“ Fergus. ”
The voice that whispered name was soft but the effect it had on his head made Fergus groan. It felt like someone had stabbed him behind the eyes. Like there was a vice around his skull and the pressure was crushing.
His temple throbbed in time with his heartbeat and for a moment he could think of nothing else.
As quiet settled around him and the feeling lessened, he became conscious of the nausea creeping up his throat and he swallowed thickly. Ugh. The taste reminded him of the time he had been challenged to prove his worth by drinking more than the burly, bald headed man that he was sure lived at the bar, if not in the alley behind it, and had - very stupidly - accepted.
So, so much worse.
“ Fergus. ”
Mon dieu, Fergus winced. Just how much did he have to drink last night?
The floor beneath him was hard and numerous sharp points were sticking into him, the most severe beneath his cheekbone, leaving his head tilted at an angle that stretched his neck and left his shoulders aching. One of his arms was already tucked beneath his chest and so he pushed, with the intent of turning himself over into a more comfortable position.
He didn’t move even an inch.
“ Fergus! ”
Fergus groaned again, louder this time, and, channelling the pain into energy, he rolled onto his side to find Young Ian looking at him.
“Oh, thank Christ!” Young Ian slumped against the wall with a sigh. Dramatic as always. “I nearly thought ye dead, leavin' me alone in a place like this! Wi' nae a person to talk to...”
Ignoring Young Ian for now, Fergus slowly rolled his eyes over their surroundings. Thankfully the room they were in was dark, the only light coming from lanterns hanging high on the ceiling and it didn’t take long for his eyes to adjust. His relief was short-lived, however, as he came to realise he didn’t recognise anything at all.
Not the cold stone walls, the dirt floor... the bars on the window.
And certainly not the length of chain running from Young Ian’s ankle to an iron ring bolted into the wall.
Something like ice ran down the length of his spine and, paying no mind to the throbbing pain that seared through his chest, he dragged himself up into a position… somewhat mirroring Young Ian’s.
He huffed out a pained breath.
“Where are we? What happened?”
Young Ian cut off his monologue mid sentence. “I dinnae ken exactly but I’m sure we’re no’ far from the Quay. He had a wagon waiting out the back and we travelled only a short distance before they dragged us down... here .”
Fergus racked his brain as best he could, but still only came up with the image of one man, the one they were scheduled to meet. “They?”
“Aye. The man waitin’ for us, he was expectin’ Uncle Jamie and, when he realised he wasnae wi’ us, he drew a pistol and demanded we tell him where to find him. Ye argued wi’ him, started threatenin’ him, tellin’ him all the things Uncle Jamie would do to him should he no’ let us go. That’s when the other man came from behind and smacked ye about the head wi’ a piece of pipe.” Young Ian looked at him with concern. “Do ye really no’ remember?”
He really didn’t.
Fergus lifted his hand to the side of his head, just above his temple, and he winced as his fingertips made contact. His scalp was tender and hair slick with blood, warm and sticky. He pulled his hand away and discreetly wiped it the best he could against his trouser leg. He didn’t recall being hit but it also didn’t really matter.
All that mattered was getting out of here.
“And then what happened?
"The man with the pistol, he said there was a change of plans and demanded that I come wi’ him or he would shoot ye right then and there. The other one, he dragged ye along and wasnae sae nice about it.” Well, Fergus thought glumly, that explained a lot. “We travelled by wagon through the back streets. No’ far. It couldnae been more than ten minutes before we stopped and they took us through an alleyway between two buildings, down a set of stairs that lead us here.” Young Ian’s eyes roamed over the cell. “Do ye think… do ye think he meant to bring Uncle Jamie here? Under the city?”
“Were the lanterns already lit when we arrived?”
“The lanterns? No.”
“Then, no. I do not think so.” Fergus glanced over at the door, candlelight flickering through the thick bars of iron that crossed the window, and wondered how much effort it would take to drag himself over to it. “Did they lock the door as well?”
