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Jeeves and the Secret of Service

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My trip to France on Oofy Prosser's yacht didn't seem at all out of the ordinary at the time. A good deal of excellent fodder was had, there were trips to the casinos, and young Bertram took advantage of a few private evenings on dry ground to seek out sources of the sort of rather fruity literature that is dashed hard to come by in Old Blighty.

Jeeves, my valet, couldn't come along on said trip. Oofy absolutely balked when I asked if he could. "No, young Wooster," he said, "he would have to sleep in the bilge! There's not enough room for him this trip, and I've already got a dozen crew and staff aboard to take care of anything you could possibly need." I supposed he was right, particularly because I couldn't exactly ask if he could just share my bed, as he does at home. Scandals are made of far less and, in this case, a scandal it would have been, for this Wooster and his Jeeves have been for some time engaged in exactly the sort of sculduggery -- I think that's the word I want, implying unwholesome nefariousness -- that lands chaps in chokey for a couple of years of hard labor.

Well, not being able to have the presence of my own personal paragon, I settled for finding a bit of the aforementioned r. f. literature in a shop I'd been told of by a friend who shall remain unnamed, but whose initials might possibly resemble C. B.-B., late of the stage and now ensconced in a dim office somewhere in the diplomatic service. One must make do in emergencies, you see, and I knew Jeeves would appreciate that I'd brought him back a gift from my sojourn, whilst he biffed off to the coast to threaten the shrimp population for a fortnight away from the young master.

Upon my arrival back at the flat, I was greeted by a tanned and quite delish looking Jeeves. He'd returned the day before I was due, both of us quite eager to reacquaint ourselves with one another. And so it was that the Wooster corpus was pounced upon, much as a small antelope might be pounced upon by a large and famished lion of the desperately amorous persuasion. Lips were reintroduced to lips, hands were r. to various body parts, both mentionable and un-, and by teatime we were both sweaty, sated, and thoroughly delighted to be home and together once again.

"I say, Reg," I I-sayed, as we lay close as two things one finds in pods, "do reach over and lay a hand on my valise. I have something in it for you."

"Indeed?" he said, one eyebrow raised slightly over his dark blue e.s. There was no 'sir' appended, for we had long ago decided that we were Bertram and Reg in private circs. This had always felt rather more fair to me, considering the nature of our public association as opp. to our extremely private one; a chap doesn't like to think of himself as taking advantage of his employee, after all, particularly not when he loves said employee beyond all reason. He rolled over and tugged my valise closer to the bed, poking a hand within and finding the packet I'd intended without trouble. The corners of his lips rose a touch, as they do when he is a valet well pleased. "Some new reading material, perhaps?"

"The fruitiest," I said, slinging a sunny grin his way. "I have personally examined it for content and quality and, while I can't promise that you will enjoy each and every story, I do quite think that, overall, there will be a good bit of satisfaction being flung about."

The tiny v. w. p. smile broadened into an actual grin, much more suited to his role as beloved of Bertram Wooster. He opened the packet and made a brief perusal of the cheap, rather dingy book. Sadly, quality of printing was never a consideration in such things, but the content was para-something, and Jeeves was well aware of this fact. "Were there any that you particularly enjoyed, Bertram?" he asked, rolling back over and wrapping me tightly in his arms. He nuzzled my face and kissed me until I was entirely breathless.

After I pursued my lost breath into my lover's mouth and returned it to my lungs, Jeeves brought us tea in bed and we spent the rest of the evening snuggled together, reading exceptionally juicy bits from the little book to one another while occasionally acting out a few of the scenes in a quite graphic and thoroughly enjoyable way.

***

Bertram's return was a thing I had eagerly awaited. While I knew that my separate annual holiday was necessary to preserve our secret, and our safety, I much preferred his presence, and our reunions were always warm and joyous. From time to time, when he was in France, he would seek out literature of a salacious nature; such things for men of our proclivities could be both difficult and dangerous to come by, even for a gentleman of means such as Bertram. I knew what he risked -- what we risked -- when he brought such gifts to me, but we both enjoyed perusing them together and reading them to one another. From time to time, we would incorporate certain novel ideas and activities into our lovemaking as a way to avoid growing weary of the same acts performed the same ways in perpetuity. This is not in any way to suggest that we would ever tire of one another physically; it is simply that variety can offer a delightful spice even to a deeply satisfying and quite stable relationship.

The book that my beloved had brought home from his most recent trip abroad contained a wider selection of stories than most of those he had previously acquired. Some of these tales contained quite delicious perversions that neither of us might otherwise have spoken of or considered; canes and rope and orgiastic descriptions of groups of men indulging one another left a frisson of pleasure in me, even though I knew neither of us was inclined toward sexual encounters outside of our safe and quite exclusive relationship. Other tales were of a rather darker nature, involving such things as unsanitary bodily fluids or knives, and I knew they did not particularly appeal to either of us, but when one is in search of an anthology of licentious literature featuring the debauchery of sexual inverts, one has very little choice beyond whether one will purchase a given volume or not; it is not for the reader to complain that one or two tales out of two dozen are not precisely to one's tastes.

I sat in a bright corner of the sitting room with the book that afternoon, the day after Bertram's return, while he was out at his club reacquainting himself with his friends. As I read, I came to one of the stories that we had not explored the previous day, when we had been delighting ourselves with a few of Bertram's favorite passages.

As I read, I found myself profoundly disturbed. After a page or two, I hastily turned to the next story, shaken. Yet, after a few moments, I could not keep from looking back to the place I had left off, unable to shut the images, or the thoughts, out of my mind.

The story concerned a man who was, quite explicitly, the sexual slave of another.

I found the concept horrifying. While I have been a servant all my life and have taken both great pride and great satisfaction in that role, I have always been my own man; I could no more imagine allowing another man absolute control of my life or my body than I could sprout wings and fly. Over the years, I had in fact taken great pains to be assured of my ability to leave a situation if it became untenable and, on those few occasions where I felt my autonomy and dignity had been genuinely and seriously threatened, I had taken subtle but effective revenge upon the men who had attempted to control me.

I had struggled at length with the implications of being both Mr Wooster's valet and Bertram's lover before we had ever embarked upon the path that led me to his bed. There had, in fact, been several difficult but necessary conversations about our precise status and responsibilities when the topic was originally approached. The matter of the difference in our class was a weighty one, and it could never be ignored, dismissed, or brushed away if we were to become more than a gentleman and his personal gentleman. That Bertram is a kind, honest, and fair-minded man was a fact of the utmost importance to me, and his insistence upon separating my role as his valet from my role as his lover was what had, ultimately, made our extremely satisfactory arrangement possible for both of us.

And yet -- and yet the story struck something painfully raw within me. There were moments of sexual violence described in some scenes that repelled and disgusted me but, beneath that repulsion, I found other aspects of the story to be so utterly erotically compelling as to be quite nearly terrifying. I could not read it through. I found myself reading a few pages, or a few paragraphs, and putting it down to pace the sitting room floor, or dust, or polish the silver, desperate for something to remove these thoughts from my mind. By the time I managed to finish reading the story, many hours later, I was breathless, confused, and thoroughly discomposed.

When I finally set the book aside, I was quite literally trembling. I was a man who had always had a great deal of vanity regarding my understanding of the psychology of the individual. I thought I knew myself quite well, both in my flaws and in my strengths. As I went about the rest of my evening, vivid images from the tale haunting me, I realized that I had never known myself at all.

***

"What ho!" I called, cheery and bright as I entered the Wooster abode after a delightful night at the Drones. Jeeves greeted me at the door, as was his constant wont, but there seemed to be a dimming of his usual shimmer. His countenance was all sicklied o'er with the pale whatsit of thought, in fact. "Reg," I said, as he took my hat and walking stick, "are you quite all right, old fruit?"

He looked vaguely startled for a moment, then slapped the stuffed frog mask on. "It's nothing, sir," he murmured. "I shall be better directly."

This sirring business was right out, particularly when I was walking in the door alone after a lengthy absence. "Reg?" I lay a hand on his arm. "What's happened? Did Aunt Agatha put in an unscheduled appearance, breathing fire and spitting tenpenny nails about the place?"

He shook his head. "No, sir." His face tightened slightly and he took a bracing breath as he put my things away in the closet. "I'm sorry, Bertram. I must admit I am not feeling quite myself at the moment. I do apologize." He wouldn't meet my eyes.

I slipped my arms about his waist from behind him, resting my chin on his shoulder. "Perhaps we should skip the ritual b. and s., love, and just go to bed, do you think? I mean to say, it's a bit late, after all."

Jeeves hesitated for a split molecule of a second, then nodded. "Yes," he said softly, "perhaps that would be a good idea." He turned in my arms and wrapped his own about me, holding me close and burying his nose in my hair, as he does in those rare moments when he seems to want some comfort or reassurance. I could feel the warmth of his breath and the unnatural quickness of his heart pounding in his chest as he held me. I had never seen him in a mood like this before, so I didn't press him to move before he was ready. We stood there next to the door for several exceedingly stretched minutes and I petted his back until he sighed and his arms loosened. Leaning back just a bit, he brushed his nose against mine and kissed me, soft and gentle. "Do you love me, Bertram?" he whispered.

Shocked at the question, which he'd never actually asked before, I answered, "Good Lord, of course I do, Reg! You know I love you absolutely madly. I've been positively potty about you for years, you've always known that." I raised one hand to his face, cupping his cheek and making him look into my eyes. "What on earth is wrong?" Jeeves has always been a confident bird; he's never had any reason to doubt my utter pash for him and, while we have both confessed that mutual p. to each other on many occasions, he has never once felt a need to ask me if I loved him, particularly not in a tone that suggested I might perhaps not.

His eyes closed and his hands came up to frame my face; he rested his forehead against my own. "Take me to bed, love. Please." Jeeves sounded entirely lost, and it frightened me a little. I took him by the hand and pulled him along into the bedroom behind me, where we skinned off the outer crust rather more slowly than usual. We said nothing at all after that, but once we were in bed he lay beneath me and asked me to make love to him, wrapping his legs about me after he'd slicked my cock quite thoroughly; he groaned into my shoulder as I pressed down into him, shuddering when I was buried in him to the root of me.

It was so very strange, the way he clung to me that night, almost desperate as we rocked together. I knew something was terribly wrong, but I had no idea what it was. I only knew that if I let go of him, it seemed that something in him might shatter, and I could never let that happen. I didn't understand what was going on at all; I felt him tremble and shake in my arms, gasping and wordless as he urged me to take him harder and faster, and I did my best to give him what he needed. When he cried out as he spent himself, it was nearly a sob, and I held him tight as I could as I reached for my own finish, finally shuddering through my last few thrusts as I came off deep in his body.

Jeeves didn't let go, even though we were both exhausted by the thoroughly baffling experience. Silent, I held him, kissing his face and his neck and his shoulders, the weight of my body solid on his chest as he finally, slowly, relaxed into sleep. Unsettled, I lay there in his arms and watched him through the dappled darkness of our room for a very long time.

***

I woke, as was my usual habit, some hours before Bertram would rise. He lay half atop me in our bed, warm and heavy, and I shifted myself to curl around him and take him into my arms in the dim, dawn light. I found myself still profoundly disconcerted; my mind had been in turmoil last night, and my dreams both erotic and disturbing in equal measure.

Despite all my efforts, when we made love last night, I could not help imagining myself as his -- his plaything, his property. His slave. Bertram had been extremely confused and, indeed, distressed by my silence and my trepidation, not understanding in the least what had been happening, yet he had done everything within his power to give me what I needed, taking me hard and deep as I gave myself to him utterly. My completion had been devastating in its intensity and I was frightened by the implications.

My matutinal duties lay before me, and I could not remain abed. I did not want to part from him, but I could not neglect a proper beginning to the day. I had to rise and bathe and dress, and to deal with all the early morning's tasks before I prepared Bertram's breakfast and his tea. With a sigh, and one last press of my cheek to his, I rose.

