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The Problem With Eustace

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This Wooster is known to all and sundry for his kindly and generous dispensing of advice. I do not mind this and am, in fact, usually happy to help out a chum, particularly if aching hearts yearn to be reunited. The unfortunate fact skulking about behind this knowledge is that Jeeves is often the one doing the dispensing, Bertram being only the somewhat pipped vehicle for the delivery of Jeeves and his great, fish-fed brain. So when Jeeves came to me one night asking for help, I was quite certain that the four jockeys of the apocalypse were about to put in an appearance, with that whole rivers of blood and battles of Amageddon and waters of wormwood wheeze hard on their heels.

This apocalyptic event occurred late one evening after I'd been forced to entertain my cousins Claude and Eustace, who were biffing about London attempting once again to gain membership into the Drones club. It was, I believe, their third unsuccessful attempt, the Incident of the Stuffed Moose having left a bit of a bad taste in the mouths of the membership committee.

He didn't actually approach it with his usual quiet cough like unto the sigh of a gentle zephyr. He was, instead, standing near the young master seeming quite uneasy as he offered me a desperate measure of b. and s. to help settle the nerves upon the twins' departure. 'Quite uneasy' in this sitch looked like a slight case of indigestion and a touch more color than usual upon the Jeevesian damask cheek. "Jeeves," I said, "you're looking rather rummy tonight. While I understand my own distress at having to entertain that brace of matched blights upon the landscape, you usually seem quite imperturbable under such circs. What is it that's got in amongst you, old fruit?"

An eyebrow was raised with a hint of alarm in its tilt. He hesitated. Jeeves does not hesitate under ordinary conditions. Hesitation is the refuge of lesser men; Jeeves is a confident bird, just ask anyone. He would face down that Death chappy and his large scythe and flappy black cloak with a quiet, 'Most distressing, sir,' before he would hesitate. I set my drink down on the piano, baffled.

There was a moment of obvious girding of loins before he spoke. "Ordinarily, sir, I would not wish to disturb you with a matter of this nature, however I fear that events have proceeded beyond my own capacity to correct them and..." He paused, looking away from me for a moment, seeming unable to meet my eyes. "I am sorry, sir, but it appears I have a problem that requires your attention."

You could have waved a feather in my general direction and I would have toppled like a spreading chestnut tree that formerly resided over the village smithy or some such thing. "Jeeves," I said, "do I understand you correctly? Have you just asked for my help?"

Jeeves nodded slightly. "Indeed, sir."

Mind numbing shock warred with a warm feeling of delight that my man would actually come to me for aid and succor. "Oh. Well, then, Jeeves, out with it. What troubles you? How can the young master help? You've only to name it, of course!" I placed myself on the piano bench and urged him to sit with me. "Do sit down, old thing. Tell me all."

"I would prefer to stand, sir, if I may. The matter is a somewhat sensitive one and I do not wish to impose upon you." He gave me a long, penetrating look. "I will admit that I have been hesitant to come to you due to the delicate nature of the matter."

"Jeeves," I said, leaning forward with an earnest concern in my heart, "you have been in my service for four years now and I would hope that, in some sense at least, you might consider me a friend as well as an employer. Whatever it is, it can't be as bad as all that, can it?"

The troubled wrinkle in his noble brow settled slightly at my words. "It is with that history in mind that I have decided to come to you, sir," he said.

"Well, good, then," I replied, chuffed by this affirmation of our chumminess. "Please, Jeeves, tell me what's troubling you."

There was a moment during which he appeared to be steeling himself for a great unpleasantness. This, I must say, caused a certain tremulous whatsit to appear in the old cardiac region. "For quite some time, sir," he said, his voice quiet and uneasy, "I have been the subject of a series of aggressive and unwanted advances." His blush deepened and he would not meet my eyes.

"Unwanted advances?" The idea was absurd. Jeeves? Being aggressively advanced upon? She'd have to have a temperament like an entire Roman legion who'd been shorted on rations and told to lay into the Gauls or the Scythians. "That's downright rummy, Jeeves. Who is the lass and why won't she be warned off? I mean to say, I assume you warned her off."

He swallowed. "The person in question is not a woman, sir."

My stomach tightened and I could swear I felt it hit my toes like a wet, sticky jelly. "A man has been making improper advances upon you, Jeeves?" I squeaked. This was beyond rummy. I could certainly understand why he would be hesitant to bring the whole thing up; often enough, both parties in such a sitch ended up in terrible trouble. Given that I was a chap whose fancy turned lightly to other chaps in spring, this was of great concern to me. If Jeeves was appalled by the whole coves fancying other coves thing and he found out about me, he'd vanish into the sunset like one of those cowboy blokes and I would be out one paragon. That was not to be borne. I dropped the Wooster onion into my hands and gave it a sorrowful shake. "Oh, good Lord."

"Indeed, sir."

"Well, who is the blighter?" I looked back up at him. The idea of anyone pressing Jeeves after he'd given it a nolle prosequi rather shook me. The blasted cad would have to have some nerve. I wasn't sure what I could do beyond call in the law, but I had no desire whatsoever to involve Jeeves in a scandalous case of that sort. I'm quite certain he'd have gone to the police himself if he thought there was any margin in it at all. "If there's anything at all I can do, I will." I had to reassure him that I was batting for him, and that this Wooster would bat a century while he was at it.

