Title: Remarkably Unsuccessful - Part Three - The Party
Author: Christine Belmont
Fandom: Plunkett and Macleane
Pairing: James Macleane/Lord Rochester, James Macleane/Lord Perham - James
Macleane/Will Plunkett
(implied at this stage)
Archive: Yes to list.
Email: christinebelmont@hotmail.com  (feedback *always* appreciated)
Series: Remarkably Unsuccessful
Disclaimer: Guess what? These characters do not belong to me; they belong to
a bunch of other people... I am just borrowing them for a little while. I
don't make any money from this and *trust me* I am so not worth suing - I
live a life of servitude, okay?
Warning: I don't know if this is nessesary, I suspect it isn't, but some of
the themes in this are slightly dark. No major warnings to be had, however.

Huge Thanks - as always - to my beautiful Beta's: Emerald and Lisa.


 

Remarkable Unsuccessful Pt 3 - The Party
 

by Christine Belmont

 

Will Plunkett was tired. At first he had thrived upon this lifestyle. The
life of a highwayman had been, if not glamorous, at the very least exciting.
Adrenalin had flowed through his veins with each ambush. An amazing rush had
come with each small victory. He had barely recognised the victories were so
small - hardly worth the effort.
Reflecting, he realised he had treated it all as if it were a game. He had
behaved arrogantly, and the price had been high. His young friend Rob was
dead and Plunkett was tired. He wanted out. Out of this lifestyle, out of
his poverty, out of the whole fucking country.

Information could turn this endeavour from an arrogant game into an
organised and profitable venture. Plunkett knew this. He understood the
importance of information, the value of it.

James Macleane was also tired. He was tired of leading an insignificant
life. He was tired of being an insignificant figure in the lives of others.
He was tired of being bought and sold. Oh, everyone had a price; he just
wished that his price were higher.

In a way, Plunkett had bought him now. Plunkett did not see that he had done
so, but he had. For different purposes than Rochester, with different
intentions, but bought nonetheless. He had been bought for his 'contacts'
and for his ability to gain information. While some may have thought that
this was preferable to his past arrangement with Rochester, it made no
difference really - he was still expected to perform for others' amusement.
However, this would be his last performance that was played out upon another
man's terms. The curtain would fall after this show was over.

James was thankful that memories were short beyond the season. It would not
matter to these people whose whore he had been last season. What would
matter would be what he did now. What he wore and played and said and ate.
Where he wore and played and said and ate it. Who he wore and played and
said and ate it with. There were always new fashions, fresh gossip, the
latest scandals to occupy the minds and imaginations of his valuable
contacts. And at the height of the social season they would have difficulty
recalling last weeks engagements let alone what he had done months prior.
Thank God for the self-absorption of others - it would not do to have too
much attention called to his precarious past relationship with the upper
classes.

Performance was the key to the successful acquisition of the information
Plunkett coveted. Performance was the key to everything. James Macleane knew
this. He appreciated the significance of performance, the inevitability of
it.

And so the costumes and sets were acquired. Rooms were leased at the Athena,
not the most prestigious lodgings in London but exclusive enough to add an
air of respectability without being threatening. Tailors were hired, the
wardrobe was compiled. As his character took shape James Macleane could not
help but admire the fine figure he cut. Staring into the mirror he was
pleased to observe the image of a fine young gentleman returning his gaze.

The image made him smile - he looked every bit the part of the fine young
gentleman.
He looked every bit the fine young gentleman.
He was a fine young gentleman.

However, the only reaction his fine new image provoked in his business
partner was a sharp, almost reproachful, reminder. "Remember, this is
business not pleasure." This was a distinction that Macleane had long
understood as useless. All business was always somebodies pleasure - that
was the whole point. He did not argue the point however, just made a face in
Plunkett's direction and continued to admire his reflection in the glass.
His first external audience would come soon enough.

Every role, regardless of the sophistication of the actor that gives it a
body, is reliant upon an audience. The role of a gentleman is no exception.
The role of a gentleman is reliant upon a special and specific audience -
the audience of 'good' society.

Now, 'good' society (which is often very, very bad - but in fiction like
this never mediocre) is not a thing that one will just stumble across or
enter uninvited. That is just not possible.