“I cannae be certain but it did sound like it.”
“How much time has passed since they left?” Fergus looked back at Young Ian. “Did they say anything about when they might come back?”
“It’s no’ been long and they didnae say much of anything although I did hear them arguing wi’ each other as they went - about what they were going to do next.”
Decision made, Fergus heaved himself onto his hands and knees and slowly crawled over to Young Ian. Halfway across he paused, overcome with intense nausea. He swallowed thickly and prayed to whatever god might be listening that he wouldn't vomit.
There was only so much a man could take.
Thankfully, nothing came to pass and he continued cautiously until he finally reached the chain tethering Young Ian to the wall. He ran his hand down to the cuff around his ankle and gave the lock an experimental tug.
“I cannae get free of it,” Young Ian said regretfully, as though it were somehow his fault any of this had happened. “I’ve tried.”
And Fergus could see that he had.
The cloth beneath was dirty and torn, and looking up, he could see Young Ian’s fingers were red and covered in abrasions, and so he changed tracks and pulled on the piece of chain closest to the wall.
One hand, however, wasn’t going to cut it.
“Take hold,” he said and waited until Young Ian did so. “Ready? Three, two, one--”
They pulled as hard as they could but they achieved nothing more than rousing up a lot of dust.
Fergus let go and moved as far away as he could before vomiting violently, suddenly he wished he had done so on the way over after all. His head pounded with every heave and he lost all sense of time until he eventually caught his breath and everything slowly came back into focus.
Ugh. He wiped his sleeve over his mouth and moved to sit next to Young Ian. He carefully leaned his head against the wall behind him and closed his eyes.
“Uncle Jamie…” Young Ian said quietly. “He’ll come fer us. Won’t he?”
When Fergus opened his eyes and truly looked at Young Ian he was reminded of just how young he truly was. His wide eyes, while glassy with fear, were bright with hope, both innocent and pure. Untarnished.
Fergus felt something fierce rush through him... something like responsibility and protectiveness.
“Oui,” Fergus promised just as fiercely. “I have seen him do more for less. If we cannot find a way to leave here on our own, all we must do is bide our time.”
Fergus looked up at the small open window, high on the wall at what must have been street level. Pitch black outside, it gave them no additional light but fresh air, along with a general sense of time - not something to complain about.
He looked back at Young Ian’s restraints.
“Why did they not chain me also?”
Young Ian’s cheeks turned a rather intriguing shade of pink. “Ah-- I dinnae ken?”
“You must have some notion. What did they say? Ian?”
“Weel-- ah, ye were unconscious and, weel,” Young Ian continued in a rush, “they saw ye had only one hand and they decided there was no need to tie ye like they did I.”
Fergus chuckled under his breath.
Young Ian being more of a threat than him -- imagine that. Still, as insulting that might be, it could work in their favour. Fergus knew all too well how often people judged those with deformed or missing body parts.
“The men -- you are sure there are only two?” He asked.
“Aye. I didnae see anyone else.”
“Did they say what they wanted, other than Milord?”
“No. Do ye think they're excisemen? Come to arrest Uncle Jamie?”
Fergus pondered that. “I--”
A loud bang reverberated outside the door and Fergus shut his mouth quickly. Two different sets of footsteps were unmistakable as they made their way closer, as was the jingle of a set of keys and then a heavy bolt sliding open.
“Remember,” Fergus whispered quickly, “we must bide our time.”
There was no time for anything else before the door swung open and two men walked in, the man they had originally met with earlier in the evening in the lead. Barber? No, Fergus recalled. Boyle. His name was Boyle -- although Bastard would be all the more fitting.
“Good,” Boyle said with a sneer that suggested the exact opposite. “Ye’re awake.” He looked to the large man behind him, whom Fergus instantly nicknamed Lavette due to the fact he did indeed have a face that looked something like a dishcloth (one that had been rung out a few too many times and left in a dark corner to fester, in fact), and pointed to Fergus. “Move him.”