"This, sir, leads to the most problematic aspect of the matter."

"More problematic than the whole 'chap attempting to force his attentions on you' thingummy?" I asked, stunned as a gaffed trout.

"Yes, sir." I could see him adding starch to his spine in prep for the news.

I sighed and nodded. "Well, out with it, then."

"I... sir..." He took a deep breath, obviously not wanting to say it. "It's Mr. Eustace, sir," he whispered.

I was on my feet before I even realized I'd rocketed up. "Eus -- what?"

He looked about ready to bolt, by which I mean his eyes were tight and he'd tilted back from me just a hair. "Yes, sir."

"He -- Eustace?" I'd known all along he was like me -- it was bally well obvious to anyone with eyes that the blighter was a poof -- but Jeeves? Certainly he'd commented about Jeeves being handsome, and I couldn't disagree, but I would have thought Eustace would know that Jeeves was just miles too good for him and left it at lewd fantasies. It was certainly what I'd done all these years. The leaving it at lewd fantasies, I mean. Jeeves would dash for the far horizons if I ever even suggested such a thing to him and I couldn't abide that at all. "Good God, Jeeves, what happened?"

He blinked. "You... believe me, sir?" He sounded like he hadn't been certain I would.

"Well, of course I bally well believe you, Jeeves. Why on earth would you lie to me about something like that? What in blazes did he do to you, and why didn't you just snap him in half?"

He unstarched slightly, looking distinctly relieved. "Nearly six months ago, sir, Mr. Eustace suggested that I engage in a liaison with him. I told him that it would be entirely inappropriate. Rather than accepting this, however, he began pressing his case and has, in the last two months, been calling here while you have been out, sir. He refuses to desist in his pursuit, sir, and he has been growing more aggressive recently. I could do nothing because he is your family, sir, and a servant has little recourse in such situations. Last month, he began suggesting that he... Sir, he threatened my position with you." I listened with growing horror as Jeeves spoke. Eustace was threatening Jeeves? "This evening, sir..." He hesitated and drew in a deep breath. "This evening, he saw fit to place his hands upon my person without my permission, sir." He looked like even saying the words pained him.

I blinked, too shocked to speak. Finally, I found something vaguely resembling my voice. "He... he molested you?" I squeaked, horrified. Jeeves nodded. "I... Jeeves..." I dropped back onto the bench, the pins utterly unable to support my weight. "Please, Jeeves, don't leave over this. I didn't know -- I had no idea! I'd never--"

"Sir," he said, shimmering over next to me and laying a hand in the slender Wooster shoulder. "Sir, I have no desire to resign my position with you. If anything, I feared that you would feel your loyalty to your family should supersede my service to you and that you would dismiss me. I cannot express to you how relieved I am that you would hear me out, and that you believe me."

I was the one feeling bally well relieved. "Jeeves," I said, reaching up and laying a hand over his, "I'm going to have words with that... that bounder tomorrow. I swear to you, I won't let him near you again. I don't care if he's my cousin, that's just beyond the pale." I was absolutely furious with Eustace, doing such a thing to Jeeves, of all people!

"Thank you, sir," he murmured, though there was still a slight hint of worry suggested by the angle of his ebony eyebrows.

"If that... that little pervert so much as speaks to you again, Jeeves, I want to know."

"Yes, sir. Of course, sir."

He extricated his hand from beneath my own and straightened. I took up the b. and s. and downed it with a will. "I suppose I should at least try to make an acquaintance with that Morpheus chappy before I have to go trample the blighter."

"Indeed, sir."

"This may require medieval torture devices, Jeeves. Do we have any lying about?"

"No, sir. I fear not."

"No cats with excessive numbers of tails?"

"No, sir."

"No iron maidens nor any horses available for that whole drawing and quartering business?"

"No, sir."

"I suppose a bonfire will have to do."

He raised an eyebrow a hair or two. "That might be considered extreme, sir. British law did rescind the death penalty for sodomy several decades ago," he said, his voice particularly soupy.

"Well, yes, but there is valet-groping to consider in this case," I grumbled.

"As you say, sir." His expression stiffened along with his spine. Given that this Wooster was lost in thoughts of dire harm to one soon-to-be-former Eustace Wooster, nothing further was said that night.

***

Morning rose as mornings are wont, with birds singing and the sun giving its best, but this Wooster was in an exceedingly foul mood. Jeeves was not shimmering with his usual shimmery thingness, either. Rather, he seemed to be shimmering on eggshells, as it were. I thought perhaps the mighty Wooster wrath was unnerving him slightly, as I have never had reason to be at all genuinely wrathful about anything in his presence before. I realize it's a bit of a stretch to see young Bertram as being capable of such an emotion, but we were, after all, speaking of Jeeves's honor here. Eustace's behavior could not be countenanced. I'd bury the cad.

"Jeeves, make ready the hat and the whangee, for Birnam Whatsit is about to get in amongst Dunsinane."

