Title: A Ruby in the Rough (Part Two of the 'Remarkably Unsuccessful'
series)
Author: Christine Belmont (feedback always appreciated at
christinebelmont@hotmail.com )
Fandom: "Plunkett and Macleane"
Pairing: Macleane/Plunkett (UST)
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Okay, these characters do not belong to me. I have simply
borrowed them to play with. It is just play. I make no money from
this. I have no money, do not sue me.
Warning: This does contain spoilers for the film, "Plunkett and
Macleane".

Thanks to my wonderful Beta's... Emerald, Jade and the long-suffering
and saintly Lisa. Your support and help is invaluable.

Dedicated to Lyndal - entering the brave new world, prove to me it
aint that bad baby!


 

A Ruby in the Rough

by Christine Belmont

It is now time to meet two players who will have a great significance
within this tale. Two very different characters that will each
influence the actions and desires of our protagonist, 'Captain' James
Macleane.

The first will be Mr Chance. You may have met him before? If not, it
is likely you have met a man like him. He is an unpleasant man, quite
horrid, a very nasty man. He is bad in the way only characters within
fiction can be, with no redeeming features to contradict or
complicate his dark nature. You should dislike him, abhor him, be
repulsed by the very thought of him. If you are not, if I do not
succeed in conveying his terrible and evil nature, then my narration
has been ineffectual indeed. Thankfully, considering the vileness of
his person, the time spent with Mr Chance will be brief within this
segment of our story. But I beg you, remember him, he will be of the
utmost importance at a later stage.

The other important figure that we will soon meet is Will Plunkett. I
have mentioned him in passing previously. I like him. I hope you do
too. He is clever and kind and sensitive yet hides his charm beneath
a rough demeanour. He is a good man. Even in the world of fiction I
have found few like him. Plunkett is, as they say, a diamond in the
rough.

A diamond in the rough? Let's not talk of diamonds! Let us speak of
rubies. It was after all, a ruby that brought together the talents of
James Macleane and Will Plunkett and in doing so created them both as
the adversary of our villain Mr Chance.

James Macleane felt movement all around. He was in an enclosed
carriage with no seats and a tiny barred window. He did not quite
recall how he had come to be riding in this contraption. However,
this was not the first time he had occupied such a carriage. He
closed his eyes as he remembered where such a vehicle would transport
him.
Flashes of recent events were running in fragments through his mind.
Vague memories of his sentencing, of the severity in the voice of the
judge as he stated with a well performed gravity - "For drunkenness
and unruly behaviour causing an affray and disturbing the kings
peace, I hereby sentence you to be placed in Knightsbridge debtors
gaol and to be held there until you are sober." James had not been
able to disguise the laugh that had escaped him at the judge's final
words. He could not remember the last time he had been completely
sober and had difficulty imagining such a moment in the immediate
future.

Struggling to create a context for his present surroundings, despite
the heavy fog of intoxication, Macleane realised he was headed to
Knightsbridge. To the debtor's gaol in Knightsbridge. Sobriety was
inching towards him. It was an unpleasant feeling to say the least.
He dealt with it. Reaching into the layers of his clothing he located
his hip flask and took a good long drink.

He stood and peered out the small barred window of the carriage. At
first he could see nothing but the low mist that covered the entire
countryside. Then out of this mist came an object flying straight
towards the carriage - a huge metal and wooden wheel. As the wheel
collided with the carriage James threw himself backwards. A sharp
spoke missed his head by inches at the very most.

It took him moments to understand that the collision had caused the
carriage and horses to overturn. It took a few further moments to
understand that two highwaymen had ambushed the carriage and the
younger of the two had his pistol aimed at James' head.
When James first heard the shot, he thought that he had taken the
bullet and could not understand why he felt no pain or suffering. It
took only a few seconds to clear his confusion as he realised he was
not in pain for he had not been shot.
He saw the young highwayman, a young man who was younger than he
himself, fall to the ground. Soldiers who were approaching from the
distance had shot him in the back.
It was the case of one man's misfortune being another's prosperity
and frankly James did not feel a great deal of pity.

