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Fire Closest Kept

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— Brianna —

Fire that's closest kept burns most of all,” whispered Jamie, his voice hollow and disconnected.  

Brianna watched her father’s blue eyes reflect the flaming inferno before them.  They were glossed over and out of focus, as though he wasn’t seeing the fire, at all, but something far beyond.

“I don’t think this is what Shakespeare meant by that line,” said Bree.

She turned to her brother who stood next to her.  His eyes were filled with pain as he watched the last of his inheritance go up in flames.  He’d already given up the Ransom family fortune when he declared his allegiance to the Americans, and now his last tie to the Dunsany family’s great wealth was burning to the ground.  

Bree’s heart broke for him.  He had nothing left...and neither did Lord John.

Jamie placed a large hand on John’s shoulder.  She was uncertain if Jamie was trying to comfort John, or if he was holding him upright.  John appeared to be on the verge of collapse.

Claire was looking over John’s wounds with an anxious restlessness.  They were old injuries from days before when those bastards assaulted him unaware, but Claire needed something to keep her nerves at bay.  Everyone made it out of the house without injury, so the skills Claire typically relied on to keep herself centered during catastrophe were being channeled into an inconsequential task.  Any new wounds inflicted on John were clearly not of the body.

Bree looked over her own family once again.  Thankfully, they were all safe.  Roger and the children were huddled next to her, staring in disbelief.  Mandy clung tight to her big brother’s hand.  

Germain was trying to comfort a whimpering Fanny to little effect.  He patted her awkwardly on the back as she covered her mouth in horrified shock.  She shrieked and jumped back when the second level of the great house collapsed down onto the first.

Willie snapped out of his trancelike state and grabbed the panicking girl in his arms.  Bree watched as her brother held the young girl to his chest, steadying her just like she’d seen her father do a dozen times before.  Even as flames erupted before them, she couldn’t help but marvel at their similarities.  

Roger’s arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her close.  She looked to him with silent questions in her eyes.  What were they going to do?  Where were they going to go?

Roger nodded to Jamie.  “I’m sure yer Da has already come up with a plan.” 

It took a moment for Bree to remember her mother and father lost their home to a fire some years before.  Thinking of the fine house they only recently finished building and the full life they still led, her nerves began to settle.  Houses could be rebuilt; things could be replaced.  

She bent down and wrapped her children in her arms.  They were all alive, and that’s what mattered most.

As she held her babies tight, she noticed Lord John was no longer watching the blaze.  He stared at the ground, his eyes nearly closed.  A solitary tear ran down his bruised and battered cheek.

Who would do such a thing?   

There was no doubt it was arson, seeing as how all the sheds and stables some distance away were also alight with flames.  John and Willie both had enemies, John even more so than his son.

Claire took John’s hand in both of hers and squeezed in reassurance.  Jamie moved in front of them—his hand still on John’s shoulder—and said quietly, “Trust me, mo charaid.  I’ll take care of everything.”

John finally looked up and met Jamie’s eyes.  He sighed deeply, his hot breath visible in the cold November air.  He patted Claire’s hands with affection and told Jamie, “I know you will.  You always do.”

And Brianna wondered who would soon meet their untimely end at the soot-stained hands of a vengeful James Fraser.