He materialized beside me with said items in hand. "Shall I bring the two seater around to the curb, sir?"

"No, Jeeves. You'll remain here. I'm biffing off to Aunt Emily's to spread Eustace over the countryside like a good coating of fertilizer."

"Are you quite certain that is prudent, sir?"

"Pish tosh, Jeeves. Prudent doesn't enter into this matter of valet-molesting. Justice must be done. I'll be back in time for dinner."

"Very good, sir," he replied, in a manner suggesting the exact opposite.

The trip out to the stately heap that had once housed my Uncle Henry, that rabbit fancying blot upon the Wooster escutcheon, was a slow and sunny one. There were those in the family who thought that I had perhaps inherited Uncle Henry's penchant for loony, though I was of the opinion that it was quite obviously Eustace who'd gone round the bend, what with his propensity for molesting my manservant. You'd have to be entirely daft to force your attentions on a chap like Jeeves. He could ward off an invasion with the tilt of an eyebrow and a soft cough. The man was above that whole needs of the body wheeze.

I took my time getting out there, not actually being eager to physically engage in wrathful smiting. I considered what I'd say to the blister. Perhaps an appeal to Claude might be a good starting place, what? If a little sense could be talked into Eustace, spreading him about the countryside might possibly be avoided. I've never been the type to engage in fisticuffs, preferring to sort disagreements with a spot of snooker or darts, or perhaps a game of tossing cards into a topper, you see. Much more civilized and entirely less likely to leave bruises. Think not that this Wooster was backing down from the fray, but starting with scorched earth was rarely a fruitful policy, and I wanted to offer Eustace a chance to proffer Jeeves an apology and a promise to refrain from this whole hands in inappropriate spots wheeze before proceeding to the Romans salting Carthage portion of the drama, with Eustace playing the role of Carthage.

When I arrived, naturally I had to pop into the library and greet Aunt Emily before seeking out the young menace. I gave her a cheery what ho.

"Oh, hullo, Bertie," she said, laying her book in her lap and looking up at me. "It's not even lunchtime yet. What are you doing loosed upon the world at this hour?"

"I've come to speak to the twins, old flesh and blood. It's a bit of a pressing matter that was left dangling last night."

Aunt Emily is a diminutive thing, with glossy, greying blonde hair and green eyes, nothing at all like Aunts Agatha and Dahlia. She'd married into the Woosters, much to what must have been her eternal dismay. She's not at all fond of rabbits, either, with which position I can entirely sympathize, given Uncle Henry's final years. "Right," she said, laying a chary e. upon the Wooster corpus. "How long will you be staying, then? I'll see to it that an extra place gets set for the meals."

"I need to be back in the metrop by dinner, aged relation," I said. "Though I might be persuaded to hang about for a spot of lunch." Never let it be said that Bertram has refused the hospitality of family, at least where food is concerned.

I could swear a twinge of relief wafted across her dial at my words. "Well then, that's good," she said. "And please refrain from putting golf balls through the glass in the conservatory as you did at your last visit, young pestilence."

"There's nary a wood nor an iron to be found upon the Wooster corpus," I said. "I'm not here for golf, and that wasn't me anyway, it was Claude. Where are the matched blisters, anyway?" Having done my familial duty, I was ready to get on with the wrathful smiting.

"Most likely in the game room. I heard them say something about flinging a few darts at the wall."

"Right ho." I made for the game room with all due speed. The door was open but, fortunately, the dartboard was on the far wall or I'd have been taking my life into my hands by entering. The twins were, as predicted, tossing a few desultory sharp obj.s about. I attempted one of Jeeves's sheep on a distant hillside coughs.

"Bertie! What are you doing here?" Claude asked, turning toward me with a bit of a start. Thankfully, he hadn't been in mid-toss. "Aside from gargling like a drowning stoat, I mean. Have you come down with laryngitis since last night?"

"No, young Claude. I have come to have words with you and your pestilential frater."

"Pestilential?" Eustace folded his arms over his chest and glared.

"Pestilential," I said, and I meant it to sting.

"What are you on about, Bertie?" Claude asked.

"A matter that should be discussed out in the garden, where there are fewer ears than the walls in here usually have," I said, grabbing Eustace by the shoulder of his jacket so as to drag him along behind me. He was too surprised to protest, so I actually managed the feat.

"Let go!" Eustace yelped.

"Really, Bertie, let him go," Claude insisted.

By this time I was across the hall and into one of the parlors, which happened to be possessed of French windows that led out into the garden. I was moving fast enough to keep Eustace off balance and got him through the room and out into the garden before too much of a hullaballoo could be raised. Claude closed the windows behind us. "What's got into you, Bertie?" Claude demanded, as I let go of Eustace. The valet-molesting blister had enough momentum going that he stumbled into a bench and sat down rather forcefully.

I turned on Claude. "Were you aware that your brother has been molesting my valet?" I snapped.

Eustace stood and looked at me in astonishment. "What?" he asked. "Molesting? Really!"

"Molesting?" Clauded echoed. "What on earth gave you that idea?"

I drew myself up to my not-inconsiderable full height. "Jeeves informed me of the sitch last night after you left."

