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Bertie Wooster Wins the Day

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Anyone who's read my novels probably thinks they know the story of how I met Jeeves. Bertram has sacked Meadowes for sock-napping and other assorted acts of light-fingered mayhem, there is a late night binge at the Drones and, the next morning, the paragon of valets shows up at the door with his miracle potion. I shall tell you now that this is a lie. I am, after all, a novelist. I write fiction. Events must be wrangled in such a way that young Bertram does not get the trousers sued off of him. I may have a good bit of the ready, but this does not mean I want my funds sapped in such a way that I cannot live the lifestyle to which I am accustomed. That lifestyle does, in fact, include that paragon of valets, one Reginald Jeeves, but the truth of our association is not one I can release into the wild, like some bally raven or dove from an ark. There are things one simply cannot discuss, either in public or in writing, if one wishes to continue walking the streets of the metrop. Yet I sometimes find myself pondering how easy it would have been for me never to have met the chap at all, considering where I live and what he was doing when I did meet him. Had I not sacked Meadowes -- but I do rather get ahead of myself.

Lady Florence Craye, a frightfully moulding sort of filly who reads things like Types of Ethical Theory for amusement and the intimidation of chaps like self, had determined to shackle this Wooster via the walk up the aisle and we were both biffing off to visit at the sprawling country heap of my old pal Francis "Dizzy" Farnsworth, with whom I'd worn the Eton collar many a year ago. Dizzy bore a striking resemblance to a sinewy giraffe, astonishingly tall and rather more athletic than anyone that gawkingly treelike had a right to be. He had one of those little pencil-thin mustaches that were all the rage, perched on his lip like an emaciated raven.

Now, I will admit that Bertram has a bit of a weakness for a corking profile, and Florence is quite the thing when viewed from the side; I asked her to marry me, fool that I am. Unfortunately, this lissom sweetness did not extend to her temperament -- the woman is absolutely an aunt in training, cloven hoof and all -- and after a few weeks of exposure to said temperament, I was having second thoughts. Third, fourth, and fifth thoughts were currently in queue for putting in an appearance and, having had to sack Meadowes that morning for the above-related sock-napping, among other affronts, young Bertram was valetless and not in the best of moods upon his arrival at Dizzy's country estate.

At my arrival, my bags had been bunged into a room and I had toddled up after them, after bidding a brief but cheery what ho to Dizzy on the way by, to remove a bit of the dust of the road from the Wooster corpus. It was June, hot as blazes in the most unseasonable way, and it hadn't rained in weeks; the roads were far dustier than was their wont in England's no longer quite so green and pleasant whatsit. What this boiled down to was that Bertram was a dusty, overheated, sticky, sweaty mess after the drive, and a dunk in a cool bath was just the thing for it.

There was a tall, dark haired bird with broad shoulders shimmering soundlessly about the room when I arrived, putting my clothing in the wardrobe and otherwise setting things to rights. "Mr Wooster, sir," he said, giving me a glance, "my name is Jeeves. I will be your valet during your stay with Lord Farnsworth. Given the heat of the day and the dusty condition of the roads in the vicinity, I thought perhaps you might wish to refresh yourself with a bath before joining His Lordship." At this I noted the much wished for sound of running water just beyond the door in the salle de bain.

"I say, Jeeves, that would be just the thing!" Right away I knew this chap was not your ordinary valet. One usually doesn't get that level of anticipation of what a gentleman might need until a few weeks of getting used to one's routine, and that soundless shimmer with which he moved was almost unworldly. He materialized next to me and assisted with getting my rather unpleasantly damp togs off the corpus before bunging me into a bath of the absolute perfect temp. for a blazingly hot day like this one. There was a certain thingness to the way he eyed my traveling suit that suggested its cheery check pattern was an affront, but I was more concerned with scraping off the dust. While I splashed about in the cool and soapy, he laid out something rather drier and less checked for me to wrap myself in when I rose like Venus on the clam shell from the tub.

After laying out the togs, he appeared like a zephyr at the tub with a glass on a silver salver. "An iced lemon squash, if you would like, sir."

"Oh! Well!" It looked like a slice of heaven, if slices of heaven came in glasses that were just dripping with cold, lemony relief from the heat. It was just as cold in my fingers as it had looked on the salver, and it felt exactly like that s. of h. sliding down the Wooster pipes. "Oh, I say. That really is just utter perfection, old thing! You have this Wooster's undying gratitude." I gave him a bright, sunny Wooster grin and he nodded with a vague incline of his head, one corner of his lips elevating ever so slightly, causing him to look rather smug as I finished off the s. of h.

"It is kind of you to say so, sir." I placed the now-empty glass back on the salver and he said, "I shall return shortly to assist you with dressing, sir," and oiled out of the room with the same utter silence that had accompanied his entrance.

This left me to swish about in the bath for a few minutes, getting that bally dust out of my hair and letting me feel more human again, rather than something left too long in a swamp in high summer. He was standing there with a pair of towels for me when I started to get up, and I had no idea when he'd appeared there, so I was slightly startled. I swear, the man moved like a phantom, but soon I was dry and tucked into a new and much more suitable outer crust and this Jeeves fellow was putting the finishing touches on a perfect butterfly knot in my tie.

"This is rather a dull tie, Jeeves," I said, giving it a chary eye. "I'm not sure I remember packing the thing."

"It was packed along with your other clothing, sir," he said. "The light blue does quite become you with the ivory linen suit."

"I'm not so sure," I said, looking into the mirror. "I'd really prefer the green stripe."

His brow wrinkled minutely. "Not advisable, sir."

I wasn't used to a valet contradicting me on my sartorial choices and raised an eyebrow at him. "Oh, really, Jeeves?"

"Indeed, sir. That particular shade of green would cause you to look quite bilious. It would not be nearly so suitable." He went over the shoulders and back of my light summer blazer with a brush, leaving me looking quite sharp and polished, despite the horrendous heat.

"Well," I said grudgingly, "I suppose this once I can forgo the latest fashion."

"Thank you, sir." There was a tiny hint of relief in the man's voice. "Unless you require anything else, sir, I shall return when it is time for you to dress for dinner."

"Right ho," I said, dropping the old straw boater on the onion and sending him off with a casual wave of the hand. I found Dizzy lounging about in the shade in the back garden, with Florence and her chum Nobby Hopwood, Chuffy Chuffnell, Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright, and old Kipper Herring laying about on blankets in the grass as well. It was a motley assemblage of friends, the lot of us called together for a couple of weeks of cricket -- watching, mind you, not playing! Or at least, I was to watch and Dizzy was all in a tizzy about playing tomorrow. I am rather more inclined to rowing, darts, or a round of golf than the strenuous activities of cricket or rugby, which often include a tendency toward bruises and the possibility of broken bones. Having been soundly whalloped by a cricket ball when I was a wee nipper and cracking a rib for my troubles, I'd avoided it henceforth as a bad idea.

I was going to settle myself in with Chuffy for a bit of catching him up on the Drones, but Florence snagged my arm on the way by. "Bertie, darling, do come sit with me." She smiled up at me in a predatory way, the glint of the philosophy-loving wolf in her eye.

"Of course, Florence, my dear," I said, planting the Wooster corpus next to her. Thankfully, the weather was too hot for her to hang on me like some bally strangling wisteria vine, as she no doubt would have if it had been anything like a normal June day.

"Have you read the book I gave you?" she asked.

It took an effort of will to keep my eyes from glazing over. "Well," I said, "I have hazarded a glance at a page or two, I suppose, but I haven't finished it, as such." She'd meant for me to have the entire bally thing read by now, but I just couldn't stick it. Every time I looked inside, my head started swimming like a seasick goldfish.

A thunderous disappointment wrinkled her brow. "Oh, Bertie, you really do have to at least attempt to improve your mind. I realize your Aunt Agatha thinks you're a hopeless poop, but I do believe I can make something of you if you would just try. I'm sure there's at least an average intelligence under there somewhere."

"I say!" I've always known I wasn't the sharpest of tacks, but when troubles rise up in their myriads, it is Bertram who answers the call of his friends and helps them sort the sitch. I've managed to solve any number of their problems and had been doing so since I was a bare slip of a thing back in my school days. Bertram Wooster is well known for his generous spirit and willingness to aid a friend in need.

Nobby rolled her eyes. "Really, Florence, you do have to consider the raw material." She glanced at me for a moment. "You must admit, however, that the blue tie he's wearing today really does bring out his eyes. It's in much better taste than his usual." Nobby gave me a charming smile. "I shouldn't mind looking at that across the breakfast table every morning," she purred.

I hadn't time to be more than slightly alarmed before Florence flung an arm about the willowy Wooster shoulders. "Now, Nobby, you know that pretty is all very well and good, but it's conversation that carries a marriage long after good looks have faded into memory." The lads were all giving me sympathetic glances as Florence turned and planted her lips upon the damask cheek. "Bertie, you simply must put more effort into self-improvement. Shockingly blue eyes or not, good looks are not enough to carry you through life."

"Erm, right," I muttered, not entirely certain that any of this was at all in my favor. Dizzy came to my rescue, offering me a splash of gin and tonic to soothe my wounded pride and I went to it with a will. I was more than relieved when the conversation wandered off in directions other than Bertram's intellectual capacities. As soon as I could politely manage it, I excused myself and hied off for a walk, legging it for the lake that lay just beyond the rise of the hill.

The further I got from the assembly, the better I felt. Things were a bit greener down by the lake, and there was a boathouse with a couple of rowboats, and an island in the middle of the quite sizeable lake. There was no one at the boathouse, so I commandeered one of the rowboats and took myself out to no man's land to sit in the gazebo and ponder my increasingly horrifying fate.

Florence, while a dasher when it came to looks and brains, had the temperament of a dyspeptic warthog with a toothache. It was, in fact, much like her father's; he was a curmudgeonly blighter known to explode like tetchy dynamite at the most unexpected moments. The domestic staff at Lord Worplesdon's house always tended to have a bit of the white of the eye showing. A jumpy lot if ever I'd seen one, they tended to scurry off if looked at sideways, like those cockroaches you see in the seedier flats in New York City. I was beginning to understand their moti-whatsits. Tiptoeing through a minefield was beginning to look safer than marrying the beazel, yet I had no idea how to get out of it. A Wooster is a man of his word, and I couldn't see just telling her the whole deal was off. It wouldn't be at all the act of the gentil parfait sort, and such things ran entirely counter to the Code of the Woosters.

I desperately needed someone I could turn to for aid and succor but, while my bosom pals were doubtless in great sympathy of heart, they were all of rather less brain than I was, and so were unlikely sources of such a. and s. Quite frankly, this Wooster was feeling entirely alone in the world and in need of a brilliant wheeze. The heat had utterly sapped what little capacity I had for thinking up such things on my own. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I very much liked the carefree bachelor life and was feeling quite the urge to keep it, and that Florence was only incidentally a part of said u. to k. it.

It wasn't that I didn't find the fillies appealing -- obviously I did or I'd never have asked Florence to marry me in the first place -- but I had something of an appreciation for a handsome cove now and then as well, and I had to admit that I found other chaps much easier to get along with. None of them had ever tried to make me stop smoking or give up my club or, God forbid, become a vegetarian, all of which I'd run across as plots thought up by beazels who had an eye on Bertram as matrimonial material. This reading of ethical theory business was the most insidious thing I'd yet run across, and it was looking bleaker by the moment. If I had only a lifetime of dusty tomes on philosophy to look forward to, I might as well cash it in right now and drown myself in the nearest lake. Given that I was sitting in the middle of one, it was a distinct possibility that one had to credit.

Eventually, my pocketwatch noted that it was time to wander back toward the house if I wanted to strap on the old feedbag with everyone else. At least rowing gave me something to do for a little while, and it helped clear my head slightly from all these whirling thoughts of bleakness and impending doom. Jeeves was waiting for me when I arrived at my room, looking solemn as a vaguely disappointed moose. He'd already laid out my dinner togs. "I trust you had a pleasant afternoon, sir," he said as he slapped the threads upon the Wooster corpus.

Being a bit distracted, I just nodded and muttered something about having a nice row out to the island. When I looked up, his eyebrow had shifted slightly, as though in surprise. "It is an excellent place to retreat when the weather is hot, sir," he admitted.

"I was thinking more that it was a good place to be alone to ponder," I said, straightening the sleeves and checking myself in the mirror before I made to leave the room. "There are some things that require all the concentration this Wooster can muster. At such moments, company can be bothersome."

"Indeed, sir?" He opened the door for me.

"Indeed, Jeeves," I said, taking myself down to join everyone else.

Naturally, being engaged to her, I ended up seated next to Florence. When Jeeves shimmered by to bung the soup in front of me, Florence gave him the oddest look. There was a sliver of confusion and a soupçon of distaste in said look, which I didn't understand in the least. The man was immaculate, after all. His white gloves hadn't the faintest shadow of a stain upon them, there were no loose threads about his seams, and not one bally hair was out of place. His tie was perfectly tied, and he certainly didn't have any sort of lingering odor about him. I actually thought he was quite pleasing to cast the e.s upon, myself, and found myself doing so more frequently than I might have otherwise.

The soupy looks from Florence continued through dinner, nearly every time Jeeves wafted something in front of me or swept away a finished course. She blithered on about some chappie named Nietzsche, and 'vital impulses,' whatever those were, not letting me get in a breath, much less a word. After the evening repast, we all adjourned to the drawing room for a bit of music and a splash of the b. and s.

