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The Book II

Title: The Book II
Author: Derien
Date: 2005-02-23.
Fandom: P.G. Wodehouse.
Summary: Psmith returns from infirmary with his bad ankle and needs help hobbling around. Mike is feeling a little awkward about knowing things he shouldn't.
Word count: 846.
Notes: Sequel to The Book. Set just after the end of "Mike." They have the bulk of their last year at Sedleigh to go through before going on to college, making them about seventeen. I hope that this is going somewhere, but each one is fun to write. Britpicking and any other criticisms highly encouraged - I'm always surprised at the silly things I miss when I'm writing.
Disclaimer: Mike and Psmith belong wholly to Wodehouse; their actions in this story belong wholly to me.

* * *

The next morning Psmith turned up at breakfast, hobbling around with a crutch and splint and decked out in a pair of ridiculously large, light blue, pyjama bottoms with wide legs. Back at their dormitory he waved off the solicitous queries of their roommate, Jellicoe, with an airy hand, sending him off to forms with a blithe comment that it was really nothing and he would be back to bowling in no time, and made himself comfortable on his bed while Mike fetched him a fresh shirt. Mike, of course, put aside without a second thought any worries about being late to class. It was obvious that Psmith wasn't going to be able to carry his own books, and if that wasn't a good enough excuse to be late he couldn't imagine what would be. The theme this morning to Psmith's usual running monologue was his observations on infirmary and Matron, but Mike increasingly lost the thread, as, with Psmith now here in his presence again, he found his thoughts unerringly drawn to the book which he had found the night before. He wanted to know more, he wanted to ask questions, but he had no idea what sort of questions, and he was all too aware that he had intruded on something private, that he already had more information than he should. He wished he'd had the sense to mind his own business, perhaps taking a clue from the fact that the book had been hidden - that seemed so obvious in retrospect, but he hadn't even realized at the time that it had been purposely hidden. He had assumed it was an accident that the book had been shoved to the back of the cabinet and the scarf tossed in front of it. Meanwhile Psmith removed jacket, waistcoat and shirt. Mike tore his gaze away from the hand working at the buttons and interrupted to ask which books Psmith needed for the day.

"The workbook third from left and - Oh, dash it! - the maths, which I left in our study."

Accordingly, they stopped at the study on their way. As Mike turned the knob, Psmith noted that it wasn't locked.

"Well, I couldn't lock it, could I? You had the key in your pocket."

"So I did!"

"I'm sure everything's fine. I was here all the evening and everything looks just as it did when I left."

Psmith lowered himself into a chair. "I don't suppose you'd be up to fetching me a sip of water? I'm parched."

"We're going to be awfully late to first form," Mike observed, but went directly.

On his return Psmith took a little water, but set the cup down before it was half empty, and observed that it seemed someone might have been into the cabinet.

"That may have been me," Mike volunteered. He didn't want to lie, and he didn't want Psmith to worry about any of the other boys having seen his book.

"You burrowed around in the cabinet? Why?"

Mike shrugged. "I was a bit bored with you gone."

"And did you find anything to interest you?"

"Only your moldy old book. But you know I don't read Greek nearly as well as you do." He prayed Psmith would let it lie at that and accept the misdirection; he never liked to lie to save himself, but this was a matter of leaving Psmith a graceful way to keep his privacy. "I wish I did," he added, and then wondered why he had added those words.

Psmith regarded him for a moment with half-lidded eyes, then gave a small nod. "You will improve with practice, if you will only apply yourself. Of course some people have more of a gift for languages - it comes with the gift of gab, I suppose, for I have always found talking to be my greatest strength. You, on the other hand, are more a man of action. it's why we compliment each other. I talk, you listen; I think, you do."

"Makes me sound a bit like your servant."

"Not at all! You are true and noble, as the knights of old. Pure of heart and sound of limb."

"Rot. At any rate, we've missed half of first form by now and we'll catch it; we'd better hobble on."

"You cut to the quick of the matter, as always. Proving my point!"

He levered himself to his feet, wincing a little.

"Does it hurt you much?" Mike asked.

"Not terribly. More painful is being seen about in these frightful trousers. I shall never live them down."

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