Claude snorted. "And you believed him? Really, Bertie. A servant will say anything to try to gain an advantage, and Jeeves is cannier than most."

I glowered at Claude. "On the contrary, I had to nearly pry it out of him with forceps and a winch." Turning to Eustace, I added, "How dare you lay hands on him?"

"I did nothing of the sort!" Eustace insisted. "I may have suggested a bit of fun with him, but really -- molesting is a bit strong, don't you think? There wasn't the slightest bit of molest about it!"

"And what do you call it when you're groping someone who doesn't wish to be groped, then?"

Eustace was flushed and angry, looking quite like a rabid dingo with a rash. "I'd call it offering the chap a good time," he said. "Honestly, Bertie, he's just a valet. He should be pleased I'd bother with him! It might just give him a bit of a leg up in the world to have one of his betters taking care of him."

I wasn't certain which of these exceedingly rummy ideas offended me the most. "Just a -- pleased? Betters? Eustace, you are a cad and a bounder and I don't want you coming around my flat again, ever!"

"Now, Bertie, it's not like they don't enjoy it. I mean to say, you and Ginger got on well enough!" That Eustace would bring an old fling of mine with Ginger Winship into this was just beyond any sense.

"What Ginger and I got up to back then has nothing to do with this!" I shouted. "I wasn't forcing anyone to do anything, and Ginger is a gentleman, not the bloody help; I wasn't holding anything over him or threatening his position. You bally well know Jeeves is not like us and if you ever lay so much as a finger on him again I'll remove the bloody thing at your elbow!"

"What are you so angry about?" Eustace asked. "Jeeves is a servant, Bertie. That's what they get paid for! They're supposed to take care of our nee--"

"Why, you--" I'm afraid I went for him at that. The very thought that Eustace considered Jeeves nothing more than a whore sent Bertram's heart into a white-hot fury. I'm not entirely clear on the next few minutes, but when I was in possession of what passed for my full faculties again, Claude was clinging to a spitting, flailing Eustace and I was being kept off the blighter by Jeeves himself, who had seemingly materialized out of nowhere.

"Please, sir," he said, sounding rather more urgent than was his usual habit, "you must calm yourself."

"I will dashed well not --- Jeeves?" The shock of finding the man wrapped around me in an attempt to keep me from eviscerating my cousin was a bit of a shock, I must say. It took the wind out of my sails quite abruptly. "Jeeves, what... how did you get here?"

Eustace was still spitting, though it appeared Claude was attempting a bit of soothing the savage beast himself. "Fisticuffs on my behalf are entirely inappropriate, sir," Jeeves said.

I was still panting like a bellows or a very overwrought steam engine at that point. I turned a searing gaze upon Eustace, barely curbing the urge to punch the blighter severely. "If you ever come near him again, I'll lay you out like a tea tray on a sideboard, Eustace; see if I don't."

"Right," Eustace spat. "Keep the blighter. He's not worth bothering over anyway." Claude managed to haul Eustace off stage left before I could go for him again, and I found myself standing there, shaking with fury, with Jeeves holding me firmly in place to keep me from following them.

"Please, sir," he said, his voice quiet and really quite soothing, "we should return to London. I believe your message was delivered with extraordinary clarity. I doubt there will be any further trouble from that quarter."

I nodded, still gasping for breath. "Right."

"I shall bring the two seater around to the front, sir, if you will meet me there. It will only take a few moments."

"Right," I said, feeling vaguely like a parrot with a verbal tic. He loosed his grip slightly and, seeing that I didn't immediately make to follow the twins, let go entirely. I shook my head, hoping to clear it slightly. Jeeves gave me a fractional nod of approval and shimmered off. I was still a bit antsy and had no desire to go back into the house; given how much shouting we'd done, I was fairly certain we'd been overheard and I didn't want to face either the family or the staff now that my nameless vice had been named. I took a couple of breaths and set off around the old brick heap at a gallop, hoping that Jeeves wasn't going to abandon me once we got home. He'd surely heard most of the whole set-to.

He was arriving in the drive just as I dashed up; I'd had a longer way to go than Jeeves had. Rather than take the wheel, I just hopped into the passenger seat and let him drive. I was a bit too out of breath and stirred up from the whole mess to be steady enough quite yet. When we'd shaken the dust of the place from our sandals and put a mile or two of country air between us and the familial abode, I finally whacked up the ginger to talk to him. "I thought I told you to stay at home."

"I was concerned for your safety, sir, so I took the next available train to be sure I would arrive before anything untoward could happen. I feared that if you were to enter into a violent physical disagreement with Mr. Eustace, the rest of your family might suddenly take an interest in the situation. This would only have rendered things more difficult for everyone."

I sighed. "I suppose you're right. Aunt Agatha's not fond of any of us, but under such circs, I suspect she'd believe Eustace over you. She's never liked you much, and we both know she never listens to me."

"Indeed sir." There was a bit of a lifting of the lip that suggested a fond smile upon the Jeevesian dial. "You have, however, become something of a hero to the staff."

I blinked and stared at him. "I say, what?" I had no idea how that might have happened.