"Florence," I asked, seating myself at the piano in preparation to offer up a few rollicking tunes, "why on earth were you giving that Jeeves fellow such withering looks? One might think you disliked the man." He was on the other side of the room near the sideboard with the butler and a couple of footmen, preparing drinks, looking like an excessively elegant general rallying the troops.

She glowered with a ripe enthusiasm as might be suited to the magistrate's bench. "You're quite right, Bertie, darling," she said. "He worked for my father some years ago. I don't trust him at all."

"What," I said, surprised. "Does he filch socks or something?" Given that my man Meadowes had just been sacked for exactly that, I was worried I might have to count them in the morning. He didn't look like the sock filching type, though.

"No, he's not dishonest in that sense," she said.

"Eh?"

She watched him as he shimmered across the room, serving drinks to Dizzy and Chuffy. "Rather worse," she said. "He's entirely too opinionated for a domestic. He had quite unflattering opinions about father's clothing." I can't say as I would blame the chap, really, given what I'd seen old Lord Worplesdon wearing at dinner a few of the times I'd galloped through to visit. "And he's a cunning, conniving creature; he always seemed to have some plot or another going on behind the scenes. I don't know why Dizzy puts up with him at all. Apparently he's been here for six months now as Dizzy's underbutler."

Well, I supposed the opinionated part might be true. He did express rather a bit of disdain for my fruity green-striped tie. "Dizzy's got him valeting for me while I'm here," I said. "He did have a rather strong opinion about my tie this afternoon," I admitted, "but he seems an all right sort. I didn't realize he was the underbutler as well."

She shook her head and gave him a dark look as he approached with the salver. "Don't trust him, Bertie. I mean it."

Jeeves glided up on silent coasters and gave a polite incline of the head, his face an impenetrable mask of professionally stuffed frog. "Lady Florence, Mr. Wooster. Brandy and soda?" He proffered the salver, brimming with the postprandial whatsit.

"Thank you, Jeeves," I said, snatching up one of the glasses. Florence took one of the others without saying a word to the man, and Jeeves glided away to offer drinks to several of the other guests as the footmen circulated with cigarettes and whatnot.

There were drinks and gaspers and I played piano while several of the assembled -- including self -- bashed through a few popular tunes. Jeeves seemed vaguely pained whenever I looked at him. I gathered he wasn't terribly fond of the vocal stylings of Cab Calloway for some reason. He seemed to take a little more of a shine to Irving Berlin, I thought, though it was a bit hard to tell just from the set of his shoulders and that eyebrow he moved in microscopic increments.

I'll admit Florence's remarks had intrigued me. People don't generally have such strong reactions to a fellow who looks that thoroughly professional, unless they're appreciating said professionality. The chap seemed to know his way around a b. and s., that was certain. He could have written the guide book to the bally things. When I was ready to catch the requisite number of winks for the night, he was a solid presence in my room and had already laid out the coral pyjamas for me.

"I say, Jeeves," I said. "It seems that Florence doesn't like you very much. I must say, I can't see why. You seem like a decent enough chap to me, and dashed talented with the b. and s., too."

"It is kind of you to say so, sir," he said, giving me a hand with my tie and the studs in my shirt. There was a faintly pleased thingness about him at that. "I was employed by Lord Worplesdon for several months some years ago."

"So she said. There were a few words about your not being terribly chuffed with the way the old boy dressed."

He didn't exactly cringe, but there was a bit of a wilt to him, like a dewey violet attempting to make a stand mid-Sahara. "I will admit, sir, that I tendered my resignation because I could not see eye to eye with His Lordship in his desire to dine in dress trousers, a flannel shirt, and a shooting coat."

I shivered slightly. This was beyond even my idea of acceptable style. "Well, old thing, I can't say as I blame you for that one."

"Thank you, sir," he murmured. I thought I detected a bit of lightness around his eyes at that. Within moments, I was bunged into the pyjamas and shuffled beneath the sheets. Jeeves adjusted the window slightly; it had been opened so as to cool the place down after the infernal heat of the day, and now he shifted the shutters so that there was just enough of a hint of a breeze to keep the room from being the ninth circle of the abyss. He shimmered to the door. "Good night, sir," he said, as he turned out the light.

"Good night, Jeeves," I replied, and got on with the examination of the inner reaches of my eyelids.

***

I spent the next couple of days watching cricket and being hounded by Florence about improving the contents of the Wooster onion. I was lectured on fate versus free will at the breakfast table, quizzed on Pascal's Wager -- which turned out to have nothing at all to do with horse races -- over luncheon, and regaled with a litany of works I should have to read in the coming months if I knew what was good for me at dinner. I sought solace by fleeing to the gardens, having a solitary row out to the island, or immersing myself in the sauce for some slight pickling in hopes that an application of alcohol would make the lectures more tolerable. Sadly, this was not to be, for I then received further l.s on temperance and the virtues of teetotalling. While I'm as much of a fanatic for a perfectly turned cup of the refreshing leaf as any proper English gentleman, I'm not about to give up the evening snort.

By the third day, it had become utterly intolerable. Kipper suggested not bathing for a week, thinking it would drive Florence away, and I gave it no more than five seconds of thought before realizing that I'd be intolerable to myself by mid-day-two. Catsmeat had the slightly more appealing idea that I should tell her I wanted to become a circus clown. Unfortunately, Chuffy laid that to rest by telling them he thought I was quite clownish enough as it was, given the Wooster wardrobe, and that it probably wouldn't put Florence off at all. I mean to say, there are moments when one simply cannot rely upon one's friends for sympathy, much less anything resembling a good wheeze.

Dinner took a turn toward the Spanish Inquisition, minus the cardinals and that Torque-whatsit chappie. Toward the end, I was contemplating my dessert spoon with an eye to sharpening it enough to slit my own throat. Strapping a bag of golf clubs to my ankles and going for a swim was beginning to seem thoroughly reasonable. Having managed to survive the dessert course, I excused myself from the communal charge to the drawing room, pleading a need for a bit of air, and took myself out to the back garden.

It was a despairing Bertram who dropped himself onto a bench behind the shelter of a boxwood giant squirrel topiary. I rested my head in my hands, thoroughly prostrate with grief over my impending shackling. I was hip-deep in the soup and could see no way out at all. I needed a b. and s. most desperately. Only a few minutes into this silent bemoaning of my fate, though how one moans silently I've never been quite certain, I heard a gentle sound next to me, resembling the echo of the cough of a sheep upon a distant hillside. I gave a manly yip, managing to refrain from rocketing upward like a flushed pheasant. When the old ticker began beating again, I saw that it was Jeeves. He had a glass in hand, which he then tucked into my own. Hand, that is. "I thought you might appreciate a brandy and soda, sir."

"By Jove, Jeeves, right you are. You don't happen to read minds, do you?"

"No, sir."

"Oh. Well. This bally well was one of the things on mine. My mind, I mean." I poured a bit of it down the gullet. "I don't suppose you manage that silence by floating over the ground."

"No, sir." If he were anyone else, I'd have thought he sounded vaguely amused.

"Well, thank you," I said. "It was jolly good of you to bring one out to me."

"Indeed, sir." He paused for a moment, a gathering thingness about him, as though he were pondering the fate of continents. "I hope you will not consider me too forward, Mr. Wooster, but you appear to be in some distress this evening."

I nodded. "I most certainly am, Jeeves. I have been in some distress since I arrived." He might have been an underbutler, but he was at least sympathetic, which was more than I could say for those invertebrate cricket-playing louts I had considered my friends. I slurped up the rest of the b. and s. with a will. "Not that there seems to be anything anyone can do about it."

His head tilted slightly, with a slight pursing of the lips. "Perhaps, sir, I might be of some assistance."

I sighed with the sorrow of a thousand martyrs facing the stake. "It seems unlikely," I said, "but at the moment my desperation is akin to that of that mariner chappie with the albatross who needed a drink."

"Indeed, sir?" He raised an eyebrow about three molecules. I handed him my empty glass.

"Indeed, Jeeves," I said. "Some weeks ago, in a fit of mild insanity, I asked Florence to marry me."

"Most distressing, sir," he said. I could tell he was impressed that I'd whacked up the ginger to ask her.

"The trouble is, I have seen the error of my ways." I shook my head. "This heat," I said, "it saps what little brain I have. Another few days of it and I'll be for joining the French Foreign Legion to get out of it."

"I do not believe that will be necessary, sir," he said. There was a firmness about this statement that rivaled a large hill or a particularly small mountain.

I rose, gawping at the chap like a complete gawd-help-us. "Really, Jeeves?"

"Yes, sir. If you wish, I can give the matter some consideration. I'm certain a satisfactory outcome might be attained."

It was then I remembered Florence saying something about Jeeves being cunning and conniving, both of which seemed just the thing for the troops right now. "Jeeves," I said, with an emotional tear in the Wooster e. "Jeeves, old fruit, if you can free me from durance vile, I shall give unto you even half my kingdom."

A slight tilt appeared at one end of his lips. "I do not believe that will be necessary, sir. It is quite apparent that Lady Florence is not at all suited to you." There was a vague hint of gentle yet sympathetic amusement to his voice.

Opinionated, that was the other word she'd used about him. "No, absolutely not at all suited," I agreed. "She's frightfully moulding. I doubt there'd be an entire molecule left of the original Bertram by the time she was done. It causes the knees to quake and the hands to tremble. If you come up with something -- anything at all -- just tell this Wooster and he shall leap in with both feet. I just can't stick this engagement at all! There's got to be a way to sever the thing without Bertram ending up at the bottom of the lake with a golf bag tied round his ankles."

"Very good, sir. Are you ready to retire for the evening?"

Having turned the whole mess over to a chap with obviously superior brainpower, I felt much more the Bertram Wooster of yore. "Yes, actually, Jeeves. Though it really has been bally awful weather. Do you think you might run a cooling soak for the Wooster corpus before you bung me into bed?"

He nodded. "Of course, sir." He oiled off toward the house, self following along like a duckling who'd just relocated his long-lost mother and was determined not to let her out of his sight. The prospect of freedom was absolutely intoxicating.

***

The very next day, slightly after luncheon, I found myself quite accidentally tripping over one of the parlourmaids just as Florence walked into the room. I had, naturally, attempted to save both of us from tumbling onto the floor, and ended up with one arm about the gal's waist and the other hand on one of the settees, and Florence took this as something it most manifestly was not!

"Bertram Wooster!" she bellowed. Florence, I mean. The parlourmaid just caterwauled. "What is the meaning of this?" She waved an arm in a gesture not unlike Nelson must have at the Battle of Trafalgar when directing the fleet to come about. Not the arm he'd lost of course, but the one remaining. Florence wouldn't have been waving an empty sleeve.

"What? What?" I said.

The parlourmaid wriggled in my arm and yelped. "Let me go!" she squeaked.

"Oh, sorry," I said, letting go as she'd asked. This served only to drop the poor gal onto the rug. She glared up at me. "Sorry!"

"Well, I never!" Florence wound up like a champion bowler and flattened me. Thankfully I didn't end up planted on the parlourmaid. "You cad! Did you think that gormless, innocent face of yours was going to fool me for long, Bertie?"

"I say, what?" My head was spinning just a bit and the wind had been thoroughly taken out of me. "Florence--"

"Our engagement is over!" she shouted.

"But, Florence!" I'll admit I reacted purely out of reflex. "It was an accident!"

She snorted and whirled like an ill-tempered stallion. "Making excuses, you weasel? That is the absolute frozen limit!" Florence bolted, leaving naught but dust and an ill-used Bertram in her trace.

"But...?" It was right about then that Jeeves projected himself into the room and offered the maid a dignified hand up from the rug. She sniffled and Jeeves there-there'd her, at which point she fled the room while uttering a breathless apology for getting under my feet. He then tucked his hands under my shoulders, lifted me up, and leaned me against the settee, crouching beside me.

"Are you hurt, sir?" There was a suspicious twinkle in his eye.

I blinked at him. "Jeeves," I said, looking up at him as he crouched over me.

"Yes, sir?"

"Is it my fevered imagination, or am I suddenly disengaged from Florence?"

"I believe the desired result has been achieved, sir," he said, and his lip quirked up just a hair. He hoisted me to my feet and brushed me off.

I stared at him in astonishment. "Jeeves!"

"Yes, sir?"

"You planned that?"

"Indeed, sir."

"By Jove, Jeeves, you are a bally marvel!"

"Thank you, sir." He pulled a cigarette case from the inner pocket of his morning coat. "Would you care for a cigarette after your difficulty, sir? You might find it calming." He flipped it open and offered me one.

I nodded vigorously. "Absolutely!" I grinned the sunniest of Wooster grins at the chap as I snagged one and tucked it twixt the lips. "Never a better moment for one!" I patted myself down for a lighter, but the cigarette case had vanished from Jeeves's large hand and he was lighting the gasper for me before I knew it. "Genius, Jeeves. Absolute corking genius. How did you manage to arrange that?"

"One simply endeavors to place oneself in the path of opportunity, sir," he said.

As I was already patting myself down, I pulled out the old billfold and handed him a tenner. "You stand alone, old fruit. You deserve every bally farthing of this."

"I endeavor to give satisfaction, sir." I could see the chuffed approval lurking silently behind his dark, blue eyes.

"You dashed well do, Jeeves! I do think, though, that I should probably make myself a bit scarce for a few hours until Florence cools down a touch. I'd hate to be knocked off the old pins again." I took a thoughtful puff of the gasper, blowing a couple of cheerful smoke rings when I let it out. "Perhaps a little time out at the lake," I said.