'Good' society is a space, rather than a place, and as such you can be at
the same function, in the same room, at the same table, engaged in the same
conversation as the members of 'good' society and still be excluded from its
ranks. You would not be an intruder - to intrude you would have needed to
gain entry - you would simply not be there. You would be in the right place,
but in the wrong space - see?

James Macleane knew this. He knew that successful intrusion upon the space
of 'good' society relied upon the favour and indulgence of an influential
contact.

James Macleane had only one influential contact. Thankfully it was a bloody
good one.

Lord Rochester.

And so it happened that James Macleane, looking handsome and dashing,
happened to cross paths with Lord Rochester, rekindle a past acquaintance
and acquire an invitation and entry to the functions of "good" society - an
invitation that allowed a definite access to the place and with Lord
Rochester's approval a precarious invasion of the space.


These functions were ideal to the purpose of excavating the information
Plunkett required and the admiration and attentions that Macleane thrived
upon.

The first major function was a party at Lord Rochester's. The party was
already well under way when Capt. James Macleane made his entrance. He
mingled, drank and gambled and smiled at the idea that he could consider
this business. He had never been particularly successful at the gaming
tables and tonight was no exception. However, his misfortune was for perhaps
the first time beneficial to him. Few wealthy men would dislike the
companionship at their tables of a handsome and agreeable young gentleman
with extraordinarily bad luck.
Not only did he routinely lose - but he would rarely do so without a smile.
He could smile pleasantly, play badly and simply watch, waiting for
opportunities to present themselves.
Watch who had won this evening and who would be leaving empty handed. Watch
and learn. Learn whose carriage would provide a fruitful return if it
happened to be stopped by highwaymen. It was amazing the type of information
that the wealthy and powerful would disclose when they mistook you for an
object, a piece of furniture. It would never occur to these people that a
pretty young thing such as James Macleane could have thoughts and feelings
and ulterior motives. It would be unimaginable that he could exist beyond
their attentions to him. And so he listened and collected the information
Plunkett needed.

"So, who else does fortune favour this evening?" he asked Rochester. "Apart
from yourself, that is."
Rochester nodded his head at the figure of an over fed man seated at one of
the farthest gaming tables. "Lord Chief Justice Gibson. His opponents always
let him win." Rochester's tone was snide. "I wonder why?"
"Is he filthy rich or stinking rich?"
"Fucking rich." And with that Rochester sailed off across the room to greet
some of his more colourful guests.

James found it was difficult not to be reminded of different times, of other
parties held in these same rooms. These parties would always continue well
into the night, ending in Rochester's private quarters, sometimes with a few
of Rochester's close friends, more often with at least half a dozen of his
intimate acquaintance. It was accepted amongst this intimate set that Jamie
was Rochester's boy, his 'companion' - it would have lacked breeding to
refer to him as a whore - and as such he was always a very friendly lad.

James remembered the aftermath of one such party. Throughout that particular
evening Rochester had developed an interest in the younger cousin of his
dear friend Lord Perham.
If the cousin had a name, I cannot tell it to you as it meant very little to
Rochester and even less to James. This young cousin was a poor relation, and
would have been a considerable embarrassment to Perham if it had not been
for his pretty manners and handsome face. However, a pretty face and
handsome manners combined with an easy temperament and a will to please will
recommend a young man wherever he travels. Indeed, Perham had grown quite
fond of him and thus made it a rule to take this cousin with him wherever he
went. They really were very intimate.
This vexed Rochester, who had been itching the entire evening to get the
young cousin alone.
"Jamie." Rochester sharply pinched the skin near James' waist for emphasis.
"If we don't do something I will go mad, quite simply mad. Perham is driving
me crazy, he won't leave that boy's side for an instant, he is being
absolutely impossible!"
"I don't know what you want me to do about it," James said lightly, knowing
very well what Rochester wanted done about it. "You know how much family
means to Perham, he is so very close to his cousin that I sometimes think -
" James was cut off as an irritated Rochester dug his nails into James'
side.
"Use your bloody imagination, Jamie. Distract the bastard, get him out of my
hair, just make sure he is elsewhere and that cousin is here."

