Beneath Scottish Skies

by Kass

Like a hobbit, I'm celebrating my birthday by giving a mathom to fandom! Thanks to Sihaya Black for beta.

Mac gets into the habit, early, of claiming blithely that he's planning a trip for his fiftieth. The first time he says it, it's a lie, a convenient way to get out of being invited to Bill's place on LBJ for a boring weekend of drinking too much and watching other people waterski, but by the third or fourth time he's answered the question, he's starting to believe it himself.

"Oh, honey, that's great," Louisa gushes, and he can tell she's relieved that he isn't making any noises about inviting her along. He thinks about saying 'don't flatter yourself, sweetheart,' but he doesn't. Somehow having his date walk out on him is less appealing than it used to be. Even though he can tell this one isn't going anywhere, either. What else is new.

He's intentionally vague whenever anyone -- colleague, boss, ex-girlfriend, cocktail waitress -- asks where he's planning to go. "On a cruise," his secretary guesses, and he smiles noncommittally.

Late at night, he stares at his computer. He tosses back two shots of Glenfiddich before opening his web browser. Air miles aren't the issue; he could go to Australia for free if he wanted to. But he doesn't.

Of course the inn has a website now. "Best fish & chips in Ferness," it says. "Free wifi in all rooms!"

Free wifi. Mac thinks of the red phone booth, of the streaks left by shooting stars against the dome of the sky, and feels a pang.

The website doesn't say anything about the inn's ownership. It's been fifteen years. He has no reason to imagine that they're still running the place. He has no reason to imagine they're even still there.

His heart shouldn't be pounding when he books the room, but it is. He ignores it. If there's one thing Mac is good at, it's ignoring the things he isn't supposed to feel.

The flight is unremarkable: he rifles through the in-flight magazine, fails to read the paperback book he stuffed into his briefcase, stares out the window a lot. It's strange not to be traveling for business, for a change. He's wearing khakis and a sweater. He didn't even pack a tie.

When he clears security, he makes his way over to the man with the "MacINTYRE" sign. They pick up his bag, make a bit of polite chit-chat, and then Mac falls asleep in the car. When he wakes, they're rounding the vertiginous corners into Ferness.

It's changed. It's smaller than he remembered.

Has it changed? Maybe the streets were always this narrow. He thinks the businesses mostly have new coats of paint, but of course they would; it's been fifteen years. Now there are SmartCars parked in the lanes along with the mopeds. He can't help smiling a little at the sight. Nobody's driving those back home. Two bucks a gallon for gas, and the streets are still full of Suburbans.

Despite the clouds, the day is too bright for his tender underslept eyes. He puts on sunglasses, as though he were hungover, as though he were a rock star.

The hotel looks the same from the outside. When he enters, he fumbles with his sunglasses. When he looks up, there's Gordon, coming out from behind the front desk. For an instant Mac can't breathe.

Gordon's hair is mostly silver-grey now, and cropped shorter than it used to be. His eyebrows are still dark, and his eyes hold the same probing intensity Mac remembers.

"Plenty of MacIntyres in Scotland, but I knew that booking had to be you," Gordon says, smiling so widely Mac can't help grinning back. "Put that bag down." Mac does, and Gordon envelops him in a strong hug. It lasts a little bit longer than it probably should. Or maybe not; Gordon's European, people do things differently over here. Anyway, it feels too good to stop.

And yes, seeing Gordon again confirms the theory Mac unspooled with his therapist several years ago -- that his fumbling and ultimately unsuccessful attempts to pick up men were rooted right here, in the play of muscles across Gordon's shoulders, the beacon of his earnestness, the sly quirk of his smile. Mac pushes that thought out of his head as fast as he possibly can.

"Wait 'til Stella sees you," Gordon says when they pull back, and he reaches for Mac's suitcase, batting his hands away when he tries to pick it up himself. "She'll be home later. Can we steal you for dinner?"

"Steal me?" Mac knows he's sporting a goofy smile, but he can't bring himself to care. "Sure, I guess. I don't exactly have plans." He's following Gordon down the hallway and almost runs into him when he stops.

"Best room in the house," Gordon quips, opening the door. Mac's pretty sure it's the same room he stayed in last time.