"I should think that would be an excellent place for your respite, sir."

"Now all I have to do is stay out of her way until it's time to head back to the metrop."

He inclined his head. "I shall endeavor to aid you in this, sir, if you wish."

"Oh, by all means." I gave him another pleased grin. He seemed to stand just a touch taller at that. "Right then, I'm off. I suppose I'll see you at dinner, then."

"Of course, sir."

***

When I was seated for dinner that night, I noted a distinct and exceedingly suspicious lack of Crayes and Hopwoods. "Dizzy, old bean," I said -- though cautiously as I did not want to summon anyone up, as might one of those sorcerer Johnnies and their demonic shades, "where are Florence and Nobby?"

He chuckled. "They vanished shortly after luncheon. I must say, Bertie, Florence was really in quite a state! Something about you groping one of the maids, but I just can't see you doing anything of the sort, old fruit. Seems like it would be completely against that code of yours."

"I should say so!" I said. "No, I tripped on the poor gal just as Florence was coming into the room and she never did give me a chance to explain. Of course, that does mean I'm not heading down the aisle with the beazel." I grinned and gave Jeeves a friendly nod as he slapped the soup down in front of me. There was a trace of a twinkle in his eyes and he gave a microscopic nod back. "It was bally embarrassing, though, and I do hope the chambermaid is all right. She rather fled before I could properly apologize for the whole hands in inappropriate places wheeze."

"Well," Catsmeat said, "so long as you didn't have to actually join the circus. I tried it once, and the stage is a much less hazardous place. Far fewer lions loitering about as they consider snacking on you." After that comment, dinner conversation spiraled into a bizarre tale involving a lion tamer, three trapeze artists, and a duck, which I simply cannot repeat for fear of laughing until my lungs burst, even at this late date.

Our drawing room festivities that night were much lighter of heart than Bertram had been in days, involving precisely no conversations about ethics, philosophers whose names contained entirely too many silent letters, or attempts to talk me out of having a drink. It was a considerably chuffed Wooster who stumbled up the grand stairway to his bedchamber that night. Jeeves wafted up the stairs with me so as to peel me out of the vestments and bung me into the heliotrope pyjamas for the night.

"I say, Jeeves," I told him, "I am jolly well pleased with that wheeze of yours. I do hope you'll give that poor maid my sincerest apologies. I didn't mean at all to grab her, you know, but it was either that or have both of us flat on the floor."

He unknotted my tie and slipped it from about my neck. "Miss Peckett was actually complicit in the plot, sir."

My eyes widened. "Really?"

He nodded. "Indeed, sir. In fact, I gave her half of the money you gave me as your thanks to her for your aid." He shucked me out of my dinner jacket and waistcoat.

"Oh, well done," I said. "But why would she bother? I mean, neither of you had any idea I was going to offer up any of the folding stuff."

A nearly invisible smirk tilted his lips. "Lady Florence is not popular among the staff, sir. At Bumpleigh Hall, she is known as Lady Caligula belowstairs."

"By Jove. I do think I just managed to slip the noose on that one!" I'd known she had something of a temper, but Lady Caligula? She must have been horrid to the help.

"It is quite possible, sir, yes." There seemed a faint glow of fondness in his eyes as he divested the shirtings of their studs and collar. "As I noted previously, she did not seem suited to you."

As I was a touch wobbly, I needed a bit of help stepping out of the trousers after my braces had been slipped off the slender Wooster shoulders. Jeeves kindly allowed me to lean on him a bit as I did so. It would have been hard to ignore how broad his shoulders were under that black morning coat, or how shiny his equally black hair was. Leaning on him like this, I realized he smelled of some subtle, vaguely spicy cologne; it was utterly topping, but I couldn't let it affect me. It simply wouldn't have been proper, and I rather liked the chap and didn't want to distress him at all.

It was a matter of but a few moments before I was efficiently stripped of my socks and undervest and bunged into the pyjamas. I was dizzier than I'd thought from the earlier celebration of my newfound freedom, and Jeeves eased me back on the bed and flipped the covers up over me with a slight flick of his wrist, straightening everything out with a deft hand before wishing me a good night and dousing the lamps. That night, I dreamed of black hair and broad shoulders.

***

Over the rest of the week, I found myself spending a bit more time in Jeeves's company during the day when he wasn't underbuttling. We walked through the garden puffing on a couple of gaspers one evening, another afternoon we chatted when I returned to the house during one of the cricket matches to find something cold to drink away from the dust of the field. It wasn't that there was nothing to drink out there, I just wanted a bit more shade than the shrubbery provided, and the house seemed the place for it. He lingered slightly longer than a valet might when I was getting ready for bed most nights, but I didn't mind at all; I enjoyed his company. I particularly enjoyed the morning tea when he brought it each day. He was quite a pleasant sight to wake to, and I despaired of ever finding a valet in the metrop who could match the chap. It was a task I did not relish getting to when I got home.

I'd talked briefly to Dizzy about Jeeves at one point, wondering where he'd managed to hire the bloke, to see if they had any more like him in the box. Dizzy mentioned that he'd hired him through some club for butlers and valets and whatnot called the Junior Ganymede, so I thought I'd give that a whirl when I ankled on back home. I wasn't sure anyone could possibly hold a candle to Jeeves, but one could try, I supposed.

One thing that confused me just a touch was when Dizzy said that Jeeves seemed more machine than man to him. "There's never so much as a twitch of expression on the chap's face," Dizzy complained. "It's like looking at a bally clock dial, for all the emotion he's ever shown."

"Really?" I said. "He is a bit of a stuffed frog, but a machine? I just can't see it, old fruit. I swear I've almost see him smile sometimes."

Dizzy gave me an odd look. "You'd be the only one, then. Even Fenton says the man's a cold fish." Fenton was Dizzy's butler, and a rather solemn old chap himself, though next to Jeeves I suppose he was a vaudeville comic by comparison. He looked like nothing so much as a gloomy snow-topped pine tree, if pine trees dressed in morning coats and pinstriped trousers.

That last Sunday afternoon, I wandered down to the lake. The heat still hadn't broken, and everyone was saying it was going to be a bally hellish summer. I took a final row out to the island to perch in the gazebo and gaze off over the water, hoping I wouldn't suffocate when I got home. There were times when London could be hot as blazes, and I suspected this would be one of them.

Staring out over the lake, though, left me time to think and in a Wooster, that can be a somewhat dangerous thingummy. I found my thoughts drawn to Jeeves like a whatsit that gets drawn to things. The chap made perfect tea. He slapped on the outer crust and bowed a tie like nobody else I'd ever seen. I'd never known anyone who moved with such uncanny silence. And there was this... thingness about him that I suddenly realized I was going to miss with a thoroughly startling intensity when I dropped the corpus into the two seater and headed for home. I wondered if I'd be able to find some way to wrangle another invite out to Dizzy's place anytime soon. Of course, by then I'd have my own valet again -- God knew I needed one -- but I supposed I might run into Jeeves having a gasper in the garden in the evening or something.

This was not normal Wooster behavior but, as far as I could see, Jeeves wasn't a normal chap by anyone's estimation.

When I got back to Dizzy's old heap in order to head home, I said my fare-thee-wells to Dizzy, Chuffy, Catsmeat, and Kipper while Jeeves bunged my things into the two seater and brought it round to the front for me. "Thank you, Jeeves," I said to him. "I appreciate that wheeze you pulled together to rescue me from the terrors of matrimony." I know it's not exactly the done thing, shaking hands with the help, but I offered him the old Wooster paw in the spirit of friendly appreciation.

He hesitated for a moment and then took it, giving me a firm, friendly shake as he looked me in the eyes. "It was a pleasure to serve you, Mr. Wooster." There was a slight pause, just for the tiniest twitch of a mo., and his hand tightened just a touch in mine before he let go. "I wish you a safe journey home, sir." I had the bally oddest feeling that hadn't been quite what he'd been wanting to say, but I'm sure that was my imagination.

"Yes. Erm, thank you." There was just the slightest hint of awkwardness for a sec., as I didn't actually want to look away from the chap. I felt like I had to tear the e.s away from him before I pounced into the two seater. I waved and shouted a cheery "Toodle pip!" to him as I departed. I could see in the rear-view mirror that Jeeves stood for a moment and watched as I drove away.

***

Holley, the young bloke the Junior Ganymede sent over as my new valet, was a shortish, skinny, ginger bird with long legs and a beak that stuck out in the most astonishing manner. It wasn't anything at all like Jeeves's crooked but rather noble nose. He reminded me of nothing so much as one of those long-legged pink whatsits from Florida -- flem? Flam-somethings. Flamingos, that's the chappie! I mean to say, Holley was all right. At least he wasn't a sock thief; my purple silk socks remained precisely where they should be, that being either in my wardrobe or on the Wooster feet. He was a passable cook, and his drink mixing skills were considerably better than Meadowes's had ever been. While he didn't clump about on flat feet as Meadowes had, there was a bit of a rustle to him, like a stoat sneaking through the underbrush. This was a distinct improvement all around, but I still found myself thinking about that perfect tea out at Dizzy's hovel, and the silent way that Jeeves oiled about the place.

Once, at the Drones, one of the chaps was wearing a faint cologne that had just a hint of spice to it that sent the most uncanny jolt through me because it smelled exactly like what Jeeves had been wearing the night Florence had shoved me off and scarpered back to Bumpleigh Hall. I found myself looking around, confused, expecting to see him standing behind me, until I realized it was just Bingo. Rather a disappointment, to be honest. Nothing wrong with old Bingo, but he's not Jeeves at all. I ended up asking what it was. I got a bottle of the stuff the next day and kept it around, not that I ever actually wore it. That, I thought, would have been just a bit peculiar, even for someone as eccentric as Bertram Wooster.

It was late July before I found myself out at Dizzy's stately heap again. A Drone by the name of Cleriston Pordwainer, known to all and sundry as Fuzz due to his somewhat disturbing habit of only shaving every two or three days, was finally getting himself chained to a beazel of his acquaintance and I'd finagled myself an invite along with several of the other chaps heading out to witness the joyous event. My stay wouldn't be as long as it had been in June, but the heat was still just as horrific. It hadn't let up at all but for a few days at the very beginning of July, when there had been a dashed vicious thunderstorm and the weather had cooled for about ten minutes.

I had Holley bung the baggage onto the train and bring it up while I drove out in the two seater, not wanting to share a compartment with any potential unwashed masses in those stuffy ovenlike circs. Of course, having a valet of my own again, I wasn't going to have Jeeves doing things for me, but I thought I might see him from time to time as he floated about the place doing his underbutlery duties. At least, I rather hoped I would. I'd found myself quite missing him. More to the point, I'd found myself dreaming of him from time to time, and that was not this Wooster's normal style. I knew I was a fool for this whole pining whatsit. It made no sense at all. I shouldn't have been missing him, much less dreaming about him -- he was Dizzy's underbutler, not one of my friends, and certainly not anything more intimate than that.

Naturally, he was nowhere to be seen when I arrived. Old Fenton was there at the door, but the area was entirely Jeevesless. I really should have expected it. I probably wouldn't lay eyes on the man at all unless he was serving at dinner, and that left me feeling slightly less than oojah-cum-spiff. Seeing Dizzy and the chaps who'd come for the festivities was a dashed lot of fun, though. Despite the heat, we got in a topping bit of golf, and I actually took the round's low score for a change. Holley hauled the clubs about like a champion, showing a little actual enthusiasm for something for once. It was quite a sight, actually, and I felt bad that he couldn't join us for a few holes himself, what with being a valet and having to caddy for me and all.

Once we'd finished up and were heading back for the house, I stopped him. "Holley, old fruit, if you'd like to stay for a bit and get in a few holes before you ankle on back to the house, do feel free. Use the Wooster clubs if you like, seeing as you haven't any yourself."

His eyes lit up like tiny green bonfires. "Really, sir?"

I grinned at him. "Absolutely, young Holley. I'll see you at tea, what?"

"Thank you, sir!" he chirped, and dashed back to Dizzy's course, his morning coat flapping behind him like blackbird wings as he stretched those long, gawky legs of his. I may have actually heard a whoop of glee as he dashed for the tee. The other valets looked after him with a hint of wistful longing in the old e.s, but none of my chums seemed to notice at all.

When we got back to the house, Dizzy said, "Really, Bertie, you're being far to soft on the help, old thing."

"What?" I said. "Letting Holley knock a few balls about?" I shook my head. "By Jove, I don't think so."

"He's right," Offy Prosser added, nodding like his head was bouncing on a spring. "You give one of those chaps an inch and they'll take your whole bally leg off. I mean, look what happened with that last valet of yours, Meadowes!"

I raised a chastising hand. "Oh, really, Oofy. That's just nonsense. I didn't give Meadows a bally thing! The blighter pinched my socks! And some of Aunt Dahlia's silver, while we're on about it. Absolutely ghastly, the whole business."

"Well, you're setting a bad example." Dizzy gave me a solemn look, like a bear with indigestion. "Next thing you know, all of our valets will be asking for extra considerations."

I gave him a touch of the Wooster glower. I am a fair hand at this glowering business when it's called for, and it jolly well was just then. "I mean to say, there's nothing at all wrong with letting the poor chap have a bit of a treat after he's hauled half a bally ton of golf clubs about in this heat. It's only a basic kindness." While I'm not one of those socialist Johnnies, I can't see mistreating anyone just because they have to work for a living. It could happen to anyone, what?