His partner in crime had joined the young man. This man was older,
several years older, and he crouched near his bleeding friend holding
him in his arms. As he hid in the shadows of the broken carriage
James heard the unlucky man tell his friend, "The ruby. I swallowed
it."
The older man did not reply, he held his friend tighter still, as if
afraid he would disappear in thin air.
James found that he was watching the older highwayman intently. He
was watching with fascination the pain on the man's face as he
realised that his friend was dying. James was watching the tenderness
with which he held him, his reluctance to leave his dying friend
despite understanding that if he did not they would both be dead.
Macleane saw a moment pass between these two men that he almost
recognised, yet it was layered with feelings that he had not yet
learnt or experienced. It was layered with feelings that he did not
yet believe in.
Then the older man was gone.
That man was Will Plunkett.

It was a matter of moments later that James Macleane first saw Mr
Chance. When he first saw Mr Chance James mistook him for someone
else entirely. For a moment he thought it was his own father standing
before him and he was afraid. Then he realised that it was not his
father, just a man that stood with the same posture of moral
superiority and religious authority. His fear subsided a little.
James watched with a horrified fascination as Chance stood over the
dying man. He was asking questions that the boy  (it occurred to
James now that this highwayman was no more than a boy) would not
answer, questions that would betray the man that had minutes earlier
held this boy in his arms.
Chance positioned the heel of one of his large black boots above the
boy's chest wound and then pressed into it with all his weight.
Despite the pain the boy still did not break.
Macleane did not understand such loyalty. James feared, had he found
himself in this unfortunate boy's position, he would have done
anything, hurt anyone, to simply stop such torture.
Now Chance was digging his fingers into the wound itself. The boy
screamed in agony but still he did not supply the answers Chance was
after.
Chance was enjoying this, James could see that. He had the expression
on his face that those who can not smile adopt when they are feeling
pleasure. It is a frightening expression and in that moment this man
named Mr Chance looked more like James' father than ever.
The boy, despite his agony, was still silent. Chance did not mind, he
was enjoying this game. His hands now left the wound and wandered
into the boy's eye. The terrible hand pushed into the socket and then
wrenched the eyeball from it. The boy was screaming as he died.

James Macleane now felt pity for the young highwayman.
He also felt relief. The man was not his clergyman father. Just yet
another man who was playing a similar character.

Mr. Chance and his soldiers left as quickly as they had arrived and
gathering his wits James made his escape.

Now in the aftermath of this terrible experience it was neither
thoughts of Plunkett nor Chance that invaded James Macleane's mind.
Although both these characters will come to have a great importance
in the way our story ends, at this point another issue plagued James
consciousness.
One small but very valuable issue.
The Ruby.

It was with this Ruby in mind that James had waited at the graveyard,
waited patiently while the young boy's body had been buried and then
waited with even greater patience for night to fall. He had abetted
this patience with the little alcohol he had remaining in his hip
flask and attempted to muster courage for the task to come.
It was as he was attempting to uncover the body that he heard it.
"Psst."
He turned to the direction that the sound had come from and there
stood Will Plunkett towering over him with his gun pointed directly
at James head.
The words came out before he could stop them, "Don't shoot me.
Please, please don't shoot me."
"Shut up and dig you bastard beggar." Was the only response.
James heard his voice as it began to ramble; "I'm neither of those
things actually." Now James heard his own laugh, a slightly
hysterical laugh. "I'm the son of a clergyman!"
"Get on with it. Faster."
These words made James laugh with an even greater degree of hysteria.
He had heard such phrases many a time and from many different men,
but never within the context of grave robbery and larceny.

