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In Love Worlds Afar

Chapter Text

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At first, John automatically assumed he'd fly back to England. However, once arrived in Singapore, John changed his mind in the last minute, when he fell into conversation with two Americans who were headed for New York. John was offered a ride with a cargo ship headed for Hawaii instead of going back to Europe. There was no point in rushing home. He didn't have a job or a home to come back to yet. He had in fact some distant family in New York he could visit. Why not try something he otherwise would never experience?

"New York..." John was already looking forward to it when he boarded the ship.

Travelling across the pacific was a tedious time consuming hassle, but eventually John arrived in Honolulu. He was told he only had twenty-four hours to recoup before his plane was due for the United States. Everything was getting into place nicely. Due to his status, he was allowed to bunk in an American military base camp for the night. He wired his family from there.

Rested and eager to move on, John continued his journey by plane. It was a small private plane that would bring him directly to New York, but he could afford it.

A few hours before the scheduled landing, the plane experienced some trouble with the fuel tank, and the captain had to make a safe emergency landing at the brand new airport in Franklin County, Virginia. A place in a small community none of the passengers had ever heard of before.

Everybody was a little shook up by the experience as they left the plane and was handed their luggage.

Still far from the target, John found out that the next regularly scheduled flight to New York was in a week. The damage to the fuel tank was that severe, and the eleven passengers would have to find lodgings in town. John wired his family from the airport about what had happened. He informed them that he would arrive later than planned. Just in case more delays turned up unexpectedly, he left out when exactly he would arrive. The plane ticket was still valid for when he could continue his flight next week. He decided to keep it in his jacket for easy access.

The passengers were sent to the coffee shop just outside of the airport where they were told to wait for the local hotel owner to come and estimate how many passengers she could accommodate that the rooms to hire at the airport itself couldn’t.

Sitting alone at a table, John looked around. He foresaw this couldn’t take more than half an hour. He longed for a bed to sleep in. The flight hadn’t been comfortable at all. There was little space for people with long legs and he’d been cramped in his window seat.

He ordered a sandwich at some point because he hadn’t eaten since the plane took off from Hawaii. Under the circumstances, John thought it would have been the proper thing to do for the airline to offer something to eat, but there had been no initiative at all.

His thoughts were still rooted in Borneo. Now that he was gone, he missed the people and the work. He missed Belansai, but his native lover would be a fond memory now, and the thought made him smile to himself already. During his journey toward Hawaii, John was certain there had been several men watching him that particular way - now that he knew what to look for. But even if John had been tempted to explore his sexuality some more, he was surrounded by Westerners and didn’t dare risking being caught in an illegitimate dalliance.

Looking around, John watched the other passengers and how they coped. His travel companions were two families with children, two young couples and three elder citizens. Even here, he swore one of the young husbands had been given him a quick glance, and John felt a spark of mutual interest to him. It was positively laughable how oblivious he’d been before coming to Borneo. Never having put together the thought that men would be sizing him up for anything else but how equal he was in a fight. Or how successful John would have been in conquering their love interest, which traditionally would be a woman. John had been beaten a few years ago when some drunken fellow thought he was coming on to the fiancée. The thought hadn’t even crossed John’s mind but he’d learned a lesson nevertheless to not let his gaze wander.

Now, it was the other way around. The wives should worry about John coming on to their husbands, but John doubted they had no clue that this kind of attraction between men even existed. John glanced at the young man. Imagine marrying his wife even if he wasn’t attracted to her sexually.

Some people arrived, and everyone looked up in the hopes that the announced quartering was going to take place now. Amongst those people was in fact the hotel owner, who quickly began informing which kind of rooms she had available and at what price.

Being the gentleman John was brought up to be, he let everyone else pick before him. Being on his lonesome self, he felt they needed the beds more than he did. Of course in the end, there were no rooms available for John. He wondered if fate was simply out to get him, and perhaps he should just return home to London as was his original plan.

“Do you mind if I join your table?” a quiet yet authoritative voice interrupted his fickled thoughts.

John looked up and took in the person who had spoken. It was a man dressed in a comfortable cardigan and soft leather hat and John couldn't see why he shouldn’t be allowed a seat. He didn’t own the place even if by now they were surrounded by plenty of empty seats. John looked at him for a few more moments and then nodded tiredly. “If you’d like.”

The man sat down across from John and looked around as if he was just seeing the coffee shop for the first time. Then he placed a package on the table, and put his hat on top of it. “I’ve seen you being nice to everybody else in here, but when it came to your turn nobody cared to help you finding lodgings.”

John felt the words hitting home uncomfortably close but he was right. Nobody had showed John the same courtesy. “I suppose there is some truth in that,” he said inadequately.

The man hummed and looked at John with an intensity he wasn’t used to. Then he looked away for a few moments clearly gathering words to express why he’d addressed John in the first place. Looking back, he said, “Say... I have a place a few miles from here. I’d like to show you that we have hospitality in abundance around here. Not those selfish people who travelled with you will be sleeping that good tonight.”

John was a little confused. “I’m sorry...? You’re offering me...?”

“Hospitality. And a home cooked meal.”

Worn out, John laughed at the absurdity, the sheer surreal luck. “This is very kind of you. I was beginning to imagine what seven nights sleeping on this floor would feel like.”

The man’s kind eyes crinkled in what could be a smile.

Quickly warming up to the idea of sleeping in a real bed tonight, John had a few questions to ask. “How far is your... place? I need to be back in a week.”

“It’s only a half an hour drive. I can bring you back here personally.”

“You have a car?”

“I have a car.”

That took care of the rest of John’s questions. Besides, he didn’t have alternative options and his stomach started an upsetting rumbling dance. Recognising this as another moment to forego precautions in favour of his survival instinct, John made a decision that even if he didn’t know this stranger; he instinctively felt he could trust him. This was an opportunity he would regret not taking. “In that case, I accept, Mr...?”

“Bondurant. Forrest Bondurant.”

John thrust his hand toward Mr. Bondurant who grabbed his in a friendly squeeze. “John Truscott,” John responded in kind, grateful of the observant stranger’s proposition.

“Come with me, Mr. Truscott,” the man said and indicated with his head for John to follow him out of the coffee shop. “Have you had anything to eat?” he asked.

Getting up, John nodded and blushed. “Oh my lord, I forgot the bill. How embarrassing.”

“Put that coffee on my tab, Flora,” Mr. Bondurant suddenly called to the waitress who waved back at him.

“Sure thing, Forrest,” she said.

“Let’s go then, Mr. Truscott.”

John smiled, “I’ll pay you... only I fear I don’t have any dollars...”

“Not important now, Mr. Truscott. We should head back.”

“All right then,” John smiled.

“You carry many bags,” Mr. Bondurant noticed as he picked up two while having his own parcel squeezed under his arm.

“Well, yes. Sorry about that. I come almost directly from Borneo. They seemed necessary at the time,” John apologised and picked up the rest of his luggage.

They stepped outside and John followed Mr. Bondurant who strode towards a truck loaded with wooden crates. John’s bags were placed on top of the lot to the right.

“Don’t mind the crates, Mr. Truscott. I have a small delivery round to make before we hit home.”

“You’re a delivery man?” John asked interested, as he got himself comfortable next to Mr. Bondurant on the front seat.

“I sure am. I have a lot of... customers here. Around and...” Mr. Bondurant set the small truck into motion and the two men left the premises.

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As the vehicle took them to several obscure properties in the county, the crates bumped together on the truck body revealing that they contained glass ware.

“What are you selling?” John asked politely.

“You really wanna know?” Mr. Bondurant asked casting him a glance.

“I’m obviously not minding my own business. That was rude of me. I apologise,” John quickly said. He and sarcasm had never agreed very well.

Mr. Bondurant hummed amused and said, “I deal in whisky. Pure and simple. It’s not a secret, Mr. Truscott. Everybody around these parts knows and we like it that way. Brings in more customers. We get by.”

“And who are we?” John dared to ask looking at Mr. Bondurant’s manly profile.

“My family. You’ll meet them soon enough.” Then the truck stopped as some individual standing on the side of the road stepped forward, intent on doing business with Mr. Bondurant.

John sat quietly and observed what was happening. When the crates had changed hands and money had been paid, John saw the little self-satisfied smirk on Mr. Bondurant’s face. He pulled forth a cigar and offered it to John who refused.

“N-no thank you. But I appreciate the gesture,” he hurriedly added.

They sat quietly for a while with John occasionally coughing.

“Does the smoke bother you?” Mr. Bondurant asked indicating his head toward John.

“A bit,” John said, not sure if he would offend his host or not.

“I smoke a lot of cigars,” Mr. Bondurant admitted. “We make a lot of money so why not enjoy good Cubans?”

“Seems reasonable,” John said and coughed some more.

Mr. Bondurant inhaled more smoke deeply and then suddenly stubbed the cigar and threw the rest out of the window.

John looked away embarrassed. “I’m so sorry that I’m the cause...”

“Relax, Mr. Truscott. If the smoke is a nuisance to you, I’ll simply refrain from smoking in your presence. Besides, there’s more where that came from. Moon shining pays well,” Mr. Bondurant said.

John nodded acknowledging Mr. Bondurant’s considerate gesture. “Alcohol is not allowed in this country, if I recall correctly,” he said conversationally.

“You do recall correctly, sir.” A smile blossomed on Mr. Bondurant’s face making John stare stupefied at him for a few moments. That smile completely changed the man’s face and took off quite a few years of his appearance. John had thought the man pushing his forties. That was not the case. He looked John’s age, and he was handsome when he smiled.

Realising he was staring at the man, John looked out of the side window. This was not a good time to become excited about seeing a man he liked, but John wasn’t prepared for Mr. Bondurant to suddenly attract him physically.

Shortly after, another shady looking fellow stepped out from the side of the road, eager to do business with Mr. Bondurant.

“Whoa. That would be Mr. Shaw,” Mr. Bondurant said and stopped the truck with a little more drama than John thought necessary.

“Who have we here, Forrest?” Mr. Shaw asked taking a good look at John who immediately understood what the man was implying. However, there was nothing that John thought drawing about this individual. To avoid the man’s beady nosy eyes and further attention, John demonstratively looked away.

“None of your business, Rodney,” Mr. Bondurant replied. “Just a house guest for the week travelling through.”

“Looks mighty citified, don’t he?” Mr. Shaw said.

“And you would know, wouldn't you?” Mr. Bondurant said icily. “Here’s the usual. Pay up.”

John noticed the subtle way Mr. Bondurant stuck his hand in his pocket and withdrew something. When his hands gathered on his back, John detected a brass knuckle. John quickly looked at Mr. Shaw, but he didn’t look like he felt threatened. If Mr. Bondurant found it necessary to take drastic precautions, John knew better than to put himself in the middle of it.

Moments later, money was exchanged and Mr. Bondurant tipped his hat mumbling something like ‘till next time.

“Later Forrest,” Mr. Shaw said and smiled knowingly when John couldn't help looking at him one last time. John felt a little filthy and couldn't wait for his host to drive on.

“That’s it. We’re heading home,” Mr. Bondurant said as he set the truck in motion. Mr. Bondurant didn’t have much variety in the way the soft spoken lilt he used and still got his point across. John liked the tone of his voice. A bit gritty but honey gentle even when he had been stern toward Mr. Shaw.

“Finally,” John allowed himself to say. Then something came to mind. “Say, weren’t you worried someone might steal from you while you were at the airport?” John asked, mentally shaking away the unpleasant feeling of Mr. Shaw’s lecherous attention.

“No,” Mr. Bondurant said as his hands gently grabbed the steering wheel. John’s eyes noticed and he found that he liked the man’s hands and steady fingers.

“Nobody’s stolen from us. So far at least...” Mr. Bondurant added after a moment.

“That’s... that’s marvellous, I suppose,” John said and hated the fake enthusiasm he put in his voice. The pleaser voice indoctrinated in him from early childhood kicked in unexpectedly. The boring ways of civilisation had its way of creeping back sooner than later once one returned to society, he had to admit. The ridicule of Belansai, Selima, and the rest of the natives of Sarawak seemed so far away already now John was back in civilisation... As close to anyway.

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At last, they reached their destination and a large cottage with a filling station in the front soon became visible at the end of the road. As soon as the truck stopped, Mr. Bondurant stepped out and a woman showed herself in the door before she came down and greeted them.

“Maggie,” Mr. Bondurant said with a polite nod and Maggie gathered her scarf around her shoulders. John nodded, too but didn’t say anything. The woman took a thorough look at him and John felt like a child under her scrutinising gaze. She reminded him unpleasantly of Selima.

“And who might you be?” she asked nearing John and Mr. Bondurant who stood still watching what was going on.

“I’m... Truscott. John Truscott,” John said and stuck out his hand. A few moments later, he felt awkward and put his hand in his pocket instead, when Maggie hadn’t made any indication to shake it.

“Mr. Truscott is our guest until the next flight to New York can take him home next week,” Mr. Bondurant said, and John sensed a challenge in his voice somewhere.

“Oh...” Maggie said and John sensed a hint of shame colouring her cheeks, when she realised she’d been rude to a guest of the house.

“Maggie runs this place. She can handle herself.”

“Does she carry a weapon, too?” John couldn’t help asking.

“Like I said, she can handle herself,” was all Mr. Bondurant elaborated.

“That makes perfect sense then,” John said, and Mr. Bondurant hummed like he appreciated the sentiment. Mr. Bondurant went behind the truck and began to unload John’s suitcases.

“That’s everything I believe, Mr. Truscott?” Mr. Bondurant said focusing his intense stare at John.

John nodded and smiled. “Thank you, Mr. Bondurant.” He reached for some of his belongings and gathered his coat across his arm. The weather was hot and slightly humid. He longed to freshen up and change his shirt.

Maggie stepped closer to Mr. Bondurant, as he hefted up some of John’s luggage.

“Did you get those products for me, Forrest?”

“I did. I always do, Maggie. They’re in the front seat,” Mr. Bondurant said and cocked his head toward the truck.

“Thank you, Forrest,” she replied softly and went to fetch the parcel.

“You’re welcome, Maggie.”

Watching the exchange between the two, John imagined Mr. Bondurant and Maggie might have a thing going on between them. However, Mr. Bondurant hadn’t introduced Maggie as his wife, so...

The intimacy of the relationship between the two of them was subtle maybe even invisible on Mr. Bondurant’s part, though much more noticeable on Maggie’s.

Entering the house, John looked around curiously. The front of the house served as a saloon with a long wooden desk to provide the station’s thirsty customers. There were none at this point of the day, but a gathering of dirty dishes and utensils indicated that there had been.

“We offer coffee, and Maggie’s cooking. Mostly people are buying coffee,” Mr. Bondurant said.

“It looks...” John commented, but he didn’t quite know what to think about the spartan looking saloon and left his remark unfinished. Mr. Bondurant didn’t seem to notice and went past the room toward a door. Behind it was a staircase and John followed until he was told not to.

“This room is vacant,” Mr. Bondurant said and pointed toward a door. Grabbing the round handle, he let John take a look at the place.

“You’re very kind, Mr. Bondurant,” John said, as he stepped inside. Slowly, he put his suitcases on the floor to where Mr. Bondurant had dropped those he’d carried.

“I’ll leave you to it then. Dinner’s usually at six. Maggie don’t appreciate tardiness.”

“Of course not,” John quickly assured him.

The man seemed to linger for a few moments. His eyes glanced around the walls before they rested on John. Then he nodded as if he hadn’t realised he was still standing there and left with a hum. John stood back in the quiet room not knowing what to do now. Then he looked around and tried to see what Mr. Bondurant had seen. The walls were paper hung in a small flowery pattern. No carpet but there was a circular greenish throw rug in front of the bed. John grabbed a suitcase, put it on the bed, and opened it. Wrinkling his nose, he noticed a distinct travel odour coming from his clothes. He wondered if he overstepped some boundaries if he asked Miss Maggie to wash them for him. He would have to ask Mr. Bondurant about the matter not to make a fool of himself. Selima had chastised him not to assume that service appeared magically, just because he was a man.

After changing his shirt, he wanted to get a better feel of the place. He left his room and stepped out in the small corridor. He noticed more doors further back and a few toward the staircase. It made him wonder how many people were actually living here. Mr. Bondurant did mention he had family. Did they all live here with their families, or was it just him and Maggie? The house seemed quite big from the outside, but even bigger once you got inside.

