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Jack's feet were heavy. Every part of him was heavy, but he kept stumbling along all the same. He'd cut through the woods to avoid questions on his way back to camp. He had the pass from his commander, of course, but he'd told no one else about the circumstances surrounding his leave, and he had no desire to start now.

(Alex, the little fool, had always been full of questions. Impossible to shut him up as a boy. "Johnny, what makes the grass grow?" "Johnny, what's fog made of?" "Johnny, how come my chest hurts?")

Branches and thistles seemed to reach out to snare his scarlet coat. He'd changed back into uniform before leaving the boarding house, not wanting to dwell on his "leave" for one moment longer than he had to. In his haste to get away from that place, he'd forgotten how the long tails of his riding coat loved to become entangled in any convenient thorn bush. He reached out to tug the fabric free, and a sliver of moonlight glinted off of blood - not his own - crusted on his knuckles.

He stopped in his tracks, remembering the pain and pure catharsis of bone breaking under his hands, of a dead man's blood flying up to splatter across his face. God, but he shouldn't have done that. It was the one line he'd never crossed: his obedience to a promise he'd made decades before whilst cleaning a toddler's skinned knee.

("It's alright, Alex, let me look. I'd never hurt you.")

And Jack was just a boy himself at the time, with sins no blacker than pulling the wings off flies or helping to drown the extra barn kittens. He hadn't had any idea what he would become. He couldn't have imagined the cost of loving someone while forever suppressing the need to break them.

He shook the thought away. Alex was gone, and may he rest in peace. Jack had kept his promise until just after the moment of his death, when he was no longer there to see. To his brother, he'd always been Johnny, and Black Jack was naught but a cruel and slanderous rumor.

It wasn't much to hold onto, but it was something.

He shouldn't have ruined his face, though. They'd never be able to give him a proper funeral, now. A closed casket would have to do. In a few days time, Jack supposed he would have to arrange something, if only for the appeasement of his new wife. His lips curled into a bitter smile. Yes, he was married now. Many happy returns. He'd left the girl at the boarding house, with the witch to comfort her. Alex, the slippery bastard, had managed to con one more ill-thought out promise from him. Jack had no illusions. He couldn't hope or expect to keep the timid creature in holy matrimony as her kind and gentle husband. If he kept her and the child close enough to benefit from his wealth and status, he would eventually give in to the urge to break them. He wouldn't do it just yet, though - not with his brother's fading voice still clanging in his ears.

Behind him, in Inverness, a church bell started tolling. He didn't pay it any mind at first, beyond idly counting off the chimes in his head. He expected eleven; surely it couldn't be much later than that.

The clock chimed twelve and Jack Randall stopped in his tracks. It was a new day, then. A very particular day, in fact. The sixteenth of April, year-of-our-lord seventeen hundred and forty-six. He had an appointment.

Breath hissed out of Jack, puffing his cheeks. Perhaps he needn't worry about the child or the child she carried. Perhaps his promise to Alex was beyond his power to break. There was to be a battle in the morning, he knew. All the rag-tag remains of the highland army were camped out near that moor, and by all accounts, the morning would herald their last stand. The starving, half-naked Scots stood little chance of winning, it was true, but that scarcely mattered to the men they would cut down in their crazed blaze of glory.

He growled under his breath and shook himself. It was nonsense. Fraser's bitch had merely pulled out a random date to terrify him, for revenge. It was a childish ploy, and only Jack's own foolishness had made it so effective. It must be pure coincidence that he was likely to see combat on the date foretold.

And yet . . . his rationalizations might hold more water were it not so clear that the witch believed her predictions with all her heart. Why else, after all, would she arrange to wed her sweet, innocent little friend off to a creature such as he? Claire Beauchamp was many things, but Jack was convinced she was neither a lunatic nor a fool. Perhaps Jack just ought to take his horse and ride, ride far away from all this folly and not stop until there was no one left who knew his name.

