Closed Between Father and Son
@Felix Dietrich

It had been a few weeks already, and the idea that his own son was working as a footman in the manor still had not settled with Dr. Dietrich. He oscillated often. On the one hand, he was glad Felix was employed, and could only hope he was applying himself. There wasn’t anything wrong with footmen, and he he knew Meril was right about how he would regret avoiding Felix again…

But did it have to be here? Every meal he had at the main table was punctuated by a weighty awkwardness of being served by his own child. It was humiliating, and Oliver did not have the slightest idea whether Felix could even tell how insulting his position was to someone who was a guest of the Marquess. It was a long shot, but perhaps he could talk some sense into him. Maybe his son had grown up a bit while he was away.

He knocked on the doorframe, where he expected Felix to be setting out the silverware for dinner. “Felix?” He asked. “May I have a word?”
An entire tray of silver very nearly fell to the floor, and as it was Felix lost some kind of fork before he got hold of it and set it down on the buffet. “Yes, of course.” He did not quite look in his father’s direction, and now bent to retrieve the dinner fork. His father coming to talk to him had been rather like a sword of Damocles hanging over him, and Felix was somewhat surprised it was happening as soon as this, and somewhat surprised it hadn’t happened the first evening he’d waited on his father at dinner.

Felix turned to his father, jiggling the fork restlessly as he waited for the oncoming wave of disappointment and criticism.
Oliver hesitated, anticipating Felix to say something rude in return, without Benbow or Hastings around to keep his tongue in check. He wanted to be grateful, but this attitude was almost harder for him to take. His son was a bit of a vagrant, but in his defense, he had never been anybody’s underling. Was this young man Felix: his son, or Felix: the footman?

Extending his hand holding a newspaper, Oliver offered it first. “Did you see? Cambridge won the Boat Race at last.” He announced with a glimmer of a smile. “Their first victory since when we went to watch.” Felix had been a teenager at the time… fifteen or sixteen. Things had already started getting rough between them, but that had been a good day.
Expecting a reprimand which did not come, Felix stared at the proffered newspaper for a few moments as if it were an unknown object. Finally, he absently set the fork aside and took the paper, glancing over the results. If things - everything - were different, he might have leapt into the air, whooping as he'd done as a boy. Ten years seemed a lifetime.

"That's marvelous. Thank you," Felix said softly, returning his father's slight smile with one of his own. "It's good to remember that. I'm sorry we weren't there to see the win this year. Sorry that I . . ." Felix fell silent, unsure what transgressions he ought to apologize for. He offered the newspaper back to his father.
Oliver didn’t know what he had been expecting… perhaps to relive a bit of their trip to London all those years ago. He’d take the smile, though, it was better than getting the paper thrown back in his face. “Oh, well...” Oliver took the paper back, pinching the crease in it uncomfortably. “I admit that I haven’t gone in some time… rather put off by Oxford’s winning streak, and all.”

Still, it wasn’t entirely boat races that had been on Oliver’s mind. “How have you been taking to your new post?” He asked, looking back up at Felix. The doctor was curious and concerned, but he tried to subdue his expectations for the moment and hear his son out. He wanted… no needed to know if he was serious about starting a new career, in which case Oliver knew he could find Felix a better opportunity than this one.

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