As I'd hoped, Jeeves was serving at dinner, but since I had Holley with me it was my own valet bunging the plates and bowls before me. Jeeves's eyes met mine several times; he'd nodded slightly when we looked at one another the first time, looking vaguely pleased with the world. He passed near me a few times and I found myself entirely conscious of where he was in the room at the bally oddest moments.

It was with the slightest amount of tension thrumming through the innards that I wandered out after everyone left the drawing room for the evening. I'd told Holley I'd be up in about half an hour or so to be deposited beneath the bedsheet, as I wanted a gasper out in the garden. I walked for a few minutes until I came to a bench. It was the one under the topiary of that demented-looking giant squirrel, in fact, where I'd initially spoken to Jeeves about my troubles with Florence. Perching on the cool stone, I lit up my cig.

I hadn't been there long when I heard a soft cough at my side. I looked up. "Jeeves!" I said, quite unable to conceal my delight.

"Good evening, Mr. Wooster."

"Well, are you out for a little evening breeze as well?" I asked, moving over slightly. "Have a seat if you like, old thing."

He regarded me for a long moment before he moved. "Thank you, sir," he said, and he planted the Jeevesian corpus next to me.

"Fancy a gasper, old fruit?" I offered him one of mine.

"Yes, sir. Thank you." He reached out and took it, the tips of his fingers brushing mine. It was the most extraordinary feeling; we both froze for just a moment, looking at one another, and suddenly I could barely breathe. He recovered first, and I offered him a light. I watched him as he leaned in over it, the way his lips closed about the small, white cylinder, and how his eyes shimmered in the flicker of the flame as the tip began to glow. There was the soft sound of inhalation and his cheeks hollowed slightly and, God forgive me, I could not for the life of me prevent my mind from straying to entirely inappropriate thoughts.

He looked up at me as the flaring light faded. "Thank you, sir," he murmured, smoke curling out of his lips under the moonlight. I couldn't take my eyes off him.

"It's... it's good to see you again, Jeeves," I answered.

He nodded, a faint smile barely touching his lips. "I am pleased to see you again as well, sir." He spoke softly, just loud enough to be heard over the crickets and the slight rustle of leaves in the rumor of a breeze that had come up as the sun had set. He watched me with a hint of curiosity in his eyes. "I understand you are to be here for four days, sir?" he asked.

"Hmm? Yes, that's right. Four days."

He puffed again, as did I. "Very good, sir." There was a thingness about the way he said it that left me slightly dizzy. We didn't really say much of anything else as we smoked, though I don't think we ever actually looked away from one another. I was afraid to say a word for fear of breaking that thingness between us, of saying just the wrong thing, as I am sometimes wont to do. It was like time had got itself stuck in a bottle of treacle and I didn't want to see it get out.

When we finished up our gaspers, I stood, as did Jeeves. "Well," I said, "I, ah, I suppose I should be off for a few rounds with that Morpheus chappie."

"Of course, sir," he said, still very quiet. We were standing quite close, as we'd been sitting on a rather smallish bench, and he reached out and touched my elbow gently. He was a bit taller than me, which meant I was eyes to nose with him, but it didn't bother me at all. I could smell just the slightest hint of that cologne on him, and it rather sent my knees to jelly. "Good night, sir." It was an innocent enough touch. It could have been any two birds who knew each other, one wishing the other a jolly good night, but I shivered under it.

"Good night, Jeeves." I wasn't entirely certain how I managed to get the words out without stammering, but I did. I watched as he shimmered off into the night and then made my own way back to the house, my head spinning with impli-whatsits. I tried to shove them out of the Wooster onion, but they kept coming, even as an exceptionally cheerful Holley was pulling out the shirt studs and folding the trousers and shutting the door behind him as he left.

I hardly slept at all that night.

***

It was the next afternoon when I saw Jeeves again. It was a little before teatime and I was coming back from the boathouse; I'd been out taking in a breeze at the gazebo on the island for a bit because of the dashed heat. I was ankling past the boxwood maze when I came upon him. He was leaning against a tree puffing on a gasper, dressed in his shirtsleeves. I must say, it was a corking sight. I wasn't sure the chap ever wore anything less than his full uniform, but those broad shoulders of his looked half again as broad and his body tapered down to a narrowish waist. It was enough to make me pause, though I managed to refrain from obvious staring.

"What ho, Jeeves?" I said, giving him a cheery wave and ankling up to him.

He straightened up and reached for his coat. "Sir."

"Oh, no, don't worry," I said. "I'm just on my way back to the house. Don't stir yourself on my account." I offered a cheery Wooster grin and he hesitated for a moment before relaxing again and taking another puff.

"Thank you, sir," he said, giving me a contemplative look.

"I... I really am quite chuffed to see you again, old thing," I said, not sure at all what else to say. I wanted to stay here with him, to see him looking like this in his white shirt and waistcoat. There was just something about him that I found impossible to ignore, and I wished that I had any reason at all to spend time with him, particularly after last night.

Jeeves drew on his gasper again, his lips pursing about the thing as he finished it off, and I could swear I felt like he was looking right through my skin and down into something deeper and rather more Woosterish. He nodded slightly, as though he had made some sort of decision. "I was very pleased at the prospect of spending time in your presence once again, sir," he said, his voice soft and solemn. "I must return to my duties now, but," his voice took on something silky that sent a shiver like a sudden snowball sliding down my spine to settle somewhere lower, "you might consider a late constitutional to the boathouse tonight, sir. It is much cooler there after the heat of the day if you are unable to rest, and it is usually very quiet by midnight."

I blinked. Had he just...? It couldn't have been what I thought -- what I hoped -- but I found myself nodding, slightly dizzy with what was very likely misplaced hope. I wasn't at all sure I was breathing; I nodded again. "I-it really has been dashed hot, hasn't it?"

"Indeed, sir."

"Perhaps I'll take a walk tonight," I said. "When things get quietish, you know."

Something darkened in his eyes. "Very good, sir." He vanished like a puff of smoke while I stood there gawping after him, wondering if I was having one of those halluci-whatsits from the heat. The wavery desert things that aren't there. Mira-somethings. Mirages. That was it; it must have been a mirage.

***

I spent most of the rest of the day and well into the evening on needles and other sharp things, wondering if Jeeves had meant what I thought he meant, or if he'd even actually said anything of the sort at all. The more I thought about it, the less I knew what he'd been intending. The weather really was dashed hot and had been for weeks and weeks. Maybe all he meant was exactly what he'd said -- it was cooler down by the lake if I was feeling restless and not able to sleep that night.

He'd not said anything about meeting me there, certainly. But then there was that particular tone of voice he'd used, as though he must have meant something besides just 'go take a walk, Wooster.' Well, I wanted him to mean considerably more than just 'g. t. a w., Wooster.' I at least wanted him to mean 'g. t. a w. with me, Wooster.' If there was midnight walking to be done, I'd much prefer to find him beside me when I took that particular constitutional.

The only other time I saw Jeeves that day was at dinner. He favored me with a vague bit of a nod, but there wasn't anything more in his expression than there usually was. I mean to say, he had that slightest hint of a smile that nobody else seemed to believe was there, but that by this time I was fairly certain was normal for him if nobody had worn green striped ties or orange socks or whatnot where he could see them. He really did seem to take exception to finest and fruitiest of fashionable togs. I had to make an effort not to pay more attention to the man than was proper. The sort of things that were drifting about in the old onion were not the kinds of things one wanted to draw any attention to, and staring at anyone's underbutler -- even one's own, if one had an underbutler -- was just not done. Too many of the wrong kinds of looks and glances and a chap might find himself a guest of the constabulary, or under the supervision of someone like Sir Roderick Glossop, famous loony doctor to the rich and noblesse. Unfortunately, Bertram tended to this wrong sort of l.s and g.s and there were moments when it was a struggle to keep them under a bushel, as it were.

By the time Holley had bunged me into bed, I had convinced myself that if I ankled over to the boathouse around midnight, I would be there alone. I was restless, though, like a dog who keeps turning round and round before finally settling down for a proper nap, and I was nowhere near the settling part. A little before midnight, I tossed myself into some clothing and took up the old cigarette case. If anyone saw me, I could say I was too hot and was going out for a smoke under the stars in hopes of cooling down. No one would doubt me; it was still hot enough in the house to make a snake perspire, and not much cooler outside.

It took me rather longer to walk out to the place in the dark than it had during the day. The path wasn't quite as smooth as I'd remembered, and I tripped a couple of times. Fortunately, I managed to avoid the brambles. Mostly. It was a slightly scraped and nervous Bertram who approached the little building through the darkness.

There was a slight flicker of orange light visible through the window, and the door was slightly open. I ankled up and opened the door. Jeeves was sitting there in his shirtsleeves, as he had been when I'd seen him that afternoon, a lit gasper between his lips. It was the source of the flicker of light I'd seen. "Jeeves!" I said, unable to conceal either my delight or my nervousness.

He stood as I entered. "Mr. Wooster." It was hard to see him clearly in the dark, as the small building was lit only by dim moonlight and the tiny spark of his cigarette.

"Getting away from the heat, then?" I asked, uncertain how to ask him what I really wanted to know.

Jeeves turned slightly away from me and lit an old kerosene lantern, turning the flame down to a bare glow, so that we could see one another. Two rowboats floated in the slip, and the flame reflected, glistening, on the water as he set the lamp on the floor. "The proximity to the lake does moderate the temperature, sir," he said. His voice was low and quiet, and he set his gasper in a small glass ashtray on one of the nearby benches.

He watched me, his eyes hooded and dark, as I slowly moved closer to him. Jeeves didn't back away. He seemed to be barely breathing. That was all right, though, because I'm not sure I was breathing at all. I hardly dared to be so near him. When I stopped, I was only a few inches away. I could smell the smoke on him, and the slightest hint of that spicy cologne that went straight to the most primitive part of me. We stood there like that, my face tilted up slightly, his tilted down, looking at each other. It felt like any movement at all might shatter this thingness that had been building between us.

Jeeves reached out slowly, one hesitant hand resting gently on my chest. I couldn't help shivering. Instead of shattering, everything seemed to grow sharper and even more breathless. His other hand came up, the backs of his fingers brushing my cheek, and he took a shuddering breath. The hand on my chest slipped down and his arm went around my waist and drew me in as the fingers of his other hand burrowed into my hair. My arms came up about him and the next thing I knew, we were kissing, our bodies pressed against each other in a thoroughly spiffing way.

There was a soft sound that might have been a moan; I have no idea which of us made it. Actually, I didn't care which of us had made it. His mouth was wet and hot and his tongue was slick against my own, sending a cascade of tingles down my spine. It felt wonderful, and his hands moved along my sides and back, slow and confident, exploring as I tried to get even closer to him. Our kiss wasn't one of those desperate ones. Instead, it was slow and deep and incredibly bally intense. Trying to describe how good it felt, kissing him and being wound close in his arms, would be impossible. I only knew I wanted more, that I never wanted it to end. Until that moment I hadn't realized how dashed much I had needed this. It was like someone had fired up a lighthouse inside me, complete with an amorous lighthouse keeper, several mostly-naked mermaids, and a foghorn.

Eventually we both had to breathe, but panting against his lips was almost as nice. He nuzzled my face gently. "I had feared you would not come, sir," he whispered.

"I was afraid you really were just telling me to go take a walk," I answered. Jeeves smiled. It wasn't a big smile, but it was genuine, involving both corners of his mouth, and his eyes as well. Even Dizzy might have grudgingly recognized it as such. Jeeves was an absolute dasher, and smiling just made him even more of one.

He kissed me again, much more briefly, but with just as much oomph behind it. A moment later he said, "Would you care to sit, sir?"

I nodded and he opened a chest that was cleverly disguised as a bench, pulling out a couple of blankets and spreading them out on the dock. A couple of pillows were tossed down and he gestured for me to sit as he reached back into the chest and brought forth a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses. He sat with me and a corkscrew appeared in his hand; he opened the bottle with a flourish and poured us each a slosh. "You came prepared," I said.

"I will admit, I was hopeful, sir," he said, handing me one of the glasses.

I raised mine to touch his. "Cheers," I said, as the glasses rang faintly. We each took a sip and then he leaned in, resting his weight on one hand, and kissed me again. This one was just a soft brush of lips, gentle and sensual, open-mouthed, with the taste of red wine in the breath between us. I was getting quite stirred up by this whole kissing wheeze. I'd been conscious of wanting him for some time now, but I'd had no idea how enthusiastic my body was about this wanting Jeeves whatsit until I'd dived into the whole lips brushing against lips thingummy with both feet.

There was a good deal of wine sipping, frequently interrupted by kissing, until we had emptied our glasses. Once the g.s were dispensed with, our hands got into the mix as well. I'd been aching to touch him for what seemed forever. I had leaned on him whilst removing the trousers the night I'd been disengaged from Florence, and I'd hardly been able to drag my mind away from him since. Now that I had the digits upon him, I wanted to take my time in mapping the Jeevesian territory. We could afford a couple of hours here, now that night's bat had flittered, or whatever that poet Johnny had called it, without arousing too much suspicion.

Those broad shoulders that had been haunting my sleep were just as solid and warm as I'd imagined. We lay on the blankets on the floor of the boathouse, our bodies tangled together, slowly caressing one another, breathlessly kissing and slipping buttons from their various and sundry buttonholes. Jeeves seemed just as eager to expose the Wooster corpus as I was to excavate his from under the cover of clothing. We were bared to one another, shirts open, shoes and socks tugged from feet, one bit at a time, and I kissed my way along his naked flank as he glowed under the light of the kerosene lamp. He shivered at the trace of my lips on the crest of one hip, panting a bit as I tugged at the flies of his trousers. I could see he was hard already -- I was as well, and his visible arousal excited me incredibly.

