followed him upstairs, certain I’d find him wide awake. I thought perhaps he might be attempting to read a book or look over some correspondence. However, when I walked into our room, I found him sitting at the window sharpening his dirk. The sound of whetstone sliding over steel sent needles down my spine.

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ. Hasn’t Willie already lost enough parents? Are you planning on dispatching his stepfather, too?”

Jamie rolled his eyes, but I was certain the thought crossed his mind.

Unable to keep my nose out of it, I carried on, “You know your hostility toward John is entirely misplaced. I hope you sort through it before he and Willie arrive.”

“Why are ye defending him, Sassenach? Is it to justify yer own behavior?”

“My behavior requires no justification. We thought you DEAD, Jamie. Which is more than I can say about you sleeping with Mary McNab and Laoghaire. You knew I wasn’t dead, and you fucked them anyway.”

“Well, ye werena alive! What was I supposed to do, wait twenty years or all of eternity for the chance ye’d come back?!”

“No! I never suggested half as much. But you seem to think I shouldn’t have touched the men I was married to when I believed you dead. For God’s sake Jamie, I was begging for death without you.”

“Ye think it was any different for me?”

“No, I don’t. But John is your friend. You’ve done nothing but benefit from his kindness and his love for the past three decades. Alienating him over what we did together in our grief is unfair.”

“As ye said, Claire, he claimed to have loved me, yet took the most precious parts of my life for his own. He raised my son and bedded my wife!”

“He raised William out of affection for you, not to take him away from you. And he married me for the same cause.”

Jamie threw his whetstone aside and gripped the blade of his dirk in his hands. I truly hated seeing him so unhappy.

“How is it you can forgive me but not him?” I asked with genuine curiosity.

His whole body seemed to deflate at my question. His face softened sadly before he spoke, “I told ye, mo ghraidh, I’d forgiven any wrong ye could ever do the day I fell in love wi’ ye at Leoch.”

“Oh, Jamie.” I went to him then, knowing it was pain that fueled his hostility, not entitlement. I took the dirk from his hands and set it aside. He pulled me onto his lap and surrounded me with his arms. His head came to rest gently on top of mine.

“You care for him, Jamie. He’s your dearest friend, and he deserves better than how you’re treating him.”

“Aye, I ken. D’ye think I am no’ trying?”

“Are you really? Because it’s hard to see from where I stand.”

“It’s no’ easy.” His serious expression fell away, and a slightly delirious laugh overtook him. “Ye have to admit, ’twas a bit of shock when John told me what he did to ye. Christ, ye’re a woman, Sassenach. I didna think the man had it in him to bed a lass. And if ever I thought one of us would be bedding John Grey, I naturally assumed it wouldna be you.”

I joined in his incredulous laughter, “I assumed you were jealous of HIM. I never thought you’d be jealous of ME.”

He cuffed my bottom, “Of course I’m not. Dinna be daft. But me ruttin’ wi’ the man did seem more likely than him wanting to swive wi’ you.”

A chill down my spine at the thought of Jamie offering himself to John all those years ago, but if I was being honest, it wasn’t an altogether unpleasant sensation. “Would you have actually slept with him if he accepted your offer?”

Jamie huffed in my hair, “Oh, aye. ’Twas no idle proposition. I’ve told ye as much before. For the sake of knowing the man who’d raise my son, there was nothing I wouldna ha’ done.”

“It’s difficult to imagine...you doing that.”

“Aye...and more so in my youth than now, what wi’ the memories of what Randall did to me fair fresh in my heid at the time.”

“You don’t equate the two anymore?”

“Only when I’m a wee bit overtaxed in the heid, but generally no...no’ when I have sense about me. Remember, John declined my offer; no evil man would turn away what he covets for the sake of honor. John canna help who he loves, and I dinna believe there is anything wrong with that.”

We sat quietly for a time with our own thoughts before Jamie said, “Perhaps that is why I canna forgive him so easily. He said it was me he was fucking me when ye swived ye, that he used ye to love me…”

“We both did that.”

“Aye, but you were not lying about it, Sassenach. Ye believed yer own words.”

I pulled back and looked Jamie in the eyes. “You can’t possibly think John was lying?”

“No’ lying, but…” He kissed my lips softly and whispered, “Ye’re a rare woman, Claire...a fact no’ lost on our friend.”

“Whether he wanted me or you or both of us, the fact remains that we thought you were gone forever. I know you have it in you to understand why we sought comfort in each other.”

His grunt was ambiguous and noncommittal, leaving me to interpret it as I saw fit. Seeing as how fighting with Jamie always left me more exhausted than a day of hard labor, I decided to assume the best of my husband for the sake of getting decent rest.

I kissed him once more before getting up to ready myself for bed. Jamie watched as I undressed and started brushing out my hair. I’d always been quite fond of his appreciation for observing these mundane tasks, but tonight his mind seemed to be a little further away than usual. He didn’t even notice when I was finished. He seemed surprised when I grabbed his hand and led him to bed.

As we lay down, he curled himself possessively around me. I relaxed back into the comfort of his embrace. He kissed my neck and buried his face in my hair before we drifted off to sleep.

Neither of us slept well that night. He was twitchy and restless pulling me in and out of consciousness. The bed was hot and sweaty despite the evening breeze, but I was unable to wake up enough to do anything about it.

Keyed up with fresh thoughts of both my 18th century husbands, my dreams were interwoven with memories of both men. My wedding night with Jamie blended into the night I slept with John. New images of the two of them engaged in intimate intercourse in the English countryside invaded those already erotic dreams.

I finally woke fully when Jamie squeezed me painfully and moaned unconsciously in my ear. By the state of his cock against my thighs, I was not, apparently, the only one having such dreams.

Deciding to take advantage of my wakefulness and our mutual state of arousal, I turned and wrapped my arms around his neck. I kissed him hard, trying to rouse him to consciousness. Still asleep, he kissed me back, his tongue reaching deep in my mouth, stoking my already blazing need. The feel of his tongue had me whimpering against his lips.

His eyes popped open abruptly, and his whole body stilled. He looked nothing short of surprised to see me. I kissed him again, my mouth curving over the shape of his stiff lips.

When he still didn’t respond, I said, “I need you, Jamie.”

Finally, his lips stirred and began moving with mine. It didn’t take long to fall back into that lustful madness he inhabited before waking. He rolled over me, rising up between my legs. He pinned my thighs to the bed and hammered inside. Our coupling was hard and urgent, both craving the relief of a need provoked by our dreams.

I orgasmed with his name loud on my lips, and he came yelling for the Almighty Himself.

He collapsed on my breast with his arms gripping me tight. His breath was hot and heavy on my skin, and his heart thundered wildly against my belly.

We let our bodies recover in peaceful silence. The midnight sounds of frogs and crickets made their way into our open window. We could hear the breeze rustle through the leaves outside, and wished it would find its way into our room to cool us down.

As I started drifting back to sleep, Jamie muttered with a tone of deep regret, “I’m sorry, Claire.”

“Whatever for?” I stroked his thick, ginger hair in comfort for the anguish he held in his heart.

“I was dreaming...before...when ye woke me. I was...It was John...ken.” his voice cut off. I felt a teardrop land on my chest.

“Jamie.” I lifted his head and saw the moisture in his eyes.

“I shoulna ha’ used ye so.”

I laughed softly, “Jamie, you can’t possibly think I’m bothered?”

“Ye’re no’?”

I hesitated telling him about my own dreams, worried only that it would distress him further to know John—and sometimes Frank for that matter—made an appearance.

“Ye dream of him sometimes, too, then?” he said with his uncanny knack for reading my thoughts.

“It doesn’t mean I love you less. And I know how much you love me.”

He nodded in agreement. “Aye.”

“Come, my love. Rest easy in my arms.”

He smiled softly, though it didn’t reach his eyes. He lay back down on my breast and gave my body a grateful squeeze. I kissed his head and stroked his hair until he fell asleep. Before long, I followed him into unconsciousness.

We both slept well the rest of the night.

Chapter Text

An-Echo-On-The-Breeze

“Are you ready? asked John, with only a mild teasing in his tone.

“Are you?” William spat back.

John straightened in his saddle and refrained from making further comment as they neared the large, newly built house on the top of the hill.

No. John wasn’t ready to see Jamie. His stomach fluttered and turned itself in knots at the thought of seeing that ruggedly beautiful man, but he didn’t think he could bear witness to the expected rage and disgust in Jamie’s eyes at the sight of him. John was feeling quite resentful to Willie for forcing this reunion.

John had to admit, he was very much looking forward to seeing Claire. He knew she harbored him no ill will, and if anything, was grateful to him for saving her from the English when she was caught distributing seditious pamphlets. If he was being honest with himself, his stomach was doing a few flips in anticipation of seeing her wild hair and listening to her intrusive frankness.

He’d have to keep his expressions contained during this visit, but that wasn’t anything new for him. He’d been doing so since childhood. Although, he had to admit, Jamie and Claire Fraser stirred emotions in him that taxed even his formidable capacity for self-restraint.

John and William slowed when they reached the worn path that led up to the house, both wary of what they’d find at the top.

“Dear God,” said Willie. “That house is enormous. Much larger than the cabin we stayed in before.”

“Yes, Jamie is quite the craftsman.”

“He built it?!” Willie looked amazed. “All on his own?”

“Well, I’m sure he had help, but James Fraser would not let another man craft his home when he could do it better, faster, and more beautiful than anyone else.”

William scoffed, and John thought he sounded very much like his father in that moment, sans the guttural Scottish accent.

“Uncle Willie! Lord John!”

A couple of boys ran out of the nearby woods and up to the house. One had a mop of familiar red hair, and the other was tall and thin with darker features.

“Jeremiah! Germain!” Willie called out to his nephews as he dismounted from his horse. Jeremiah MacKenzie barrelled into his uncle, wrapping his arms around him in greeting, while Germain did the same to John.

“You’re enormous, young man!” said Willie to Jemmy. “What do you people eat out here in the backcountry?”

“Och,” said Jemmy, pulling away. “Look at yerself!”

John very much noticed the similarities between the young MacKenzie and William. They’d both inherited their size and most of their features from the same man.

“Bonjour, Germain,” said John, as Jemmy continued his chat with his uncle. John patted wild, little, Scottish-Frenchman on the back in a pleasant reunion. It was nice to be greeted by an ally.

“Bonjour. J'espère que Grand-père ne vous tuera pas aujourd'hui.”

“We are certainly of the same mind, young man. Would you help us see to the horses?”

“Of course. Scream aloud if you need my assistance when you see Grand-père.”

“Indeed.”

As Germain took the horses to the stables, young Jemmy led the way up to the front doors still talking with rapid exuberance to Willie.

“My Ma’s dead chuffed ye’re visiting. She’s got the rifles cleaned and ready. She and Cousin Ian want to take ye out for a hunt. If it’s alright wi’ ye, I’ll come, too. I’m a decent shot, ken. Maybe no’ as good as my Ma, but loads better than my Da. I snuck my Ma a bottle of the five-year whisky for the hunt, but dinna tell Grandda. He’s been right fashed about the whisky. Grannie made him leave a few bottles out for ye, Lord John, but he wasna best pleased…”

“Give our guests a chance to breathe, Jemmy,” said an elegant voice from just inside the house.

John followed Willie through the front doors where they were met with a most welcome sight. Claire Fraser stood beautiful and beaming in the foyer as they walked in. Her hair was pinned back, but her curls were fighting their restraints, as always. She was drying her hands on her apron as though she had just scrubbed them down as she was wont to do after spending any amount of time in the kitchen or surgery.

John remembered just how soft those hands were…

“Go on and find your parents,” she said to Jem. “They were out fishing last I heard. Have them wash up before coming to dinner.”

The enthusiastic young lad bolted out of the house at his grandmother’s instruction, leaving Claire, Willie, and John on their own.

“It’s wonderful to see you both,” she said. The joy in her eyes told them she dearly meant it. Claire was not a woman capable of hiding her emotions. They’d come a long way since his first visit to Fraser’s Ridge all those years ago when her mistrust of him showed plainly on her face.

“Hullo, Mother Claire,” said William, embracing her warmly. John had forgotten how much he cherished the connection Claire and William formed in Philadelphia.

“John,” she said, smiling. “I’m delighted you’re here.” She drew him in and hugged him much the same as she had with Willie. He breathed in the scent of her...orange blossoms, vanilla, and moldy bread.

John held her close and whispered in her ear. “Is he angry?”

She patted his back and cleared her throat quietly, “He’s...Jamie.”

“No further explanation required.” John pulled back and jokingly touched the eye Claire had to mend after Jamie cracked it open.

Claire laughed as she released him and took a step back. John noticed her face was a little flushed when their eyes met. He did his best to hide his smirk. John was no less affected by her presence, he just had the capacity to conceal it.

“How are you, my dear?” John asked. “You look resplendent, as always.”

“I’m doing wonderful now that more family is here.”

“It shows in your eyes. You’re positively beaming.”

A grunt echoed just off to his right. “Hmphm.”

John, Claire, and William all turned to face the sound that came from the bottom of the stairs. James Fraser was standing there watching with a blank expression. The sight of him was somehow both expected and a complete shock. How did that great, large man maneuver down wooden stairs so quietly?

John’s lungs struggled to remember if they were meant to be taking in air or letting it out. Their complete failure to function normally had him gulping for oxygen like a drowning man.

Though he memorized every one of Jamie’s features hundreds of times over the last three decades, the reality of him always seemed to obliterate whatever dull memory his brain stowed away. Jamie was a walking contradiction. His appearance was both fine and wild in his highland attire...his unruly red hair clubbed back into tenuous submission...his speech rugged yet refined...his manner both flaming and cold.

“Mr. Fraser,” said William, with a decorous bow. John noticed a slight narrowing of Jamie’s catlike eyes at the formal address from his son.

“Jamie,” John finally managed to say, hoping to take the sting away from William’s greeting. “It’s good to see you, my friend.”

“Aye,” said Jamie, not returning the salutation. He held his hand out for Claire to join him. Claire, drawn to him like a moth to a flame, accepted his hand and was immediately tucked possessively into his side as though she was a missing piece of his body put back into place—Adam’s rib, as it were.

With his territory duly marked, Jamie turned to William and said, “’Tis a pleasure having ye here at the Ridge, William. I’m sure it appears somewhat different than ye recall from last ye were here.”

“Indeed. I was just saying so to Papa as we arrived.”

The four of them stood in awkward silence until Claire invited them into the parlor for refreshment. She served biscuits and tea, though the tea was quickly forgotten by all parties when she brought out Jamie’s finest bottle of whisky.

“This is an excellent batch,” said John. “It must’ve been aged at least as long as our last visit.”

Jamie quietly sipped his drink, showing no intention of responding.

“Yes,” Claire interjected, “You’re not far off. This has been in a sherry barrel for over five years. Isn’t that right, Jamie?”

“Aye,” he said.

“Pardon, Mother Claire, but how is young Fanny?” said William. “I hope she’s well?”

“She is, indeed. She’s adapted to life on the Ridge easily enough. Having children her age to play with most certainly helps. She’s over at Lizzie Beardsley’s learning the finer points of needlework.”

John laughed, “There’s no stab wound or severed limb in the surgery currently in need of stitching for Ms. Pocock to observe a master at work?”

Claire and Willie laughed heartily, both John and Willie having witnessed Claire’s surgical skills first hand.

“I’m afraid not,” she said, “and if there were, Fanny doesn’t seem to share my interest in the more gruesome side of needlework.”

“A right shame,” said William. “Does Amanda or Jeremiah show aptitude for wielding a bone saw or making concoctions of ether? Surely, someone has shown interest in the family profession?”

“Well, Jemmy has more interest in any activities his Grandfather is engaged in, and as for Mandy, we try to keep children under ten away from the flammable chemicals. You did hear how we lost our last house, did you not?”

“Fair point.”

There was momentary quiet as everyone took a bite of their biscuits and drained their glasses of whisky. Claire went around filling glasses once again. John had begun to search through his preplanned list of conversational topics when Jamie spoke to Willie.

“Ye ken, yer sister is verra pleased ye’ve come to visit. She and Ian would like to take ye up the mountain hunting for a few days.”

“I look forward to it,” said Willie. John could tell by the look on his son’s face that William would look forward to anything getting him out of this house for any period of time. “What kind of game is likely to be found?”

“Deer and small game mostly. Although,” Jamie smirked at Claire as though thinking of a private joke, “we’ve been known to see bison in these parts, at times.”

“Don’t tell me you killed a bison?” said John, wildly impressed.

Jamie didn’t answer. He just inhaled the scent of his whisky as though examining the flavor profile.

Claire once again spoke for her unwilling husband. “Um...actually, it was Brianna, Marsali, and I who fell the beast. Though, Jamie should get credit for shooting him in the leg days prior.”

William barked out a laugh. “Oh, to have been here to see it! How on earth did you kill it?”

“An axe, a bone saw, and…” she laughed, “the laundry. I’ll leave you to guess which weapon belonged to which woman.”

William was immensely entertained. “The women in this family never cease to amaze.”

John chimed in, “A talented family all around. Rumor has it that Jamie has killed more than one bear while living out here.”

William’s face, lacking John or Jamie’s ability to hide his expression, showed momentary anguish before a cold anger stole over. He brought his hand to his chest as though feeling for a necklace or something of the like. Finally, he forced himself to say, “So I’ve heard.”

Four glasses of whisky simultaneously tipped back into the mouths of their possessors. John ignored his guilt for consuming the finest of Jamie’s whisky so hastily; there was nothing to help it if he was to survive this first encounter. Claire was quick to refill glasses all around.

Footsteps entering the house were a most welcome interruption. Perhaps Jenny or Brianna would be arriving to warm the room that was now frosted over...in June.

Unfortunately, it was Germain rushing in with an expectant look on his face, as though anticipating John’s dismembered carcass to be lying in the center of the parlor.

“Mon petit-fils, va chercher Fanny, s'il te plaît. William aimerait la voir,” said Jamie, his expression remaining entirely stoic. The polished French coming from his lips was always astounding when one was accustomed to the rugged sounds of Gaelic and Scottish English.

“Oui, grand-père.” Germain looked to Claire to ensure she’d be present to stop Jamie from murdering John without him close by.

“I’ll come with you, Germain, if you don’t mind,” said William, standing and moving toward the door before the child could respond. “I’d like to stretch my legs after such a long ride.”

John stared at Willie trying to both hide and convey his look of utter betrayal leaving him alone with Jamie and Claire. Willie, however, had no eyes for either of his fathers, and was already on his way out the door. John drank back the rest of his glass and had every intention of drinking Willie’s, as well.

Jamie was solemnly watching his son walk away, his broken heart over Willie’s cold distance clear on his face.

“Dear God,” John whispered under his breath.

Claire was biting her lip in concern, clearly eager to tend to her husband. When Willie and Germain were gone, John excused himself to the privy in order to give Jamie and Claire a moment alone. He could hear Claire’s footsteps move to her husband’s side as soon as John stepped out of the parlor.

Instead of finding the privy, he meandered outdoors with intent of relieving himself somewhere in the woods. The claustrophobia of the Fraser’s parlor fell away with every step he took outside...rather, it fell away with every step he took away from the oppressive presence of Jamie himself. In fact, it wasn’t until he was thirty feet from the house that John was able to pay attention to anything other than Jamie’s emotional pulse that seemed to radiate out in waves from their great home.

Once he was out of the grasp of Jamie’s clutches, he was struck by the stunning view overlooking the Ridge from the height of the hill. Mountains, valleys, waterfalls, and streams decorated the landscape. Jamie certainly knew a thing or two about beauty and crafted his life and home to be surrounded by it.

The man himself was the epitome of beauty.

John took his time conducting his business and took longer still in returning to the house to give Jamie and Claire plenty of time to pull themselves together for Jamie’s sake. When he made it to the porch, he was intentionally heavy-footed to announce his arrival. But as he reentered the parlor, he was surprised to find the couple locked in romantic embrace. Jamie’s large frame towered over Claire, whom he had passionately wrapped in his arms. He kissed her with astonishing intimacy, considering they both knew a guest was lingering around.

Jamie’s eyes lifted to John while still kissing Claire. His eyes were tense and scrutinizing, while his mouth appeared perfectly tender against Claire’s lips. Jamie reached his tongue deep into his wife’s mouth, a glimmer of moisture reflected off the pink surface, causing Claire to whimper and squeeze her husband’s biceps.

John’s cock was immediately and painfully hard. He was stuck, paralyzed on the spot, unable to look away, unable to speak out. The kiss went on and on, making John realize Jamie was being very intentional with this display of marital intimacy. He was sending John a message—several messages—of to whom exactly Claire belonged and of where John stood in their relationship...on the outside forever looking in.

Jamie Fraser was a fucking bastard...and John never wanted him more.

When Jamie released Claire, she was dazed as anyone would be when kissed so thoroughly by such a man. John himself suffered vicarious intoxication from being only a witness. He sat himself down to more effectively hide the state of his erection. Claire turned immediately at the movement and blushed profusely, while her husband only allowed his mouth the slightest quirk of amusement.

Christ, this was going to be a long visit.

Claire cleared her throat, “More whisky?”

The men gave a simultaneous “Yes” and “Aye.”

After pouring another round, Claire sent Jamie to retrieve John and Willie’s saddlebags, possibly needing her own break from Jamie’s oppressive presence. Jamie kissed her softly with his eyes once more on John before he made his way out of the house.

“I am so sorry,” she said. “I don’t mean to make excuses for him, but you know he’s struggling.”

“Don’t worry, my dear. I’ve been dealing with Jamie Fraser’s alternating wrath and friendship for over thirty years now, or do you not recall how we met?”

She couldn’t help but laugh, “Don’t bring up that you were trying to kill him. It really won’t help the situation.”

John sighed, “A part of me hoped...after everything with Jane and Willie...that his anger would’ve settled some.”

“It did, for a while. But Jamie’s coping with a great deal at the moment. It’s not just about what you and I did, John. He...” she stopped herself. She would say no more, never betraying Jamie’s confidence. Her loyalty was beautifully endearing.

“Truly, Claire, do not be concerned on my account. Just...just take care of him...for both of us.”

She squeezed his hand and looked sweetly in his eyes. “It’s what we do, isn’t it? It’s what we’ve always done.”

The affection in her golden eyes pulled at his heartstrings. “Yes, my dear. He’s always been in need of you, but in your absence, I did the best I could.”

“As best as he’d let you, anyway.”

John laughed softly, “Too right.”

Claire poured herself a cup of tea, no doubt starting to feel the effects of the whisky. “Now tell me...I’m sure the crown and the loyalists would not be pleased at your visit here. Nor would the revolutionaries. This trip seems quite a risk for both you and William.”

“I highly doubt any of the revolutionaries would hassle General Fraser’s son, and as we both know, there is no mistaking Willie’s parentage for anyone who has seen him.”

Claire nodded.

“And the crown doesn’t exactly know we’ve come. William has been struggling with acceptance of his titles of nobility. He doesn’t seem to think he’s earned them considering his natural bloodline.”

Claire raised her eyebrows, “He can’t possibly think such titles are generally EARNED, can he? If that were the case, Jamie would be King of Scotland.”

John was scandalized at her assertion. He sipped his whisky processing her traitorous proclamation. Claire awaited his response with an expression of good humor.

John couldn’t help but chuckle, “My dear, you certainly haven’t lost your ability to disconcert your once husband.”

“Good. I’d hate for you to get complacent.”

“As if that’s possible in the Fraser household.” He took another drink. “And if Jamie was King of Scotland, you, my dear, would no doubt be Queen of England.”

Much to John’s relief, the MacKenzies arrived before Jamie returned to the parlor, taking some of the sting off Jamie ignoring John. From there, it seemed a parade of people arrived. Willie returned with Germain and Fanny, and Ian Murray came with his wife, mother, and son. All that seemed to be missing from the Fraser family was Germain’s parents and siblings.