No. That wouldn't do, of course. The strange tale of his life, such as it was, had already been written. It wasn't a slate to wipe clean and start again. His successes, his failures, his pains, his pleasures . . . he owned them, and he would not simply walk away.

Besides, he realized with sardonic insight, if he deserted, there would be no army pension left to take care of Alex's little church mouse or the growing babe who might be born with Alexander Randall's eyes.

It was suddenly very important that he take care of the babe. That was what good men did, wasn't it? They clung to whatever promises or ideals made them virtuous, like the echo of that rasping voice in his ears saying Johnny . . . Johnny . . . Johnny . . .

"Oh, Johnny!"

Jack's feet had been doggedly carrying him onward, but at the sound of a distant voice, he stopped dead in his tracks. It was followed by another sound in the same register: a low moan that was just as obviously male and just as obviously amorous.

A slow smile spread across his face, though there was no one there to see. The voices were coming from a few paces up ahead, behind a thicket that sheltered a small hollow. A pair of boys with voices barely out of puberty were clearly taking enjoyment from each other, for tomorrow they might die. Buggery was hardly unknown in King George's honorable army, but perpetrators typically weren't quite so careless. Keeping his footsteps lights, Jack slipped from tree to tree, eventually ending up behind the bole of a venerable old oak adjoining the hollow. From there, he could peek out from the shadows.

There was little risk of being spotted. The two stood bathed in moonlight, completely wrapped up in each other. To Jack's disappointment, the tryst seemed to be over, save for the nauseating displays of affection. The taller of the two was buttoning his coat. It was his voice Jack had heard - he was almost sure of it. He was a tall, lean boy of perhaps twenty, with a shock of black hair and a broad face that curved into a smile as he whispered something.

The other was . . . a different creature. Much smaller and with a slender, almost willowy build. He looked about fourteen. Sixteen at a stretch. His dark hair was mussed and studded with leaves and twigs. As Jack watched, he reached up with pale hands and pulled it back with a ribbon. While the older boy was clearly preparing to go back to camp, it seemed the younger meant to linger a while. His breeches were still half-undone and his scarlet coat lay folded over a nearby boulder. His eyes were demurely lowered, and when the older boy dipped his head to nibble his earlobe, the younger blushed so deeply it was obvious even by moonlight. This, then, was a pure child. Innocent as a lamb, despite his late-night foray into sodomy. This, clearly, was Johnny.

Jack cocked his head and watched him, all traces of a smile gone from his face. It had never seemed fair that most men could lead such simple, rewarding lives with no apparent need to struggle against inner demons. He would never understand how they seemed to find tenderness with their lovers such an easy, natural thing - why they never seemed to lust after the thrill of a bitten-off scream or the beauty of a tear washing a clean track through a bloodied face. Jack had known he wasn't like most men the first time he'd taken a girl's maidenhead. The sight of blood on his cock had burned through him like fire, driving him to take her with ever-harder, crueler thrusts. He'd laughed at the sight of her tears and the slap he'd earned in response had genuinely puzzled him at first. Didn't she understand what she was doing to him? Had she any idea how much her pain had meant to him? Apparently not. And so, after a few more unsatisfactory encounters, he'd resigned himself to exercising his passion only through force. That had been the start of getting kicked out of whorehouses, of coerced trysts with blackmailed subordinate officers, of working out his frustrations on peasants and slaves and prisoners. That was the start of the road that led to him being cursed by a witch in some god-forsaken Scottish backwater.

In the false safety of their hollow, the boys shared one last, lingering kiss. The taller turned and headed back toward camp, humming under his breath. Apparently alone, Johnny's face split into a wide smile. He sat down on a fallen log, running his fingers lightly over his own lips. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair that the boy got to have that while Jack had nothing but the hatred of those he'd lusted after. Jack wanted . . .

He wanted.

He waited until he was sure the older boy was out of earshot. The younger still sat on the log, apparently lost in daydreams. Jack straightened his coat and ran a hand through his hair. He fixed his face into an expression of haughty disapproval. When he was ready, he strode out of the trees and into the moonlight as if he hadn't a care in the world. "My word," he said in a lightly mocking tone, "Aren't you a bit young for these types of antics?"

