This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. To top of Derien's Trivial Little Place
Title: The Book III
Fandom: P.G. Wodehouse
Pairing: Mike Jackson / Ronald Psmith
Summary: Psmith is still on crutches, Mike is trying to distract him from the frustration.
Disclaimer: Mike and Psmith belong wholly to Wodehouse; their actions in this story belong wholly to me.
Notes: Sequels 'The Book' and 'The Book II.' Set just after the end of "Mike and Psmith." They are about seventeen, I guess. For Tootsiemuppet, with thanks for poking me with a pointy stick.;)
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Over the next several days Mike automatically took the role of fetching and carrying for Psmith while his ankle was in the splint. It was not a great increase in his duties from what Psmith normally managed to exact from the always amiable and helpful Mike, but, with the turmoil which had been excited in Mike's mind by the discovery of the book, he noticed each request just a bit more than he had before. He noticed the exact inflection to Psmith's voice when he said, "Comrade Jackson, would you be so kind as to fix some tea?" Gentlemanly to everyone, he was somehow an extra ounce warmer to Mike. Even more, Mike noticed the warm rush through his body when he brushed against Psmith or even stood too near, disconcerting but not unpleasant. This dreary, rainy afternoon as he presented Psmith his cup of tea Mike contrived, as he had been wont to do more and more often, lately, to brush their hands together. He thought, as he did so, it must be clumsy and obvious, but Psmith seemed to give it barely any notice, beyond a flicker of an eye and a possible slight hitch in his running monologue.
Psmith was not in his best humor since spraining his ankle, although, as he controlled or hid his frustrations as smoothly as he did all stronger emotions with his light manner, it may not have been noticeable to anyone else. Mike guessed that it galled him to have his customary grace stolen from him, though he remained more graceful on crutches than many an whole and able-bodied person.
Now Psmith and Mike settled with their tea to their various studies, and for a while little was to be heard beyond the arrhythmic drip of the rain off the eaves, but shortly Psmith sighed and stretched his leg out, rubbing the calf.
"Could you be so kind, Comrade Jackson, as to fetch that chair over?"
He propped himself sideways at his desk, leg supported by the extra chair, and went back to work on his maths. Mike sat back down at his own desk and stared at the Greek, which tormented him, and then out the window at the dismal greyness.
Mike had known from the moment of their first conversation that Psmith was like no-one he had ever met before, yet that had only been a few months ago. A few months can seem close to a lifetime at the age Mike was, but the several years which Mike had spent before that without any particularly close friend seemed like nearly an eternity in comparison. Mike was the sort of person, who, although he always knew a lot of people, did not form close friendships easily. He had quickly developed a strong affection for his dormmate at Wrykyn; Wright had been several years older, and then had managed to get himself expelled before long, so that Mike hadn't had the opportunity to get to know him as well as he would have hoped. Mike had prevailed upon his father to secure Wright a place at the sheep ranch in Buenos Aires which Mr. Jackson owned a part interest in, and had received a letter from Wright which assured Mike that he was certainly much happier with that position than he had been with the banking job which his stepfather had put him into, which gladdened Mike's heart. However, writing letters was not Mike's strong suit. He had set his pen to paper on several occasions, but would crumple each false start in frustration feeling a frightful kid when all he could find to write about was cricket and classes. Soon he gave it up as a lost cause, and, although he still thought of Wright nearly every day and wished him well, he realized that he would probably never see him again. The loss of Wright had been a wrench to him, and he didn't become that strongly attached to any other boy in his next two years at Wrykyn.
And then had come Psmith, giving the impression that he was used to the courting of hundreds yet choosing out Mike as his special confidant. Mike had grown somewhat used to being a little lonely, and was disinclined to open himself up to another loss, but Psmith had attached to him as a constant companion, and proved his loyalty with his willingness to take the blame for the painted dog, when it had seemed Mike could not avoid being sent down from school for the offense. It was something much more than gratitude that Mike felt for Psmith after that occasion. He felt that it had given him the opportunity to view something in Psmith which wasn't normally on public display; a depth of loyalty which would be given only to certain people, the bestowing of which marked Mike out as special to Psmith.