Willie and Brianna were drawn to each other like magnets. Their eyes alight with excitement as they sat together talking free and easy.

“Tell me about the bison,” Willie pleaded. “Your mother said you ladies fell it with an axe, a bone-saw, and the laundry. I’m quite certain it was you wielding the axe. I’d wager a pound of silver on it.”

Brianna laughed, “In fact, I was the one with the axe, but don’t underestimate Mama. She’s wielded a few deadly weapons in her day.”

Claire’s eyes seemed to darken at her daughter’s words. John didn’t know what weapons his erstwhile wife had to wield, but he could see she took no pleasure from it. Jamie seemed to have noticed, too, because he nonchalantly made his way over and pulled her into his side. Ian abruptly changed the subject to the hunting party they were setting up in a few days, and John thought the shift rather intentional.

It was quite beautiful how this family took care of each other in the quietest, most subtle of ways. His soul ached to be more a part of it, though he knew it was a gift to even bear witness. His eyes lingered on Jamie’s tender stroking of Claire’s arm.

It was then he realized they were all taking care of Willie in a similar way. No one pressured him into conversation with Jamie or forced them to interact for more than what Willie was prepared to handle. They made sure his glass was full and easy conversation abundant.

Only Jenny Murray lacked self-restraint when she came by to refill Willie’s drink. She cupped his cheek maternally and said, “Ye favor him sae much, ye ken. Only, I wished ye’d ha’ grown up wi’out the shadows of loss in yer eyes that yer father had sae young, but ye have em spades just as he did. Dinna let the darkness overcome ye, laddie. Dinna let yer Fraser pride take more from ye than ye already lost.” She moved on without another word and tended to her little grandson.

“Do you know if you’ll be staying in America or returning to England?” Brianna asked her brother.

“I’m not quite certain as of yet. I have some rather large decisions to make. I fear wherever it is I plant my feet, I’ll be making a political decision as much a logistical one.”

“You’re not wrong about that.” Brianna looked to Claire and Jamie, then back to her brother. Something in the set of her mouth told John she had much to say to her brother on the subject, and this hunting trip they were planning was about more than spending time together.

Claire and Brianna both attempted to convince John to throw in with the rebels. They were certain of victory. John just couldn’t share their confidence in the outcome of the war (nor Claire’s belief that she could travel through time), and even if he could...to abandon King and country...to erase decades of devoted service to an ideal that he would just toss aside…he didn’t think he had it in him.

He understood why the Frasers would choose whatever side they thought would win the war. Their loyalty was to the safety of this beautiful family. Jamie fought for neither king, nor country, nor ideal. He fought only for the people he loved. John could only ever dream of being surrounded by such love that it should be prioritized above all other duties.

But he was not, as Jamie’s cool demeanor toward him reinforced throughout dinner and drinks afterward. And he would likely never be.

The MacKenzies and Murrays finally went home late into the evening. Germain and Fanny were sent reluctantly up to bed after Claire found them dozing off by the fire in the middle of their game of whist.

John, Jamie, Claire, and William were once again all alone. At this point in a typical evening, Claire would be winding down and soon bid the gentlemen goodnight. Then, they would start a game of chess and open a bottle of port.

However, when Claire kissed her husband and announced her intentions to retire, Willie stood and asserted, “The long journey to the Ridge has quite worn me out. I believe I shall bid you all good evening and retire to my quarters, as well.”

“Certainly,” said Claire, unsurprised but disappointed by William’s obvious avoidance of intimate time with his father. “Jamie, which room did you put Willie’s things?”

“The south-west guest room. John will be in the east.”

This information seemed to take Claire by surprise. She narrowed her eyes at Jamie as though wondering why he made that decision. She said nothing, however, and led Willie upstairs to his room.

John and Jamie were left alone in the parlor. They listened as the sound of footsteps faded up the stairway. Jamie sat stretched out in his chair near the fire. He must have crafted the chair particularly for himself, because it was twice the size of the others, and the only one on which he could truly sit comfortably. His long, powerful legs were relaxed and spread wide, his kilt dropping down to keep him covered. John sat across from him, watching him from the corner of his eyes. They both pretended to be staring into the flames, but all attention and focus were on each other.

The fire was lit more for the sake of light than heat. The hot June air didn’t require additional warming, despite Jamie’s cold behavior toward John. In fact, the warmth of the flames only added to John’s already elevated temperature being around his unrequited love.

They sat in uncomfortable silence longer than John could bear.

“You don’t have to do this,” said John. “Attend to formalities for me, I mean. I didn’t expect you to break out the chess board or anything.”

Jamie made one of his Scottish grunts before lifting his eyes to John. “I ken that. No, I...I have a question for ye.”

“Is that so?” John sat straighter in his chair.

“Aye.” Jamie moved around uncomfortably in his seat. Whatever it was he wanted to ask must have been excruciating for him. Jamie Fraser was not a man prone to fidget.

Finally, he said, “The lad forgave ye, then? He’s no’ angry wi’ ye anymore?”

John smiled sadly, “Forgiveness is not a decision a person makes once, as you know. It must be repeated day after day. I’d say he forgives me more days than not.”

“How did ye obtain his forgiveness? If ye dinna mind my asking.”

“I don’t really know. I suppose he has his reasons.”

“Venture a guess,” he said impatiently.

“Well, I supposed after we talked things through, he understood why I made the choice to conceal the truth of his parentage, and he decided loving me for being a stepfather to him was preferable to hating me for my deception.”

Jamie stared back at the fire in contemplation. “When I left Helwater, I never thought I’d see the lad again, much less have to explain myself to him. I dinna ken if he’ll even agree to hear me out.”

“He’s stubborn...like his father,” John said amused. “I’ve been on the receiving end of both your iron wills. I’m curious to discover which of you will break the other first.”

Jamie didn’t find him amusing, but rather just nodded his head in acceptance of reality.

“Is there a chance, then, that you might one day forgive me?” John asked. He did his best to remain impassive, but he noticed his hands were trembling.

“Hmphm.” Jamie emptied his glass in one drink. His eyes turned to John as he considered his answer. John’s heart thudded rapidly, increasing its pace the longer Jamie took to respond.

Finally, Jamie set down his glass and stood his full, formidable height. He looked down at John and declared, “There are many days I feel I have forgiven ye, my old friend. But today is no’ one of those days.”

“Perhaps tomorrow, then?”

“Hmphm. Perhaps.” Jamie walked toward the double doors that led back to the foyer. He stopped before walking through. “Come, John. I’ll show ye to yer room.”

John set his empty glass aside and followed after Jamie. He was led upstairs and down a long hall.

“Here ye are,” said Jamie, opening the door, waving John through.

It was a large room, decorated in dark wood, deep greens, and gold accents. A four-poster bed sat on one side of the space and a seating area on the other. The center of the wall held an enormous window facing east with a long bench in front of it, surely meant to enjoy sunrises overlooking the Ridge. John wondered briefly why Jamie didn’t place Willie in this room to win his favor.

“I’ve put yer things just there,” Jamie pointed to John’s saddle bags stacked neatly in the corner.

“Thank you, kindly.”

“And if ye’re a wee bit hot…” Jamie moved to the window and unlatched it. He opened it wide and an even breeze floated inside, cooling John down instantly, “...the mountain air is quite refreshing.”

“I’m sure it will be a glorious sight come morning.”

“Hmphm.” Jamie turned and made his way back to the door. He stopped before closing it behind him and said, “If ye need anything, Claire and I are just next door to ye at the end of the hall.”

“Thank you...and goodnight, Jamie.”

Jamie nodded and closed the door.

John’s heart seemed to have stopped working during that last interaction; however, now that he was alone, it seemed to fancy itself an acrobat. It was spinning and twirling and dancing arhythmic jigs beneath his breast bone. The only interruption of his thundering heart was the immense rush of blood moving south toward his lower regions.

“Ugh,” he grunted in his perpetual state of sexual frustration. John began his disrobing and readied himself for bed. He was surprised at the finery of the fabrics in the room. The mattress was unbelievably soft and the pillows had the consistency of clouds. Despite a thousand and one setbacks, Jamie and Claire certainly knew how to keep pulling themselves back together and rebuilding from the ashes...literally.

John grabbed a flask of whisky from his bag and moved to sit at the luxurious window seat. He let the cool breeze dance across his flaming skin, calming him, bringing his temperature slowly down. The alcohol and mountain air had him thoroughly relaxed, and Jamie’s words left him hopeful for reconciliation. It was the first time in the last month—since Willie requested his companionship as he visited Fanny and Brianna at the Ridge—that John felt anything akin to hope.

The sound of a window opening from the room on his right made his heart stutter once more...Claire and Jaime’s bedchamber. John could hear quiet shuffling and felt something like a voyeur listening in on normal domestic sounds of a couple preparing themselves for bed.

Muffled conversation floated through the window, the words an indistinguishable blend of Jamie’s gentle rumbling and Claire’s throaty, sensual tones. John sat listening to the music of their hypnotic echoes on the breeze.

A feminine squeak and giggle was followed by a deep, masculine chuckle. John had never heard such noises coming from his friends before. They were the harmonies of domestic intimacy only long-time lovers ever shared.

When John bedded Claire, it was born of grief and anguish. There was little in the way of bliss or joy in the act. There was pleasure and comfort, but not happiness. He certainly never made her giggle like that.

The voices drew nearer, their words becoming clear as they came closer to the window. “What is it with you and window ledges, darling?” said Claire, playfully. “Harboring Romeo and Juliet fantasies?”

He laughed, “Nay, mo nighean donn. ’Tis yer skin in the moonlight. Ye look like a faerie wi’ yer hair blowing in the breeze.”

Claire hummed in pleasure at whatever Jamie was doing to her on that window sill. John’s cock was as solid as marble, imaging all the possibilities.

“I’ll never tire of the taste of yer honey, Sassenach, so sweet and salty, so slick on my tongue.”

Well, he didn’t have to imagine anymore. It appeared Jamie was going to illustrate their love-making with all manner of sensual description. And it finally dawned on John why Jamie gave him that particular room, why he so kindly opened the grand window for him...the bastard was proving yet another point. Claire was Jamie’s...his to love and his to pleasure. John was the outsider, and whatever he and Claire shared was nothing to the intimacy of the long-married couple in the room next door.

Claire was a very enthusiastic recipient of Jamie’s attentions. The sounds she made were uninhibited and encouraging. John chuckled with schadenfreude that Jamie’s plan hit a mild hiccup. He doubted Jamie expected John to have experienced Claire in such a way. Yet that was one piece of carnal knowledge he knew of Jamie's wife, the sheer physicality of her...how she thrived in her sensuality, expressing herself in pleasure or grief with the rolling of her hips, the stroking of her tongue, and whimpering of her lips. John remembered her nails scratching down his back as he pounded his cock into her. He remembered her demands for more, not with words, which her mind was beyond forming, but with her hands pulling him closer and her shrieks and wails as she edged toward climax.

John hadn’t realized his own hand was gripping his cock until he heard Jamie say, “Christ, Sassenach, I’ve got to have my cock inside ye!”

John heard the exact moment Jamie entered his wife….the slap of his hips against her thighs...Jamie’s groan of temporary satisfaction...Claire’s scream of ecstasy as she tipped over the edge. “Oh, Jamie! I’m coming!”

“I feel ye, mo ghraidh. That’s it. Same my name again. Tell me who is the master of yer body, mo nighean donn.”

“Jamie! More, Jamie. For God’s sake, please don’t stop!”

John stroked his cock to the pace of their love-making, speeding his hand with the thunder of Jamie’s hips. John felt as though he was in the room with them, but wasn’t sure if he was watching or participating, if he was making love to Claire or Jamie or both. It didn’t matter. He was caught up in their passion. Whether it was his intention or not, Jamie’s jealousy had invited John into the most sacred space of their marriage.

“Claire! Oh, God, Claire!” Jamie shouted at the pinnacle of his pleasure. Claire’s breathless words were lost to Jamie’s groans of, “I love ye, mo nighean donn. God, I love ye, Claire.” His voice cracked with every other word.

John reached his own peak with Jamie’s name whispered on his lips. His seed spilled down his thighs and onto the fine fabric of the bench he sat upon. He didn’t let go when he was done, remembering the feel of Claire’s quim squeezing his cock long after they were done. He knew it was exactly what Jamie was feeling at that moment.

Soft male whispers floated on the wind, though John couldn’t make them out.

“Oh, Jamie,” said Claire, as though moved deeply by whatever it was he said. “Take me to bed, my love. Let me love you to sleep.”

Soon, all sounds from their room were gone, replaced by the crickets and frogs and howling wolves in the distance. John was finally able to move away and clean himself up. As he crawled into bed—alone—his thoughts and his body were still with the lovers next door. Perhaps Jamie knew exactly what he was doing inviting John to peer into the window of their marriage. John may have had Claire’s body, but he never had her soul. She was Jamie’s, that much had always been clear.

What Jamie didn’t seem to understand was that John never had any desire to possess Claire, nor did he want to possess Jamie. They were meant for each other. Both were at the height of their beauty in the happiness of each other’s arms. Pulling them apart felt blasphemous in the extreme.

No...John wanted to neither possess nor own either of the Frasers. But he would most certainly bask in the radiating glow of their beauty and listen to the rhapsody of their echoes on the breeze.

Chapter Text

A-lifetime-of-regret

Jamie woke to sweat-soaked sheets and not enough air. He sat up abruptly and caught his breath. His hand dropped to his cock, throbbing with a painful need.

Claire stirred in her sleep, reaching out to the empty space where he normally lay. He was tempted to lie back down and pull her close. His cock would thank him for the release. But no. He couldn’t. Not after last night. She deserved better.

He got out of bed, careful not to disrupt her further. He stepped quietly to the open window hoping the fresh air would cool him down.

Perhaps it was a mistake putting John in the bedchamber next to their own. His proximity was no doubt contributing to the dreams.

The sun was still below the horizon, but dawn light was filling the sky. The crisp mountain air carried moisture into his lungs as he looked out over his domain. The view of his Ridge in the earliest part of the day always gave him a sense of comfort. This was his place...his home with Claire.

Unfortunately, the gorgeous mountain scene did little to soothe the pain in his soul. Not when this very window was where he behaved so shamefully the night before, where he pleasured his wife, made love to her, all with intention of staking his claim over her in witness of another man.

His plan backfired. Instead of driving John out of his head and out of his bed, he only secured a more firm hold. He could feel John in the room with them as he pleasured his wife, as he spilled his seed.

After they made love, he confessed to Claire his thoughts of John while he was inside her. He expected her to feel betrayed, to call him a hypocrite for all his irrational anger he’d lashed out upon her since the time she wed John...but all she did was love him more. He could still hear her voice in his ear as she stroked his hair and asked him to let her love him to sleep. She held him in her arms and told him everything would be alright.

He was doing little to deserve her at the moment, but he couldn’t figure out how to do so when his soul was twisted up into a Gordian knot. How was he to deal with whatever it was inside him that brought John into his dreams...into their bed? And how was he to fix things with Willie when his son loathed him to the marrow of his bones?

Yes, Jamie could acknowledge in the safe spaces of his own mind and the sanctuary of his marriage to Claire that his anger at John was, indeed, misplaced. Solutions, however, did not always follow acknowledgment of a problem.

In truth, this wasn’t the first time similar thoughts of John had entered his mind. But before, they were always followed by the sickening feeling he’d get whenever he dreamed of Randall. The rage. The shame. The disgust from deep within.

But now, the ghost of Randall was nowhere to be found in his thoughts of John, except to marvel at his unusual absence. Perhaps it was Time that had healed the wounds of Wentworth. Perhaps it was watching Claire as she healed her own from her abduction. Perhaps thirty years of John’s enduring love and friendship erased any association between what John wanted from him and what Randall took from him.

Jamie looked back to his wife lying peacefully on the bed, her evening silver transforming to morning pearl. If only a month ago she were to tell him that she was dreaming of bedding another, he would lose his head with rage, yet here he was, incapable of erasing dreams of John from mind—John’s lips on his skin and lower down, bending the man over his bed and pushing inside.

He had been disgustingly unfair in his treatment of his wife. In truth, it was tragic. Claire had always been their better half in matters of kindness and compassion. If they two were really one in the eyes of the Lord, he dearly hoped her grace would spare his soul.

He said a prayer in request of God’s aid to emulate his wife’s generous spirit.

He quietly got dressed and made his way out of the house. He went down to the stables hoping the work would wear out his body to distract from his other desires. He chanted Gaelic prayers and muttered old songs in a vain attempt to fill his head with more pure thoughts.

His attempts at soothing his mind may have been futile, but at least he finished all the morning chores before breakfast.

As he made his way into the house, he could hear laughter echoing out from the kitchen. Claire was merrily chiding John about eating his greens at every meal. A bizarre sensation of gooseflesh moved from the top of his head down to his shoulders, followed by a feeling of pleasant relaxation. He realized just how much it pleased him to hear his wife and dearest friend so happy.

He once again felt like a bastard for his egregious mistreatment of them—not that John didn’t deserve SOME mistreatment for rogering his wife.

Apparently, this would be a day where forgiving his friend would come a bit easier than usual.

He stood at the door and watched Claire filling John a plate with what she seemed to think was an omelette, though Jamie had never seen spinach and weeds used in such a way at court in France. John’s polite smile couldn’t hide his dismay at the wilted garden greens cooked into his eggs.

“Oh stop that face, at once,” Claire snorted. “You’re worse than Jemmy. You’ve already lost a piece of your cranium, we can’t have you losing your teeth, as well, or next time you visit, you’ll be missing the greater part of your head.”

“Come now, my dear. Doesn’t smoking tobacco or drinking ale constitute consuming my share of plants for nutrition?”

“It most certainly does not! Don’t get me started on tobacco, darling.”

John’s answering chuckle died on his lips as his eyes found Jamie watching from the door. He sat a little straighter in his chair flushed a deep shade of red.

“Oh!” said Claire, beaming nervously at Jamie. “Good morning. Ready for breakfast?”

“Aye.” Jamie stepped close to his wife and kissed her softly on the temple before attempting to sit at the table across from John. He was detoured by Claire’s regimental insistence on hygiene.

“Wash up, soldier. You’ve been in the manure this morning.”

Jamie grinned at his wife’s lack of subtlety in telling him he smelled of shit. He did as he was told and came back to the table where Claire had his own plate of medicinally green omelette waiting for him. He was hungry enough eat without complaint and not lament the loss of Mrs. Bug’s buttery biscuits too acutely.

“Is Willie still asleep, then?” asked Jamie.

“No, you just missed him,” said Claire, sitting down on the side of the table between both men. She seemed perfectly content starting in on her own leafy breakfast. “He couldn’t run off fast enough when he found out I was the one cooking.”

“Bright lad.”

Claire cuffed his arm. “Oh stop. Actually, he was eager to explore the Ridge. He remembers you taking him out in his youth, and he wants to see how much it’s changed.”

“He should’ve waited for Brianna or Ian to take him if he didna want to ask me. The boundary lines are no’ always clearly marked.”

“He didn’t want to disturb their families so early,” said John. “He’s been awake for quite some time.”

“Is he having difficulty sleeping?” said Claire. “I could brew him a tea if he’d like.”

John chuckled, “No, um…” his ears turned bright red, “From what I understand, he was a little on edge throughout the evening. I think he said it had something to do with the acoustics in the house.”

“Acoustics?” said Claire. “Is he sensitive to sound?”

John fought back an embarrassed smile as Jamie intuited his meaning. He couldn’t help snorting despite his own abashment. The men chuckled awkwardly until Claire caught on.

“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ.” She choked on her spinach.

“He was, however, grateful to you for his room selection,” John laughed. “The view of the stables he found quite magnificent and preferable to the one in my own chambers.”

“And ye, John?” Jamie said. “Would ye rather have the bedchamber overlooking the stables? Or would ye prefer where ye slept last night?”

John’s eyes lifted to Jamie’s, no doubt to see if he was teasing or tormenting, but Jamie’s hostility toward the man had quite faded with Claire’s tender benevolence the night before and with dawn of the fresh morning light.

John's eyes seem to widen in surprise at Jamie’s good humor. They were pale blue...a morning sky to Jamie’s darker irises of a stormy sea. John looked from Claire back to Jamie before he answered without batting an eye. “As a matter of fact, I found my sleeping arrangements to be rather majestic.”

Jamie felt the heat rising to his own ears as his eyes kept contact with John. Jamie didn’t know what thoughts to attend to first: gratitude to his friend for rising above Jamie’s petty manipulations or the blood flowing to his cock at the thoughts of John’s appreciation for whatever it was he overheard.

Before spending any further time on himself or John, Jamie looked to Claire. Her eyes moved back and forth between the two men with a flush in her cheeks and a hiss of lost breath sounding from her open mouth. Jamie knew right well what that hooded look in her eyes meant. He’d provoked it a thousand times before.

He rested a hand on Claire’s leg beneath the table to steady them both.

Last night’s images rolled through his mind as he looked between his wife and his friend. John moistened his lips, reminding Jamie of what that mouth was doing to him in his dream. Claire’s hand came down on his, and he realized he was squeezing her leg with some force. He loosened his grip and took a deep breath.

Jamie suddenly found himself very thirsty and bypassed his morning ale for Claire’s glass of water. John quietly bent to continue consuming his green omelette in well-mannered compliance. Claire took the glass from Jamie’s hand and finished it off.

They ate their breakfast in silence save for the clicking of silverware on ceramic and the occasional clearing of a throat. Strangely, no one seemed in a hurry to leave the table, at least not until they heard the stirrings upstairs of the children rising for their own breakfast.

Claire stood to grab fresh plates for the children and filled them with all manner of bits from her garden they would surely complain about to high heaven. Jamie stood hoping to clear out of the house before the whining commenced.

“Did Willie give any indication where he was headed?” Jamie asked John.

“No. But I saw him walking south toward the wood just there. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble tracking him.”

The corner of Jamie’s mouth quirked at his friend. He held back a full smile, not certain it was fair to expose John to the mercurial nature of his emotional state.

Jamie moved to Claire to kiss her goodbye. More mindful of John than yesterday, and less hostile, he didn’t intend to make a show of it, but when Claire’s lips met his, he felt her body buzzing beneath the surface. He pulled back the space of a breath to look in her eyes. She was wanting something fierce by the look of her. He kissed her again because he couldn’t help himself when her whisky eyes grew dark with need.

Footsteps arriving in the kitchen had him pulling away. Fanny and Germain sleepily entered the room with their noses wrinkled at the smell.

“Madainn mhath,” he said to each as he kissed them on their heads on his way out the door. One more look at Claire and John as they welcomed the children gave him shivers down his spine. He left the house to sounds of the bairns grumbling about grass in their breakfast.

Jamie moved toward the south woods in search of William. The poor laddie was obviously not raised much out of doors since Jamie left Helwater; the boy left a trail in his wake even wee Mandy could follow. Jamie picked up on his tracks almost immediately and was able to set a quick pace to catch up.

It only took an hour of searching to find him. Willie sat on a large stone overlooking a quiet spring. He was throwing rocks in the center one at a time, listening to the gentle “ploomp” of earth colliding with water.

Jamie remembered skipping rocks with the boy on one of the lakes nearby his grandparents’ manor. Well, he supposed it was Willie’s manor now.

From some distance behind Willie, Jamie picked up a small rock and launched it into the water. It gave more of a splash than a “ploomp,” and Willie nearly jumped out of his skin as he searched for the source of the disruption.

Willie’s eyes shifted from alert to irritated in moments. Jamie was grateful that the boy's spoiled upbringing didn’t require him to learn how to control the expression of his features. Jamie could read his face nearly as well as he could read Claire’s.

“Sorry to bother ye,” said Jamie. “I ken ye were probably looking for some time alone, but I thought it best I show ye the boundary lines of the land so ye dinna run into trouble off the Ridge.”