As I went about my work, my mind spun, beyond my control. I had always been a servant; even as a child I had known that this would be my place in life. I had never considered why, or what it might mean. I had never thought it had a meaning at all before last night; it had simply been the central fact of my existence. The majority of my friends were servants as well, though most of them did not view the profession as I did. For me, the pursuit of perfection in my work was an art. Everything I did was a reflection of my dedication, but it had never been as personal a pursuit as it had become the day I walked through Bertram Wooster's door.

He had, unwitting, changed everything. My dedication to my work for him had deepened over time until every task I did for him had become an act of love without my ever having noticed.

Yet love was not inherently a state of possession or of slavery. Was it?

When I brought Bertram his tray upon his rising, still deeply troubled, I looked into his eyes. I saw love there, and concern and confusion. He said nothing beyond our usual morning exchange about the weather and the upcoming day, but he watched me, and I knew he was worried. He had every right to be, for I found myself dwelling upon unspeakable desires and their ramifications. With every action and every thought, I wrestled with the meaning of my service to him, and the depth of my love, afraid of what I might discover.

***

Jeeves was in the rummiest mood that morning. He struck me rather as a confused crocodile worrying at a bad tooth -- too out of sorts to be at all angry, but in some good deal of pain, nonetheless. I hated seeing him in such a fluster, but I'd no idea how to talk to him about it. Everything he did seemed to require all his focus, and I knew he had an immense amount of it to bring to bear. Still, watching him pour tea with that much attention on the task felt rather like seeing someone take a howitzer to a tennis match.

I had hoped that he would sort through whatever was bothering him by teatime, but he didn't. In fact, the next three days felt like something out of one of those surrealist johnny's paintings, with melting clocks and people with bird bodies and whatnot. Everything was dashed confusing and Jeeves was barely speaking to me. I didn't at all get the sense he was angry with me, or anything of that sort. He might be wearing the taxidermied amphibian expression, but there was none of the arctic attitude that signified a Jeeves displeased. If anything, he seemed to be continuing with the lost waif motive he'd struck upon a few nights ago.

Not knowing what was going on, there was nothing at all I could do to help, but I desperately wanted to. Jeeves spent so much time fishing me out of the soup that I felt it only right I should be there for him. If there was anything at all that Bertram could do, he would step up to the plate, as my American friends would say, and dash in like a preux chavalier ought.

I was having a pensive gasper after tea that afternoon, sitting on the chesterfield as Jeeves dusted with an intensity that would have given a sane dust mote pause before it attempted to settle upon any surface within five miles. "Reg," I said.

He turned his head slightly to look at me. "Bertram?"

"Do stop that."

"Stop what, Bertram?"

"That, that dusting. It's quite excessive. You've been at it since the fall of Rome, old thing, and I think you may well have cleaned its subsequent heirs and assigns for at least the next century. I can see that something's terribly wrong, so I want you to come over here and tell me what it is."

He looked down at the dusting thingummy in his hand then back up at me. "Of course, sir." I was startled at the unnecessary intrusion of sirs into the convo but, given how oddly the man had been acting recently, I didn't comment. He doffed the apron and hauled the implements of housecleaning away, then returned to the sitting room. For a few moments, he stood before me, looking as though he wanted to say something, but he seemed completely unable to. This, needless to say, only served to make this Wooster more uneasy.

"Reg, please, talk to me. I've no idea what's going on in that massive brain of yours, but it's obviously been disturbing you immensely."

He sighed. It was just the slightest of exhalations, but a sigh nonetheless. "It... Bertram, I'm not certain I can articulate the issue."

I patted the seat beside me on the chesterfield. "Come sit with me, Reg. Surely we'll think of something. I mean to say, you've been losing sleep and you're looking a bit peaked. I can't have people thinking I'm abusing you, you know."

He paled slightly at that, which left me thoroughly at a loss. "There has been a great deal on my mind of late," he admitted. He didn't move to sit with me.

"Well, that much I could tell just looking at you. One would have to be Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps in a blindfold to miss it."

His eyes closed. "I hope that I have not been remiss in any of my duties," he said.

"Dash it, Reg, you're really frightening me here, wafting about like some Danish ghost in one of the bard's plays." He was, in fact -- frightening me, I mean, not being Danish -- and I didn't like it at all. "I insist that you tell me what's going on! I don't like the idea at all, but I'll make it an order if I really must." I ground the gasper out in the ash tray and he looked at me very strangely, then nodded.

"I shall return in a moment," he said. I watched, rather flummoxed, as he left the room. As promised, he returned right away; he had the book I'd brought back from France in his hand.

"Reg?" I will admit, I was thoroughly discombobulated at this development. Here he was, entirely out of sorts for days on end, and he was bringing me literature of questionable morality?

He stood before me for a moment, looking down at me, then knelt gracefully to sit on the floor at my feet. I hadn't been expecting that at all. One might as well expect a lion to turn in his fangs and mane for sheep's clothing. He leaned against my legs and flipped the book open. Taking a deep breath, he handed it to me. "I... I ask simply that you read this, sir, before asking any other questions." I took the open book from him and looked down at the story he'd opened it to.

The tale was one I'd found a bit disturbing when I'd read it before I brought the volume home. Jeeves leaned into me, reaching over and winding one arm about my waist. He rested his head on my thigh, which I found nearly as disconcerting as everything else that had been happening recently. Carefully, I wove my fingers into his thick, black hair; this caused him to sigh and tighten his arm about me.

I read quickly, trying to understand what was going on. The story concerned a young chap named Albert, who was another chap's slave. There were a couple of scenes that were really quite violent, involving a rather ill-tempered bird forcing himself on the poor chap he owned, and they bothered me a great deal, though I had to admit that I found certain other bits of it rather too intriguing, if you know what I mean. When I finished the story, I closed the book and set it on the table next to the ash tray.

It took me a few minutes to compose myself, as I'd been left at rather a loss by the whole thing. Jeeves hadn't moved, beyond the slow trace of his fingertips on my side as he sat there with his arm about me. He didn't look up at all, though his breathing seemed a bit rough. "Reggie," I said, "I hope... I mean to say, good Lord, I hope you've never felt like I was forcing you to do anything you didn't want to." The thought that he might ever believe I could hurt him, or that he might think I was cruel or unreasonable, absolutely cut me to the bone.

He took a breath and his other hand came up to rest on my knee. A moment later, he turned his head and looked up at me. "That is not at all what... what I was attempting to convey," he whispered. His head turned again and he buried his face in my leg. I could feel the heat of his breath through the cloth, and his hand on my knee traveled up my other thigh to rest on my hip.

Shocked, I stared down at him. "Y-you mean to say... Reg, you... you want me to treat you like this?"

Jeeves shivered, his hands tightening on me, and he nodded.

"Good Lord," I gasped, all the air suddenly dashed from my lungs. "I-I couldn't do that to you," I whispered back to him, my chest and stomach tightening into a queasy knot. "I could never hurt you like that -- I love you! I just... I don't understand."

After a moment, he looked back up at me. His eyes were a bit too bright and shimmery, and his voice was rough when he spoke. "The violent aspects of the story do not appeal to me any more than they do to you," he murmured. "I assure you, Bertram, that I do not harbor any fantasies of being raped."

The sick knot in my chest loosened just a touch. "Oh, thank God." I took a breath, because the one I'd had a few moments ago was really quite insufficient and I was getting a bit dizzy. "I love you, Reg, and I'd do nearly anything for you, but I don't think I could ever bring myself to do... well... anything at all like that."

"I know. I would never ask anything of the kind from you."

"Then... I... what are you asking of me? Because I still don't think I understand." I stroked my fingers through his hair, slow and gentle, and I felt him relax slightly beneath my hand, though his fingers remained tight in the cloth of my trousers and waistcoat.

His thumb moved in a slow circle on my hip. He looked away from me for a moment and swallowed, then looked back up at me. "I... I wish to serve you, sir," he said, that word filled with the soupiest thingness imaginable. The look in his eyes said he dreaded the idea as much as he liked it, and I wasn't sure how either of us could steer this particular course without dashing ourselves on rocks and shoals and other dangerously sharp and destructive objs.

"But we talked about all that before," I said, thoroughly puzzled. "When we first started this whatsit between us. I'm sure you remember it because I certainly do. We were quite clear about the difference between Jeeves the valet and Reg, Bertram's lover."

He nodded. "I know." His voice was soft and hesitant. "Un... until I read this, I would not have believed that such a thing could ever hold any appeal for me; I would certainly have insisted it was impossible. Had anyone suggested such a thing, I would have called him mad."

"I'm trying to understand," I said, giving the Jeevesian hair a steadying caress. "Could you perhaps come sit up here with me while we talk?"

He paused before he shook his head. "No," he whispered, "please. My place... my place is here at your feet, sir. I cannot entirely explain it but, for the moment, I am more comfortable where I am."

"I see," I said, not actually seeing anything at all. I was feeling distinctly bat-like at the mo., in fact. Jeeves was a man who, despite his life as a servant, had never given an inch to anyone when it came to dignity and propriety. Yet, here he was, sitting at my feet and telling me he wanted... well... to be at least in some measure like young Albert in the story.

"Then perhaps you might explain it to me, sir, as I do not." He sounded as confused as I felt.

I sighed. "Well, I mean to say, maybe I don't quite see, but let me take a dash at this and see if we can sort it, all right?"

Jeeves nodded, a bit of relief showing about the edges. "Thank you, sir."

"First, though, I think perhaps we both need a splash of the old blushful Hippocrene, because I have rather a feeling that some of these things might prove slightly easier to squeak out if we're a bit tight. We both need a bit of bracing. You can sit there again if you really want to when you've brought it, but I do insist that both of us have a glass of the needful."

He regarded me solemnly for a moment, then rose. "Very good, sir." He shimmered over to the bar and poured us both a snootful, bringing the glasses back and offering one to me on a salver. I took it from him and he set the salver on the side table, then resumed his place at my feet with his arm about me, reaching out to take his glass and sip from it. I took a sip myself; the brandy and s. was poured with a strong hand and only the barest whiff of s. I was glad he'd taken the instruction seriously. I knew I needed it and I figured he did, too.

We sat there dashing the stuff back and contemplating for several minutes while I waited for that slightly tight feeling to appear. I had a great deal to rattle about inside the Wooster lemon, and I needed to get a bit of a head start on it if I was going to have any hope of getting through this. Jeeves certainly deserved my best effort, for what little it was worth compared to his own vast abilities.

Finally, having put away a good bit of the liquid in question, I felt as ready as I was ever likely to be. "So," I started, "you read that story and... what was it that got you, old thing? Surely something must have, or you'd not be in this state."

He set his glass down near one of the feet of the chesterfield, where it wouldn't be bumped or kicked, staring at it for a moment as he thought. Before he started speaking, he rested his chin on my knee, one arm curved over my leg as he held the other about my waist. "You are aware, sir," he said quietly, "that what I do for you long ago ceased to be done for the sake of money?"

"I've never really understood why you stayed," I told him. "You could have had a position anywhere, done nearly anything. I know that. Even before you were my lover, I thought you must have had some reason beyond what I paid you, though I couldn't really have ever said what that reason was."

He nodded and looked up at me, his chin still resting on my knee. It was a sight that had the old ticker beating faster. "Even before I loved you, I loved serving you," he murmured. The hand at my waist tightened slightly. "I have always felt great pride and satisfaction," he raised his other hand and ran his fingers down the buttons of my waistcoat, "in seeing you perfectly attired, in keeping your home and your affairs in order, in ensuring that you are happy and content."

"You've certainly objected to enough of my ties, hats, and other fruity bits of clothing over the years," I said, somewhat skeptical of the claim. "You even objected to my mustache! I mean to say, editing my face? It's just the frozen limit."

He allowed a tiny smile to escape. "Like the women who have so often pursued you, sir, they were unsuitable." At least now we were on familiar territory.