The boy's face went bloodless and he sprang to his feet. "It's not what it looks like, sir!"

"No?" Jack let his eyes wander pointedly from the boy's rumpled shirt to his half-open trousers. "Do you think me a fool, boy?"

The boy's hands were shaking. He pulled them behind his back and tried to straighten into something like a military posture. The bravado did not reach as far as his light, trembling voice. "I was . . . we were . . ."

"You were defiling yourself with another man. In flagrante, as it were. In violation of all laws of God and men. Remind me . . . don't we still hang men for that?"

The boy's narrow chest was stuttering up and down. Jack saw the moment when he realized that he wouldn't be able to explain his way out. His eyes widened and he swallowed hard a few times. "Sir . . . please . . . you don't understand . . ."

"I don't see why I should have to understand. In fact, I see no reason not to take this before your commander. I'm sure he could find a fitting punishment for you and your . . . friend."

The boy sprang forward and grabbed Jack's arm. "Sir . . . Captain, please don't. We'd be ruined."

"You'd be lucky if ruined is the worst of it. The law takes a dim view of buggery."


Jack paused to study him. The boy's features were finely sculpted and a little more defined than Jack would have expected. Perhaps he was older but merely small. His eyes were wide and very blue, framed by thick lashes that were clear even in the dim light. It could have been a girl's face, almost. Innocent lamb indeed. Jack felt a swell of desire and let it bleed out as a sly smile. "Perhaps I could be . . . persuaded to keep my peace. For the right price, of course."

The boy almost seemed ready to cry from relief. "Anything you want. My family is well-off, I would only need to write home . . ."

"That's not the sort of payment I had in mind." Jack let his eyes flick from the boy's face to rake down his body and back up. The boy was young, but not so young that he missed the meaning.

Abruptly, the boy's porcelain skin flushed red. He sputtered, apparently speechless at the insult. "You . . . you accuse me . . . you threaten to expose me for an . . . indiscretion, and then you purport to commit that very same sin with me? Have you no honor?"

Jack reached out and seized him by the back of the neck. "Honor is a lie we tell to children." He gave a small shake, fingers digging tight enough to leave bruises, then loosened his grip and stroked over the skin instead. "A soldier has little need for coin. Yet I find myself . . . very much in need of what you can give me."

"I ought to report you for this outrage!"

Jack grabbed his hair and yanked. "Do! And when you do, I'll call it slander meant to conceal your dalliance with your little friend. Tell me, Johnny, which of us do you think they'll sooner believe?"

The boy wilted in an instant. His eyes became pleading again, but he wasn't ready to break - not yet. "I . . . I can give you more than coin. I am from an influential family. My brother is Lord Melton. We can get you favors. Influence at court. Whatever you want, just . . . don't."

Melton. Where had he heard that name before? When Jack put it together, he threw back his head and laughed. "Johnny! Brother of the vaunted Lord Melton. So, this is the infamous John Grey, the traitor of Prestonpans."

The boy flushed. "I am no traitor, sir."

"So, you didn't hand us a major defeat at the hands of the bloody Scots? You didn't give away the location of our force to the villain known as Red Jamie?" Grey sputtered, but did not respond. Jack reached out with his other hand to grip him around the throat. "Tell me, boy . . . did it make you quiver, when that Scottish barbarian caught you in his camp? Did he bugger you? Or did you just want him to?"

Grey's small fist swung out and caught him across the jaw. Jack retaliated with a backhand that snapped the boy's head around and knocked him to the ground. As John Grey stared up at him, holding a hand over the red mark blooming on his cheek, Jack felt his desire grow. The last of his misgivings were banished by the revelation that Fraser had had his hands on this boy so recently. Jack couldn't help but juxtapose the small, pale body with the Scot's much larger one, all the while imagining the things Jamie might have done to him if he weren't so honorable.