“I remembered how to find them. It wasn’t that long ago I was here.”

“Nearly half yer lifetime.”

Willie shrugged and sat back down on the rock.

Since he didn’t send him away immediately, Jamie edged closer to the spring. He grabbed another rock and threw it in.

“Fanny was verra pleased to see ye,” said Jamie. “She asks yer sister about ye all the time.”

“She’s a wonderful young girl.” Willie tossed another rock in the water. He spoke to Jamie without looking at him. “You have my gratitude for taking her in.”

“’Tis my pleasure. As ye say, she’s a braw lass.”

“She said you’ve been kind to her...that you care for her as well as you do your own grandchildren.”

Jamie scoffed. “What did ye expect me to do? Beat her?”

“Of course not. She only shared her appreciation was all.”

“Aye. Well, no child deserves to be raised wi’out kindness and heart.”

Willie’s shoulders were tense and his breath ragged. Jamie knew his presence was distressing for the lad. He could think of nothing that might bridge the vast gap between them. It didn’t stop him from trying.

“Claire said ye left before breakfast. She made sure to save ye one of her spinach omelettes.”

Willie turned a fretful shade of green as he looked up in horror. “She didn’t have to do that. I’m really quite alright…”

Jamie smirked to let him know he was teasing. Willie huffed a quiet laugh and said, “She means well, but I’m far more partial to her skills in her surgery than the kitchen.”

“Aye. I heard how she saved yer cousin wi’ her bitty knife and ether.”

“She saved my uncle, too.”

“Hmphm. Aye, Lord Melton. I remember him well.”

They tossed several more rocks in the water. Not nearly as light-hearted and amusing as skipping rocks by the lake, but better than no rocks, at all.

“’Tis fine to see ye speaking to John again. I ken he was saddened by the rupture between ye.”

Willie eyed him disbelieving. “You can’t possibly mean that.”

Little irritated Jamie more than someone claiming his intentions untrue, especially his own offspring. “I can, and I do.”

Willie stood up and turned to Jamie with an incredulous expression. “You’ve been discourteous and inconsiderate of him since we arrived, and I’m to believe you care at all about the nature of my relationship with him?”

“Of course I care about how things are between the two of ye. What’s between John and me has nothing to do wi’ it.”

“Like hell, it doesn’t. You handed me over to be raised by the man, and you think I’ve no part in what between you?”

“I didna just ‘hand ye over’ to him. I had no claim to ye.”

Willie scoffed, “No claim. All anyone ever talks about is how there’s no stopping a Fraser when his mind is made up. Stubborn as rocks, the lot of them. Yet you put up no fight to stay with me.”

“I couldna stay.” Jamie clenched his fists. “I was forced to leave ye for yer own good.”

“You left and never looked back! You would’ve fought for your other children, wouldn’t you? Fergus and Brianna. You would’ve done anything to keep them close. Why not me? Was it because my mother forced you to fuck her?”

“No! It had naught to do wi’ yer mother! And dinna speak of such things of which ye ken naught. And if ye think I wouldna give up yer brother and sisters for their own good, as I did for ye, then ye dinna ken me, at all. I sent my wife away at Culloden. I sent Claire, pregnant wi’ yer sister, off to America to raise her safe, away from the war and the hunger and the death of Scotland. No, mo mhac, I didna get to be a father to any of my bairns. Yer eldest sister, Faith, died before I ever met her. Fergus was raised by yer aunt because life wi’ an outlaw was too dangerous. He lost his hand for trying, so I gave up my freedom for his safety. I left my wife and bairns to save their lives, just as I left ye to give ye a better one.”

Willie’s face was contorted with rage as though he heard nothing of what his father just said. “You left me for no other reason than to ensure me the title and property of a man who wanted me dead!”

“It was yers by right!”

“Having a father was my right!”

“I told ye, I didna have claim to ye! Yer family would never ha’ let me have ye.”

“You should’ve taken me with you, you bastard!”

“I had naught to my name! I lost my family, my land, my people! My eldest daughter was dead, my wife and bairn gone, and my foster son maimed. All that I touched and loved was ruined! I wouldna let my curse be brought upon ye. Ye were all I had left!”

Willie laughed maniacally, “Well look where we are...FATHER.” The word was said with venom and sarcasm. “I’m renouncing my noble titles you so diligently ensured were bestowed upon me. The only girl I ever loved killed herself rather than face the Crown I served within an inch of my life. The father I’d known since childhood has been deceiving me for a lifetime, and the father of my blood rejected me for status and money. So congratulations! You are absolutely right. You destroy everything you touch!”

Every word from Willie’s mouth was a bayonet through the heart. Jamie stood weak-kneed and breathless as his son’s pain and rage ripped through his soul.

“You even destroyed your friendship with Papa...a man who worshiped you, LOVED you with all his heart. You couldn’t even acknowledge a word from him when he was raining compliments down on you. You couldn’t even thank him for saving your beloved wife. You just discarded him like you discarded me.” William turned and yelled out in anguish, striking a nearby tree with his fist. He turned to Jamie with tears streaming down his cheeks, “You destroy everything you love!...and I...I’m just like you!”

With one last look of disgust and hatred, William turned away and bounded off farther into the woods.

Jamie stared at the place where his son disappeared in the trees long after he was gone. Tears poured down his face and sobs quaked through his body. His knees collided with the ground and he curled in on himself, aching with a lifetime of grief and regret.

Chapter Text

Whisky-On-His-Lips

 

“Claire?” John knocked softly on my bedroom door.

“Come in.” I didn’t move to greet him for fear of missing Jamie coming out of the woods. I kept watch out the window at the moonlit Ridge for any sign of him.

The door opened, squeaking quietly on its hinges. John spoke in soothing, low tones, “The children are at Ian and Rachel’s. Jenny was putting them to bed just as I left.”

“Thank you, John. That was thoughtful of you.”

“I could only attempt to put myself in Jamie’s shoes, but I thought he might want a little time and space when he returns. I can leave as well, if you think it’s best. I’m sure Brianna would find room for me along with William.”

“No, please, don’t go. Stay...for me.” I didn’t feel completely safe at the Ridge on my own anymore. Not since Hodgepile and his men came…

“Of course.” He seemed relieved. “How are you, my dear? Can I get you anything? Wine? Whisky? Tea?”

I pointed to the table next to me. I’d already started on the whisky.

“Would you mind if I indulged with you?”

I handed him my glass and went back to looking out the window. He emptied it in a few quiet gulps and refilled it before putting it back on the table.

“Are you cold, my dear? Would you like a shawl?”

“No, thank you.” I realized I was in my shift. I suppose it didn’t matter. He’d seen me in less. He wasn’t bothered. From the corner of my eye I watched him untie his stock and loose the buttons on his vest. The poor man looked as exhausted as I felt.

“How is William?” I asked.

John smiled softly in his comforting way, even as he said discomforting words. “Unwell. He said more to Jamie than he meant, I’m sure. He does that in anger. He’s doing his best to believe the words he said so he can avoid the guilt of abusing him so harshly.”

“Sounds familiar.” Both Jamie and Brianna had given me decades of that Fraser temper.

“Unfortunately, he refuses to hear why he’s mistaken. Hating Jamie allows him to believe their years apart were a gift. Loving him makes those lost years torture.”

I huffed, “I know that as well as anyone.”

“As do I. He thinks...he thinks there is something inherently wrong within himself. That he’s broken or soiled in some way. He blames Jamie.”

By the look in his eyes, feeling inherently broken seemed a concept John understood all too well. The thought pained my heart.

I grabbed his hand. “I’ve missed you. I’ve missed your visits and your letters...our conversations.”

“And I’ve missed you, my dear. I’ve never had such frank and honest conversation with anyone in my life as I do with you.” He lifted my hand and kissed my knuckles.

A wave of fondness stole over me. “You saved my life, you know, with your honest and frank conversation.”

I hadn’t realized pressure was building behind my eyes until the fall of a teardrop relieved it momentarily. John wiped the tear away and smiled sweetly.

“Our marriage may have spared your life, but I’d more likely bore you to death with my ramblings than save you with conversation.”

I shook my head ever so slightly, letting the depth of my sorrow show in my eyes. “I wasn’t talking about surviving the law.”

“Oh, I see.” He held my hand in both of his. “You meant surviving Jamie.”

The tears fell freely. “Brianna and the children were gone. No one needed me.”

“I needed you.”

I smiled softly, “As I said, you saved me.”

John pulled me close and held me as the raw anguish of losing the man we loved washed over us fresh in Jamie’s absence. John carried the scent of leather and pine trees from his walk in the woods. He lacked the more pungent male odor that lingered on Jamie after long days of physical labor. My whisky lingered on his breath.

A most welcome, “Hmphm,” sounded from the door. We snapped our heads around to find Jamie watching. He carried a bottle of whisky in his hand.

“Jamie!” I released John and rushed over. I wrapped my arms around his neck and rested my tear-soaked face on his chest. He was tense, looking between John and me, but still, he wiped the tears from my cheeks.

“Are you alright?” I asked. “Where have you been?”

“I was at the still.”

That explained the whisky. I inspected his state of inebriation. He didn’t look intoxicated nor did he stink much of alcohol. He’d had some drink, but he wasn’t drunk.

“We heard about Willie.” I cupped his cheeks. “I’m so sorry, darling.”

“The lad has every right to be angry.”

I could see the redness in his eyes from all the tears he’d already shed.

“Did he tell ye, then? What it was he said to me?” said Jamie.

“Just that you didn’t want him as a child...so he doesn’t want you now.”

“Aye,” Jamie nodded. “And then some.”

“I tried to reason with him,” said John. “I tried telling him it wasn’t so.”

“As did I. But he didna care to hear it.” Jamie shrugged and moved past me to sit in his chair in defeat, whisky bottle hanging loose from his large hand. The light of the fire flickered against his flaming hair, giving it an orange glow. “I ken what it’s like to be a young man wi’ a world of misfortune and few to blame but God himself. ’Tis much easier for the lad to blame me than the Almighty. I did play some part in his heartache.”

“You did everything you could for him,” I said, moving to kneel by his feet. My hands rested on his legs, trying to offer comfort.

“But it wasna enough. And there’s naught to be done about it now.” He tipped the bottle back, pouring firewater into his mouth.

“I’ll speak with him again tomorrow,” said John. “Rest has been known to calm him enough to see reason.”

Jamie laughed without humor, “He’s no’ being unreasonable, John. I left him. I wounded my wee lad.”

“You had no choice.”

“I ken that, but the boy needed his father, and it doesna pain him any less to know I didna have it in me to fix a broken world.”

I remembered Jamie’s prayer from long ago in the woods. “Please let me be enough,” he’d said. I lay my head on his lap to let him know he was enough for me. He stroked his fingers softly through my hair.

“No one is omnipotent,” John spoke softly. “You did all you could for William. He had a good childhood. He had every advantage. And he knew love.”

“Aye, thanks to ye and Isobel.” Jamie drank deep again. He gazed with sorrow upon his friend. “It seems I’ve spent much of my life depending on yer charity, John. Ye freed my chains, raised my son, cared for my daughter…” he stroked my cheek, “and protected my wife.”

“And I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Our friendship means the world to me.”

Jamie smirked, “’Twas no’ done of friendship, John, we all ken that.”

John flushed and looked down.

“He did it for the sake of honor and love,” I added. “There’s no greater friendship than that.”

“Aye,” said Jamie. He set his bottle on the table next to him and stood, bringing me up with him. “I am grateful to ye, John. Ye ken that, d’ye no’?”

“Most of the time, yes, I know you’re grateful...when you’re not resenting me for it.”

“Can ye blame me for holding a wee bit of a grudge, man? Jenny and Ian had the raising of Fergus, Frank of Brianna, ye of Willie, and God took Faith before I could see her. All I’ve ever wanted was a family, and they were given to everyone else to mind. I couldna even be there for my wife. You and Frank protected her as much as I have.”

“I don't know about that…”

“No? As I heard ye say when I came in, Claire’s heart was broken when ye marrit her, and ye saved her soul.” Jamie looked up to the heavens and sighed painfully. “What is my purpose in life if no’ to be the one to care for my own family?”

“Jamie,” I pulled his face down to look at me. “You’ve mended my heart and saved my soul a thousand times, at least! Your purpose in life isn’t to be everything for everyone all the time. It’s to do the best you can, and you’ve done that for all of us.”

“No, Claire. I havena done the best I could...no’ for everyone.” He looked to John. “As Willie made it perfectly clear this morning, I’ve abused my greatest ally terribly. Can ye forgive me, mo charaid, for pressing the worst of myself upon ye?”

John’s mouth dropped in surprise. After a few breaths, it curved into a half-smile, “As you know, forgiveness is something we must find within ourselves to bestow day after day. I suppose today is as good a day as any to offer it freely.”

“Hmphm. I thank ye.”

“And are you going to show him the same grace?” I asked.

Jamie narrowed his eyes in question, “For what?”

“For what?! For...what we did when we thought you dead.”

“Oh, for swiving ye?”

“Christ, Jamie. You don’t have to be so crude about it.” I pulled away.

“Me crude? John’s the one who said ye were fucking each other.”

I cringed. I supposed he wasn’t wrong about the nature of our sexual encounter.

“I believe I said it wasn’t each other we were fucking,” John corrected. “It was…” he stopped short, seeming to realize his information might not win him more of Jamie’s favor. In fact, the last time he said the words, Jamie’s fist severely damaged his eye.

Jamie smirked abashedly at the memory, “I recall what he said. Ye were both fucking me.”

“Well, we were,” I said.

“I dinna see how that could be the case when I’m the only one in this room who didna get bedded that night. I was vomiting on a floating plank to colonies.”

“I still say you got the better end of the deal. No offense,” I added for John. I would vomit every day for the rest of my life to never live through the loss of my husband ever again.

“None taken,” John smirked.

Jamie looked between the two of us and rubbed his face in his hands and shook his head in frustration.

“What?” I asked.

“Well, I get why ye did it, Sassenach. Ye think wi’ yer body, I ken that.”

I remembered that conversation well. I was better equipped not to be so offended by it this time.

“But John...ye’re a man of ideas, not yer body. A man of self-restraint! And for God’s sake, she’s a woman! I didna think ye liked to swive women!”

John pressed his lips firmly together, clearly fearful of Jamie’s response to whatever answer had formed in his mind.

“Jamie…” I tried to stop him before it escalated to violence again.

“Dinna fash, Sassenach, I’m no’ going to hurt him. I’m just trying to understand.” Jamie looked to John, “Why?”

John’s head swiveled back and forth across the room. I couldn’t tell if he was looking for better answers or for exits. When he determined there was nowhere to go, he set his shoulders and lifted his chin square on to face Jamie. “If you must know, I...I wanted to be close to you. Claire carries your soul in the palm of her hands. She was the only person who could fathom the depth of my pain and commiserate in my misery. And as far as being a woman goes…” John eyes looked me over, “She is...exceptional. It was no hardship to touch her, I assure you.”

I stepped between Jamie and John, terrified of the consequences of his honesty. Jamie’s teeth were clenched and spine stiff, but he didn’t seem angry.

With near agony of wanting in his voice and tenderness in his eyes, John said, “But we were not lying when we said you were there between us as we lay together. It was all about you.”

“Ye say I was between ye, but the fact remains that I wasna there...and it drives me mad wi’ rage,” his words were at odds with his soft tone. His eyes showed little in the way of rage. He was staring at John in a way I’d seen him do only several times before—it was a look he’d given me nearly every day since we wed—with want in his eyes. That look stirred confusion and jealousy in me the first time I saw it all those years ago...but that wasn’t the case any longer.

“Is that what you want?” John asked in shock. “To be between us? To have us both?”

Jamie didn’t answer. He turned away and found his whisky once again.

I came up behind him and spoke in a whisper, “You couldn’t be with us then, but you’re here now...if that’s what you want.”

He looked to me and back to John. Turmoil rolled in waves beneath those ocean-blue eyes. I caressed his cheek. His face leaned into my hand.

I whispered softly. “It’s alright, Jamie. It’s alright”

I pulled him down to kiss me. His lips were soft on mine, tasting harshly of raw whisky. He pulled back and looked in my eyes, gently holding my head in his large hands; he was still uncertain. I kissed him again, a little harder, a little longer. When he pulled back the next time, his eyes were steady, and he was trying to ensure that this was what I wanted, too...whatever ‘this’ was. It didn’t matter; I wanted it.

He stared at John just over my shoulder as he sealed his mouth over mine. Our tongues danced together as they did when we craved the most passionate kind of intimacy, a kiss we rarely, if ever, allowed anyone else to witness.

I pulled the ribbon loose from my shift, and Jamie pushed the fabric off my shoulders until it landed in a pool around my feet. John sucked in a breath behind me, but I couldn’t turn around because Jamie’s mouth was on mine and his hands gripped my hair so tight I could barely move.

I loosed the buttons on his sark, and he helped me pull it over his head. Our naked torsos collided as we kissed again. He gripped my arse before lifting my legs up around him.

He walked me slowly to the side of the bed and lay me down perpendicular to the headboard. I’d nearly forgotten we weren’t alone, but I soon realized why Jamie positioned me as such when I noticed John watching from not far away. His face was flush and his mouth agape as he struggled to find steady breath.

Awareness of his presence lit a fire deep inside me as Jamie kissed down my chest and sucked on my nipple. John watched us raptly, hardly moving, never saying a word. My eyes moved back and forth from Jamie’s mouth to John’s face, and my body grew all the greedier at the sight of both of these men.

Jamie stood to remove his kilt and boots. He was a glorious sight to behold, rising up naked before me. John was no less affected than I. The men held each other’s gaze as Jamie stroked his already firm cock. Jamie lifted the corner of his mouth into a smirk when John adjusted himself in his breeches.

For a moment, I was terrified. What the hell were we doing? But then it didn’t matter.

My doubts were immediately cast aside when Jamie turned his focus back to me and moved between my legs. He lined himself up like he’d done thousands of times before, but there was novelty in this instance. No one had ever witnessed our love-making...not like this, anyway.

I yelled out when he pushed inside me, my focus split between the two men. Jamie’s hips set a hard and fast pace, and I clung to his body for support from the relentless stimulation. I reached out a hand to John, beckoning him closer. He took it gently in his as he watched Jamie make love to me.

Jamie lifted to his knees, presumably to give John a better view. He added his fingers to my clitoris, and in moments I was coming as hard and loud as I’d ever come before. John’s hand was squeezing mine as his other adjusted his cock back and forth. Jamie bent to kiss me as my orgasm lingered on.

He pulled himself out before he climaxed. My heart raced wildly at all the possibilities of what he might do next. I lay there, spread wide as my husband stood up next to the bed and faced our friend.

John stared at his still glistening erection before lifting his gaze to meet Jamie’s stormy eyes. Jamie held out a hand, drawing him forward. I waited with bated breath to see what they would do.

Jamie grabbed John’s face with both hands and kissed him. John let out what could only be described as a whimper when Jamie’s tongue met his. The kiss was neither soft nor harsh. A firm meeting of male mouths, rough and sensual. John’s hands moved tentatively to Jamie’s sides, eager to explore, but frozen in timidity.

A part of me was terrified, if I was being honest, letting someone love my husband so, but my more logical brain assured me that nothing could truly harm our marriage after all we shared together. This was just something more...for both of us.

Jamie pulled away long enough to help John undress. Both their hands were shaking, making it difficult to release his buttons. I sat up, mesmerized by the two gorgeous, naked men before me. I watched their cocks meet like broadsword clashing in battle as their bodies collided when they kissed again. John was growing far less tentative; his hands roamed over my husband’s chest and down his back. Jaime had a hand in John’s hair, pulling him hard into their kiss, as his other gripped John’s backside pressing their hips together.

They broke apart with panting breath and wide eyes. Jamie turned to me for reassurance. His eyes were wild with passion, but contained underlying uncertainty. I nodded, letting him know this was as much for me as it was for him.

Jamie waited for John, as though seeking some sort of guidance. John smiled kindly, realizing Jamie was in virgin territory. He kissed him once more before turning to the bed and bending over. I sat next to John and caressed his cheek as Jamie stared nervously at John’s arse. Jamie stroked his cock as he ran a hand over the expanse of John’s bottom.

“Wait,” I said.

Jamie froze at my words, fearful I’d lost my nerve and was demanding he put a stop to everything.

“You’ll hurt him like that,” I said. “Here.”

I got off the bed and moved to my nightstand where I kept my almond cream lubricant. I scooped some in each hand and turned back to face them.

“Right,” Jamie laughed nervously. I reached for his cock to apply the cream. Jamie’s breath shuddered at my touch as I coated him from base to tip in the slick, oily cream. The scent was warm and pleasant, something we both associated with years of fond memories. He kissed me as I touched him, and I could taste both whisky and John on his tongue. Our lips parted slowly, foreheads touching, giving and taking support from each other in this monumental moment in our lives.

I turned my focus to John, lubricating his receiving end. I massaged all around, then pressed my finger slowly inside. He and Jamie both groaned as I worked the cream deeper. It was easy to see that John’s bottom had not gone untouched before. His muscles relaxed quickly under my gentle probing, and I worked my fingers around and around.

“There,” I said. I grabbed a handkerchief from the nightstand and went to the wash basin to clean my fingers.

Jamie waited for me to return, needing me beside him as he took his next step. I sat as Jamie grabbed hold of his cock and lined himself up. Incapable of doing nothing with such restless energy, I reached under John, grabbed his cock as well, and began stroking. John groaned and arched his back at my touch. Unable to resist any longer, Jamie grabbed him by the hips and slowly pushed his cock inside.

John was huffing heavily with Jamie in his backside and my hand on his front. Jamie, on the other hand, seemed to lose his breath entirely. His eyes were closed and his face turned up to the ceiling as his pelvis made contact with John’s bottom. Both men gave a small convulsion as they absorbed the sensations.

Slowly, Jamie pulled back and pushed in. We both watched in erotic fascination as his cock moved in and out.

“For God’s sake, faster!” said John, who’d had enough of the slow, torturous movement.

Jamie smirked and gave a Scottish grunt before he pulled back and shoved in with some force. Both men groaned and tightened every muscle in their body. He did it again and again.

My hands were busy, one on John, and the other touching myself. I was eager for another orgasm with all this novel, erotic stimulation. Jamie noticed and grunted once again, apparently incapable of speech. He bent over John, lifted him up, and pulled my body underneath them both. I adjusted beneath him, my legs spreading naturally.

John’s arms cradled my head, and he smiled softly. “Hello, my dear,” his voice so soft I wasn’t sure Jamie could even hear. I kissed him, then, and wrapped my legs around him. His cock, somehow still familiar, found its way inside.

A heavy weight pressed down on my pelvis as Jamie resumed his thrusting. For a moment, we were all awkward thrusts as we tried to find a rhythm. Eventually, Jamie and I held mostly still as John moved back and forth between us. Slowly, we found a pace that worked.

I watched Jamie’s face as he fucked John. I was wildly turned on by the dizzying pleasure in his eyes. John’s body, not quite as large as Jamie’s, was both novel and familiar, and I let my hands and mouth explore any surface it could find.

John was the first to reach orgasm, stimulated so intensely from both sides. He came hard, yelling out, pressing me into the bed. As he came, Jaime took over his own pace and fucked John’s arse as hard as his formidable body would allow. He came with the sound of a raging bull, bent over, biting down on his shoulder.

We all three lay still for a moment before lack of oxygen got the best of me. I had to push them off before their combined weight suffocated me. Jamie, the ever attentive lover, bent down on his knees before me, and pulled me to his mouth. He sucked hard on my clitoris, licking madly. His fingers pushed inside, taking the place of John’s cock. The thought of Jamie devouring me as I was filled with John’s semen was enough to set me off all on its own.