"I don't at all see how it fits in with the rummy sorts of things that were in that story, Reg."

"Much of it makes very little sense to me either, yet there was something within the concept that... appealed to me on an extremely visceral level, and I fear that such things are rarely easily examined. Too much of it exists beneath the surface of the mind and attaches directly to the roots of one's emotions."

I huffed a bit, still having no idea where to go with it. "What part of that story do you want to act out, then? Is that what we're talking about? Acting this out?" I knew that we'd played with bits of other stories, doing some of the things that were described. Perhaps if I could get to that, we might have a little more success.

His brow wrinkled. "In all my years of service, sir, I have never... I did not belong to anyone. I never wanted to. Yet the thought of being yours..." His breath caught and he shivered. I shivered too. I'd always thought of him as mine -- as my valet, my friend, my lover -- but to think of it all in that sense? It sent a bit of a jolt through me, leaving me tingling. "I know that there are times and places where such a thing is neither possible nor desirable; no hint of it could be revealed where others may see us. Yet... the thought of being utterly at your mercy as your lover, for any purpose you desire..." He took a sharp breath and buried his face in my lap again, his hands tightening on me. I could feel him shudder, and his words left me half hard for him. He spoke again, his voice muffled against my body. "Even speaking the words leaves me profoundly aroused."

"It's doing rather a job on me as well, old thing," I answered. A thought then wandered through the Wooster onion. "Reg, is this... I mean to say, do you think this is why you became a valet in the first place? This wanting to serve someone thingummy, I mean?"

He turned a puzzled glance upon me and stared for a very long moment. I would say that time seemed to stand still, but that's not exactly the effect it had. It was rather more like being stuck like a bug in treacle, unable to get very far no matter how it struggled. For a moment he looked like he was going to say something, but he didn't. His brow furrowed and he started again. "Not consciously, sir," he murmured, sounding a bit astonished, "but... perhaps?" He let out a tiny, confused sigh and rested his forehead on my thigh again. "I no longer know myself at all. This desire came as a considerable shock to me."

"It must have." I reached out to him once again, slipping my fingers into his dark hair, and his head tilted slightly, pressing into my touch like a hesitant cat. "I've never seen you as out of sorts as you have been these past few days. I must say, it's a bit of a shock to me, as well."

"If you feel this goes against your nature, Bertram, then perhaps we should not--"

I shook my head. "No, Reg. I'm... I think I'm willing to try this, if you're sure it's what you want. I just have to kick it about a bit and find out how I feel about it. There's just so much in that little tale that frightens me, and I don't ever want to hurt you. I don't have any idea where the fences and the gates are here, if you see what I mean."

We were both lost, I knew, entirely at sea without any of those navigating thingummies or even a convenient lighthouse. "You are concerned that you might unwittingly take this beyond what I could bear?"

"That would be it, old fruit."

He nodded and took my hand in his. He pressed the back of it to his lips. "I trust you, sir," he whispered, his lips moving on my skin.

"That may not be the best idea you've ever had, old thing, as I'm not entirely certain I trust me." Some of the things that story had brought up inside me were rummier than a dozen drunken pirates, with a few sozzled parrots sprinkled on top. "How am I supposed to know if what I tell you to do isn't beyond the pale?"

"It will not be, sir." He sounded quite confident in that. I wished I was.

I thought about it for a shortish time, the b. and s. mixing it up a bit in the old lemon. I didn't know where this would carry us, but if it was what Jeeves wanted, I was willing to try it out and see if we could be what he wanted -- what he seemed to need. A few of the scenes from the story stood out in my mind as possibilities for relatively harmless ways to see if this could work at all, for either of us. "Right, then," I said, trying to sound sure of myself. "Take off your clothes, Jeeves." He'd reverted to sir, so I thought I had to do something similar, though I will admit using the name Jeeves didn't sit quite right with me; sir and Jeeves were entirely too much like mixing up our public masks with the dangerously private game he had asked me to play with him.

"Sir?" he said, looking startled for a moment; by this I mean his eyebrows rose slightly and his eyes widened a touch before they settled back into place. He gazed at the door with a touch of appre-something. Apprehension. "What if someone comes to call upon you?"

"No one's supposed to come by tonight, and if someone does come knocking me up, you don't have to answer the door. We can tell people later that we were out somewhere."

He shivered slightly, then nodded. He stood and gracefully shed the uniform down to his considerably glorious skin, then looked at me expectantly. "What is your desire, sir?"

I hadn't been quite certain he'd do it, really. So often he doesn't actually listen, even if he's obeying the letter of Bertram's law. "Fold those things up and put them away," I said with a dismissive gesture of the hand. "Carry on with whatever it was you had to do this evening. If you have to do something that might endanger your tender bits, wear your apron, but otherwise I want to see you like this for the rest of the night." I said it with more confidence than I felt, hoping that pretending would carry us both through.

Jeeves nodded and swallowed, blushing furiously, his eyes wide and a bit uneasy. "Yes, Master." His voice had a rough thingness to it, and that word -- I could hear the capital letter -- did something to me, whirling my insides about mercilessly, leaving me breathless. I could see his prick growing hard as he picked up his doffed uniform. I reached out and touched his bottom gently, stroking his skin with the tips of my fingers as he bent over to take his clothing from the floor. He shivered but kept on with what I'd told him to do.

***

My breath caught as I complied with his order. I had not hoped he would be so bold, if he would even agree to the idea at all. That he had simply ordered me to continue the evening's work had surprised me. When he ordered me to remove my clothing, I had hoped that he would take me there in the sitting room to claim me as his own, but this was, somehow, far more stirring in its assumption. His fingertips upon my buttock left burning trails on my skin and I shivered, unable to conceal my growing arousal.

I pondered Bertram's questions as I went about my work, half-hard and entirely uncertain how to respond to my body's unruly need. My emotions were in a state of turmoil as I polished silver, organized the linens for the next morning's delivery to the laundry, and prepared his dinner. As he had ordered, I wore my apron while cooking; the idea of burning myself while in this state of undress was deeply disturbing and I was grateful for his foresight, as I had been disoriented enough by the order to disrobe that the possibility had quite escaped me.

Had this desire to be possessed, to act as Bertram's slave, truly been a subconscious urge, lurking deep within me for years before being released by the simple act of reading an erotic tale? My mind spun as I worked; every time I entered the sitting room where he read, to bring him a drink, to light a cigarette for him, to serve him in some other way, I felt the intensity of my emotions and my desire strike almost as a physical blow. Each time I approached him, my prick would grow hard, though all he did was watch me or accept my service with his usual smile and thanks, as though nothing at all had changed, as though I were not naked before him. I could see a slight blush on his cheek, and I felt a responding flush on my own, the only sign of this new, unspeakable thing between us.

The room was warm, but I felt a slight chill on my skin, my nipples tightening in response, just as my prick stiffened in response to his gaze. His breath brushed my leg as I stood by his chair and brought him the things he requested. I had never before been so entirely conscious of his presence; that soft brush of air was incredibly intimate and my erect flesh strained toward its humid warmth. I wanted him so very badly that moisture began to appear at the tip of it. I made to brush it away, to keep myself clean, but he looked up at me and whispered, "No. Leave it." His eyes trailed back down my body to my cock as I desperately strangled my urge to whimper in a wordless response to his order.

I wanted to touch him. I wanted him to touch me. He did not even reach out to me but simply watched, his eyes dilated with his own desire. After a moment's struggle, I managed to find my voice. "Dinner will be ready in a few moments, Master." I had to call him something other than 'sir' or I would not be able to do my work for him in any ordinary situation without thinking of this; that would be terribly dangerous.

He swallowed, making an obvious effort to control himself. "V-very good, Reginald." I had expected him to continue calling me Jeeves, though I thoroughly understood the awkwardness and the risks of it. His usual informal address for me, Reg, was not appropriate in this situation, but the formality of my full Christian name seemed to suit it well enough. I wondered if he had actually thought about the need to separate these roles.

I turned to finish preparations, having already laid the table for him. I could feel the drop of viscous fluid at the tip of my prick grow and slowly trickle down the exposed head, cooling as it went. It was painfully erotic and, as with the brush of his breath, it was a thing I had never before been conscious of in our usual sexual interactions. I held the chair for him as he seated himself, attending him more closely than was my usual practice. He waited, watching me, as I served the first course, a consommé of beef broth. When I brought out the main course, a breast of pheasant in a thick citrus sauce with asparagus and bread, I set it before him and intended to return to the kitchen, but he spoke again. "No. Wait."

"Master?"

"Sit here, Reginald." He gestured to a place beside his chair on the floor.

I nodded, carefully lowering myself into the place indicated, my heart stuttering with my anticipation. "Yes, Master." When he touched my face, my eyes closed and I shivered, the contact after several hours of this intimate yet enforced distance almost too powerful to bear.

"You are so beautiful," he whispered. When I opened my eyes to look at him, he held a small bit of bread soaked in the citrus sauce to my lips. I ate from his fingers. He fed me part of each course as I served it to him, allowing me to rise only long enough to clear away the consumed course and bring out the next. When he drank from his wineglass, he offered me to drink as well, my lips where his had been. I reveled in my place at his feet and he allowed me to rest my body against his leg as he dined and fed me; I could smell his arousal among the scents of the food and see the press of his erection beneath the cloth of his trousers. When the last course -- a chocolate mousse -- was laid before him, he fed me small bites from his spoon, finally kissing the chocolate from my lips and tongue in an overwhelmingly sensual moment that left me dizzy.

I rose again to clear away the service. Wild eyed, he rose next to me and caught me by the hair on the back of my head. "Over the table, Reginald," he growled, pushing me down against the wood. I very nearly spent myself at the mere idea of it, having been hard for what felt like hours already. I had wanted this so very badly, yet he had not laid so much as a finger on me throughout the entire evening leading up to this sudden motion. His slender, clothed body covered mine, his chest against my back; I could feel the fine wool of his suit on my skin all along my body, the cool buttons of his waistcoat pressing their hard roundness into me, the chill of the wood rubbing against my hard nipples, drawing a gasp from me as I savored the overwhelming sensuality of this desperate moment. His breath was hot in my ear and he panted slightly as he spoke, quiet and rough. "Are you certain you want this, Reginald?" he asked, his voice barely controlled. "If it's not what you want, say so now and we'll stop this game. If you say yes, then it's on; I won't ask you again."

I could not contain my groan. "Yes, Master. Please!" I wanted this desperately, wanted everything he might demand. He scooped a bit of butter from the dish with his dessert spoon and a moment later I felt his greasy fingers opening me, swift and demanding. I barely had time to adjust before he was thrusting his hot, hard prick into me, filling me, possessing me. I cried out in deep sexual pleasure, my hands braced against the table, my chest and cheek pressed to the cold wood. He took me, fast and hard, pounding into me.

"Mine," he gasped. "Oh, God, yes, you're mine!" His fingers were tight in my hair, his other arm around my body, his weight pinning me down, and I reveled in it after the incredible tension of not being able to touch, of not being touched, of serving him in abject nudity for hours behind our locked door.

After only a few moments, I came off with a fierce intensity, choking back a loud shout of ecstasy as he fucked me roughly and thoroughly. It was glorious, and I was glad for the table that held my weight, as my legs were no longer able to bear me. He followed me over the edge soon after, uttering a sharp groan as he spent himself within me, his cheek finally resting against my own, both of us gasping for breath. I was nearly in tears with the pleasure of it, trembling uncontrollably.

Finally, panting, he asked, "Are you all right?"

I nodded. "Yes, Master."

"You liked that, then, did you, Reginald?" His breath was still burning against my skin. I could smell the chocolate he had eaten.

"M-most ardently, Master."

"Good." I could feel his lips curve into a grin against my cheek as he held me down on the table, his fingers finally loosening from my hair. He slipped that hand down to caress my naked side. "God, you were so bally fantastic."

Still breathless, I answered, "Thank you, Master."