"It seems, sir, that Mr. Eustace has long been in the habit of attempting to coerce the better looking young men of the household into engaging in liaisons with him. It has resulted in a number of those young men leaving to seek other employment over the years."

"Really?" I felt like I'd been slapped with a wet sturgeon. A very large one, at that. "I say. That's awful! I had no idea." It was a horrifying thought, that Eustace had been acting like such a bounder with more than just Jeeves. I shivered, wondering what harm he might have done to the lads who had worked there in all that time.

"Indeed, sir. The family has repeatedly turned a blind eye to these occurrences and, when you confronted him about this behavior on my behalf, you showed yourself as a gentleman of far finer quality." He kept his eyes forward, watching the road as he spoke. "The thought that a gentleman might be willing to confront a member of his own family over the honor of a servant is noteworthy, sir. It is an exceedingly unusual circumstance. One might go so far as to say it was unprecedented in the experience of the household."

"Good Lord, Jeeves. I couldn't just let him carry on like that! I mean to say, what else was I to do?" I couldn't help the distress in my voice. "Doing that to someone who can't even say no without worrying about losing their situation, well, it's just not right. It's not right at all. That sort of thing goes completely against the Code of the Woosters, I must say."

He looked at me out of the corner of one eye for a moment. "It has been noted, sir, that you appear to be the only one who keeps to that code."

I sighed. "Yes. Well." I'd continue to keep to it, regardless of what the rest of the family did. A chap must have his standards.

He turned his face fully to me for a moment, a sort of chuffed thingness in his eyes. "Thank you, sir. I will not forget this." For the very first time since I'd heard about the whole bally mess, I smiled.

***

By the time we'd got back to the flat, I was wondering just how much Jeeves had heard of my dust-up with Eustace. He hadn't said anything about my being a pervert, but that might just have been Jeeves being chuffed about my putting a stop to Eustace's exceedingly improper interests. I suspected that would be enough to have anyone in the clouds for at least a few hours.

While the young master was feeling a bit wilted due to a touch of anxiety, Jeeves's shimmering on eggshells wheeze of the morning had entirely vanished and he oiled about the place in a topping mood that in anyone else would have been dancing through the place like a chorus line. I only wish I could have shared it. I kept expecting the proverbial second bit of footwear to fall from the heavens onto the old onion at any moment. What if he thought I would do the same thing to him that Eustace had, now that he knew about me? If he knew about me. He had to have heard.

Jeeves presented me with my very favorite dishes at the dinner hour, and that calmed the Wooster heart enough to finally approach the subj. I'd been fretting about. Once the postprandial port was deposited in my hand, I addressed the floor. "Jeeves," I said, a bit tremulous.

"Yes, sir?"

"I, well, I wondered if I might talk to you about this morning at all."

"Of course, sir."

I took a large snort of the old blushful Hippocrene for courage and started into it. "How much of all that mess with Claude and Eustace did you actually hear, old thing?"

His spine starched slightly. "All of it, sir."

I downed the rest of the glass. "Oh." I braced myself and got to the point. I'm afraid I was tripping over my own tongue to try and get everything out before he could object. "Jeeves, the fact that that blackguard Eustace and I are of similar proclivi-whatsits doesn't mean that I'm actually like him. I would never subject you to unwanted Wooster attentions, I swear! I'm not like that, not at all! I've never even thought of such things, old fruit. I would far sooner face aunts and herds of ravening crocodiles than ever lay a finger on you with ill intent! I just..." I took a sharp breath, trying not to let the upset bubbling within me get to the surface. "Please don't leave me, Jeeves. The young master is really rather hopeless without you, and if you biffed off to work for someone else because of this, I have no idea what I'd do. I mean to say, you won't be going to the police or anything, will you?" I hoped rather desperately that I didn't sound like I was begging, though I knew full well that's what this was. It wouldn't have taken much to tip me right into groveling at his feet if it would make him stay.

The oddest expression came over Jeeves's face; it was something almost soft, with a hint of gentle to it that I'd never seen in him before. "No, sir," he said quietly. "Your nature does not disturb me in the least. I assure you, sir, that I have no intention of leaving your service, now or in the future. You are entirely unlike Mr. Eustace. In his best moments, he could not aspire to a fraction of your stature." He lowered his eyes for a moment before looking back up and meeting my own. There was a rummy thingness in his voice that I couldn't quite touch. "Your actions on my behalf today have earned my deepest trust, sir."

"Oh," I whispered. "Well, I'll be blowed." A dizzy wave of relief swept over me like the original deluge.

"You have nothing at all to fear from me, sir." His voice was warm and I could swear he was almost smiling. It caused the Wooster heart to flutter in an entirely inappropriate way.

I swallowed with an almost audible gulp. "Th-thank you, Jeeves. I'm, er, feeling a bit overcome by the events of the day and I think I'll just toddle off for a few rounds with that Morpheus bird, what?" It was obscenely early, but I wasn't sure I could face him right now without entirely falling apart. It's dashed hard to want someone so much and know you can never touch him. Jeeves wasn't like me, and I refused to be anything at all like Eustace. I just had to accept it and move on.