It doesn't look any different at all. Queen-sized bed, blue coverlet, dark wooden headboard. On the bedside table there's a little placard explaining how to log on to the hotel wireless. Also a pile of brochures; that's new, they hadn't had those last time. Mac picks up the glossy one labeled "Happer Marine Institute."

"Don't suppose you told Danny and Marina you were coming," Gordon says.

Mac grimaces. "I'm not great at staying in touch."

"Oh?" Gordon manages to say it with a straight face, but there's still a smile in his eyes. Then, forestalling whatever Mac's about to say, he waves a hand. "No worries. We'll call them tomorrow."

There's a pause. Mac isn't sure whether to look at Gordon, or at his suitcase, or out the window.

"Relax, settle in, walk on the beach," Gordon suggests. "Dinner at seven?"

"Sure -- are you" Mac asks.

"Moved across the street," Gordon says. "We've a commute now."

"All the way across the street, that's impressive." Mac thinks of his early morning drive to work, the freeways under humid Houston fog.

"Knock on our door at seven," Gordon offers, and closes the door behind him.

Unpacking doesn't take long. Mac looks at his laptop, then leaves it on the bedside table unopened.

He still remembers the way to the shore. No one could miss it, anyway; the road slopes naturally toward the harbor. He can see the Happer Institute at one end of the beach, all steel beams and bright glass, but he isn't ready for that; he walks the other way, tries to pretend it isn't there.

It's high summer in Scotland. In other words, bright, windy, and cool. He sees a young couple walking together, a couple of families whose small children are playing with pails and shovels in the sand. No one he recognizes. He's oddly disappointed not to see the figures he's visualized so many times in memory -- Mohawk Girl, or the old guy who always seemed to be repainting his boat. The old guy might be dead now. There's a depressing thought.

Mac does his best to shake it off. Tries to remember how it felt to be thirty-six, before his back bothered him or his knees learned to ache. At least he's been good about going to the health club. The walk back up to the hotel doesn't wind him. He showers, shaves, dresses, and then spends fifteen minutes fidgeting and failing to read Breakpoint.

The evenings are long here, much longer than back home. It's still broad daylight when he walks across the street. The small brass nameplate beside the door reads "G & S Urquhart." Before he can knock on the door, it's opening, and there's Stella.

Her hair is pulled back into a ponytail, shot through with threads of silver. There are laugh wrinkles around her eyes. She's wearing bluejeans, low around her hips, and a soft maroon corduroy shirt. She is still the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.

"Mac," she says, by way of greeting, and pulls him into a tight, sweet hug.

"I feel like the prodigal son," he quips against her shoulder. "A guy could get used to this."

"Dinner's almost ready," Gordon calls from somewhere else -- upstairs? "Have a drink."

"Don't mind if I do," Mac admits. Stella leads him into the foyer and up the stairs to a kind of livingroom, he supposes. There's a breakfast nook at the far end, by the windows. He can hear the sounds of utensils clattering and something on the stove hissing: kitchen's nearby, then.

"Slainte," Stella says, materializing by his elbow with two fat rocks glasses, though there's no ice in these -- the whiskey is neat. There's a good few fingers of scotch in each. They tip glasses and sip. He can't identify the whiskey, but he can tell it's the good stuff.

When Gordon appears, he's wearing a black apron that says "Kiss the Chef." His sleeves are rolled up, his hair is mussed from the steam, and he looks amazing. Mac's glad to have a drink in his hand; if his face is flushed, he can blame it on the booze, right?

"Pasta, salad, langoustines, bottle of wine," Gordon announces, and with a flourish shepherds them toward the table.

Mac has surprisingly little to report: another fifteen years climbing the Knox ladder, promotions, new cars, relationships inevitably gone sour. Gordon and Stella don't seem surprised by that, but neither do they seem disappointed in him, which begins to unravel the tight knot of worry he hadn't even realized he was ignoring.

"So when'd you move?" Mac asks, in between bites.

"Two, maybe three years after you were here?" Stella looks at Gordon for confirmation, and he nods.

"Decided we could afford something a bit nicer," Gordon adds, then flashes him a grin. "Thanks to Knox and your Mr. Happer."

"Yeah, I'll bet." Nothing in this place is ostentatious, but Mac can tell the furniture cost money.

"We were already living here when I started going to Aberdeen," Stella recalls. Then, seeing in Mac's eyes that he doesn't know, "I went back to university. Just two days a week, and it took a few years, but I have a master's in social work now."