James dug as quickly as was possible. Reaching the body he found it
had not fared well. The stench was amazing and the sight was only
slightly more bearable. The corpse was a mess and worms had already
begun to burrow into every wound and cavity. James looked at the body
in horror and glanced at Plunkett to examine the other man's reaction.
Plunkett also appeared somewhat horrified but this horror was mixed
with something else. It was the same expression with which James had
seen him stare at this corpse with when this corpse had been a dying
man. It was the expression that James almost understood but could not
quite articulate.
Then as if remembering where he was and the company he was in
Plunkett turned from the body of his friend and instead threw a sharp
knife towards James.
"Do it," he said.
James had approached this task with the vague understanding that once
the body was uncovered there would be a need to remove the ruby from
this unlucky corpse. Certainly the dead man would not be so obliging
as to spit it out for him.
Performing the task was quite a different matter than contemplating
it, however. James Macleane was certain that if Plunkett had not been
standing there he would not have gone through with it.
It is amazing what can be done when a gun is being held to one's head.

This should have been the end of it, perhaps. The ruby recovered,
these two men could part ways. Plunkett considerably richer and
Macleane no worse off than he had been before. However this story is
to be both an adventure and a romance and as you have probably
noticed there has been very little adventure or romance as of yet. So
the tale can not end here. Plunkett and Macleane do not part ways.
Nothing is that simple in the world of romance and adventure.

The ruby had barely been recovered when the sounds of horses and
shouting and the flashing of lanterns indicated that soldiers were
close upon them. And so, Plunkett ran. Having no other option
Macleane also ran - after Plunkett.
It seemed there were soldiers all over the graveyard, there was no
where to run to, that was obvious.
Plunkett placed the ruby within his mouth and swallowed it.
"We have to surrender," James hissed at Plunkett.
"Surrender is for wankers," was the reply.
It took Macleane only moments to contemplate these words. Standing,
he cried, "We surrender!"

This is how it came to be that a ruby brought 'Captain' James
Macleane and Will Plunkett together. It is also how James Macleane
and Will Plunkett came to be entering Newgate Prison at the very
moment that an old acquaintance of Macleane's came to be leaving it.

Escorted by two guards Lord Perham glided down the front steps of
Newgate with as much style and grace as he had descended the main
staircase at Rochester's or sailed across the ballroom floor at the
season's finest gatherings.
"Lord Perham." James greeted him. "Are you free?"
Perham stared at James for a moment, "In a manner of speaking. My
debts are to be paid in full." Perham gestured towards the cart that
would transport him away from the prison, which also held the coffin -
his home for ever after.
What can one say at such a moment? Perhaps if he had been a gentleman
James would have understood the appropriate ettique to apply in such
a situation. James was not a gentleman and he knew not what to say to
the man before him except for a muttered, "Sorry, Perham."
Perham appeared amused by his discomfort. "Mr. Harrison, " he said
turning to the head of the gaol, "Give 'Captain' Macleane my berth in
the royal suite. I am sure he will prove a lucrative guest."
"Thank you my Lord." Macleane said softly, looking away from the
condemned man. Then he added without even meaning to utter the
words, "I hope its quick."
Perham was already striding with an elegant confidence to the cart.
Standing beside his own casket Perham smiled. The smile of
superiority that James had seen upon many an occasion and from many
different men. "When one goes, Jamie, one must go in style."
Plunkett, who had watched the exchange between the two men with an
avid fascination, could not help but laugh at this. He laughed loudly
and with no fear of censure. Besides, what is there to fear from a
dead man?
As the cart drove away with Perham standing straight and proud,
Plunkett continued to laugh. Macleane, on the other hand, did not
know what to feel.

Death was a fascination in itself. This is hardly exceptional. Death
is a fascination for many a young man that allows himself the luxury
of contemplation upon the meaning of life. It was an experience,
however, that James preferred to experience vicariously.
This is an aspect of 'Captain' James Macleane that may at first
appear as contradictory but should be understood, dear reader. As
self-destructive as he may be, as nihilistic as he may desire to
become, James Macleane was by no means suicidal. James doubted he had
the potential for such a mind set. He valued his life far too
greatly. He feared death far too much.
It was not his clergyman father's promises of hell and eternal
damnation that created such a fear in James Macleane. That he was
sure he could cope with. It was the fear that perhaps there was no
hell and eternal damnation. The fear that all of this would come to
nothing and he would simply cease to exist. He could not imagine not
living in the world. He could not imagine the world without him in
it. This was not egotism. If you stop to consider carefully you will
see this was the exact opposite.
At this point James understood his fear of death as a weakness, yet
another sign of inferiority and cowardice. I would argue differently.
But then, I too dislike the idea of mortality, the unfairness of it
all.

