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[personal profile] greerwatson posting in [community profile] maryrenaultfics2
Title: Jeepers Creepers
Author: Greer Watson
Books: The Charioteer
Characters: Mr Jepson, Ralph Lanyon
Length: 1118 words
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters and make no profit by them.
Author's Note: For Part One, please see either the version on the [livejournal.com profile] maryrenaultfics community or the one in the The Collected ITOWverse.

He strode across the grass, looking neither left nor right, heading through the throng in search of somewhere private where he could fume uninterrupted. Sadly, he found that people—total strangers all of them—seemed to be everywhere. He headed away from the main throng; but, even in the depth of the exotic garden, he kept coming across them, chatting in twos and threes or looking singly at the display of out-of-season flowers. Finally, though, the exercise wore out his anger.

He was tempted simply to leave. However, he was also aware that Mr Reynolds, the Head, had intimated that his attendence was mandatory. It occurred to him that perhaps it would be best to follow his original course, head back to that extraordinarily gaudy tent, and indulge in some of the food on offer. Much time could be passed, if he contrived to eat sufficiently slowly—or eat more than he should (which, he had to admit would not be difficult); and he could thus busy himself with his plate, and justify, or at least seem to justify, his failure to mingle. Besides, he felt a growing internal urgency in the digestive department.

He found when he returned to the main grounds that the crowds of diners had considerably diminished. It was possible now to enter the tent directly; and the queue he joined at the ‘table de roast’ was quite reasonably short. He duly picked up tray and plate to await his turn. The man carving was turned away, speaking to the person serving the queue on the other side; and the people in front simply helped themselves to meat that was already ready on the platter. Most of this had, however, disappeared by the time Mr Jepson reached the roast; and he waited, with a slight but growing impatience. Finally, he interrupted with a cough.

The carver turned his head.

For a moment, he seemed quite unfamiliar. It had, after all, been several years since his precipitate departure from the school. Then the tilt of the head, the angle of the jaw, the line of the brow all fell into a familiar shape; and Mr Jepson recognized R. R. Lanyon.

The housemaster stifled his immediate reaction and did not speak his mind—though it must be said that he thought veritable thesauri of words to apply to the man’s presence. He simply said, “The platter is empty, I believe. Would you mind carving some more meat?”

It was Lanyon who, incredibly, had the nerve to admit to recognizing him, striding back to his place and saying, “Mr Jepson! It has been years. How’s the old school?” before picking up the carving knife and fork, flipping the guard down on the latter, and sticking it into the joint.

Mr Jepson was not always the most noticing of men. He missed the way that Lanyon’s lips were set just a bit too firm, and his grip on the cutlery was a trifle tighter than it need be. “I’m surprised you have the nerve to be here,” he said thinly. “I should have thought the likes of you would not dare to show your face, considering that so many of the guests know far too much of your past.”

Lanyon’s face hardened. “Oh, most of them know all of my past,” he said, “or at least the part that counts. Certainly, they know your part in it.”

“Indeed.”

“On the whole, I think if you were to ask around, you would find that in this company I am a rather more welcome guest here than you are.” The words were crisp; Lanyon sounded angry. Nevertheless, with the perspicacity of years of experience, Mr Jepson realized that the other man was using anger to conceal a fundamental insecurity. In ‘this company’ he might be safe among friends; but, in decent society, he would not dare be so bold.

He said as much.

“No one required you to come,” snapped back Lanyon. (Which, in Mr Jepson’s view, was not quite true; but then he could not expect a man like this to understand the niceties of hierarchy among the teaching staff.)

“I was invited,” he said simply.

“As was I.”

Yes, alas: it must be true. With the various guards dotted around the grounds it would surely be unlikely for Lanyon to be a gate-crasher. He had—they both had—invitations; and, from the perspective of their hosts, they were at least equally guests. Admittedly, that did not quite explain why Lanyon was carving the roast, which would put him more in the position of host….

“A standing invitation,” Lanyon said, irritably. “I’m one of the fairly frequent visitors here, I suppose. At any rate, as I play a rather larger role in our Book, I seem to have been conscripted into helping with the organization, at least to a degree.” He added, with a dark humour, “If you were a more popular character, you might be carving this roast yourself, you know. All you had to do was sign the duty roster. Quite a few of us volunteered. Noblesse oblige, you might say.” He turned his attention downward, and began slicing the roast.

“Noblesse be damned,” said Mr Jepson indignantly. “Nothing noble about you, Lanyon. And all the boys saw you as a hero, I’m sure. You could have been such an excellent influence on them!”

“Oh, I hope I still was,” said Lanyon, clearly emboldened by his perverse popularity in this place. He did not bother to look up, but spoke as he carved. “Despite my ultimate shortcomings—and none of us is perfect—I did strive to live up the position you placed me in.”

“Live down to it, you mean,” said Jepson. “And then left the school to live down the scandal you left in.”

“They mostly seem to have turned out all right,” said Lanyon evenly. This time he did look up; and it was a disturbingly straight look. “I think so, anyway, those of them whom I have met since then. Here or there.”

Here, perhaps,” said Mr Jepson. “Heaven knows, all sorts of people come here; and, as far as that goes, I don’t suppose you’re the worst of them. At any rate, almost anyone’s paths might cross at a fête such as this one. I do most sincerely hope, though, that none of our Old Boys counts you among his acquaintance in the real world of the Book.”

“Hope springs eternal,” said Lanyon. “Do you want rare or well-done?” And, without waiting for an answer, he began to fork meat onto Mr Jepson’s plate.

“That’s quite enough,” said the other. And he was not only referring to the roast.

Date: 2015-01-13 08:41 am (UTC)
toujours_nigel: BFT (Default)
From: [personal profile] toujours_nigel
LANYON! \o/ \o/ \o/

Oh, this is excellent!



Treviss would like to say that he at least among the respectable Old Boys is always glad to recognise Lanyon.

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