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The Silver of Moonlight

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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.