James would lay awake later that evening thinking of Perham. He would
remember times they had spent together at Rochester's, the other
man's hands upon him as if performing some integral examination of
his body. Such a memory would have previously held little allure, but
somehow the knowledge that this man was now dead made it an
attractive fantasy. He wondered what his final thoughts had been of,
if he had felt fear in those moments, if the fear had been apparent
on his face. He wondered what Perham looked like at this moment. What
he would have looked like in twenty or thirty years. What he would
look like in twenty or thirty years.
These thoughts were comforting, somehow. They made him feel safe.

While Macleane was contemplating death, Plunkett had been considering
more immediate concerns.
The ruby that lay in the depths of his bowels. The ruby that, with
the correct negotiations, could buy his freedom. It was with the
importance of negotiation in mind that he went to visit James
Macleane in the royal suite that afternoon. As Plunkett entered the
chambers he could not help but notice the stark difference between
the treatment of aristocratic and 'ordinary' prisoners. In the royal
suite there appeared food aplenty, comfortable beds to sleep in, an
abundance of alcohol and the time was spent in gambling and gossip.
Compared to the overcrowded section of the gaol he had been placed
in, where rats and cockroaches almost outnumbered the prisoners, this
was luxury. Macleane's inmates were the types of men that Plunkett
despised. Foolish and arrogant they did not realise the value of what
they had. They lived wasted and empty lives enjoying a feeling of
superiority that had been bought at the expense of the rest of
society. These men stared at Plunkett with a kind of repulsed
fascination. Plunkett in turn was repulsed but not fascinated. These
people bored him. They were transparent, their pretensions banal, and
he had no interest in them.
Macleane was another matter entirely. James Macleane he found
strangely fascinating. It was not his beauty so much, although that
did nothing to inhibit his interest, it was rather his contradictory
nature. The young man spoke with the tone of education yet was
obviously poor, he attempted the affected airs of the aristocracy but
was obviously not one of them, he had contacts among the wealthy and
privileged yet his relationship with this class was uncertain and
suspicious.
Furthermore, Plunkett imagined that James Macleane had a certain look
buried deep within his eyes. A look that indicated a depth of
feeling, of sensibility that was as rare and valuable as the ruby
that lay within his own stomach.
I can not tell you, dear reader, if this was the case. I can only
tell you that Will Plunkett suspected that it was. I should warn you,
Will Plunkett was a hopeless romantic at heart. Plunkett did not
understand James Macleane, but sensed that he was a person that could
perhaps be worth the effort. 

James was not esspecially pleased to see Plunkett. In fact, at first
he was not pleased at all. He did not particularly wish to be
associated with such a person, particularly in front of his fellow
inmates. Social standing was as much about who you were seen standing
with as it was to do with wealth or history or family connections. To
be seen standing with Plunkett was not exactly a prestigious position.
"What do you want?" he hissed under his breath. "You have seriously
compromised my social standing..."
His sentence was cut short as Plunkett threw him with considerable
force against the wall.
"Are you going to be a prick your entire life?" Plunkett's hand had
found his way around James' throat. His grip upon the other man was
tight, not affecting the air passage but a definite reminder of how
easy he would find it to do so. He looked hard at James, attempting
to read his blank expression. The facade of rehearsed petulance
stared back at him, a sulky stare, like that of a spoiled child.