Resisting prying, John headed to the stairs and came down into the saloon. He found Maggie there and he nodded in greeting. Then he discovered she had a baby on her arm. A charming little baby. John hadn’t expected that and instantly, he understood that Mr. Bondurant had to be the father and that they’d had the baby out of wedlock. John could imagine the complications that would cause in a small community like Franklin County. It explained some questions but also raised others that John had no business asking.

“Hello,” he said testing waters and smiled. He was shortly distracted, when the door went up and a couple of men came in and found a table. John’s eyes went back to Maggie.

“Hello, Mr. Truscott,” Maggie replied and looked at the men who watched them back.

“Hello, Miss...?” John wasn’t sure she wanted him to call him Maggie, but she just shook her head.

“Miss Beaufort, but call me Maggie. We’re not so formal among ourselves.”

“All right. In that case you can...” John began to say.

“No. You’ll be Mr. Truscott until I know you better,” Maggie interrupted.

The men chuckled in the background. John closed his mouth and smiled awkwardly. Women always made him feel awkward. Well, confident women. Cecil hadn’t made him feel awkward, but then she hadn’t made him feel much of anything. It was apparant that Miss Maggie believed in proper behaviour and civil virtues, even if she herself had allowed another man to get her with child. But who was he to talk, really? Everything came back to him in a rush, like it did several times a day. The particular night he spent with Belansai. How debauched and ungentleman-like he’d behaved, and how he’d letting himself enjoy it. He’d let Belansai do unmentionable things to him, and he’d done them to Belansai in kind. He wondered briefly if there were men who did that sort of thing in secrecy here in rural Virginia, but not in a million years would he ever ask any of the manly blokes he’d met here so far. He was certain he’d get killed for even insinuating if they had sex with other men.

Self-conscious about his face reflecting his inner thoughts, he looked away from Maggie and coughed.

“I was wondering where Mr. Bondurant is?”

“Which one?” Maggie asked, but he could tell she knew perfectly well whom he was referring to.

“Sorry. I’ve only met... one of them.”

“Forrest is outside.”

“Thanks.”

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Hurrying out to escape her sarcasm, John located Forrest Bondurant with a couple of men and he went to join them. He could tell the talk quieted immediately and embarrassed, he realised that they probably didn’t want his company. Awkward as usual, he scratched the back of his neck and turned to walk in another direction when someone called out.

“You can stay, Mr. Truscott.”

John turned again. A young fresh faced man made a ‘come here’ motion with his hand and John went back to them.

“Didn’t know if I...”

“No-no...” Mr. Bondurant said. “Let me introduce you. This is Jack - my younger brother. That’s Howard - my older brother. This is Cricket, and Harry – a neighbour, and that’s... Li’l Harry - not related.”

John shook hands with them all. “And... you’re all staying here? Living here?”

The men laughed, as if John had said something funny. Jack shook his head. “Nah – I wouldn’t wanna live with these guys. Got my own place. Got married recently.”

“Oh...” John shrugged a little helplessly. “Many happy returns.”

“Thanks. So it’s just Forrest and Maggie... and Billy jr.,” Jack clarified. “Was a surprise Forrest invited you to stay, mind you,” Jack said sounding genially surprised. “He never invites people to his home. And you’re not even from around here, I can tell.”

John wasn’t sure how to interpret that and smiled disarmingly. “No. I’m from England. Originally anyway, but your brother was kind to offer and I was desperate for a place to stay before the next plane for New York leaves from here.”

Jack looked at him like it was still rather strange. “It’s still very unusual.”

John cast a brief glance at Forrest, but his host was positively exasperated at the attention his kind unusual act received from his younger sibling.

Jack didn’t say anything else on the matter and looked expectantly at the others. “We have some loading to attend to?”

Apparently, they had a fresh batch of whiskey ready to be distributed.

“Drive carefully,” Mr. Bondurant said, as the goods were safely loaded on the truck and the men ready to go.

“Two in one day?” John asked.

“Yeah. I was delaying the delivery because I had to pick up something from the airport,” Forrest said.

For Maggie... John knew right away. He found it interesting that Billy jr. wasn’t named after his dad. Forrest jr. would have been the logic choice, but then it dawned on John that Forrest might not be Billy’s dad after all.

Forrest went back inside the house and John followed.

“I met Billy jr.,” John said.

“Yeah. Small kid. Needs special diet. Maggie won’t... you know... herself.”

No, John didn’t know but he could imagine that Forrest was referring to breast feeding. “On Borneo... I saw men feeding babies... you know. Like women,” John replied.

Forrest looked at John for a few moments before he cracked a rare smile. “Really? Interesting. Hm.”

They entered the saloon and Maggie was standing by the window with the baby, but she wasn’t paying attention to it. The baby was crying its little heart out, and Forrest immediately went to take it from her. She didn’t seem to notice. The men still sitting at the table, sent annoyed looks Maggie’s way. It made perfect sense; a baby had nothing to do in a saloon.

“Perhaps we should tend to dinner, Maggie?”

Maggie didn’t answer but went toward the staircase and left them.

“Anything I can do?” John asked.

“Come with me to the pantry and could you hold him?” Forrest asked.

“Yes... I’m...” Hurriedly he followed Forrest to the pantry in another direction when they went to the staircase once more. They stepped into a much homelier and much smaller kitchen next to the staircase.

“Just make sure you don’t drop him. He’ll be fine.”

John grabbed the baby and tried to remember how Ti Hou had carried a child. He rocked the child subtly as he watched Forrest survey the contents of the pantry. “Forrest... do you mind if I call you Forrest?” John hurriedly asked.

“Not at all. You can call me Forrest. My dad was Mr. Bondurant. Clears the lines of communication,” Forrest said and turned half to look at John.

“Fine. Call me John then,” John said.

Forrest nodded and returned his attention to the pantry. John came and stood next to him.

“Is the child sick?”

“Bill is... Billy is smaller than he should be, but Maggie...” Forrest shrugged. “I don't know. She’s gotten strange ever since he was born.”

“How strange?” John couldn't help asking.

Forrest stalled before he leaned closer to John. “She’s not right in the head. She used to be sharp. Always having an opinion about everything. Scolding me and my brothers. Now she don’t care.”

“Can’t you just give him something to eat?”

“Too soon. Stomach is not ready for real food yet.”

“Ah...” John said. What a pity. “Will he be all right?”

“I was hoping one of the neighbour wives could help us out, but... Billy is born out of wedlock. They don't care to give us a hand.”

“Unbelievable. So you have to get the special diet for him?”

“Don’t seem to make any difference.”

“I’m sorry,” John said.

“Hmm,” Forrest hummed. Then he seemed to have found what he was looking for, because he picked some things and went to heat up the stove.

John went and sat down at the table and watched the man work. He was still carrying the small baby and he looked at his divine little face. “He’s lovely.”

Forrest stopped his motions and then hummed his thanks. He made something for the baby and John didn’t mind feeding it to the child.

“Men breast feeding, huh?” Forrest said after having watched John for a few moments.

John chuckled. “Yes. Imagine that? I couldn’t believe it.”

“And it worked?”

John looked up. “Yes. I saw the milk with my own two eyes.”’

“And this was a man?” Forrest asked clearly to make sure he heard John right.

“Unquestionably true,” John said.

Forrest didn’t ask any more questions and went to start supper. This task didn’t take long, and Forrest’s comment on Maggie managing the place must have been redundant by now. Obviously, she didn’t cope these days and when Forrest went to bring her a tray, he came down with the rejected food.

John had politely waited to begin eating until Forrest had returned. It would have been impolite to let the man eat alone while John had finished his meal. Forrest took the baby from John after he’d poured food onto a plate. Sitting with the small baby resting in one seemingly strong arm, he operated a fork with the other hand. Occasionally, he’d cut into the food with a knife, but other than that, he handled himself quite well; bearing witness to a repeated pattern.

The food was a good, simple fulfilling meal, and John was grateful he’d accepted Forrest’s hospitable offer. Afterwards, John realised how tired he was. The travel and everything he’d experienced so far came down on him, and he could barely keep his eyes open.

“I’m going to have to excuse myself. I’m afraid I’m not worthy of any company.”

“Hmmm,” Forrest said.

“Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

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John went up the stairs and quickly used the bathroom. Then he found his room and after a small internal debate chose to put on his pyjamas. He couldn’t remember when he’d used it the last time. He had only worn them the first few nights in Borneo. After he begun sleeping with Selima, he’d dropped them all together. In Virginia it was also warm, and he would have been the most comfortable if he’d slept naked. However, this wasn’t his bed and he imagined it was impolite not to cover up his body.

John had just entered that perfect place where he was dreaming, when he was interrupted by the sounds of Forrest coming up the stairs. His host went inside one room and closed the door. John turned on his left side and put his hands under his cheek. He was tired but the sounds of Forrest mulling about in his room stopped him from falling asleep again. The creaking noises of a bed indicated that Forrest had literally gone to bed and John closed his eyes.

A few minutes after, he heard another door open and light footsteps were heard in the corridor. John wondered what was happening. It was probably Maggie needing the bathroom, but then he heard another door open, and John opened his eyes. That was the door Forrest had used. Maggie was going to Forrest’s room.

John got up on his arm and his sense of hearing intensified in the dark.

“Maggie...” John heard Forrest murmur.

“Forrest...” Maggie moaned and John couldn’t believe he was forced to overhear that.

“Maggie... not a good time... you should go back to bed.”

“I need you,” Maggie whimpered.

“Maggie...” Forrest said, and he sounded distinctly like he was trying to talk some sense in to her. “Billy...”

“Just once, Forrest. I’ll be quick,” Maggie said in a desperate voice.

“Maggie...” Forrest said, his voice close to a warning, but then there was a sound that reminded John of someone having the air punched out of them, and Forrest groaned painfully.

The bed was creaking rhythmically now, and John was appalled by the images that came to him of what plausibly happened in the room across from him.

“Maggie...” Forrest hissed but the woman continued.

“Won’t be long now. Won’t be long. Just... I’ll be all you’re thinking of...”

“Maggie... this is futile.”

“Please, Forrest.... just...”

John pressed both hands to his ears. He didn’t want to overhear her completion.

A few minutes went by, and John lessened the pressure from his ears and he listened intensely for signs that Maggie was done.

“Go back to bed, Maggie,” he thought he heard Forrest prompt her, and not long after the door opened and Maggie left Forrest’s bedroom.

He’s just like me, John thought. With the lack of chemistry from Forrest’s part it would make sense. Forrest rustled a bit in his bed obviously trying to get comfortable after the nightly visit. John turned on his right side and drifted to sleep.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Forrest came and knocked on John’s door.

“John? Are you awake?” he asked quietly, but John heard him right away and cleared his voice.

“Yes. I am.”

“Maggie has left. I’m sorry to bother you but I need your help.”

Christ! “I’ll be right out,” John quickly answered, rolled out of bed, and went to open the door. Forrest was standing in front of it and their faces were close. For a few seconds they just stared at each other. John took in his host’s tired and concerned expression which in return made John concerned right away as well.

“What happened?” John asked.

“Maggie left some time this morning. Unfortunately it was inevitable, but she didn’t take Billy with her.”

“Is Billy... your responsibility?” John asked as diplomatically as possible. He’d hate to assume anything regarding the complicated relationship Forrest had with Maggie.

Forrest looked away but then he slowly nodded. “Yeah. The kid is related to me.”

John frowned and then he wondered if maybe one of Forrest’s brothers... He stopped the thought when Forrest looked sharply at him.

“Can you handle him this morning? I need to deliver.”

John had no idea how to handle a baby, but he said yes nevertheless. “I’ll give you a hand yes.”

“I’ll get my brothers and then I’ll come back. Won’t take more than an hour.”

“That’s fast,” John said.

“I won’t be delivering personally today. So...” Forrest didn’t elaborate any further.

John went with him downstairs. Billy was lying in a large wooden box, his back supported by blankets. Squatting, John reached into the box and grabbed a little fist busy in motion. “Hello little fellow,” John said and smiled when big steely grey eyes caught his. That was Forrest’s kid all right. Baby Billy had a huge toothless smile for him though, and John chuckled with delight at how adorable the child truly was. He remembered how Selima had tried to convince him that she didn’t want a baby when Ti Hou came visiting. Yet looking at how lovely Billy was, John could empathise that she probably had wanted a child.

Forrest was pouring a milky substance into a glass bottle. Pressing a rubber nipple over the lid he shook some droplets onto his bared underarm. Only now did John notice that Forrest was wearing a floral patterned apron. Suppressing the urge to chuckle, he got his facial expression under control and came over to have a better look at what Forrest was doing.

“See?” Forrest said. “A person is tender on that side of the arm. You can easily detect if it’s too hot.”

“And was it?” John asked.

“No. It was fine,” Forrest said and gave the bottle to John. Then he took off the apron. “I’d best be going.” He nodded to John as he went to fetch his hat. John stood back with the baby and the lukewarm bottle. The baby cried, and John quickly went to sit at the table.

Lingering by the door, Forrest said, “You go to the sitting room. You’ll both be more comfortable in a chair.”

John looked up and saw the worried expression on Forrest’s face.

“I’ll be back in no time.”

John smiled disarmingly. “I’ll be here.”

With another of his patented humming nods, Forrest closed the door, and John took the baby into the sitting room. There was a comfy chair and a woollen knitted blanket. Getting comfortable, John sat down with Billy and offered him the bottle. The child was annoyed, and John wasn’t sure if he wanted to eat. Finally the nipple slipped into his mouth, but after a couple of greedy sips the baby cried again and refused more milk. John could understand Forrest’s worry now. The baby was not interested in the formula. He wanted real mother’s milk and they had none to offer him.

¤|||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤

When John checked his wrist watch, he saw that there were still forty-five minutes until Forrest might be back. Those were going to be some long forty-five minutes. Therefore it came as a surprise when the front door went and Forrest came in looking in a hurry, a key in a chain dangled in front of his shirt.

“How are you doing?” he asked and came to pick up Billy, stuffing the key inside his collar.

“Doesn’t look like he knows what he wants,” John said frustrated.

Forrest reached out for the bottle and John gave it to him. Forrest had better success feeding the child and John saw the look on his face. Forrest loved his son. Then Billy grunted displeased and cried for about half an hour nonstop until he fell asleep from the exhaustion.

“Come with me,” Forrest asked John, and they went upstairs. Forrest put the baby in his crib in what must have been Maggie’s room. John allowed himself a quick glance around and the room did indeed look deserted.

“She left this morning. She had threatened she’d gone do that a few times, and I just hoped she would get past it,” Forrest said quietly.

“Past what?”

“Hasn’t been right since Billy’s birth.”

They left the room and Forrest motioned for John to go further down the corridor. John stopped by his own door, but Forrest opened the door to his bedroom.

“Come this way, please,” Forrest said and John followed him in there.

John looked around. Forrest’s bedroom was larger than John’s and that of Maggie’s. John imagined that this must have been Forrest’s parent’s bedroom. It bore evidence of it with an even wifelier decor than Maggie’s. There was a bare spot by a wall where a lady’s dresser once could have been. There was a dresser in Maggie’s room, so Forrest must have moved his mother’s old dresser into her room, so it once more could be enjoyed by a woman. There was a carved double door closet and John would bet that if he opened it he would find Forrest’s parents’ clothing.

The bed was a double sturdy hand carved monstrosity with a canopy. The windows were adorned by light curtains. John was charmed by how Forrest had taken care preserving all these little details that made a home amidst a man’s world.

John’s scrutiny was interrupted when he realised that Forrest had taken his vest off and begun to unbutton his shirt. The man pulled it over his head as soon as it would fit through the gap. Then the undershirt and key chain went the same way, and John stood staring at the man’s broad upper body.

“Will these work, John?” Forrest asked and looked down at his naked hairy chest.

John had to swallow when his throat became dry in just seconds. What Forrest’s large shirt had obscured was a tapered narrow waist, muscular pecs, and toned biceps. Different from John’s own slender torso. Different from the Iban’s. Much more different. Much more attractive. John didn’t even know he had a preference, but he did now. Forrest’s nipples were hard, like the kinds that just always were prominent and pointy. John couldn’t help staring at him. The Virginian was absolutely gorgeous.

“How does one go about it?” Forrest asked looking urgent.

“Do what, Forrest?” John asked forcing his eyes away from his naked skin.

“Don’t play dumb, John. Breast feeding. You talked about it. It hasn’t left my mind since. So tell me how it works.”

“I-I’m not sure honestly. I was not told exactly how it works. I just saw that it did,” John said and shrugged helplessly.

“Well, we need to find out how to make it work,” Forrest said determinedly. “The boy’s gotta eat. And the powder just ain’t cuttin’ it.”

