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Spouses with Benefits

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With the wedding festivities lasting until late at night, not many of the guests were still awake and wandering the halls of Riverrun. The few people that were and, by extension, passed the newly wed couple’s bedchamber that night – on purpose or not – were not at all surprised to hear the rhythmical creaking of a bed, the moans and grunts or the conversations in hushed voices. Surprised were not even the people who knew Lord John better than most because he has proven to be a dutiful husband in the past and there was no denying that he was quite taken by the young Fraser girl. The most surprised, perhaps, was Brianna’s bridal party and those who knew who her heart truly belonged to. After all, it hadn’t been long since her parents’ return – without one Roger MacKenzie. Nevertheless, they were all the happier to believe that she had found a suitable replacement. Or a better one even – for all everyone knew Roger did not have a title to his name.

Inside the chamber the bed was rocking back and forth. Brianna grunted as her foot bumped against its end where it stayed on the footboard and moved with the bed’s motions.

Her head turned and she let out a long "Ohhh," followed by, "Where did you learn that move?"

Lord John chuckled lightly. "You truly are your father's daughter."

Shooting him a challenging look, she placed delicate fingers on one of her rooks as she started panting slightly. "This is getting exhausting."

"My turn?" Lord John inquired with a raised eyebrow and when she gave him a thankful smile, he simply moved one of his pieces and sat back in his armchair, a self-satisfied look on his face as he interlaced his fingers on his lap.

Brianna groaned. "You're certainly not going easy on me."

"I have a reputation to perpetuate."

"I'm the one perpetuating your reputation," she argued with a nod towards the bed and recalled the memory of her mother telling her about her wedding night with Jamie, how noisy they had been and how people had commented on it the next morning.

Lord John’s eyes followed her indication and then fell back on her, a mixture of amusement and embarrassment on his face. "We are not required, as such, to give proof of anything to anyone regarding our marriage."

"No, but you need to give proof of why on earth you’d think that Mr. Barrow is hotter than Mr. Crawley, and out of all the wedding guests, no less."

There was a slight upward quirk to his lips. "I was under the impression that you simply wanted my opinion on the matter, not a scientific study on objective beauty."

"Fair enough. Come to think of it, it is an advantage that we have different taste in men. Imagine we’d fall for the same one."

Judging from the look he directed downwards and the self-deprecating smile on his lips, Brianna knew the gist of what he was going to answer. And she was having none of that on their wedding day, so she resolved her own scenario for him, only semi-joking.

"Well, if that ever were the case, it’d be an easy decision, really. As husband and wife, we share everything."

Even though this hadn’t been the original plan, more like plan B to be exact, Brianna thought that everything could have turned out far worse for her. For example, what this night would have been like if Lord John hadn’t stepped in when Mr. Forbes was about to propose.

If she was honest with herself, she hadn't felt as safe as she did in this very moment since she had left 1971 all that time ago.

And to think she had been so nervous about tonight. To think they would actually-, that Lord John would even consider-

It was absurd. No, he was as reliable as ever. 

In hindsight she felt a little stupid for just standing there when they had entered the bedchamber, fumbling with her hands and taking a steadying breath as Lord John closed the door behind him. She had slowly turned around, thrown up her hands before protectively wrapping them around herself, and asked, a slight strain to her voice, "So, what are we going to do now?"

Lord John had simply given her a warm smile, albeit with a mischievous glint in his eyes, and extracted a cylindrical leather case from behind his back. "May I interest you in a little game of chess, Brianna?"

She had been determined on beating him but it had quickly become apparent that chess was one of his most passionate occupations. Which is why she didn’t feel too bad about getting checkmated after only half an hour.

Sighing heavily, Brianna decided to relieve her right foot and therefore positioned her left one on the footboard as well. She braced both of her feet against it and wanted to continue her farce with a new bout of vehemence, realizing too late that her, well, footing was missing elsewhere now, so she promptly toppled over backwards in her chair and with a "whoaoaoa" and a thud she hit the floor, sweeping the chess board off the table in her hand’s frantic search for something to hold on to.