Fergus had hardly a moment to prepare before he was hauled up onto his feet and forcibly dragged back to his original starting place opposite to Young Ian. Fergus struggled but his weakened state was no match for the man who was equal parts muscle and fat.
A cry from Young Ian had him looking over to find Boyle pulling the boy up by his hair.
“Hey!” Fergus pushed against the hands holding him back but they only gripped him harder to the point of pain. “Get your filthy bastard hands off him!”
Boyle pulled out a large knife, wide blade glinting in the candlelight, and Fergus froze, watching in something akin to horror as the man ran the edge along Young Ian’s exposed throat. He turned to look at Fergus and smiled, his eyes dark and unseeing.
“What are you doing?” Fergus demanded desperately. “What do you want?”
“Where is Jamie Roy?”
“Jamie Roy?” Fergus echoed. “What do you want--”
“I dinnae have time fer yer questions! Where is Jamie Roy? ”
Young Ian whimpered, fingers scrambling for purchase, to relieve the pressure on his scalp, and Fergus thought quickly. “Tell me-- Tell me why you need to find him and I will tell you all you need to know.”
“No,” Boyle growled then violently spat a mouthful of tobacco juice onto the floor. “You will do as I tell ye! Now answer me. Where is Jamie Roy? ”
“We do not know!” Fergus claimed untruthfully. He had no doubt that he was at Madame Jeanne’s with Milady and so instead focused on that which was true. “All he told us is that he would pay us to meet you, to sell you the barrels you had asked for. That if we sold more than expected we would also get some of the profit.”
“It’s true!” Young Ian added.
“Maybe we just need tae get Jamie Roy’s attention.” Boyle looked down at Young Ian with a leer and used his free hand to run the point of the knife along the boy’s fingers. “Perhaps the finger of one of his most loyal men would get his attention?” He pushed down and Young Ian let out a cry. “Or…” He looked at Fergus thoughtfully, “a hand.”
“Non!” Fergus protested.
“Would you like that? Would ye like to match Frenchie over here?” Boyle asked Young Ian as though he were offering him an ale to drink, instead of tracing out a red, bloody line across the boy’s wrist. He twisted the knife slightly, to hear Young Ian cry out again. “I can make that happen.”
“Non!” Fergus cried again and threw himself full-bodied towards the man. Lavette dropped Fergus suddenly and he crumpled to the ground. When he looked up he was facing the barrel of a pistol, poised and ready. He held up his arms quickly. “Wait-- Wait!”
Fergus’s chest was heaving and he tried to catch his breath.
The thought of anyone cutting off Young Ian’s hand--
He opened his mouth to protest, to offer up his own hand but the words stuck in his throat. He could still remember the feeling of having his hand cut off.
The pain that came after.
He had made a life with only one but he didn’t think he could live without two. But he might not be able to live with Jamie’s reaction should he let it happen to Young Ian, either.
“Here!” He scrambled to undo the leather straps on his left forearm, his shaking fingers leaving dark scratches along his skin, and thrust his wooden hand out to Lavette who was, most interestingly, looking almost as queasy as he felt. “Jamie Roy will not recognise a hand alone. But this-- he will recognise this as mine. He will understand! If you take this to The Ox with a message, he will come!”
The atmosphere was tense as they all looked at one another for a few moments until Boyle threw Young Ian to the ground, the rattle of the chains loud and piercing.
“Fine.” Boyle agreed with a nod to Lavette who snatched the hand away. “But you?” He pointed his knife towards Fergus, “You’re comin’ wi’ us. Get up. Get. Up!”
Once again Fergus scrambled and actually found himself thankful when Lavette pulled him by the back of his jacket and hauled him to his feet then pushed him after Boyle and out the door.
“Wait,” it was Young Ian’s turn to cry out. “Fergus!”
Fergus turned to look over his shoulder. “Bide,” he managed to call back before the cell door slammed shut and Young Ian disappeared from view.