Jack squatted and planted a hand on the boy's sternum. "There's no need to be so unpleasant about this. I'm not asking for anything you haven't given up before. Give me what I want, my little lamb, and all your sordid little secrets stay safe." He took his hand away and stared at him. "I'll not force you, but I will give you a choice. Will you give me this . . . small thing, or will I be forced to bring you and your friend before the magistrate?"

He had him, and they both knew it. The boy swallowed hard. "If . . . if I do this, I want your word as a gentleman that you'll not . . . accuse me or mine."

Still making demands. Jack loved it when they had spine. He smiled. "As you can imagine, I am no gentleman. I am a man of my word, though, and I give it." He patted the boy's cheek lightly. "And you, little lord?"

The boy pressed his lips together and blinked back a tear. Despite that, he did a passable job of making his voice steady. "Then . . . you have my consent, sir. I can only hope that you are a more honorable man than you pretend."

Jack grunted in disinterest and let his eyes rake down the boy's body again. "Good. Now, get up and get those clothes off. I want to see you." The boy clearly hadn't expected such an abrupt and rapid escalation. His eyes widened and for a moment he did not move. Jack let his face go hard. "You'll find I'm not a patient man." It was enough to get Grey sitting up and fumbling with his boots and stockings. Jack stood to watch him, and after a moment the boy stood himself, trembling as he removed his shirt and breeches. He folded them as neatly as a tailor and set them on the boulder beside his coat. He hesitated then, until Jack cleared his throat. "The braies as well, boy." Flushing scarlet, Grey stepped out of his undergarments and folded them with the rest.

The boy's body was as pale and soft as Jack could have hoped. His chest was hairless, though there was enough growth down below that Jack was reasonably certain he was well past adolescence. This was no child, then, but merely a very small, very young man. That was alright. There wasn't much sport in children. Men were usually the most enjoyable to take and to break.

Grey's head was ducked and he was trying to cover himself with his hands. Jack carried his riding crop clipped at his belt. He pulled it out and stepped to within an arm's length of the boy. Using the worn leather of the crop, he nudged Grey's arms back to his sides. When the boy's fingers twitched like he wanted to resist, Jack laid down a hard spat to the back of his hand. He kept his voice very even. "None of that." Still using the crop rather than his hand, he traced a line lightly up the inside of the boy's thigh to his groin. His cock and balls were small, well-made, and entirely soft. Jack dragged the leather over them and lifted the testicles with the tip of the crop, as if weighing them. "Well, I can see why you look to the lads, at least," he said with light mockery, "There's precious little here to satisfy a woman." Jack half-expected him to be too terrified to react, but the boy surprised him. His head stayed down, but an angry flush spread from his cheeks down his neck and across his chest. His jaw clenched, drawing Jack's attention to the firm line of it. His hands, too, knotted into fists, though they stayed close by his sides. This one was stronger than he'd thought. Good.

Jack laid the crop warningly just above the base of his cock. "None of that." Grey swallowed and his hands relaxed.

Moving the crop to his slender shoulder, Jack urged him to turn. The boy obeyed. He was trembling, but only a little. His back was just as smooth and unmarred as the rest of him. Jack stepped close and ran a finger up the valley of his spine, feeling the boy flinch and try to cover the reaction. He lowered his voice to a croon. "If you were under my command, boy, you'd not be so lovely. Earl's son or no, I'd have had the skin flayed off your back for that bit of foolishness with the Scots. But, then, maybe your Captain liked the look of your skin too much."

Grey gave an outraged huff that brought a smile to Jack's lips. His voice was thin, but cutting. "First you accuse Red Jamie, then my Captain. Do you think every man in the world is out to bugger me, sir? Or can you just not imagine that there are men with honor?"