He nodded, closer to catching his breath than I was. He kissed my cheek, trailing small nibbles down my neck to my shoulder, and I lay limp beneath him as he did. Eventually, he withdrew his softening prick from my body. "Right, then, Reginald. Clean this up and then I'll have my b. and s. in the sitting room when you're finished." He pressed a final kiss to the nape of my neck and I sighed in utter contentment.

"Yes, Master." I had not expected my response to him -- to this -- to be so powerful, but I was now certain that I had been right in asking him for this. I did not understand what need within me it filled, but it was quite obvious there was one, and that we had both taken great pleasure in this game. I smiled as he left the room and set to clearing away the table, with the obscenely erotic sensation of his warm semen trickling down the inside of my thigh keeping me inside the strange world we had just created.

***

I had thoroughly shocked myself with what I'd just done and how dashed good it had felt, and by just how deliciously enthusiastic Jeeves's response to the whole wheeze had been. I hadn't thought I'd have that sort of thing in me, but I had been desperately affected by what had happened. After I left the dining room, I cleaned myself up quickly and retired to the sitting room. When I dropped myself into my comfy chair, I realized I was shaking, my heart speeding along like a terrified cheetah pursued by something even faster and more toothy.

When Jeeves came into the sitting room after dealing with the remains of dinner, he was still naked but there was a look in his eyes I had never seen before. There was a dazed but pleased thingness to him that left a distinct impression of softness about his edges. I realized after a moment that he looked quite nearly ecstatic. It was entirely extraordinary. I thought perhaps young Bertram had finally managed to do something right by him and the thought pleased me greatly. He stood by my chair, looking down at me hesitantly.

"That b. and s. would be just the thing, Reginald." I would never have had to remind him before. I thought that it must have affected him like billy-o.

"Very good, Master." He provided the elixir and I gestured to have him sit with me again. He sank to the floor to sit at my feet. It caused the old cardiac organ to skip just a bit, like a hesitant engine or perhaps a carefree schoolgirl.

"I say, old thing, would you like to remain like this, or do you want to put your clothes back on?"

His eyes met mine. "I should like to remain like this until we retire for the night, Master, if I may." His voice was soft and thoughtful.

I nodded. "Right ho. If you get chilly, though, I do want you to let me know." I sipped at my drink and let my hand rest on the back of his neck. I thought the man was about to purr, from the look on his dial. I'd had no idea he would fancy this sort of thing so bally much. It didn't fit in at all with what I'd known about him -- or what I thought I'd known about him, at least. From the time he'd come into my life I'd handed over nearly all of it to him, and he kept everything in very comfortable order, leaving me an exceedingly contented Wooster. I'd never had any particular desire to have that change.

We didn't stay up terribly late that night. I finished my drink and had a gasper, offering it to Jeeves for the occasional puff as well, which he accepted with some slight surprise. We didn't usually share them that way, but would each have our own. This felt more... intimate, I suppose. More possessive on my part, perhaps, knowing that he was sharing something that was mine, just as he had said he wanted to be mine. Once we were curled up in bed together, though, I was quite happy to drop the whole thing for a while. I wasn't at all certain where our borders were to be found, after all. Rather like one of those dotted lines on a map that isn't actually there when you visit the place.

He held me close in his arms as we lay together. I kissed him once, but without intent. "Were you expecting it to be like that, Reg?" I asked.

Jeeves shook his head. "No, Bertram." His fingers traced my cheek. "It was a much more profound experience than I had anticipated."

"For me, too." I nodded. "But where does it go from here?"

"I could not say, Bertram, but I should very much like to continue, and to see where it might carry us." He kissed me very gently.

"It can't be like that all the time, Reg. I think... I think I liked it a bit too much, if you see what I mean."

"You still do not trust yourself, do you, Bertram?"

I sighed. "Not really, no. I'd never forgive myself if I hurt you somehow. You know how dashed badly things tend to go, just when I think I've got it all in hand. It's why you end up pulling me out of the soup so often, old fruit. I think I could get rather lost in it, like being sucked into a bog or a thorny thicket or some other whatsit that's difficult to escape intact. I might drown, I mean to say."

"I don't believe that could happen," he said, sounding vaguely soupy himself. "You do not possess that kind of darkness in your soul."

"I was quite rough with you, old thing."

Jeeves smiled at me. "I enjoyed it very much, love. It was..." His breath caught and his eyes closed. "It affected me much more deeply than I could ever have imagined." His eyes opened again and he gave me one of those solemn, thoroughly serious looks one gets when one is about to be lectured on some s., t. s. topic. "I will tell you if I think you are going too far, Bertram. Please trust me to know what would hurt or offend me."

"Oh," I said, surprised. "Well, when you put it like that, of course." I grinned at him, feeling immeasurably better about the whole thing already. "But I'll need to think about it, regardless. I'm just not sure what to do, or what you want from this."

"Bertram -- Master -- I wish to be yours, in every way. My desire is to serve you as I did tonight, to..." he paused for a moment, his breath lost somewhere between lungs and lips. I went a bit dizzy at the sound of his voice and that word. "When you made me yours tonight, Master, it was the deepest pleasure I have ever experienced."

I snogged the stuffing out of him. There really was nothing else a Wooster could do in such circs.

***

The next several days were dashed awkward; both of us were trying to understand what had changed between us and what it was we were doing. I wanted very much to make Jeeves happy, of course, but I wasn't entirely certain how that was supposed to work. Part of it seemed to be quite tangled up with my own possessive feelings about him; I'd had them for a long time but hadn't seen them as particularly important. One doesn't make a show of having the best valet in England, or perhaps anywhere, but I had always spoken of him with a certain poleaxed delight that he stayed with me, and a deep and abiding pride in having him in my service, even before things became considerably more illegal between us.

When one is a chap who fancies other c.'s, it can be dashed difficult to get any kind of counsel or advice on one's relationships. Where one might ordinarily turn to family or friends for a sympathetic ear, such ears are in exceedingly short supply for birds like myself, rather along the lines of hen's teeth or perhaps unicorns and phoenixes. Mythological beasts, one might say. Talking to Jeeves wouldn't necessarily be advisable, considering that he was a part of the circs that I needed to sort. I was convinced he was doing his own sorting process, actually, and didn't want to burden the poor chap with the young master's uncertainties when he had so many to mess about with himself.

After some internal debate -- Bertram vs. Wooster, as it were -- I settled upon talking with one of the very few blokes I knew who wouldn't just dash off to the constabulary, being that he not only shared my proclivities in re paramours of the male persuasion, but he already knew that Jeeves and I were rather closer than just gentleman and gentleman's personal gentleman. Said bloke had, in fact, been one of my own past dalliances, Damon to my Pythias, so to speak, and any reporting he might do to the authorities would of necessity end up being quite against said b.'s self-interest in staying out of gaol as well.

Young Ginger Winship was willing to listen and offered a very sympathetic e. to my troubles, though he was a bit taken aback regarding some of the specifics of my sitch. This abackness was not in any sense a negative thing, mind. It was more in the nature of being surprised that a chap like Jeeves would be interested in, never mind willing to take such a position in re the whole belonging to Bertram wheeze. In all honestly, it seemed to get Ginger a bit stirred up, and he could even be considered quite cheerfully enthusiastic, expressing a touch of the green-eyed whatsit regarding the circs; I was relieved to finally have an outlet for what had been threatening to make this Wooster's brain explode like a pin-stuck balloon. I laid it all out to him over a couple of evenings of careful, extremely private conversation away from any prying eyes, ears, or other potential sensing organs of dubious origin.

After getting a bit under the surface during one of our late evening conversations, Ginger said, "Bertie, old thing, you've been rambling on and on about Jeeves and what he thinks and what he wants, but I've not heard a single blessed word about what Bertram wants. So, really, what do you want?"

"Well, for Reg to be happy, of course," I answered. I would have thought that blindingly obvious, much like water being wet and aunts being terrifying.

He sighed and shook his head. "Aside from that, I mean. Aren't you supposed to be the young master in all this, and he your faithful, not to say eager, slave? I should think that would count for something, after all. I thought he wanted you to tell him what to do? So what would make you happy, Bertie? What would get your engine revving like a racing car?"

That, in the end, was a thing I simply couldn't answer for him right then. I had no idea what this Wooster wanted. Ginger made a few corking suggestions, some of which I felt were a bit too daring, but I agreed to consider them and see what popped up, aside from the little Wooster of course. The l. W. was enthusiastically on board with Ginger's thoughts and that in itself gave me much to dash about inside the old onion.

I knew that the whole nudity wheeze had really stirred Jeeves up, and so had oft told him to do it again, usually for an hour or so late in the evening after any risk of random Drones or ravening aunts was past for the day. To see him shimmering about the place in nothing but his skin in a state of visible arousal was, quite frankly, one of the wonders of the modern world, the sort of thing one might fable in story and song like the treasures of lost Atlantis. I had to admit that I liked it as much as he seemed to, and that it got me just as stirred up. When he wasn't working, even if he was still in his uniform, I would have him sit at my feet, as he had that first day.

One unexpected result of this sitting at my feet thingummy was that I actually touched him much more often than I ever had previously. It's not that we didn't touch each other in the course of our day before this. There was always a tie to be straightened or a bit of lint to be swept from the Wooster corpus, or fingers touching if he handed me something not properly presented on a salver, and naturally we touched one another when we made love or slept together at night, but Jeeves had often felt more than a bit unapproachable. One didn't just touch him casually, you see. He was a little more relaxed in private after we came to our gentlemen's agreement, but it was still not something one did often. There was just a soupçon of the fretful porpentine in his general makeup, I think. Jeeves is, generally speaking, a bit prickly, even with me.

This sitting at my feet, though, usually involved Jeeves leaning against one reedy Wooster gam, rather like an affectionate cat, though without all the fur and hairballs, or the shredding of furniture. Jeeves would certainly never approve of furniture-shredding. Well, I suppose if he found the color or the style of the settee, divan, or fauteuil offensive, he might arrange for a cat or six to come by and do a bit of casual mischief so as to rid himself of that which offended his sensibilities, but not as a general theme or motive in re furniture at large. Yet it seemed only natural to run my fingers through his hair or rest a hand on his neck or his shoulder as he sat there. I found a surprising amount of pleasure in petting him like that, and he'd seemed to wear his stuffed frog mask considerably less frequently since I'd started doing so.

Jeeves had also tended toward the hidebound in his attitudes about where and when it was proper to engage in a bit of carnal indulgence. He was fairly strictly an 'at night and in bed' sort of bird, and I had been astonished by how thoroughly he'd thrown himself into it when I had him over the dining table. I'd never felt him come off so intensely as he had from that, and I wasn't sure if it was all the nakedness that had led up to it, or the circs themselves in violating what had been a nearly unbreakable rule for him, but I had loved it and wanted to have it happen again, as often as possible. While I'd entered into this thinking about what Jeeves wanted, seeing him as he had been in recent days, and listening to Ginger's words, had finally started me thinking just a little about what Bertram actually wanted, as well. It had taken a bit to whack up the ginger to give anything a go, but it was with this in mind that I tried my next wheeze.

I'd spent a rather invigorating evening at the Drones after a worrisome encounter with Aunt Agatha. Thankfully, the Aunting had been entirely temporary, and she hadn't even tried to fling a filly at me this time, but it had still been a bit of a stress upon the nerves, as one might imagine. She may not have given me any horrifying marching orders, but I still felt a pressing need to get a bit tight with my friends that night, and so it was that I had wandered home somewhat sozzled, with my mind on Jeeves and this whatsit we'd embarked upon.

Jeeves met me at the door, as he always does, with a quiet, "Good evening, sir."

Being only slightly less tight than your average owl, I didn't let him take my things after he closed the door. I pointed to the floor in front of me. "On your knees, Reginald." I tried to keep my voice casual, though I don't think I succeeded very well; there was a rough bit of gravel to it when I spoke. I was taking a chance, and I knew it, but I didn't think he'd take offense. At most, he'd likely scoff and simply give me a raised eyebrow and a 'go boil your head, Bertram,' though not in exactly those words. Much to my surprise, his eyes widened slightly, and he dropped to his knees immediately, looking thoroughly breathless.