“I noticed...” John said.

Forrest put his fingers on his nipples and tried to pull at them.

John slapped his hand on his mouth. The image was surprisingly powerful. “That’s-that’s probably not... um... I don't think...” he said between his fingers.

“Would it help if I squeezed?” Forrest asked, sincerely looking at John for an answer.

John pressed his hand harder against his lips and looked away. Then he removed his hand because he realised that he might look strange to Forrest.

“I think it’s not going to make much of a difference. Maybe...” John said and hesitated. Forrest looked at him with an eyebrow raised.

“Yes...?”

“That uh... Billy... should try doing the work. Like a real... suction...?” John explained.

Forrest nodded. “Yeah. That would make sense. When he wakes up, we’ll try. He don’t eat much, so he gets hungry quickly. Poor kid.”

As if he knew, the baby cried from the other room. Forrest hurried to get the child and brought him back to the bedroom. John became nervous. What if it didn’t work? What if Billy couldn’t care less about Forrest’s nipples?

Sitting down on the bed with Billy, Forrest arranged the small body into position. “What then?”

“I don't know, Forrest. I don’t actually know anything about these matters.”

“But you saw them savages on Borneo? You saw the women do it. You saw that man do it. Did you lie?”

“No. No, I didn’t lie and I saw them, but I didn’t study them. You know the difference, right?”

“Please, John,” Forrest said.

John relaxed his shoulders. In reality, he couldn't be blamed about this and trying wouldn’t hurt, so he sat down next to Forrest and reached out and pointed. “Try leaning closer so that he can reach you.”

Forrest did as John suggested and tried to press the wailing mouth onto his nipple. Billy stopped crying in surprise and greedily he latched on and sucked. The cry that came from Forrest was understandable.

“Ow ow ow...” John stopped Forrest’s exclamations by pressing his hand against his lips. Forrest’s lips parted as more painful cries were uttered. John had to close his eyes. The feeling of Forrest’s lips pushed against his palm was erotic and quickly he removed it again.

“Damn, that hurts, son,” Forrest said and hissed some more. But it didn’t last long when Billy soon enough noticed that nothing satisfactory came from his hard labour. And so the crying began once more.

“How could she just walk out on her own child?” John couldn’t help asking.

Forrest nodded. “If she’d just taken care of him she wouldn’t have put herself in that position in the first place.”

“Perhaps it wasn’t so simple,” John said. Having been in Borneo had helped him seeing many things in a broader spectrum. Something that would never have crossed his mind had he stayed in England all his life.

“And how do you recon?”

“Maybe she was in love with you?”

Forrest closed his eyes. “I couldn't reciprocate. It’s hard to explain.”

John wasn’t going to tell him that it was easily explained why Forrest couldn't reciprocate. If Forrest was just like John, it was the only reason why Forrest couldn’t be the man Maggie had dreamed of when she went to his room and got herself pregnant. That’s how John interpreted it. He might be wrong, but it seemed plausible.

“Do you have a pram? Perhaps a ride outside would cheer him up?”

“Not safe. And no, there is no pram.”

Billy was quiet again and John put him behind them in the middle of the bed supporter along his side with pillows. When Forrest motioned to put his clothes back on, John stopped him by putting his hand on his shoulder.

“Wait. I have a proposal.”

“Go on,” Forrest replied.

“While I’m here, I could try and help you get... shall we say... stimulated?” John looked embarrassed because that word could mean so many things in the situation they were in sitting on the bed.

“Like what?” Forrest asked narrowing his eyes. His left hand wandered across his hairy chest and slipped back and forth across a nipple. John looked at the motion and cleared his throat.

“With that...” He pointed at Forrest’s chest.

Forrest caught his drift and his hand stopped doing what it did. “You’d be like Billy?”

“Yes. Billy knows what he’s doing, but he’s smart and won’t play along when there is no milk to be had. It’s a logic conclusion on his part. But... I know there is none but that it takes work to make it become so.”

“You’d be able to do that in a week?” Forrest asked.

“I don't know,” John admitted. It was a crazy endeavour, but Ti Hou had been able to do it, so why shouldn’t Forrest? His nipples looked able. Tempting.

“I’m willing to give it a try,” Forrest said and lay down looking expectantly at John.

“What... now?” John asked.

“Yes. Now. We must take advantage of the time we have... since you’re so kindly offering,” Forrest said, and John detected a little smile in the crinkle of his eyes.

“I suppose we should give it a go,” John said and lay down next to Forrest. “Which would you prefer?”

“The one closest to you,” Forrest suggested.

“Right. That would be a good place to start.” He was close up to Forrest’s nipple and, closing his eyes, he parted his lips and sucked the pointy flesh into his mouth.

Forrest inhaled sharply and kept that breath for a while. Then he exhaled. It was a strange sensation. John’s cheek grazed Forrest’s furry chest from time to time and the man responded every time that happened.

“Does it hurt?” John asked, and looked at Forrest’s face.

Forrest shook his head. “N-no. It’s all right.” He angled his body away from John and the Briton thought his host must be aroused by what they were doing after all.

“Should I continue?” John asked.

Forrest opened his eyes and it took him several seconds to decide what answer to give. “We should probably not continue.”

“I think we should,” John overruled. “Think of Billy. We’re doing this for Billy.”

A hum was Forrest’s delayed reply but John took that as permission to continue. He put his hand on Forrest’s sternum and slipped his mouth down on Forrest’s nipple and small areola. He knew this should be treated clinically, but he couldn't help enjoying the feelings it gave him. Sidling further down on that hard breast muscle John opened his mouth wider and tongued the nipple just to see what happened.

“John... um... You shouldn’t do that,” Forrest croaked.

Ignoring the warning, John slowly sucked harder as his mouth elevated, pulling at the nipple before he finally let it go. “But what if I want to?”

John knew Forrest had an erection he tried to keep John from knowing about, but the pressure in his sex had to be uncomfortable. John had an erection, too and he turned his body toward Forrest’s. The bit of boldness he’d acquired on Borneo came back to him, and he let Forrest feel it. The moment his brain recognised what was poking his side, Forrest jerked in surprise.

“John?” Forrest said in a voice softer than John had heard him speak yet.

John went back to sucking his nipple when Forrest turned to face him. John’s wet lips slid off with the motion and they were staring at each other.

“Why are you...?” Forrest asked.

“I didn’t know it would make you feel good in the process when Billy gave you pain.”

“I’m tingling all over,” Forrest confessed and he looked like he didn’t know if he should allow himself to enjoy it or refuse more of it.

“Have you ever...” John asked, “With a man?”

The reaction was prompt and John knew he’d stepped on that forbidden part of who Forrest was inside.

“There is no...”

“Listen, Forrest. There is and I’ve experienced that with great pleasure.”

“We can’t. People get killed for just being talked about it around here,” the man whispered.

“You don’t like being with Maggie. With women, correct?”

“John... We can’t talk about it.”

“But you’re...”

“Don't talk about it,” Forrest implored him, and John finally understood what he was trying to say.

“As long as we don’t talk about it...” John repeated, and the look Forrest gave him was all he needed to know. He put his hand on Forrest’s crotch and felt the hardness there. Forrest exhaled with a pleasured sound, and John’s hand found its way inside his pants to get to the naked skin. To get to the part of Forrest that he’d probably wanted to feel ever since he laid eyes on him in town.

John put his mouth to the untouched nipple on Forrest’s other pec. The man moaned and pushed his cock into John’s hand. Grabbing Forrest tightly with his fingers, John jerked him off.

“Huh... uhhh,” Forrest moaned and forced his hand and arm under John’s body. His fist grabbed the back of John’s night shirt that he still hadn’t changed out of. Feeling encouraged John kept the rhythm simultaneously. Sucking and getting Forrest off.

With a loud groan Forrest came, spilling all over John’s fingers. John stopped sucking his nipple and Forrest turned on his back. Allowing his hand one last rub over Forrest’s spent cock, he retreated his hand.

They lay there for a while when Forrest said, “You know... I’ve felt a tingling for a while when I watched how Maggie nursed him. And when she stopped doing it, I wanted to nurse him for her. I even wanted to nurse him when he was born, but Maggie did that perfectly in the beginning. I never told anyone.”

“What a coincidence,” was all John could say. He was still hard but didn’t dare assuming any kind of reciprocation. “Well, let’s hope we created a miracle today.”

“We have to do it again,” Forrest said and grabbed John’s arm.

“Of course,” John said. “But it will be without extra service,” just slipped out.

Forrest held on to John’s arm. “You want me to...?” Forrest asked him.

John couldn’t help guffawing. “That was not something I planned, Forrest. It just happened.”

“I wouldn’t mind,” Forrest said.

“It’s fine, Forrest. I’ll just go to the bathroom for a... a wash.” Effectively, John stupidly cut off the opportunity to be with Forrest, got up, and left the man’s bedroom. He shouldn’t have offered what he just did to the man. But he had offered it because, in spite of honourable intentions, he had wanted to have sex with Forrest, and this had been a cheap and easy way to get it. Now he felt different as if he’d taken advantage of Forrest.

¤|||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤

Standing behind the bathroom door, John took a deep breath. Only moments later Forrest knocked on the door.

“John? Let me in,” Forrest asked.

“I’m getting undressed,” John responded.

“Don’t... just let me in,” Forrest said with more authority.

John closed his eyes before he stepped away from the door. “All right. Come on in then.”

Forrest stuck his head inside and they looked at each other. “Do I scare you?”

“Me?” John said surprised and pointed at himself. “No. I was... No. You don't scare me. I’m not scared.”

Forrest got into the bathroom and closed the door behind him. John watched him take off his soiled pants and undergarments. The baggy clothes had made him seem much bigger all over but underneath that, he was actually just John’s size. Except for the handsomely built upper body. John couldn't match that. The vision of Forrest in the nude didn’t help John’s erection much and made him just stand there not knowing what to do about it.

“Take them off,” Forrest insisted.

John nodded. Forrest wanted to see him naked in kind. “And then what?” he asked, as he pulled down his pyjama pants.

“Then you come here,” Forrest said, and John stepped out of the pool of fabric and into Forrest’s personal space. He put his hands on his shoulders and waited patiently.

Forrest grabbed his cock and John hissed slightly in anticipation of something good happening. Experimentally, Forrest pulled back the foreskin. John couldn’t help moving his hands up the sides of Forrest’s neck. The man wasn’t looking at him. His eyes were cast down, watching what he was doing to John. John saw how his tongue darted out to wet his lips and those were glorious full lips that John had to sample.

Tilting up Forrest’s head, John leaned in and kissed him. Forrest exhaled as if he’d kept his breath and John pushed closer. Forrest opened up and they kissed harder, greedier, moaning loudly as they traded those hungry wet kisses. Hands explored as Forrest left John hanging for a few moments. Feeling the man pull him close against his own crotch was electrifying, and John was so hard he thought he might come just from sensory overload alone. With Forrest’s hands grabbing his buttocks eagerly, John did seconds later.

Getting their breath back took a while, but then John stepped away from Forrest and looked down at the both of them. With a small chuckle he fetched a washing cloth by the sink and wanted to wash Forrest. However, the man just grunted something, took it from him, and left the bathroom.

John stood there for a shocked moment before he recalled that they were not to talk about it, because Forrest couldn’t handle facing it once the passion had died down. Disappointed he took another cloth and got rid of the evidence of their eager lovemaking. John thought it was lovemaking. He’d enjoyed their intimacy and was consoled by the fact that they’d do it again. Probably even this night. Quickly, he washed and dried off. He then wrapped a towel around his hips and went back to his room carrying his pyjamas. He thought about what Forrest had told him. About the strange desire to nurse Billy even before Maggie refused to continue. The thought brought him to Ti Hou, and those observations made John determined that this experiment would work. They just needed time and more practise.

¤|||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤

Chapter Text

¤|||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤

John went outside to give Forrest some privacy. He let his eyes wander and wondered what was so dangerous that they couldn’t take Billy out. Some of the men he met earlier were gathered around the water post further away in the yard. A car owner was helping himself to pump some gas from the filling station.

With a shudder of displeasure, John identified the man. He was the rude busybody who bought whisky from Forrest yesterday. Mr. Shaw.

The man recognised John, too and was on his way to come over when Forrest’s brother Howard reacted. John couldn’t tell what kind of danger he was in right now that would make Howard respond immediately, so he decided to meet Forrest’s brother halfway. In truth, he did not care what the individual had on his mind, but seeing Howard casually resting his hand over his gun was comforting nevertheless.

There was hesitation to Mr. Shaw’s abrupt behaviour regarding John. That prompt slowed even further when he realised that Howard would reach John before he could unless he ran. And wouldn't that look out of the ordinary? John wasn’t a damsel in distress. Still, he understood that this was another moment, where he should set aside his inbred superior English attitude. This was such a time when he should respect that Howard knew better and appreciate others’ judgement of immediate danger.

“Howard,” Mr. Shaw said annoyed by the older Bondurant’s interference.

“Rodney. Funny seeing you here. You always use Mobil’s in town,” Howard said and looked at John who decided he didn’t have to be polite toward this person. Chances were that Mr. Shaw had no intention to be polite to John in turn. The man had an agenda that Howard could sniff all over from where he stood. Or Mr. Shaw was someone they knew had a tendency to try harassing people who didn’t appreciate his company.

Ignoring Howard’s jibe, Mr. Shaw looked at John. “Must be bored being Forrest’s house guest and all, I reckon. The man is dryer than dust,” he said to John, and just like that set the tone of his intentions.

John crossed his arms over his chest. “Not at all – not that it’s any business of yours... Mr. Shaw,” John said. He didn’t want this confrontation, but leaving it to Howard to talk for him was showing weakness he could do without. Howard looked expectantly at John.

“Must be noisy being around that hysteric woman of his and that bastard. Screaming all the time. We can practically hear them all the way up past the hill.”

“Go away,” John said. “Stick to the only connection you have with the Bondurant’s. You sure don't have any with me,” John said, and heard amused grunts coming from both Howard and Li’l Harry, who had decided to stick around for the dramatic exchange of words.

Mr. Shaw looked annoyed. He stared angrily at Howard as if he was the reason he wasn’t getting anywhere manipulating Forrest’s attractive guest. Out of the corner of his eye John saw motion, and noticed that Forrest was standing in the door following the commotion that never really caught fire. John nodded at Howard and Li’l Harry and began to walk toward the house.

“I’m warning ya,” Mr. Shaw said and, when John turned to look at him, he was pointing.

“Why? What in God’s name could possibly happen to me that you need to warm me about?” John asked.

“Just... consider yourself warned,” came the man’s unimaginative answer.

“Duly noted,” John said. “Is that a threat you’re pointing at me, or are you aware of some other on toward threat I should know about?”

“What are you saying?”

“Just that I didn’t feel particular threatened until you showed up, so... you must be the threat, am I correct?”

“You got some balls comin’ here threatening a guest of mine, Rodney,” Forrest said and stepped down from the porch. He went to Mr. Shaw’s car and John realised he wore his brass knuckle. “Pay your bill and get goin’,” Forrest said.

Knowing he was out of verbal ammunition, Rodney hasted back to his car. “You don't have to come by in future, Forrest. I can find some other supplier.”

“You do that and hopefully the poison’ll kill ya, jackass,” Howard said and laughed.

Mr. Shaw just gritted his teeth and threw some money in the mud before he got into his car and sped off.

Forrest looked at the soiled money but picked it up nevertheless. “Some nerve that man has,” he said and shook his head. “No manners.”

“Won’t miss seeing his ugly mug any day soon,” Li’l Harry said.

“Would you have shot him?” John asked Howard.

Howard exchanged a glance with Forrest but none of them said anything, and John supposed it was a stupid question to ask a person.

"Why did you step outside?" Forrest asked.

John felt all eyes on him. "I thought you needed the space,” he decided to stick to the truth.

"I didn't want anything to happen to you," Forrest said as he leaned closer to him. John couldn't help smiling and saw that Forrest couldn't help smiling either.

Howard and Li'l Harry coughed and Forrest went back inside.

"Don't let them talk you into delivering, John," Forrest said.

Howard scoffed. "You up to it?"

Another time, John would have grabbed the opportunity and escaped a dreary day in a place he was forced to endure for a week. However, at this moment, John was drawn toward Forrest and he wanted to spend as much time with him as possible. As long as Forrest wanted him to.

"Yes," he said nevertheless, surprising himself. "If you deem it safe.”

Howard glanced back at the house. "I'll get you back in one piece. Don’t you worry about that."