"Of course, sir."

Despite everything, I lay awake for hours after he turned out the light and closed my bedroom door.

***

The next day found the Wooster e.s following Jeeves about the place much more closely than usual. It made me feel like a cad, after all Jeeves had been through with Eustace, to watch him like that. I felt dirty. There was nothing for it; I had to get out of the flat for a while. I needed someone to talk to, but my options were rather limited, considering the subj. of said n. to t.

"I'm off to the Drones, old fruit," I said. "I'll likely be back late. Don't wait up for me."

"Very good, sir."

I got there just after tea and spent some time at dinner roll cricket with the chaps. It was a topping distraction, but still not what I needed. When Ginger Winship ankled on in, I realized that he was just the chap that Bertram required. "Ginger!" I tootled. "You're just the chap I require!"

"Really, Bertie? What ho!" He gave me a bright, cheery grin and clapped me on the shoulder before offering me a drink. I took him up on it and we spent the next few hours getting well under the surface. We couldn't speak of what I needed to discuss right there at the Drones, and I didn't really want to take Ginger back to the flat while Jeeves was up, for obvious reasons, so I engaged in professional stalling tactics involving many more drinks than I'd originally intended.

Late in the evening, I finally approached the target from a sidelong angle. "I say, Ginger, old thing, I do need to talk to you, but I can't really do it here if you follow my meaning."

He was several sheets to the wind himself, but still enough on top of his form to catch the general drift. "Oh, right ho, Bertie. Should we be off to your flat, then?"

We bid the Drones a somewhat wobbly toodle pip and legged it for my flat. Jeeves had left a light on for me, as he does on nights when I've told him not to wait up. "We do need to be quiet, old fruit," I told Ginger, in a small, quiet voice. "Jeeves is asleep and we shouldn't wake him."

"Of course. Wouldn't want to do that." Blessedly, Ginger managed quiet as well.

I offered Ginger a gasper and lit it for him when he took it, then lit one for myself. "Come have a seat, young Ginger." We dropped somewhat unsteadily onto the chesterfield.

"You've been terribly out of sorts all evening, Bertie old chum. Unburden yourself."

Given that this was what I'd been intending all bally night, Bertram did so. I told him all about Eustace and his insufferable mistreatment of Jeeves, about biffing off to Aunt Emily's and the fight we'd got into, and how Jeeves knew about me now. About him, too, for that matter, though I assured him that Jeeves would never breathe a word. As we talked, Ginger put a friendly arm about the slender Wooster shoulders and I leaned into him as I used to do, curling up against his chest and taking some comfort in his warmth and his occasional words of encouragement.

"I don't know what to do, Ginger," I said, at long last. "I'm thoroughly besotted with Jeeves but I can't ever even say a word or he'll think I'm just like that vile excrescence, Eustace! I can only take some comfort in the fact that he's promised he won't leave over this whole deviance thingummy."

Ginger sighed, his fingers running through my hair in a very comforting fashion. He rested his chin on the top of my head. "Dear, dear Bertie," he whispered. He nuzzled me a bit and snugged me up in both arms. It was really quite enjoyable, but it wasn't Jeeves, and I found the thought somewhat painful. "I don't think he'd be quite so put out as you're suggesting, you know," he said. "He seems really quite fond of you, from what I've seen. Nobody else's valet does the kinds of things for them that he does for you, you know."

"Well, he's a paragon, after all," I replied. "He stands alone in his feudal spirit."

"Hmm. I think it's a little more than feudal spirit, old bean."

I shook my head, listening to Ginger's heart beating under my ear. "I could never risk it. I can't bear the thought of hurting him, Ginger. I'd be just deva-something if he left." Despite my best efforts, the high concentration of alcohol in the Wooster bloodstream was causing a distinct shot of melancholy to jolt through the system. I most certainly did not sniffle.

"Oh, Bertie." Ginger sounded fond and slightly exasperated. "I really do think he's fond enough of you that he'd not be offended, even if he wasn't interested, and at least then you'd know for sure."

"He's not like us, Ginger. He had an understanding with a cook once, and a waitress another time, as I recall."

Ginger snorted. "And you've been engaged more times than I have fingers, old thing. You even meant it a couple of times. It doesn't change your basic nature. I managed to get married, and it hasn't changed what's really down deep inside me; there are times when I really do miss you, young Bertram. There are itches a beazel just can't scratch, as you well know. I'd point out that Jeeves isn't any more married than you are."

I sighed sadly. "I just don't know." If there was even the slimmest chance Ginger might be right -- but no. I couldn't take that risk.

"I'm not saying you have to go talk to him tonight, Bertie. Just think about it for a while. Think about how well he takes care of you, why don't you? And how he keeps you out of all those bally awful engagements, too. You told me he says he won't work for a married bird, right?" I nodded. "Well, one might wonder why."

"He just doesn't want to have to deal with some beazel telling him what to do."

There was a soft chuckle and my head rocked slightly as Ginger's chest moved. "Or perhaps he's just no more fond of the female of the species than you are."

"I suppose I could give it some thought," I said, not sure it would do any good.