"Master," he whispered, looking up at me with eyes so dark they could have been night sky.

"I think I'd fancy having you suck me, Reginald," I told him; I was suddenly quite painfully hard, and the thought of his mouth on me here in front of the door was dashed thrilling. In a trice -- I suppose that's rather quicker than a dice, though dice are something else entirely -- he had his hands on the flies of my trousers and brought the little Wooster out into the light of electricity, being as it wasn't day any longer. I gasped when he took me into his mouth. It was hot and wet and his tongue was the most exquisite thing I could imagine as I looked down at his dark head moving slowly below the third button of my waistcoat. I leaned back against the door, digging one gloved hand into his hair. He groaned quietly, and the sound vibrated through me, making me shiver.

I couldn't help gasping. My knees went wobbly but kept me on my feet anyway, mostly due to the whole leaning against the door sitch. Jeeves was putting every bit of his considerable attention into the task I'd given him, doing all the things to me that he knew I liked most. My fingers clenched, tightening in his hair, and he groaned again. I started thrusting into his mouth, my breath growing harsh with my rising pleasure. His own fingers tightened on my hips, but he didn't try to control my movement in any way -- he was just holding on and I could see he was getting more excited and aroused with every thrust I made. I wondered for a moment if he'd come off in his trousers from sucking me, and that was all I needed to send me over the edge. I think I might have been seeing stars for a moment, but before I even managed to catch my breath, I tugged at his hair to get him to stand again.

Jeeves rose, his eyes more than a little wild. I kissed him frantically and he returned my kiss with absolute desperation, his prick hard and hot against my body. I abandoned the whangee, and my hat went somewhere entirely untraceable. When I could speak again, if one can define that sort of a squeak as speech, I shoved him toward the bedroom door. "Bed, now!"

He gave me a breathy, frantic, "Yes, Master," and our trail to the bedroom was marked by clothing strewn like breadcrumbs in some grim fairy tale or other, things flung here and there with an entirely un-Jeevesian abandon. I flopped down on the mattress, dragging Jeeves down with me.

"Bugger me," I ordered him. I think I was starting to get the hang of this ordering business.

It only took him a moment to get the little jar of slippery stuff from the drawer next to the bed and Jeeves got down to the serious business of thrusting his considerable endowment into my fundament. I was folded nearly in half as he pounded into me with absolutely glorious intensity. A few minutes of it was enough to get the little Wooster back into the game for a second round; the heat and the slick friction of it was completely corking. I couldn't help the sounds I was making. Jeeves was gasping and groaning as he moved, his eyes closed, head thrown back. The sight of him like this was enough to stir both heart and loins.

"M-may... please, God, let me come off, Master," he panted, sweat starting to slick his body in the light coming through the still-open bedroom door. We hadn't bothered to stop long enough to turn on the one in the room.

I very nearly came off myself at the thought that he would ask me. I'd never once even considered he might want my permission -- or my order -- to do so. "Yes! Yes! Do it!" My voice was nearly wild with it and his entire body shuddered. I could feel the heat of him inside me, slick and wet, as he cried out, still thrusting into me harshly. The feel of it set me off, as well, and I made a bit of a mess, despite having just spent myself not very long ago.

We were tangled together, shuddering and clutching each other, as we gasped for breath in the aftermath. We sounded like a pair of steam locomotives as our bodies slowly relaxed, finally falling into a limp puddle of thoroughly sated jelly. "A... a little w-water," I mumbled, once I could find my lungs again.

"Yes, Master," Jeeves sighed, sounding happy but equally knackered. He staggered to his feet and wobbled into the salle de bain, returning a moment later with a glass, which he held out to me. I drank about half of it, then offered it to him and he drank as well, sinking down to sit on the bed with me before he set the glass on the bedside table.

"Come lie down with me," I said, reaching out to him.

He smiled. "Very good, Master." He rolled down to lie next to me in a smooth, fluid motion, wrapping me comfortably in his arms. We both made little happy sounds as we curled up together. I felt pleasantly floaty and thought perhaps he did as well.

"I hope you liked that, Reg."

His smile widened slightly. "There are moments when you quite astonish me," he answered. "I would not have thought such a thing would be nearly so arousing."

"Well, you did seem to like that over the table wheeze." I could feel him shiver slightly.

"Oh, yes. Very much." His voice was a quiet, seductive rumble.

"And you've been much less the taxidermied amphibian lately, I must say."

Said expression made a brief, disapproving reappearance. "Bertram."

"I only mean that you've seemed happier lately, old thing. This whole being improper whatsit seems to be doing you some good."

He gave me a thoughtful look. "I think, perhaps, I have been." The stuffed frog flickered by again. "I could not advise such improprieties under anything other than the most private of circumstances, however."

"Of course not. I'm no more eager to spend two years in a cell than you are, Reg. Even I'm not that dim." I sighed. "I was a bit worried you'd give me the raised eyebrow and tell the young master to go boil his head."

"No, Bertram." He shook his head. "Whithersoever thou goest, I will go. I hope I have demonstrated that over the past few days. You should not doubt yourself so."

I felt a bit of a glow at that, and at the gentleness with which he'd said it. He'd told me before that he trusted me. He certainly was acting as though he did and, what's more, he was acting like all the larks and snails were bunged into their various appropriate places, resulting in a corking amount of rightness in the world and God's-in-his-heavening. Kissing him again seemed like just the stuff for the troops.

***

The most intimate part of our lives had suddenly changed quite drastically, yet its outer aspects remained as they had always been. I kept Bertram's home and arranged his life for him, minding his finances, his social schedule, and his other affairs. I cleaned, cooked, sorted, organized, and did the marketing. I was still most manifestly in control of these outer trappings; as always, I determined who did and did not see him when he did not personally make those choices. And I shuddered once again at the abominable monstrosity of a waistcoat he brought home. As the French say, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

It took me only two days to remove the horrifying thing from my presence, but I had always taken such liberties with Bertram's wardrobe. It was my duty to assure that he always appeared at his best, and such misguided sartorial monstrosities were an obstacle to that goal. I was in the process of extracting him from 'the soup' -- in this particular instance, a difficulty with his friend Mr Little that, thankfully, did not involve threats of engagement to Miss Glossop -- and anticipated that Bertram would, as usual, have a moment of childish resentment over the loss of the garment and then forgive me, as he always did, given the inevitable success of my scheme.

I had not expected him to discover the garment was missing quite as soon as he did. "Jeeves," he said, coming out of his bedroom looking somewhat puzzled. During the hours of the day when I was working and there was some chance of his receiving unexpected callers, we maintained our professional relationship as it had always been, and I was Jeeves under those circumstances. "Jeeves, what happened to that waistcoat I brought home the other day, old fruit? I was going to wear it to Oofy's tonight for dinner."

"What waistcoat would that be, sir?" It was always the way these conversations went.

His head tilted. "A cheery combination of yellow and red, with gold buttons," he answered.

"It was not a nautical signal flag from Mr Prosser's yacht, sir?"

Bertram's eyes narrowed. "What did you do with it, Jeeves?"

"It was donated to a sailors home, sir, as would befit signal gear of that nature. Surely your blue waistcoat with the dark grey pinstripe would--"

He glared at me. "Reginald," he growled.

Startled, I attempted to maintain my composure. "Sir?" He only used my name in that manner when we were enacting the fantasy that had consumed us in the past few weeks, and he had never made such an abrupt shift during my working hours before.

"I am exceedingly displeased with you, Reginald, and it is not sir right now." I could see his anger and frustration in the tightness of his jaw and eyes.

"I-I am sorry, Master," I said, slightly alarmed by his mood. I was in no way sorry I had rid myself of the egregiously ugly waistcoat, but I had no desire to genuinely upset him. I loved him very deeply and his happiness had always been one of my priorities.

"You will remain right where you are, Reginald. I will be back in a moment and then I'll deal with you." The command left me rooted to the spot as he turned and stormed from the room, returning swiftly with a slender, polished rattan cane in his hand. My eyes widened in disbelief. When this began, I had never imagined he would take my desire to be his slave as an assent to such a thing, yet here he was, obviously intending to discipline me for an offense against him.

"Master!" I had no idea what to make of the situation. While he was obviously displeased, surely he did not intend to actually strike me?

He tapped the back of a chair impatiently with the cane. "Drop your trousers and bend over the chair, Reginald."

"But--"

"Now!" he snapped. Almost without intending to, I did as he ordered, my head spinning as my trousers caught about my thighs. I remember thinking that it could not possibly be happening, that this would only be a symbolic show of the power I had granted him, that he would not do more than slap me gently a few times with the cane.

And then I heard the thing cut through the air and felt it bite into my buttocks, laying a painful stripe across them. I yelped, my body jerking instinctively away from the blow. It had hurt. "Hold still," he demanded, and the cane fell again. And again. I gasped, remembering that he must surely have dealt such blows to younger men when he was in school; his strokes were precise and measured, and they stung like a hornet.

Much to my shock and embarrassment, I found myself responding to the repeated blows with a burning arousal. I said nothing, my hands clenching painfully on the back of the chair, my head hanging down as I attempted to keep myself under control. "I see you like this, Reginald," he said, his voice a strange amalgam of growl and purr. His cool hand stroked over the aching welts he'd raised on my posterior. "I must admit, it's quite a compelling look on you." I shivered under his hand, my prick hard and my breath coming in harsh, ragged gasps. "Although I suppose punishing you like this might leave you wanting to dispose of more of my clothing." The cane came down on my flesh again and I groaned, spreading my legs slightly. "Oh, yes," he whispered.

Several more blows fell, swift and sharp, stoking the fire of my lust even higher. A moment later, he was behind me. I could feel the heat of his erection against me, slick with something thick and viscous that smeared against my skin, his hands grasping my hips tightly. "Do you want it, Reginald?" His voice was a harsh rasp and I knew he was holding himself back, awaiting my answer. I nodded. "Say it, Reginald. Tell me you want it."

"Yes, Master," I groaned. "Take me -- I need it."

"Apologize."

My eyes snapped open. God, what he could do to me. "Master, I'm sorry! Please, God, take me."

"No, you're not." He was right of course, but I would have said anything in that moment to have him inside me. His fingers tightened and he entered me with a long, hard thrust. I cried out and pushed back against him, taking him in with desperation. He gasped and set a rhythm of short, sharp strokes, the wool of his trousers meeting the burning stripes he had laid down across my buttocks. The pain and pleasure tangled in an immensely complicated knot deep in my core. All I could do was fall into it, letting it wash over me in all its complexity and contradiction. His cock filled me, striking that place inside me that set me aflame and left me shaking and howling, a creature of the deepest animal hunger. Thought was only a distant abstract, my body able to do nothing beyond respond to the building paradox of ache and desire that only my Master could sate.

I heard him speak, but could make no sense of his words. They were lost in the thunderous rumble of my pulse in my ears. I rode his cock, lost in sensation, dimly aware that he had reached his peak inside me, and then he wrapped his hand about my prick and stroked me through a shuddering completion that left me wrung out and gasping.

When I regained my senses, he was still wrapped around me, his half-hard cock still buried in my body. His arms were tight bands about my torso and his hot breath sang in my ear. His cheek was pressed to mine and I was vaguely aware of the distant sting of the stripes he had laid on me, slightly irritated by the wool of his trousers. He kissed my cheek and I realized that, because I had acknowledged him as my Master and myself as his slave, he had every right to discipline me as he saw fit; the agreement we had entered into at my request was far more complicated than I had initially envisioned, but that rightness I had felt from the very beginning of it remained, stronger now than it had been. It was an immense realization, dashing my previous assumptions about autonomy and power in our relationship; I still had them, but their manifestation was distinctly different now than it had been three weeks ago.

