The air around them feels almost solid with the icy cold despite the heavy canvas walls of the tent and the layers of scratchy blankets and worn tartan enveloping Ian’s body. He lies awake, staring into the darkness, watching his own breath come in little clouds of white mist and listening to Jamie breathing in time with him on his left side. He can tell his best friend isn’t sleeping either, and it calms him a little, this intuitive understanding between them. It promises an ally, if nothing more. At least he won’t have to go into battle alone.
„Ye think Mrs Crook will make those wee bannocks with elderberry jam when we get back home?“ Jamie’s voice breaks the silence and Ian shifts on his side to face him, even though he can barely make out the other’s features through the black of the night.
„I think she’ll make whatever ye wish for if we get back home,“ he answers, and neither of them misses the subtle but weighty change in phrasing. They lie in silence for a minute, then there is a rustle of fabric when Jamie turns to face Ian as well, scooting closer until – even in the darkness – Ian can make out the stubble on his jaw, the strong slide of his nose.
„We’ll go home, a charaid. I promise, we’ll go home.“
Ian wiggles his hand under the mountain of blankets separating him from Jamie, finding and squeezing the other’s in gratitude. Jamie squeezes back, his heat slowly thawing the frozen joints in Ian’s fingers.
„Besides,“ he speaks up again after a while, and his voice carries an amused chuckle. „I dinna want to die a virgin.“
Ian can’t help the hoarse bellow of laughter that escapes him in surprise. „Are ye serious?“ he coughs incredulously and Jamie chuckles again. „Really? Ye’ve never...?“
„No, never,“ Jamie states simply.
„But... what about that de Marillac lass?“
Jamie just grunts in answer, tapping a finger on Ian’s palm. The touch makes Ian aware that their hands are still linked, the physical connection suddenly given a different implication by the topic of their conversation. Ian chooses to ignore it, reveling in the warmth slowly spreading from his palm to the rest of his body. Instead of letting go, he shifts the fraction of an inch closer.
„Me neither,“ he admits, not meeting Jamie’s eyes.
„Oh, aye?“ The question is a challenge and Ian can picture Jamie’s raised eyebrow in it even before he raises his gaze again to face his best friend. „I’ll thank ye for not defiling my sister, then.“ Jamie grins at him and Ian is thankful for the dark obscuring his flush. Jamie has always been able to look right through him – it’s part of what makes their friendship so strong. It shouldn’t have surprised Ian that Jamie knows about his feelings for Jenny, too.
„I dinna think I’ve had much choice in that, in all fairness,“ he attempts a teasing answer, faltering on the last words because Jamie moves the grip of his hand to Ian’s wrist, brushing his thumb lazily over Ian’s pulse point.
„What are ye doing?“ Ian whispers in a rush of hot breath, feeling goosebumps break out from where Jamie’s touch is sending nervous jitters through his body.
Jamie’s tone is calm, rational, when he starts to talk. His finger is the only indication that his nerves are in just as much of a knot as Ian’s, tapping a rapid rhythm on Ian’s wrist. Surprisingly, that alone goes a long way in calming Ian down – they’re in the same boat here.
„Weel, I intend not to die on that battlefield tomorrow, but ye never ken what’s going to happen, aye?“ Jamie pauses, and Ian makes a low sound of agreement in his throat, moving his own hand to lightly scratch the inside of Jamie’s forearm, trying to provoke him into going on, coming out with it. Jamie shudders at the touch, letting out a quiet sound that sends Ian’s blood rushing. He catches Ian’s fingers in his other hand, stilling them, and for a second Ian thinks he’s gone too far, that they’ll stop this right now and never speak of it again.
„I just think it would be a shame if I died with blue balls, ye ken?“ Jamie breaks the silence, voice hoarse and low. Ian lets out the breath he’s been holding on a sigh.
„Canna let that happen,“ he agrees, flexing his fingers in Jamie’s grip and in a flash, Jamie moves their hands downwards, placing them on his hard cock.
„Oh,“ Ian says, softly squeezing, mapping out this new territory by touch. Jamie groans in answer, pressing Ian closer, then taking his own hand away and letting Ian take charge.
„I went to fill my canteen at the river today,“ he suddenly starts talking again, his tone urgent. „Antoinette was washing herself... She... I dinna think she noticed me.“
It’s Ian’s turn to groan then, both at the sensation of hard, velvety hot Jamie filling his palm and at the image his words are conjuring in Ian’s mind – the General’s daughter, Antoinette, short and curvy, with her full, pink lips and shiny blonde waves. He tightens his grip on Jamie, tentatively starting to move his hand in a way he knows enjoyable from personal experience.
„She... Diah... she was standing in the water up to her hips and she was scooping water onto her bare breasts... I could see her nipples rising in the cold, she was so beautiful...“
His breath is coming in pants, and Ian presses unconsciously closer. His own erection is a heavy weight between them now, aching for attention and his breathing matches Jamie’s, erratic and shallow. Jamie yanks on the blankets separating them, making a gush of cold air flush over their heated bodies, relieving and heightening at once, before he covers them both again and they sigh at the heady press of body against body.
Jamie’s voice sounds wrecked, when he continues to talk, sound alone making Ian buck and grind against him, prompting Jamie to finally put a hand on him, grip him tight and mirror his rhythm.
„I could just see the dip of her ass disappearing into the water... Ifrinn, I’ve had a cockstand all day. Everytime I close my eyes, I see her tiny hands on those bonnie round breasts...“ He breaks off on a groan, whether from the memory or Ian’s twist of hand is not clear, but doesn’t matter.
Ian’s own mind is racing with images – Jamie’s words mingling with memories of Jenny, fantasies he’s cherished and nurtured, summoned by the sheer pleasure of his body, the primal reaction to Jamie’s smell and feel and sound.
Lord, help me, he thinks when their pace speeds up and neither of them can form coherent words anymore. Lord, help me, he thinks again when he feels Jamie spill into his hand, hot and violent, and he knows it’s only going to take seconds now.
He doesn’t think when his own release comes over him, his mind going completely blank for just a short moment and he welcomes it, chases the void and jumps the peak.
They lie silent again after, each lost in his own thoughts, each trying not to wonder about the significance of what they just shared, each weightless and heavily sated at once. Jamie’s low laugh reaches Ian’s ears just before he falls asleep, lifting the weight from his chest, and he lets himself be lulled into sleep by the silent vibration of his echoing chuckle.