Anxiety rose in his chest as they made their way down a dimly lit corridor lined with unlabelled crates and empty sacks. Leaving Young Ian alone wasn’t something he wanted to do but distance, too, was something that could be used as an advantage.
For Ian, at least.
They travelled along the corridor and up a set of stairs that lead them into a small room. Fergus didn’t protest over much as he was pushed into a chair sitting in the middle of the room.
“Tie him to it.”
Rope was coiled around his wrist then pulled behind him but Lavette hesitated when he no doubt realised Fergus’s lack of a second hand was going to cause problems. Fergus snickered. After a moment, his other arm was yanked back to join the other and the man tied the rope above his elbows and yanked them tight, putting pressure on his shoulders.
When Lavette pulled away he tugged at his bindings experimentally and was dismayed to find not only his arms tied together but attached to the seat itself as well. Damn.
“Take it,” Boyle gestured to Fergus’s wooden hand sitting on the desk. “Leave a message for Jamie Roy, the meeting place remains the same: the Quay.”
Lavette acquiesced and Fergus didn’t hesitate to start in on Boyle.
“What do you want?” he asked. “Money? If you want money, let us go and we shall pay you. We cannot do anything if you keep us here--”
Boyle smacked him hard across the face and he gasped. Stars blurred his vision and Fergus squeezed his eyes shut.
“You think I want money ?” Boyle was growling from somewhere in front of him. “ What I want is Jamie Roy. What I want is fer him to suffer like I have suffered.”
“Suffered?” Fergus breathed a laugh as he opened his eyes to look at the piece of shit in front of him. “What would you know about suffering?”
The man looked enraged and Fergus only laughed harder, the sight the most amusing thing he had seen all night. The way his eyes bulged made Fergus consider giving him a nickname of his own but before he could come up with anything fitting Boyle grabbed him by the throat and Fergus coughed, morbidly satisfied with the flecks of blood from his split lip that appeared on the man’s collar.
Boyle released his hold and pulled up the hem of his shirt to reveal a thick long scar covering almost the entirety of his exposed skin, it’s uneven lines telling a story of infection and prolonged pain. He let the fabric drop and began to pace.
“Jamie Roy and his contraband cost me everything. Everything! I was arrested by the Crown. Now, imprisonment I could have handled,” Boyle ran his tongue over his rotten teeth. “No’ a man in Scotland worth something has gone through life without being arrested at some point. I could have handled that. Welcomed it. But no, they humiliated me in the square, in front of everyone. I lost the respect of my men! My wife! All because of Jamie Roy --”
“Your wife left you because you have no balls!” Fergus shouted, just to see how far this man would go. “Because you are a piece of shit who--
Boyle punched him in the stomach. Hard.
“Perhaps… I should just kill you now. Ye’ve given me what I need, have you no’?” Boyle punched him again then grabbed a fistful of Fergus’s hair. He leaned in close, the smell of his breath rancid as he whispered, “Death would be a mercy, considering what I’m gonnae tae do tae you and that boy downstairs if Jamie Roy doesnae show up by sunrise.” He let go and stepped back, voice returning to its normal level. “Would ye like me tae tell you? The plans I have fer you?”
Fergus didn’t respond.
If he hadn’t been tied so tightly to the chair he would have been doubled over, the pain in his abdomen so severe. As it was, he held himself tightly and concentrated on the steady pain in his temple to distract himself.
Where the hell was Lavette? Ever since he had woken up in this hell hole, he had lost all sense of time but even he knew now would be as good as any for someone to make an entrance.
Just how long did it take to walk from wherever they were to The Ox? Surely even Lavette could--
Another wave of pain hit him and he bit his tongue, the taste of copper flooding his mouth giving him something else to think about although he soon gave up on that in favour of pondering his reason for being here.
Why had Boyle brought him here?
The answer was simple, of course. “You are insane.”