Looking up at him left me breathless. I had only once before seen him less than completely immaculate, and this Jeeves -- with his black hair tousled, his eyes dark with what had to be lust, his back arching as I sucked at the skin on his stomach -- this Jeeves was an entirely different creature indeed. He groaned quietly as I finally got his trousers open and slipped a hand inside to pull his hard prick out. He was hot in my hand, and his skin was velvet smooth; he smelled like heat and desire and he tasted absolutely topping when I took him in my mouth and sucked him. He buried one hand in my hair, his fingers tightening as he gasped out a soft, "Oh, sir!"

I tugged his trousers and pants off as I sucked him and he cooperated as best he could. He made the most wonderful little sounds as I let him slip in and out of my lips, my hands caressing the bare skin of his hips and his bottom. I wanted to make him come off, and my own prick ached and throbbed with my quickening pulse as I knelt over him. The heat was stifling but it wasn't enough to dampen my enthusiasm.

Gasping, he tugged at my hair. "Wait, sir, please!" He tugged hard enough that I let him slip out of my mouth and looked up at him.

"Jeeves?"

He was panting harshly as he tugged me up his body, and he kissed me with a fierce hunger as he quickly divested me of the rest of my clothing. When I was entirely nude, we lay in one another's arms, our hands moving along sweat-slicked skin, tracing the lines of muscle and bone. I rocked against him, my hard prick against the hot shaft of his, needing this like a chap might need a good b. and s. after a long day in front of a magistrate. His hands moved up to frame my face and he pulled away for a moment.

"Sir," he said, still breathless. "I... could we..."

"What is it, Jeeves?" I asked, rather a bit breathless myself. "Anything you like, old fruit. All you have to do is ask." It had been quite some time since I'd been with another chap, but I knew enough about the whole thing that I doubted he would ask for anything that would startle or offend me.

He reached over and snagged his trousers, fishing about in one of the pockets. Finding what he was after, he handed me a little blue glass jar that contained some thick, slippery stuff. "Would you, sir?" I must say, the thought took my breath away, though I admittedly hadn't much left by that point anyway. I nodded.

"Are you sure?"

"Absolutely, sir," he said, though it was more of a purr. He raised a knee, opening his legs for me while regarding me with a thoroughly lascivious look in his eyes. Well, one doesn't refuse such a delightful invitation, I must say. Particularly not when said d. i. has been issued by such a dashed handsome chap as Jeeves.

I dipped a couple of fingers into the cool, slippery jelly. "Has it been a while?" I asked. I needed to know how slow I should go with the whole thingummy, after all.

He nodded briefly, looking quite like a cat who'd devoured some poor yellow bird or whatnot. "It has, sir, but there should be no difficulty."

"Well, then." I sat close to him, leaning against his body and spreading a bit of the stuff between those lovely cheeks of his, caressing the small hole there. He relaxed beside me, lying back with a pleased sigh. He lay one hand on my thigh as I slowly worked a finger into him, making small, delighted sounds as I did so. I hadn't thought I could get harder than I already was, but I felt like my prick might just burst if I couldn't slip inside him soon. I laid kisses on his upraised knee, nipping and sucking at the skin on the inside of his thigh while I slowly buggered him with one finger. The soft, aroused sounds he made were absolutely maddening.

By the time I'd begun pressing a second finger into him, he was slicking my prick with some of the jelly, and it felt just bally incredible. He had large, strong hands, and his touch was firm and sure, driving me even further into the depths of desire for him. There was no question at all that he wanted this just as much as I did. When I slipped a third finger inside, he spoke again. "If I might make a suggestion, sir," he said, breathless.

"Hmm?"

He lowered a hand into the lake, little ripples spiraling out from the motion under the light of the kerosene lamp. "With the heat as it is, we might be more comfortable in the water, sir."

"Oh, I say," I said, nodding. "That's a topping idea." I gave my fingers a bit of a twist and a flick and he gave a strangled cry, his head falling back as he panted. I chuckled. I let my fingers slide out of him and dropped myself over the edge of the dock into the water. It turned out to be pleasantly tepid and only about waist-deep, the bottom sort of sandily silty, and my toes spread in the cool stuff beneath me. I wrapped an arm about Jeeves's waist and pulled him in with me.

He stood with me for a moment, his body pressed to mine, arms wrapped tightly around me, and he kissed me, his tongue thrusting into my mouth. It was good and I couldn't help the little, lost sound I made. When he was done, he leaned back in the water, resting his shoulders on the edge of the dock so that he was floating there with his thighs wrapped about the slender Wooster waist. "Now that's a corking idea," I said, taking his hips in my hands as we shifted ourselves about to get comfortable.

The slick jelly we'd used wouldn't go all thin in the water, so that was more than all right. It was different to be like this, standing between his legs and able to wrap my arms around him, to touch him anywhere I wanted without a bed or a chair or the floor in the way. I was so dashed hard for him and pressing against him was delightfully exciting and comfortable. I leaned down over him and sucked his prick into my mouth again, his skin cool from the water but blood-hot beneath, and I could feel his pulse against my tongue as he groaned. I supported him easily with my hands cupping his bottom; he had a good bit of really delightful muscle and I could feel it flex as his legs slowly moved around me.

"Oh, sir," he whispered, his wet fingers combing gently through my hair. "Your mouth is pure heaven." He was breathless as he spoke, his voice low and thoroughly sensual. I gave a little hum of approval and he gasped, shivering slightly, his legs tightening around me. "Yes," he groaned, and his fingers tightened in my hair. He was slick and salty in my mouth and I teased him with my tongue as he panted softly in the heavy quiet of the boathouse.

After a moment, I let him slip from my lips and took myself in hand, pressing against him and then, slowly, into his body. He gasped as I pushed inside, and I groaned with the pleasure of his tight heat; it was a blissful contrast to the tepid water and I tucked one arm under him as I leaned my weight into him. My other hand slid up his body, teasing at his dark, tight nipples, feeling the tiny bumps of gooseflesh on his side and chest as he shivered with want. "More," he gasped, "please, sir." He clutched my arms as I shifted my weight, thrusting slow and deep into his body. I could feel the hard length of his prick against my belly as we moved, the water rippling around us, making soft sounds against the wood of the pilings beneath the dock.

When I lowered my head and took one tight nipple into my mouth, sucking and squeezing gently with my teeth, he shuddered and cried out softly, his prick jerking against me. His legs tightened and his body bucked under me. He pushed against my weight, his body flexing as we moved. After a few moments we got into the rhythm of it, moving together like one body. It was the best thing I'd felt in months, maybe years, having that solid body in my arms, listening to his harsh breath and the occasional gasp or soft cry when we did something particularly delicious. I kissed him wherever I could reach -- over his chest, along his neck, pressing my tongue into his mouth as we gave it our all.

The longer we went at it, the harder and deeper I thrust into him, and he made wonderful, encouraging sounds, his fingernails digging into my back as I pounded into his tight, willing body. I needed the intensity of it, needed to feel him lose control under me, and I leaned back and took his long, thick prick in my hand and started stroking him, squeezing him tightly as I did. He shuddered and bucked into it, gasping as the water sloshed around us. I loved seeing him like this. I hadn't had much experience with the gals -- one didn't do such things with a lady after all -- but I'd been told by a few chaps that they could quite convincingly fake an interest, or even a climax. There wasn't the slightest bit of fakery here. Jeeves was lost in his pleasure, eyes squeezed shut as his mouth opened in a strangled shout as he came off in my hand, fluid splashing up in a white arc as his body convulsed around me.

He gasped and shuddered as I kept thrusting into him; I was close but not there just yet. I closed my own e.s, all the better to focus on what I was feeling and, after a few moments, his hands came up, cool and wet, and started squeezing and twisting on my nipples. Well, I must say, that was just enough to send me rocketing over the edge into my own finish, gasping and choking back a bally howl as my entire body went stiff with the force of it all. It was like fireworks behind my eyes and I was left breathless and nearly limp, though I had enough control left not to slip under the water -- I grabbed onto the dock with one hand and Jeeves gathered me up in his arms to keep me from flopping like a fish without gills.

Finally, utterly limp and relaxed, we floated there in the water, my head on his chest and his shoulders propping us both up on the dock. "Oh, I say," I murmured, my voice hoarse and ragged.

I could hear the smile in Jeeves's voice when he spoke. "Indeed, sir," he said. He kept up a gentle caress of the Wooster corpus with one hand as he held me, dropping a soft kiss in the hair on the crown of my head. "That was delightful." It was a few minutes before I could exercise any sort of control over the limbs; I'd been entirely knackered by our little interlude. I wrapped my arms about him and hugged him tight.

Eventually, I opened the old e.s again, looking at the glimmering ripples around our bodies as we floated. I sighed. "I suppose we'll have to ankle on back to the house soon," I said, rather saddened by the thought. I was having the most irrational desire to stay right where I was until I had to leave to go back to London.

His arms loosened about me. "I fear that is the case, sir," he said, his body tilting a bit as we both got our feet down onto the bottom. Once we were upright again, he folded me into his arms and we just held each other.

"Thank you, old thing," I said. "I can't tell you how much I enjoyed that."

He tilted my chin up a bit with one wet hand and lowered the Jeevesian lips to my own. "Perhaps as much as I did, sir," he murmured after he'd kissed me. That made the Wooster dial light up with a sunny grin. He hoisted himself out of the water to sit on the dock, and I popped up next to him, our legs dangling into the water like a pair of young boys. He turned his head to me, regarding me with what looked like a certain solemn joy. "Sir," he said, hesitating for a moment. He took a small, bracing breath. "Sir, would you consider meeting me again tomorrow night?" he asked in a whisper.

My heart leapt with an entirely un-solemn joy of my own. "Oh, absolutely, old fruit," I said, quite excited by the thought. "What a dashed corking idea!" I tucked a hand behind his neck and pulled him in for an enthusiastic kiss, which he returned in kind. I was panting slightly when our lips parted, but I could see his eyes aglow in the dim lamplight and he was smiling.

"We should dress and return to the house separately, sir, to avert any potential suspicions," he said, pulling his legs out of the water and getting up. He reached into the bench he'd pulled the blankets from and extracted a couple of towels, handing me one as I got up to join him. I toweled him off, much to his surprise, and he returned the favor, allowing us a little more time to lay hands on one another in a quite friendly manner. Jeeves tucked me back into the old outer crust and sent me off after lighting a gasper for me. "I shall attend to things here, sir," he said. He kissed me once more before I left, and I spent the remainder of that night dreaming of dark hair and pale skin against the cool water of the lake.

***

The next day was the wedding of Fuzz Pordwainer and Mandy Wriggleston-Smythe, the osten-something reason I was out at Dizzy's to begin with. I was feeling particularly chipper after the night I'd had, but the tying of knots for said pair of lovebirds was reason enough for me to look all chuffed, so nobody asked after me. There was quite a party before we sent them off to France for their honeymoon.

That night I met Jeeves at the boathouse again. It was just as corking as the first time, and harder to leave him afterwards. The night after was my last night at Dizzy's old heap, and we found ourselves together for several hours that night, taking rather a risk in being away from the house for so long. After we'd had our bit of sporting together, I didn't want to leave him at all. We lay in each other's arms for quite some time afterwards, though we said little. It wasn't like there was much we could say, after all. He was Dizzy's underbutler and I lived in London and we couldn't very well carry on some sort of affair when we lived so far apart.

There were quite a few longing glances as we tucked ourselves back into our clothes. "I will not be able to see you before you leave tomorrow, sir," Jeeves said, and I could hear the regret in his voice.

"I know," I said, sighing. The Wooster spirits were flagging.

"I'm sorry," he said. I was certain he really meant it.

I nodded. "So am I. It's been lovely, old thing. It really has." He kissed me again, holding me tightly as he did so. When he let me go, I had to turn away and leave before I found myself glued to the spot like some bally hypnotized thingummy. It just wouldn't do at all. It was a saddened Bertram who returned to the metrop the next morning.

***

It's harder to wangle an invitation to someone's country house than you might think. You can't just ring someone up and say, "Dizzy, old thing, can I come by for a few weeks?" and expect a warm welcome. With one's aunts, perhaps, but not with a random chum. I found myself missing Jeeves like the dickens, but I hadn't a single excuse to hand to get myself into his presence.

Life continued much as it always had, with a couple of visits out to dear old Aunt Dahlia's place tossed into the mix, but it was September before I knew it. The heat wave had finally broken and it felt like autumn on the wind. It was a rare day that passed without my thinking of Jeeves in what was probably a rather unhealthy fashion. He wafted through my dreams with uncanny frequency, silent as ghosts, materializing next to me with a perfect cup of tea and a rather passionate kiss. I wasn't exactly losing sleep, but I'll admit I wanted to see him again pretty desperately.

Given all this, you might understand why I almost jumped out of my skin when I heard a quiet, "Mr. Wooster?" behind me on the street one day on my way over to the Drones for a bit of dinner roll cricket and a spot of darts.

"Jeeves?" I managed to avoid squeaking. Barely. There he stood on the pavement like a bally Adonis in a plain grey suit with a dark blue tie about his neck that exactly matched the shade of his eyes. Had I been a beazel, I'd probably have swooned. Fortunately, we Woosters are made of sterner stuff, so I only fluttered a bit. "Jeeves, old thing, what are you doing in the metrop?"

