Charioteer Sunday Tea Challenges

I delightedly accepted an invitation to join the "Sunday Tea" timed writing challenges which Poicale, Trueriver, and My_Cnnr have been doing for several years. If you'd like to see the other responses to this prompt (and past challenges), please check out the Mary Renault Fics community on Live Journal, or Mapmaker Fics.


March 4, 2007 - the challenge prompt was "propelling pencil," from Chapter 2 of the book. The time for writing was 45 minutes.


Laurie felt that he was always packing. The days when he'd said "home" and meant only one place felt nearly as distant as the Roman Empire. Despite familiarity, the routine of moving on somehow never grew easier. As he mechanically emptied the contents of his bureau drawers, Laurie felt the little roots he'd slowly put out in this place tighten, refusing to release him.

To distract himself from melancholy thoughts, Laurie put a record on the old gramophone. That would need to be packed up, too, but he'd leave it for last. The music helped fill the empty space and quiet the turmoil in his head. But when he finished with his clothes and reached a drawer still half-full of Ralph's things, Laurie stopped listening, lost in memories.

"Take the left-hand side, Spud. I've cleared out some room for you." Ralph was terrifyingly organized today, and so happy he glowed. The flat was spotless and smelled of disinfectant. He'd thrown open the still-curtainless windows, and the pleasant breeze was warmed by the sun pouring through the panes and pooling on the wood floor. It crept across the room as the hours ticked past, and by the time it reached the far wall, Laurie was unpacked and it was official. They were living together, sharing digs. Tonight, though no one else knew it, they would be sharing the big bed in Ralph's room.

So long ago -- and so much had changed. Laurie fondly touched the neatly-folded vests, the paired socks, arranged by color-- Oh, Ralph. His heart ached with a fierce longing. As he was about to close the drawer, a flash of silver caught his eye. He moved the fabric aside and found a pen. No, it was a propelling pencil...

The sounds and smells of school flooded back, but even more vividly he remembered the tight, controlled voice an exhausted Ralph used as he fought to make Laurie understand the truth. Sometimes it seemed all Ralph had ever done was protect him. He let himself remember that horrible night and Ralph's letter. He could still clearly recall, thought he'd only read it that once, how Ralph had tried to reassure him, absolve him--

Whatever Laurie had given to Ralph over their years together, he didn't believe he'd come close to matching all Ralph gave him. Laurie gazed at the bureau, incapable of movement, frozen despite the June warmth. He knew he should continue his packing. It was time to move on, again.

The key turning the lock broke his reverie, and warm arms banished the chill.

"What on earth are you doing, Spud?" Ralph kissed his ear, his neck, then chuffed a laugh into his shoulder. "You really can't manage to pack without me."

"I'm spoiled," Laurie admitted, turning in Ralph's embrace and melting into his strength. "Besides, I'd wrinkle your boxers if I took them -- and then where would we be?"

Ralph's laughter held enough promise for the future to carry Laurie happily away from the past.


"Propelling Pencil" #2 - because this was my first idea, and I wouldn't let it go even after I'd posted the "official" one.

Great, that's just marvelous, Laurie thought to himself. I look like a bloody fool in this get-up. So of course as soon as he'd left the dressing-room, he'd run straight into Lanyon, standing next to the lighting room, holding a tool kit, while another student struggled to unlatch the padlock on the door.

"Excuse me, Lanyon." Lanyon looked odd. Perhaps he'd been engrossed in whatever problem was affecting the light-board. Dress rehearsals were held to shake out such troubles, after all. Still, it must be a doozy, judging by the stunned look on Lanyon's face.

"Is that your costume?" The mocking voice from his other side was Hazell, of course. No one else would be such a prat while dressed in costume himself. Of course, as Gertrude he was in a longer robe, so his legs weren't on display in pale, baggy tights.

"Yes, of course." Laurie might have added what did you think it was, the latest bathing costume? if Lanyon hadn't been standing right there. One didn't try anything with Lanyon around. At least, Laurie didn't. Hazell didn't seem to care.

"You'd better get on stage, then," Lanyon suddenly said, and with a quick "yes, thank you, Lanyon," Laurie went into the wings to wait for his cue, Hazell odiously trailing behind him. Laurie's sword was already hanging at his waist, but the tissue-paper flowers Hazell needed to strew Ophelia's grave were waiting on the prop table.

"You look ridiculous," Hazell hissed. Laurie tried to ignore him, though he did wonder why Hazell was so wound up. "They usually give a role like Laertes to a lower form boy, it's so easy to learn."

"Shh, quiet please," the prompter said from where he stood with the script and a pencil in his hand, right at the entrance to the stage proper.

He lowered his voice slightly and began, "You're--"

Whatever Hazell had been intending to say was lost in a whoop as Lanyon's foot connected with his arse, propelling him onto the stage as if he were flying on wires. Hamlet, Horatio and the Clown all watched his progress without impeding it, until the Queen of Denmark landed on her face in a heap, wig askew and skirts up over her head.

When Laurie turned back, Lanyon was long gone, and Laurie knew he'd never find out what on earth had motivated him to disrupt the rehearsal in such a spectacular manner.

As they all laughed, he wasted only a moment wishing it had been the actual performance -- and a much wider audience -- for Hazell's grand entrance.



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