I could feel Ginger nodding. "Good," he said. "You do that. Anyway, I have to get my carcass home. The missus will no doubt think I've been accosted by thugs on the way if I'm not there soon."

With a bit of a groan and a wobble, I stood to let him get up. He made a couple of false starts at it and I offered him a hand, hauling him upright. "Should I call you a cab, old thing?"

He shook his head. "No, there'll be a few out there, even at this hour." We ankled over to the door but before I opened it, he put his arms about me and held me close. "You really are such a dear thing, Bertie," he murmured, and he pressed his lips to mine and kissed me, soft and gentle. It felt dashed good and left me a little breathless, but it wasn't what I wanted -- he wasn't who I wanted -- and I knew it was nothing more than a fond farewell from an old lover. "Do try to sleep."

I nodded, wishing for things I could never have. "Goodnight, Ginger. Give my regards to the old ball and chain."

"Of course." And with that, he left, and I was alone in the dark. Determined not to give in to a slough of despond, or any of those other despairish waterway thingummies, I tottered off to my room for a dash of the deep and dreamless.

***

The next couple of weeks were downright rummy. Jeeves seemed lighter of spirit, floating about the place with, if anything, more than his ordinarily corking efficiency and thingness. This Wooster spent a goodish bit of time thinking about what Ginger had said, and I know I was watching Jeeves more than usual, looking for anything that might hint of some especial fondness. The only thing I noted was that he seemed to be watching me more closely as well; he was probably looking for any sign that I might be thinking perverted thoughts about him.

There was a particular developing thickness to the air about the place as the days passed, and it wasn't from all the gaspers I'd been smoking. Rather, it felt like perhaps there was some treacle lurking about in the air trying to get out. I'd get an odd feeling at the back of my neck and look around, only to see Jeeves gazing at me with an utterly impenetrable expression on his face. Our fingers would touch when he handed me something and I'd nearly faint from how bally intensely it made me want him. I found myself less and less able to meet his eyes, knowing all the dashed improper thoughts I'd been having about him lately; they were no longer confined to those unguarded moments in my sleep or the half-awake thoughts of a Bertram not yet ready to face the world. They were far more frequent than I'd been having before the Eustace whatsit and all that exposing of Bertram's inner nature to Jeeves and the household staff at Aunt Emily's heap, though even before that there had been quite a few.

I took to spending more time at the Drones than was my habit, just so I wouldn't feel quite so wretched about how much I was thinking of Jeeves. At least if he wasn't on the young master's immediate horizon, he wouldn't see me watching him so much. The sunny Wooster disposish was taking a bit of a beating, what with all this pining like a whatsit that pines and dies. I've never been sure why it's called pining; what if it had been oaking or aspening or willowing?

It was a lateish evening at the Drones, and the action had been particularly fruity, with piggyback jousting being the mainstay of the night. I finally bid my chums a cheery toodle pip and slogged back through the early autumn mist that was fogging up the streets of the old metrop. I was feeling particularly pipped with life that night and one might almost describe me as being a bit in the dumps. I'd tried a couple of times to sidle up to the topic with Jeeves, but I could never get the words to come. All I could see was Jeeves handing me the mitten and making like the north wind in winter on his way out the door, never to be seen again. I just couldn't have it. Nothing was worth that risk.

Jeeves met me at the door and settled the outer trappings, then materialized at my side with the required brandy and s. as I dropped myself onto the piano bench and plonked at a few desultory keys. I thanked him but, rather than wafting off to do something valety, he remained there by my side. I looked up, puzzled. "Yes, Jeeves?"

"Are you quite all right, sir?" he asked. There was a look that hinted of concern on his dial, and soupiness in his deep, warm voice that suggested actual worry.

I sighed and nodded. "Just topping, old thing," I lied. "Never better." How could I possibly tell him what was going on in the Wooster onion? He didn't show any signs of moving along though, or of chivvying the young master bedward, and this left Bertram in a slight state of confusion.

"Sir," he said, and then he paused. "Sir, you have seemed increasingly distressed recently." A splash of expectancy flickered in his eyes.

Well, I couldn't very well deny it. "That's true," I said, "I have been, I suppose."

"May I speak frankly, sir?"

I couldn't help the stutter in the old ticker at those words. Jeeves, speaking frankly? Was his departure immanent? "I... of course, Jeeves. Frank away." I could feel my gut twist at what must surely be coming.

"Sir, this distress appears to have begun with the incident with Mr. Eustace. Am I correct in assuming that this has something to do with the problem?" I could only nod. He considered it for a moment, his eyes narrowing ever so slightly. "Would you be willing to speak with me about this, sir?" he asked, his voice soft and careful, as though he thought I might hare off into the undergrowth.

I thought about it for a moment, just looking up into his eyes. There was something in them that reminded me of how often he'd pulled me out of the soup and I realized that I just had to trust him. "I suppose so, old fruit." I rose and tottered over to the chesterfield, plopping myself upon the cushions and patting the space beside me. "If we're going to have frankness and all the rest of that whatsit, we might as well both be comfortable. Come have a perch."

