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It was the second night they spent under the Highland moon on their way to Lallybroch to bring Ian home. Milord and milady had retired a while ago, a few feet from the soothing heat of the fire and into the shadows of a large oak. The cold breeze carried their low voices back to Fergus and Ian’s resting place like a lullaby.

By the time they stopped talking, Ian was soundly snoring beside him, but Fergus was restless.

It was this trip – rousing memories of the last time he had travelled back to Lallybroch from Edinburgh with Ian by his side. The days were much warmer then, the trees greener, the roads fuller. What hadn’t changed were Ian’s looks.

Fergus was painfully aware of those looks, timid and innocent, yet so very alluring. He felt their effect even now, that intimate darkness had lain her cloak over the world so that it was just the two of them, alone, huddled together by the fire.

He held his breath for a moment, listening to make sure everyone was sound asleep before he gave in to his body’s need and put a hand on his aching cock. A wave of pleasure and relief surged through his body, from his middle into his toes and fingertips and he bit into the scratchy blanket to keep from moaning. He tightened his grip and started moving his hand.

Ian staring at him when he thinks Fergus doesn’t notice, his look leaving a burning trail in its wake – hazel eyes focused on every movement when he builds the fire, watching every shift of his hips and ass on the steep trail, tracking every twitch of his fingers but flitting away the instant they meet his gaze.

Fergus’s hand picked up speed, spreading the moisture gathering at the tip of his cock, his mind racing with images of the young man sleeping next to him.

Tentative hands on his neck and his cheeks, scraping over the fine stubble just a fraction of a moment longer than necessary. The thrill of a knife to his throat and the lad wielding it so very innocent and inexperienced. The nearly imperceptible tremor running through Ian’s arm when Fergus grips his wrist to guide the knife over his cheek. The pleasant vibration of shaving leaving the residue of desire on his skin.

Tension built in Fergus’ stomach the way it had been building between Frenchman and Scot for months now, but with the speed of wild horses racing over an empty field. He arched his back, his breathing erratic, catching on a stray lock of his hair that had caught on the edge of his mouth.

The static current of proximity, the dim lighting that promises borders crossed and possibilities tested. The gentle nudge of thigh against thigh on a bench in the pub’s darkest corner. The one time Ian doesn’t look away and they light fires with their stares until the barkeep interrupts them. The thrill of what could have been.

The thrill of what could have been. Fergus couldn’t help himself from moaning this time, the memory of Ian’s stare so vivid, he could still feel it on his skin, it made his veins catch fire and his hand grip tighter. A tiny part of him wanted Ian to hear him, wanted him to wake up and see. See how much he affects Fergus, how much he’s ruined him. See how he’s not alone with his desire, how he doesn’t have to be ashamed of it. See all of it and burn with him.

And burn he did, with the violence of days and weeks and months of repressed need, of long hours on horseback with a relentless cockstand. Mon Dieu, that lad.

He lay awake staring at the sky after and now, being sated, he found an inkling of peace in the low crackling of the fire, Ian’s quiet breathing and the soft glow of the stars.

They sat next to each other on a fallen tree near the fire late the next evening. Fergus was talking, telling a story about his days as a pocket thief, mostly to drown out his own thoughts and quiet down the buzzing under his skin. It was obvious Ian wasn’t listening. To be perfectly candid, Fergus wasn’t focusing on the story either. His mind was preoccupied with the soft glow of Ian’s bare skin peeking out of his collar and with milord sound asleep at a short distance with his wife in his arms.

Fergus would have bet a lot of money on the fact that milord was well aware of his unusual affinities. It spoke to his decency, his respect and love for the adoptive son that he hadn’t addressed the subject yet and didn’t treat Fergus any differently. He was not so sure whether the fragile foundation of acceptance would survive him making a move on milord’s nephew, however.

Fergus could physically feel Ian’s eyes wandering over his skin, every look a featherlight caress and a passionate scratch at once. In turn, he was watching Ian intently, chasing the thoughts racing behind Ian’s light brown eyes.

He knew those thoughts. He understood them intimately, had turned them over again and again himself until forced to admit to his reality, this reality. And he had come to terms with it. Ian would too, in time.

Assez. La cour est pleine! Sometimes, progress needs to be encouraged in a quick shove. Fergus reached out and put his hand on Ian’s, who, in answer, looked at him like the hare looks at the hunter.

„What’s going on in that pretty little head of yours?“ he asked, smiling at the younger lad teasingly, gripping his hand tighter when he tried to pull away. Fergus revelled in the pretty blush spreading over Ian’s cheeks. Parbleu, how he wanted to taste it.

He leaned in closer, just barely burying his nose in Ian’s hair, his breath ghosting over Ian’s earlobe. He wouldn’t let either of them chicken out on this again.

„Don’t fight it, mon cher, I know you don’t want to.“

It was the way Ian’s wrist relaxed under Fergus’ grip, the way his breathing grew just a little heavier, the heady glint of resolve in his eyes that told Fergus that he had read the signs right. He stayed perfectly still, silently daring Ian to make the move, to take the leap. If anything were to happen, Fergus wanted it to be on Ian’s terms, wanted him to understand what they were doing, to be aware of all possible consequences and still want it as much Fergus wanted it.

Ian’s palm settled on the curve of Fergus’ cheek, his long fingers tracing his jaw. Fergus released the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding at the same moment, Ian leaned in.