Jack hit him hard with the crop, raising an instant welt on the perfect globe of his ass. Grey flinched a little but made no sound. He'd likely been expecting some kind of retaliation. Jack brought the crop next to the young man's lips and stroked over them. "You'll watch your tongue, or I'll find a better use for it." Bringing the implement sideways across his face, Jack pressed the shaft through his lips and pushed against his teeth. "Open." Grey clenched his jaw a little tighter. Jack collared him with his other hand and squeezed. "I swear to god, boy, if you disobey you will regret it." He squeezed a little tighter. The muscles of his neck were straining against Jack, but the boy's shoulders slumped a little in defeat. He relaxed his jaw, letting Jack slide the shaft of the crop between his molars like a bit. "Better. Hold that. Damage it and you'll get my saber instead." He was still flushed and furious, but when Jack took his hands away, the boy kept the crop between his teeth. Stepping close enough that he could feel the heat of the other's body, Jack slowly untied the ribbon in Grey's hair and draped it over his shoulder while the dark locks flowed free.

Jack gave him a brusque shove. "On your knees. Bend over that log." Grey stumbled a step, then obediently dropped to his knees. The ribbon fluttered to the ground. Like a child at prayer, he braced his elbows on the bark and waited. Jack felt a thrill run through him. Curbing defiance and replacing it with submission was a particular pleasure of his. He was not immune to the allure of doing so through violence, but when word and threat were enough, that was almost better.

Jack took off his belt and set aside his sheathed saber and pistol. He folded the leather in half and cracked it once against his palm. Grey turned his head just enough to watch him out of the corner of his eye. Without further ceremony, Jack brought it down over the curve of the boy's ass, raising welts on both cheeks. It wasn't a hard hit by his standards; Grey probably wouldn't even bruise from that one, but Jack got to watch his round rump bounce and then redden from the impact, got to see his slender body flinch and hear his bitten-back grunt.

"Buggery is common in boys who were spared the strap," he said in a conversational tone. He swung again and caught the tops of Grey's thighs. "Granted, it's probably too late to make any difference now . . . but, what's the harm in trying?" He gave him a few more good stripes without speaking. Grey took his whipping like one who'd never had the experience before. Every blow seemed to bring a moment of shocked surprise. Grey was tensing against them in a way that was certain to make the pain worse. Jack didn't drag it out. He was in the mood for simple pleasures tonight. When he stopped, the boy's ass was diffusely pink. Only one of the welts was bleeding, and that one only a little.

He dropped to one knee behind the boy. "Well, it was worth a shot." Grey turned to glare at him with one eye, but Jack was preoccupied with the moisture he saw collecting at the corners. He reached out and caught the tear with his thumb just as it started to fall. He feigned bafflement. "What's this? Tears? Already?" A tremor ran through the boy and he dropped his head to hang between his shoulder blades. Jack ran a hand gently down the smooth skin of his back. The boy's defiance was stirring, yes, but there was much more Jack wanted to see from him. "Settle down," he told him, "Calm yourself. We've a long way yet to go."

He slid a hand around the boy's narrow hip and nudged it back a little, creating room. At first, all he did was run his palm up over the flat stomach and narrow chest. His fingers curled to gently tweak a nipple. The boy's shoulders shook, and Jack stooped to press a gentle kiss to the back of his neck, a genuine comfort. The problem, of course, had never been that he did not feel tenderness for his bedmates. It was just that he felt so many other things too.

After a few minutes of soothing and gentle teasing, Jack slid his hand back down. When he neared Grey's cock, though, the boy made a noise of objection and all but bucked out of his grip. "That will be quite enough!" he snapped in the universally effective tone of a schoolmarm. With his other hand, he slapped the boy's bruised ass and then squeezed the cheek, his fingers digging cruelly into the welts. Grey whimpered and went still. "That'll teach me to do you favors, I suppose," Jack growled. Though he was barely half-hard, he let his hand slide into the crease of the boy's ass, his thumb questing for his entrance. It took longer for him to be ready himself since his . . . injury, but the boy didn't have to know that. Less as a prelude than an expression of dominance, he pushed in sharply.