I don’t know how long I lay there with Jamie’s head on my thigh, coming down from the most maddening sexual experience of my life. But soon, Jamie stood up and collapsed on the bed next to me. We were a mess, the lot of us, and the physician in me forced my exhausted body up to get rags to clean everyone up. I had the men sit up against the headboard as I wiped them down.

I noticed they weren’t looking at each other, both suddenly quite shy. Jamie, of course, had any number of things he was sorting out in his mind, and John was probably reeling at the possibility of Jamie’s regret.

One thing I knew about my husband was the look on his face was nothing close to regret.

I retrieved the whisky—my bottle, not Jamie’s raw whisky—and brought it back to the bed hoping it would ease whatever shyness or embarrassment lingered between us. We all took turns drinking long and deep from the bottle.

When he had enough, Jamie grabbed me around the waist and pulled my body lengthwise on top of him. He held my face in his hands asking unspoken questions with only his eyes. Are you alright? Was this ok? Do you still love me like you always have?

Yes. Yes. And very much yes. I answered with a soft smile and a gentle kiss.

Our bed was much bigger than the one in our last house, but it was still crowded with three people in it. Conveniently, Jamie did not seem to want me to move from my perch on his chest. Perhaps he was using my body as a security blanket of some sort.

It must have worked, because he was the first to fall asleep.

When his gentle snores filled the room, John whispered, “I can go back to my room if you think it’s best.”

No. I didn’t want him gone. I reached out a hand and grabbed his, holding onto it tight. “Please stay, darling. We both want you here.”

He nodded quietly with a soft smile on his lips, then sank down onto his pillow. He watched over me and Jamie until I, too, drifted off to find my dreams.

Chapter Text

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Moonlight streaming through the window lit the lids of John’s eyes. It had been a restless night. Sleep came in short spurts and never pulled him fully under. With the illumination of the room, he opened his eyes yet again and resigned himself to a lack of rest.

In truth, if ever there was a night for wakefulness, this was it. He gazed at the glorious sight beside him where Jamie Fraser lay sleeping. He was propped up on several pillows, naked from head to toe, covered only by his similarly attired wife who rested peacefully on his chest. Jamie’s hair was loose around his face, while Claire’s seemed to be attempting to take flight. They were holding each other as though it was their last night on earth.

He’d never seen such beauty as the two lovers entangled in dreams. The sight incurred a fierce ache in his chest so painful he struggled to draw air.

The room had grown crisp with the mountain breeze traveling through the darkest parts of night. John hesitantly reached out to touch Claire’s arm, gentle so as not to wake her. She was cool enough to risk being uncomfortable. All that was keeping her asleep was the heat radiating off Jaime’s enormous body.

John forced himself out of bed to find a blanket for Claire since they were sleeping on the ones that covered their bed They had been all too exhausted from their earlier exertions to find cover. He found a soft, crocheted blanket thrown over a chair. As gently as he could, he covered his friends.

He thought, for a moment, perhaps he should leave. It seemed too intimate a scene for him to share...but he quickly pushed that thought away. Claire had asked him to stay. And he didn’t want to go...not yet. It would only be insecurity driving him away, and he’d spent far too many years left in wanting to let such silly things as self-doubt dictate his behavior when all he craved was there before him.

The shift of weight on the bed as he lay down stirred the man beside him. Jamie’s eyes blinked open and found John immediately. They stared silently at each other in the dark, the thundering of his heart the loudest sound he’d ever heard.

A small quirk of Jamie’s lips allowed him to breathe again. John permitted himself a brief smile back. He relaxed into pillows stacked behind him, but looked straight ahead, too overwhelmed by the magnitude of what was happening to face it head on.

He thought himself a bit of a coward, though only a little. He did stay, after all.

Claire quietly moaned and shifted on Jamie. The blanket fell to her hips, uncovering the long, graceful expanse of her back. Her breasts pressed like pillows against her husband's chest. Jamie whispered quiet Gaelic words in her hair. It was a deep, comforting rumble of the most earthy sounds of language he’d ever heard. Jamie’s large hands moved softly up and down her back making the gentlest sound of friction that could only be heard in the dead of such a quiet night. Claire relaxed and slept on, wrapped in the comfort of her husband’s arms.

Jamie appeared nearly gray in the colorless moonlight, especially in contrast to Claire’s vibrant, pale skin that seemed to glow under the moon’s influence.

“She is, isn’t she?” whispered Jamie, as if reading John’s mind. “Beautiful.” His soft, low tone was something John had never heard before. The sound of his friend...the lover.

“Yes, she is.” With Jamie’s eyes on Claire, it made it easier for John to speak. “I once told her of a deer that would come graze in a small clearing at the edge of the wood near my home. It would visit only a night or two before leaving for months on end. Then suddenly, it would appear back in the clearing, visiting briefly on an indiscriminate night. It was a white doe, having almost no color at all, save the silver of moonlight reflecting off its pelt.”

“Aye,” Jamie whispered. “I’ve seen such creatures before. I havena the heart to hunt something sae beautiful. Such things are meant to be treasured...protected.” He rubbed his hands up and down his wife’s body.

“That’s funny. It never occurred to me to do so. I just admire the sight for the time it graces me with its presence. Those brief nights are a gift all the more splendid for their transiency.”

“Hmphm. I dinna ken how ye can leave such beauty be and no’ feel the need to possess and protect it.”

“Perhaps because possessing such a thing would take from it what makes it so exceptional to begin with...its rarity.”

“Are ye speaking of the doe, man? Or Claire?”

“Both. If I possessed the doe, she’d become a mundane part of life rather than a momentary experience of absolute splendor.”

“And Claire? Ye think she loses any splendor wi’ the passing of time?” Jamie raised an eyebrow daring John to confirm.

“Not at all. The rarity I speak of with Claire is in her connection to you. That, my friend, is a rare thing. To attempt to possess any piece of the love you share would diminish its perfection. No...I’d much rather be gifted what time I have, experience the splendor of the moment, then preserve what I admire so dearly exactly as it should be...as the silver of moonlight captured in a moment of fortune.”

Jamie let out a long, slow breath. A raspy hum sounded in his chest, almost like a purr of a contented cat—if that cat was the size of a bear. “Speaking of rarities, John. I’ve never met another soul quite like yours.”

John couldn’t decide if that thought was a comfort or not. Specialness was more than isolating.

“Can I ask ye something, mo charaid?” said Jamie.

“Of course. I’m sure none of your questions could be as intrusive as any number of things your wife has asked me before,” he laughed.

Jamie wasn’t laughing. John looked up at him shyly. Perhaps he was mistaken.

“Go on,” John encouraged.

“Did’ye...was it alright for ye, then?”

John tried not to choke on his own tongue. He cleared his throat and adjusted the pillows behind him as he tried to gather himself. When he settled quietly back, he was hardly more composed. “Are you asking if I found it...pleasurable?”

“Aye. I mean...I dinna ken how it should be wi’ a man…”

“I see.” John tried not to laugh at the sheer absurdity of the question...he failed. A few bubbles of laughter escaped his lips before he could reel himself in. “Um. Yes. I found it quite...enjoyable.”

Jamie snorted, “Ye look like a child caught stealing cookies from the pantry, man. D’ye never talk about it, then? The love-making? No’ wi’ Isobel or...or anyone else?”

“Not typically. No.”

Jamie laughed quietly at John’s discomfort.

“There is one exception,” said John.

“Oh?”

John dropped his eyes to Claire, and Jamie chuckled heartily again.

“I’d wager she drove ye mad wi’ her frankness.”

John’s smile couldn’t be helped. “She’s completely wi’out any sense of decorum in the bedroom.”

“Thank God for that.”

“Yes, well, I see it has its benefits.”

Jamie placed a hand on John’s thigh, causing him to suck in a dizzying breath. He’d yet to center himself when Jamie asked again. “I mean it, John, did ye like it? Was it like ye thought it might be?”

His lungs deflated in a shuddering exhale. Memories cascaded over him of what it felt like to kiss Jamie...his lips, his scratchy beard, his tongue...to have him fill him from behind...to make love to Claire once again…

“If I ever allowed myself to dream such a thing could happen, I assure you, the reality rendered the fantasy insignificant.”

“Good.” Jamie squeezed John’s thigh, but didn’t take his hand away. John was failing at all attempts to remain unaffected by the touch; a sight that could hardly go unnoticed by Jamie.

“And you?” John asked. “Did you...find it bearable?”

“Bearable?” Jamie laughed. “Nay, I can say wi’ certainty, ’twas more than I could bear.”

Jamie’s thumb stroked back and forth on John's thigh, spreading gooseflesh across his skin.

“I’d been having dreams, ken,” Jamie said, soft and low, “first in the night...then in the day. I fought them for a time...”

“Why did you stop fighting?”

Jamie’s free hand stroked his wife’s hair. “Claire. She said it was fine. She loved me anyway. I suppose if she was alright wi’ it, it must no’ be so bad.” He took a deep breath and a long pause before he went on, “And I wanted it, ken. I wanted ye, John.”

Pressure mounted behind John’s eyes as moisture built, threatening to fall. He closed them and rested his head back against the pillows, doing all he could to steady himself, to contain the fury of emotion threatening to spill.

James Fraser wanted him.

“Ye alright, man?” Jamie teased.

“No,” said John, laughter escaping with the word. “No, I don’t think I’ll ever be ‘alright’ again.”

Jamie moved his hand then from John’s thigh to his cock.

“Oh God,” John’s eyes snapped open to see the large, masculine hand wrap around him. Jamie’s grip was firm and curious, thumb caressing the head and the small slit at the tip. He massaged, squeezing tight and letting go, then squeezing yet again. All the blood in John’s body seemed to be drawn to that man’s hand. He’d never seen his cock so big in his life.

“I suppose ’tis no’ all that different than mine.”

John snorted, but stopped short as Jamie started stroking. Never had a hand felt quite so extraordinary before. He lay there watching Jamie pleasure him, a sight he never thought he’d ever see.

John wrapped his own hand around Jamie’s, wanting to touch the hand that touched him. He refused to imagine Jamie’s mouth in the place of his hand. He wasn’t sure Jamie would ever be ready for such a thing, so he forced himself to enjoy what the man was willing to give, rather than living in disappointed hopes for an unlikely future.

“Christ, Sassenach!” said Jamie.

Lost in his pleasure, John hadn’t realized Claire had awoken from Jamie’s movement. Claire was giving a humming giggle from where her mouth had latched onto one of Jamie’s nipples. His other hand had a fistful of Claire’s hair, though John couldn’t tell if it was to hold her in place or push her away.

It became evident that Claire was in complete control when she moved to the other nipple. The extra pressure it created from Jamie’s fist was not something John was in any place to complain about.

“Good morning, my dear,” he said, even though the sun had yet to rise.

Claire removed herself from Jamie’s grasp and sat up astride her husband. He could tell from Jamie’s gasp that Claire had mounted his cock. “Good morning,” she said. “You gentlemen are up early.”

Claire reached up and stretched, giving a great yawn before rolling her hips over Jamie.

“The early bird and all that,” said John, voice husky at the sight of his once wife riding her husband, glowing in the light of the moon.

“I don’t think it’s a worm Jamie caught.”

John snorted in embarrassment, and Jamie barked with laughter.

“Let me check to be certain,” she said, grinning. She removed their hands from the alleged worm, and replaced them with the heat of her mouth.

“Jesus, Mary, and Bride!” said Jamie, watching his wife. He rolled his hips, pushing up inside her as she sucked John’s cock.

“Dear God,” said John, his hand coming to rest in a tangle of her hair. “Is this how you Frasers always start your day?”

“Something of the sort.”

Conversation ceased for a moment, save grunts, moans, and whimpers, until Jamie reached under Claire and did something that caused her to release John’s cock and let out a shriek and groan.

“That’s it, mo chridhe,” Jamie said with pride. “Let’s hear all yer wee noises.”

Her vocal enthusiasm was as beautiful as any symphony, especially in harmony with Jamie’s Scottish grunts and encouragements.

Jamie sat up with Claire still astride him and kissed her deeply as her climax lingered on. His hands gripped her bottom, squeezing the flesh, groaning into her hair. Jamie, it seemed, very much appreciated his wife’s large, round arse.

Finally, he gave it a firm slap and murmured, “Go get yer grease, Sassenach.”

Claire stood from the bed and looked the two men over with a haze of pleasure in her eyes. “That’s an impressive sight, I must say.”

“Oh?” said Jamie.

“Indeed.” She moved around to the nightstand next to John and fished out a small jar that held the cream she’d used on them the night before. “There was even a moment last night where I thought I might be witnessing a sparring match between two expert swordsmen,” she pointed to their cocks.

Jamie found that highly amusing. He grabbed his slick cock like the handle of a blade and said, “I suppose ye could compare it to a dirk on a good day when I sink it deep in yer belly.”

“Oh, darling, you gentlemen wield long swords, at the very least,” she said, as she sat on the bed next to John, removing the lid from her jar and scooping out the cream.

“Ye’re a flatterer, mo ghraidh.”

“Well,” said John, “it certainly felt more like a jousting lance from the receiving end.”

Jamie snorted aloud, and Claire’s delicious curves bounced in humor.

“That’s no exaggeration,” she confirmed. “Especially when he’s in a particular mood.”

She rubbed the white cream in her hands, and as she did so, it melted into a more liquid grease. It smelled warm and lovely, like flowers and almonds. But it was nothing to how it felt when her hands came down on his cock.

“Oh dear God in heaven,” said John, squirming with pleasure. “What sorcery is this, madam?”

Jamie chuckled, “Greased lightning.” He grabbed the jar and started applying some to his own cock.

“You, my dear, are the only person on earth I could believe capable of extracting oil from lightning.” He dipped a finger into the jar and scooped out a small bit. He rubbed it against his thumb and felt the slick moisture soften with the heat of his hand.

Claire massaged it into his balls in the most soothing, pleasurable manner—she had the most splendid, gentle touch—then worked her way down to his arse. He watched her breasts sway back and forth as she lubricated him thoroughly. When her fingers pressed inside him, he groaned at the familiar intrusion, once again surprised at how easily he adapted.

He lifted his hand to touch her breasts with his greased fingers, but hesitated before making contact. He turned to Jamie for permission—silly, he knew, with her fingers up his arse, but he still remembered, all too clearly, the impact of Jamie’s fist on his eye.

Jamie nodded his assent and watched with a smirk as John touched Claire’s breast. Her hands hesitated in their own task for a moment as his slick fingers moved across her nipple. The rosy pink little buds went from shockingly smooth to tight and rough with just a small shiver of her body. Claire leaned forward and kissed him as they touched each other so intimately.

When they pulled apart, he saw Jamie had stood from the bed and moved to bring rags and the water basin to the nightstand. He moistened a cloth and handed it to Claire who wiped down her hands. The way they moved around each other was mesmerizing. Unlike John, who lay waiting for instruction, they seemed to read each other’s thoughts and anticipate the other’s needs.

He was quite surprised when Jamie knelt on the bed before him, spreading John’s legs wide apart with his strong, forceful hands. John’s heart beat madly as he looked up at the impressive Highlander, vivid hair hanging loosely around his face. Jamie’s body was the archetype of perfection, solid muscle and ideal proportions...a demigod in the flesh.

“Is this alright?” he asked John, as his hands went to John’s hips, lifting his bottom to an angle suitable for his cock.

It was far more intimate than sexual encounters John typically had with other men. He couldn’t breathe thinking of what it would be like to watch Jamie’s face as they made love. Words were lost to him, so he just nodded his head.

Jamie gripped John’s hips tightly and pressed his cock to John’s arse, the angle a little more challenging than when he had John bent over the bed last time. John forced himself to relax, fighting against the instinct to push out rather than take in. Claire’s grease certainly made the task much easier. Jamie’s thick cock moved slowly, inching in deeper and deeper until John’s balls rested on Jamie's pelvis.

Both men’s hips stayed still as John adjusted. They were grunting with every breath as they took in the sensations. Jamie started shifting his hips gently side to side, absent-mindedly rubbing John’s cock and balls.

“How does it feel?” asked Claire.

John was about to answer that he was fine, but the look in her eyes told him her question was more than just concern for his welfare. She was wildly curious and very aroused.

“It’s mildly uncomfortable, at first, but quickly becomes quite pleasant...if done properly.”

“Ye want to try it, mo nighean donn?” Jamie asked. His eyes flashed and John could feel the twitching pulse of excitement in Jamie’s cock at the thought of rogering his wife in the backside.

“The thought did cross my mind,” she said.

Jamie bent forward to kiss her, inadvertently pushing deeper into John. “Ye want us to fill ye both sides?”

Claire shivered next to him and whimpered with excitement.

“It would be a tight fit,” said Jamie, smirking devilishly. “Perhaps we’ll practice a bit before we try...loosen that rump up of yers.” He gave her a swat on the arse and another kiss before pulling back up on his knees. “For now, give me a minute, and we’ll put ye on John’s cock between us again.”

Jamie stared down at John spread before him. John could feel Jamie vibrating with anticipation. John’s arse was aching with pleasurable fullness when Jamie grabbed his hips once again. Slowly he pulled away, causing a simultaneous feeling of relief and a twinge of loss, but it was quickly replaced by a press of his cock back inside.

“Oh Christ,” said Jamie, panting. “Sae tight.”

He pulled out and pushed in again, fucking with aching slowness. John watched Jamie’s abdomen rippling in the pale moonlight every time he moved. He very much needed the man to fuck him harder.

“Come, Claire.” Jamie took John’s cock in one hand and held the other hand out to his wife. Facing Jamie, Claire straddled John, sheathing him as she came down and wrapping her legs around Jamie. A woman was a novelty to John—he had his cock so rarely inside them—but Claire was hot and familiar, and his cock was more than delighted to find its pleasure in her.

Jamie had his arms tight around his wife, holding their bodies together as he moved his hips against John’s arse. When John met his thrust, his own cock pressed hard into Claire. He was certain to lose himself far too soon, being surrounded in pleasure so thoroughly.

John could hardly breathe with the significance of the moment. He was being fucked by James Fraser, the man he’d dreamed of for decades. He was fucking Claire, the most extraordinary woman he’d ever met. He lay there, his hands on Claire’s waist, as he did all he could to stifle his release and not to end the moment for her too soon.

Jamie was kissing Claire thoroughly, rubbing their bodies together as they moved. His attraction to her showed on every line of his face. His devotion to her was the most beautiful thing John had ever seen. All of it, once again, illuminated by the silver of moonlight.

Jamie picked up their pace, forcing Claire to lean back against John, their limbs a tangled heap around Jamie, finally giving John the satisfaction he craved. Jamie bent over, sucking on Claire’s nipples and rubbing her sex as he fucked madly on.

Claire met the peak of her pleasure with her head thrown back and a scream of Jamie’s name. Moisture flowed over John as she clamped down on his cock rocking against him and rubbing on her husband. With her tightening friction on his cock and a deep thrust from Jamie, John lost hold and shot his seed. Feelings of hedonic euphoria almost seemed to pull his soul momentarily out of the confines of his body.

Claire collapsed back on John, and he wrapped his arms around her, kissing the back of her neck as his cock pulled loose.

“Ifrinn,” cursed Jamie, who’d stopped moving. He reached down, fingering the seed dripping from Claire and caressing John’s softening cock.

Jamie was startled by a loud voice coming through the window, “Hullo, the house! Mistress Fraser!” Jamie grunted in frustration, the only one who hadn’t reached his finish. Claire groaned, as well, and rolled off John.

“Is everything alright?” asked John, surprised they weren’t rushing to identify their early morning visitor.

“A patient, to be sure,” said Jamie.

Claire had gotten out of bed and wrapped herself in the crocheted blanket. She peered out the window and waved. “I’ll meet you in the surgery!”

She shut the window and moved to the basin to wash up. “It’s the Meullers. It looks like an accident by the sight of the blood.”

“I’ll go down,” said Jamie, reluctantly pulling his cock out of John.

“No need,” she assured him. “Come when you’re done.”

“Ye sure?”

“Of course.”

Claire came to kiss her husband before she got dressed. She surprised John by kissing him, as well. “The life of a doctor,” she said, resigned.

They watched her wash up and dress quickly before rushing off downstairs. When the door closed behind her, Jamie looked back to John. There was a sudden shyness in his gaze that hadn’t been there with Claire present. John felt the intimacy of the moment, too. Claire provided a buffer between them that John hadn’t realized was there.

“Does that happen frequently?”

Jamie shrugged, “Enough to be a bother.” But John could tell Jamie wasn’t interested in talking about his needy tenants. He was still hungry...still yet to be sated.

Jamie bent over him slowly. Their bodies pressed together, chest to chest, belly to belly, cock to cock. John rubbed his cock against Jamie’s, who made a moan of eager desire. Jamie’s mouth came down on his with no romantic preamble. His tongue pressed inside, licking hard and deep. John tangled his hands in Jamie’s hair pulling him closer.

“Oh God, John,” his voice quiet with the guests in their house, “I want to bugger ye so hard, I think I’ll lose my heid.”

“What on earth are you waiting for?’

Jamie reached down to line up his cock, and with far less ceremony than the last time, shoved himself in hard. John felt a twinge of pain that only served to pleasure him more.

Jamie was a powerful man, his hips and cock demanding their fair share. He was punishing with every thrust. His pelvis rubbed against John’s cock, hardening him yet again. Jamie bit down on John’s neck as he fucked him like a stallion, grunting like a rutting beast.

John’s hands roamed up and down Jamie’s scarred back, muscles rippling beneath his fingertips with every move. John’s hands dropped his arse beckoning the violence he knew lived just below the surface. He gripped Jamie’s firm muscles, splitting his buttocks, and pressed his finger inside in arse.

Jamie let out a vicious roar as he battered into John. Jamie’s hand grasped onto John’s shoulder for leverage, bruising him to the bone. His seed spilling, spurting hot and thick.

“Christ!”

John could feel Jamie’s cock still pulsing. Jamie’s body struggled with wanting to keep fucking, but had nothing left to give. His breath rattled in John’s ear. His body, burning with heat, weighed heavier as time passed by. John stroked a hand through Jamie’s sweat-dampened hair, hoping he’d fall asleep so they could stay that way forever.

But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Jamie lifted his head and slid his cock out. John could feel the seed sitting heavy inside, threatening to drip out. Jamie met his gaze with a look of a man who’d just mastered another.

John knew his love for Jamie was showing plain on his face. Jamie’s mouth quirked into a half-smile. He moistened his lips and bent to kiss John. The scruff of two impending beards scraping against each other as their mouths opened and their tongues met.

Jamie finally sat up, wiping his face as sweat dripped down his brow. His scars glistened their own silver in the moonlight. Not for the first time, John wished he knew who put them there so he could avenge his friend—then he remembered it was Jamie Fraser, a man certain to find his own vengeance as needed.

Jamie moved to the basin to wash himself down. John quietly followed suit. He missed the ease that Claire brought with her sharp wit and her warmth of acceptance. Her influence on Jamie even more marked than on himself.

Jamie gathered John’s clothes and tossed them on the bed before moving to get himself dressed. John watched with shocked interest as the man lay his plaid on the floor, folding pleats, then lying on top to buckle it on.

“Should we go down to assist Claire?” asked John.

“We can check in on her, but she’d ha’ already come up if she required assistance. I’ll go down while ye finish dressing and start up breakfast. She’ll no’ say no to some coffee.”

“And you? Do you need help with any of the chores this morning?”

Jamie grinned as he put on his boots, probably finding it difficult to imagine John shoveling manure. “Nah. Check in on the boy, will ye? He wasna in a good way last I saw him.”

John nodded, “I’ll do just that, though I’m sure he’s in good hands with his sister.”

“Aye.”

Jamie stood his full height, towering over John. He seemed to be trying to figure out something to say.

“Go on,” said John. “I’ll be down in a moment.”

“Aye.”

John turned to find his stock, but was surprised by Jamie pulling him back and kissing him firmly before turning in a swirl of his kilt and striding away.