As if to further Fergus’s theory, Boyle’s lips curled into something of a smile, as though it were a compliment rather than something to be concerned about. Offended by. Something to take into consideration when deciding to become a better man, non?
Lavette finally walked into the room then and Fergus would have had the mind to thank him if he didn't already despise the bastard. He was the reason it felt like his skull was about to split open if he so much as tilted it too far, after all.
“Good,” Boyle shrugged on his patchwork coat and adjusted his sleeves as though that was going to help his appearance. Nothing was going to improve that. “Stay here.”
“What-- Stay here?” Lavette repeated dumbly. “What am I gonnae do here?”
“I dinnae ken. Whatever ye please, sae long as they're still alive upon my return." He stared hard at Fergus for a moment and nausea rose in his throat once more. "They're nae fun, dead.
“This is no’ what we agreed upon,” Lavette argued. “I’m here because Jamie Roy owes me fer the barrels that were confiscated almost as soon as he sold them tae me! I’m no’ here tae babysit!”
“And ye’ll get yer money! All ye have tae do is stay here. It’s no’ that hard, Stevenson!”
Stevenson . Huh. It didn’t quite have the same ring as Lavette but... he could accept it. For now.
Boyle walked out the door without another word and Stevenson looked up at the ceiling as though seeking assistance from the heavens above.
None forthcoming, Fergus took it upon himself to fill the void.
He began with describing all the different types of liquor they had on offer, his own personal recommendations and how, despite everything, he still preferred French wine. When he had exhausted that topic he moved on to even more mundane things such as his plans for the day, a detailed description of a dream he'd had recently (it was deliciously explicit) and then questioned, just for the hell of it, questioned whether or not it was possible for someone to tell the future.
To be fair, he always had wondered.
Stevenson swore under his breath, then again more loudly and Fergus was pleased to find it was Boyle’s name he spat rather than his own.
The man pulled out a large knife not unlike the one Boyle had held to Young Ian’s throat earlier in the night and Fergus suddenly doubted every single thing he had come to believe - including his ability to talk his way out of anything. His heart thumped in his chest, taking up a pace that had him panicking even more, when the man advanced. He pulled on his bonds, ignoring the pain caused in his shoulders.
Pain meant nothing when you’re dead, after all--
Fergus watched in shock as Stevenson simply walked around him and, just seconds later, the ropes around his arms dropped away. He was once again hauled to his feet and led back down the hall. Fergus was tempted to open his mouth, to say something, anything that might encourage the man to let them go completely but held back.
The man wanted nothing to do with him and Ian, and he wasn’t going to push their luck. Not yet, anyway.
The door to the cell was opened once again and just as Fergus was shoved bodily inside much to Young Ian’s obvious relief, he caught sight of a set of keys attached to the man’s belt.
A missed chance if ever he saw one.
Young Ian whispered something and Fergus moaned from where he lay on the floor, the sound of the bolt once again sliding shut too much to take. "I am back," he announced.
And promptly passed out.
Fergus had suffered many a long night.
Laying alone in the closet under the stairs at Maison Elise as a small child came to mind, as did travelling with the Jacobites in the lead up to the Battle of Culloden and, more recently, when the phantom pain in his severed wrist became too much.
Yet this night, in particular, was never ending.
Head pillowed by his forearm, he watched the lantern above them as the light flickered and waned, new shapes appearing in the shadows it cast.
The light wouldn't last much longer and then they truly would be left in the dark - both literally and figuratively.
It left him scared and the feeling only multiplied when the light finally went out.
As did the cold.
Fergus shifted onto his side and then back again. There was no part of his body that didn’t ache and any attempt at getting comfortable was futile. In the middle of deciding whether or not to he should be the one to suggest sharing body heat, Young Ian spoke up.
“I’ve always been jealous.”
Fergus blinked. “Jealous?”