The crop fell to the ground as Grey screamed. It was an unexpected thrill, but one that was entirely too loud for their current circumstances. Jack clapped his free hand over the boy's mouth, cutting off the cry. "Scream again and I'll have you handed over to the magistrate - and your friend too! Perhaps they wouldn't hang an earl's son, but I wonder if the other young officer is so well connected?"
Grey gritted his teeth - not in defiance but in pain - and nodded shortly. Jack moved his thumb just a little and quickly realized the reason for the outburst. "Not even a little greased? Don't try to tell me you were the one giving in that little exchange I walked in on?"

Grey's whole body was tense, but he shook his head and did an admirable job of speaking through the discomfort. "We did not have time. And he was afraid of being caught."

Jack twisted his hand a little. "Just your mouths, then?"

"Yes," the boy ground out.

Jack pulled out with a quick scrape. "That's unfortunate for you. As I've said, I am not a patient man, and I did not come prepared for a tryst. We will just have to work with what is at hand." He bent down, covering the boy's naked body with his fully-clothed one. With one hand he picked up his crop. The other he pressed into the boy's mouth. "Suck. Get the fingers wet, or you'll wish you had." He'd kept his tone mild, but another tremor ran through Grey as he understood. His mouth was fairly dry, but he quickly sucked and laved over three of Jack's fingers, creating saliva just from the friction. After a moment, Jack pulled away and pressed his other hand over the small of his back. "Good." Sliding the slick fingers towards the boy's opening, he paused a moment just to trace idly over the rim. "Remember what I said about screaming. I'll not warn you again." Grey nodded.

Jack speared him with two fingers. A shock ran through the young one's body, and he let out a dull "Hhhrrmmm" as he swallowed a cry. Jack stroked lightly over his hip. "Still playing the virgin, then, are we? We'll see." He waited a few moments, then thrust carefully. He leaned close and spat, adding his own saliva to the insufficient slick. It wouldn't do to hurt the boy at this juncture, at least not too much. "Relax," Jack told him as he stretched him open, "You're the only one who will suffer if you don't." He pushed in deeper and hooked his fingers down, feeling for a particular spot . . . there. Grey's body twitched and jerked, and he had to bite back another cry.

"Look at you," Jack crooned, stroking more firmly over the spot, "Responsive as a woman." He used his free hand to angle the boy's hips. "Come, little one. Open your cunt for me . . . yes, just like that . . ." The boy was making small noises of distress, but when Jack slid a hand down to his cock, he found him more than half-hard. He kept his voice poison-sweet. "It's alright. I already know how much you love to be used. There's nothing to hide from me." He stroked him harder, even as his own cock pinched painfully in his breeches. "There, boy, isn't that better?"

He worked another finger into him, all the while stroking and tugging at his cock, until the boy was panting, dripping sweat, and twitching at every touch. When he felt the desperation start to crest, he abruptly removed both his hands. "Steady. Be good for me." He opened his breeches at long last and sighed with relief as his erect cock slid out.

He wanted a better angle. Seizing Grey's wrists, he twisted them behind his back and pressed down until the boy's belly was pressed against the bark. Grey made a noise of objection as Jack crossed his wrists and pinned them. "Stop complaining," he told him, "Keep your arms there or I'll give you something to complain about." He pushed the boy's knees a little apart and angled him to bend at the hips, presenting his backside. "Just like that. Hold position." He opened his trousers a little more.

John Grey gasped. It was a quiet sound, and quickly smothered, but Jack knew immediately what it was about. The boy didn't even try to pretend. He was looking over his shoulder, probably meaning to glare at Jack again, and had caught sight of the injuries under Jack's half-open breeches. Jack growled and did his best to smother his anger. The boy wasn't the cause of it. He hadn't said anything, but he was staring at the dark, jagged scar that ran from the right side of Jack's pelvis and down to his loins. It had missed his cock by an inch. Jamie's sword. It had ripped instead into the right side of his scrotum and left a wound that had festered for weeks. Jack's right testicle was nothing now - just a hard, lumpy knot of scar tissue. The surgeons had told him he was lucky to be alive. They'd also told him he'd never father children, as if that was the true tragedy of the situation. To his great relief, though, as the wound healed, his remaining endowment recovered, and within six months he was a man again.