John stood still, staring blindly at the place Jamie had just been. He could still feel the moisture from his lips and the scratch of his beard. Somewhere in his periphery, he noticed the dawn had begun filtering into the room, chasing away the evening moonlight.
____________________

John skipped breakfast that morning, certain his stomach couldn’t handle anything stronger than tea. He checked in on Claire, bringing her a second cup of coffee—Jamie had brought her one some time before, but she’d already finished it. Her patient had a wood-chopping accident that resulted in a festering wound that would require a significant amount of attention only she was capable of providing. With her assurances that he would be of little assistance, he set out to find the MacKenzie cabin.

The sunlight seemed to make the events of the night feel as though they were little more than a dream. His body protested the sun’s insistence with sore muscles and the pleasant relief of a tension he wouldn’t otherwise notice he carried.

When he came upon the cabin, memories of his visit to the Ridge when Willie was a boy came flooding back. His illness was the great catalyst in the shift of his relations with Claire.

John called out to the house as he arrived as was etiquette in the backcountry, otherwise he’d likely be greeted with a rifle aimed at his head. Brianna MacKenzie opened the door and grinned widely when she recognized her visitor. John felt the heat of shame flush through him thinking of the evening he just spent with both her parents.

“Good morning, my dear,” he said.

“Morning!” she said. “You’re in time for breakfast.”

“I already ate, unfortunately,” he lied. “I was hoping to speak with William. Is he still here?”

“Of course. Would you like to come in?”

John couldn’t imagine facing the whole family quite so soon. “I’ll wait out here if they don’t mind.”

“Sure. One sec.” She went back inside. John chuckled at her strange manner of speaking. He’d spent a good amount of time in the Americas by now, and he’d yet to find anyone who spoke anything like her.

The door opened once again to reveal William. He stepped outside into the light, the sun reflecting auburn streaks usually hidden in his chestnut hair. He covered his head with his hat before he made it down the stairs to his stepfather.

“Shall we take a walk?” asked John.

William shrugged like he did at fifteen, but followed as John led him into the woods.

“How are you this morning, William?”

The young man huffed in a way that was far too familiar to his father after the events of the morning.

“I must admit to feeling somewhat abashed after my behavior yesterday,” said Willie.

“Abashed?”

“Yes. I truly wasn’t intending to engage with Mr. Fraser in such a way on this visit. I’d meant only to spend some time with my sister and Fanny, ensure their wellness, and be gone.”

“Don’t worry about Jamie. Whatever words you said to him are already forgiven. You’ve no need to feel ashamed.”

William scoffed, “The only shame I feel in relation to Mr. Fraser is that of our connection of blood and that I allowed him to see any degree of the anguish our relation has brought upon me. I did not mean to let him see my vulnerability in such a way. I do not, however, have any regret in causing him pain. It’s little more than he deserves.”

John’s instinct was to jump to Jamie’s defense. It’s what he attempted to do yesterday, but that only served to drive William further away. John did all he could to put his feelings for Jamie aside.

“Anguish? Are you in such pain in his presence?”

“Not only in his presence...as you well know.”

“What has he done to wrong you so?”

Willie walked silently beside him for some time. The quiet of the mountains echoed in the space around them.

Finally, Willie asked, “Will you tell me the truth of my conception, Papa?”

John flushed. “Only two people know what happened that day, and the only one capable of speaking of it would never do...not to you, anyway.”

“Why won’t he tell me?”

“Because he’s a man of honor.”

“Honor!” William spat the word. “How honorable could it be to bed a woman out of wedlock?”

“You’re angry, Willie. You can’t see your father clearly through your rage.” John smiled, “And do you mean to tell me you’ve never bedded a woman?”

“You know right well I have.” Willie kicked a rock. When he spoke again, his voice was defeated. “She forced him, didn’t she? I know she did.”

“If you know she did, why are you asking me?”

“Perhaps I’m hoping I’m mistaken.”

John stepped over a large hole in the ground, hoping to avoid snakes on this walk. “I don’t believe you are...mistaken, that is. I knew Jamie rather well during his time at Helwater. He was sick with grief over the loss of Claire, much the way Claire was when she came to live with us in Philadelphia. He had no interest, no desire in bedding anyone, much less Geneva who was known to be unpredictable. One word from her, and Jamie could’ve been sent back to prison for the rest of his life.”

“And that is where my anguish lies, Papa.”

“Explain.”

“That he didn’t want my mother...and that he didn’t want me.”

John grabbed Willie’s arm tightly and said, “Now there is where you’re mistaken. Your father wanted you so badly, he killed for you. He risked his freedom, yet again, to keep you safe. And when your grandmother had him released from his parole, he stayed at Helwater to be with you. He allowed his son to become his master just to be close to you.”

He released William’s arm and walked on. William’s breath was loud and uneven, though not from the exertion of their easy stroll in the woods.

“Why did he leave?”

John scoffed, “You’ve seen a mirror, William.”

“What would it matter if someone found out? I still hold my titles.”

“Do you really think your grandparents would’ve allowed him to stay at the risk of ruining the family’s reputation? He was a traitor to the crown, hardly off parole. He knew he’d cause you nothing but heartache and suffering, so he left. He left FOR you, not because of you.”

William shook his head, “No, I cannot accept that the great General Fraser would not stand up to my grandparents, that, if he loved me, he wouldn’t do everything he could to make sure I was safe and protected and with him, like he would for his other children!”

John stopped and turned to look Willie head on. He waited for his stepson to meet his eyes like a man. “You have no idea the lengths Jamie Fraser went to ensure you were safe and protected.”

“Then inform me!”

“I most certainly will not!” John flushed at the memory of Jamie offering his body to him. “He did everything he could...everything. You’ll just have to take my word for it, because neither he nor I will discuss this with you further. Is that clear?”

“But…”

“Did I make myself clear?”

Willie looked down, “Yes, Papa.”

“Jamie entrusted me to care for you, William. You think you have anguish now, but you know nothing of the word until you’ve seen James Fraser the day he was forced to let you go. That, my son, is anguish.”

John put a hand on Willie’s shoulder. “I know you think he didn’t love you because he walked away from you, but...sometimes, in order to love someone best, you have to walk away from them. Talk to your sister about that...or Fergus Fraser...or Claire. He was forced to walk away from them, as well. And not even you, my son, can deny Jamie’s love for Claire.”

William nodded ever so slightly. Sensing a shift in their conversation, John turned back toward the house with Willie following a step behind.

“So, has he forgiven you for marrying Mother Claire?”

John laughed, “He never quite spoke the words, but his hostility toward me has dramatically cooled.”

“You spoke to him last night?”

John did his best not to flush. “I did.”

“What did he say about me? Was he angry?”

“Only at himself.”

“If he did nothing wrong, why would he be angry?”

“Because he doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough for you.”

“Perhaps he’s not.”

“William…” John said sharply.

“I mean, that’s why he asked you to care for me, isn’t it? He knew he couldn’t do it himself.”

“Hmm. I suppose you’re right.”

They walked in silence until they came back in sight of the cabin.

“I’m sorry I interrupted your breakfast,” said John. “Perhaps your sister saved some for you.”

“Here’s hoping she did not. I think I’ll go visit my Aunt Jenny for a decent meal before we leave on this hunting trip. None of the women in this family can cook.”

“But they can fell a bison with an axe, a bone saw, and the laundry, so hold your tongue in their presence, unless you want to be next.

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Jamie jumped into the spring in the dark of night to wash the blood from his body. Bobby Higgins had asked for his help in his mare’s foaling, and the beast didn’t give birth until long after sunset. Claire would skin him alive for coming into the house dripping in the stench of horse.

It was a warm night, so there was no discomfort in swimming around in the fresh water, but he was eager to be home. He hadn’t the chance to talk to Claire alone since before John and Willie arrived.

As he walked up to the house in his dripping kilt and sark, he wondered how Claire and John were spending their time alone without him. He’d been thinking about it for some time. Possessive jealousy had been stabbing him in the gut all day. He just wasn’t sure if it was the same jealousy he felt when John and Claire wed, or if it was a new jealousy that he couldn’t be there to enjoy whatever it was they were doing with them.

He knew he was being unfair, what with the way he buggered John when Claire left them that morning—God, that felt good. If they made love while he was out, he’d have no right to be angry...fair was fair. He prepared himself for whatever he’d find as he walked into the dark house.

The bottom floor was dark and empty save the snores of Paul Mueller coming from Claire’s surgery. Food and ale were awaiting him at the table. He remembered when he first fought with Claire about bedding John; Claire said she would have preferred to make sure Jamie had a full belly before telling him the truth, seeming to think him more calm and rational without the added strain of hunger. In an effort to be as generous to his wife as possible, he forced himself to eat everything on the plate.

Finally, he made his way upstairs, checking every room to ensure there were no unexpected guests spending the night. The children, it seemed, were still at Ian and Rachel’s. Mueller's family had gone home as planned with intentions to retrieve Paul the next day. The only occupants on the second floor were both in the same room...John’s bedchamber.

Jamie crept up quietly to listen to the sounds of his lovers’ voices through the crack of the open door.

“No, my dear, don’t move there. You won’t like what happens,” John said.

“Perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment.” Claire’s voice was frustrated and bored.

“I’m beginning to believe that.”

“I wish Jamie was here. I much prefer watching the two of you.”

“Yes, well, we need something to pass the time as you wait for him. The worn down floorboards beneath your pacing feet will thank you for it come morning.”

“I suppose you’re right. Ok, get on with it then. The sooner you get moving, the sooner this will be over.”

“It’s not meant to be torture, Claire.”

Jamie silently opened the door. He was beyond curious of what John was trying to coax his wife into doing. He nearly laughed aloud when he laid eyes on the scene before him.

“Ye dinna want to move there, Sassenach,” said Jamie as he walked into the room.

They were playing chess. He could see immediately by the arrangement of pieces on the board that John was doing all he could to not outright slaughter her. Claire looked up at Jamie with a vibrant expression of joy.

“And why not?” she said, grinning as he came near. She was looking beautiful in nothing but her wee shift.

“Because this wily bastard will ha’ yer queen cornered in two moves.”

“Perhaps I just want to end my misery.”

“Let me at him, then.” Jamie lifted Claire out of her seat, then sat down, pulling her onto his lap. Her fat bottom plopped comfortably on his thighs, making him hard for her in moments.

Chess completely forgotten, Claire nuzzled into Jamie’s neck as he made a move to protect the queen.

“You’re wet,” she said, running her fingers through his freshly washed hair. “How went the foaling?”

“Messy. Herr Müller is staying the night, then?”

“Mmhm,” she confirmed as she kissed down his throat. “He’s had enough whisky to incapacitate a bear. I’ll need to administer penicillin and change his bandages soon.”

“Before you do that,” said John, in a tone of intense concentration, “if you could continue distracting Jaime a few moments longer, I should be able to wrap this up with minimal effort.”

“If it takes ye that long to do me in wi’ the advantage ye have, Grey, ye’ve gone soft in yer auld age.”

“I’ve always had a soft spot for you, Fraser.” The man’s eyes glittered as he assessed his position.

“Dinna listen to him, Sassenach. He’s planning my imminent destruction as we speak.”

Claire nibbled on his ear, “Perhaps this was our plan all along.”

Jamie chuckled, “I suppose there are worse ways to meet my end.” He abandoned his focus on the game to thoroughly kiss his wife. She tasted of whisky and molasses cookies.

“Ahh,” said John, as Jamie’s hands moved from her breast to her bottom. “Check mate.”

When Claire pulled her lips away with a grin on her face, Jamie said, “Saboteuse.”

“Ayez votre revanche sur moi.”

“Just remember ye asked for it, mo ghraidh.”

Claire kissed him once more before standing up. “I better go give that injection before another match ensues.”

“Aye.”

Jamie watched his wife’s round arse bounce away. It was perfectly visible through the thin fabric made damp by his kilt.

“Another game?” he asked John, who was also watching with appreciation.

“I suppose I might get lucky a second time.” He peered at Jamie with a smirk. “You never know.”

Jamie chuckled and adjusted his cock. He grabbed the glass of whisky Claire left on the table and sipped as they reset the board.

“How was Willie?” he asked.

John kept his eyes on their task as he set up his pieces. “Calmer today. He’s appreciating his time with Brianna and the children.”

The thought warmed Jamie to his spring-damped bones. “Good. He’ll be off hunting wi’ Bree and Ian tonight, then?”

“Yes. He’s looking forward to it.” John’s concise answers were giving a clear message—he wasn’t planning on sharing much of the conversation he had with William.

“I’m pleased he has ye to confide in, a charaid.”

John finally looked up. His pale blue eyes went soft as he spoke. “Have hope, my friend. His heart is warm by nature. He doesn’t have it in him to sustain the cool facade for long.”

He turned his attention back to the game and made his first move. Jamie followed suit, watching his friend all the while for any tells of strategy.

“More whisky, man?” asked Jamie.

He poured generously into John’s glass before his friend answered. “Trying to incapacitate me with drink is an inferior strategy for the likes of you General Fraser.”

“I’m no’ above it. It’s worked on ye before.”

“Yes, well, at the time, you were giving me a violently raw version of alcohol you claimed was whisky.”

Jamie cringed at his plans from a few days ago to give him more of the same. Claire was right to stop him. Then he laughed, “We’ve come a long way playing this game, have we no’?”

“Indeed we have.” John’s long fingers pinched the top of a bishop and slid it past his knight. “Forgive me for taking any pleasure in your incarceration, but I very much enjoyed our matches at Ardsmuir.”

“As did I. We learnt much of each other in those long hours in prison.”

John smirked, “We did. In fact, I clearly recall you learning more about me that you wanted to...at the time.”

Jamie flushed in regret. His rejection of John was harsh. Being touched by a man in such a way...a redcoat...in a prison, no less...Well, it was safe to say his reaction was not really to John, but to the ghost of Jack Randall himself.

“I must offer ye my apology, John,” Jamie said weakly. “I shouldna ha’ treated ye so harshly.”

“It was neither the time nor place for such an advance. I was young and foolishly impulsive. I am the one who should be offering the apology.”

“Nah,” Jamie waved him off and took John’s bishop with a rook. “I want ye to ken...it wasna you that bothered me so…when ye touched me. It was auld ghosts, aye?”

“Ghosts?”

He could feel John’s eyes on him, but he refused to look up. “Hmphm.”

“I see.”

Jamie wondered how much John could truly see. He counted on John’s impeccable manners to refrain from asking who the ghosts were or what they’d done to him.

“Claire knows of these ghosts, I’m sure?” asked John. “You talk to her about them?”

“Aye,” Jamie laughed. “She’s the reason I’m no’ out there haunting wi’ them.”

“She saved your life, didn’t she?”

“Aye...many times.”

John reached past the small game table and put a comforting hand on Jamie’s thigh. “The two of you...like a white doe in moonlight.”

“A sweet sentiment,” said Jamie, amused. He wondered if John was more gone with drink than he realized. Jamie didn’t know how much they’d consumed before he arrived.

Abashed, John dropped his hand once he recognized what he was doing. “Sorry about that.”

Jamie grabbed his hand and put it back on his thigh where it had been a moment before. “’Tis alright, John. I’m no’ the same man I was at Ardsmuir.”

When John got over the shock of Jamie’s gesture, he smirked and said, “Not the same, no...but not all that different.”

Jamie let go to make his next move, capturing an errant knight. John’s hand remained where Jamie left it, even as he countered Jaime’s maneuver by sending his queen on a pointless mission in pursuit of a stray pawn. Back and forth they went, any sign of cerebral strategy diminishing with every turn as John’s fingers rubbed the tender skin of Jamie's thigh.

Jamie sat back comfortably in his chair, leisurely tipping his glass to spill whisky in his mouth, while all his attention was focused on the hand that edged up his leg. His kilt was tented by his cock waiting impatiently for the hand to reach its destination.

Both men lost their breath when John finally gripped Jamie’s cock and began stroking slowly. John’s hands were smaller than his own, but not so little as Claire’s. They felt foreign, all the more so because of John’s trembling uncertainty.

“I’ve waited thirty years to touch you like this,” said John. “Thirty years to hold you in my hands.”

A shiver ran through Jamie when he thought of the first time he touched Claire after their twenty years apart. “I ken something about what that’s like.”

John’s hand sped as if Jamie’s desire was spurning him on. But it still wasn’t enough. Every stroke provoked an ever increasing need that no hand would ever be able to satisfy.

Jamie’s eyes followed John’s tongue as it moistened his lips. He reached out and grabbed John by the back of the neck, flexing his hand. His voice emerged sharp and low, “On yer knees, Grey.”

John came around and knelt before Jamie, pulling up his kilt and exposing the throbbing cock before him.

“Oh God!” said Jamie, as John took him in his mouth. His head moved up and down in Jamie’s lap, grunting hungrily with every movement. Jamie gripped his hair, driving a more vigorous pace.

“Harder!” Jamie demanded. It was never enough.

John reached his hands around Jamie’s arse, pulling him to the edge of the chair. He replaced his mouth with his hand and stared jerking hard. His head dipped down to suck on Jamie’s balls.

“Ifrinn.” This was what Jamie wanted...rough, brutal, and strong.

John’s head dipped further, licking down to Jamie’s arse. His tongue pressed inside, causing Jamie to unleash a fierce growl. In and out he moved his tongue with the same pace as his hand.

“No!” Jamie barked when John released him prematurely. But his frustration didn’t last long. John’s mouth came down on his cock, sucking once again. John’s finger’s retraced the path of his tongue and pressed firmly inside.

It was an alien feeling...an intrusion of something foreign...something that shouldn’t be there. But damn it to hell, Jamie wanted more. John sucked wildly as he fingered Jamie’s arse.

Jamie was moaning heavily and edging toward his finish. The thought of shooting his seed into John’s mouth was intoxicating, but Ifrinn, he wanted to bugger the man again!

“Get up,” Jamie demanded, pulling himself away.

John seemed almost disappointed, but he did as Jamie asked. Jamie pushed the chess set and whisky off the table, sending pieces and glass flying. They rid themselves of their clothes, needing nothing but nakedness between them.

Jamie bent John over the table and stood square behind him. He spread John’s buttocks apart, touching the newest object of his fascination. He bent his knees, lined up his still moist cock, and pushed inside. There was more resistance this time than the last, and Jamie realized he didn’t have Claire’s grease.

“Is this alright?” he asked.

“Dear God, yes, just shove it in!”

Thank the devil for that. He grabbed John’s shoulder as leverage and rammed his cock inside. “Ye like it, don’t ye, man? Being buggered?”

John grunted in affirmation. Jamie gripped a handful of John’s hair as he pushed into him again and again. John grabbed hold of his own cock and started stroking.

Jamie battered into him as hard as his hips would allow, spurned on by John’s groans of agonized pleasure. He buggered him furiously, watching his cock move tight in his arse. He was sweating and panting and fucking with all his strength. His mind was gone with delirium. All that mattered was the need to spill his seed.

His finish came in a violent rush, pleasure knotting in his belly, spreading out to the rest of his body. He could feel his seed shooting deep in John’s arse. On and on it went, still going when Jamie pulled John up to standing, one arm around John’s chest, the other reaching for his cock.

Jamie stroked him violently, desperate for John to meet his climax with him. John gripped Jamie's arm and thrust into his hand. He bit down on Jamie’s forearm as he came loud and cursing, his seed spilling on the table and floor before them. Jamie stroked hard wanting more and more to come—each stroke making John’s arse squeeze his cock still inside him.

John bent forward over the table when he was spent. Jamie stumbled back to John’s bed and collapsed. He stared mindlessly at the ceiling waiting for the turmoil in his body to die down.

The bed shifted as John lay next to him. They both lay there breathing ragged and heavy, side by side, not yet recovered from the madness of their love-making...if that’s even what it could be called.

Jamie felt like an animal the way he took John. It was wild and uncontrolled.

His hypocrisy was not lost on him that he felt jealous of what Claire and John might have been doing together in his absence when he just buggered the man while she was none the wiser. He didn’t think she’d mind, but he was no less ashamed of himself for his lack of grace.

Jamie could feel the moment John fell asleep. There was a shift in his breathing and in the weight of the bed next to him. Jamie waited until he was certain John wouldn’t wake, then he rose out of bed.

He covered the peacefully sleeping man whose breath was slipping into quiet snores. He then cleaned up the mess they made...whisky, chess pieces, and spunk all over the place. He looked back at John one last time before leaving the room, closing the door behind him.

Jamie washed himself for the second time that night...his shame making him feel unclean. It was at the end of his ablutions that Claire finally came into their room. She was squeezing an aching shoulder and wiping the sweat off her brow.

She smiled when she saw him standing naked next to the basin of warm water. “Well, hello there.”

“Mo ghraidh. Come...let me wash ye.”

She sighed contentedly at the prospect and obediently did as her husband requested.

“Ye’re tired,” he said, ridding her body of its shift...her velvety skin so soft under his hands.

“It’s been a long day. And I have a long night ahead of me. Paul’s fever hasn’t broken yet. I’ll have to tend to him every four hours or so.”

“Ye need me to wake ye?”

“Please do. And make sure I actually make it out of the bed instead of just rolling over.”

“Aye.”

He sat her down on a chair and dipped a rag in the warm water. He lathered her fine soap on the cloth as he knelt down in front of her. She leaned her head back, eyes closed, and sighed tranquilly as he gently cleansed her neck.

“What’s happened?” she asked softly.

“Hmphm. We...em...played a wee bit of chess and…” he scrubbed down her arm trying to find a tactful way to put it. Nothing polite came to mind. “I...I rogered him.”

“So I heard,” she laughed. “It sounded like a marvelous time from where I stood. Do you want to tell me why you’re feeling so guilty about it?”

“Hmphm. How d’ye ken I’m feeling guilty?” He moved the cloth down her other arm.

“It’s clear as day on your face. Being that you typically have complete control over your expression, you must’ve really wanted me to ask about it.”

He supposed she was right. He warmed the rag in the water once again before starting on her legs. “I dinna ken. I suppose it didna feel right wi’out ye there.”

“You finished without me this morning.”

“Aye, but ye told us to.”

“Do you need me to tell you what to do every time?”

“Hmphm. I think I can figure out what to do. I just would rather ye be there for it.”

She was watching with a smile, “Why?”

“Stand up, Sassenach,” he rose with her so he could thoroughly wash her bottom and quim. “I was thinking of ye and John today...wondering what ye were up to...knowing I had no right to be jealous.”

“You’re my husband. You have every right.”

“Ye ken what I mean. I shouldna begrudge the two of ye when I’m doing the same and worse.”

She chuckled quietly. “And how do you know John and I didn’t do anything when you were gone?”

He sat her down more firmly than he should have. “Because I would ha’ smelled it on ye. And ye’re far too tense to have been bedded this afternoon.” He started washing her hair.

“Fine. You’re right. I was tending to my patient. Then, between making dinner and getting word that you’d be home late, I just wasn’t in the mood.”

He rubbed the lather of soap deep in her scalp, loving the moan of pleasure she always gave when he did so. “Ye dinna mind, then, if ye’re no’ always there?”

“No, Jamie. I don’t feel any less a part of...whatever this is we’re doing just because I’m not there every time. I’m enjoying myself as much as you are. Actually, I’m quite certain your guilt is making you enjoy yourself substantially less than I am.”

“Hmphm.” He tilted her head back over the basin and rinsed the soap out.

“Is that all, then?” she asked.

“Is what all?” He grabbed a towel to dry her hair.

“Is that the only reason you’re feeling shame? You’re not...you don’t think what we’re doing is wrong, do you? Catholic guilt and all that.”

“I’m an auld man, Claire.” He began combing his fingers gently through her hair. “I’ve seen the worst of what this world has to offer...so have you. We’ve seen war, torture, incarceration, rape, famine, and worse. Nah, I canna believe a benevolent God should think it any great sin to bring a beloved friend into our bed...a good man, an honorable man at that.”

“Good.” She turned and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Then what else is on your mind?”