"I don’t worry about that but I appreciate it," John said.

"We take care of our own around here."

John just nodded. He had a feeling Howard was insinuating matters between the lines that only the brothers would understand.

"If you say so. Where are you going?"

"As soon as Jack is back we're taking the road behind the hills. You drive with him."

"But..." Li'l Harry said.

"But nothin'," Howard cut him off.

John expected a minor squabble to erupt, but then Jack's truck appeared in the yard in that same instant. Jack got out and Howard nodded.

"Jack... John's coming with you on your route."

Jack couldn't hide his surprise. "Really? All right. Hop in. Not wasting your time while you’re staying, huh?”

“I suppose not,” John said. Forrest was watching from the door, but then he turned and went inside. John couldn't tell from his expression what he thought about it, but Jack was right. In spite of the weird thing growing between him and Forrest, John would get bored in the long run, if he didn’t try and experience something different while he was stuck here.

Soon they were on their way. John helped unloading crates to the various customers on Jack’s route. He liked getting his hands dirty and Jack expressed how much more efficient John was compared to Lil’ Harry.

“I suppose he’s small for a job like this?” John suggested, but Jack just laughed.

“Nah. He’s lost three fingers... and I suppose he is kind of small.”

“How did he lose three fingers?”

“I’m not sure. Could be he was ham-fisted with some of his traps when he was younger. He never told anyone what happened.”

“Must have been embarrassing then,” John suggested.

“Must have been, yeah.”

“I didn’t really notice he’d lost them,” John said after some thought.

“He’s wearing them gloves even in the summer time. Didn’t you notice?”

“Not really, no.”

“Don’t matter. He’s not as quick as you, John. Might want you to stick around after this week?” Jack joked.

John smiled. The chances for that to happen was not a variable at this point. John was moving on. Going to spend some time in New York. A thought occurred to him.

“Do some of your products end up in New York?”

“Could be. We produce quite a lot of liquor. You should see the size of our distiller plant.”

“Plant?” John repeated.

“Yeah. It’s quite big. Twenty and then some stills working nonstop. Keep the stock in the outhouse.”

“Ah...” John said. “The key chain he wears.”

“Yeah. He’s in charge of that.”

“Forrest said you have a lot of money.”

“He did?” Jack looked amused at John.

“He joked about how many cigars he could afford.”

“Well, yeah... That’s Forrest’s vice. He likes them cigars.”

“He was kind enough to not smoke them in the truck when he drove me here.”

Jack looked at him and narrowed his eyes. “That was mighty kind of him. He’d never do that to any of us. Mind you, we smoke a lot, too.”

“Oh,” John just said. What was he to make of that assumption? When John turned his head to look at Jack he found the younger man staring at him like he had two heads. “What?”

“You’re in love, aren’t you?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You’re in love.”

“Certainly not!”

“But you have been recently.”

“Why would you say that?” John asked, chuckling self-conscious. He hadn’t seen that one coming. Belansai had had that kind of observation skills, too.

“You just have that look about you. I would know. I am in love with my wife and everybody tells me how it shows when I talk about her.”

“Well... I might have been infatuated on Borneo recently, but that’s in the past now. I’m certainly not talking about any specific person I might be in love with.”

“Mhm...” Jack hummed – just like Forrest did, and John felt his cheeks heat up. He was embarrassed that this brought out such a strong denying response from him. That fact gave away more than John was comfortable with.

Crates shifted hands as the two men worked their way through Jack’s route. Nothing worth mentioning happened along the trip. Certainly nothing John could get hurt from except a scratch on one of his fingers from a splintered box. Jack had poured some whisky over it and John bravely withheld to cry out from the sting it gave him.

“Forrest will have a band aid for that when we get home.”

“I’ll survive,” John said.

“They’re good. We get scratches a lot around here and Forrest will insist anyway,” Jack said, and John could tell it was futile to resist.

“Very well.” He’d gotten scratches on Borneo, too, and he had to admit there had been native methods for those and it did keep away infection.

¤|||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤

When they got back it was way past four o’clock. They had made a nice amount of cash, and Jack said that was an everyday occurrence. All that money was handed over to Forrest who came out to greet them. Forrest took a quick look at it and put it in his pocket with an approving hum and ambled back inside.

Jack didn’t stick around and waved at John, promising he’d be back tomorrow in case John wanted to take another drive with him. John waved back and went into the house.

In the saloon, Forrest sat at the table with both Harry and Howard. They were having supper and John realised he was hungry. John sat down at the table and remembered the scratch.

“Jack told me to ask for a band aid,” he informed Forrest.

Forrest took a look at the scratch and then he went and fetched a band aid for John to put on.

“There’s a plate for you, John,” Forrest said when John sat down.

John nodded. “Thanks, Forrest.” He was about to get up and make his own arrangements, when Forrest got to him first.

“Sit, sit,” he said, went to the kitchen, and poured a portion of food for John. Then he returned and stood next to him.

John looked up and smiled. Forrest put the plate in front of him and nodded. He was wearing the apron again. John felt a pang of guilt that he’d just taken off and left him alone all day. Sticking around was the least he could do for the hospitality he’d so kindly been granted. Facing his plate, John couldn’t tell what was on it, but he took the utensils provided and dug in.

“How’s the baby been?” John asked, cutting through the silence of the men eating.

“Good, good,” Forrest said, and they shared a potent glance that became even more loaded with the knowledge of what they’d done last night.

“Remind me again, Forrest,” Harry cut in. “Was Maggie’s baby named after her dad? She hated her dad, didn’t she?”

Forrest didn’t even look at Harry. He looked at Howard who put down his fork.

“And where would you pick up such... intelligence?” Howard asked.

John looked at Forrest. In spite of the palpable tension in the room, he had to admit that he was more than curious about the outcome of that exchange.

“People talk...” Harry explained.

“And you listen,” Howard interrupted him.

Harry sat with his mouth open, as he realised he’d put his foot in it. “I-I didn’t mean any disrespect...”

Forrest scoffed at the obvious disrespect Harry had just delivered. “Everybody’s been so busy about the slightest detail of Maggie’s personal business. When in reality...” Forrest got up and took a box of cigars and brought it to the table. He picked out one for himself and offered one to Harry.

Confused, Harry took one and turned his face when he heard Howard strike a match. When he leaned closer to the older Bondurant, he cried out in pain when the flame was a held under his fingers instead of the cigar.

Alarmed, John got half up his chair. “Jesus Christ, what are you doing?”

Harry yelped all the way to the sink behind the counter to take care of the burn.

Looking at John, Forrest finished his sentence, “...Maggie’s business is nobody’s business but her own.”

John couldn't figure out what he thought about that senseless display of power. “You knew he was going to do that to him?”

“He had it coming, didn’t you, Harry?”

The man still had his hand under the water but, at the same time, he didn’t look like he wanted to stick around longer than necessary. He grimaced around the cigar in his mouth but nodded in agreement. “Sure did, Howard. Gotta go. Thanks for supper...” And then he hastened for the door and was gone.

“Was that necessary? Why was I subjected to that?” John demanded to know.

“He’ll be all right,” Forrest said. “He’ll stew over it for a couple days, but...”

“He’ll come around. He’s a reliable delivery man,” Howard continued.

John would hate to see what they did to men they didn’t deem reliable, but he kept that opinion to himself. His outrage should be enough, though he doubted it would impress them. Forrest’s brass knuckle came to mind and John understood that as gentle as Forrest was with him, he could flip his coin any second and use brutality on other people like any common thug.

“We have offended our guest. Our apologies,” Forrest said and slowly got out of his apron. Maggie’s apron.

John sighed and got up. He needed the loo.

¤|||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤

The baby was quiet that night and John listened for Forrest to go to bed. He heard the man shuffle about in the corridor. John thought he heard Forrest fuss with the wall panels, but he wasn’t sure. The man needed to stash his fortune somewhere, John reckoned. Forrest didn’t seem the type to have a safe. Giving him plenty time to finish his business, John eventually stepped into the corridor and knocked on his door.

Forrest was there a moment later and opened the door wider. “Come in, John,” he said, eyes unusually sparkling with anticipation.

“Howard left?” John asked.

“Yeah... he don’t live here, you know.”

“Of course. I remember.”

Forrest was dressed in an old-fashioned men’s night shirt that went below his knees. John was dressed in his woollen undergarments.

“So...” John said and stepped closer to Forrest. The handsome man scratched his head looking as self-conscious as humanly possible. “What do you want?” John asked, leaving it up to Forrest to make the first step.

Forrest cupped John’s face and dunked their foreheads together a few times. “Can we do what we did?” Forrest mumbled. “Just quickly. I’m prepared for the pain. Been a little in pain all day...” He let go and sought John’s eyes, “I liked it, you know.”

“I suppose it helps to like it,” John said. “I was happy to help... the baby...” He wasn’t sure how much more he should say, when it was painfully obviously that they weren’t doing it just for the sake of Billy. Forrest began to pull the night shirt over his head and he stood naked in front of John moments after. His chest was already rising fast with anticipation and nerves.

Determined not to be the only one dressed, John stepped out of his underwear and grabbed Forrest’s hand. “Let’s continue this on the bed,” he said and Forrest followed.

“How...” Forrest asked, but let himself be manipulated on his back and John stretched out next to him.

“Turn slightly,” John told him.

“I was thinking... Mhmmm...” Forrest moaned when John slipped his warm mouth over his hard nipple. Seconds passed before he was able to continue. “...I was thinking we should do this twice a day. Morning and evening... if that’s all right with you, John?”

John let go of the pebbled flesh and looked at Forrest who couldn’t meet his gaze. “Would you like that?”

“I think it would help,” Forrest replied and closed his eyes unable to look at John. “You realise we’re only doing this because Billy needs it. I would never have...”

But he stopped because the fact was that he’d told John that he thought about it when the child had been born. The desire to nurture him was a drive inside Forrest, as was his natural need to make sure his family was all right. The soft cardigan, the apron. John could vividly see Forrest as the matriarch when stripped of everything unnecessary masculine. John was touched by that discovery and if Forrest needed to live a lie to give himself the chance to perform these tasks, then John would help him outlive them.

“We’ll do this as many times as you think is required.”

Finally, Forrest looked at John and the gratitude was blatant in his intense eyes. John nodded and reached over to press a kiss on his lips. Then he crept lower and pulled Forrest’s body close, ready to re-abuse his poor red nipple.

Listening to Forrest’s moans, he slipped a hand down his toned body and grabbed a buttock. Forrest’s moans changed and John let his palm barely touch his skin when he moved it around that area of his lover’s anatomy.

“John...” Forrest croaked and immediately John let the nipple slip out of his mouth as he let go of him. Forrest turned to his back and his hands made fists. John didn’t ask but simply moved to kneel between Forrest’s legs.

“Lift your knees,” John said.

“We could get killed for this,” Forrest said looking at him with those unforgiving intense eyes of his.

“I’m not going to tell anyone.” John said.

Forrest just stared at him a few moments longer. “I didn’t think you would,” he said.

“Then what’s the problem?” John smoothed his hands over Forrest’s lean hips.

“They’re already looking at me.”

“Who are they?”

“Howard. Jack. They’re on to us.”

John held tighter on Forrest, cupping his hipbones. “What would they do?”

“Nothing,” Forrest said.

John moved away and knelt next to him. “So... what do you suggest?”

“Let’s just not do... that... you know?” the man said. “It’s dangerous.”

John nodded. “All right. But you don’t know what you’re missing.” He kept an eye on Forrest and saw him nod back.

“That Shaw character... he doesn’t exactly hide what he wants, does he?”

Forrest looked at him sharply. “He’s different. He belongs in jail.”

“And why isn’t he?”

“He hasn’t been caught yet.”

“Any witnesses?”

“John... no more.”

John sighed. “You’re investing in me, so...”

Forrest looked surprised by that, but John could see the gears working in that stubborn head of his and when he acquiesced, John could tell.

Forrest lifted his legs and looked pointedly at him. “Do it then.”

In spite of Forrest literally invited John to have his way if he wanted to, John had enough self discipline not to take advantage of the fragile dilemma they had put themselves in.

Gently, John pushed his legs back down. “It wouldn’t feel right now. This isn’t a chore for me. Maybe we should just do more of...” he pointed at Forrest’s nipple.

“It just leads to the same thing.”

“Yes, but you’ll be more receptive,” John said.

Forrest looked away. “He barely ate today. He’s getting weaker.”

“Oh...” John said, guilt filling him up instantly for staying away when he could have helped. However, he reasoned that Forrest couldn’t tolerate constant pressure on his nipples, and John doubted he was able to use his mouth for a whole day. So... but he was here now, ready to assist.

Their minor quarrel hadn’t diminished Forrest’s erection at all, so John went to work getting Forrest off while stimulating him.

The man moaned in pain and pleasure. “Ahhh... aww... John...” he cried out the closer he got. John worked his hand harder, and put in that extra level of suction. Forrest thrust into his hand and John was so hard he rubbed against him to get himself release.

Groaning when climax finally hit him, he came all over Forrest’s thigh. His hand was covered in Forrest’s semen but he could barely feel it, since his hand was numb from the arduous task of jerking him off. He wiped his hand on the edge of the sheet.

Panting, Forrest came back to his senses when Billy cried from the nursery.

Forrest sat up, and John could tell that Forrest’s stress threshold was wearing thin. The cries were heartbreaking and John quickly wiped his hand in the sheets and hurried to go and fetch the pitiful boy. When he brought him in, he went to sit on the bed next to Forrest. Tears were leaking from Forrest’s eyes from not being able to feed his baby.

Then John’s eyes glanced at his chest and he cried out in astonishment. “Forrest! You’re leaking.”

“I’m sorry,” Forrest said misunderstanding him, but John reached out and caught a clear droplet from one of his nipples.

“You’re lactating!” John said excitedly. “Look!”

He looked down and saw it for himself. “Oh... oooh...” he said in child like wonder as his body began shaking. “Bring him over!”

John did and Forrest tried to arrange the baby accordingly. With back held breath, Forrest angled Billy’s head. His hands shook violently, and John reached out to support father and child.

Billy latched on, and Forrest cried out in pain. “Holy Mary,” he grunted and gritted his teeth.

“Hurts?”

Forrest squeezed his eyes shut for a few moments before he looked at his feeding child with much tenderness. “That’s good, son.”

The gurgling noises coming from his tiny mouth were wondrous. John could hardly believe they’d already achieved their goal.

“Thank you,” Forrest said and reached for John to press a kiss to his lips in appreciation. The kiss lasted longer than expected when Forrest’s gratitude seemed to stretch on.

Finally, John broke the kiss and found Forrest’s eyes lingering on him. John let go when Forrest seemed stable enough to hold Billy by himself. The watery milk stopped after a while, but Billy was still hungry. Forrest tried to offer his other nipple to the child, but there was nothing.

“We’ll work on that one,” John promised him and took Billy when he cried. “I’ll just take him for a walk around the house. You get some rest.”

Forrest fell back on the bed and covered himself up. He moaned quietly in discomfort as he cupped his chest with his hands.

John tried to clean up the baby the best he could in the nursery. Billy might still be hungry but the nursing had tired him just as much as it had Forrest, and John returned the baby easily to his crib when he fell asleep. Feeling knackered himself, John went to his bedroom and got comfortable. A big smile spread across his face. They’d achieved something quite astounding tonight. Something intimate and uniquely theirs that the rest of the world would never understand and condemn if they knew about it. John imagined his father would have understood. He was a pioneer after all, but his peers would sniff their upper-class noses and turn their backs on him. Just like Forrest’s neighbours had because Maggie got Billy out of wedlock. Class or Christian kindness obviously didn’t mean anything. It was a cultural thing for people to choose who was worthy or who wasn’t when someone desperately needed their help.

¤|||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤ |||| ¤

Chapter Text

☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼

When John awoke, he felt rested. He hoped Forrest had gotten a good night’s sleep, too. After dressing and personal tending in the bathroom, he went downstairs and found Jack and Howard busy having breakfast in the saloon.

Nodding he greeted them, “Good morning.”

The brothers responded in kind and John helped himself to breakfast one of them must have cooked.

“Would you like to drive with us today? We could use your help,” Howard said, and John detected a slight unease about him.

“I might not be available,” John said.

“Forrest won’t leave his bedroom and Billy isn’t in his crib... I’m not sure what’s gotten into him, but we have a few rounds to deliver. He came down with the key to the shed, and went up again straight away. That ain’t like him to leave the key with us.”