He seemed hesitant when he approached me, though he held himself with his usual stiff public dignity. "Lord Farnsworth allows his staff a week's holiday each year, sir," he said. "Ordinarily, I would find myself seeking out a quiet spot for fishing, but..." He bit his lip in what for him was a rather blatant display of emotion. "I hope I am not being too forward, Mr. Wooster, but I wondered if, perhaps, you would consider spending time with me at some point during the next few days, if you are not otherwise engaged."

I suspect I lit up like a Christmas tree or the desert sun at midday. He'd come to London to find me? "I... Really, Jeeves?" I asked, a bit overcome. He nodded, still looking like he thought I might say no. "By Jove, that's a fantastic idea!"

He relaxed just a touch at that, with an air about him like unto a pleased, if somewhat solemn, stuffed frog. There was a hint of a sparkle in his eyes, if you can believe it. "When and where shall I meet you, sir?" he asked.

"Oh, well! I was only off to the Drones, old thing. Nothing pressing. Have you had luncheon yet? You could come up to my flat and -- oh, wait." That really wouldn't do. Holley knew Jeeves and there was no reason at all that Jeeves should be visiting a gentleman in London. That way lay disaster.

He shook his head firmly. "It would be impossible for me to call upon you at your residence, sir."

I sighed. "I know. I'm sorry, I completely forgot about all that mess. Holley would be a bit of a problem." I tapped a finger on my lip, pondering for a moment. "Right, then. Why don't you come to Wilton's over on Jermyn Street with me?"

"Would you not happen upon other gentlemen of your acquaintance there, sir?" he asked, a hint of concern in his voice.

"Dash it. There is that," I said. "Perhaps you ought to suggest something, Jeeves. I'm sure you've a better idea of what we're dealing with here. Name the place and I'll pay for us to strap on the old nosebag, what?"

He nodded at that. "Thank you, sir. I do believe I know an appropriate restaurant. It is nondescript and reasonably private, and I do not believe either of us will encounter anyone we know."

"Jolly good," I said. "Lead on, old fruit!"

I could still barely believe he'd actually come to the metrop to find me, but I wasn't going to look a gift Jeeves in the teeth. He nabbed us a cab and we set off for parts unknown, at least to me. I rarely ventured far from my usual rails, to be honest; the Drones, a few familiar restaurants, my Aunt Agatha's club if I were unlucky, and the residences of several friends, or the theatres and moving-picture houses. Beyond these boundaries, like that old Mycroft Holmes bird, Bertram did not stray.

We eventually found ourselves seated in a little place where almost everyone was terribly short and quite Chinese. I was entirely lost and had no idea where we were, but the food was tasty and we weren't bothered by anyone at all. Jeeves showed me how to eat with a pair of sticks and told me what some of the things were that I was putting in my mouth; not all of them sounded like they should have been nearly so delicious as they actually tasted. There were buckets of tea, as well, which helped things considerably.

"Jeeves," I said, when we were both full enough to pop, "I'd really very much like to do more than just stuff more of this Sesshy stuff down the old gullet."

"Szechuan, sir. It is a province in southwestern China that--"

"Yes, yes, that's quite all right," I said, not really caring where the bally stuff had come from. "I mean to say, I know we can't go back to my flat, but I'd very much like to spend some time with you in private, if you see what I mean."

"I do, sir," he answered. "I have engaged a hotel room nearby, though it will not be at all what you are accustomed to."

I looked at him. "Really, Jeeves, if there's a comfortable place to stretch out, and a lockable door, I think that's all I care about," I said softly, not wanting at all to be overheard. "If you're there, that's where I'd like to be."

His expression softened. "Very good, sir," he said, letting slip the tiniest hint of a smile.

I paid our bill and we ankled on over to the hotel Jeeves had found. It was a small place, but clean and cozy inside. There weren't really any amenities, but that wasn't what I was interested in at all. There was a bed, even if it was smallish, and it was warm and out of the rain that had started shortly after we left the restaurant. He peeled off my damp coat and hat and hung them on a hook on the back of the door, then did the same with his own.

We stood there, just looking at each other for a moment. Said mo. took much longer to pass than I would have thought; time seemed to do weird things when I was around Jeeves. Then I took a step toward him and we were in each other's arms, kissing like the world would end. I had thought of him so dashed often, wanting exactly this. Well, I had rather imagined it taking place in my own flat, but the idea was certainly the same.

Breathless with kisses, Jeeves drew me back slowly toward the bed, our hands all over each other, pulling at clothes and tossing things here and there about the small room. I wanted his skin on mine. I wanted him to cover me like a warm, wooly blanket on a freezing, snowy day. I wanted him on me and in me and surrounding me and I groaned aloud when he took my bottom in one hand and squeezed.

"Sir, we must be quiet," he murmured. "The walls here are thin and the sound will carry."

I nodded. "Oh, right ho," I whispered. "Sorry."

"There is no need to apologize," he said, drawing me down onto his lap on the bed as he sat. I knelt with my legs on either side of him, my feet dangling off the edge, and I could feel his hardness meeting my own. His hands slid up over my bare back and he latched onto my shoulders and pulled me in for another really corking kiss. After that, it was only a minute before we were both naked as things without clothes, lying on our sides on the narrow bed with our limbs all entwined like ivy or grape vines, though we obviously didn't have any bunches of grapes dangling from us.

There was a great deal of delicious wriggling and writhing. I felt like some snake might, in the middle of a tangle of other terribly lewd snakes, all wrapped up in muscular, sensual delight. Jeeves's arms were strong and warm, perfect for holding me on a cool, rainy day. I could hear the rain against the window, harder now than it had been while we walked, pattering in a soft counterpoint to our ragged breathing. We held each other, rutting against one another with an almost silent desperation until we came off in a blissful if rather sticky mess.

I lay with him in the aftermath, eyes closed, feeling quite as though I were floating, though his weight on my body was solid and comforting. I could feel his fingers moving slowly on my cheek in a soft caress. "That was absolutely spiffing, old thing," I murmured.

"I quite agree, sir," he answered, his voice equally soft under the quiet percussion of the rain.

My eyes opened and I looked over at him. There was a surprising tenderness in his gaze. "How did you find me?" I asked.

He flushed slightly. "I fear I took a considerable liberty, sir," he said. "I made a number of discreet inquiries as to your habits and also made a visit to the Junior Ganymede club early last month to consult the club book, intending to find out where you resided and which clubs you frequented in the hope that I might encounter you when I came to London."

I wasn't sure what this club book thingummy was, but the thought that he'd gone to that much effort to find me was a bit encouraging. I'd wanted to be found, certainly. "I'm glad you did," I said. "I'd been trying to think of a way to see you again, but there didn't seem to be much I could do without raising a few awkward q.s of entirely the wrong sort."

Jeeves nodded. "Such things are always a risk for men like ourselves, sir," he said. "I am pleased, however, that you have not taken my actions amiss. There are gentlemen who would very likely have perceived such an interest from a man of my station as a potential threat."

"Really?" I couldn't imagine that. "I'm afraid I can't imagine why," I said. "You seem like a sterling sort of a chap, Jeeves."

He sighed. "Your generosity of spirit continues to impress me, sir, but it could easily leave you open to blackmail by unscrupulous parties. Such things have happened to good men many times in the past and will no doubt continue to happen. Gentlemen of our disposition are uniquely vulnerable to the machinations of the greedy and ambitious."

"I say. That's... well, that's just awful." It was a frightening thought, really. "But you're not like that at all."

"No, sir," he said, shaking his head. "I am not. I find myself greatly enjoying your company and I would never deliberately endanger you. Your secret is my own, and I have no ambitions to wealth or power that would drive me to such an act."

"You don't think that I would use this against you," I said, worried that he might have a fear or two lurking about in the underbrush himself.

His lips quirked into that tiny smile of his. "Your kind and open disposition, sir, makes that possibility quite remote. I had no fear of such an eventuality."

"Still," I said, "it was rather a risk you took, looking me up like that. I mean to say, you had no idea how I might react, did you?"

"I will admit I did not," Jeeves said. He paused, taking a breath. "I was encouraged by our liaisons at Lord Farnsworth's estate, sir, but I was also well aware that such things are often only engendered by chance and proximity. I had no reason to believe you would welcome further contact from me, despite your enjoyment of our activities. Rather, many gentlemen like yourself would prefer that such things be a singular event and would not welcome a reminder of their past indiscretions."

Well, that was a bit disgruntling. "You don't think of this as an indiscretion, do you, Jeeves?" I said, making a little gesture between the two of us.

"Only in the strictest legal sense of the word, sir," he said. "One must always be mindful of the risks."

"I know. I'm much more mindful than I'd like to be." I rolled over beneath him and rested my chin on the pillow, my arms crossed thoughtfully before me. He shifted his weight to let me move, then lay upon my back, one arm around me. "I must say, though, I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't be dashed flattered to have your attention, Jeeves."

He kissed the back of my neck, his breath tickling slightly and sending a tingle down my spine. It rattled all the way down into my prick and I shivered. "Thank you, sir," he murmured, his lips moving gently against my skin. "I have often been told that I am far too cold and reserved. Such reserve is not generally regarded as a desirable trait."

"What rot," I told him. "Anyone who would say that about you obviously never bothered to actually talk to you."

"Talk has rarely been uppermost in the minds of the men with whom I have engaged in prior relations, sir," he said, a hint of wry disappointment in his voice.

I couldn't help laughing, though it was one of those laughs where you're doing it because the whole thing is dashed painful, not because there's anything at all funny. "Well, yes, I suppose that's all too common." I sighed. "I've had any number of chaps tell me I'm 'pretty' but who fled the moment I opened my mouth. I realize I've got only about half the brain that your average chap should have, but I'd like to think I'm more than just fair hair and blue eyes, you know?"

"Oh, sir," he whispered. He kissed my neck again, caressing and nibbling on me. One thing led to another, and soon he was taking me slowly from behind, his lovely thick, hard prick moving inside me in the most delightful way. I was utterly melting beneath him, groaning quietly and rocking back into each of his long, deep thrusts. My own prick was pressed between my body and the bed as I spread my legs further for him. I'd been wanting him like this rather badly ever since we'd met earlier in the day and Jeeves was very, very good at this buggery business. Absolutely topping, in fact.

The whole thing was slow but very intense, and I begged for more as he rode me. It was dashed hard to stay quiet, but that only seemed to make the whole thing sharper and more thrilling. There was nothing at all in the world for me but the weight of Jeeves's body on my back, the feel of his hands moving on me, and the sound of his breath as he gasped and panted while we moved. He murmured sweet endearments in my ear that I barely heard, telling me I was beautiful, that I felt wonderful, that he wanted me, and the deep rumble of his voice only served to drive me more deeply into my pleasure. He said filthy, lascivious things, telling me I was tight and so hot and that he adored fucking me and being fucked by me, and the whole thing stole my breath entirely until I was dizzy with need and lust and I trembled underneath him, my fingers clutching the sheets as I bit the pillow to keep myself from crying out and giving us away.

Things got harder and rougher and he pulled me up onto my knees as he drove into me even more deeply, thrusting hard and fast as I choked back ecstatic shouts, burying them as best I could in the pillow. He held my hips with strong hands as he moved, and I reached for my prick, stroking myself as his hips moved faster and faster, both of us nearing the end. I wanted to shout. I wanted to scream and beg for more. I wanted to howl his name to the sky, but I had to stay quiet. A few more deep, powerful thrusts and it was all too much; I came off hard and just kept coming, my shouts barely muffled by the pillow as he pushed me over the edge and kept pounding into me, struggling for his own finish.

It was a matter of only moments before Jeeves gasped and shuddered through his peak, leaning down and wrapping his arms about me tightly as his hips stuttered unevenly against me, pressing as deeply into me as he could get without climbing entirely inside. Shaking, we both sagged to the mattress, completely spent. He was still hard inside me as we rested, and it felt incredible. I wanted to be there, just like that, until the sun went cold and the entire bally universe ended, it was so good. I hadn't enough breath or energy or brain to form words, so I just lay there under him, panting and savoring the whole thing, wishing I could dip the moment in amber so it would never change.

I must have drifted off to sleep, because I woke on my side, with Jeeves curled around my back, both of us beneath the covers. I made a happy little humming sound, as befits one who has been thoroughly pleased and completely sated. "Welcome back, sir," Jeeves said, sounding ever-so-slightly fondly amused.

"How long was I asleep?" I asked. It had got dark out, though the rain hadn't stopped entirely.

"Nearly three hours," he said.

"Oh, I say. I'm sorry, old thing. That was quite inconsiderate of me."

He shook his head. "Not at all, sir. I took it as a compliment." His voice was warm and dark, like a fine port.

"Ah. Well. I suppose it was, at that. It was all quite spiffing, you know." His arms tightened around me and I could feel him smile against my shoulder. I turned slightly to look at him. "I don't suppose I could stay with you tonight," I asked, feeling a bit hopeful.

"Sir?" He sounded slightly befuddled. "Why would you wish to stay here, sir, when you could be comfortable at home in your own bed?"

The man had to be daft. "You must be daft, Jeeves. You wouldn't be at home in my bed, or had you forgotten that whole awkward running into Holley thingummy?"

He blinked. "You wish to stay with me tonight, sir?"