Jamie sighed and bent to lift his wife. He cradled her in his arms and brought her to bed. They lay down tangled together, hands caressing bodies as familiar as their own.

“Tell me, darling.” Her eyes narrowed in concern.

He tried not to blush as he spoke the words. “John took me in his mouth for a bit, ken...then I buggered him...hard.”

She sealed her lips, but couldn’t suppress her laughing smile. She was likely remembering the times he’d gotten as rough with her. She waited for him to go on.

“I used my hand on him to...ye ken?”

“Yes. I’ve got quite a visual.”

“I was just thinking how I’ve used the man something terrible. I took him how I wanted, but I gave so little. ’Tis no’ much different than I’ve done to him since Helwater, taking his charity, but offering nothing but friendship in return.”

“John doesn’t want anything you’re not ready to give.”

“I ken that, but it doesna make it right. I wouldna allow such a thing to happen wi’ you, Sassenach.”

“I’m not John,” she laughed. “I’m your wife.”

“Aye,” he chuckled, “that ye are.”

Claire kissed him softly. “If you want to please him, Jamie, what’s holding you back?”

“I dinna ken.”

She stroked his face in her tender, loving way. “When John came to visit us with Willie the first time...you know, when he got measles?...we talked a great deal about any number of things. He told me he envied the look of satisfaction you put on my face. Before he left, I told him he deserved the same look of satisfaction on his...and I meant it.”

Jamie tried not to look sheepish as he nodded.

“There’s an innocence in the man, isn’t there?” she said. “A purity in his love. And remember, you’re not the only one who has benefited from his generosity. So have I...and William...and Brianna...and Fergus and Marsali.”

“Aye, I ken all that.”

“Can I ask you another question?”

He stroked her cheek softly, “As if my saying no would stop ye.”

She laughed. “Would you be angry if John and I slept together without you...again?”

“I’d be the worst sort of hypocrite if I said yes, would I no’?”

“That’s not an answer, Jamie.”

He kissed her lightly and rubbed her nose with his. “No, Claire. I dinna think I’d mind any longer. If ye want to bed the man, I swear I’ll no’ let it bother me. Our friendship wi’ him has changed, and I’ll be happy to ken ye’re both...satisfied.”

“No more jealousy?”

He breathed in the scent of her, letting it soothe the tension in his body. “Our souls are mated, Sassenach. Our hearts have room to love many people, but our souls belong only to each other. I’ll no’ allow myself to be jealous...much.”

Her forehead touched his, nuzzling against him tenderly. He kissed her, needing to fuse the two of them together. Nowhere else could he find the calm security of her embrace.

He wanted desperately to please her.

“A look of satisfaction, was it?” he grinned, and he kissed down her body. She sighed heavily as his mouth came down. He took his time giving her pleasure, wanting to earn her satisfaction. Her sweet wee noises were music to his ears.

When her honey filled his mouth and his name echoed on her lips, his cock was hard and ready to take the place of his tongue. He denied himself, though. All he wanted was to surround her in the same comforting warmth she gave him.

She fell asleep spooned snugly in his arms. They slept soundly for hours until it was time to wake Claire so she could tend to her patient.

She dressed in her shift once again and sat on the edge of the bed before she left. She kissed Jamie softly and whispered, “Go to John and ease your mind. I’ll be there shortly.”

Jamie laid in bed as he listened to his wife's steps echo down the stairs. He stood up, not bothering to dress himself, and made his way to John’s room.

He entered quietly, trying not to wake him. John was exactly where he left him hours before. Jamie couldn’t help his masculine pride in wearing out the man so thoroughly.

He pulled the blanket back to see John’s body. Never before had a man made Jamie feel desire...save John. A cock had always been nothing to him...until it was John’s lying there waiting for him.

Jamie sat on the bed as softly as he could. John hardly stirred, barely affected by the shift of weight on the bed. Jamie ran his hand over John’s chest, feeling his muscles and scattering of hair. John’s lungs sucked in a deep breath when he awoke to Jamie’s touch.

“Sleep well?” asked Jamie.

“Like a rock. You?”

Jamie shook his head, smiling. “Hardly at all.”

He bent down to kiss John, mouths meeting tenderly. John’s hand came to his face, caressing his cheek. Their tongues danced together, slick and hot against each other.

“Claire,” John whispered with a smile.

Jamie chuckled, “Ye still dreaming, John? I’m no’ Claire.”

“You taste of her.”

“Oh, aye.”

“A busy night?”

“Aye. But a good one.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to keep up with you Frasers.”

“Dinna fash. Just lie back, and I’ll take care of ye.”

He kissed John once more before moving down the bed. He spread John’s legs, and with the taste of his wife on his tongue, he sucked John up into his mouth.

He pleased him the best he could, learning from what Claire and John had done to him before. And when John spilled his seed in Jamie’s mouth, Jamie watched the look of satisfaction take over his friend’s face.

Claire joined them in bed not long after. Her wee body fit snugly on top of Jamie’s, while John rested on his arm. Jamie knew the morning sun would carry all his worldly problems with it, but for a moment in the moonlight, he enjoyed his own look of satisfaction as his dreams carried him away.

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My patient was doing rather well. His fever broke overnight, and he lay resting in my surgery. I slipped quietly out of the crowded bed and came down first thing in the morning to give him another dose of penicillin and a light breakfast. His body was worn down fighting the infection and healing from the wound, so he wasn’t awake for long.

Craving coffee, I returned to the kitchen before heading upstairs to dress for the day. I was pleased to find I wasn’t alone in my hunt for caffeine. Jamie was leaning back against the counter as he sipped a fresh steaming mug.

“Well, hello,” I said. “I didn’t expect you up so soon. You boys looked rather comfortable when I left.”

“Aye, but ye ken I dinna sleep well wi’out ye, Sassenach. Coffee?”

His hair framed his face like the fiery rays of the morning sun as he offered his mug. I reached out, but he pulled back so I was forced to pursue it into his embrace. He smiled playfully with an arm locked around my waist. “I’m afraid it’ll cost ye.”

“I hope the price isn’t too steep.”

He rubbed his pelvis against me and said, “Ye’ve never complained about it being too steep before, but if ye did, it wouldna hurt my pride.”

I reached up on my toes to kiss him until I could snag the mug back. As soon as it was in my possession, I pulled away and sipped, filling myself with the comforting exhilaration only coffee and Jamie could bring so early in the morning.

“What are your plans for the day?” I asked.

“After the morning chores, I’ve a few things to take care of up at the still.” He looked at me with a playful curiosity. “And how about yerself, Sassenach? Planning anything...special?”

“Not particularly. Perhaps I’ll venture to retrieve the children from Jenny, but that can wait for later this afternoon. Why?”

He stepped into my space and took back his coffee. He drank deep before setting the cup aside. “I promised I willna be jealous if ye should decide to spend some private time wi’ our friend upstairs...but in case ye do…”

I squealed as he bent down and lifted me with an arm under my bottom—he really was rather tall—and brought me to the kitchen table. He set me on the sturdy surface, grinning mischievously.

“‘In case I do…’ What?” I demanded.

“I think I’ll leave a few reminders behind...just so neither of ye forget who it is ye belong to.”

“Reminders?”

His mouth kissed down my neck rather aggressively.

I snorted, “Territory marking, are you?”

“I said I wouldna be jealous; I didna promise no’ to be possessive.”

“I’m not sure those are such disconnected concepts.” Though in truth, his possessiveness didn’t bother me in the slightest.

I shimmied out of my shift, secure in the likelihood that my patient didn’t have it in him to develop some magical burst of energy and start wandering around the house. Jamie groaned in approval as I cleared away any barrier to the skin he craved. He continued his assault on the unblemished surface on my chest.

Smugly satisfied with whatever abstract artwork he marked all over my breast, he grinned broadly as he lowered me back on the table. He lifted his kilt, and I wrapped my legs around his waist to keep it out of the way. We’d done this a time or two and had a very effective system in place.

He bent over me, cradling my face in his enormous hands, eyes glittering with a genuinely pleasant smile. His happiness was infectious, spreading to my own face instantaneously. He kissed me thoroughly as we made love. He was gentle and attentive, making me quite overcome with a sense of giddy euphoria at this tender love-making.

It took some time to realize that marking my chest wasn’t the only way he was claiming his territory. This tenderly blissful love-making was obviously meant to remind me just how wonderful it was between us...that through all our passion and fire, we really did enjoy just being together.

His contented hum vibrated through me as he lay on top of me, both of us coming down from climax. I had quite forgotten that anyone or anything else existed in the world aside from the sunshine and a few butterflies and rainbows…

...At least until Jamie said, “Ye hungry, John? Breakfast is particularly sweet this morning.”

I flushed in immediate embarrassment. “And how long have we been performing for an audience?”

“No’ long,” he grinned, “or he would’ve joined us.”

The heat of my shame quickly evolved into a very different kind of heat. Jamie’s heavy body wouldn’t let me up, so I turned my head to see John leaning against the doorway.

He was so different from my kilted Scot. Jamie was dressed in his faded hunting plaid and a light sark meant for working through long, hot summer days. John was attired in his typical finery, complete with stock and embroidered waistcoat.

Both were uniquely impressive on their own, but the two of them standing mere feet from each other while admiring my naked body had no little effect on me, even as recently sated as I was.

Jamie kissed me one more time before he rose up, “I best be off.”

I made to sit, but he put a gentle hand on my chest. His soft smile was clearly meant to be a blessing for whatever transpired when he left us alone. His hand traced down my body before he walked away.

“Good morning,” John said as Jamie passed by.

Jamie answered only with a smirk and a throaty Scottish noise in the back of his throat. He smacked John firmly on the arse as he walked out the door.

I felt quite exposed and vulnerable lying naked on the kitchen table with a man who wasn’t my husband—at least, he wasn’t my husband at the moment—standing a few feet away.

“Jamie must be feeling particularly magnanimous this morning,” I said.

John chuckled. “I think he began feeling so last night.”

As John stepped forward, I rose up on my elbows. “He seems to be making a point.”

“Living with an Englishwoman for so long hasn’t taught the Scot much in the way of subtlety, has it?”

“Do you think he’s out there watching?”

John looked out the window, “Unlikely. That would defeat the purpose of his gesture.”

“We don’t have to...you know,” I said seriously. “He really does just want us to be happy, and if you’d rather not…”

“Oh, my dear,” John laughed, “you can’t possibly be that modest.”

I looked down at his trousers and found his anatomy to be quite up for the task.

“The question, rather, is if you find any appeal in bedding me without your husband here to watch.”

“Come now, John,” I lay back on the table. “As if Jamie could ever be absent from anything we do together.”

“You’re too right.” He reached out a hand, grazing it across the marks on my chest. “As a matter of fact, there seems to be evidence of his presence everywhere I look.”

I laughed, “That’s not the only evidence he left behind.”

John’s hand made its way further down, goosebumps following the line of his touch. I was spread wide open for him. His eyes lit with amusement as he pushed his fingers inside. “He was quite thorough, wasn’t he?”

“He always is.”

John fingered me gently, sliding through Jamie’s seed and my own arousal. He leaned over me as he did so, staring down in adoration. “Hello, my dear. You look resplendent this morning, as always.”

I found it difficult to respond when his fingers caressed me so softly. He bent his head and his lips met mine. He was a good kisser, skilled with his tongue, sensual and refined with an edge of masculinity.

He stood up and smiled down on me once again as his fingers kept working. “I’ve often thought of you, Claire...what it would be like to have you again...not in rage or grief...just as you are.”

“Do you often think of women that way?”

“Never women in the plural. Only you. I find you to be the most remarkable woman I’ve ever met.” He bent down and kissed me again, his fingers still moving inside me. “Can you tell me you haven’t thought of me in such a way since we lay together?”

I reached up and tangled a hand in his hair, searching for an anchor as my pleasure mounted with his touch. “Of course I have. Why do you think sharing our bed with you has been so easy for me?”

“Easy for you?” he grinned darkly. “You really enjoy sharing your husband with another man?”

“No...I enjoy sharing him with you specifically—in the singular.” I caressed the sharp line of his freshly-shaved jaw with my fingertips and stared into his eyes that were lighter than the morning sky. “I don’t want this for the sake of novelty, John. Nor to satisfy peculiar sexual preferences. It’s you, in particular, that makes me want it...for Jamie and for me.”

“We’re not so different, are we? Two English people who fell in love with the same bloody Scot. We changed our lives for him...raised his children...gave him everything he ever asked for...and we’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. We spent years in marriages to people we didn’t want, pining for a man we didn’t think we’d could have. Yes we’re very much alike, indeed, my dear.”

“Do you think I care for you only because I see myself in you?”

“No, although, I wouldn’t blame you if you did; you’re impossible not to love.”

It wasn’t until he started moving his fingers again that I’d realized he’d ever stopped. I rose up on my elbow to close the space between us and kissed him tenderly.

“John, you’re the kindest, most selfless man I’ve ever known. The first time we met, you stood your ground against the fiercest warrior the Jacobites had ever seen. You protected me when you wouldn’t protect yourself. You’ve saved my husband, our children, and me from death, shame, and ruin countless times. How could I not love you just as you are?”

He lost his breath for a moment, but found it again shortly after. “And you, Claire. You saved my life and that of half my family, even when you resented me. I’ve never known a woman with such steel in her spine and warmth in her heart.”

“Jamie has said something similar before,” I smiled.

“He’s an astute observer, your husband.”

John bent to kiss me with warmth and genuine affection. His long, dextrous fingers massaged deep, until orgasm stole over once again.

“Oh John!” I moaned against his lips.

“My God, you’re magnificent when you do that,” he said.

He pulled his fingers free and lifted them up. They were glistened wet between us, covered in both my pleasure and Jamie’s seed. John put his fingers in his mouth, one at a time, tasting the flavor of both his lovers. I whimpered and kissed him again.

He dropped his trousers and let me guide him between my legs. I’d had my fill of all the tenderness of the morning and was ready for something more forceful. I urged him to take me roughly with my nails sinking into his bottom and my teeth on his lip.

He growled against my mouth and shoved in harder. I loved when he lost all sense of propriety. When his gentlemanly facade was cast aside, and the raw, passionate man he buried deep within took over, giving way to baser needs. The violence of our first time together echoed in his firm grip on my arse and his teeth on my neck, though this was far more a celebration than consolation.

There was a strangeness about him in that he wasn’t Jamie, but he was John, and he was safe, and I wanted him...almost as much as I wanted Jamie AND him. I had a mad urge to be filled by both men at once. I climaxed again with Jamie on my mind and John in my body.

As soon as John caught his breath, the gentleman in him returned in spades. He helped me up and retrieved my shift. As I put it on, he hunted down a towel and cleaned me off. He even offered to make me a cup of tea.

“I’m fine, John. Just...come here.” He did as I asked. I wrapped my arms around his waist and laid my head on his chest. His heart was beating madly beneath my ear.

“How are you, my dear?” he asked.

“Quite well,” I laughed. “Between the two of you, I don’t think it possible to complain of any sort of lack of satisfaction.”

“You have no idea. I’ve spent the majority of my life alone. Several days at Fraser’s Ridge and I’ve been saddled with more satisfaction than I could ever dream of. I’ll have to cut my visit short just to survive the two of you.”

I looked up at him, still feeling peacefully hazy in my pleasure. “I adore you, John Grey. Jamie does, too.”

“And I...you, my dear.” He kissed my nose and smiled down. “And this is the first time I don’t think it’s ever pained me to admit how much I care for you both.”

________________________________

John spent the day helping with my chores after he finished his early morning correspondence. He was quite helpful in my surgery and not at all squeamish when I changed Paul Mueller's bandages. We were both relieved when Paul’s family arrived late in the morning to take him back home.

John seemed to have quite a green thumb in the garden, even if he was a little too preoccupied by the variety of plants I tended and all their potential uses for us to be very productive. We spent as much time conversing as we did working, but he didn’t complain at all when I asked him to help with the weeding.

As I picked the tomatoes and cucumbers that I planned on using for dinner, I watched him from the corner of my eye. It was a very hot day in June, and wielding a hoe through the rough mountain soil was no easy task in the oppressive heat. He’d unfastened his vest and removed his stock, leaving only his shirt to cover his chest. The thin fabric was quickly growing transparent the more he perspired with all his effort.

“Enjoying the view, madam?” he looked down at me grinning. “What would your husband say?”

“Oh, I don’t know...I’m sure he’d find a place to put one of these…” I held up a cucumber and wiggled it around.

John flushed profusely, but couldn’t help his laugh.

“Can I ask you a question?” I said, quite serious. “On a related topic.”

He tried to maintain his gentlemanly dignity, but his amusement showed plain. “As you wish.”

“Do you really enjoy it when...Jamie…” I mimed penetration with the cucumber once again.

“Dear God, you really are the most uncomfortable woman I have ever conversed with.”

“Do you?”

He scraped the hoe firmly across the ground, “You know right well I do.”

“He enjoys it very much...doing it to you...I mean.”

“I’ve noticed.”

“He’s made it quite clear he wants to do it to me.”

John laughed, “Again...I’ve noticed.”

It was my turn to flush, but I asked despite my embarrassment. “Would you help me?”

“Pardon?” He looked up mid-stroke.

“I think you’ve noticed Jamie’s rather...well-endowed…”

He pursed his lips. Yes...I was very sure John had noticed.

“I don’t want it to hurt, but I’d like to give him that...to surprise him. Would you help...loosen things up back there?”

John wiped his brow with the sleeve of his arm as he chuckled.

“I know how to myself, I just thought it would be more...enjoyable...with a partner.”

He considered my proposal as he worked on. “The most beautiful woman of my acquaintance is requesting I help facilitate a particularly erotic method of intercourse with her husband. I’d be an absolute fool to decline your request.”

“Is that a yes?”

He looked up smirking. “Of course it’s a yes. Now, finish plucking your fruits so we can do something more pleasant with our time than moving dirt around your plants.”

I grinned broadly and searched for more ripe tomatoes. I could feel his eyes still on me as I worked.

“You know, my dear, your breasts bounce in the most lovely, wanton manner when your bodice is loose like that.

I looked down at them and then back up to John. “Oh?”

“Indeed.”

I looked at what fruit I had already collected and wondered if we could call it quits for the day and still have enough for a meal. “There will only be a handful of us for dinner…”

“Hardly anyone, at all,” he concurred conspiratorially.

“Do you anticipate much of an appetite?”

“No. In fact, I’ve heard occasional fasting to be quite good for the constitution.”

I shrugged, “You’re not entirely wrong…”

“And you’re the doctor.” He reached out a hand and smirked mischievously. “Come, my dear.”

“That is certainly my intention.”

_________________________

 

Several hours later, a voice echoed from downstairs. “Hello? Is anyone home?”

“Jamie?” I said, pleasantly surprised he’d come back so early. It was a little sooner than I expected, but I was eager to give him something I knew he’d always wanted. I was about to call out to him when John stopped me.

“That’s not Jamie. It’s William.”

“Oh dear.” My heart leapt in my throat. I looked around at the mess we’d made of my bedroom. We were both naked and in a very compromising position. Our clothes were spread haphazardly about the room.

“Indeed.” John had jumped out of bed and started washing the almond cream off his hands. I raced to throw on my shift, stays, and petticoat. John was much faster to dress—not the first time I resented the privilege of the male species. When I turned around, he was already buttoning his vest and preparing to tie his stock.

“Do you need help with your laces?” he asked.

“No, go downstairs. I’ll follow shortly.”

“Mother Claire? Papa? Mr. Fraser?” Willie called. From the echoes of his voice, he seemed to be moving through the house looking for us.

John rushed down to find him before Willie came looking upstairs. I slowed myself down for fear of sweating worse than I already was. It was a beastly hot day on top of all the excitement of the afternoon. I had to wipe myself clean and apply perfume just to hide the pungent odors emanating from my body. I finished dressing and clipped up my hair into something nearing presentable before I followed him down.

Their voices were coming from Jamie’s study.

“I’m afraid he’s not here. He usually works until he runs out of sunlight,” John said to Willie as I entered behind him.

I was always taken aback seeing my stepson. He did so look like Jamie as a young man, aside from the hair—though I did notice the scruff growing on his jaw was a deep shade of auburn.

“Hello, William. You’re back early. Did everything go well with the hunt?”

“Hello, Mother Claire. Everything is...fine, I suppose. Brianna and Ian picked up on some tracks of big game and decided to stay out another night.”

“Why did you return early? Did you need Jamie for something?”

William huffed a breath at a loss for words. I realized he was standing over Jamie’s desk with something in his hands...a rosary...the one Jamie had given Willie as a boy...the one Willie returned to him in an angry rage when he found out the truth of his lineage.

He noticed my eyes on the rosary, and he flushed a deep shade of red. “Apologies. I hadn't realized I even picked it up.” He dropped it back on the desk.

“No apology necessary. Jamie would be delighted for you to keep it.”

He looked away and took a deep breath; the air rattled painfully in his throat as he blew out. If I knew anything about my Frasers—and I fancied myself an expert on their temperaments—I knew this one was a steaming kettle about to explode if some of the pressure wasn’t relieved.

“Whisky?” I asked.

“Yes,” Willie and John said simultaneously. Apparently John was quite the expert, too.

Jamie kept a bottle and glasses in his study. I poured three and distributed them accordingly.

“What’s the matter, Willie?” asked John. “You look unwell.”

“I’m fine, Papa.” He was clearly NOT fine. His eyes flashed cautiously to mine.

“I could go if you’d like to talk alone,” I offered. “I should probably pick more cucumbers for dinner.” Starving Jamie and John was one thing, but making the children go hungry wasn’t something I felt acceptable.

I noticed John stifle a smirk at my mention of cucumbers.

“No, please,” said Willie. “Stay...if you don’t mind. You’ve something to do with all this, too.”

“Have I?” I sat in Jamie’s chair behind his desk and took a deep pull of whisky.

He didn’t answer. He just turned and looked around the room as he gathered his thoughts. John sat in one of the chairs on the other side of the desk and followed my lead by emptying his glass.

“You have an eclectic collection of books,” Willie said. “Hebrew, Spanish, Latin...Is that Chinese?”

I hummed, “Jamie’s got a mind for languages. He seems to think it his duty to ensure the grandchildren learn them all.”

Willie sighed in irritation, “Of course he does.”

I raised an eyebrow to John, who was smiling subtly as he poured himself another glass. “William has inherited Jamie’s talent for languages...and a few other traits, as well.”

“Jamie’s genetics are rather strong. Only little Amanda seems to have escaped looking and behaving like the lot of them.”

Willie gave me a sharp glance.

“No offense, darling. I’m quite fond of you all.”

“I’m aware of how much you love him...Jamie, I mean,” said Willie.

I found that amusing and not at all likely. “Is that so?”

Willie drained his glass and came to the desk to fill it once more. This time, he sat down and looked me in the eyes. “Do you know why Brianna and Ian planned that hunting trip?”

“I assumed it was to spend time getting to know you.”

He laughed without pleasure and shook his head, then drained his glass once again. I hoped he had his father’s constitution in terms of whisky tolerance.

“Was it not?”

“In part, I suppose.” He poured himself another round. “The trip was meant to give me information as much as it was to elicit it.”

“Oh dear.” I knew Brianna was worried about John and Willie living in Virginia as notable loyalists. “What information did she decide to share?”

“The reasons why she thinks the rebels are going to win the war.”

I grabbed the bottle of whisky myself. “If I were you, I’d start referring to them as Americans. They won’t be considered rebels by England for very long.”

“So my sister tells me.”

“And do you believe her?”

“Do I believe she’s being honest? Yes, of course.”

“Being honest and being right aren’t the same thing. Do you think she’s right?”

“Well,” he drank again, “she makes a surprisingly good argument for how outlandish it is.”

“Ah,” said John, “she told you about the stones and whatnot.”