John knew then why Forrest was staying upstairs. “Have you loaded the trucks?”

Howard nodded. “Then I’ll pass him the key. Has he eaten?”

Howard looked unsure but then he slowly took the chain off his neck and slid it across the table to John who put it on.

“No. He ain’t eaten anything.”

“I’ll get him some. He needs to eat,” John said, and took his own meal and made another for Forrest. Putting them on a tray, he went up to Forrest’s bedroom. Knocking on the door, he announced himself. Forrest didn’t reply and John opened the door and came in.

“Good morning,” he said and closed the door.

Balancing the tray, he put it in the end of the bed and sat down slowly. Forrest was on his side and, according to the noises, the baby was nursing with gusto.

“I can’t come down,” Forrest said, “They wouldn’t understand what’s happening.”

“I’m sure they would if they knew why,” John said and took off the key and put it next to Forrest’s pillow.

“They’d just suggest some woman and if it were that simple we’d gone done that long ago.”

John knew it was futile to discuss this but it pained him that Forrest thought saving his child was shameful to his family.

“I take care of my family. They’re like children. You’ve met them, John,” Forrest clarified after a while.

“Are you hungry?”

“Yes.”

“How is it going?”

“Very well. Milk came out of the other this morning. I didn’t have to do anything. When he cried it just... dripped all by itself. It’s milkier now.”

“That’s exceptional news,” John said.

Forrest just hummed, and John felt heat flush through his body. He shouldn’t be so aroused from seeing Forrest nursing his baby, but he was. Perhaps it reminded him of when Belansai had given him a blowjob on Borneo. And of course, he’d enjoyed it tremendously. He would have to put that need aside though. They’d achieved their goal and he doubted Forrest would need him any more after that.

Forrest was hungry and couldn’t put himself before the child, so John fed him bites while he nursed Billy.

Forrest alternated between looking intensely at John and his child feeding.

The feeling was magnetising and he had to force his eyes in another direction to cut the connection.

“Does it hurt?” he managed to ask and Forrest nodded.

“It’s fine,” he said and checked Billy when he stopped eating. The baby had fallen asleep. Watching Forrest and the unconditional love for his son that shone through his eyes, gave John a lump in his throat he couldn’t quite place. The child shouldn’t mean anything to him. He wasn’t related, but his heart wasn’t made of stone.

John liked children and at some point in his life, he’d always imagined he wanted some of his own. Now, he wasn’t so sure that was ever going to be the case, when he’d discovered his true sexuality. He could keep it a secret, marry some girl and have the kids, but he was too much of a gentleman to do that just to fulfil selfish potentials and dreams. Then again, he knew that his grandmother had married for convenience. His grandparents sure never showed any signs that they loved or at least respected each other. There had been a lot of tension and snappish remarks when he visited their home in his childhood. His mother had been an only child and he couldn't blame them for not wanting more. Perhaps they’d only slept in the same bed that one time and luckily his mother was the result of that.

John smiled at his silly observations and gave Forrest more food.

“I can take him back, if you’d like,” he offered.

“Thank you,” Forrest said and covered up his still dripping nipples. “Now, they won't stop. How do women do this?”

John shrugged, “I don’t know. Maybe Maggie has something in the room that she used. I can check if you’d like?”

“Maybe something... cotton balls or... a rag. To take the drops,” Forrest said and looked at John’s hands when he reached to take Billy.

“Yeah.” John agreed. Perhaps even a brassiere, he couldn't help joke in his mind. John was getting much better at handling the baby. He smelled specifically like a baby, and the scent was becoming stronger after Forrest was able to give him milk. John buried his nose in Billy’s hair and inhaled.

“Does he smell?” Forrest asked.

“Not that kind of smell. He smells just fine,” John said.

Forrest groaned and lay on his back. Raking his fingers through his hair, he sighed loudly. “I’m not sure how I can make this, John. It’s actually... terrifying.”

“How about Jack’s wife?” John suggested.

“Amish. They were not particularly fond of Jack marrying their daughter. So let alone taking care of an illegitimate nephew...” Forrest shook his head. It was not going to happen.

John took Billy away to clean him up before he came down to the kitchen. Jack and Howard were finishing up their own breakfast.

“I’m sorry but I can’t help you today,” John said.

Howard sucked his teeth loudly and then he shrugged. “We’ll just use the Harry’s then,” he said to Jack, but he was looking at John. “And Forrest?”

“He’s going to look after Billy,” John said.

Howard looked like he understood that the baby couldn't be left alone, but that it still annoyed him they were one brother short running the business.

John watched them get up and leave. The dishes were still on the table which he found was rude.

“You had better wash your own dishes if you plan on eating here,” John said to them. “Forrest is in no condition to clean up after you two, and I sure am not doing it.” His eyes rounded not believing he’d just said that.

The two brothers looked just as surprised at his outburst.

“He doesn’t get much sleep because of Billy here,” John clarified, “It’s just not fair to burden him with extra chores.”

The brothers seemed confused. They didn’t know what to do after that. Well John was happy to tell them.

“Get to it,” he said and left the saloon to go looking through the remains of Maggie’s stuff.

Meticulously, he opened every drawer and cupboard hoping to find something Forrest could use. He found an old cotton towel, and tore strips into squares of approximately ten by ten centimetres and brought them back.

Both Billy and Forrest had fallen sleeping. John took the plates and put them on the floor. Then he crawled into bed with the man. Forrest hummed and turned to face John. John smiled because he knew that Forrest recognised him even in his sleep.

“I found something for you,” John whispered.

“Good,” Forrest murmured and wrapped an arm across John’s hip, and pushed his head into the crook by John’s neck and shoulder.

☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼

Later that day, John sat with the baby across from Forrest when the men came in for an afternoon cup of coffee after doing their rounds.

Billy was perking fast and looked much more alert now that Forrest was able to feed him.

“You look healthy,” Jack commented, nudging his chin toward his brother as he sat down and filled a cup.

“I wasn’t sick,” Forrest replied, “Billy was.”

“But he’s getting better, ain’t he?” Li’l Harry asked.

Forrest turned his sharp grey eyes at the man, and Li’l Harry visibly shrunk in his chair under his stare.

“Better? He was starving, Harry,” Forrest said. “Would food make you feel better?”

Uneasy of what he’d gotten himself into, Li’l Harry nodded.

“But Billy don’t eat solid food, yet, don’t he?” Forrest explained.

The man knew now he was out on a limb and just concentrated on his coffee.

“That powder stuff still not working? He looks fine to me,” Howard said.

Forrest closed his eyes and then looked at John and Billy instead. John had a little finger lodged between Billy’s lips and the boy was sucking it hard.

“Forrest? What’s that?” Jack said and pointed at his older brother.

Forrest looked down. His shirt was all of a sudden suspiciously wet. “Hmmm... Don't worry about it,” he replied, but he and John got up simultaneously.

Upstairs, Forrest took off his shirt. “They keep falling out, even with the gauze wrapping,” Forrest explained and gathered the cotton squares John had made for him.

“I thought about maybe... a... a...”

“Spit it out, John. Your ideas are welcome, you know.”

“Fine. A brassiere.”

Forrest looked at him like he was crazy, but John could see that he was thinking it over nevertheless. “All right. How do we make one?”

John smiled and stepped closer. He had Billy resting over his shoulder and reached down to get a cotton square. Gently he pressed it against Forrest’s nipple, and the man groaned slightly.

“Does it hurt?” John asked, and Forrest shook his head.

“No,” he answered quietly. “Everything you do to me feels good.”

Dropping the square, John put his hand on his neck and kissed him. Forrest responded by letting John’s tongue into his mouth.

“Forrest? Everything okay in there?” Jack called out as he knocked on the door.

“Goddamnit,” Forrest uttered. They were both sporting erections and Forrest was undressed.

“Just a change of clothes. Nothing to worry about,” Forrest called out to placate his brother.

“You sure?”

“Jack, go away,” John said.

Forrest looked at him. “That ain’t gonna help, John,” he said and, sure enough, the door opened right away. John sat down to try and diminish the tent in his pants by simply putting Billy on top of his crotch.

Forrest stood like frozen as did Jack.

“Oh... I... um...”

“If I tell you I’m fine, I mean it.”

“But... Your chest is wet.”

“Your observation skills are excellent, Jack, but we don't need your assistance,” John said.

“Who made you Forrest’s spokesperson?" Jack asked. "My brother can speak for himself!” Jack looked at Forrest. His gaze travelling downward before it became obvious for him that he had stepped into something he probably shouldn't have. “What's going on here? What’s going on with Billy?”

“You wouldn’t understand, Jack,” Forrest said.

“Then explain it to him,” John said. There was so much to lose by telling him, but Jack came across as a level headed man.

“John has...” Forrest began, but John cut in.

“Billy’s distress has made Forrest lactate.”

“Excuse me?” Jack said looking confused at his brother’s chest and back at John.

“Forrest can produce milk. There is no one else who can help. The formula isn't helping. Billy would starve to death... so nature took care of it by itself.”

Jack looked at John and then his eyes came back to Forrest. “Really? Nature?”

“Yeah. That’s why my shirt is wet.”

“You are a man?” Jack asked.

Forrest rolled his eyes in annoyance. “Jack. We grew up together. It would have been difficult for me to hide it if I was no man. Don't ask jackassed questions.”

Jack took a step closer but then he took one back again.

“What's going to happen now?” he asked.

“You can't tell anyone. I’m just glad I can help my son.”

“Of course.”

“No one, Jack,” John emphasized.

“Yeah, yeah,” Jack said staring at Forrest.

Forrest sighed. “I’m still a man. I’m still your brother.”

“I know,” Jack said.

“You don’t look like you’re convinced.”

Jack rubbed the back of his neck. “So... you won’t be doing delivery rounds anytime soon?”

Forrest hummed, but then he decided to clarify his answer. “Jack, even you know that a three month old baby can’t just be put aside when things get inconvenient, Jack. He needs constant nursing.”

“Damn Maggie,” Jack mumbled.

“There just ain’t much to be done about that. Billy’s gotta get better. That’s important.”

“Why is John so involved? Not his baby,” Jack pointed out.

“I helped,” John said.

“How?” Jack insisted a little harder.

“None of your business,” Forrest said with dismissive authority. Jack looked funny in the face, expression revealing what his inner eye saw for a moment. John knew then that the younger Bondurant had put two and two together and seen the sexual tension in the room as well. Like a moth to the flame, he just couldn’t help himself wanting answers to confirm his conclusion. The thought of him knowing what was going on between himself and Forrest made John’s pulse quicken and cold sweat pour out all over his body.

Gradually, Forrest went to stand in front of Jack and the look in his eyes was frighteningly calm. “Jack. You’re my brother. And I love you. But if you mention any of this to anybody... I swear I’ll make you regret it.”

“Forrest,” Jack gulped. “That was never my intention.”

“What is your intention?” Forrest asked.

Apparently, Jack didn’t know because he looked paralysed at his sibling.

“If you haven’t thought it through then quit yapping about it, as if you do have an opinion on the matter. Only thing you need to know is that John helps. That’s all. Billy’s gonna survive because of that. That’s all you need to know.”

Jack still looked like he wanted to point out a few things, but Forrest just clapped him harder than necessary on the cheek. “Go home to your little wife, Jack! Forget what you saw. Emergencies need unforeseen solutions and we’re handling this.”

John watched the younger man head hesitatingly toward the door. Indecisively, he turned one last time, but finally left Forrest’s bedroom.

“Do you think he’ll keep his word?”

“If he don’t, I’ll kill him,” was Forrest’s shocking dark reply.

Billy picked that moment to cry and Forrest reached for him to give him what he wanted.

☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼

“So, you don’t really need my assistance anymore?” John asked later when Forrest was nursing Billy, and the saloon had been closed for business for the day. “I’ll be out of your hair soon enough.”

Forrest looked funny in the face, and looked sharply at John. “Why would you say that?”

“You know... you don’t want to discuss this.”

“I think I made it pretty clear how I feel about you being here,” Forrest said.

“No... You just threatened your brother.”

“You insisted on me mentioning it,” Forrest said.

And yes, John had taken the initiative to explain what Jack couldn’t believe he was watching. The other part... the obvious state of arousal they had been in when he barged into the room – that was a different story. However, Jack had seemed a little shocked by the breast feeding that he hadn’t really reacted to the other part, but it was probably festering in his mind right now.

“Will he confront you?” John asked.

“About us?” Forrest asked. He was aware of it just as much as John was.

“I would never tell my mother about any of this. She wouldn’t understand even though she’s an understanding person.”

“I have to be able to trust my brothers. It’s a bad thing if I can’t,” Forrest said.

John sat down next to him. Billy had fallen asleep. His tiny mouth slack around Forrest’s nipple. Forrest closed his eyes. “This is a blessing. You coming here and teaching me this. My boy would not have survived.”

“You’re welcome, Forrest. It is a blessing I happened to witness the man on Borneo, because I only saw him doing it one time.”

They looked at each other. “I don't want you to leave, John,” Forrest unexpectedly said.

“I have to. I have...” John stopped because he didn’t really have to be in New York in a week. He alone decided how long he wanted to prolong his stay. “Why would you want me to stay?”

Forrest looked away. He didn’t respond and just cleared his voice with a hum. “I like having you around,” he finally said.

John realised that Forest was probably very lonely. In spite of having family and friends around, he didn’t have anyone who could relate to how he truly felt about love. And Sex. John didn’t necessarily like this place, but he did like Forrest Bondurant.

Reaching out, John turned Forrest’s head by his chin, making him look at him. Leaning in, John placed a small kiss on his lips. Forrest opened up and let John slip his tongue into his mouth. John guided the kiss and let go when Billy gurgled in his sleep.

“You should put the crib in here,” he said. The unsaid part of his statement was that Billy would be easier to slip into his bed when things got heated between the two of them than take him down to Maggie’s room and risk he’d wake up again.

“Go on get it then,” Forrest urged him.

John got up and quickly went to carry the cradle back to Forrest’s room and out in front of the bed. Looking at Forrest, he went to pick up Billy and put him down under the covers. “Like that?” he asked and quirked an eyebrow.

Forrest smiled at hm. A beautiful smile showing off crooked teeth and John smiled back. A few seconds passed before he pounced Forrest and tackled him to the bed.

“You are the only one who’s allowed to do that,” Forrest told him.

John understood, but couldn’t help teasing him a bit. “So there has never been another man in your life?”

Forrest frowned and immediately looked uncomfortable. John smiled and dug in for a kiss from his sensual plump mouth. “Never seen lips like yours on a man, Forrest. You are an extraordinary.”

Forrest hummed and reached up to hold John’s face in his hands. “You shouldn’t unleash compliments left and right, John Truscott.”

John smiled and turned to kiss the palm of Forrest’s hand. “I think you deserve them.”

“But since you asked. I was in love with someone when I was younger. I never told him, but I think he knew. Knows.”

“He’s still living around here?”

Forrest looked up in the canopy above them.

It dawned on John who that person might be. “Mr. Shaw?”

Forrest shrugged delicately. “He was different back then.”

“I doubt he was ever different and trust me, he knows. I actually think he’s jealous of me coming here. He’s acting strange.”

Forrest hummed again. “I don’t think he’s interested in me, John.”

“He’s unhealthily interested in me then.”

“Don’t worry. He won’t harm you while I’m around.”

“I’m not worried. He’s nothing.”

“Yeah. He’s nothing.”

They looked at each other and then Forrest cracked a grin. “I don't recall ever talking to anybody the way you and me are talking, John,” he admitted.

“I suppose it’s liberating?” John suggested. It had been for him.

Forrest nodded.

“Because... initially, you didn’t want to talk about it...” John tested him.

“Yeah. It’s dangerous to talk about these matters. It’s illegal and people gladly string you up in a tree. By the balls.”

John winced audibly. “I swear, I won’t talk about it.”

“And yet you mentioned something to Jack.”

“Just what was pertaining to Billy. Even Jack must understand that your son was in danger of starving.”

“I don’t think anybody knew how bad it had become. What he saw was our... state of... excitement. Everything else was beyond the point.”

“Still you don’t strike me as person who would let anybody string you up in a tree, Forrest,” John argumented.

“And you would be correct,” Forrest said, “But there are other ways to get to a person.”

“All right,” John said leaving the matter be. He brushed his lips across Forrest’s a few times with closed eyes, letting the sensation build up in his body. When he felt Forrest respond in kind, he blurted, “I want you.”

“You have me,” Forrest replied and let John mould himself against him.