Mac can totally see Stella as a social worker. Her warmth, her desire to put people at ease. "I'll bet you're amazing at it," he says, and means it. The smile she gives him in return makes his knees weak.

There's no evidence of a child, or children. He's not always the brightest bulb in the chandelier when it comes to relationship questions, but even he knows not to bring that one up until they do. And they don't. So neither does he.

After dinner, they settle onto the sofas for a postprandial nip. The food and the conversation and the alcohol have warmed him, mellowed him; he's not sure he's laughed this much in years. A companionable silence settles for a few moments, and then Gordon breaks it.

"Mac," he says.

"Gordon." Mac waits to hear whatever wisdom Gordon is going to produce. He's a good man, Gordon. He's got everything going right. Whatever he's going to advise, Mac is pretty sure he should do it.

"Apparently you're a bit too thick to respond to subtlety," Gordon begins, whereupon Stella elbows him. "Oi! You said I could do this," he says, turning to her, and they both look on the verge of laughter. Mac feels himself smiling, too, even though he isn't sure why.

"Last time you were here," Stella breaks in. "There was something you wanted."

"Something I--" And then Mac gets it, all in a flash. They knew. "Oh, God. Look. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to --"

He's half-drunk and he can't make his brain work, can't figure out the right thing to say. He's looking at his hands, his shoes, the floor, anything to avoid their eyes. Could anything be more embarrassing? And what was he thinking, anyway, coming back here like this?

"If it's still something you want," Stella says gently, and that brings him up short. He isn't sure he can speak. He looks up at her, mutely, and she just sits there, smiling at him, waiting for him to catch up.

He remembers dancing with her at the ceilidh. Her small breasts pressed to his chest, her hips fitting with his. He remembers leaning against Gordon at the bar that night, tipping back another scotch and wanting so desperately to ask for what he knew he couldn't have, couldn't be. Even back in his room, that night, he hadn't been sure what to think about when he took himself in hand: dropping to his knees in front of Gordon? Burying his face in Stella's breasts? He'd fallen asleep before he could masturbate anyway, too drunk to get it up.

He drags his eyes over to Gordon, who is leaning back at his end of the sofa, posture relaxed and easy, a little smile playing over his lips. Makes Mac want to crawl over there and lick it away. He looks confident, nonchalant, as though they do this all the time. For all Mac knows, maybe they do.

"Gordon?" Mac's voice doesn't quite break, but it's a near thing.

Gordon spreads his hands in an elaborate shrug. "The missus makes the decisions." His eyes add, she decided we could bring you home.

"Is that how it is," Mac says.

"'Tis," Gordon agrees, and now his eyes are laughing. Waiting to see if Mac will take up the challenge, or if he'll walk away.

He doesn't know what he's going to say until the words come out of his mouth. "Well, then," Mac says. "Wouldn't want to disappoint the missus."

Gordon grins. "Smart man," he says, and rises, and offers Mac a hand.

There's a moment of self-consciousness when he's stripping his shirt and sweater off. He works out, sure, but he knows he's put on a few pounds. He's not as good-looking as he was in his thirties. He spares a moment to be grateful that the room is mostly shadows -- just one bedside lamp, and it's dark enough now that light isn't spilling in through the window.

But Gordon and Stella don't seem to mind that his body has changed. She runs her hands over his chest and twines them behind his shoulders, and when they kiss, her lace-clad breasts feel incredible brushing against his chest. He hears the shush and clink of Gordon's pants and belt hitting the floor, then feels big warm hands at his own waistline, unfastening and tugging. It's hard to focus on stepping out of his khakis while he's kissing another man's wife.

He's pretty sure they didn't have a king-sized bed back at the hotel in the 80s. They couldn't have gotten one up the stairs, probably. Come to think of it, he's not sure how they got one in here, not that he really cares.

Stella breaks the kiss. "What do you want?"

"Everything," Mac says. How could he begin to narrow it down? Anything they'll give him, he wants to have. He feels as though he's been thirsty for this for years.

"I think that can be arranged." Gordon's right behind him; his voice is low and his tone is suggestive. And then he bites the back of Mac's neck, right where his neck meets shoulder, and Mac gasps, already getting hard. "Stel?"