“And ‘whatnot,’” I scoffed. “Jamie believed me...sort of. Don’t forget, he witnessed it himself. He pulled me back through them the first time he tried to send me back, and you don’t think him delusional.”

“You knew?!” Willie asked John.

John nodded.

“But you don’t believe them?”

“I believe they’re telling the truth as they know it.”

It could’ve been worse; John could’ve just thought me altogether mad, like Frank.

“I told Brianna I want to forfeit my titles,” said William. “She suggested I move here...that our relation to General Fraser would protect any sort of retaliation for our service to the crown.”

“You can’t possibly think the rebels are going to win this war,” said John, exasperated. “They don’t have the resources.”

“Neither do the British,” I said. “The French are assisting the Americans now, and the British are going to be pulled away to fight wars closer to home.”

“It’s true, then?” asked William. “Everything she said about the stones and traveling through time?”

I nodded. “How do you think a woman could possibly be trained to do the things you’ve witnessed me do in the eighteenth century? Surgery with ether, discovering penicillin…”

“I know, I know.” He scrunched up his face in frustration. “And then there’s all Brianna’s nonsense with matches and what she calls ‘indoor plumbing.’ But...all that could be explained away by the sheer ingenuity of you remarkable women.”

“Why would we lie about it? And Roger? He’s told Lord John exact dates and outcomes of great battles in this war. That wasn’t extraordinary guesswork or powers of deduction. He studied history! And I told Jamie exactly where and when the Scots would be defeated in the Rising. It happened just as I said.”

“I don’t think you’d lie,” said Willie.

“Come now, Claire,” said John. “You can’t blame us for being skeptical of time travel. We are rational beings at heart. You are, too. You must admit this is a difficult topic to wrap one’s head around.”

“Yes, which is why I don’t begrudge you for it.”

“I believe you,” said Willie, “and Brianna. It’s madness, I know,” he looked to John, “but I don’t see how some of the most rational people I know could all share in the same delusion...including Ian...and the ‘great’ General Fraser...Mac.” He looked back at me. “I’ve chosen to believe you.”

I’m sure my astonishment showed plain on my face. “You really are your father’s son. He chose to do the same before he saw for himself.”

William leaned closer, as though he was finally getting to the meat of the conversation. “Brianna said Jamie sent you back through the stones to keep her safe from the tragic outcome of Culloden?”

“Yes, he did. He was certain to die. He made me promise to go back and keep our child safe. We had lost a baby not long before...neither of us could have survived that again.”

“So he sent you away for your own good?”

I nodded. “He did.”

Willie took a shuddering breath. “And Fergus? Brianna said he turned himself into the English after Fergus was injured by the redcoats? Jamie left Fergus to be raised by Aunt Jenny to keep him safe?”

“That’s right. Jamie has a habit sacrificing himself for the ones he loves. Sacrificing his body, his freedom, his life, his happiness...He’d give the world to his family, if he could, but sometimes all he has to offer is himself. I’ve been trying to convince him for thirty-six years that he has always been more than enough.”

Willie buried his face in his hands.

“All he ever wanted was a family...a legacy,” I continued. “He gave it up for the safety of our children...each and every one of you.”

Willie had tears in his eyes as he reached for the rosary. He fiddled with the beads in a familiar way, as though it was something he’d done his whole life.

John was smiling softly at his stepson. Willie truly had no idea how lucky he was to have one father who loved him so selflessly, much less two.

“Did he ever…”

A clatter of footsteps and a yelling voice interrupted William.

“Jamie! Claire!”

I rose up quickly—too quickly for just having had a few glasses of whisky. The men rose with me.

“Jenny! We’re in here!”

The footsteps neared in a rush. Jenny was flush with exertion when she appeared in the doorway. “It’s Fanny. She’s gone!”

“Gone?”

“Where? When?” said Willie.

“Today sometime,” said Jenny. “She left a note saying she was gone and no’ to looking for her. One of the mules is missing. Germain said she’s been worrying about Willie and Jamie no’ getting on. The boy says she’s been asking about the Tuscarora adopting people into their tribe.”

“Oh dear, God. She wouldn’t even know how to find them!” I said. “We need to track her down.” But our three best trackers were Jamie, Ian, and Brianna.

“Let’s split up,” said John. “I’ll take Jenny back to her house and we can see if there is any sign of where the girl was headed. Willie, take Claire to the still and find Jamie.”

We set off immediately. As we hiked up toward the still, guilt for sending Fanny and Germain to Jenny’s for the last two days plagued me. But it was only two bloody nights, for God’s sake! Jamie had been dealing with Willie’s wrath...then we brought John to our bed. There was just so much going on and so little time to process it.

Had it really only been two nights? It seemed we’d been building up to something like this for much longer.

“I shouldn't have neglected her,” Willie mumbled to himself. “I was so caught up in my own head, I didn’t have a clue how hard she was struggling.”

“Fanny’s an internal, quiet, young girl. She’s not going to broadcast her distress...at least not until she runs away from home. Don’t worry. Jamie will find her if John and Jenny haven’t already.”

I could see Willie was impatient with my pace and wanted to run ahead, but he had no idea where to find the still. It wasn’t the first time I thought ignorance imposed reluctant patience.

“There it is,” I said, pointing.

Willie was about to run ahead, but I grabbed his shirt to stop him when I saw Fanny running from the still. Jamie came rushing out after her.

“Fanny,” Willie whispered in relief.

We followed after Fanny and Jamie who had raced into the woods. William ran ahead, and I tried my best not to fall too far behind. Sweat was dripping down my face and soaking my shift—it really was too damn hot for all this activity. I was panting heavily when I finally caught up to Willie.

He was standing by a tree watching Jamie hold a sobbing Fanny in his arms. Jamie was murmuring comforting Gaelic to the crying girl and petting her head to calm her down. I stopped next to Willie and watched the scene unfold.

“Tell me, a nighean. Why are ye running?” asked Jamie.

“I’ll not go to a bwothel...brothel,” she corrected, working tirelessly to rid herself of her lisp. “I’m going to the Tusca...Tuscarora. Ian says they take people in.”

“Aye,” Jamie pulled back to look in her eyes, “but why would ye want to do that? Are ye no’ happy here on the Ridge?”

She sniffed and wiped away tears. Jamie pulled a handkerchief out of his shirt and wiped her face. “Yes, but...with you and William fighting...I just...I know you’re only helping me for him…”

“Oh, lassie, did ye think we’d only keep ye to make Willie happy?”

“I know how much you love him. You’d do anything for him.”

“Aye, but what’s that to do with you running away?”

“If he won’t have anything to do with you, then there’s no reason for you to take care of me.”

Jamie laughed at the girl’s logic. “Ye’re right about one thing, a nighean...I’d do anything my son asked of me...and now I’d do anything for you, as well. D’ye no’ ken that?”

She shook her head, and he wiped more tears.

“Germain is not my blood,” said Jamie, “but he is my grandson as Fergus is my son. Same for you, a nighean. If Willie left never to speak to me again, I’d still care for ye as if ye were my own flesh and blood. I’ll do right by ye, protect ye from this war and all the bad men in it. ’Tis what family does...what’s best for each other, no matter the cost.”

Fanny hugged Jamie tight, sniffling into his abdomen. “I’m sowwy...sorry I tried to run away.”

Jamie stroked her hair softly. “’Tis alright, lass. But, can I ask why ye came to the still if ye were trying to run?”

She let go of Jamie and looked down, wiping her eyes. “Jane said I shouldn’t go to someone’s house empty-handed. I thought I gave the Tuscarora some of your whisky, they might take me in.”

Jamie snorted, “I’m sure they wouldna ha’ said no to ye or the whisky.” He grabbed her chin and forced her to look in his eyes, “Ye’ll no’ run again, aye? Ye belong wi’ me and Claire, ken?”

She nodded and wrapped her arms around him once more. Willie made a deep whimpering sound next to me as he watched Jamie and Fanny.

“Go on,” I said. “She’ll be happy to see you.”

He didn’t need to be told twice. Jamie’s lack of surprise as he stepped forward told me he’d known we were there. Fanny jumped at seeing Willie and flew into his arms the moment he opened them for her.

“You nearly scared the life out of me,” said Willie, squeezing her tight.

“I’m sorry.”

He held her at arm’s length and chided, “Promise me you’ll never do that again! You come to me if you’re scared of anything. Do you understand?”

She sniffed, “Yes, William.”

“And if I’m not here, you find Jamie or Claire.”

“I know. I’m so sorry.”

He pulled her back in for another hug. “It’s alright, Fanny. It’s alright.”

By the tears in his eyes, Claire could see Willie’s relief in ensuring Jane’s sister was safe. He might have gone quite mad if he thought he let down the ghost of his lost lover.

Willie stood erect and faced Jamie. “Thank you,” he said, his voice as soft as I’d ever heard it.

“Aye.” Jamie somberly accepted his son’s gratitude. I could see in the twitch of my husband’s hand that he wanted to reach out to his son. He restrained himself, giving the young man his space.

I noticed Jamie’s head tilt and his eyes narrow in subtle scrutiny as he looked down at Willie’s chest. His eyes flared and his mouth twitched, as though reluctantly inhibiting a joyous smile.

Willie’s hand moved over his heart as his face flushed red. “Oh, I just...I…”

“It’s alright…’tis yers.”

Willie nodded and looked down at the young girl in his arms, clearly eager to be away from whatever connection just passed between him and his father.

“Come, Fanny. You must be starved.”

As they turned, I noticed Jamie’s rosary around Willie’s neck. The warmth that flooded my heart was mirrored in the moisture in Jamie’s eyes.

“Oh, Jamie,” I said. He pulled me into his arms as Willie and Fanny went to retrieve the mule she’d taken from Ian. “I knew he’d come around.”

I was surrounded in his embrace when a quiet sob shook his body. He reeled himself in quickly with the children so close, but I could feel the effort it was taking in the strain of his muscles. He leaned on me to hold him together.

After a few deep breaths, he pulled back and wiped his eyes. “How...why did he?”

I shrugged, “He’s been surrounded for days by the people who love you most; how could he not see a glimmer of the man we know? The man he loved as a child.”

His forehead dropped to mine as it did in those rare moments where words weren’t sufficient despite the dozen languages the man could speak.

As Willie and Fanny made their way back home, Jamie pulled me into his side as we followed behind. He sighed deep, watching his son care for our little ward.

His sigh turned into a sniffing as he picked up on some sort of scent. A smirk lifted the corner of his mouth, “What were ye doing, Sassenach, before all the ruckus wi’ the bairns? Is that yer almond grease and yer special perfume?”

“Oh...before William arrived...we were...Well, I didn’t intend on telling you what it was we were doing.”

“No?” Jamie grinned.

“I thought showing you might be more fun.”

He made a satisfied rumble deep in his chest. “I think that can be arranged.”

“We’ll need to be a bit more careful, though, with a house full of children. We can’t allow ourselves to be quite so loud.”

He raised his eyebrow at me in accusation.

“Ok, fine. I am the one who needs to be careful.”

_________________________

Dinner was an awkwardly pleasant affair as John, Fanny, Germain and I watched William and Jamie tiptoe around their thawing relationship. I doubted Willie would be calling Jamie “Da” anytime soon, but at least he dispensed with the severe, “Mr. Fraser.”

We were a little light on the cucumber salad, but no one seemed particularly vexed about that. John caught my eye with a suppressed grin as he dutifully ate a bite.

Everyone was drained from the exhaustive activity of the day. We were pleased when the children retired somewhat early. Jamie and I both saw to tucking Fanny into bed and made sure she felt safe and loved so she wouldn’t bolt in the middle of the night.

Jamie took my hand and led me to our room. He froze momentarily when he stepped inside and saw the mess John and I had left behind.

“Oh dear,” I said. “I’d forgotten.”

Jamie bent down and picked a cucumber off the floor and raised his eyebrows at me.

“That was a joke,” I insisted. “We didn’t really use it.”

He sniffed it to be sure.

“Oh stop!”

Jamie chuckled. “Quiet now, Sassenach. Let me retrieve your accomplice, and perhaps ye can show me what it was the two of ye were up to today.”

As Jamie moved quietly down the hall toward John’s room, I lit some candles and tidied up a bit. I folded back the blankets on the bed, certain they’d only be getting in the way.

Jamie returned with both John and a bottle of whisky.

“Hello, my dear,” said John when the door closed.

“Hello,” I said.

Jamie drank straight from the bottle, pulling long and hard, and then handed it over to John.

“Come, mo nighean donn,” said Jamie. “Let me help ye out of yer stays.”

I went to Jamie and let him begin the arduous process of removing my clothes. John sat in the chair near the window and watched while he drank some whisky and untied his stock.

“I noticed William was wearing your rosary,” said John. “That’s quite a gesture.”

“Aye,” said Jamie, smiling. “Was a bit of a shock. Last I saw him, he was none too pleased wi’ me. No’ two days later, he’s breaking bread over dinner. I suppose I owe that to the two of you?”

“I only had a brief conversation with him the morning after your disagreement. It seems Brianna and Ian were quite instrumental in convincing him that you were not such a terrible person who just abandoned him to the horrifying likes of me because you found him unworthy. Your wife, too, spoke with him today.”

“Did ye now?” Jamie smiled at me as my corset fell to the floor. He ran his hands over my shift, smoothing out the fabric and massaging the tender skin underneath.

“He knows,” I said, “about the stones. Brianna told him.”

Jamie froze with his hands on my waist. “And he didna run off calling for a witch trial?”

“Quite the contrary.”

“He’s as mad as I was, huh?” he smirked.

“Indeed.” I looked over to John, “His stepfather, however, does not share your open-mindedness.”

“Weel, ye canna expect much from a sassenach, Claire. Hasn’t thirty-six years of marriage to a Scot taught ye that?”

“I’ll remind you that Willie and I are also both sassenachs.”

“Nah, ye’re MY Sassenach, mo nighean donn...and I made ye a Scot when I married ye. And Willie...well...his blood says otherwise.” He kissed me tenderly. “Dinna fash about that one,” he nodded toward John. “Despite his unfortunate heritage and an unhealthy dedication to candor, he’s got a good heart, and he’ll care for ye even if he thinks ye’re mad.”

“Well I never thought about it that way.” I pulled away from Jamie’s grip and went to John. “You still care even if you think me utterly delusional?”

He handed me the bottle of whisky with an indulgent smile. “Of course I care, and I don’t think you delusional.”

“But you don’t believe me.”

“I’m...undecided as of yet...but I love you either way, my dear.”

I caressed his cheek in affectionate amusement. He took my hand in both of his and kissed my knuckles tenderly.

“So…” Jamie interrupted, “are either of ye going to tell me what it is ye’d gotten up to in my absence?”

“I think I was clear that we would SHOW you, not tell,” I said. I drank from the bottle and set it down on the table. Whisky burned smoothly down my throat as I pulled the ribbon of my shift and let it drop to the floor. Two sets of eyes raked over my naked body. “I think you both have far too many clothes on for any sort of demonstration.”

“Aye,” said Jamie huskily.

His eyes were hungry as he pulled off his sark. John stood and began undressing along with him. It was quite a sight, those two impressive men shedding their clothes to come to bed with me.

When John finally pulled off his trousers, they stood naked and faced each other. Jamie pulled him in for a hug, gripping John so tight the muscles in his arms were tense and solid with the effort. Jamie whispered something in John’s ear. I thought I heard the words, “Thank ye,” and surmised he was talking about William.

John peered up at Jamie, blue eyes soft with affection, and wordlessly caressed his cheek. Jamie bent down and kissed him. Their mouths were firm against each other, but when John moaned softly, Jamie pushed his tongue between John’s lips.

I sat on the bed and watched. My legs fell apart and my hand dropped down in a vain attempt to satisfy a craving building inside me. I rubbed myself as I watched Jamie’s hands run down John’s body to his cock. I couldn’t tell whose cock Jamie was stroking, or whose balls he was massaging...probably both at once with the size of his hands.

Finally, John pulled away. “We should get in bed before this ends prematurely.”

“Aye,” Jamie reluctantly stepped back. His reluctance left quickly when his eyes met mine. He kissed me as he lay down. His hands groped my body, and he pulled me tight against him, facing each other as we lay on our sides.

“Are you ready, my dear?” John asked softly from behind me. I knew exactly what he was asking.

“Yes,” I moaned into Jamie’s mouth.

I felt John’s hand on my bottom as my pelvis rubbed against Jamie’s body. John’s fingers were slick with grease as he massaged between my buttocks. I relaxed as much as I could so he could push his finger inside. I noticed it went in so much easier than when we first tried earlier in the day, and it felt even better with Jamie’s body against mine and his tongue in my mouth.

John worked more grease inside me, stretching me out with his fingers by moving them in a gentle circular pattern. Jamie had a hand on each of my buttocks, squeezing them hard, pulling them wide apart. I groaned in pleasure when his cock made its way inside my slick quim.

“Shhh, mo chridhe,” he whispered in a strained voice, as though he was doing all he could not to yell out. “The bairns will hear ye.”

“How do you feel, Claire?” asked John. “Can you handle another?”

I couldn’t say anything. I just nodded against Jamie’s mouth and kept kissing him. I huffed slow, deep breaths to force myself to relax as John stretched me further. A wild, aching need was building in me the more and more he touched me. I needed more inside me…

“Now,” I told them, turning in Jamie’s arms. “I want it now.”

Jamie looked up in question, waiting for instruction. John reached over and greased up Jamie’s cock. I could feel the vibration in Jamie’s body at the anticipation of what was to come.

“Are ye sure, Claire?” Jamie asked.

“God yes. Just...go slow.”

“Aye. Tell me if I hurt ye.”

I was pretty sure he could spear me through the kidney with his dirk at the moment and wouldn’t feel anything remotely close to pain.

“Alright,” said John. “You’re ready. Just let me…”

John bent his head and put his mouth on my clitoris. I couldn’t help my squeal, acoustics be damned. I curved my arse back into Jamie. He wrapped one arm around my waist as his other hand guided his cock between my buttocks. As he pushed in, I was pressed harder against John’s delicious mouth and expert tongue.

Jamie was quite big, and I felt a sharp sting that wasn’t exactly a deterrent. It pained some, but God it felt good. Between Jamie’s cock and John’s tongue, I was feeling wildly overwhelmed.

Jamie moved slow, inch by inch as he pushed inside. His hands had moved to my breasts and his mouth was latched onto the back of my neck.

When I finally felt his pelvis against my arse, he said, “God, Sassenach, it’s so tight in yer bum. I’ve never felt anything like it in my life.”

Neither had I.

John chose that moment to push a finger inside me. Jamie grunted as my body squeezed down on him. I started convulsing from head to toe. Jamie’s hand was on my mouth to stifle my screams as an orgasm quaked through my body in a way it had never done before. Nerves were being stimulated that I didn’t even know I had.

Before my climax was over, John lifted off and lay down next to me, lining up our bodies.

“Oh God,” said Jamie, squeezing me back against him as he realized what John intended to do.

John’s lips kissed mine as he hooked my leg over his waist. There was a tangle of male limbs below as our bodies all came together.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

I nodded against his mouth and demanded he kiss me. John’s cock pressed inside me, and sounds came from every direction. Jamie was cursing in Gaelic, John was moaning, and I made some inhuman animal noise I didn’t know I was capable of.

John pulled out and pushed back in. And the chorus rang out again.

“God, I can feel yer cock, man,” said Jamie.

I was grateful Jamie wasn’t moving quite yet. It was all so much, even with him holding still.

John picked up his pace. I could feel his hand move from my arse to Jamie’s. I was completely surrounded by these men who were making love to each other while they made love to me.

Unable to hold back any longer, Jamie began moving slowly. It was nothing to the pace I’d seen him fuck John, but is was somehow all the more potent in its subtlety. My body was craving more, aiding Jamie in the push and pull between us.

Between the friction of our three bodies, the fullness inside me, and the sheer eroticism of the moment, orgasm hit me once again. Both men felt it and grunted with their mouths on me. Jamie came first, breath heavy and uneven as his seed filled my arse. John sped his hips further as Jamie slowed. His pace kept building until he, too, lost hold.

We lay there unmoving for some time, arms and legs entangled, covered in grease and sweat and sex. Jamie was the first to stir. He turned my body toward him and held my face in his hands.

“Are ye alright, my Sassenach?”

Still unable to speak, I nodded hazily. He kissed me, lips soft, barely grazing over mine.

“And you, John?” he asked.

John chuckled deeply in answer.

“Aye, I ken,” Jamie chuckled back. Jamie leaned over me and kissed John.

We settled comfortably cuddled up in each other’s arms, John’s lips on my shoulder and Jamie’s on my temple. I drifted off to sleep filling just as full as I’d been all evening.

Chapter Text

Annotation-2020-06-29-011646

When John slipped out of bed to relieve himself in the middle of the night, Claire rolled unconsciously to the space he vacated. It was her side of the bed and a perfectly natural thing for her to do. However, it left him with the difficult decision of whether or not he should wake her to return to bed or let her rest peacefully and withdraw to his own room.

His decision was made for him when—as he was using the chamber pot of all things—Jamie’s quiet footsteps sounded behind him. In all his fantasies about the man, never did he imagine something quite so domestic as a midnight urination in the same pot. When he finished, John stepped aside to allow Jamie to conduct his business.

Jamie beckoned John to follow him to bed, but made no move to disturb Claire. He sat leaning against the headboard and invited John to sit facing him. It appeared he wanted to talk.

The intimacy of a late night conversation with a naked James Fraser pulled the blood away from John’s head and straight down to his cock. Of course, it didn’t go unnoticed by Jamie—nothing ever did. Jamie’s mouth twitched and his eyes lingered.

“I’ve got something to ask ye, John. A favor.” Jamie spoke barely above a whisper.

“Anything.” John put a hand on Jamie’s leg in encouragement. John very much enjoyed Claire’s request of him earlier that day and was all the more inclined to engage in more opportunities to be of such assistance.

Jamie’s hand covered John’s, gripping it firmly. “I need ye to trust me.”

John couldn’t help but laugh. “There’s no one in the world I trust more.”

Jamie turned his head to look softly at his sleeping wife. The tenderness in his eyes was the most beautiful thing John had ever seen.

“Ye ken she’s no’ mad, John.” Jamie lifted his chin to meet John’s eyes. “She speaks naught but the truth. The stones, traveling through time, the war...all of it. I pulled her back from the stones myself once. I’ve seen it wi’ my own eyes. They were taking her away from me.”

John couldn’t explain his nervousness at Jamie’s assertion. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe Claire...it was just that her explanation was incongruent with his reality. Jamie, as bright and educated as he was, was a mythical man at heart...all Highlanders seemed to be. But John was a British soldier. His mind wasn’t meant to indulge the mythical.

“Brianna thinks there’s science behind the travel,” said Jamie. “Something to do with magnetic lines or some such physics beyond my eighteenth century comprehension.” He grinned at his own ignorance.

“So what is it you want of me?” John asked.

“As I said, I need ye to trust me. Claire, Bree, and Roger have proven true time and time again wi’ their knowledge of politics and great battles. Claire and I even tried to thwart Charles Stuart in Paris before coming back to defend Scotland. But we failed. We cannot change the great events of history...we can only change our own fate.”

Jamie leaned forward and put a gentle hand on John’s cheek. “Trust that I ken the British will lose, and the loyalists will be hanged or worse before this is all done. Trust me, John. I can keep ye and Willie safe. Whether ye believe Claire or no’, let me protect ye...as ye’ve done for me and mine these last thirty years.”

Jamie’s dark blue eyes were raging like thunderous seas, but his hand was soft on John’s cheek. His thumb stroked gently back and forth. John couldn’t deny the man anything when he touched him like that.

“What will you have me do?” asked John.

“I’ll send letters to all the committees telling them of yer service to me...that ye were a spy for the revolution known only to me. I’ll claim Willie as my son and ensure everyone kens he’s renounced his titles and no longer loyal to the crown. And I’ll have ye both travel wi’ letters asserting my protection of ye and my promise of vengeance if any man should harm ye or yer property in any way.”