“Aye. Of you. Weel,” he amended, “of you and Uncle Jamie, especially. Wherever he goes, he takes you wi’ him. And ye dinnae have parents treatin’ ye like a small bairn, tellin’ ye what ye can and cannae do. That's all I ever wanted, to travel alongside. Make a life in the city."
“It is not as exciting as it seems.”
“Aye,” Young Ian laughed sadly. “I ken that now.”
If anything it was dangerous.
Born into a life without parents, he was subject to those around him and destined to lose every person he had ever come to love. A life had left him a man with no name, with only one hand and no true prospects to speak of.
While Young Ian saw his relationship with Milord as one to be envious of, Fergus knew it only existed because of the promise Milord had made when they had first met, that he would be looked after should he ever lose a hand whilst in the Scot's service. And for his part, Fergus was doing his best to repay said kindness by working hard and doing as requested, a never ending quest to make up for his past sins.
No. There was nothing to be jealous of and he told Young Ian as much.
Young Ian protested loudly but Fergus didn’t listen, just simply closed his eyes and, when he was suddenly overcome with pain emanating in his side, focused on his breathing.
Eventually the pain dulled into something more bearable and finally said out loud the one thing that had been on his mind ever since they had been kidnapped.
"I am worried."
“Worried?” Young Ian repeated and Fergus could practically hear his eyebrows scrunching in confusion.
“Mmm,” Fergus hummed sadly, depression creeping in to join the persistent throbbing in his temple. “Milady, she has returned to Milord.”
“I thought-- I thought ye were happy tae see Auntie Claire?”
“I was. I still am,” Fergus amended quickly. “ Vraiment ! It is Milord’s reaction that is of concern. He and Milady have not seen each other in a long time and Milord is sure to be... distracted by her presence. I fear that it will be some time before he comes to realise what has happened to us.”
“Then, as ye said, we must continue tae bide our time. Distract the bastards just as Uncle Jamie is distracted, if we must.”
Fergus barked out a laugh-- and then groaned in pain once more. Young Ian didn’t mean it the way it sounded, he had no doubt, but even if he did their two captors hadn’t come across as the kind of men who would be interested in such activities.
No, what he was truly worried about was…
“The longer that we are kept here by these connards the more likely we are to suffer at their hands.”
“Ye dinnae need tae protect me like I’m some helpless bairn,” Young Ian declared boldly. “Next time they come back let me be the one tae talk. I can take it!”
To the crux of the matter, then.
“It is Milord’s reaction that I am worried about, should you be seriously hurt.”
“Ye’re worried Uncle Jamie will blame you? Ha,” Young Ian scoffed. “I am my own man! Uncle Jamie kens well I am no’ yer responsibility. It was my decision to come here, into the city. No’ yers. No’ Uncle Jamie’s… no matter what Mam and Da might think.”
While Young Ian’s arguments rang true, all he could see behind his closed lids was Milord and Milady devastated by the loss of their first child, something for which he was very much largely to blame. He swallowed hard. The return of Milady, years later, had brought joy back into Milord’s life and the idea of himself coming back with Young Ian severely injured -- or worse…
Young Ian was like a son to Milord and the man’s capacity to forgive was not limitless.
As time had moved on, the cold had seeped deep into his bones almost to the point of feeling nothing at all but as Young Ian began to shiver, so too did the chains linked to him.
That was it, he decided. They needed to do something.
Fergus rolled over and dragged himself back up into a sitting position once again. While it was still dark outside, the colour bleeding through the open window was a few shades lighter and in the distance the streets were starting to rouse, the sound of wheels travelling along the roads the most distinct.
He ran his teeth over his dry, cracked lips and looked at Ian who frowned with trepidation in return.
“It will not do for us to wait any longer.” Fergus took a deep breath and, using the stone wall for support, made his way onto his feet. “It is time for us to leave.”
Having little to work with, it didn’t take them long to prepare, but by the end Fergus slumped to his knees, exhausted, and fell face forward onto the ground.
Young Ian moved forward from his place against the wall with such force that the chain clanged loudly. When Fergus didn’t respond he shook it again and screamed.