“Let’s take off our clothes,” John urged him. He’d only been here a few days, but in that exact moment, he acknowledged how much he wanted to go further with Forrest. Squatting, he gave Forrest space to undress as he did the same.

When they were naked, John knelt before him and ran his hands up Forrest’s thighs. “Lift your legs. Like last time,” he told him.

Forrest narrowed his eyes. “Why me?”

“I know what I’m doing,” John said, “You don’t.”

Forrest hummed. “Go on then.”

“We should probably use some kind of lubrication,” John remembered. “Do you have something greasy? Cooking oil maybe?”

“Yeah. In the pantry.”

John put on his underwear and pressed a hand to his arousal to keep it from bobbing uncomfortably, while he went downstairs to locate the ingredient. Staying away from the windows he looked for it in the pantry by the stair case and hurried back up a soon as he’d found it.

The sight that met him was lovely. Forrest was slowly stroking himself. To John it meant that what they were about to endeavour hadn’t killed his lover’s excitement.

“Forrest?” John said and crawled back to bed and lay next to Forrest’s front. They looked at each other for a few moments when Forrest nudged him in the chest.

“Well?”

“Right.” John eagerly sat up and found his place between Forrest’s legs. Picking up the oil from the floor, he poured some into his hand. The content’s spilled over a bit but he shrugged and dipped his fingers in the puddle in his palm before he touched Forrest’s hole.

The man had his eyes open, watching him keenly while he worked to stretch him open. John looked back at him. Forrest didn’t wince, didn’t show any sign of discomfort.

“All right?” he asked him after a while.

Forrest nodded. “It’s fine.”

“You’re really not a man of many words, Forrest,” John joked.

Forrest gave him a small smile. “So far I haven’t felt the need to say anything.”

“Do you like it?” John asked.

Forrest’s gaze intensified and he nodded gain. “Yes. It’s very good.”

“It gets better,” John assured him, but Forrest just hummed with a sound that revealed how amusing he apparently found the whole preparation ceremony.

John slicked himself up when he found he’d done a satisfactory job on Forrest and lined himself up. “I’m going inside now.”

“Go on,” Forrest said and pulled his knees further up his chest.

John licked his lips. “Okay. Here I go.”

Forrest moaned quietly as John gradually pushed into his body.

“All right?” John asked, to make sure he wasn’t hurting him.

Forrest looked at him and nodded. “Yeah...”

John pushed some more until he was seated snugly against Forrest’s buttocks. “All right?” he asked again.

Forrest lifted his hand. “One second.” He then wrapped his legs around John’s waist and rubbed his hands against his cheeks. “One second...” he repeated with a small hiss.

John waited. The feeling of that particular pressure around his cock he’d almost forgotten from when he was sharing his bed with Belansai, but he remembered now. It was a wonderful incredible feeling that urged the need to plunge into the vice keeping him motivated.

“Okay... Go on,” Forrest said and pushed his hips a bit toward John.

“Yes,” John moaned with a relieved smile and began a steady slow thrust to enjoy Forrest’s tight virgin arse. “God... Forrest,” he sighed and closed his eyes.

“John...” Forrest asked.

John opened his eyes and looked at him. He was so beautiful like that. Really gorgeous like those movie stars he saw in the cinema. Gary Cooper, John Barrymore... “Yeah?” he asked.

Forrest cocked his head to the side and let go of a long moan, and John took that as a sign that he could go faster, let go, and really give Forrest a good hard ride.

John’s climax was already so close and listening to Forrest’s stuttering breaths, he could tell the man wasn’t far behind. Forrest panted into John’s mouth and he yelled abandoned when he released; gushing wetly between their bodies.

With a heartfelt groan of pleasure, John came inside Forrest’s body. “Ohh.... Forrest,” he moaned.

Forrest hooked his heels even tighter around John’s body and they rocked together for a while, until the stickiness between them became uncomfortable. John had grown flaccid and slipped out. Grunting when John lifted his weight from his, Forrest then let his legs fall away.

“John?” Forrest asked. John nodded with a smile. “Don't go – please.”

“I’ll stay. So far, I have nothing to do but wait.”

“Even... after you should have gone. Please stay...”

I’m lonely, John heard him say between the lines. John was lonely, too. Together, they would have each other as company for a while. Looking into Forrest’s honest gaze, John was looking forward to it.

Getting out of the bed, John went to fetch something for them to clean up with. The ‘no talking about it’ stigma of Forrest’s was probably not an issue between the two of them any longer. When he returned, Forrest was checking on Billy, but the baby had slept through their tryst.

“Here,” John said and gave the cloth to him. Forrest hummed his thanks and dried himself. John watched him as he did that while he cleaned himself. When he was finished, he saw that Forrest had beaten him to it and was getting comfortable on his back with a towel draped across his chest. John slipped into the bed and spooned against his side. Turning, Forrest wrapped a leg across John’s hip.

“Goodnight,” Forrest said and kissed John’s nose.

“Goodnight, darling,” John slipped out.

Forrest gave him an amused hum, but tightened his hook.

John stayed in his bed all night.

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The next morning, John woke up to Billy’s cries. However, the child was soothed soon after when Forrest took him into the bed and nursed him. The man drifted in and out of sleep while the boy got his precious milk.

John went to Maggie’s old room again and located some fabric he could use for making a bra for Forrest. Now, the women on Borneo hadn’t exactly worn western custom bras but he would give it a shot nevertheless.

When Forrest joined him in the saloon, he looked imploringly at him.

“Do you think you could give a hand tending the bar today?”

“Of course. Tell me how it works,” John said.

“This is the menu,” Forrest said and lifted an eyebrow. “Is there anything on it you don’t know what is or cannot make?”

John let his eyes run down the short list. He was no cook, and he had never really paid attention to when his mother cooked in the kitchen, but on Borneo where everything was created in the open, he had seen how Fashion made his lunches and dinners. Of course, what Fashion made was different from what the people of Franklin County were used to but John imagined he could recreate most of the things on the card.

“I can... I suppose I can help you with this menu.”

“Do you know what the ingredients are?”

“No. I trust that most of what I can offer will come as a surprise to your patrons.”

Forrest checked to see who was in the room but at the moment there were no one else around. Brushing his lips against John’s ear, Forrest continued to murmur, “Good. Now, cook us some breakfast.”

John scratched his hair and shrugged. “I’m sure oatmeal will do for now?”

“You’d be right,” Forrest said. “We need another cradle for down here.”

“How did you get the one you have?”

“I made it.”

“And you’ll make another one?”

“Probably. In the meantime the box will do.”

“It won’t be long before he’ll crawl away from us,” John said affectionately. Then he realised the time span he’d put himself in. That would still be months ahead. Would he even be here to see it in person?

Forrest hadn’t reacted, so John wasn’t sure he’d caught the subtext. Finding the ingredients he needed in the pantry, he cooked for a while and came out with two bowls of oatmeal.

Forrest had put Billy in his box and inspected John’s cooking when a portion was put in front of him.

After eating a few spoonfuls, he looked sharply at John and proclaimed, “Now, I really can’t afford you to leave, John. This is one tasty oatmeal.”

John chuckled. “You’re just desperate for a cook, Forrest.”

The man laughed. “Yes, but people will be talking about this.”

In that moment a handful of men stepped into the saloon.

“How much did you make?” Forrest asked.

“Probably too much.”

“Offer it to them... Today’s special.”

“Forrest...” John said feeling horrified.

“Trust me, this is better than any oatmeal their wives could ever cook for them.”

“Okay... all right then,” John walked toward the men and addressed them as they sat down.

“Could I offer you some oatmeal? Freshly made?”

Forrest hummed amused and finished his own bowl.

 

IONOEFV.JPG

Chapter Text

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Later that day, John had been busy cooking many batches of oatmeal and other foods from the menu. No one had complained. Everybody had paid their orders, because John told them the establishment didn’t do tabs any longer.

At some point, he had to get rid of the waste that took up space under the sink.

“Forrest?” he asked the man sticking his head into the saloon.

Forrest looked up, rose from his chair, and followed him into the kitchenette.

“We need to empty this. Where do you do that?” John wanted to inquire.

There was a hunger in Forrest’s expression and John immediately knew it was lust. Forrest took off his hat and put it on a hanger on the door behind him.

“Find the cooking oil, John,” he told him.

Taken aback by the meaning of his words, John blinked twice. However, Forrest quickly stepped closer to him, letting him feel his erection; and John understood he meant it. Reaching out for the ingredient, John fumblingly found the flask and put it on the counter.

“Open your trousers,” Forrest ordered and physically turned John to face the window.

“Oh... you want me to...” John realised and exhilarated, he closed his eyes recalling the feeling of Belansai inside him. Quickly, he undid his pants and underwear and let them fall to the floor. Forrest hummed approvingly and bit the back of John’s neck hard enough to make his cock throb hard in response. Forrest had undressed, too, and moulded his hips against John’s body. Forrest rubbed his hard on across John’s round buttocks and the little hairs stood on the Briton’s skin. It was thrilling, and John couldn’t keep in the moan that had to be released from how at risk he was in this position.

Reaching around him, Forrest took hold of the bottle and the sweet torturous motions of preparing John began. Forrest was a fast learner and he was meticulous, as he worked his fingers to loosen up John.

John grasped a hold on the edge of the counter and kept his eyes closed to intensify and make sense of every sensation that coursed through his body. Everything felt good and when Forrest pressed his cock head inside, John moaned again.

Slapping a hand against John’s mouth, Forrest growled in his ear, “Quiet. People may hear you. It’s dangerous enough that we doing it out here.” That didn’t keep him from pushing some more.

“Steady, Forrest,” John grunted and almost got up on his tip toes from the motion. At the same time, he was incredibly turned on by the fact that there were indeed customers in the house who might be able to hear them, if they didn’t keep it quiet. Forrest from a few days ago who didn’t even want to talk about his sexuality had turned into this erotic man who – like Belansai - had made John do things he never thought he’d want to participate in.

“No... You take what I offer,” Forrest said and removed his hand.

“Yes,” John agreed.

Contrary to his words, Forrest didn’t use force, but slipped gradually more into John who pushed back to speed up the process. John found that if he bent slightly in his arms and presented his rear more horizontally, Forrest could reach that spot inside him that made all the discomfort worth the trouble. Forrest didn’t need to have it explained to him and the rhythm increased. The only sounds in the room were the slapping of flesh connecting and the harsh breathing of two people pleasuring each other.

John took the liberty to get off by his hand and his body contracted ruthlessly around Forrest’s cock when he came with a sharp shout. Forrest was plastered against John when his moves hurried up, and he came with a groan of gratification and John’s name on his lip. Forrest slipped out and immediately arranged his clothes and washed his hands. Pearls of sweat beaded his forehead, but he had a twinkle in his eyes.

John watched him wet a cloth. He accepted it when Forrest offered it and quickly wiped himself clean. There was a pleasant ache in John’s backside and he was going to enjoy the feeling for the rest of the day.

“You should clean up the front of the sink. There are... stains,” Forrest said and claimed John’s lips before he grabbed his hat and left the kitchen.

John got dressed in a hurry and cleaned the soiled door under the counter that bore the evidence of his passion. John washed his own hands and returned to his chore. Then he recalled that Forrest hadn’t helped telling him where he could dispose of the garbage and resolutely, he decided to find the place himself.

Walking out through the saloon, he carried two buckets in his hands. When he passed Forrest, he gave him a pointed look, and Forest just hummed, “Dunghill’s in the far back of the back yard.”

John didn’t reply. There were no comments from the patrons sitting at the tables, so perhaps they did succeed in keeping it quiet. Well, actually, John didn’t really care at this point.

Once outside, John carried the buckets through a small path adorned by many trees toward the back yard and the smell greeted him before he even got there. The ripe fumes of rotten garbage were terrible but these were the conditions and with a shrug, he emptied the buckets on top of the rest of the filth there. Modern refuse disposal like John knew it from London was not a service around these parts. That there was a WC with running water and not just an outhouse was a novelty for which John was thankful.

Not wanting to spend another second there than necessary, he turned and went back the same way he came.

“Good afternoon.” A voice startled him a few moments later as its owner stepped out from behind a tree. It was Mr. Shaw.

What could he possibly be doing there, went through John’s mind. He dropped any pretence of behaving civilised with this person who clearly had an agenda by coming out here in the backyard. John estimated his options. He had no weapon. He was burdened by the buckets, so he dropped one to the ground. Mr. Shaw had the advantage of blocking John’s way in the direction of the path, and John didn't know the back yard area. Mr. Shaw probably did.

“How did you know I was here?” John asked, testing waters.

“I didn’t. I just got lucky, I guess,” the man clearly lied and smiled wolfishly. So he’d been keeping an eye on the place, on John.

“Saw you through the kitchen window. You and Forrest. Going at it. You sure love getting fucked from behind.”

The implications if this got out... The horror of how people would react if they believed someone like Shaw, who seemed loving carrying gossip, truth or otherwise. Wouldn’t matter. Like Forrest said, just talking about it could get someone killed around these parts. John understood the danger of his words for real now that he was facing it. He had to stay calm and not let Shaw get the upper hand just by throwing words in his face.

“What do you want?”

Shaw smiled knowingly. “Still all greased up good for another round?”

John’s eyes widened then narrowed. “You are revolting.” Slowly, he lifted his bucket so that he carried it with both hands for a better swing at Shaw if it became necessary.

It did a second later.

The man attacked John and tried to tackle him by simply throwing himself at him. John was nimble enough to turn his body and use the motion to hit him solidly as Shaw clumsily stepped by him. Shaw fell but came up on his feet instantly. John couldn’t surprise him like that twice, and he found the bucket ripped out of his hands when Shaw attacked again, and managed to throw John to the ground. The impact had John cry out in pain.

“I’m gonna fuck you so hard you’ll feel me for days,” Shaw promised darkly and showed yellowed teeth in an animalistic smile. “Not so cocky now you’re on your own, huh?”

“Forrest and his family will kill you for this!” John yelled.

“Your precious Forrest will go to hell for this. Doncha know it’s a sin? And against the law having men sticking their dicks into your ass? But you love it, doncha?”

“And yet, you don't seem to have any qualms doing it,” John retorted.

Shaw just grinned, trying to pin him down.

Adrenaline helped John working all his free limbs to try and throw off the heavier man on top of him. Shaw was laughing in his face and John felt his hand force its way between their bodies, while the other held him down painfully by the arm.

“Dear GOD!!” John cried out. This wasn’t happening. “Forrest!!” he called frantically. “FORREST!!”

Shaw’s face was twisted in his ugly zeal to pull John’s pants down, in spite of how desperately John fought to prevent him. Shaw’s grip of John’s upper arm kept turning until John thought he’d surely snap the bone.

“Arrrrgh!!!” he screamed in agony, and then there was a hollow noise and Shaw let go.

Shaking all over his body, John instinctively rolled away and looked up. Forrest had magically appeared and he was standing like a fighter ready to attack. Shaw was wiping blood from his lips and jaw, eyes calculating, assessing his next move.

When Forrest kept stalling, Shaw got impatient and attacked him. John saw the knife catch the afternoon sunlight, but he didn’t get a chance to warn Forrest.

However, it wasn’t Forrest who got hurt. Shaw groaned in pain as Forrest’s brass knuckle collided with his cheek bone.

“Damn you!” Shaw bellowed. When he turned to look at Forrest, his face was enraged.

“Don’t fuck with me, Shaw,” Forrest said with unsettling calmness. John noticed that the knife had changed owner. It was now safely in Forrest’s other hand. A quick move, and Forrest was swiftly within Shaw’s range and the man let out a sudden subtle cry; almost as in wonder. John got on his feet and reached out for a trunk to lean on as he watched what happened.

Another soft sound was heard, and John understood that Forrest was stabbing Shaw again with the man’s own knife. At last, Shaw simply sank to his knees and Forrest ended the execution by punching the knuckle duster directly in his face repeatedly until Shaw dropped to the side.

Forrest fell on his own knees next to him and John was shaking so badly he dropped down, too. Crawling to be closer to Forrest, he saw that Shaw’s face was unrecognisable.

“Is he dead?” he croaked.

“Well, I ain’t tending his goddamn wounds,” Forrest said.

“Was he in the saloon today?”

“No.”

“How did you come here so fast?”

“I wanted to surprise you. Guess you beat me to it.”

“You wanted to...?” John asked, but began rubbing his arms feeling lost as he watched the life seep out of Shaw’s still body.

“Wasn’t quite done yet,” Forrest explained and looked John in the eyes. “You go back to the kitchen. You were never here.”