Perham lay upon Rochester's bed whispering in his cousin's ear. James slid
beside him, lying as closely as he could to the intimate couple without
actually touching either man. Neither so much as looked at him, which was
quite disconcerting.
James made an admirable attempt to conceal his own irritation and
disinterest. Perham did not appeal to him. He was not repulsive. Indeed he
was naturally handsome and his manners were adequate enough to pass as
style. But natural beauty was hardly difficult; with the help of money all
but the most unfortunate could pass as a natural beauty if they applied
themselves to the task with enough vigour. Perham bored him; he had not
cultivated the exuberance or wit that made Rochester such an enigmatic
figure.
James moved closer to the couple, ensuring that his body was touching
Perham's own.  Perham glanced sideways at Jamie, but did not respond,
continuing to whisper into his cousin's ear. The young cousin, drunk or
otherwise intoxicated, barely noticed that a third figure had appeared upon
the bed.
James placed his hand upon Perham's leg, a simple gesture, pointed but
simple. He had expected Perham to ignore this motion also and was surprised
to find Perham cover his hand in his own.
Perham wrapped his fingers around James' hand and slowly brought the
captured hand up to his own mouth. He kissed it softly; it was an almost
romantic gesture.
"Hello Jamie." Perham had turned on his side and was now facing James
Macleane, his back to the cousin he held so dear. If it had not been a
victory of sorts James might have felt disgusted with such duplicity.
James smiled. "Lord Perham."
Perham began to unbutton his clothing, but Macleane stopped him, catching
Perham's hands in his own.
"No, Perham. Not here." And to stifle any argument he leant towards Perham
and covered his lips with his own. As he pulled away from the other man and
rolled from the bed, James did not need to look back; he knew Perham would
follow him. And Perham did follow him, leaving a delighted Rochester alone
with the young cousin who was intoxicated enough to be pliable but not
comatose, just as Rochester liked them.

However that had been another night, another party, a season ago for Jamie
and a lifetime ago for Perham.
Perham was not at this party tonight. Perham had been hanged. Perham was
dead.
James had barely thought of Perham when the man had been alive. Macleane may
have admired Perham's clothing, his confidence, and his aristocratic nature
if he had been in his company, but he would forget him as soon as his body
was absent. Perham had not interested Macleane in life. In death, however,
he was an infinite fascination. Indeed he had been a constant preoccupation
after their meeting at Newgate; he had invaded James' mind and would not
leave.
James would dream of the dead man. It was the same dream every night. Perham
stood on the gallows about to hang - he was frightened, James could smell
his fear, taste his tears. James would not want to look at the condemned
man, yet he could not look away; he was transfixed. The moment was
suspended, as if time stopped, leaving him only with a terrible waiting.
Then time began to move again and the gallows fell suddenly and Perham fell
with them and James, who suddenly could look away, turned towards the
executioner only to find a familiar face staring back at him.
And then James would wake, his body cased in sweat, drenched. He would hear
his breath, loud and hard and frantic.
It was the same every night. The bile would rise within his throat and his
eyes would fill with tears. Not from fear, not from sadness, but from shame.
He was hard, more aroused and excited than he had ever been before.
He was ashamed.

The thoughts were interrupted when he saw her. A vision, the very portrait
of feminine perfection. It was love at first sight. In that instant James
Macleane fell into a deep attraction to the very thought, the very idea of
the woman who stood across the room from him. He fell in love with
everything that her image seemed to represent. Respectability, wealth,
beauty, the potential of it all. He fell in love with the notion that she
could fall in love with him. It was a powerful moment.

There are some who may question the validity of such a love at first sight.
I think I use to. Some may indicate that perhaps such a love can not be, as
how could one feel such an intense and powerful feeling towards a person
that they do not even know?
I would counter these critics of love and romance that their sentiments
reflect a naivety disguised as cynicism. They do not understand love. Of
course it is possible to fall immediately and directly in love with the idea
of somebody! It is falling in love with the person beyond that idea which is
an improbability, not least because such a person beyond that idea does not
exist.

The woman now stood beside him. She had crossed the floor and now stood
beside him. She was speaking. She was speaking to him. "You are not a
gentleman," she said smiling. "No gentleman would stare at a lady like that
in public."
It took James a moment to regain his voice. "I do beg your pardon." He made
an effort to bow, an attempt at convention to hide his ill ease. "Capt.
James Macleane, at your service."
"Oh," She stared right at him, right through him. "So you are a gentleman?"
"Yes."
"What a shame." And then she left him and once again crossed the floor
leaving a confused and speechless James Macleane staring after her.

