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Escape Plans

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Tulio gasped. "You cheated on me with ... her?"

Miguel gasped right back - not a perfect copy, mind; they were professionals, after all. Rather, there was a kind of harmony, a perfect balance.

Like when they'd be in bed, later today (much later today, and considerably richer as well) and Tulio would breathe out at the same time Miguel breathed out and Tulio would think one-hundred-and-twenty-three pieces of gold, knowing that Miguel was probably thinking of something completely and utterly different, but it wouldn't matter because they were both there and -

"Absurd! You're the one who cheated on me! With ... with ... "

Tulio narrowed his eyes. "With who?"

Miguel's eyes lit up - never a good sign. "With him!" He pointed.

Not, alas, at some innocent bystander who might possess the unlikely good sense to run away really fast, thus providing them with the perfect excuse to follow suit, saying adios to their would-be assailants in the process.

"That's a horse," Tulio said. "Are you suggesting I ... with a horse?"

"Petting," Miguel said. "There was definite petting. And ... and apple feeding. I saw you! Now, behold, as I skewer your cheating heart with my rapier, as you so richly deserve."

"This is a joke, right?"

Chel raised her hand. "I saw him."

"A-ha! I knew it!"

Altivo snorted, which was the first sensible thing anyone had said for the past five minutes, as far as Tulio was concerned. Unfortunately, people tended not to listen to horses.

"You petted my horse!" Miguel said. "What could you possibly have to say for yourself, you scoundrel?"

"Um. Am I seriously the only one who thinks this is kind of, well, silly?" Tulio asked, looking around.

"Hey," Chel said. "These lips right here kissed the lips that kissed yours. That doesn't bother you?"

"Actually, I - " think it's kind of a turn-on. No! Focus, Tulio!

"En garde, you villain!"


"Ugh," said Tulio, two hours, fourteen extremely aggressive chickens and a couple of merely mildly violent cows later. He wasn't sure if he'd ever get the taste of feathers out of his mouth.

At least they'd found an inn where the beds were nice and soft. Also: outrageously expensive, but then, that went without saying. The only inns that were cheap were the ones where people might try to rob you in your sleep - the height of cowardness, in Tulio's humble opinion, and terribly inconvenient besides, given that people generally stayed in an inn to get some well-deserved sleep.

"Yeah," Chel said. "I think maybe that needs a bit more preparation next time, hm?" She looked, Tulio thought, like someone a man would definitely cheat on his horse with.

Which reminded him ... "So, Miguel. You - "

"Honestly? I think it went perfectly fine." Miguel beamed at both of them.

"Just because it worked this one time, that doesn't mean - "

"Oh, all right. Next time, you can cheat with Chel and I'll feed apples to Altivo. There. Happy now? I hope you are. Because, really, Tulio, I don't see what all this fuss is about."


Tulio did know what it was all about, of course. He always did. He was the man with a plan, after all.

Or, actually, he was the man with many plans. Many, many plans. In fact, if he got a piece of gold every time he concocted a brilliant plan, why, he'd have been filthy rich.

"The horse needs to go," he said.

"I dare you to go down to the stables and say that to his face," Miguel said. "Now, stop hogging the blankets, will you? My feet are getting cold."

"Can you two idiots shut up? I need my beauty sleep over here."

"No, you don't," said Miguel, beating Tulio to it by the merest fraction of a second. "Chel. My dear Chel. You already are the most beautiful woman in all of Spain. Quite possibly the world."


"And you're not exactly dumb, either," Tulio added, spotting a chance. "In fact, you're the opposite of dumb."

"That's sweet."

"And we're really, really sorry that you fell," Miguel said. "In the mud. Wearing that lovely new dress of yours. It was an accident."

"You tripped me."

Tulio considered pointing out that Miguel had been the one to trip her, not him - never him, perish the thought, no. Then he considered Miguel making The Face at him for the rest of his life.

"We'd love a chance to make it up to you," he said.

"All right."

"In fact," Miguel said, and even though the room was pitch dark, Tulio knew his eyes had just lit up again. "In fact, we'd love a chance to make it up to you right here, right now. What do you say? Because honestly, Chel, the sort of things Tulio can do with his - "

Tulio kicked him. Miguel, predictably, kicked back, which, while yes, predictable, was still completely uncalled for, so Tulio felt it was entirely justified for him to kick Miguel another time.

"Night, guys," Chel said.


"Do not, I beg you," said Miguel, "make me choose between the two of you."

"Choose?" Tulio replied. "No, no, good sir. I do not expect you to choose."

Miguel frowned at him. "You don't?"

"Not at all," Tulio said, glancing at Chel as he drew his weapon. "I only expect you to die."

"Well. But we must all die eventually, don't we? And so it's perfectly reasonable for you to expect me to die one day. Please allow me to say that I return the expectation - with the greatest affection, it goes without saying."

"You misunderstand me. Completely. Possibly because you're an idiot." Chel winced; not a good sign.

"I am an idiot," Miguel agreed. "An idiot who believed your feelings for me were ever sincere."

"You misunderstand me again," Tulio said. He was beginning to feel a bit silly for being the only one who had his sword out. They should have been destroying randoms bits of ugly and unwanted furniture by now while making their way towards their escape route.

"Hey," Chel said. "Why fight, huh? I'm sure I'm woman enough for the both of you."

"Ah," said Miguel. "But is he man enough for the both of us? That is the question you should be asking."

Tulio sheathed his sword and stepped forwards until he and Miguel were almost nose to nose. "Is that so?"

Miguel glared at him. It was the least intimidating glare Tulio had ever seen. "I have said it, have I not?"

Their audience, Tulio thought bitterly, was not cooperating in the slightest. No cat-calls, no anatomically undesirable suggestions - no obvious suggestions they might grab as a perfect reason to hightail it out of here before several someones might realize their purses had grown remarkably light over the past half hour ... why, he might almost go so far as to say the situation was getting a little desperate.

And then Miguel kissed him, and that was it for thinking for the next ten seconds.

"I am - " Tulio started saying, except that then Chel kissed him, so yeah.

"What's wrong with these people?" Chel whispered, a couple of breathless minutes later. "I mean, seriously? Nobody's yelling at us to get a room?"

"I could yell we need to get a room," Miguel whispered back.

"All right," Tulio said. "So here's the plan. First, we - "


"So how come your plans always seem to involve getting away from people really fast, huh?" Chel asked. Altivo snorted, which was a bit rude - especially given that Tulio had only allowed him to come because Miguel would have made The Face at him if he hadn't.

"Ooh, I know this one," Miguel said. "Can I? Can I?"

Tulio shrugged. "Look," he said to Chel, "know how some people will make this elaborate plan to break in somewhere, get past the guards, the dogs and all the booby traps? How they'll have thought of absolutely everything?"


"Well, I think that unless you've got a good way to get away, it's not a plan. It's just a way to get yourself in trouble. And who wants that?"

"Right," Chel said. "Not like you guys need a plan to accomplish that, is it?"

"Tulio always makes the plans," Miguel said.

"You know what? I think tonight's plan is that I sleep alone."

"Touchy, touchy."

"No touchy," Tulio said, scowling. "You want to complain about my plans, you can do it by yourself."

"By myself ... with Miguel, you mean. I'm sure I'll be able to think of a way to not feel so terribly alone without you there to keep me company."


"You know what, maybe we should stop arguing with her," Miguel said. "I mean, we never win, do we?"

"You're going to be sleeping with her tonight. In the same bed, even. How is that not winning?"

"Ah. Well. I suppose I hadn't quite looked at it like that."

"Besides, my next plan's going to make us all rich. You'll see. It'll be brilliant."