“But people heard you giving me directions...”

“No, they didn’t,” Forrest interrupted. “Go back. NOW!” he emphasized to make John react.

John grabbed the buckets and hurried back to the house. When he came into the saloon, there were nobody there and the shock of what had just happened hit him hard. The buckets fell out of his hands and he wet himself.

☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼

Much later, Forrest came in. His clothes were stained from top to toe when he found John sitting on the floor.

“Jesus...” he muttered and quickly checked him over. John was cold and still out of it. Forrest stripped his clothes and his own. Then he remembered to lock up the saloon and carried John upstairs.

Billy was crying. Forrest had no idea how long he’d been outside burying Shaw under the filth, but hoped it wasn’t more than an hour.

He put John on the bed and tucked him in to make sure he was warm. Then he had to ignore Billy just a few more moments to wash away the grime from his dark deed.

When he came back he took Billy in his arms, unable to stop the milk from flowing. “Yeah. That’s my boy,” he cooed quietly and got comfortable putting a gun next to him on the pillow. His hand reached out to run over John’s hair. “Are you all right?” he asked.

John didn’t answer, but Forrest could see the position of John’s shoulders changed when he touched him. He just needed time to get the shock out of his system.

“I’m a witness. To a murder,” John finally responded. He wondered why it mattered more here than the poor Chinese anglers who were murdered in Borneo – also by a lover of John’s because Belansai had definitely been one of the warriors who killed them. Maybe because the anglers were innocent, but John didn’t really know if they were.

“You were also a victim, John,” Forrest answered for him.

That was the reason yes. John was a victim. Justice had been executed on the spot and ‘the man had it coming’, he’d been told earlier. “I should probably get out of here,” he said.

Forrest’s hand stopped caressing him. “No. That will look suspicious. As far as anyone who was here today knows, you were not involved.”

“You said you wanted another fuck,” John said and turned to face Forrest. His eyes fell on Billy who was nursing on his chest.

“Is that what I should tell the sheriff?” Forrest asked.

John looked at him and slowly shook his head. “Of course not.”

“What the sheriff will be told is that Shaw has not been seen around the premises since the day he came for gas. You know what day. You’ll tell them the same. We have several witnesses who can swear they heard Shaw openly declare that he no longer wished to use our station.”

“He said that,” John remembered.

“Anything other than that just opens up more questions, and we’ve dealt with the fucker. He’ll no longer bother people. Nobody will miss him but his mama. End of story.”

“Did he take care of her?” John asked.

“She’ll lack nothing. He was just stingy. What he got in his pockets, I’m gonna make sure she’s gonna get.”

“He carried all his money in his pocket?” John asked.

“I reckon, yeah.”

“And you took it?”

“He ain’t got no use for it in the grave, John.” Forrest

John looked into Forrest’s eyes for a while, until he fell asleep without even noticing that he closed them.

☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼

When John woke up in the morning, the house was quiet. Forrest wasn’t in the bedroom and neither was Billy. John sat up and everything came back. The attempted assault being the final drop that prompted Forrest into killing a sleazy character the county wouldn’t miss.

The violence that Forrest was capable of was shocking to John. He wasn't afraid of Forrest hurting him, but even when Shaw was trying to violate John, he hadn’t thought of wanting the man dead. His hands shook slightly when he held them up in front of his eyes. His vision blurred and he realised he was crying. Curling into a ball, he let go of his frustrations and built up emotions that probably lay further back than this, than Borneo. Emotions that stemmed from a childhood and youth holding back whom he really was inside.

Someone knocked on the door and with a start, John found that he’d fallen back to sleep. “Yeah?” he called out.

“It’s me, John,” he heard Forrest respond, and the door opened.

John didn’t say anything. He felt sluggish and drained. Forrest put a tray of food in the foot end and came to squat beside John. John looked at him and sighed. Forrest nodded and left with a hum giving him space.

John waited for a while before his stomach made the decision for him and made him sit up and reach out for the food. He felt marginally better afterwards. Slipping out of bed, he got dressed in his own room and went to the bathroom to be more representative. Downstairs, the quiet was self explicative, since there were no customers. He couldn’t even detect people outside from the windows in the saloon.

Stepping outside, John found Forrest sitting under the half roof close to the corner. Billy was in his cradle that Forrest must have carried downstairs at some point in the morning. With one foot, Forrest rocked the cradle by keeping a steady foot on one of the upturned curves under the cradle bed. His hands were busy polishing an obscured object. He was accompanied by a man John hadn’t seen before.

“Forrest,” he greeted him.

“John,” Forrest responded. “Have a seat.”

John sat down on the porch and wondered what the conversation was about. His stomach tightened a little because he recognised the star on the man’s vest. He was a sheriff.

“Forrest... I would appreciate if you found any information on the matter and pass it back to me. Her family is worried.”

“There was no message. She only left Billy behind. I couldn’t say where she went.”

“All right then,” the sheriff said and John exhaled a breath of relief. The man had come regarding Maggie. Not Mr. Shaw.

“If she’s not found, her family will claim the child.”

“Wasn’t her child,” Forrest suddenly lied.

“Excuse me?”

“Billy’s not her son,” Forrest repeated and deliberately didn’t look at John who wisely kept his mouth shut.

“But...” the man said. “The reverend...”

“Knows nothing. Bill’s not baptised... yet.”

The sheriff looked at John for a moment and then took off his hat and rubbed the back of his neck. “Whose is he then... if not Maggie’s?”

“He’s my son. His mother is dead. You didn’t know her.”

“Aha... and why is he here?”

“Because she brought him here.... gave birth and died.”

“Forrest...” the sheriff said and looked doubtful at him. John wasn’t sure where this story was going either.

“No one’s ever heard of something like that. Wouldn’t people have...”

“People only talk of what they want to. Nobody saw her. Nobody claimed her, and the baby was mine.”

“So, you knew her... from earlier?”

“Because... because...” Forrest’s eyes wandered and John saw the search in them for information to continue fabricating his desperate lie.

“Forrest...” the sheriff said. “Maggie’s family hasn’t mentioned Billy. They don’t know he exists.”

Forrest swallowed and looked annoyed as well as relieved. “Then why would you?”

“I just wanted to let you know of their rights.”

“What of MY rights?” Forrest said angrily and pointed his finger at him. “He’s my son. Maggie didn’t want him!”

The sheriff looked taken by surprise. “I... I didn't think you wanted him...”

John shook his head in disbelief. Obviously, the sheriff was a bad judge of character.

Forrest got out of his chair, stepped up to the sheriff, and spoke measured into his ear, “Well, I do want my own son in my own house, so let’s continue keeping the Beaufort’s in the dark about his existence, hmm?” Forrest stuck his fist into his pocket and withdrew a thick bundle of money. He counted some notes, pressed them into the sheriff’s hand, and almost pushed him away from him when the money was exchanged.

The sheriff looked at the money and then they disappeared into his pocket. “I’ll disregard your other statement. Now... There was another matter I wanted to discuss with you.”

John felt his stomach get heavier and knew what was coming. Again, he thought it best to leave the statements to Forrest.

“Who are you, sir?” the sheriff asked. John looked up. He was addressing him.

“I’m John Truscott. Just travelling through heading for New York in a few days,” came out of his mouth before he could stop himself. Let Forrest do the talking! he chastised himself.

“Well, nice to meet you, Mr. Truscott. I’m Sheriff Hodges.”

“Yeah, maybe you could take Billy back inside, John?” Forrest suggested, and by the stressing of his voice, John knew it wasn’t a request.

“You’re one of the people from the plane who emergency landed a few days ago?” the sheriff asked.

“Yeah. Unfortunately,” John played along as he picked up Billy.

“And Forrest has offered you his hospitality?” the next question went.

“Sheriff...” Forrest interrupted sharply. “You had another matter you wanted to discuss?”

Sheriff Hodges turned his head and looked confused for a moment, but then he remembered he wasn’t here to small talk. “Right. Mrs. Shaw says her son didn’t show up last night. I was wondering if anyone mentioned him yesterday at the station?”

John stalled going back inside and lingered by the door, hoping to catch snippets of their conversation, but Billy needed a change and he would start crying if John didn’t get it done soon.

“No... I doubt it. Shaw expressed his displeasure at using our service a few days ago, and I haven’t seen him since.”

“Why was that, Forrest?”

“I don’t know. He wasn’t exactly a regular customer. I assume he gets his petrol somewhere else.”

“All right. Let me know if you overhear anything your customers might have to tell. Mrs. Shaw is very worried.”

Forrest just hummed.

John hurried up to change Billy. Forrest came in shortly after and stood watching him.

Lifting the child John looked at Forrest. “So this is how it works around here? People get killed and the sheriff doesn’t investigate because you pay him to look away?”

“Like I told you, only his mama’s missing him,” Forrest said.

“Well, I don't miss him.”

“John...” Forrest leaned against the table they used to change Billy on. He folded his arms across his chest and looked at John. “...Do you want me to give myself up?”

John knew this was important and he answered truthfully. “No. You’re right. He had it coming. I can’t even think about what he could have done to me, so I’m thankful that you... prevented... him.” Those were dark thoughts and out here, soft people would get hurt. John was tired of being soft.

“You’re calm about what I did.”

“What you did was essentially an atrocious act. Taking someone’s life is inexcusable, but he was prepared to do horrible things to me, too. Should I break down and cry? Like a girl? ”

“You’re no girl.”

John looked pointedly at him. “And you better remember that. But I’ll deal with this... trauma... in my own time.”

Forrest hummed and smiled crookedly. “You are smarter than me. I know that, but sometimes a bulldog in the family is more practical than brains.”

“You’re not a dog and don't sell yourself too short where intelligence is concerned. But I get it. It’s wiser to pretend you’re less clever than you really are. People tend to be more careless in what they share when they’re surrounded by stupidity.”

Forrest didn’t answer but John knew he agreed. The man reached out and stroke John’s cheek lovingly. “You’re not really leaving, are you? Even if you told Sheriff Hodges. I need you, John.”

John shook his head. “No, don’t worry. I’ve postponed my plans,” he replied softly.

Forrest crowded him when he put an arm around John’s waist. The hand slipped down for a quick caress of John’s buttocks but toured upward the next instant. His warm hand closed around John’s neck and John turned his face to look at him. The look on Forrest’s face, there was no other word for it but smitten, and John smiled, bathing himself in Forrest’s adoration.

That night, Forrest sat on John’s hips and rode him hard. The euphoria they experienced in this position was so much greater than the other times they had sex. Forrest was so tight that John was surprised how long he lasted until he came with cry that should have woken up Billy, but luckily didn’t. Forrest was moaning in big stuttering exhales and his fist worked furiously over his cock to get off. John plucked and rubbed at his nipples and that connection finally tipped Forrest over.

Globs of semen dripped from John’s lips, nose, and eyes as Forrest seemed to have drenched his entire face with his release. For the moment, he wasn't bothered by it as they took a pause to enjoy their high and catch their breath. Then John lifted his hand to wipe off the generous load, but Forrest stopped him.

“Let me...” he said in his gravelling voice. When he leaned forward, John’s cock slipped out of Forrest. His lover bracketed his face with his strong arms as he with his tongue cleaned John’s skin.

“I wouldn’t have been insulted if you used the rag, Forrest,” John said amused and stroke his hand over his lover’s hair. Forrest hummed but continued until he deemed John clean.

☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼

The next morning John awoke to the rhythmic noises of Billy nursing. The baby lay in the bed between them and Forrest seemed to be dosing while Billy had his first sip of the day. John’s palm caressed the tiny blond curls on the boy’s head.

“Good morning, darling,” John whispered. Forrest opened his eyes and smiled sleepily at him. John leaned in and caught Forrest’s lips in a lingering kiss.

“Best get down and make breakfast,” Forrest said.

“Yeah,” John said and yawned straight after. “I’ll get to it. You want me to bring something up?”

“Nah. I think Billy’s done in a few minutes.”

The day went mostly like the day before yesterday. John took care of the food served in the saloon, and Forrest administrated the deliveries. Sheriff Hodges came by for a check up to ask if anyone had see Shaw. Nobody in the saloon had seen him.

Forrest repeated his statement, and John said he didn’t even know who the man was when the sheriff asked him directly.

“But didn’t you have an incident with him in the yard outside the other day?”

“No... oh... was that him? That man had a lot of opinions about this place, but I’m sure I made it clear that I had nothing to do with the station and its service,” John said and smiled disarmingly.

“You didn’t mention that yesterday, Forrest,” the sheriff said.

Forrest captivated his gaze as he said quietly, “Didn’t think it was important. Shaw insults everybody. Even you, Sheriff, and I’m sure you didn’t kill him.”

“Well, that is true, Forrest...”

“Any other questions?” Forrest asked harder.

“No. No, not at this point.”

“Have you asked his neighbours? They couldn't stand each other,” Jack suggested.

“Well, I was going to,” the sheriff said.

Forrest lit one of his cigars and took a deep breath and blew thick stinky fumes at the sheriff. The man took that as his cue to move on.

“Later, Forrest. Jack,” he greeted and left the saloon.

Jack closed in on the others, and the three brothers shared a loaded look.

“Where is Shaw, Forrest?” Jack asked for his ears only.

Forrest’s eyes became hard. “Where the fuck should I know, Jack? The man hates my guts, don’t he?”

Jack kept the connection a few moments longer before he grabbed his hat and left to do a twilight delivery with Li’l Harry.

John had a terrible feeling in his stomach. The sheriff was certain Forrest could have done it. It was just a matter of proving it. They had a history of disliking each other.

When the saloon was empty, he asked Forrest, “Is the body safe? Can he be found?”

“Unless the sheriff decides to dig up the entire dunghill and six foot under then no, the body ain’t safe. But trust me on this, John. Ain’t nobody wants that jackass found. The sheriff is just doing his job.”

“So you keep telling me.”

Forrest rolled his eyes. “I don't know what else to tell you.”

John sat down and rubbed his hands over his face roughly. The situation had become unbearably tight. “Did this happen to Maggie?”

“What do you mean?”

“Did she witness something... violent?”

“She came from something violent.”

“Maybe she reacted to that after she had Billy?”

“I don’t know how to talk to women. I’m not... you know...”

“No... I know what you mean. I know exactly what you mean.” John got up and went to stand in front of Forrest. “I’m not sure this is going to work, Forrest.”

“John...” Forrest implored and his grey eyes pleaded what he didn’t voice. “I don't kill people on a daily basis; believe me on that,” he stated.

“But you have a violent streak in you.”

Forrest’s eyes wandered until they found John’s again. He hummed and nodded. “I don't hurt people I... you know...”

“Love?”

Forrest looked away and then his eyes found John’s again. Sharp, intelligent, demanding. “I protect them.”

“Like a lioness,” John said.

Forrest’s eyes glanced toward the windows. A hand came up and touched John’s shirt collar. Resolutely, he pulled John close. John’s eyes drifted shut and the kiss he expected to get came not even a moment after.

The front door opened, and Forrest pushed John away. The action was unexpected and John staggered as he went down on one knee.

“What’s going on?” Howard asked crowding by the door, because it was him who interrupted them.

Forrest wasn’t even looking at John. “What do you want?” he asked his brother.

Awkwardly, John got on his feet. “I was out of line,” he began to explain, hoping Howard hadn’t seen anything because John’s body obscured the angle.

“Were you gonna beat him up?” Howard asked with a frown.

Forrest’s lips parted in a grin that looked so animalistic that John expected him to growl at his brother. “Yes, that’s exactly what I had in mind.”

John laughed from sheer nerves. That had been a close call. “Of course he wasn’t going to.”

Howard looked like he didn’t know who to believe and then he seemed to forget it, because he came with something else on his mind.

“Anyway. Look who I found by the rail station,” Howard said and stepped to the side.

For a second both John and Forrest froze, fearing Howard was talking about something related to Shaw’s body, but then a flower patterned skirt stepped into the saloon.

Maggie.

☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼

Chapter Text

☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼

“Oh God,” John whispered and couldn’t help himself stepping nearer to Forrest, subconsciously trying to connect with him.

Forrest looked at her with hard eyes. “What do you want?” he asked.

“I...” Maggie said before she stopped, puzzled by Forrest’s hostility.

“You left,” Forrest pointed out for her. “You left Billy. Me.”

“Is he okay?” she asked.

“Why the hell do you care?” John couldn’t help yelling at her. The misery she’d put herself, Billy, and Forrest through flushed through him.

“Why the hell do you?” Maggie shouted back.