One dark eyebrow rose slightly but then he nodded and came to join me. It was odd, sitting next to him on the chesterfield like this; generally speaking, a chap doesn't share a chesterfield with his valet but, generally speaking, other chaps don't have a Jeeves. He settled in for a mo. and seemed to make some sort of a decision. "I have noted, sir, that since the incident in question, you have been watching me much more closely than previously." I shrank slightly, but nodded. "Prior to the altercation, I had been unaware of your nature, sir. I was somewhat surprised that an open, garrulous gentleman like yourself had been able to conceal such a fundamental facet of his personality."

"I'm not like Eustace, Jeeves," I insisted. "I would never--"

"I know, sir, which is why I have finally come to you myself. You see, sir, we share this proclivity and in learning that you were, in truth, like me in this matter, I found myself hoping that your regard for me was more than purely professional." I blinked. A bit of a dizzy sensation came over me. Jeeves? Like me? Hoping my regard was... I could only gape like a lovestruck haddock. "In observing your demeanor over the past weeks, sir, I realized that, even if you did harbor some interest, you could never bring yourself to speak of such a thing for fear that I might believe you to be like your cousin."

"I... Jeeves... you?"

He nodded. "I hope that I am not imagining what I believe I see in your gaze, sir," he murmured. "But if the thought of an understanding between us is distasteful to you, or unwanted, I shall never mention it again." There was a tense uneasiness in the way he held himself, as though he honestly believed I might say no and sack him.

I swallowed a lump in my throat the approximate size and shape of a wooly mammoth. "Jeeves," I said, my voice just as unsteady as the rest of me felt in that moment. "Jeeves, you... you're actually... interested in the young master?"

"Very much so, sir," he whispered. "I have been for some time, but I did not originally believe that you were like me. While it is true that you have expressed very little desire to marry, it is also true that some men who do not share our nature are also confirmed bachelors, choosing instead to consort with women outside of the bonds of matrimony, or preferring to have no entanglements at all."

"Jeeves," I said, feeling very wobbly, "you have no idea how long I've wished for this."

The tension in him shattered and he actually smiled. Not a broad grin, like you might see on Tuppy, but a warm and genuine upturning of the lips accompanied by a distinct twinkle in his dark blues. He placed one large hand atop mine. It was like an electrical whatsit snapping through me and it made me shiver. I turned my hand and twined my fingers with his, looking down at our hands in my lap. After a moment, I looked back up at him; he leaned in slowly and applied the Jeevesian lips to my own.

His mouth was soft and strong and the kiss was bally marvelous. It was the best dashed kiss in the history of civilization, or possibly in the history of everything. He left me entirely breathless and all I wanted was more. We turned our bodies toward each other and he took me in his arms, holding me so very close, with one hand caressing its way up my back. I could feel the tightly restrained desire in him and drank it in like water after weeks in a desert.

I completely melted into him, hardly daring to believe I was actually awake and that it really was Jeeves all pressed up against me like a stamp on an envelope. I wrapped him in the Wooster arms and pushed into the kiss, finally letting myself have what I'd so desperately wanted for so very long. It was fierce and heated and hungry in the way only two chaps with an absolute pash for each other can manage, and it burned through me like a dozen or so suns, with a couple of substantially sized moons tossed in for good measure.

When we finally came up for air, he rested his cheek at my temple. "I would like very much to make love with you, sir," he rumbled, his voice all rough and ragged.

"Oh, yes," I whispered, wondering if I might be halluci-something. He was on his feet in a spare, elegant motion and drew me up with him, pulling me toward my room. I followed like a dazed lamb bumbling after its shepherd. Once there, he wrapped himself about me, the entire length of his absolutely corking corpus right up against me. His body was so warm, even through all the layers of our clothing. I let my hands roam about the Jeevesian real estate, unable to resist his utterly smashing bottom, which I took in both hands and squeezed. He moaned into my mouth and his hips rocked against mine; I could feel how dashed hard he was and I wanted nothing more than to be thoroughly naked and pinned beneath him so that I could feel every inch of his skin and every movement of his body. I returned his moan with a groan accompanied with a high rate of compound interest and the next thing I knew, he was swiftly and skillfully divesting both of us of the outer crust, bits flying here and there with completely un-Jeevesian abandon.

A moment later, I was on my back and we were gasping and rutting against each other like a pair of virgin schoolboys who had just discovered this whole physical pleasure wheeze. It was fast and rough and absolutely bally glorious, leaving us gasping and panting like a pair of stallions after the Ascot, all sweaty and sticky and thoroughly mussed. He looked gorgeous like that, with his hair down in his e.s and his cheeks flushed and dark. Once we'd managed to get a bit of the old oxygen into the lungs again, Jeeves raised one trembling hand to my cheek and laid on with the tender caress. "I have desired you for so long," he murmured, leaving off with the 'sir' entirely; I was quite chuffed by the lapse. I kissed him to let him know that it was all thoroughly spiffing.

***

"Hulloa, Bertie!" Ginger trotted into the dining room at the Drones a few weeks later. He looked me up and down as he sat down next to me at the table, ducking a dinner roll as he did so. "You're looking quite chipper, old fruit. Things going well?"

I just smiled.

~~fin~~