The whole Scene
The night was cold, and the down quilt had slithered off onto the floor, as was its sneaky habit, leaving only the thin woolen blanket over me. I rolled over, half-asleep, reaching for Jamie’s warmth. He was gone.I sat up in bed, looking for him, and saw him almost at once, sitting on the window seat, head in his hands.“Jamie! What is it? Have you got headache again?” I groped for the candle, meaning to find my medicine box, but something in the way he sat made me abandon the search and go to him at once.He was breathing hard, as though he had been running, and cold as it was, his body was drenched with sweat. I touched his shoulder and found it hard and cold as a metal statue.He jerked back at my touch and sprang to his feet, eyes wide and black in the night-filled room.“I didn’t mean to startle you,” I said. “Are you all right?”I wondered briefly if he were sleepwalking, for his expression didn’t change; he looked straight through me, and whatever he saw, he didn’t like it.“Jamie!” I said sharply. “Jamie, wake up!”He blinked then, and saw me, though his expression stayed fixed in the desperate lines of a hunted beast.“I’m all right,” he said. “I’m awake.” He spoke as though wanting to convince himself of the fact.“What is it? Did you have a nightmare?”“A dream. Aye. It was a dream.”I stepped forward and put a hand on his arm.“Tell me. It will go away if you tell me about it.”He grasped me hard by the forearms, as much to keep me from touching him as for support. The moon was full, and I could see that every muscle of his body was tensed, hard and motionless as stone, but pulsing with furious energy, ready to explode into action.“No,” he said, still sounding dazed.“Yes,” I said. “Jamie, talk to me. Tell me. Tell me what you see.”“I canna…see anything. Nothing. I can’t see.”I pulled, turning him from the shadows of the room to face the bright moonlight from the window. The light seemed to help, for his breathing slowed, and in halting, painful bits, the words came out.It was the stones of Wentworth Prison that he dreamed of. And as he spoke, the shape of Jonathan Randall walked the room.
And lay naked in my bed, atop the woolen blanket.There had been the sound of hoarse breathing close behind him, and the feel of sweat-drenched skin, sliding against his own. He gritted his teeth in an agony of frustration. The man behind him sensed the small movement and laughed.“Oh, we’ve some time yet before they hang you, my boy,” he whispered. “Plenty of time to enjoy it.” Randall moved suddenly, hard and abrupt, and he made a small involuntary sound.Randall’s hand stroked back the hair from his brow and smoothed it around his ear. The hot breath was close to his ear and he turned his head to escape, but it followed him, breathing words.“Have you ever seen a man hanged, Fraser?” The words went on, not waiting for him to reply, and a long, slim hand came around his waist, gently stroking the slope of his belly, teasing its way lower with each word.“Yes, of course you have; you were in France, you’ll have seen deserters hanged now and then. A hanged man looses his bowels, doesn’t he? As the rope tightens fast round his neck.” The hand was gripping him, lightly, firmly, rubbing and stroking. He clenched his good hand tight around the edge of the bed and turned his face hard into the scratchy blanket, but the words pursued him.“That will happen to you, Fraser. Just a few more hours, and you’ll feel the noose.” The voice laughed, pleased with itself. “You’ll go to your death with your arse burning from my pleasure, and when you lose your bowels, it will be my spunk running down your legs and dripping on the ground below the gallows.”He made no sound. He could smell himself, crusted with filth from his imprisonment, acrid with the sweat of fear and anger. And the man behind him, the rank stench of the animal breaking through the delicate scent of the lavender toilet water.“The blanket,” he said. His eyes were closed, face strained in the moonlight. “It was rough under my face, and all I could see were the stones of the wall before me. There was nothing there to fix my mind to…nothing I could see. So I kept my eyes closed and thought of the blanket under my cheek. It was all I could feel besides the pain…and him. I…held to it.”“Jamie. Let me hold you.” I spoke quietly, trying to calm the frenzy I could feel running through his blood. His grip on my arms was tight enough to numb them. But he wouldn’t let me move closer; he held me away as surely as he clung to me.Suddenly he freed me, jerking away and turning toward the moon-filled window. He stood tense and quivering as a bowstring just fired, but his voice was calm.“No. I willna use ye that way, lassie. Ye shallna be part of it.”I took a step toward him, but he stopped me with a quick motion. He turned his face back to the window, calm now, and blank as the glass he looked through.“Get ye to bed, lassie. Leave me to myself a bit; I’ll be well enough presently. There’s naught to worry ye now.”He stretched his arms out, grasping the window frame, blotting out the light with his body. His shoulders swelled with effort, and I could tell that he was pushing against the wood with all his might.“It was only a dream. Jack Randall is dead.”
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