“Because all you had to do was just... fucking... breast feed that boy!” John fired back.

“Is he dead?” she asked with dread.

Forrest’s stare was icily. “No, Maggie. He survived no thanks to you. What do you want?” he repeated.

“I’ve come back.”

Forrest kept regarding her for a while making her look away. Then he hummed and nodded. “And then what?”

“To help...”

“I don't need your help. John is helping.”

“Mr. Truscott?” she said and pointed at John. “With what?”

“Everything. He don’t make no fuss and has plans that work.”

“And I made fuss?” Maggie asked.

Forrest rested his gaze on hers and she looked away once again, knowing that she had been nothing but problematic for a while.

“Can I see him?”

“What’s the problem, Forrest?” Howard asked. “She’s back. Ain’t that what you wanted?”

“The problem is she’s not fit to be his mother,” John said.

“Excuse me!” Maggie said looking hatefully at John. John didn't care.

“You didn’t take care of your baby, left him, and now that you’re fine, you think coming back will make you fit to take care of him?”

“You should have stayed away, Maggie,” Forrest said and he stopped next to her, took her arm, and forcefully guided her out of the saloon until she was standing on the porch.

“You can’t do this!” she said in disbelief. “He’s my child!”

“No. He’s my child,” Forrest said.

“Forrest!”

“Go. Go home to your folks. They’re looking for you.”

“What!?”

“They’re looking...”

“No, they’re not. I have no folks. I wasn’t running from my folks...”

“Then who was the sheriff referring to was looking for you?”

Maggie looked frightened. Whoever was looking for her, she didn’t want them to find her.

“Damn, I’ll regret this,” Forrest said and let her inside again.

“Don’t tell the sheriff I returned.”

“For now,” Forrest said. “Go upstairs to your old room. Be quiet or you’ll sleep in the barn.”

Maggie scoffed, but Forrest sent her one of his special looks and she decided to drop her attitude and obey.

John sat down on a chair heavily. “I can’t believe I just said those things,” he murmured quietly to himself. The hostile environment was getting to him and he didn’t like that. The baby was Maggie’s. Hers and Forrest’s. Of course she had the right to have him, but so did Forrest. Maggie hadn’t been much of a mother to him. If she was to take him with her, she might not be able to handle him. Maybe she just thought she could. But a couple of days away made no miracle worker. Billy wasn’t going to suffer because of that. Perhaps a doctor could set things straight, figure out if she was getting better.

John shook his head mentally. If she was better, then Forrest would lose Billy if a doctor intervened and bullied his diagnosis down on them. He might also establish that Maggie wasn’t sane. That would be unfair as well. John thought she was emotionally unstable. Old terms like hysteria also came to mind, but he wouldn’t make such a drastic conclusion. That word was just something people sprouted if they didn’t know any better. Truth of the matter was that John probably didn’t either. He only had his own eyes to guide him and what Forrest had told him.

Forrest seemed understanding up to a certain point. But after Maggie took off, leaving Billy’s destiny in the hands of his father, John knew Forrest would fight for his boy even if it cost the child his mother.

One thing John was sure of was that Maggie would want to move on – away from the people she had been running from in the first place. This was just a pit stop for her; getting Billy and move on. No thanks to Forrest and John for saving the baby she hadn’t been fit to care for. She was unlikely going to breastfeed now and probably couldn’t when so much time had passed. Billy would still need Forrest to survive.

John was rambling. Why did he even care so much? He cared because he cared about Forrest’s well being. Maggie was nothing to him. Just because she had brought the baby into this life, didn’t mean she was the right caretaker. Forrest, on the other hand, was an incredible caretaker. Tenaciously, he took care of everybody.

John went to Forrest who was having a conversation with his brother.

“Why you gone and took this initiative by yourself? Hm?” Forrest asked.

Howard rubbed his neck. “I thought that’s what you wanted?”

“I never wanted her back. She’s... she’s...”

“I thought you liked her and everything.”

“Everything? Hmm?” Forrest was making fists with his hands. Clearly, he was agitated, but controlled himself not to take it out on his older sibling. Forrest peered at John and John leaned back against the bar. “If I’d wanted Maggie back, I’d asked you to get her for me,” Forrest said.

“Jack said...”

John straightened his back in alarm.

Stepping into Howard’s personal space, Forrest looked into his brother’s eyes. “Go on...”

“Jack thought... you needed someone... to.” Howard gulped. “Jack just meant well. He said, he thought we had to find some woman... to help with the baby.”

Forrest visibly gritted his teeth.

“Oh, c’mon, Forrest!” Howard opened his arms in exasperation. “You said the formula didn’t work. The stuff you feed Billy. And I saw Maggie sitting by her lonesome at the station and I thought...”

“Don't fucking think for me. It’s never been one of your assets, Howard,” Forrest said and licked his tongue across his plush lips. It made them bigger somehow. Shinier.

John lowered his shoulders. He hadn’t realised how wound up he’d become from watching Forrest handle his brother in that passive aggressive way of his.

“What exactly did Jack say about me?”

“Just that... he thought you... needed... a woman.”

Forrest closed his eyes, turned, and stepped behind the bar.

John closed his mouth, agape as it had out of the blue become. Another thing he hadn’t realised. He squinted at Howard. Jack had honest to God decided that the scene he’d stumbled upon in Forrest’s bedroom was exactly what it had looked like. His solution to his brother’s queerness had been to push a woman on Forrest to re-establish him as a non bender. Brought the idea to Howard who gladly took the task upon him. When he saw Maggie lurk around at the rail station, he immediately invited her to come back to the filling station, reacquire her position, Forrest’s bed, and everybody would be happy.

Forrest’s hands gripped the edge of the bar and took in stock with unseeing eyes the counter in front of him. Then he gradually looked up and found Howard standing where he left him.

“Tell that jackass to mind his own business. Not to make any decisions for me he knows fucking shit about.”

“But...”

Forrest grunted annoyed and challenging, and finally Howard stopped counter arguing, nodded at his little brother, and rushed out of the saloon.

“What a refined way of not telling but still telling,” John said.

“Best be going checking on Billy,” was Forrest's response.

“Wait... you’re not actually gonna shoot Jack? Are you?” John asked, remembering what Forrest had promised earlier.

Patiently, Forrest stared at John. No. John was positive Forrest wasn’t really going to do it.

“Want me to come with you? Upstairs,” he asked him.

Forrest just hummed and shook his head.

John watched him leave for the stairs and decided to putter about in the saloon, tidy up, and prepare for the morning.

That night, John lay alone in his bed. He wanted to go to Forrest, but he didn’t because of Maggie. To his shock, he heard Maggie come out of her room and find her way down the corridor toward Forrest’s door.

Like the first time he heard her, John’s hearing sense intensified, and he hated that she thought it was all right to barge in on Forrest.

“Forrest?” she said, voice needy and desperate. He heard her open and close the door.

John squeezed his eyes shut, keenly aware that she might interrupt Forrest nursing Billy. But there was no outcry and John swallowed in disgust when he heard Forrest’s bed quirk. The woman picked up her liberties like it was okay, like it didn’t matter if Forrest wanted it or not.

This made John doubt if she really came back for Billy. Chances now were that in reality she’d come back for Forrest using Billy as an excuse; a hostage. If Forrest didn’t give in, she’d take Forrest away from him. She wasn’t necessarily conscious about this action, but John could feel it in his guts that that was just what she would do.

John sat up. This was too much and his head was spinning from analysing Maggie’s moves. He was in this bed, prevented from sleeping with Forrest because she was in there. Getting out of his room, John decided to put a stop to it.

Standing in front of Forrest’s door, John hesitated, nevertheless. There were no sounds indicating what was going on in there, and John turned the handle silently and opened the door.

Forrest turned his head and John looked at the display. Maggie was sitting on the edge of the bed wearing her dressing gown. The sleeve on one shoulder had slid down revealing a naked back, so Maggie’s intention had been clear.

“Get out, Mr. Truscott,” Maggie hissed at him.

“No,” John said, surprising her. “You get out.”

“I’m barely dressed,” Maggie said.

John couldn’t help laughing. “Oh. So, you’re playing the prudish card? But I’ve got you figured out.” John narrowed his eyes and crawled onto the bed to face her. Maggie looked positively scandalised. “You’re blackmailing Forrest, and because he would never harm a woman you think you can get away with it.”

“You’re out of line, Mr. Truscott!” Maggie said, quickly pulling up her sleeve.

Forrest was resting on an elbow following the conversation but he didn't tell John to stop.

“Your little seduction entré didn’t work, did it?” John asked.

Maggie flashed Forrest a quick glance but found his face expressionless. “No... he pushed me away.”

John got up and went around the bed smirking slightly when she pulled her feet to the side to avoid physical contact with him as he passed her.

John went to check on the baby, but Billy slept. “You’ve got a beautiful son, Maggie. It’s just sad you thought you could push yourself into staying here demanding Forrest to man up to his responsibility when you clearly didn’t show him the same respect.”

“I’ve been sick.”

“That’s fine. But that’s no excuse for basically starving your child.”

“He got that... formula.”

“Which he didn’t want to eat,” Forrest said with a tired sigh. “Look, Maggie. I get it. I know what you want, but I ain’t the man to give it to you. Billy stays here. Just go back to your room. Please. You’re not really here for the boy anyway, right?”

Maggie opened her mouth to protest but then she got up as dignified as possible.

“Why are you suddenly so interested in this? Aren’t you going to New York, Mr. Truscott?”

“I’m in no hurry.”

“Ah. I can tell what this is. You’re vying for Forrest’s affection, I can see that.”

“I’m just helping out for a while.”

“And Howard?”

John and Forrest shared an equally confused look. “What about Howard?” Forrest asked and simultaneously picked up Billy, when he uttered a tiny quirk indicating he would cry within a moment. Billy sensed who was handling him and his small hands were already grabbing for purchase at Forrest’s chest.

“Well, he was kind enough to help me when I needed... help,” Maggie said, and then she pulled a curl behind her ear and took a step toward Forrest and Billy.

“I should probably make some form...” She stopped. “What are you doing, Forrest?”

John was squatting next to Forrest on the floor and one of his hands held Billy’s little arm. Forrest had put the baby to his chest without even hesitating.

“Are you... nursing?” she asked.

John looked up at her and then back at Forrest who had his eyes closed.

“Yeah. Had to be done. Nobody could help. You had just taken off clearly in no position to help. I still don't think you’re in a position to help, so don't even think about offering formula because that shit almost killed my boy.”

“This is grotesque! Have you lost your mind?” she asked and took a step toward the bed.

“Stay the fuck away, Maggie,” Forrest said in a low threatening way.

Maggie stood rooted to the spot and just stared. “You’re a freak...” she muttered.

Billy was sucking his milk noisily and finally Maggie registered that it was no joke. Forrest was literally giving his baby milk. Her baby.

“I’m gonna tell somebody about this. That is... that is...” She shuddered bodily with disgust.

Slowly, John got up. A calm feeling came over him and neared her before he moved in. He grabbed her around the mouth and pulled her close. When she stopped struggling, he said in her ear, “If you tell a soul, I will kill you. I won’t hesitate, I won’t be nice, but I swear I’ll be quick. It’s a shame you got sick having Billy, but this is no excuse. We’re only doing this because you got sick.” Gradually, he let go and Maggie stumbled away from him. Her eyes were unseeing and she pointed feebly at them.

“I need to get out of here.”

Forrest looked calmly at her. “You do that, Maggie. Just keep your fucking mouth shut. If I hear any gossip, any at all, you know what’s coming to ya.”

Maggie fled from the room and John felt sick having touched another dark side in him he didn’t know he had.

“I’d never kill that woman,” he said shaken.

“I know. I never thought you would.”

“I believed I was able to when I said it.”

“The rush of fear will do that to you.”

“Survival instinct,” John added.

Forrest nodded slowly and licked his lips in thought.

A door slammed in the corridor, and cries of distress came loudly thereafter.

“I feel like such a shit,” John admitted and came around to crawl into bed with the others.

“I should never have let her stay that day when she came here. She was so cocky and sure of herself. She was great for the station, but just couldn’t stay away from me. Are people attracted to danger?” Forrest asked John.

“I’m not sure I’m the right...” John chuckled but stopped. “I’ll tell you something about Borneo.” John had deluded to a few of the funnier stories about Borneo, but hadn’t touched the subject of Selima and Belansai yet. “On Borneo... I met this warrior, and he’d killed people. Anglers who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – or so I prefer to see it. I was with him the last night I was there.”

Forrest’s eyes lit up with interest. “You slept with that man?”

“Yeah, he was very good in bed,” John admitted and chuckled again.

“Uh,” Forrest said and hummed. He checked on Billy’s position and looked at John again. He had a little smirk on and John knew he was looking for details. John smiled and shook his head.

“No. I’m not telling on him.”

“He don’t know that. He’s far away on a little island, ain’t he?”

“No, I suppose he doesn’t.”

“Did you fuck other people”?

“You make me sound like a slut!” John laughed.

“I know you’re no slut, John,” Forrest stressed.

“There was this old arrangement from way back when England colonised Borneo. Native girls were used to sleep with the British men who came out there in order to make them learn the language faster. Afterwards, they were free to dispose of that girl and she would be passed on to someone else.”

Forrest looked at him with round eyes. “Legalised prostitution?”

“The natives don’t seem to think about it that way, but the English men certainly do. I was set up with such a girl and it was a disaster. I accepted the tradition because I had no other alternative. The worst part was that she was actually the daughter of the governor and she didn’t even know.”

Forrest was astounded staring at John for several seconds before he looked away. “What a jackass,” he said.

“Are we better?” John said.

Forrest looked at Billy and closed his eyes. “It’s different when it’s your own blood. You’re biased.” Forrest opened his eyes and said. “You make me different, John. I do things with you, I say things to you. I’m a better person around you, and believe me, John. I’m not a particular good person.”

John leaned in and kissed Forrest. “It’s this hostile environment...”

Forrest sighed. The argument was straining and Maggie slamming things around wasn’t helping. “You better lock her out when she’s ready to leave.”

“Should I drive her to the station?”

Forest shrugged. “If you want.”

“I don't but it’s the least we can do at this late hour.”

“All right. The keys are under the...”

“Glass cabinet in the saloon. Got it,” John said and got dressed in a hurry, pressed another kiss to Forrest’s lips and one to Billy’s head, before he left the bedroom and went downstairs to wait for Maggie.

☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼ ♥ · ♥ · ♥ · ♥ ☼

When Maggie came down she looked very spooked so John came carefully forward.

“I would never kill you. I apologise profusely for even saying that, Maggie. I’m so very sorry.”

“You two scared me. I can’t understand how you even think Billy belongs in this house of... of... evil.”

“Come on. You’re a modern woman.”

“I’m not well, Mr. Truscott. You should know that. I don't know what to think about that... that thing upstairs.”

John sighed. Perhaps it was easier for her to process Forrest as a monster. “Can I take you to the station?”

“Yes, please,” Maggie accepted without a second’s pause.

John opened the door and let her out. Locking the door, he went to the truck where Maggie already sat clutching her bag. It was dark, and John could easily get rid of her if he chose to.

The tension was thick in the vehicle. Maggie was shivering and John was battling his own demons.

Occasionally, Maggie broke the silence to give him quiet instructions how to get to the station, and finally they were there.

John was so relieved when he could stop and let her out.

As a last gentleman’s gesture, he took her suitcase from the back and carried it for her into the waiting area of the station building.

“Hello, Mr. Truscott. Fancy seeing you here!” a voice greeted him.

John looked up in surprise and it took him several seconds to recognise the man who came toward him. It was one of the passengers from his flight.

“Our plane is flying out tomorrow 4 am, so best be ready,” he said cheerfully. “Where have you been these past many days? Been looking for you as a matter of fact. The word is that you didn’t get a room in town?”

John just looked at him. “Already? So soon?” he then blurted.

“Yeah, quite unexpected. Can’t wait to get out of this dump. The missus and I decided to just wait here. It’s just in about five hours anyway.”

“Five hours?” John repeated.

His eyes slowly panelled toward Maggie who looked back at him. There was something in her eyes John couldn’t quite figure out. A plea but for what?

“Take me with you. You don't belong here either,” he heard her say.

John wasn’t aware of what was going on in his own subconscious, but when her hand touched his arm he had already reached inside his jacket. His plane ticket was still in his inner pocket and looking at Maggie, he slowly pulled forth the slip of paper.

“Maybe you don’t, but I think I do,” he said, and put the ticket in her hand.

 

End of tale 5th of July 2015