"Jamie - " Rochester had returned to his side.
"Who is that?" James interrupted.
Rochester glanced towards the woman and smiled, "Lady Rebecca Gibson." He
laughed. "Very choice. Very choosy."
James sighed. Rochester was still speaking, it seemed, introducing James to
someone or other, but it was all James could do to smile and nod in their
general direction. Without even realising it he began to follow Lady Rebecca
across the room.
It was Rochester's hand upon his arm that stopped him. "I shouldn't get too
attached, Jamie." Rochester whispered in his ear. "She may be choosy, but
the choice won't be hers. Her uncle - her guardian - will choose for her
readily enough."
James glanced at his friend, his eyebrows raised in a question. Rochester
really was a wealth of information.
Rochester smiled; pleased his gossip had caught his friend's interest.
"The... delightful... Mr Chance, has expressed an interest in making the
young Lady his blushing bride. I would expect an announcement any day now."
The name in itself was enough to shock Macleane. He freed himself from
Rochester's grasp and finding the words expressed a need for air. As James
walked away, a puzzled Rochester wondered at the strength
of his reaction.


It was not simply the mention of Chance himself that troubled Macleane.
Although the man was certainly vile enough to provoke such a response, it
was not the memory of Chance that plagued James. Other memories engulfed
him.
Mr Chance reminded James of his father. They did not look alike, yet walked
with the same stature, bible tucked under the arm, the look of pious
distaste at all around them. It was this performance of moral indignation
that rendered them almost indistinguishable from one another. It was this
moral indignation that James found most repulsive. Moral indignation, he had
found, was an efficient disguise against ones own guilt. It was an effective
shield against the judgement that others may wield if they were to suspect
what you had done and all that you had wished to do.

James Macleane hoped for Rebecca that she should not marry Mr Chance. More
than he hoped that he could marry her; he hoped that she would not marry
that man. He had seen what a life of marriage to such a man could produce.

His father had been a clergyman. He had given public sermons twice every
Sunday in his scream that was not a scream. He had given private sermons to
his son and wife at every other opportunity.

He thought or perhaps imagined  (is there really any difference?) that
Rebecca was like his mother. Soft and beautiful, dark haired and doe eyed.
But then, he did not remember much of his mother; she had been dead for a
long time and few people spoke of her.

A woman had come to the parish once, when James was ten or eleven. She had
enquired if the minister was in and instead of leaving when informed of his
absence she entered the house. The woman had said she was his mother's
sister, his aunt, and she had told him things about his mother that had
happened before his existence was even a possibility. She then left before
his father returned and did not come again.

He had often wished since that he should have known his mother then, when
she was young and hopeful that her life would at some point begin. When she
knew not what she wanted and not what she would do, but that whatever it was
it would be magnificent. Before she realised that this was her life, a
marriage to a cruel man that hid behind his moral superiority and a child
she had not wanted and couldn't love. He often wished he could have known
her before she had come to realise that this was the life she had waited
for, before she hanged herself from the beams in her husband's church on
Christmas day. Before she left her body for her eight-year-old boy to find
as he came to sweep the floor of the church in preparation for the service.

She could not be buried on church land; they took her body away and she was
gone. His father forbade him to speak of her and it was an easy task as he
had very little to say. He did not miss the mother he had had. He missed the
mother that perhaps in another lifetime she could have been.
And his father, father of hypocrites, father to hypocrites, screamed fire
and brimstone at him. (In his scream that was not a scream.)

James was no longer a little boy. He was now a man. Yet in that moment, as
Rochester's party raged around him, he was every bit the little boy. He was
a little boy sitting on the cold hard floor of a little country church. It
was Christmas day and he sat on that floor, looking, waiting. He sat and
looked at an image he could not understand, at a vision he could not
comprehend. He wanted to look away and yet he could not. She hung there. He
did not scream or cry. He had not been frightened. He just sat and watched
her.

James forced himself to focus upon the sound around him - he felt the scene
before him melt away. As he looked at the decadence around him, the
decadence of Rochester's rooms, of the food that would not be eaten, the
clothes that would be worn once and disposed of and at the people who were
every bit as disposable, it occurred to him, for not the first time, that
morality was far more connected with affordability than it was to some idea
of a spiritual essence. These people, with their wealth, power and privilege
could afford the high moral standard expected of them. They could also
afford to bribe the keepers of the law and the religion if they slipped upon
that path to heaven. Others found the cost of such ideals far too expensive.