Their surroundings remained quiet and again Young Ian screamed for help, louder this time, and the sound rattled around in Fergus’s skull, it’s echo trying to find purchase in the bone. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and breathed out his nose to steady himself. He couldn’t afford to be distracted - this might well be their only chance before Boyle returned.
Something hard hit the door.
“ Dùin do chab! ”
“Cuideachas!” Young Ian yelled back and pulled on the chain again. “He’s no’ moving! Help him! Help him-- and I’ll-- Jamie Roy! I’ll tell you what you want to know about Jamie Roy! Just-- mas e do thoil e! ”
There was a moment of silence and Fergus wondered if Stevenson was actually considering leaving him to die.
Still, he didn’t dare move, though. Just in case.
After just enough time for Fergus to again rename the bastard, the bolt squeaked and Lavette walked in, his footsteps heavy with displeasure.
“Tell me about Jamie Roy,” he demanded before warning, “and dinnae lie tae me or ye’ll be joining ye the sassenach on the floor, here.”
“I willnae talk unless ye help him!” Young Ian argued. “If he dies it willnae matter what I tell ye-- Jamie Roy will kill ye, himself!”
A huff. “I dinnae ken what ye expect me tae do about it.”
“Just-- Just unlock the chain and I will check him myself! I just wannae ken if he’s still alive! If he’s still alive, I’ll tell you!”
Lavette sighed and finally moved closer. Fergus continued to wait until the man’s shadow covered his face and upon the first touch he thrust himself up-- His elbow connected with the man’s neck and Lavette stumbled backwards, one hand automatically reaching up to protect his throat, the other held out to catch his fall. Fergus followed. He hit the man again, this time with his fist to the man’s face. Lavette’s head fell back against the floor with a thud but that didn’t stop him from kicking out at Fergus and scrambling to reach for--
Fergus choked on a breath, the sight of a weapon bringing both panic and hope.
Instead of fighting to reach it first, he thrust a boot into Lavette’s side to distract the man and leapt upon him from behind. He wrapped his right arm around the man’s neck and, using his left arm as a lock, pulled tight. Lavette struggled fiercely but Fergus held on, motivated by the sound of Young Ian’s yelling.
Lavette went limp and, after another second to two just to be sure, Fergus let go. This time Lavette ended up sprawled on the floor at an uncomfortable angle, unmoving but still breathing.
Fergus didn’t hold back in pushing the man over and running his hand along the man’s leather belt. Coming up empty, Fergus patted down the man’s pockets and found a handful of coins, a piece of paper and a pouch of tobacco.
“ Bordel de merde! ” Fergus swore.
He tossed the pistol to Young Ian and, using the man’s body as leverage, he pushed himself up and made for the open door. He stumbled slightly but caught himself on the bars before making his way back down the now familiar corridor and up to the room Boyle had taken him.
He first raided the desk and then the cabinet next to it, uncaring about the mess that he left behind. His chaotic movements paid off, however, when he pushed aside a stack of worn books and the set of keys dropped to his feet with a clatter. He grabbed them and ran, knowing that, along with the sun rising, Boyle, too, would be returning soon.
He returned tired and out of breath but smiled when he found Young Ian pointing the pistol at him, albeit rather shakily.
“Here,” he traded the keys for the pistol and took up a defensive position by the door while Ian took care of the cuff around his ankle. The gun was neither primed nor loaded but it would hurt just as well should someone be hit hard enough with it. He nudged Lavette with the toe of his boot. A small groan resulted but otherwise no response was forthcoming. For now. He glanced back at Young Ian. “Hurry!”
“I’m trying! These keys dinnae--” Young Ian let out a cry of triumph as the cuff fell to the floor with a clang. He quickly made his way across the room, pausing by Lavette’s body, a fierce scowl upon his face. “What about him?”
“We will lock him in just as he did us.”