James felt a chill run through his spine at the sensation of the
man's hand upon him. It was not exactly fear that he felt, but rather
that other feeling that is strangely similar and that some people
mistake for love.
Plunkett pushed him with such force that his head hit the wall. James
felt the strange desire well again inside him. He wished that his
head would be hit in such a way again. And again. And again. Smashed
by Plunkett until there was nothing left of it. Until Plunket found
what was underneath. Until James was no longer recognisable. He was
attracted to Plunkett's strength, his intensity. There was something
undeniably real, something solid and tangible, about this man that
held him in so firm a grip. He wanted Plunkett to look at him in the
way he had stared at his young friend, he wanted Plunkett to hold him
in his arms in a similar fashion.

Plunkett was speaking. "Alright chinless, remember that Ruby?" His
hand tightened around the throat, just slightly.
"What? The one that everybody eats?"
Plunkett ignored him. "We can buy our way out of this place."
That attracted James attention. "Well, where is it?"
Plunkett patted his own stomach in response.
"Oh, marvellous! My freedom is at the mercy of your bowel movements."
James spoke before remembering that he was at the mercy of Plunkett's
temper.
Plunkett smashed James into the wall once more. "Our freedom."
"Slip of the tongue," said James dryly as Plunkett loosened his hold
upon him.
"I provide the ruby, you do the talking." Plunkett explained.
James could see the irony in this proposition, he was rarely paid to
talk. "We have a gentleman's agreement." He pushed past
Plunkett. "Now if you will excuse me, the gaoler's daughter requires
my attention."
With those words he strode to the mattress upon which the young woman
had been waiting for him and they proceeded to fuck in a style that
was more suggestive of a performance for an audience than a shared
experience with one's partner. Plunkett watched this display and
could not help but wonder what such a performance was attempting to
prove and whom it was attempting to convince.

Nature took its course, Plunkett's bowels operated as nature
intended, Macleane kept his agreement and in due course both men were
free.
As they left the gaol Plunkett fell in step with James and began to
speak. "A wise man might get rich by listening in the right places."
James attempted to fall out of stride with Plunkett, "I'm sure he
might."
Plunkett simply altered his pace so that they were once again walking
together. "See, what I am saying is... we could prosper together, you
and I."
James sighed. He wanted this man gone. And to find his way to the
nearest tavern. James stopped and turned to face his unwanted
companion. "Look, I'm not altogether sure what you're suggesting. You
see, I'm a gentleman, and well no offence intended, but, but would
you *mind awfully fucking off*?" Unfortunately for James what he had
hoped would be a dramatic and elegant exit that would both stun and
impress the other man was foiled as he found himself pushed roughly
into a nearby puddle by two passing gentleman. "Beggar," one sneered
at him, and the other laughed hysterically.

James sat for a moment, blinded by humiliation before he noticed the
hand that was extended towards him. It was attached to Plunkett.
Macleane looked at Plunkett for a moment. Plunkett was not a
gentleman, he was not wealthy or privileged. However, he was strong
and brave, he had not thought to surrender to the soldiers, he was
not a pawn for the rich and privileged in  the various games that
they played. Plunkett took from the rich and privileged, he stole
from them without fear or regret. Part of Macleane wanted to be like
this man. Not frightened and cowardly. Not afraid of what he could
not have and would never be.

Another part wanted to be close to him. He wanted to be protected and
cared for and perhaps loved. He wanted to be held, as Plunkett had
held the unlucky Rob in those final moments. He wanted to feel the
other man's arms around him, his lips upon his neck, his hands within
his hair. He wanted the other man to weep hot tears for him upon his
grave (and he wanted to feel those tears upon his own body). He
wanted love at first sight to be real. He wanted impossible things in
that moment.

The moment passed, as all moments do. Although his feelings did not
subside or lose their intensity, they became obscured beneath other
concerns. His feelings lost shape and clarity and were no longer
recognisable.

The script changed. James remembered what was important to him. He
thought of Rochester, he thought of wealth and privilege, he thought
of power. James thought of the many roles he had performed in other
people's games and productions.

He remembered the role he wished to perform. The leading role in his
own production.

Forgetting notions of love and romance James Macleane took the hand
that was offered to him.

(End of part Two)





 


 

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