"Can you wait?" she says to Gordon, and -- apparently satisfied with his nonverbal reply -- toes off her jeans and climbs onto the bed, giving Mac a come-hither look. Mac follows, his head spinning. Her panties are sheer, black, edged with lace. The kind of panties a woman wears when she's hoping to get laid.

Did she know, this morning when she got dressed, that she might be seeing him tonight? Or maybe she put these on for Gordon this morning. Either way, the thought just makes him harder.

He pulls the scrap of fabric down and away and she opens her legs, inviting. "God," he mutters, not even caring that it's a cliché, and slides a finger inside. She groans, arches, murmurs yes. He wants to fuck her more than he has ever wanted anything in his entire life.

"Gordon," he manages, "are you sure--" Because this would be one hell of a misunderstanding.

"Not up to me," Gordon points out. His voice sounds slightly choked; Mac spares him a glance and then has to clutch at his own dick for a second to get himself under control, because Gordon is lying on the bed beside them, one arm pillowed behind his head, the other hand stroking himself idly. His hand on his erection is mesmerizing. He looks like a centerfold. "Don't worry about me, Mac. I'm good."

"Okay, then," Mac says, and bends for a taste. Because once he gets his dick involved, he isn't going to last very long, and after all these years of waiting, he wants to savor it a while.

By the time Mac starts fucking her in earnest, they're both on the razor's-edge from the delicious stretch of foreplay.

Stella's orgasm is spectacular. She clenches, squirming beneath him, her face and breasts beautifully flushed. Mac comes, too, shuddering and jerking inside her. It's a long moment before he pulls out and rolls over, breathing hard, grinning at the ceiling with his eyes closed.

"I didn't entirely think this through." Gordon's voice is low and intent beside him. He'd better not be having second thoughts. Mac steels himself and opens his eyes. To his relief, Gordon doesn't look angry -- he looks wrecked: his dick hard, his pupils blown, his nipples tight brown points against the greying hair of his chest. "I'd like to fuck you, Mac, but I don't think I can hold on that long."

As a younger man -- a younger and stupider man -- Mac would have puffed out his chest and told him to go for it. He could take it, right? Who cared if they were in a rush and there was a little pain involved. But this time, he says, "how about if I suck you now, and you can fuck me tomorrow."

"I like the way you think," Gordon says, and Stella makes a little "mhm" sound of approval. Gordon leans back, offering himself up.

'Be my guest,' Mac thinks, and has to stifle a laugh as he licks his lips and goes down. He hasn't done this in a very long time, and he doesn't remember liking it this much the last time. Gordon is sighing appreciatively, pushing up into his mouth but not fucking his face.

Then Stella suggests "play with his balls; he likes that."

"Stella," Gordon objects -- as though her saying that were somehow any more intimate than actually having his dick in Mac's mouth? -- but when Mac tries it, Gordon jerks up, whole body going taut. Mac's never been that into having anybody fondle him there, but clearly Gordon is, and actually, the fact that Gordon is so close to the edge is really doing something for him. Mac tries pressing a little harder, rubbing more with the hand that isn't holding Gordon's dick steady, and Gordon chokes back something wordless and spills in his mouth.

Mac swallows a little, coughs a little, tries hard not to scrape him with teeth as he pulls away. Okay, he could use some practice on that part, not that Gordon seems to be objecting.

"Thanks," he says to Stella, because it seems like the thing to say.

"My pleasure," she says, quirking an eyebrow at him, and that makes them both crack up.

"Shut it," Gordon says, his eyes closed now. "Give a man some peace."

Is that his cue to depart? Before Mac can begin to worry about that, Stella reaches down to the foot of the bed and tugs up the coverlet, draping it loosely over all three of them before turning out her bedside lamp. Mac's in the middle. The bed is big, but not so big you could forget you're sharing it with two other grown adults. In the dark, he feels Stella turning on her side and nestling against him. On his other side, Gordon's hand quests for his, blindly, and grips it hard, not a handshake so much as a handclasp. An embrace.

"My clothes are at the hotel," Mac objects, some long minutes later.

"We'll pick them up in the morning," Gordon promises. "Get some sleep."

Mac closes his eyes. Imagines the heavens over their roof, the way the aurora looked. He falls asleep to the mental image of shooting stars streaking across the sky, taking him with them, taking him home.

The End