"Don't worry, boy," he sneered while stroking himself harder, "I'm more than capable of giving you what you need." He spat on his hand, slicked himself, and lined up without further ceremony. One hand wrapped around the boy's middle, keeping him from flinching away. The other clapped over his mouth - a small piece of mercy. It took Jack two tries to find the slicked entrance, but when he did, he snapped his hips in hard and muffled the boy's scream with his palm. "There you are," he whispered, keeping his voice tender even as he forced himself in one last inch, "There, there."

The boy didn't make a sound after the first shock, but there were tears dripping over Jack's hand, and the body beneath him was trembling. Jack took his hand away before the boy's nose could run all over it, but paused to whisper into his ear. "Remember. Hush." He put that hand on the boy's half-wilted cock instead and began to hitch into him with tiny movements of his hips. For now, he kept his thrusts gentle. John Grey (Johnny) let out a few small grunts. His right hand tightened on his left wrist and he sank a little weight into his knees, trying to brace against Jack. The bark must be rough against the soft skin of his belly. Nevertheless, as Jack stroked him and angled ever deeper thrusts against that spot, the boy hardened again and began to pant and gasp from something other than discomfort.

When he felt the boy drawing close, Jack leaned over him and growled just the right amount of poison into his ear. "That's it, little one . . . that's it, give me your cunt . . . yes, like that, you're getting so loose for it. You love it, don't you? Love being used so much you'll give it up to anyone who happens by." When he felt Grey teetering at the brink, Jack stilled his hand and lowered his voice even further. "Does that boy know? Does he know what a faithless whore he has in you?"

He thrust, squeezed, and twisted and in less than a second the boy was coming, spending his seed all over the mossy bark, and the sounds coming out of his mouth were wordless but the perfect mixture of arousal and unexpected hurt. Jack shushed him and soothed him through it until the boy lay limp and panting over the log. The delicious spasming of his hole weakened and slowed until the muscle was lax and he was as loose as he'd been yet.

Jack gripped his wrists and forced them upward until the strain began to show in those narrow shoulders. "Be a good whore for me, now." And then he was thrusting hard, rocking the limp body and scraping it against the bark until Grey was making little cries of confusion and pain. Jack released his wrists to angle his hips better, and Grey tried to bring his hands down to brace himself. The crop was in Jack's hand before he bothered to think of it. "Do as you're told, boy!" He laid down a hard leather smack to the top of Grey's ass and felt him clench around him even as a small "ahh," escaped his lips. "Put your hands back. I warned you."

Trembling and sniffling, the boy did it. Jack's brutal thrusts did not slow. "I don't suffer disobedience, boy," he said, laying down another blow to the other side, "Nor defiance." With his other hand, he pressed hard against the welts from before. "Do you know what I did to the man who gave me that scar?"

Grey shook his head, which told Jack he was listening despite the pain. Good. He wanted this story heard, even if he had to rearrange a few details for the boy's benefit.

"First, I gave him a hundred lashes. He had beautiful skin. Like you. Not so pretty once I was done with it."

He cracked the crop against the boy's ass again. Grey, of course, had no frame of reference with which to judge him, so he couldn't know how easy Jack was going on him.

"He still wouldn't submit, so I crushed his hand. You could see the bone sticking through the skin. His fingers swelled up like five little cocks." The boy whimpered. Jack could hear his teeth grinding. "After that, he broke. He was good for me, like you're being now. So, I carved my initials into his chest as a reminder." Jack whipped him again. "You're not going to be that foolish, are you John Grey? Johnny? You're not going to make me break you."

The boy shook his head. His reward was a tap of the crop that was perhaps half as hard as the ones before it. "Good boy . . . good . . ." Jack was close. He swung the crop harder, aiming for the sensitive crease where thighs met ass. Grey yelped and Jack groaned at the sensation. "Yes . . . yes, so good for me." Another spat, a little lighter. "That's it. I love how you tighten around me when I whip you. Feels just like it does when you come." His other hand slid soothingly up Grey's back and wrapped around his throat. "I'm going to use you, now."