I finally allowed my trembling frame to relax, slumped against the back of the chair with Bertram's arms steadying me. I sighed and idly wondered if there were any other items in his wardrobe I might dispose of.

"I suppose I really shouldn't expect you to change, Reginald," he murmured.

I shook my head. "No, Master."

He chuckled. "Rather like expecting a leopard to go in for stripes this season, what?"

"Indeed, Master."

"I love you, old thing, but I do wish you'd show just the smallest bit more concern for my preferences in clothing."

"Yes, Master."

He snorted, still amused. "You can't possibly expect me to believe that."

I smiled. "No, Master."

***

Things were so bally complicated. What I wanted, what he wanted, what Ginger had suggested -- all of it swam about like a school of disoriented goldfish inside the Wooster onion. Jeeves responding like that to being caned had thoroughly startled me, but I wasn't about to let it go to waste; in my carefree school days I'd found caning the younger chaps a bit more stirring than I ought, really, and had kept it firmly under my cap where it belonged. As I suspected, he ended up taking the opportunity to dispose of several items of my wardrobe that hadn't previously offended him, apparently just to provide an excuse for me to give him a few dozen strokes of the juiciest and bugger him over the nearest bit of furniture.

This is not to say I objected in the least. In fact, I pulled in an appealing idea from one of those fruity stories I'd brought back from France, and tied his wrists behind his back before I caned him. It brought out from within that paragon some frantic species of pure erotic desperation that left him in a state of utter jellification. It wasn't just his body that responded, either. It was like something in him submerged, leaving him nearly senseless with pleasure; the first time it happened it rather frightened me, because I had no idea what was going on or if I'd hurt him somehow. All I knew was that he was having a hard time speaking or focusing on anything when we were done, but curling up with him on the floor as we leaned on the settee, and holding him in my arms for half an hour or so afterwards had, fortunately, brought him back round to the land of the living.

"What happened, Reg?" I asked him, once the glazed look in his eyes finally subsided. "Are you still with me? Have I hurt you?"

He shook his head, still seeming not entirely himself. "I am not hurt, Master." His voice was quiet and subdued and he nuzzled into my hair. "It's just... the pleasure was overwhelming. It was not merely the physical aspect of it, but..." He took a short, wobbly breath. "I hardly dare say it."

"It's all right, old thing. You can tell me anything. You just frightened me a bit and I want to know why, or if there's anything I should have done differently."

"No, Master." It was a whisper, tickling at my ear. "To... to submit to you in such a way was..."

"Was what? Distasteful? Humiliating?"

He didn't let me continue the litany I'd intended. "Perfect." The word was barely a breath. I felt the old ticker give a skip in my chest.

"I don't understand, Reginald. Why? That is, I mean to say, how?"

Jeeves raised his head just enough to look into my eyes. He looked tired, but not in a bad way. More in a deeply satisfied, about to fall asleepish sort of way, with a liberal splash of soul's awakening added for seasoning. "I am your slave, Master. The further we journey into this world, the more real and profound my devotion to you becomes. I can not pretend to understand it, but I feel as though each thing you demand of me, and each challenge that you set before me, is a further proof of your love for me and of your possession of me."

I was croggled, thunderstruck, or perhaps staggered. "Reginald," I whispered. I kissed him, slow and soft, with every bit of love I could muster into the Wooster lips.

When I allowed us the tiniest bit of space to breathe, he spoke again, his lips moving against my cheek. "My pleasure -- my joy -- is to serve you, to be used by you for your own pleasure." I could feel him trembling slightly as he said it, and the thought of it shot a bolt of something that burned and chilled at the same time right down into my gizzard. To use him was, at least when I thought of it consciously, the last thing I wanted to do. Yet here he was, practically begging me to do so. This Wooster was at a loss for what to make of the whole concept, and slightly disturbed that I found it so bally appealing.

He wanted me to ask more of him and, apparently, for me to ask things of him that were even harder for him to give. That, though, would take time to come up with, particularly when my own limits were considered in the mathematical whatsit. I didn't want to be like the chap in the story, after all, abusing his... I still had a very hard time thinking of Jeeves as my slave. The word was a sticky one, lodging itself uncomfortably in my chest. I hardly knew what to think, much less what to do.

Bertram is a dasher when it comes to charming the fairer sex without intending to, but in the thinking department, I hardly get out of the gate. I am a non-starter. My horse has been well and truly nobbled. And this, I fear, was a very, very complicated sitch indeed, requiring fish-fed grey matter of Jeevesian proportions. But if I asked him for thoughts and suggestions, it wouldn't really be a challenge for him when I actually faited him with the accompli, would it?

Jeeves was asking me to take a slightly terrifying amount of responsibility for his happiness and wellbeing. I felt like an ant being asked to bear some ancient, hoary oak on its tiny, insectly back across the vast expanse of the Serengeti. Do oaks grow and become hoary in the Serengeti, I wonder? I'm not sure. Regardless of oaks and ants and whether they cohabit in the far African plains, this Wooster is not known for his sense of responsibility, yet I owed it to Jeeves as the dearest thing in my life to do my best for him.

This, I thought, was a project that required a further consult with young Ginger, whose suggested wheezes so far had proved more than adequate to the task, particularly when supplemented with liberal applications of rattan and rope.

***

Confused and uncertain, I found that I needed a sympathetic individual to speak with, so I took myself down to the Junior Ganymede, hoping to see someone specific. Luck, such as it was, was with me that day, for I found my quarry in the reading room.

"John."

My friend looked up from his newspaper. "Reg, my boy. How are you today?" He regarded me with a look of concern upon his face. I know I had not been quite myself in recent weeks, since Bertram had returned from France, bringing that book with him. While I had been able to conceal this strained state of affairs from most of my acquaintances, John Barbel was an old friend. He was, in fact, one of the very few who was aware of my proclivities, as he and I had together prowled those dark and forbidden places where men who prefer the company of other men might avail themselves of nameless encounters for an hour, or an evening, before Bertram had come into my life.

He had never been one of my lovers, being some fifteen years my senior and not of a physical type I preferred, but he had been my confidant for many years. Just as Bertram had a very select few friends to whom he could turn in these regards, I had John as a mentor with whom I could unburden myself. "I find myself in something of a quandary," I told him my voice quiet in deference to the half-dozen other Ganymede members scattered about the room. I could feel my pulse elevate slightly in anticipation of the difficult conversation that lay ahead. "Perhaps we could speak privately."

One brown eyebrow rose. I believe that he suspected the general direction of my inquiries; he was aware that I had been in an intimate relationship with Bertram from the time of its origins, having offered me some excellent advice before I had decided to take such a step. "Of course." He set his newspaper down upon the side table next to his wing back chair. "I believe the Red Room is unoccupied at the moment." The room in question was small and private, and possessed of a lock upon the door. It would be ideal for the conversation I needed to have.

"That would be quite satisfactory." I nodded and he rose, leading me silently down a corridor and up a narrow stairway into the more private recesses of the Junior Ganymede. It was not as large or extravagant a club as the Drones, but there was no reason for it to be so. We who were members had no need of opulence, nor were we so exuberant as the young gentlemen many of us worked for. The building had a certain severe, Victorian splendor to it that encouraged quiet and contemplation within its walls.

John was a short, balding man with brown hair of a tone that might be regarded as mousey. His eyes were a subdued hazel, but possessed of a bright, quick intelligence and a certain dry humor. He held the door of the Red Room open, gesturing for me to precede him. I entered and sat as he closed and locked the heavy oaken door. Pouring two glasses of brandy, he handed one to me before he sat in the chair next to my own.

"Has something gone wrong between you and young Wooster?" he asked, concerned.

"No." I shook my head and took a sip of my brandy. "But things have recently changed, and taken an unexpected direction."

"Hrm." He sighed and sipped at his own glass. "You're not in any danger of losing your position, are you? No one's found out about the two of you?"

"We are in no danger," I said. "If anything, the understanding between us has deepened considerably in the past several weeks, but I find myself... troubled."

"What is it, then, Reg?" He settled back in his chair, obviously expecting a long dissertation.

I hesitated. "It is quite perverse." My voice was quiet and I watched him carefully.

He made a small sound, not quite a chuckle. "You're aware that I'm a very perverse old coot myself, young man. I doubt you could shock me."

Taking a deep breath, I steeled myself. I was determined to talk to him in the hope of understanding what I had done and why, yet I did not know if John would in any sense approve of the arrangement. "When Bertram returned from France recently, he brought with him a collection of pornographic stories."

John nodded. "A good place to find them. I take it that some story in that collection sparked a few new ideas between you. They sometimes have that effect."

"Indeed."

"What's disturbing you so, Reg? You look ready to bolt."

"The tale in question involved extremes of sexual dominance and submission," I told him.

He smiled and shook his head. "So Wooster has taken it into his head to have you dominate him in bed?" He chuckled. "With all you've said of him, I can't say as I find it a surprise. He's been very willing to bend to you in everything else. I'm sure if you two try the whole thing, you'll take a firm hand with him, and he'll no doubt adore you for it. You're an exceptionally strong and rational man, Reg; you'll likely be very good at it."

Finding my voice was difficult, so I took a deep draught of my brandy before I spoke. "No, John. It..." My voice dropped to a bare whisper. "I found that I was the one with such desires."

His brow wrinkled. "You, Reg?" I nodded, silent. "Oh, dear." He sounded vaguely worried.

"I have been attempting to understand this desire ever since. It has been difficult."

He sighed. "Talk to me about it, Reg. You've a good head on your shoulders. Tell me what you've come to so far."

"It frightens me."

John's fingertips tapped the glass he held. "Perhaps it should, a bit. You're a man who needs to be in control of your world. It must have come as a shock to you, wanting such a thing."

That had certainly been the case. I nodded in agreement. "I would never have thought I could harbor such desires. It appalled me at first. I could barely read the story through. Yet it affected me so profoundly that I have been unable to turn my thoughts from it since. It has left me reevaluating my entire personality, John, and everything I thought I knew about myself. I find myself questioning whether this is why I decided to become a valet, rather than pursuing a butler's situation or some other employment, deliberately if unconsciously placing myself in a position to serve an individual rather than a household."

He regarded me solemnly before he spoke. "This sounds larger than a mere momentary indulgence in a fairly common perversion, Reg."

"I believe it is. Were it a mere indulgence, I should not have been nearly so overwhelmed by the thought. It would have been simply another story, to take or leave at my whim. Instead, I have found everything about myself cast into significant doubt."

John sighed. "And what is it you want from this?"

"I am still trying to decipher that. I am not certain it is a want, per se. Indeed, it feels more like a decidedly visceral need, and that is one of the things I find so very unsettling about it."

"Need, then," he conceded. "What do you think you need?"

"Perhaps this will sound... out of character," I answered, gazing into my glass to avoid his eyes. "There are moments when I believe that it is less about pleasure than about... silencing the internal clamor, or simply being able to give myself up to him without finding it necessary to assure an outcome that I have devised. The... the uncertainty seems part of its appeal. Not knowing what is coming next. Perhaps not even caring what will happen next. Just... just being there and giving myself over to him, to whatever he might desire."

"Have you talked to Wooster about it?" His brow wrinkled. "I'm rather under the impression you have." His voice suggested he did not think my situation was to my advantage.

I nodded. "He has, so far, proved willing to at least attempt to indulge me, but he is very afraid that he will unwittingly hurt me."

John sighed and took a deep draught from his glass. "Reg, you remember what we talked about when you first came to me for advice about entering an understanding with your gentleman."

"That I should not allow him any more control than was absolutely necessary."

"We are at every disadvantage socially, Reg." He leaned forward in his seat, resting one elbow on his knee. "If you hand yourself over to him like that, you are begging for abuse. Wooster has an immense regard for you because he holds you in awe. We all know it. If you allow him to see you as anything less than the demigod he imagines you, even as his lover, you will fall from grace in his eyes." I could feel anger curling in my chest as John spoke, though I knew he actually believed what he was telling me. "Were the situation reversed, it could only be to the good for you; it would give you more power in your relationship with him, but this!

