“But there are good Catholics in Parliament!” Francis Tresham argued, pathetically. “They will likely be killed as well!”
Guy Fawkes’s eyes flickered to Robert Catesby, barely holding his tongue as he waited to hear the leader’s response. “Then they will become martyrs to our glorious cause,” the man pronounced. Good, that was good. Keep the troops in line.
Tresham’s face took on a stubborn set, like a child refusing to eat his peas. “I must warn Lord Monteagle,” he stated, as if his shaky confidence could somehow will the others to agree with him.
“You will warn no one!” Catesby snapped, growing exasperated. Guy waited silently, resolutely.
“He’s my brother’s wife!” Tresham insisted. What did that even mean? So his wife would be sad for a while. Everyone had to die sometime.
Well, almost everyone.
“If you warn him, he will go straight to the King!” Thomas Winter pointed out. “He is Royalist first, Catholic second.”
“I must warn him,” Tresham repeated earnestly. “I will impress upon him the necessity for secrecy—“
“You will warn him?” Catesby asked. “Fine. Fawkes, when we leave here, kill Tresham.”
“Of course,” Guy answered immediately, giving the soppy nobleman a steely glare. He paled visibly. What did they think they were plotting here, a surprise birthday party? This was serious business. Lives would be lost, including their own.
“Well, perhaps…” Tresham hesitated. “Perhaps he need not be warned.” Guy rolled his eyes—the man had not the conviction to save his own brother-in-law, how could he be now trusted to carry out their plot—
Uh-oh. As Guy glanced around the table, he saw the others starting to squirm. “There are many Catholics in Parliament,” Thomas Percy noted reasonably. “Men with experience, whose leadership we will need in the aftermath of our victory.”
“I suppose it might look badly for us later,” Winter agreed, “if it was said we killed so many of our own—as if we were out for our own glory, instead of our faith.”
Guy saw the moment Catesby faltered, and imagined the whole plan collapsing on its already shaky foundations. They were like a group of schoolboys negotiating the rules of a game—Catesby felt the tide turning against him and compromised, against all common sense. “You may each choose one member of Parliament to warn in advance,” he allowed with a sigh.
Guy was just supposed to play his part—the heavy, the man of the world, around whose conviction the others could organize. But honestly, this was just embarrassing.
“Have none of you an ounce of wit or creativity?” he snapped, startling the perfumed lords with his intensity. “Can you think of no other way to save a man’s life than to spill the details of the entire plot to him?” He could have chosen to live as a lord in a fine manor, but obviously it would have made his brain go soft. “You, you want to save Lord Monteagle?” he accused Tresham. “Hire a ruffian to accost him the night before! Break his leg so he is laid up in bed, and cannot attend the session of Parliament.”
Tresham grimaced. “That’s rather violent,” he observed, and no one seemed to find this ironic except Guy.
“Well, that’s a good idea,” Catesby allowed cautiously. “But see here, we can’t have all the Catholics get broken legs right before a Parliament session. People will notice.”
Apparently Guy was going to have to do all the thinking here. “Invite one over to dinner and feed him bad meat!” he suggested. “If your man has family out of town, send him an urgent note that an accident has befallen his wife or child, and he must rush to their side!”
“Perhaps,” Tresham said excitedly, “I could invite Lord Monteagle to my estate for pheasant hunting during the Parliament session!”
He clearly thought this was a clever alternative, and sadly, so did some of the others. Guy wanted to bang his head against something. “He’s not going to agree to skip a Parliament session for pheasant hunting!” he snapped.
“Well, he might,” Tresham insisted stubbornly, and the others nodded.
Guy rubbed his eyes tiredly and wondered if this was the result of some kind of immutable destiny, that stacked the deck against him whenever he tried to change the set outcome. He really needed a new line of work.
He was on the street when he felt it, the tingle he had been waiting for so long, that he was overjoyed to feel even though the timing was a little tricky. He tried to be cool as he looked around the market square; when his eyes locked with familiar blue ones, above freckles and full lips, Guy did not stride straight for him, knocking all others aside. He nodded, then jerked his head to the side, indicating an alehouse. The other man nodded in return, and drifted away, materializing a few minutes later at Guy’s table, as if by chance.
He smiled readily as he sat down. “Finally! You’re quite hard to track,” he complained good-naturedly. “William Bendix.”
“John Johnson,” Guy introduced, and William/Xylos grinned.
“No, not really,” Guy said briskly, looking around. There were eyes and ears everywhere. “Listen, I’m in the middle of something—“
He silenced himself as a barmaid appeared. “Two ales, gentlemen?” she presumed. They had a limited menu.
“No,” Guy said, standing. “Just a room.”
She shrugged. “Top of the stairs.”
He gave her a few extra coins—enough to keep her mouth shut, without raising her suspicions—and hurried up the stairs, William waiting behind for a few minutes to put some distance between them. Roman sealed the room against eavesdroppers and grabbed Xylos as soon as he’d shut the door behind himself, kissing him hungrily. There was nothing sweeter in this universe, or any other, than that first kiss.
But then there were other things to consider.
“Your timing could have been better,” Roman noted.
“Sorry,” Xylos replied, insincerely. “You could have moved around less, I’ve been tracking you across half the battlefields of Europe.” That was not what Roman needed to talk about. “What are you in the middle of?” Xylos asked with a frown.
“I’m part of a treasonous conspiracy,” Roman admitted. He knew Xylos wasn’t going to like this. “We’re plotting to blow up the King and Parliament.”
In response, Xylos laughed. “Blow up Parliament?” he repeated. “Who do you think you are, Guy Fawkes?” Roman gave him a look, and Xylos’s face immediately fell. “Oh, s—t.”
“You’re—you’re Guy Fawkes?” he hissed in a low voice.
“I’ve sealed the room—“ Roman assured him.
“You can’t be Guy Fawkes!” Xylos asserted more loudly, becoming agitated. “Guy Fawkes never wins!”
“Well I can see why!” Roman complained. “My co-conspirators are a bunch of glory-hound amateurs! They bought the gunpowder and rented a room beneath Parliament using their own names! I mean, it’s not like they ask for ID here—“
“Roman—“ Xylos tried to interrupt.
“I’m the professional, right?” he went on anyway. He couldn’t rant to anyone else. “I tell them to stay away from drink—secretly they’re alcoholics. I tell them to stay away from women—they start f-----g Royalist spies! They can’t even remember to use my g-----n alias—“
Xylos stopped him bodily. “Guy Fawkes gets captured, tortured, and executed,” he stated soberly, his voice shaking slightly. “I’ve never heard of him succeeding. Please, we have to leave here—“
He seemed to think it was going to be difficult to convince Roman to join him. But having just enumerated all the reasons why this conspiracy deserved to fail, he suddenly wondered why he was bothering to waste his time on these morons when the man he loved, had been waiting for, was standing right in front of him.
“You’re right,” Roman agreed. “Let’s get out of here. They’ll f—k it up anyway.”
Xylos blinked in surprise. “Really? You’re going to leave?”
“Yes,” Roman stated definitively. “How about the Dutch East Indies? We can lie on a beach and drink rum.”
Xylos burst into a grin, a dazzling sight. “Alright. Anywhere, with you.”
“Come on, let’s go commandeer a ship or something,” Roman decided, taking his hand. “Did I tell you how they wanted to warn some members of Parliament…”