"Of course I bally well wish to stay with you tonight. After all that sneaking about at Dizzy's place and only being able to spend a couple of hours with you at a time, it would be just the thing to soothe the Wooster spirit. Well, I mean, unless you don't want me to and all that." I hadn't thought that, given the smallness of the bed, Jeeves might not actually want a Wooster stealing the sheets.

His face softened and there was a bit of a glow in the Jeevesian e. "I would be delighted to have your company, sir. I was merely concerned for your comfort."

I nodded. "Well, then. I'm feeling a bit peckish. Shall we toddle off and find ourselves some dinner to get outside of?"

"What will you tell Mr. Holley, sir? Surely he will be expecting you to return tonight."

"Oh. Right. I suppose I should ring him up and tell him I've run into an old chum and will be staying there for a few days. I'll have to tell him it's one of my more bohemian pals -- he won't be expecting to come along to valet for me if that's the case, because they usually inhabit draughty garrets and other places that aren't particularly accommodating of valetry. Though I should pick up a few days of clothing at home while I'm at it," I said. "You wouldn't mind me staying with you until you go back to Dizzy's, would you?"

The glow in his e.s splashed over onto his whole dial. "I would be honored, sir."

"That's settled, then! Let's clean up a bit and get the togs back on so I can take you out for dinner. Would you fancy going to a show as well?"

A genuine smile spread along his lips. "Thank you, sir. I should enjoy that very much, provided you procure proper clothing for the evening first. It would not do to have you dining in your afternoon wear." There was an air of finality to the proclamation that I could not argue with.

***

That next week was one of the happiest I'd yet experienced. The more time I spent with Jeeves, the more I liked him. He was a bit concerned about our respective stations in life, but I didn't care that he was a servant; it didn't matter at all to me beyond the fact that it made an already awkward situation slightly more so. I was honestly much more afraid that someone would find out we were doing more together than was proper, or legal. I think the people who say that chaps like this Wooster are perverted and immoral are entirely wrong; my intentions toward Jeeves were thoroughly honorable, if a bit physically focused. Sadly, I'm not the one who makes the laws. To be honest, I didn't particularly want to be, as that whole political whatsit was a considerable bother from what I'd heard out of those actually involved in the process. Rather, I find myself on the inconvenient side of said laws from time to time, mostly due to relatives and chums who seem to think that Bertram is just the sort who should be pinching silver for them, or lifting helmets from policemen's heads.

This thingummy I had with Jeeves, though, was some orders of magnitude more problematic than the occasional spot of petty theft and the penalties were comm-something-ately more severe. It wasn't just the threat of a couple of years in chokey, it was the whole idea of one's good name being ruined, and dragging one's family and possibly even one's friends down with you. It was enough to leave me looking over my shoulder from time to time while we were together, despite the fact that I was having a corking time in Jeeves's company.

Jeeves was by far the most brilliant chap I'd ever met, and quite fond of philosophy and other brainy things, yet he wasn't the sort who wanted to mould me into something I wasn't, except perhaps when he took exception to a few particularly colourful items in the Wooster wardrobe. He was handsome and eloquent and charming and, honestly, more of a gentleman than most of the actual gentlemen I knew. He liked fishing and traveling and museums and libraries, and I gave him what I could of that while we were together, showering him with gifts of books every time we wandered into a bookstore, though the travel bit was out of the question due to a lack of time and my general tendency to prefer my everyday environs. I felt rather a bit of a wilted daisy in comparison sometimes, but I craved his companionship as much as I desired his touch. By the end of the week, I wasn't at all sure what he saw in me, but the fact that he hadn't yet scarpered off and told me the whole thing was a waste of his time was encouraging. Rather, he seemed just as pleased to be in my presence as I was to be in his, and I don't think it was strictly about those lovely between the sheets activities we were indulging in regularly. I mean to say, I think he quite liked me, and that cheered me unlike anything else I had known.

Our parting was not a tearful one, though for me it was much too close to it for comfort. I think I managed to avoid actual sniffling. Nevertheless, it was a deeply saddened Bertram who bunged Jeeves into the train leaving the old metrop. I couldn't even give the chap a friendly embrace at the train station, no matter how badly I wanted to hold onto him and never let go; I had to settle for a firm handshake and a bit of silent mooning. Jeeves seemed undisturbed by the whole thing, but there was a bit of tightness around his eyes that told a different story. Earlier that day I'd promised I would do my best to find a way to come and see him again, but finding a reason to visit Dizzy was going to be a bit of a problem. One can't exactly say, "By the way, Dizzy old thing, I'd like to come out to visit for a week so I can shag your underbutler." It really is not the done thing. Jeeves wasn't particularly amused by the concept and glowered at me quite sternly, I must say, though I think he took it in the spirit I'd intended.

I moped about so badly over the next few days that Holley wondered if he shouldn't find a doctor for me. I can't say that snapped me out of it, but it did make me much more conscious of the need to preserve appearances. Pining for Jeeves wasn't going to do anything at all for either of us, and it made me dashed unpleasant to be around. I was determined to cheer up a bit, if only to keep everyone from wondering what was wrong with me. To that end, I tossed myself back into the social whirl of the Drones with what might have been just a touch of desperation.

A couple of weeks into this effort, I realized what was really going on. It wasn't just that I missed Jeeves -- I did, like the dickens. No, this hopeless Wooster had gone and fallen in love with the man. It was a bit of a shock, I must say. One doesn't go falling in love with other chaps. It's just not done. If taking a bird to bed was illegal, falling in love with him was entirely beyond the pale. I found myself in a bit of a panic at that. The old tender pash doesn't come and go as it's bid and the more I fought with it, the more I found myself tangled in nets and cords like some poor fish who wasn't exactly thrilled at being invited to dinner due to his being the main course.

I wracked the Wooster onion for some way to deal with the whole mess, but nothing presented itself. I had to talk to him, but I couldn't ring him up. Writing to him would wave a few red flags around Dizzy's place that could get Jeeves into serious trouble, and that was the last thing I wanted. I had no idea if Jeeves still wanted to talk to me, either, because he would no doubt be facing similar problems if he did. It was all so bally complicated. I just assumed he'd like to see me if I could find a way out there, as he'd said he would when I told him I'd try.

I was presented with a golden opportunity a week or so before Christmas, when Bingo Little said he was popping out to see Dizzy for a couple of days before he biffed off for the holidays with his parents. I asked if I might go along, hoping I managed to avoid sounding desperate, and he patted me on the shoulder and told me to pack a bag and leg it with him. I suspect he thought I was attempting to avoid a few extra days with Aunt Agatha, and he wasn't actually far wrong on that, as my presence had been demanded beginning shortly after we would return to the metrop.

Bingo and Holley and I turned up at Dizzy's the next day, by which time I'd come up with a plan so cunning you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel. As was usual, I saw Jeeves serving at dinner. He looked a bit chuffed, in his understated way, though we didn't have any opportunity at all to speak until very late that night. I'd stuffed myself into a winter coat and a scarf and wandered down to the boathouse, hoping he would meet me there.

It was cold and there was a slight, crackling hint of ice at the verge of the lake outside the boathouse, though the full moon made it possible for me to get there without breaking my neck. Jeeves was waiting for me when I arrived, looking anxious and anticipatory and probably a few other things beginning with an- that I can't think of right now. I tossed the Wooster corpus into his arms, though I knew that any taking-off-of-clothing was not going to occur right then and there, it being much too cold and nasty for such things. We kissed each other quite senseless and that enormous sense of rightness at being in his arms returned, making me one very happy Bertram.

We stood together for a long time, my face buried in his neck, his nose in my hair, just holding each other. Finally, I got a little breath together and a few brains for good measure, and looked up at him. "Jeeves," I said, entirely overcome, "Jeeves, please, come back to London with me. Whatever Dizzy's paying you, I don't care. I'll give you that and more. It doesn't matter. I just want you to come home with me."

His eyes widened. "Mr. Wooster!" He stiffened and took me by the shoulders, moving me away from him, obviously angry, but I didn't know why.

"Jeeves? What?" I had no idea what I'd said that might have offended him so.

His voice was as cold as his eyes, and he snapped, "I believe you have mistaken me for a rent boy, sir." He let go of me and started to walk away, but I grabbed his wrist and held on.

"What? I mean to say, what?" Where on earth had he got that idea? "Good Lord, Jeeves, what are you even talking about? You're gibbering!"

"I thought you were different, sir. I see that I was gravely mistaken." He tried to pull away from me but I hung on with both hands.

"No, dash it, you're not going anywhere until you explain to me exactly what in blazes you're talking about!" I didn't care that I was shouting. I was hurt and angry and half terrified that he was going to walk away and never so much as speak to me again.

He shot me a glare that could have incinerated my nephew-crushing Aunt Agatha at twenty paces. "I will not take your money for sexual favors, sir," he growled. "I may be a servant, but I will not be treated like a prostitute." He tried to pull away again, and I clung to his arm, dizzy with shock.

"What? Wait! No!" I dug my heels into the dock as he tried to leave. "Damn it, Jeeves, you've got it all wrong!"

He stopped trying to leave, but the furious look he turned on me would have withered a charging bull elephant and dropped it in its tracks. "I do not see how, sir," he said, his voice cold with anger. "You have just offered me a great deal of money to come to London with you. Generally, when one offers a man money for sex, it is considered prostitution."

I gawped at him, appalled at the thought. "I... Jeeves... As my valet, man! I want to hire you as my valet!"

"You already have a valet, sir," he said, still cold but at least somewhat less angry. "Mr. Holley is perfectly competent, and he said nothing today about your plans for dismissing him."

"Look, Jeeves, can we start over? Please?" I tugged at his arm and pointed at the bench. He looked me up and down, grave and slightly suspicious. After a far-too-long moment, he nodded. "Right then, good." I sat and pulled him down next to me. It took me a few deep breaths before I calmed down enough to try it again. I was still shaking a bit, but I had to get it right this time. I couldn't bear to have it end this way, with a terrible misunderstanding.

"Jeeves," I said, holding onto his hand, "please listen, just listen." He nodded. I wasn't sure I could quite whack up the ginger to lay everything out for him, but I saw now that I would have to if I was going to make him understand. "I-I don't know how you'll feel about this, old thing, but after you left London a few months ago I realized that I'd gone completely daffy for you. I mean to say, Jeeves, I'm really quite madly in love with you, and I know you probably don't feel the same, but I can't help what the Wooster heart has gone off and done."

He was looking a bit poleaxed at that, but he didn't try to stop me, so I kept on. If I stopped now, I'd never get through it. "I've missed you terribly, Jeeves, and I've been doing a good bit of violence to the old brain, trying to think of a way to have you with me. The only way I could see to do it that wouldn't land us both in chokey was to ask you to come work for me as my valet. And, I mean to say, even if you don't feel anything at all for me, I'd still like you to come, because I'm not sure I can stand to be away from you for much longer; if your company is all I can have, it's what I'll take, and I don't have any expectations of you warming the young master's bed just because you're there, you must believe me!"

Something was obviously going on for him, but he didn't speak, and I dashed in further. In for a penny, in for a pound, as they say. "I hadn't said anything to Holley because I didn't know if you would even want to come back with me, and it was no use disturbing the poor chap if you said no. I wouldn't want to worry him about his situation if it wasn't going to change, if you see what I mean. But ever since we met, I've not been able to get you out of my mind, and when you came to the metrop to see me I realized just how much you'd come to mean to me. I... I hope you'll at least consider my offer, Jeeves. I've been meaning to go to New York after New Year, and I know you said you'd like to visit there someday. I would love to have you come with me; I could show you the city, even if we had to keep up appearances, you know? I'm not asking you to sell yourself to me. I'm asking you to come and work for me and, if it suits you, to be my lover as well, because the time we've spent together has been better than anything else I've ever had with anyone and I just... I just love you. That's all."

He stared at me, silent, for so long that I thought it was done. I could feel my heart breaking, but I tried to ignore it and keep up a stiff upper lip. "I-I'm sorry," I mumbled, fighting off an absolutely crushing wave of despair. "Forget that I said anything. I won't bother you again, Jeeves, I promise." I let go of his hand and started to stand, but he didn't let go of me.

"Sir," he whispered. "Please forgive me for entirely misconstruing your intentions." The look in his eyes was absolutely unreadable. "I have... it would not have been the first time I had received such an offer, sir, and I allowed my anger and my fear to overcome my knowledge of your psychology."

"Does that mean you're not angry with me?" I asked, feeling just a fragment of hope sparking in the Wooster breast.

"I am not, sir," he answered, his voice soft.

"So, will you at least consider my offer?" I didn't know how he felt about me but, as I'd told him, if all I could have was his company, I thought it might be enough.

He nodded and drew me back into his arms. "I will consider it, sir." I melted against him, so relieved that I'm afraid I leaked just a bit about the edges. "I have no wish to cause you undue distress, but I would like to have a day to think about this so that I might evaluate my own emotions. I fear I am still somewhat shaken by my initial misunderstanding of your offer. To accept this position with you would be a significant change in my life, and I must be certain that it is what I want. Should I accept, the situation will be a complicated one, and we must both be very aware of our intentions and what we might require of one another."

"Yes, of course, Jeeves," I said, somewhat calmer now and still ensconced in his arms. It sounded like he was well-disposed to the offer, at least, but I knew he was the cautious sort, nothing at all like Bertram, who tended to throw himself into things without bothering to look first. "Bingo and I will be here for one more night. If you want, I'll meet you here again tomorrow so that we can talk it over."