His thoughts had taken him away from the main body of the party and to a
small room that lay off the main parlour. It was the type of room that is
useless, too small to entertain in and too large to be considered a storage
space. Only houses like this could afford ridiculous rooms like these.

"What are you up to, Jamie?" Rochester had materialised behind him.
James turned to face the other man. "Whatever do you mean?" He had not
realised how close Rochester had been to him. As he turned he found himself
almost within Rochester's arms.
Rochester stroked James cheek gently. A not-so-subtle suggestion.
In response James raised his eyebrows as if naive to Rochester's intentions.
This made Rochester smile. "What game are we playing?" He ran his fingers
over James' mouth, gently tracing the outline of his red lips. They were the
kind of lips that could say anything, any hurtful remark, any vicious lie,
and still be appealing. They were, Rochester thought, irresistible.
James widened his eyes with affected innocence. "The games, if you are
looking for them, are in the other room. Which is where I should be." He
attempted to step past Rochester but found his exit blocked as steady hands
gripped James' shoulders, preventing forward motion.
"Now Jamie, darling, don't be so difficult! How can I play if I don't know
the rules?" Rochester leant towards him and brushed his lips with his own.
"Or at least the intention? It would be fair to be at least told what the
aim of this game of yours is." He placed another gentle kiss on James'
mouth. "Or the team? See, I just can't read the way you are looking at me,
Jamie. Am I an ally, am I the competition, am I the prize?" This time the
kiss was long and invasive and this time James responded.
James told himself that he was doing this simply to establish a trust, a
loyalty, as a means to an end. He knew, however, that his motives were not
as singular. It felt good to feel those arms around him, to have another
person express such an obvious attraction towards him. To be desired and
wanted and accepted, if only for a moment or two. And it was more than this.
It was also an opportunity to create an understanding between Rochester and
himself.
James pushed the other man away. "I'm not in the mood, Rochester." It was in
many ways a lie, his own body betrayed this fact, but it was an important
lie.
Rochester was not concerned. People with egos such as his rarely experience
rejection. Their state of mind leaves no room for it. "You still have the
rooms at the Athena?"
"Yes."
"With that delightful 'man' of yours I presume?"
The reference to Plunkett reminded Macleane that this 'delightful man' was
waiting outside and would no doubt be displeased to find James had been so
easily sidetracked. The 'delightful' man had been waiting outside with the
horses all evening. The 'delightful' man had been waiting outside in the
pouring rain all evening.
James doubted that Plunkett could understand his sudden love for Lady
Rebecca. James doubted that Plunkett would understand the importance of what
had just transpired between Rochester and himself. He doubted that Plunkett
would accept that it had been a legitimate use of their time. He also
doubted that Plunkett had the good breeding to keep his displeasure to
himself. And then compounding his haste was the growing respect for this
other man. James did not want Will Plunkett to think badly of him. He wanted
his respect, his friendship and his acceptance.
To Rochester's surprise James pushed right past him, not quite in the speed
of a run but with the definite essence of a dash.
To James' surprise he stopped after a few quick steps and turned to face
Rochester again. Moving quickly, James pulled Rochester towards him and in
the same swift motion kissed him with a brutality that astonished the both
of them before exiting the room in great haste.
Rochester stared after his friend, his expression the very portrait of
wonder. "What is it you are up to, Jamie?" he wondered aloud. "And what is
my purpose in it?"
As he passed through various rooms, inspecting the state of his party, he
continued to think of 'Capt.' James Macleane and his sudden and unexpected
manifestation. Rochester threw a smile in one direction, a quick nod in
another and a 'wonderful to see you, darling' out to no one in particular
(and to which at least five guests eagerly attempted to respond). Something
did not equate in this scenario. James had the appearance of wealth and good
fortune, but where had he raised the money? Certainly not from gambling, if
his skill tonight was anything to go by. Furthermore, if the familiar glaze
to his eyes was any indication, his habits were as expensive as ever.
As Rochester spotted his *dear* friend Lord Davies without their mutual
*dear* friend Lord Albury he filed his thoughts of James to a more
convenient place and contemplated many pleasant possibilities for the rest
of the evening.

(End of Part Three)

 


 

[BritSlash Contents Page]  [BritSlash Fiction Archive]