Moisture filled John’s eyes. He placed his hand over the one that Jamie still rested on his cheek. “Of course, I cannot speak for William...but if we can persuade him to accept your offer, I will do anything you ask of me, James Fraser. Anything, at all...whether I believe it mad or not.”

Jamie’s mouth curved into a crooked smile as he released a tense breath. The hand on John’s cheek hooked around his neck, pulling him straight to Jamie’s lips. John whimpered as the man he loved kissed him with passionate possession.

Jamie pulled John down on top of his massive, naked body. His hands gripped John’s hair as his tongue licked deep in his mouth. Their legs entangled and their bodies pressed against each other. John touched everywhere he could...Jamie’s face, his hair, his shoulders, his chest. His heart ached in want for the man. Decades of affection finally requited had tears falling down his cheeks.

Jamie pulled back to wipe them tenderly away. He held John’s face in his hands and said roughly, “I love ye, John. Ye ken that, do ye no’? My friend...and more.”

If Jamie’s words were meant to stop John’s tears, he failed miserably. John kissed him again, absorbing the moment and Jamie’s love...absorbing his taste, his touch, his scent...the beauty of the sounds he made and of the body he inhabited. He’d never allow himself to forget anything of the moment Jamie finally admitted his love.

John desperately wanted to please him. He kissed down Jamie’s neck to his nipples, remembering just how much he like it when Claire touched him there. Jamie grunted when John’s mouth closed on the little bud. He thrust his hips, driving his cock into John’s belly. John licked, sucked, and nibbled, drawing all manner of response from Jamie.

“God, I need my cock inside ye,” said Jamie, reaching for the lightning grease.

John rolled off Jamie to switch their places. He put a pillow beneath his pelvis so when he lay face down it would lift his arse. The scent of almonds filled the air as Jamie prepared them both with the cream. Great, large hands spread John’s buttocks, and a finger slid down the center until it reached his hole and pushed inside. Whenever Claire applied the cream, she was thorough and gentle, concerned with both comfort and preparation. But Jamie seemed to be thoroughly enjoying invading John...touching, exploring, mastering...

When Jamie was satisfied with the lubrication, he removed his finger and a heavy weight came down on John. Jamie’s mouth teased John’s ear as his cock pushed past the natural resistance in John’s arse.

Jamie gave a relieved groan when he was all the way in. “Christ, how it feels inside ye, man. I never kent it could be like this.” He bit down on John’s neck, licking and sucking so hard he was sure to leave marks. “When I watch ye walking around and catch a look at yer arse, I just want to rip off yer breeks and bugger ye for hours.”

Jamie started moving his hips with small strokes, pressing John’s cock hard into the pillow. “Ye and Claire...ye drive me mad wi’ lust for yer great round arses.”

Jamie’s hips sped and his strokes lengthened. John turned his head to find Claire awake and watching. A smile graced her beautiful face at the sight of the rutting men in her bed. John was sure Jamie noticed her—he always noticed Claire.

Jamie shifted his weight so he could drive into John with more leverage. His big arms wrapped tight around John as he bashed their bodies together. He grunted deep in his throat as he shot his seed in John’s arse.

Jamie lay heavy and panting on John as he caught his breath. John’s cock was an aching rod in the pillow, wanting desperately to plunge itself into something.

Jamie pulled out slowly and got up on his knees with his hand on John’s arse to keep him still. Jamie rubbed his thumb over John’s center, spreading his dripping spunk around. He grinned down at Claire who was lightly touching her nipples as she watched Jamie admire the work he put in.

“Ye ken what I want?” said Jamie.

“What’s that?” said Claire.

“I wish my auld cock had enough in him to line yer arses up side by side and fill them both wi’ seed.” Jamie’s hands smacked John’s arse.

“Not up for the task in your old age?” she asked.

“My heart has the fortitude for the twelve tasks of Hercules, but my body is resting on the Elysium Plain. I’m afraid my cock is spent.”

“Well, John and I are not.” Claire ran a suggestive finger down John’s back. “So, while we take on the Lernean Hydra, perhaps your cock will do what it must to revive himself for battle.”

“Aye, I see...” said Jamie, clearly enjoying the thought of watching his wife and friend make love without him. “Ye ken what happens, Sassenach, when ye slay a head of the hydra?”

“That is our objective, isn’t it?”

“I certainly feel like I can spear the Nemean Lion with this,” John pointed to his cock.

Jamie snorted as John crawled over Claire’s body and fit himself between her legs. He met her eyes, dark amber and hooded in anticipation. That hungry look always seemed to grace her face just before he was about to take her. It was the look of pure want and an unshakable entitlement to finding her pleasure. He found great joy in assisting her in procuring it.

He sunk into her, slick and easy, feeling his own sense of relief. She pulled him down to kiss her, softer and more delicate than Jamie, but still strong enough to take all he could give in his semi-mad state.

“Oh God,” said Jamie, watching next to them.

John got up on his knees, enjoying their audience. He lifted one of Claire’s legs over his shoulder and hammered into her. If John thought Jamie was planning on being an inactive observer, he was mistaken. Jamie’s hands were everywhere...on John’s arse, on Claire’s breasts, rubbing her down below. He kissed his wife, licking deep in her mouth, then he kissed John just the same. He had them kiss each other as his hands gripped their hair. It was a furious haze of hedonistic euphoria.

John wasn’t long for orgasm, so he took his newfound knowledge of Claire’s body and rubbed her as he fucked. Jamie’s fingers joined him, knowing his wife so well, setting her off in moments. When he felt her climax, John grabbed her hips and unleashed the last of the need he’d been holding back. He rammed into her with a quick and hard pace, sweat dripping down his temples. His gut clenched, his body tensed, and his seed spilled in a rush.

Jamie, John noticed through his pleasure-muddled brain, was greasing up his cock once more—slay one head of the hydra and more would pop up. Not even age would stand in the way of James Fraser getting what he wanted.

“Roll over as ye are,” he commanded. There was no refusing that tone, even if John’s body wasn’t ready to move.

Still inside Claire, John rolled them over so she lay on top. Her eyes were coming into focus as she realized what her husband had planned. John couldn’t see what Jamie was doing, but he could feel it through the thin wall separating his cock from Claire’s arse.

The most erotic and sensual noises came from Claire’s throat as Jamie pushed inside. She was rubbing her pelvis against John in little circles as Jamie moved in deeper. His mouth was on her neck, loving the vibrations her moans made on his lips.

John didn’t understand a word of Jamie’s Gaelic, but he could hear the tender encouragement being whispered in Claire’s ear. Claire was moaning low and steady as she moved over John. Jamie was having her control the pace of the movement, letting her tell him how much she could take.

Remembering the intensity of the first few times he was taken in the arse, John wasn’t surprised at how quickly Claire climaxed again as she rubbed herself against his pelvis...nor was he surprised at Jamie following shortly behind after taking over the pace of his penetration.

“Well,” said John, as Claire and Jamie collapsed on the bed next to him, “it seems it was a group effort, but all serpent heads have been incapacitated.”

Snorting laughter drifted through the room...truly a Herculean task of its own given their exhausted state.

Jamie was the first to move, maneuvering himself between John and Claire. He pulled them into each of his sides. Claire curled into Jamie like a satisfied cat, and John lay next to him side by side. Jamie’s great hands reached under and grasped a handful of their bottoms with possessive pride.

“Feeling quite impressed with yourself, are you?” said Claire.

“Oh, aye. Though my heid tells me it’s more to do with the two of ye than my own prowess, my cock canna seem to forbear its own sense of accomplishment.”

“Nor would we want it to, darling.”

“I fear it willna work again for some time.” He peered down at the depleted appendage. “He truly has gone to meet the judges of Elysium.”

Claire reached down and cupped his cock, “Don’t worry. It appears to only be a mild coma. He should be alert and oriented come morning.”

“That mebbe overly optimistic, Sassenach.”

Perhaps it was the settling delirium of climax, or perhaps it was a sense of security in their budding romantic relationship, but John felt himself bold enough to reach down and touch Jamie’s cock himself.

“Hmphm,” Jamie made one of his Scottish humming noises...this one of contentment.

John was surprised to find the cock was not as prostrate as its owner alluded. It would soon get there, John was sure, but Jamie was still half-hard from recent activity.

“Yes, it seems there’s still life to be had here,” said John. He stroked the sack of Jamie’s balls in a relaxing fashion as he sometimes did to his own after climax.

“Oh God, man. Ye’ll put me to sleep with that.”

“I don’t see any of us being long for consciousness,” said Claire.

“Hmphm.”

John watched Claire kiss her husband goodnight, with soft lips and slow strokes of her tongue. It was moments like this he’d miss the most when this trip was all said and done.

Before his companions drifted off to sleep, he had a question for them. “Things are different for us all now.”

Claire and Jamie laughed quietly.

“I was quite serious,” he chuckled. He turned to look back and forth between them. “Am I the only one wondering what things will be like for us now? When I leave, do we forget this ever happened? Does it happen again? Do you expect me to live forever in the bedroom next door and assist in managing Claire’s surgery and garden?”

They both found that highly amusing. Jamie’s mouth quirked as he asked, “D’ye want to forget about this, John?”

“God no.”

“And I didn’t imagine you’d want to be my nurse and gardening assistant,” said Claire. “You’re not all that skilled with a hoe.”

“We ken ye have a life,” said Jamie. “Perhaps when ye visit us, or we visit wi’ ye...we’ll find occasion for more of...this.”

“You do want more, then?” John asked. “Both of you? As frequent or infrequent as our visits may be?”

“’Tis like yer white doe, is it no’? We’ll enjoy the time we have and no’ lament the absence of each other...much.”

With two sets of eyes, one whisky one blue, smiling softly at him in the moonlight, he couldn’t imagine lamenting much of anything that happened between them.

 

 

***********************************

 

 

Jamie
_________________________

Jamie found Willie throwing rocks in the spring not far from the house. It was the same spring as before...the one where Willie flayed open Jamie’s heart with the truth of his words and left him to bleed out, necessitating Claire and John patching him back together.

Two weeks had passed since that time. Two weeks since Willie laid bare Jamie’s greatest regrets. Fourteen days since Jamie and Claire invited John into their bed. Twelve days since Willie started wearing the rosary again.

Somehow, Jamie had known he’d find Willie at the spring on the eve of his departure. Jamie launched a rock into the water from some distance away to warn Willie of his arrival. The droplets of the splash scattered over his son. Hardly affected, Willie looked over his shoulder, gave a small, uneven quirk of his mouth, and turned back to his task of ridding the forest of offending little stones. It appeared Willie knew Jamie would find him before they lost all opportunity to connect once more.

Jamie sat on a boulder a few feet away. They hadn’t spoken privately since the last time they were here more than two weeks before. When Jamie and John told Willie of their plan to falsely reveal John as a traitor and have Jamie claim Willie as his son, Willie just sat quietly sipping his whisky and nodded his approval. No more had been said on the matter.

“I have your letters prepared,” said Jamie. “They should be sufficient protection from the Americans. Dinna travel wi’out them, ken?”

Willie nodded, “Thank you.”

“Aye. ’Tis no great hardship claiming ye as my own.”

“As if everyone doesn’t already know,” he smirked. “At least I’m in on the joke now.”

“Hmphm.”

“I wasn’t thanking you for claiming me...that’s inherent in fatherhood, is it not?”

“Then what?”

“For Papa...and for Fanny. For taking care of them.”

“Hmphm. Again, ’tis no great hardship to care for a friend. As for Fanny...she’s mine now. I care for her out of love, not duty.”

Willie nodded and looked up to Jamie’s eyes. “And at Helwater? Was that love or duty?”

Jamie swallowed an obstruction in his throat. “For ye, my son, ’twas always love.”

Willie looked down and nodded, fingering his rosary.

“That was gifted to me by my father...Brian. Yer grandda.”

William shook his head briefly as though shocked to realize he had more family. He looked up to Jamie with his mouth hanging open. “My grandfather?”

“Aye. Ye’ve his eyes...so does Bree and the bairns.”

“And you and Auntie Jenny.”

“Aye.”

“And our ridiculous height and red hair?” Willie rubbed his auburn beard.

“Yer grandmother...Ellen. If ye ever wonder what my Ma looked like, just look at yer sister wi’out the blue eyes and the wee bits of Claire.”

“My sister…” Willie’s eyes softened. “You said...you said before there was another sister. Faith?”

“Hmphm. Aye.” Jamie felt the familiar sting in his heart at the mention of his lost daughter. “She died in childbirth. Claire nearly died, as well. Faith had the MacKenzie hair and wee ears that stuck out a bit...so Claire tells me. I didna get to see her.”

“I’m sorry.”

Jamie accepted with a nod.

“And Fergus? How is it he became...your son?”

“Oh,” Jamie laughed, “that wicked, thieving mongrel.” He bowed his head and flushed a little when he admitted, “I hired him to intercept letters for me...when Claire and I were trying to stop the Rising. We didna plan to fall for the wee laddie, but he made it impossible to do otherwise.”

“I’d wager it had as much to do with you as the child.”

Jamie raised an eyebrow at his son and tried to ascertain if the complement was genuine. Willie had no ability to hide his face...it certainly appeared to be.

“I just mean...from what Fanny and Brianna have told me, you’ve got quite a habit of taking in orphans and tenants and people who need tending.”

“Hmphm. It’s God built me for...to protect and provide.”

“Brianna calls you a Laird. Is that what that means?”

“Hmphm. I suppose it’s something of the like. Though a Laird is born to lead a clan. I was born for my family and for the people who chose me.”

“It must be nice...to know what you’re born to do.”

“Ye dinna ken what ye’re made for yet?”

Willie tossed another rock in the water, making a quiet “ploomp” as it landed. “I thought I’d be a soldier...like Papa. Or an Earl...like Her husband.”

“Your mother’s husband, aye? The man ye thought was her Da.”

Willie nodded. “The only thing worse than finding out you were my father was finding out the man who I thought was my father tried to kill me.”

Jamie couldn’t help his chuckle, “Weel, I’m glad me being yer Da is no’ the worst thing that’s ever happened to ye.”

Willie didn’t seem to think it so funny.

“That man was a swine,” said Jamie. “I’m glad I put a bullet in him. He was no’ yer father, and he deserved to have his titles bestowed on a man far worthier than he ever attempted to be.”

“You think I’m worthier than him?” Willie scoffed.

“Aye. I do.”

Willie shook his head and rolled his eyes.

“I was there, remember? When ye risked everything for Jane?”

Willie seemed surprised Jamie could possibly think that made him worthy. “I failed her. I was too late.”

“Aye...but that didna make the risk any less. No’ to mention, ye even came to me for assistance,” Jamie laughed. “Only a man acting out of love would ask, despite his pride, for the help of a man he despises.”

“I didn’t hate you, Mac,” Willie said quietly. “I’ve never hated you.”

Jamie heard the words immediately, but he didn’t allow himself to believe they were real until he ran them through his mind a half-dozen times.

He called him Mac.

Jamie couldn’t stop his hand from tapping on his leg, but he did his best to keep the moisture in his eyes from falling down his cheeks. He took a deep breath before clearing his throat to say. “Dinna fash, mo mhac. Ye have much life before ye to figure out what ye’ve been called to do. And I’ve found that we discover the truth of who we are when we’re filled wi’ our greatest fear and despair. Wee Fanny is grateful for who ye are.”

William said nothing, but fiddled with his rosary.

“Did anyone ever tell ye I had an older brother?”

Willie shook his head.

“He died, ken...when I was a wee lad. His name was William. We called him Willie. ’Twas a great honor, however unintentional, that ye should be named for my brother...and my dearest friend, John William Grey. If given half a chance, I would ha’ named ye William myself.”

“You did name me...or do you not recall?” Willie smiled softly.

“Yer stinkin’ Papist name...aye.”

“So you see...I am William James, after all. As you intended.”

“Aye. That ye are, mo mhac.”

Willie tossed another rock in the water. “Brianna and Roger are bringing the children to Virginia to visit in the fall. After harvest of course.”

“Is that so? She hadna told me.”

“We just agreed to it this morning. I asked her to Virginia because I fear the next time I return to the Ridge, she won’t let me leave.”

“Aye, she’s set on having ye here,” Jamie chuckled. He added quite genuinely, “Ye ken ye’re welcome here at Ridge...whether to visit...or to stay. I’ll set aside some land for ye in case ye should ever want a place here wi’ yer family.”

Willie threw another rock in the spring, and they watched the ripples drift to the water’s edge.

“I should return to the house and prepare for tomorrow’s journey,” said Willie. He stood and gave a bow of the head, “I thank you for your hospitality these two weeks, sir.”

“Hmphm.” Jamie tried to hide his disappointment in the overt return to formality. “The pleasure was mine.”

Willie turned on a soldier’s heel and strode away. But his movement ceased after making it a distance of only a few steps. He turned back to his father with a pained look in his eyes. When a tear fell down his cheek, Jamie stood quickly and made to move closer, lifting a hand to place on his son’s shoulder. Fear of scaring Willie away with too sudden an intimate gesture made him hesitate. He dropped his hand and waited.

“I…” said Willie, his breath catching in his throat.

Jamie saw a flash on the child he once said goodbye to in the anguish of the young man’s eyes.

“I...I’m sorry, Mac. I’m sorry for what I said.” The tears in Willie’s eyes were falling freely. “Thank you for Jane...for Fanny. Thank you for all you’ve done for me...and Papa.”

With tears in his own eyes, Jamie stepped toward his son and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Ye’re my son. There is nothing I wouldna do for ye if it be in my power.”

“I know,” Willie whispered. “Just like I knew when I came to you about Jane...and when I brought you Fanny. I knew you’d do anything I asked.”

Jamie squeezed the boy’s shoulder. “Aye.”

In a moment of impulsive affection, Jamie pulled him in close and hugged him tight. He could feel Willie’s hands gentle on his back, timid and uncertain. Jamie released him, fearful of overstepping his bounds.

Willie wiped away his tears. He took a few breaths to compose himself and said, “I should be getting back.”

“Aye.”

Willie bowed his head, this time with deference rather than formality, and turned away. Jamie watched his son disappear through the trees.

He sat back on his rock and looked into the spring. He said a quiet prayer to the patron saint of fathers, St. Joseph, for patience and strength.

He sat in quiet meditation until long after the bustling sounds of nature resumed their chirping and scurrying around. He didn’t move even when the forest quieted at the approach of more company. This time, there were two sets of footsteps. He knew who they were before they came in his line of sight.

Claire came and wrapped her arms comfortingly around his neck and sat on his lap without saying a word. She kissed his cheek and nuzzled her forehead against his as he wrapped his arms around her slight frame. John sat next to him with a hand on his thigh.

“We saw Willie go up to his room,” said Claire. “He was tearful and didn’t want to talk.”

“We had some words, is all.”

“Are you alright?”

“Aye,” Jamie couldn’t help his breathlessness. He nuzzled Claire and squeezed John’s hand. “I havena been quite so braw in a verra long time.”

“It was a good conversation then?”

“Aye. ’Twas promising. He called me Mac.”

“That’s wonderful, Jamie.” Claire kissed him softly.

“For a headstrong boy with a foolish amount of pride, that must’ve been no easy task,” said John.

Jamie chuckled, “That it was not.”

Claire laughed and stroked his cheek. “I’m glad it went well.”

“Aye.”

“I knew he’d come around...eventually,” said John.

Jamie laughed. “Sure ye did.”

John looked fondly at Jamie, “He’s his father’s son, after all. It only took thirty years, but you came around with me, didn’t you?”

With his heart near full to bursting, Jamie pulled John in and kissed him. His lips moved slow and adoring.

Breathless, John said, “Dear God in heaven, I’m going to miss you both terribly.”

“Aye,” was all Jamie could say before taking John’s mouth again. He loved the scratch of his beard and feel of tongue. Claire’s soft lips kissed down Jamie’s jaw, drawing his mouth away. He took her delicate face in his hand and imposed his lips on hers.

When she pulled back, she had a dreamy look in her eyes, making her next words quite unconvincing. “We’d better stop. I need to go finish cooking dinner. All the children, the Murrays, and the Higgins family will be coming to say goodbye.”

“Aye,” said Jamie, forcing himself to pull away.

John stood first and held out a hand for Claire. Jamie followed her up.

“This will be our last night together for some time,” said Jamie. He hadn’t realized how painful the thought would be.

Claire caressed his cheek and said, “We’ll make the most of it. Is there anything in particular you want to do?”

Jamie smirked at both Claire and John, “I’ve a few things in mind, though I dinna think we have enough hours left alone to do them all.”

“This isn’t goodbye forever,” said John. “We’ll make the most of our time, then we’ll plan our next visit.”

“Brianna and Roger are going to Virginia in the fall...Perhaps we can accompany them?”

John grinned broadly, “We’d be delighted to have you. You must stay a month, at least.”

Jamie’s cock jumped at the thought of spending a month in bed with the two people in front of him. He looked to Claire with a raised eyebrow in question.

“Let’s plan on it,” she agreed. “But in the meantime, I have dinner to cook, and you boys better think of something else besides love-making for the next few hours.” She hooked one arm around Jamie’s elbow and the other around John’s and began leading them back to the house.

“I dinna ken if I can think of much else when ye’re so beautiful, mo ghraidh. I dinna have the will to battle my desire for ye.”

“As much as I appreciate the thought, the Rising occurring below your belt looks far more fierce than the battles of our history books. The grandchildren should not be exposed to such a menacing sight.”

Jamie snorted. “Ye flatter me again, Sassenach. Though the thought of spearing ye both wi’ my bayonet has my weapon standing at attention.”

“And you do yourself no justice, General Fraser,” said John. “You’re clearly in possession of a longrifle at the very least.”

“Rifles on a bad day, gentlemen,” said Claire. “You’ve both the blast of cannon after a good meal and a bit of rest.”

Between snorts of laughter, Jamie said, “Dinna expect any long-range shooting tonight, Sassenach, because I dinna intend to let either of ye sleep for long. We’ll have to make due wi’ wee bird shots for the time being.”

As Jamie laughed with his wife and dearest friend while walking home to feast with his family, he did his best not to think too hard on the rising of the morning sun that would take John and Willie away from him once again. Rather, he focused on the joy of moment, as John did the silver of moonlight.

Chapter Text

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From Mr. John Grey
To Mr. James Fraser, Esq.

My dear friend—

I write you in good health, and trust that I find you and yours in similar condition. It is taking some getting accustomed to addressing myself without the formal titles I’ve held for a lifetime, but I must say, I find it rather freeing. Your letters to the committees have appeared to achieve our goal of informing all concerned parties of the nature of both William’s and my loyalties (Of course, we are now expected to contribute financially to the revolutionary cause, which we are more than willing to do).

You’ll find this letter is accompanied with additional letters to you from William, and various others addressed to the MacKenzies and Higgins family. I trust that you will ensure they are delivered to the appropriate hands. I have also included a gift to your wife of several crates of almonds. I saw that we had depleted her stores upon my last visit and thought it best to contribute to replenishing her stock in hopes she utilizes them in one of my favorite of her recipes during your visit to Virginia this fall. I am eagerly anticipating a most fulfilling reunion of friends at the completion of your harvest.

Please share with your darling wife that last night while I was sitting near the large window in my bedchamber—drinking a glass of the finest five-year whisky that’s ever graced my palate—a lovely Autumn breeze filtered through the window and drew my attention outside. There, beneath the vibrant full moon, I found a most welcome visitor. A white doe colored silver in moonlight was grazing on the grass in the clearing near the edge of the wood. A fondness stole over me at the rarity of such beauty, and I found myself aching for the company of my dearest friends. I look forward to your visit this fall, and will endeavor to be as gracious and generous a host as you were to me in the summer.

As always, I remain
You Ob’t. Servant
John Grey