"We both know what young gentlemen are like, Reg. They are, as a class, thoughtless, selfish, and arrogant. They care nothing for anyone below them, even when their lips utter words of love."

"He is not like that," I insisted. "You know he is not."

With a huff, John's lips curled slightly. "I will admit Wooster's a bit better-tempered than most, but your affection for him blinds you, Reg. This cannot end well. If you hand yourself to him like that, to be used as he wishes -- to be dominated by him -- he will in fact use you until there is nothing left of you at all, and then he will discard you. I have seen it happen far too many times. I could name a dozen men who have allowed their gentlemen an undue amount of power over them, all of whom lived to regret their error." He rested his forehead in one hand, his fingers rubbing at his temple. "He will carry that domination over from your bed into your work, and you will have control over nothing at all. You will have completely reified the division between his class and yours; you will lose your autonomy completely. I would hate to watch that happen to you, Reg." He looked up at me again. "You're a dear friend, and too good a man to lose such an ideal situation for the sake of some sensual experiment like this."

I started to speak, but he held up a hand, one finger upraised. "If you feel you must pursue this, at least pursue it with someone else. Be his lover, but let someone else play this game with you. I know a couple of chaps who would very likely be willing to indulge you, without the risk to either your relationship with Wooster, or your employment. You could work through it, figure it out, and get it out of your system without coming to harm or changing the balance of your understanding with him."

I could not believe he had made such a suggestion. "You cannot be serious," I said, stunned. "Bertram is -- John, this is not simply a matter of physical indulgence. I love him. He is the only one I could possibly trust with this. Do you think I would offer myself to just anyone, that I would ever do such a thing at all without due and lengthy contemplation?" I found myself nearly breathless with the temerity of his assertion that just anyone could fill this role for me. "This has been driving me nearly mad with self-doubt, and those times when he has taken the role I have asked of him, it has had a more overwhelmingly profound effect upon me than I can possibly express to you." I shook my head and took a deep breath, trying to steady myself once again. He stared at me as I railed at him, intense but quiet, as this conversation could never be overheard. "I tell you again, John, that he is not what you are suggesting. He has acted with the utmost care and concern to be certain that he does not violate our trust. Moreover, Bertram loves me. His sense of honor would never allow him to violate that love in such a cruel and thoughtless way as you are suggesting."

John's lips pursed in a moue of disapproval. "You're thinking with your prick, Reg."

"No, John." I shook my head. "I am doing something that has been far more rare in my life. I am thinking with my heart."

His eyes closed. "And he will break it for you." He sighed and looked up at me again. "I'll be here for you when he does, my friend. You're a stubborn young man, and I know you won't listen to me, so I shall only pray that you are right, and that your Bertram really is a better man than his peers."

I knew he meant well, but to hear how little he thought of the man whom I loved beyond all measure was painful. "I appreciate your concern," I answered, moderating my anger and frustration with the knowledge that he spoke only from his regard for me. "Should the worst happen -- I do not believe it will -- I am certain I would appreciate your friendship and whatever kindness you might offer. You are, however, correct in one thing. I must pursue this, John. I must know this about myself, and about him. There is something very powerful within it; I can feel it, even in what we have done thus far. I feel like I am standing upon the brink of some great mystery. If I refuse to step beyond that threshold, I may never forgive myself."

He reached over and lay one warm hand on my wrist. "Well, good luck, Reg. I think you'll need it."

***

There were aspects of my conversation with John that followed me home that night, willing or no. He had sown a seed of doubt within me, and it only deepened my internal struggle. I pondered his words for several days before I allowed myself to consider speaking to Bertram about the topic. Although I did not believe he would, as John asserted, lose his respect for and then discard me, I did feel some concern for the preservation of my autonomy. I did not wish to have my entire existence subsumed into the roles we were exploring.

He was reading when I approached him with the brandy and soda he had requested. Bertram's day had been a long one, and somewhat stressful, as he had been involved in a rather dramatic and vociferous telephone discussion with his friend, Mr Glossop, regarding his cousin, Miss Angela. The situation had not required our presence at Brinkley Court, much to my relief. Despite the pleasant surroundings and the happiness that Bertram often found there, we were still very much in the process of attempting to understand what we had recently undertaken, and removing ourselves from our familiar surroundings would have added a layer of difficulty to our efforts at negotiating such sensitive territory.

"Bertram," I said, offering him the glass. He smiled up at me. I pressed a gentle kiss to his lips.

"Thank you, love."

"Might we speak for a few minutes?"

His head tilted. "Yes, yes, of course. Can I finish the paragraph here? Things are getting dashed exciting and I don't want to lose my place."

"Of course."

It took him only a few moments to come to the end of the paragraph, and he placed a bookmark between the pages, setting his novel down. "What is it, Reg?" he asked, holding a hand out to me. I took it and he tugged at me to sit down next to him. His eyes were upon mine as I sat with him, my body close to his.

"Several days ago, I spoke to a friend of mine regarding our situation, much as you have occasionally spoken to Mr Winship."

He nodded. "The same chappie you talked to back when we started out on this wheeze?" He had been aware of my conversations with John at the time we entered into our understanding, though not of all the relevant details.

"Indeed."

A troubled look passed over his face. "Did it help at all?"

"I fear he was not as supportive as I would have hoped," I admitted, still feeling stung by some of John's assertions.

"I'm sorry to hear it." His hand loosed mine and he slipped his arm about my waist. I leaned into him, seeking the comfort of his warmth. Before the change in our understanding, I would not have done such a thing unless we were in bed for the night; I had always regarded that physical distance as a way to maintain my professional and emotional distance as well. The subtle differences in our interactions since this change had only served to leave me feeling closer to him, loving him more. "He hasn't given you the old heave-ho or anything, has he?"

"Thankfully, no. He did, however, state that he believed what we are doing would eventually cause you to... to lose your regard for me and eventually to dismiss me from your service. He does not know you as I do, Bertram, but a few of the things he said did give me cause for concern."

Bertram's eyes widened as I spoke. "Lose my regard for you? Dismiss you? How could anyone -- What utter rot! I hope you don't believe that for an instant." His voice was heated.

"I do not," I said, "but I will admit that I am concerned that, should we continue as we have begun, an expectation may arise that I no longer have a will of my own." I paused for a moment, collecting my thoughts, but spoke again before Bertram could object. "Our lives have been arranged in such a way that I have a great deal of freedom in my daily life and my work. Despite the intense pleasure that I have, admittedly, derived from our explorations, I have no desire to lose that freedom."

His face had fallen as I spoke. "Reg, anyone who thought for a moment you had no will of your own would have to be blind as an entire cave full of bats, with a rather substantial number of moles tossed in to top up the tank. Possibly some of those eyeless fish that live in caves, as well. Do you really think I would... would try to take away what makes you such a corking valet and just generally a marvel? Less than a week after you'd got here, I'd realized you were doing a much better job of running my life than I ever had; I've never had reason to change that opinion. I mean to say, good Lord, why should I concern myself with what you do to keep the place together when I don't have any sort of opinion at all on things like silver polish or how often my shirts should be ironed or whether this costermonger or that has the superior blood oranges?"

I allowed myself a small smile at his vehemence. "Really, Reg," he continued, "no matter what happens between us when I call you Reginald--" he caressed my face with his fingertips "--and you call me Master, you will always be the authority to whom I turn for all things domestic, and all advice for nearly everything else on top of that, and if you think I am going to put any constraints whatsoever on how you manage the various extractions of this Wooster from the soup, then you are sorely mistaken! I mean, what rot! What complete bally rot! Does he honestly think I'm that sort of a cad? The Code of the Woosters would never -- Dash it!"

"Bertram." He had been taking a deep breath, ready to plunge forward with his frustrated assurances, but my single, quiet word brought him to a halt. My voice fell to a whisper. "Thank you, Bertram." I kissed him again, more fully this time, and he responded with passionate enthusiasm, wrapping me in his arms. It silenced us both for several moments. "My friend does not understand the true depth of your regard for me, nor does he see the kindness and decency that lies so deeply within you. I will admit to having had a moment of doubt due to his words, but what you have said reassures me greatly."

He nodded and sighed, leaning his forehead against my own. "Jolly good. I mean to say, how could anyone possibly look at you and see anything less than a paragon? Even if you're only wearing your skin while you're bringing me dinner. Not that anyone else has ever seen that, of course." There was an odd quality to his voice as he uttered those final words, but I thought nothing of it at the time.

I shook my head. "You are far too kind to me, beloved."

"No," he murmured. "Not nearly kind enough."

***

"Reginald," I said, looking up at Jeeves as he finished clearing away the afternoon tea service, "check that the door is securely locked, then shed the upholstery, would you?"

His eyes darkened a bit, in that corking way they do when he suspects the young master has an interesting evening's debauchery planned. "Very good, Master."

"Oh, and don your finest black tie, old fruit. Just the tie, nothing else."

One eyebrow rose in a note of surprise. "Yes, Master." With a slight incline of his head, he shimmered off, returning some moments later in nothing but acres of Jeevesian flesh and a black bow tie, which contrasted quite gloriously with said a. of J. f. He came to me and sank to the floor at my feet, leaning against my leg, as I usually had him do of an evening. I plunged the Wooster digits into his dark hair and he sighed, a soft, happy sound, resting his head upon my thigh.

I braced myself for a mo., readying myself for a plunge into potentially problematic territory. "I shall be having a guest for dinner," I said. He nodded. "You'll be serving like this."

Jeeves stiffened, looking up at me in horrified disbelief. "Master?"

I was pleased that he hadn't gone back to 'sir' out of reflex. "It's just Ginger, old thing. He knows about this wheeze, and I must admit that I've wanted very much to be able to show you off to someone."

His face was dark and the taxidermied amphibian was present in full force. "I could not advise it, Master."

"I know that, Reginald, but I am, after all the Master of the household, am I not?" This, of course, was the beating heart of the matter. Would he actually allow me to be the Master even if he found it uncomfortable, or was this entirely for show, and for his pleasure? I was willing to dash off in either direction, but I needed to know, finally, which direction that would be. I knew which direction I fancied.

His brow wrinkled, but he nodded. "Yes, Master," he said, his voice soft and somewhat disapproving.

I leaned down and planted a pleased kiss on the Jeevesian dial. "I'm doing this because I'm so dashed proud of you, Reginald. You're one of those masterpiece of nature thingummies. It would be a crime to keep you to myself."

"Emerson was referring to friends as such, Master," Jeeves rumbled, glowering in distinct dismay.

"Well, yes, just as he says. You're far more than a friend to me, Reginald, and thus you are ever so much more than just any old masterpiece that might be lying about the place. You are the pièce de masterpiece, in fact! This is the only way I can ever acknowledge that, beyond just telling you so. I promise young Ginger won't lay so much as a finger on you, though I suppose he'll probably stare until his eyes roll out of his skull like wet, squishy golf balls. He rather has that look about him when I talk to him about the whole thingummy"

Jeeves relaxed slightly when I told him Ginger wasn't to touch him at all. "Very good, Master," he said, though I could tell he didn't think it was very good at all. There was a slight undertone of 'go boil your head' to it, but I thought he might warm to the idea once things were finally in motion. He had surprised me with all of the things he'd allowed me to do already, and I thought that this would be the best test of who was truly in charge of the Wooster roost. For the moment, it actually appeared to be me. This was both a gobsmacker of a surprise and something of a delight.

The next twenty-ish minutes were spent discussing details of the menu and a few instructions for the evening, with Bertram petting Jeeves and soothing his ruffled feathers, then I sent him off to the kitchen to prepare everything.