"That would be more than acceptable, sir," he said, and then he took my face between his leather-gloved hands and kissed me soundly.

***

The next day went by at an agonizingly slow pace. Snails could have dashed to the arctic and back before it ended, then lifted a few at the pub while they waited for dusk. I wanted to pop up into the sky and give the sun a shove to get it moving faster, but glaring at the bally thing didn't make a whit of difference. Bingo happened upon me in one of the parlors while I was staring out the window a little before sunset.

"Bertie, old thing, you look ghastly."

I glowered upon him, but obviously I couldn't tell him what was really bothering me. "I'm pondering impending doom, my young shrimp," I said. "When you deposit me back in the metrop, I'll have to face the nephew crusher. I'd sooner have it out with Old Nick himself. I suspect the devil would be more sympathetic, what?"

He cringed. "Bad luck, Bertie," Bingo said, with obvious feeling. "You have my utter sympathy. I wouldn't want to be in the same county with the old bat, of course."

I tilted an eyebrow Bingo-ward. "Now, really, old thing, she is family, cloven hoof or not. I shouldn't let you say what I'm thinking like that."

Bingo laughed. "Do you think she'll be flinging some gal at you again?"

I shuddered. "I don't doubt it." Perhaps, if Jeeves were with me, he'd be able to help me avoid an engagement. He'd got me out of that mess with Florence back in June, after all. "You know what she's like." I gave him a speculative look. "I don't suppose you'd be willing to throw yourself on the unexploded beazel, would you? Take one for your old school chum?"

That caused a chastising shake of the head and a ramble about his latest Divine Goddess -- one of the kitchen maids, this time, I think. I wasn't at all opposed to such things between the classes; I was rather hoping for a romance with someone of the sort myself, after all. Bingo, though, seemed to have a new one every few days and I hated to think of him breaking some poor thing's heart when he hared off after the next filly he ran into on the train or in a coffeehouse. The ramble did prove distracting to him, however, and he ceased asking me questions about my relentless distress.

Tea came and went, followed by a few games of darts with Dizzy where I could at least pretend I wasn't nearly frantic. Fretting didn't seem to have bothered my aim very much, and I won every match. When dinner arrived, Jeeves was there, and he met my eyes with a look of sublime calm on his dial. It relaxed me a little; I thought that if he was going to reject me outright he'd have had some thingness about him that hinted at stern disapproval, or he might not have looked at me at all. It did the Wooster heart good to see him shimmering about the place. I was in much better spirits by the end of the meal and indulged in the postprandial b. and s. with a goodish bit of enthusiasm.

At bedtime, Holley bunged me between the sheets and I laid me down with a will, knowing I'd be up almost the moment he'd closed the door behind him. Waiting about for midnight was the hardest thing I think I'd ever done, but I managed to get myself out of the Dizzy abode and down to the boathouse with a minimum of noise and fuss.

He was there when I got to the boathouse, puffing on a gasper, but he rose when I came through the door and flicked the remainder into the water. There was the slightest hint of a smile on the Jeevesian dial, so I stepped up and tossed the arms about him and he returned the gesture with every bit of warmth I could have hoped for. "My answer is yes, sir," he murmured into my ear, "although there are a few provisos I must insist upon."

"Yes to which part?" I asked, because it was a dashed important question. He could have just been saying 'yes, I'll be your valet' not 'yes, I'll bung myself into bed with you every night.'

He kissed me briefly and smiled at me. "Yes, to everything."

I'm uncertain how I managed to avoid whooping with joy. Probably by kissing him, which I did, with a great deal of enthusiasm and tongue. "Just tell me what you want, Jeeves. No unreasonable demand shall be denied," I said when we came up for air.

He brought me over to the bench and we sat. "First, sir," he said, "you cannot pay me what I am being paid as an underbutler, nor can you pay me as generously as you offered last night. Such a wage for a valet would be unheard-of and would raise far too many uncomfortable questions. I must be paid as you would any valet."

"Oh." It hadn't occurred to me at all. I'd just wanted him with me, and I'd been willing to shovel buckets of the stuff at him if that was what it took. "All right, then, I suppose. If you think it's necessary."

"It is, sir. Believe me." He offered me a gasper and took another for himself, lighting both of them. "We must in all ways maintain our public presentation as master and man if we are to remain safe. There can be no overt, visible affection between us if we are at any risk of interruption. Only with a locked door between us and the world may we remove those masks."

I hated that idea, but I understood the need for it. "Of course," I said, though I'm sure I sounded quite disappointed at the thought.

"If anyone asks you, sir, why I decided to give up my post as Lord Farnsworth's underbutler, you must tell them it was because you offered me the chance to travel. Such an opportunity would never arise for an underbutler, nor would I be able to do so once I assumed Mr. Fenton's situation after his retirement; he will be leaving his post in two years. It must be impressed upon you, sir, just how unusual it would be for a man in my situation to walk away from my current employment -- I am very young to be considered for a position of such responsibility, and the compensation for my work is quite handsome. There are those who will speculate about us regardless, given this fact."

I nodded, taking a puff off my cig. "Right. Every butler I've ever met was a withered old thing with one foot in the grave, I must admit. You don't really look the type. So New York was just too much for you to resist, of course." I sighed and leaned into him. He put an arm about my shoulders. It was quite thoroughly spiffing. "I'm glad you were willing to give all that up."

"Fortunately," he said, "my inquiries this summer regarding your habits and your person were couched as a potential interest in seeking employment with you, so my departure will not be seen as sudden, at least belowstairs. That is where the most hazardous gossip would originate, sir, were any to arise at all. Mr. Holley was aware of my inquiries but did not believe that I would follow through with such a plan, nor did he think you would dismiss him without cause."

"I'll talk to him tomorrow after breakfast," I said. "I hate doing it to the poor chap. He's really just fine as a valet and I've not had any complaints at all, but the circs are a bit unusual."

"I have another proviso that is more personal, sir," he said. "It is an important aspect of this agreement and, should you decline, I would not in good conscience be able to accept your offer."

That had me sitting up and taking notice. The old ticker was galloping along at an unaccustomed rate and I dropped the gasper into the lake. "What is it, Jeeves?"

"I must preface this by saying that I was very gratified to find last night that you love me. I apologize for initially misunderstanding your offer, and for any pain that misunderstanding caused. You deserve to know that the reason I sought you out over my holiday was because I had already developed such feelings for you, though I feared they would never be returned. This was why I required a day to consider your offer; I did not want my own emotions to dictate my response. I feared I might put my feelings for you before my own best interests."

"I say," I whispered. "I'd no idea."

"You were not meant to," Jeeves answered. "Such unrequited feelings are unseemly in a man of my station; surely you understand that I could say nothing, and that I could ask nothing of you."

"If you'd said something about it, I might have realized how I felt sooner." There are moments when the Wooster onion requires a knock or two to put itself into gear.

"I could not," he said, "though I would have liked to."

"What is it you want to ask, old thing?"

He looked at me for a moment, and I felt like he was looking right down into me with that dark, solemn gaze of his. "My request is simply this, sir. If I am to be your lover, then I ask that you treat me as such when I am not working as your valet, with every respect and consideration that implies. If you are faced with a decision that will affect both of our lives, I ask that you consult me before that decision is made, if at all possible. When we are alone and I am not working, I do not wish to be treated as your servant; I need you to regard me as your lover in every way when we are not required to wear the mask. While I understand and accept that we must be master and man when we are around others, in our private lives I will not accept being treated as less than your lover because of my social class. If at any point in the future you wish to marry to keep yourself safe, I cannot remain in your employ, nor will I remain your lover, for I will not compromise either of us for the sake of a sham marriage." He watched me as he spoke, as though he expected shock or anger or rejection.

"None of that is unreasonable, Jeeves. My intentions toward you have always been honorable ones, but if you think I'm cocking anything up, you'll have to let me know, because I may not always think things through very clearly. You know I'm a chap of rather little brain, but I promise you that my heart is in its proper place where you're concerned. What you've asked for is what I want, too."

Jeeves nodded. "My given name is Reginald. It would be appropriate for you to use it when we are in private and I am not working. I would prefer it if you did, in fact, as a reminder to both of us that we are more than we appear."

I gave him the sunny Wooster grin. "Then kiss me and call me Bertie, Reginald. I thoroughly approve!"

He laid on with the lips until we were both breathless and smiling. "Are there any requests that you would make of me in regards to our arrangement, Bertie?"

"Well," I said, "I'm going to have to attend my rather terrifying Aunt Agatha over Christmas and New Year. I have no doubt she's going to fling some beazel at me while I'm there and try to get me married off. You did such a spiffing job of ridding me of Florence that I'd like your help in avoiding any of these entanglements in future. I'm quite in love with you and I really don't want to be married at all, convenience or not, but I have to admit I'm not very adept at avoiding such things. The female being the deadliest and all that whatsit, you know."

"I believe I can comply with that condition," he said, looking chuffed.

"Well then," I said, "I know you'll need a little time to get your things settled here. I'm leaving with Bingo tomorrow afternoon. When do you think you could be in London?"

"Late tomorrow night, most likely," he said. "I anticipate some resistance from Lord Farnsworth, but he cannot prevent my leaving. There may be a matter of his desiring two weeks notice on my part, however."

"Ah. Well. I suppose I can offer him your two weeks' wages as a compensation for losing a stellar chap like yourself if he objects, Reginald."

There was a nuzzle and another topping kiss. "That would be an equitable solution, Bertie," he said. "I shall offer my resignation after luncheon so that I have time to gather my belongings before the evening train, while not leaving Mr. Fenton short-handed for the meal. With your and Mr. Little's departure after luncheon, there will be no pressing need for my presence at dinner tonight."

"Right ho. I'll talk to Dizzy after I talk to Holley, then." I was excited as a basket of terrier pups, I must say. It was getting awfully cold, though, and I was starting to shiver a little. "We should probably go," I said. "I'm going to turn into a Wooster-cicle here shortly if I don't get warm again."

Jeeves nodded. "I shall see you in London tomorrow evening, Bertie," he said, sounding quite on top of the world. We shared a last kiss before we headed back to the house.

***

Poor Holley looked like I'd kicked him when I told him I was letting him go. "Was it anything I've done, sir, or anything I've neglected?" he asked, sounding thoroughly pitiful. "If it was, I'd really appreciate the chance to set it right, sir."

"No, Holley, old thing, it's nothing at all that you did or didn't do. You see, just after I'd had to sack Meadowes for sock-theiving, I stayed here for a few weeks, and Dizzy set Jeeves to valeting for me. It's not that you're not good at it, it's just that Jeeves bird was really quite stunningly good at it, and I've been trying to talk him into coming to work for me ever since."

He blinked a few times. "I see, sir," he said. "I suppose if I had to lose my situation to anyone, Mr. Jeeves would be one of the few I wouldn't begrudge it to. He's very highly respected at the Junior Ganymede, sir. Though I do wish you'd let me know earlier."

"I didn't think it would be fair, what?" I answered. "I mean to say, he's turned me down several times, and I didn't want you to worry about it if he never did say yes. I wouldn't have traded you in for anyone else, you know."

Holley had a look about him like a constipated turtle. "I suppose so, sir. I hadn't thought of it, but you're right that I wouldn't have wanted to be worrying about my situation the entire time I worked for you."

"Look at it this way, Holley. At least you won't have to go to Aunt Agatha's with me next week."

He shuddered. "There is that, sir."

"Don't worry about the short notice, old fruit," I said. "You'll get a sterling reference from me, and a handful of the folding stuff to compensate for not having any time to look for another position before you have to go."

"Thank you, sir," he said, looking a little less stuffed. "It's very generous of you, sir." I nodded and handed him a tenner. It was really quite a lot in proportion to the chap's yearly wage. His eyes widened when he took it. "That's very generous of you, sir," he said. I could hear the sound of absolute relief in his voice. He'd not have to worry about keeping himself in vittles while he looked about for another job, at least. "It's been an honour to work for you, sir," he said. "You're one of the kindest gentlemen I've ever met, and I really do regret having to leave your service."

"It's all right, old thing," I said. "Jeeves will be arriving at the flat sometime after dinner tonight. Once we get back to the metrop, don't worry about me. I can biff off to the Drones or something for my meal and you won't have to deal with it while you're packing up."

This, of course, left Dizzy to deal with. He was a lot less amiable than Holley had been. He called me an underbutler-napper and indulged in rather a bit of arm-waving and shouting. He accused me of engineering invites so that I could sneak Jeeves out from under him, which was sort of true when I thought about it, though I hadn't had hiring him away in mind until this particular visit. I ended up having to pay Dizzy for the two weeks notice he wanted from Jeeves, but I did it with a song in the Wooster heart, because it meant there'd be no delay in Jeeves coming to join me, and it did smooth things a bit between me and Dizzy. By this I mean he didn't actually chuck me out before luncheon. There was, however, a distinct air of 'never darken my door again' about the chap when I left.

While the day passed far too slowly for my tastes, it wasn't like yesterday had been in terms of sheer crawling dread. Rather, what was crawling was anticipation of the finest sort. I couldn't wait to skin out of Dizzy's place and open my door to Jeeves. The drive home was a bit of a blur, and dinner at the Drones was filled with a good deal of jollity and liquor.

It was a somewhat pleasantly soused Bertram who answered the knock at the door that night. Jeeves barely had time to close the door and drop his bags before I was dragging him off to the bedroom. He never did object to it at all. I wasn't about to let him start all that valeting business until the next morning. We had far, far better things to do.

~~fin~~