That was all the warning he gave before redoubling his thrusts. His hips pistoned wildly into the boy's pliant body as he chased his release, too fast even to crop him. It wasn't just him and John Grey, anymore. In his mind, he could see Jamie and his little whore and every bedmate he'd had before them, all the way back to little Beatrice who'd slapped him over her maidenhead. Every hard thrust was his way of chasing them. He could see them, almost feel them, but he could never have them. Never again.

He spent his seed into the boy, and it felt like ending - like the last definitive punctuation before closing the book.

He thrust a few more times, slowly and without malice, until it was clear that it was done. He pulled out of the boy and stroked down his back one last time. "You did well. Johnny."

He stood and turned away, stretching the ache out of his muscles as he fastened his breeches. Earlier, he'd idly considered keeping the boy for the night - not letting him leave until he'd had his fill again and again. Now, though, it was clear. It was over.

Behind him, he heard a whimper. He turned to find the boy still on his hands and knees, still shaking. "No use in crying about it," Jack told him roughly, "What's done is done. And it isn't as though you didn't consent."

The boy was utterly still for a moment, then he pushed himself to his feet and turned to face Jack. Tears were wet on his face and his front was covered in scratches, but his face was composed, his jaw firm. "I may have consented, sir, but you took more than I was giving. And I don't suppose I shall get it back."

A predator's instinct told Jack to pounce. Even more than the sex, even more than the power, he loved seeing them truly break. This boy was right on the edge, and Jack knew just the words to push him over. For Jamie, it had been the betrayal of his wife. For Grey, all it would take was one more affront to his honor - one suggestion that maybe he wasn't really a man and shouldn't concern himself with such things. Wounds might heal and even scars would fade, but those last words he'd carry for the rest of his life - an eternal reminder that Jack Randall was here.

He saw the opening . . . and for the first time in his life he let it pass. He stooped to pick up the boy's hair ribbon and turned him with a firm hand on his shoulder. Grey didn't react as Jack gently swept his hair back and secured it with the tie. "I've taken nothing," he told him quietly, "You'll go back to camp tonight and perhaps have yourself a good cry. And then you'll get up tomorrow and put on your uniform and I'll be a little further away. The next day, further. The next further still. And you'll get on with your life. Eventually you'll meet some sweet girl - or boy, I suppose - who gives you everything you need. And by then, I'll be nothing to you. Just a memory." He picked up the boy's uniform and shoved it to his chest. "So, don't pretend otherwise."

Grey was staring at him like he'd seen a ghost. Still naked, but apparently unwilling to spend another second in Jack's presence, he grabbed his boots and fled.

In his wake, Jack sat down on the log and stared up at the sky. They always fled from him afterwards, and who could blame them? Once, he'd dreamed that he might someday find someone whose tastes were . . . compatible with his own. With whom he could explore all his complicated desires for pain and dominance and tenderness. Someone he could hurt and soothe and always trust to come back to him. When he'd finally given up on that foolish dream, he'd wasted part of his life on the hope of creating such a one. He'd thought that, just perhaps, if a person could be broken in just the right ways and then painstakingly put back together, perhaps what was left would be able to lo . . .

He stopped and looked down at his hands. He rubbed at the scar now hidden under his breeches.

He'd gotten close, he thought. At Wentworth Prison. He remembered the almost indescribable beauty of Jamie Fraser breaking apart and spending himself, sobbing and leaning into Jack's touch. Later, after Jack had taken him past all limits of pain and understanding, he remembered large hands holding him. He'd been so close.

Jack stared at his knuckles. The blood of the only man who'd ever loved him was still dried on those knuckles. The rest of it . . . well, it wasn't as if he could change it now. When he was gone, he wouldn't be mourned, but he would be remembered. By Jamie. His wife. That boy who still didn't know his name. It would have to be enough.

Far off in the distance, the church in Inverness chimed with the hour. 1 AM. April 16th, 1746. His day was ending.

Perhaps it was just as well.