Coming after all that, to now have this little bit of extra knowledge about Psmith concerning the mysterious but hitherto overlooked book, it was enough to make anyone wonder. Mike, not comfortable with words, knew he was not up to making a verbal foray in an attempt to learn more about this hidden side of Psmith, but he was watching and observing and turning it all over in his mind during these past few days, and it seemed to him there might be a better way than asking straightforward questions. Certainly they could both use a distraction today - he had barely touched his translation, and Psmith had opened his sketchbook next to his maths.
Psmith took the sketchbook along when he sat on the sidelines of the cricket games Mike played for the village, doing sketches of the players. Mike had seen a few, and they were fairly decent. He had always known that he featured rather more highly in these sketches than anyone else on the team, but that was only to be expected given that they were schoolmates and friends, while the other members of the team were all from the village and mostly unknown to either of them outside of the cricket field. Now he stood and moved over to Psmith's desk, and Psmith flipped the maths page over the sketchbook quite casually.
"I wanted to see what you were drawing."
Psmith looked up with a gently arching brow. "Drawing?"
"Don't say you weren't. I'm sure you weren't doing maths." He flipped the paper aside, and Psmith did not stop him, but met his eyes steadily when he looked up from the drawing of his own face, probably done while he was daydreaming only minutes before. His throat felt close and his tongue was thick, and his voice came out much gruffer than he intended.
"Wish I'd known I had such an idiot expression."
"Far from it. Your face was full of fine feeling. I was unable to capture it."
"Delighted as I always am to have your invaluable criticism, I cannot help but wonder if there were some reason why you interrupted my studies?"
"I was going to ask if you could help me with my Greek."
"Any time, my dear Comrade. What passage was giving you difficulty?"
"I'm bored to death of it all. Listen, perhaps you could read to me from that book you find so interesting? Maybe some interesting Greek would be easier for me to understand." Although his mouth was dry Mike swallowed hard. "If I could hear you speak it, and see the words... I could sit on the desk, here, and look over your shoulder."
Psmith gave him a speculative look, and a slight, gentle smile. "Returning to the first precepts of reading. A most sound idea, Comrade Jackson. Very well, then - seat yourself on the desk above my shoulder and we shall have story time, as though we were in the nursery."
He pulled the book from the pocket of his jacket as Mike followed his command, and, opening it, asked, "Shall we have the legend of Ganymede and Zeus, first, or that of Damon and Pythias?"
"Er, Damon and Pythias?" Mike leaned over on one arm so that he could see over Psmith's shoulder to the book.
"Very well." Psmith began reading, his voice at first strong and sure, moving quickly over the sounds which clattered around Mike's head like so many small rocks. As he began to get into the rhythm of the story he slowed down a little, making it more comprehensible. Then his voice began to soften, his volume dropped a bit at a time, until Mike found himself leaning further in, trying to hear a little better, understand a little more. He was understanding perhaps seven of ten words, but he realized that the story was getting interesting. He also realized he could feel the heat of Psmith's back against his chest, and he wondered if perhaps this moment wasn't a kind of perfect place - a balance point where something might be about to happen. If he moved in any direction he might spoil it, never to be regained.
"Do you realize you are breathing down my neck?"
He hadn't realized anything of the kind. He had realized nothing else. He hadn't realized when Psmith had lapsed into silence, concentrating, as he had been, on breathing in the warm smell of the back of his neck.
It didn't matter now, though - the moment was broken and he was feeling like a fool.
"Look, ah, I was wondering if you'd have any objection..." Mike began. He felt hazy and off-balance; nothing mattered, he'd already made a fool of himself, he might as well press ahead.
Psmith turned his head, and his face was very close. He only managed to ask, "To...?" before Mike's mouth was on his, tentatively, pausing only for a moment with a quick and awkward press of lips and then moving back. "No...?" said Psmith.
Mike stared into his eyes, then found himself flushing.
"Sorry, I thought... I just thought maybe you'd like..."
"No, I would have no objection," said Psmith, reaching up to pull Mike's head close again.
He moved more surely and firmly, as hungry and eager as Mike felt and had been unable to express, nibbling and probing and pushing with his tongue. But this was a method of expression which Mike could learn. He was at a loss with words, they were not what his lips and tongue had been made for - no, they had been made for this, he now felt sure, moving together in a delicious kind of battle. Every particle of himself concentrating on the pressure and movement of lips and tongues and Psmithness filling his mouth, Mike wondered how he could have thought that anything else would be the perfect moment.