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Written in My Own Heart's Blood(2)

By´╝ÜDiana Gabaldon



FOLIE À TROIS

FERGUS HAD BROUGHT me a sausage roll and a cannikin of coffee—real coffee, for a wonder.

“Milord will send for you shortly,” he said, handing these over.

“Is he nearly ready?” The food was warm and fresh—and I knew it might be the last I got for some time—but I barely tasted it. “Have I time to dress Lord John’s eye again?” The pervading air of haste was clearly perceptible to me, and my skin had started twitching as though I were being attacked by ants.

“I will go and see, milady. Germain?” Fergus tilted his head toward the tent flap, beckoning Germain to go with him.

But Germain, out of what might have been either loyalty to John or fear of finding himself alone with Jamie—who had rather plainly meant what he said regarding the future of Germain’s arse—wanted to stay in the tent.

“I’ll be fine,” John assured him. “Go with your father.” He was still pale and sweating, but his jaw and hands had relaxed; he wasn’t in severe pain.

“Yes, he will be fine,” I said to Germain, but nodded to Fergus, who went out without further comment. “Fetch me some fresh lint, will you? Then you can come and help me while his lordship rests. As for you—” I turned to John. “You lie flat, keep your eye closed, and bloody stay out of trouble, if such a thing is possible.”

He swiveled his good eye in my direction, wincing slightly as the movement pulled on the bad one.

“Are you accusing me of causing the imbroglio that resulted in my injury, madam? Because I distinctly recall your playing some minor role in its origins.” He sounded rather cross.

“I had nothing whatever to do with your ending up here,” I said firmly, though I could feel my cheeks flush. “Germain, have you found the lint?”

“Will the honey not draw flies, Grannie?” Germain handed me the requested lint but stood by the cot, frowning down at its occupant. “Ken what they say, aye? Ye catch more flies wi’ honey than ye do wi’ vinegar. Ye couldna pour vinegar on him, I suppose?”

“Hmmm.” He had a point. We were no great distance from the teamsters; I could hear mules snorting and braying, and newly wakened flies, still heavy with sleep, had been buzzing round my ears even as I unwrapped the old bandage. “Right. Not vinegar, but mint might help. Find the tin with the fleur-de-lis, then, and rub ointment on his lordship’s face and hands—don’t get it in his eyes. Then bring the small box—”

“I am certainly capable of rubbing ointment on myself,” John interrupted, and extended a hand to Germain. “Here, give it to me.”

“Lie still,” I said, rather cross myself. “As for what you’re capable of, I shudder to think.” I had set a small dish of honey to warm near the lantern; I filled my syringe and injected the honey around his bad eye, made a small pad of lint, thumbed it gently into his eye socket, and bound a clean length of gauze round his head to hold it in place, thinking as I did so.

“Germain . . . go and fill the canteen, will you?” It was half full already, but he obligingly took it and went, leaving me alone with John.

“Shall I leave Germain with you?” I asked, stuffing the last few items into my first-aid kit. “And Fergus?” I added hesitantly.

“No,” he said, slightly startled. “What for?”

“Well . . . protection. In case Monsieur Beauchamp should come back, I mean.” I didn’t trust Percy in the slightest. I was also dubious about putting Fergus in close proximity to him, but it had occurred to me that perhaps John might be some protection to him.

“Ah.” He closed his good eye for a moment, then opened it again. “Now, that imbroglio is indeed of my own making,” he said ruefully. “But while Germain is admittedly a formidable presence, I shan’t need a bodyguard. I rather doubt that Percy intends either to assault or to kidnap me.”

“Do you . . . care for him?” I asked curiously.

“Is it your business if I do?” he replied evenly.

I flushed more deeply, but took a few breaths before answering.

“Yes,” I said at last. “Yes, I rather think it is. Whatever my role in the origins of this . . . this . . . er . . .”

“Folie à trois?” he suggested, and I laughed. I’d told him what a folie à deux was, with reference to Mrs. Figg’s and the laundress’s shared obsession with starched drawers.

“That will do. But, yes, it is my business—on Jamie’s behalf, if not yours.” But it was on his behalf, as well. The shock and rush of recent events had prevented my thinking through the situation, but I was quite sure that Jamie had. And now that I was thoroughly awake and undistracted by my own affairs, my thoughts were catching up with uncomfortable rapidity.

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