She must have squeezed her eyes shut because when she opened them again, Lord John was leaning over her with a worried expression on his face and an outstretched hand.

"Are you all right?"

Brianna couldn’t help it. She burst out laughing.

Lord John huffed and shook his head, straightening himself and letting his gaze wander over the scattered chess pieces before he looked back down at her with a titled head and a furrowed brow.

"You're a sore loser, you know that?"

"Oh, don’t flatter yourself. I only lost because I had to do all the work and was distracted."

He reached for her again and this time she took his hand and let him haul her up.

"Well, I learned not to be quite so… blustering," he said softly.

She gave him a thin-lipped smile before changing the topic. "Hey, uhm, I actually have something for you. Consider it a wedding gift."

She turned to walk over to the desk, picked up a piece of parchment and handed it to him. It was a drawing of him she had finished the day before. She thought she had done a good job of capturing his handsome features.

And handsome he was. She’d have to be blind not to see that. But he was not for her. And she wasn't in love with him. No, she seemed to have a thing for men who abandoned her when she needed them the most. Something Lord John would never do.

His surprised look turned into a broad smile when he examined the drawing. "Thank you, Brianna," he said gently, with a respectful bow of his head.

"I can make you one of my father too, if you want," she blurted before even thinking about the implications of her words. 

His eyebrows shot up and he averted his gaze, his mouth slightly parted in an attempt to form a proper response. "Oh, uh." He drew his eyebrows together. "Mmh."

Usually the embodiment of composure and grace, the rare occasions when he did get caught off-guard and was fumbling for words were a sight to behold.

"It would be my pleasure, Lord John," Brianna said with a chuckle, taking his hands in hers in a reassuring gesture.

"We're married. Please, call me John," he said with an affectionate smile.

"Very well." She nodded, then a thought flashed through her mind and a second later she was standing on the bed. "Come on. I have a better idea."

John eyed her skeptically when she started bouncing around.

"This is much more effective."

"You Frasers are a most peculiar breed indeed."

"It’s our wedding night, John! We’re allowed to have some fun. Come on, you may never get the chance again."

At last, John sighed, put down the drawing on the now empty table, took off his shoes and let Brianna help him up on the bed where he had trouble keeping his balance due to his wife’s activities.

"Hmm. Oh, John!" she moaned, grinning at him as the bed jolted and creaked beneath them.

He flashed her an amused smile before fixing his gaze on her with narrowed eyes and letting out a low growl, which startled her. Then she beamed at him and laughed in delight, flopping down on the bed. A moment later, John gracefully laid down next to her and they turned their heads to look at one another.

"You think that's enough?" Brianna asked, slightly out of breath from physical exertion and laughter.

"Enough? I'm afraid if we keep this up any longer your aunt will surely throw us out for demolishing her furniture."

Brianna chuckled lightly before tilting her head a little and smiling at him again. "Thank you, John. For marrying me. I know you didn't have to and there's nothing in it for you." 

"I wouldn't go so far as to say there's nothing in it for me but either way, you're very welcome, Brianna." John had been an honorable Fraser for so long that becoming an actual part of the family was the natural next step, Brianna thought. And she couldn’t wait to see what he was like as a father.

"You know, I always imagined the term 'marrying your best friend' to imply something a bit different but honestly, I'm not complaining. There's no one else I'd rather be married to. You’re a saving grace, John, and I hope I never give you cause to regret that selfless split-second decision you made on account of, as it turned out, misplaced hope and sparing me a broken heart."

The look he gave her told her everything she needed to know. "Seeing you truly happy for the first time since I’ve met you…" He shook his head, the pillow softly rustling under him. "My God, how could I ever regret that?"

And if no one ever saw them kissing each other on the mouth in public after the wedding, only on the cheek or forehead every once in a while, well, they were simply pleasantly discreet and considerate. Behavior befitting a Lord and a Lady. And mindful of people who weren't as fortunate as them, to have found their soulmate. 

Fin