Young Ian didn't look particularly satisfied but, once through the doorway, did exactly that. Fergus took Young Ian by the sleeve and pushed him forward. “We must go, quickly!”
This time around, the corridor seemed never ending and Fergus realised it was because he was lagging behind, his movements sluggish and unreliable. Still, he pushed himself onward, weapon at the ready.
A noise sounded from above and they both paused. When nothing more was forthcoming they nodded to one another and kept moving, more cautiously this time. At the top of the stairs they turned a corner and--
Name registering, Fergus slumped down onto the nearest crate in relief and watched detachedly as Milord, in all his red headed glory, ran to Young Ian and swept him into a fierce hug that had Young Ian momentarily gasping for breath.
A new, different type of pain bloomed inside his chest as Milord pulled back but didn’t let go as he ran concerned eyes over the boy and asked, “Where are ye hurt?” Had he been in a better state, he would have been embarrassed for wishing that he could be the one in Young Ian’s place, being fussed over as such.
He was a grown man after all.
“I’m fine, Uncle,” Young Ian smiled excitedly. “Dinnae fash--”
“Dinnae fash?” Milord repeated, somewhat stunned. “We heard ye screamin’--”
Wait, Fergus registered slowly. ‘We’?
“ Fergus. ”
Fergus blinked and turned his head slowly to find Milady in front of him, crouched down, her hands reaching out but not yet touching. She smiled.
“I just want to take a look at your head, is that alright?”
“Oui,” Fergus said automatically and, as Milady gently ran her fingers through his matted hair and down the sides of his face, his eyes drifted back to the two men. Young Ian was gesticulating wildly and Jamie’s face hardened.
“Where is he now?”
“We locked him in the room they kept us in. He was unconscious when we left.”
Milord nodded in approval and turned to look behind him. He nodded his head towards the room in question and Fergus watched dumbly as Lesley and Hayes moved passed, the looks on their face stern and unyielding.
Quite literally looking for trouble.
Fergus blinked to find Milord’s gaze had moved on to him.
“Most definitely a concussion,” Milady took a step back and crossed her arms as Milord took her place. “He’s in desperate need of a rest and a more thorough going over but I’ve no doubt he’s going to be fine.”
Milord hooked a hand under Fergus’s arm and pulled him gently to his feet, the motion a stark comparison to the way he had handled since… this - whatever ‘this’ was - had begun, and held on tight as Fergus swayed slightly.
Milord looked down at him with a frown, prompting Fergus to speak first. “You received my message?”
“Oh aye, I got yer message, unique as it was,” Milord scowled. “And ye’re of good enough health?” Milord looked to Milady who nodded which he also took as permission to wrap his arms around Fergus just like he had with Young Ian. Enveloped in heat, Fergus’s cold body melted. It cooled again, however, upon hearing Milord’s next words, low and filled with emotion. “Thank ye fer keeping Ian safe.”
“But of course,” Fergus said simply. “I did promise that I would.”
“The thought of anything happenin’ tae ye-- tae either of ye…” Milord tightened his hold and Fergus blinked hard, distracted to the point that the pain in his side was more a niggle than overwhelming. “A man’s heart can only bear sae much.”
“See, Fergus,” Young Ian piped up. “I told ye! Uncle Jamie loves ye more than anyone… weel--" he glanced at Milady who was assessing the cuts on his hands, "Except, perhaps, Auntie Claire."
“Ian!” Fergus choked, face heating in embarrassment. Saying such a thing in front of Milord… but Milady, too? “I do not-- He is not--”
“Come,” Milord pulled one arm away to wrap it around Young Ian and pull him in with a chuckle. “I've lived without the three of ye fer sae many years already… I’m no’ inclined to waste any more time down here in the dungeons - even if we are here together.”
Fergus smiled to himself as they slowly made their way out into the morning light. He was in desperate need of a wash and wanted nothing more than to crawl in a soft bed and sleep for days on end, but this moment?
He wouldn’t give this moment up for anything.