I will admit that the thought of having someone else see Jeeves in this state was more than a little stirring. I had been struggling with the whole Bertram-as-Master whatsit for nearly two months now, since the topic had first been brought up. This Wooster is not the brainiest cove in England -- or, really, anywhere else, for that matter -- but I had given the issue much thought. I had realized a few days previously that a part of me, let's call him Bertram, had not been certain that any of this was real. Things took place in our own little locked world, much like what happens when one dreams. Therefore, another part of me, whom we shall call Wooster, said, 'Bertram, old fruit, you have to prove to yourself that this isn't a dream.'

'Wooster,' I said -- I being Bertram in this case -- 'Wooster, how can I possibly prove to myself that it isn't a dream? Surely you've been dropped on your head. Er, our head.'

'Ah, no, young Bertram. The proof is easy. Just open the door a bit and let someone else look in. That will prove it's real.'

'Let someone look in? You're loony! Who could possibly be trusted with such a thing?'

'You already know, old egg,' Wooster said, giving me a look of Great Significance. Of course, at that point, Ginger Winship's reaction to my description of my circs appeared within the old onion, floating as one of those shimmery desert heat whatsits that isn't really there. Mortgages? Mirages. He had been not just astonished, but quite thoroughly aroused by the thought of the whole wheeze. Given that he already knew what was happening, and that he was never going to squeak a peep to anyone, it seemed ideal. And so a plot was hatched, to be acted out this very evening.

Jeeves had agreed to serve dinner as Reginald, Bertram's slave. I found it a terribly heady sensation. I was uncertain exactly how far I would take things tonight, but take them I would. This Wooster would carpe the bovine by the pointy protuberances and finally prove that he had the right to consider himself Master. If Jeeves could follow where Bertram led, I sensed there would be great rewards for both of us.

As Jeeves prepared for dinner, I girded the Wooster loins for everything else.

***

That Bertram would actually have the temerity to invite someone to dinner with the express wish of having them see me in such a state was shocking. I was, at first, deeply offended but, as I prepared dinner and pondered the situation, I realized that humiliation was not his goal. He had, to the contrary, stated quite plainly that he was proud of me, and that he wished to share his pride in my service to him.

It was, I will admit, a difficult thing to accept in the form proposed, but the intent behind it was genuine. I could see quite plainly in his eyes and his entire demeanor how much he adored me. As I thought about the situation, and about Bertram, it became clear to me that I had to trust him; he would never deliberately harm me, nor would he intend to endanger both of us on a mere whim. Had it been anyone other than Mr Winship, who already knew of our arrangement, I would have felt far more trepidation -- I would in fact have refused -- but Mr Winship had no interest in harming my Master or myself. If Bertram trusted him in this regard, I would have to as well.

His promise that Mr Winship would not be allowed to touch me was reassuring. To allow such a thing would be, I thought, entirely dehumanizing, reducing me to nothing more than an object. While I had agreed to submit myself to Bertram's will for our mutual pleasure, I had made no such agreement regarding anyone else. I was relieved that he had not taken a liberty in assuming that I would acquiesce to such a demand.

I did not know what Bertram had planned for the evening, but I could see that this was intended as a test of his authority and a measure of what I was willing to do for him as his slave. He had, once again, forced me to confront my assumptions about what this meant to me and what I wanted from him. Since we had begun this game, he had several times pushed me beyond the limits of my usual behavior and of my comfort; that he had begun in his role as my Master by demanding I strip away the uniform that had so often defined me had been entirely disarming. It had, in looking back at our evolving understanding, been the perfect opening move. Each time he pushed, I found that my surrender to him had elicited a spike of fear or a deep wave of uneasiness which later gave way to an astonishing degree of physical and emotional pleasure. The invitation for Mr Winship to see me as Bertram's slave had certainly brought forth a great deal of fear and uneasiness within me. I hoped that the reward I found would be commensurate with that fear.

***

Jeeves met the adversity with fierce blushes, his substantial dignity otherwise entirely untarnished. I'd instructed young Ginger to come precisely at seven thirty and be sure not to ring the bell unless there was no one else in the hallway. I knew he was capable of following that level of instruction without requiring a diagram. The last thing I wanted was for this to be scuppered at the gate by someone seeing Jeeves answering the door in his altogether. And his tie. One mustn't forget the tie, as it was a corker. The black band of cloth about his neck looked rather like a collar, and the idea struck something quite thrilling within the Wooster depths.

Ginger, as predicted, made with the squishy-golf-ball eyes, though they were really more along the size of saucers, or perhaps dinner plates once Jeeves had taken hat, gloves, jacket, and whangee and Ginger had got a good look at the Jeevesian corpus. To say that Ginger was impressed would have been like saying Vesuvius had given a bit of a sneeze over Pompeii. "Good Lord," he gasped. "I didn't think he'd really do it."

I will admit I hadn't been certain Jeeves would cooperate until the moment he actually opened the door. He had calmed somewhat after spending time in the kitchen working on a few courses of the old fodder, but he still looked rather like a spooked horse, with a bit of the white of the eye showing, if you know what I mean. It had taken a number of kisses, a few gropes of his smashing bottom, and a few persuasive moments of stroking his lovely prick into a very interested state to distract him while we awaited Ginger's arrival, but now that the chump was here, Jeeves carried on as though he were fully clothed, and nothing was going to make him jump the tracks. The feudal spirit flowed like a fountain or a gushing spring.

Once we were seated in the sitting room, Jeeves slung the apéritifs before us. It would be half an hour or so before dinner was actually ready to plant upon the board and Jeeves retreated to the kitchen for the duration, having any number of last-minute preparations to tend to. Ginger stared after him as he shimmered out of the room.

"Good Lord, Bertie. I mean to say, good Lord. I had no idea the man was built like that under the uniform. No wonder you gave up the girls entirely and threw yourself at him the moment he walked through the door." Ginger had nothing at all to be ashamed of in that department himself, actually, given that he'd been a heavyweight boxer for three years when we were at Oxford together. I'd certainly never had cause for complaint. He sighed, still staring at the door through which Jeeves had vanished. "How did you get so blasted lucky, you bastard?"

"Ginger!" One might occasionally let such language slip, but I preferred not to have it happen in my presence. These were not, after all, the words of a preux chevalier.

He finally looked over at me. "Sorry. I'm just insufferably jealous, old thing. The man is gorgeous. And naked. I mean, entirely bare! How in God's name did you get him to agree to answer the door like that?"

I sipped at my drink and leaned back in my chair. "I suppose the young Master has finally lived up to his title," I said, offering my best casual flair. I wasn't about to admit that it had been near as a toucher that Jeeves hadn't dashed off and put his uniform back on. One had to project confidence and noncha-whatsit under such circs, even if one didn't always feel it.

"I thought you were exaggerating, Bertie. I don't think I really believed this was happening, just that you'd perhaps talked with him about it, given it some thought and a bit of debate, you know." He took a largeish gulp of the refreshing elixir and stared back at the door again, as though staring would magically cause Jeeves to reappear.

"A Wooster would never exaggerate about such things, old bean. I will, however, admit that there are moments when I'm not entirely sure I believe any of this is really happening."

Ginger's head bobbled like one of those drinking bird thingummies. "Oh, I assure you, Bertie, this is happening. I shall never forget that sight for as long as I live." The admiration in Ginger's voice was deep and reverent, as befit the viewing of a masterpiece like my man in nothing but a bow tie.

"Well," I said, "you're sure to get even more of an eyeful as the evening progresses." There were things lurking at the back of the Wooster onion that begged to be brought to life. Deep within the Wooster breast, I could feel the stirring of an exceedingly possessive beast. One that wanted to demonstrate to everyone -- Ginger, Jeeves, and self -- that Bertram indeed owned his Jeeves. I felt very devilish, and quite aroused by these thoughts. Given the spiffing start we'd had for our evening, I suspected Jeeves was in for the duration and would play along, if I led him to it gently.

Ginger and I chatted for a bit until Jeeves entered the room to let us know dinner was served. I cocked a finger at him and called him over. "Reginald."

He stepped neatly over to the young master's chair, silent as spirits doing a bit of sneaking. "Yes, Master?" Ginger boggled at the address.

Reaching up, I tucked one finger under the band of his tie and tugged Jeeves down for a kiss. He resisted for a fragment of a hair of a moment, but he answered my request by allowing me to ravish his mouth as Ginger watched. When I finally let him go, we were both breathless and aroused. He was visibly so, the little Jeeves having sat up and taken a bit of notice, though he wasn't fully hard. Jeeves was still blushing quite fetchingly as he led us into the dining room, seating us before serving the first course.

I saw Ginger reach up to touch Jeeves, but caught his wrist. "No, Ginger. You may not touch Reginald. He's not yours to touch."

Jeeves shot me a grateful glance but Ginger's face fell slightly. "Really, Bertie. You put that kind of temptation before a chap and won't allow him to touch? You're cruel. Absolutely cruel."

"I promised him, Ginger, and a Wooster is a man of his word. He has his code."

"Well, all right, then," Ginger grumbled.

I had Jeeves sit at my feet after the first course was laid out, offering him bits of my food as though we were alone, and this were any other night upon which we might play this game. My body was between him and Ginger, which I think made him feel a bit more secure. Ginger gawped, as one might expect, but shoveled in the fodder with alacrity.

During the meal, Jeeves served as he might on any night when I had company, and then came to sit at my feet, which of course he would not do on any night when I had company. I treated him with every kindness and caress, and he focused his attention on me, only acknowledging Ginger when it was appropriate for him to do so. Ginger behaved himself, after that first reach; I couldn't exactly blame him for wanting to touch Jeeves. The man really was quite glorious, after all, and having him naked and so very near was certainly a enticement of the highest order.

As the meal went on, my encouraging k.'s and caresses finally reassured and relaxed Jeeves enough that he was no longer looking a bit skittish about the edges. Instead, when he rose to remove the dessert course, he was half-hard again and, beyond a slight blush remaining upon the damask cheek, not looking like Ginger's presence perturbed him at all. I let one hand slide along his side and down over one of his cheeks to his thigh. I could detect a tiny hint of a smile on his lips as a result of my touch and I realized that, even if he'd not been entirely sanguine about the idea at first, he'd finally got into the spirit of the thing.

Once the detritus of dinner was cleared away, we beetled out into the sitting room again for gaspers and a bit of post-prandial convo. I had Jeeves get us cigarettes and he lit them for us. I had to slap Ginger's wrist when Jeeves leaned over to light his gasper -- the Winship digits looked to be getting slightly too close for my taste. Jeeves planted himself at my feet once again after this; because of the way the chairs were situated, he was leaned against my leg in full view of Ginger's wandering eyes, which subsequently wandered all over him, much as my own fingers wandered through Jeeves's hair and down his neck and shoulders, taking the occasional detour over his nipples, which caused my man to give a near-silent gasp and a tiny but delicious shiver.

When, at last, I asked him to fetch us each a brandy and s., Jeeves rose and supplied the cup of the needful, serving Ginger and then bringing mine to me. I had him set down the salver and remain standing next to my chair facing me, very close. His eyes were dark as he looked down at me. I met them and let my fingers trail up the inside of one of his thighs. He shivered slightly but didn't move, his eyes locked upon my own.

"And he would let you do anything to him?" Ginger asked, watching me closely as I caressed Jeeves.

"That is rather the idea," I answered, allowing my fingers to rise higher, teasing at Jeeves's stones with a light touch of the fingertips. "Do you object, Reginald?" I asked.

"No, Master," he said, sounding quite breathy. The flush on his damask cheek had spread down to his chest as his prick grew harder. His nipples were tight, dark nubs on his chest. It was all quite stirring. "You may do with me as you wish."

"Lovely," I murmured, taking said dangling parts into the palm of my hand and playing with them gently. Slightly cool at first, they warmed to my touch as they drew up closer to his body. His breathing grew a bit ragged, as did Ginger's. Ginger's chair was quite near to my own, and I made sure he had a clear and adequate view of my hand and Jeeves's parts. Jeeves stood very straight at the side of my chair, his hands folded behind his back, as he might stand if he were awaiting the young master's bidding in the drawing room at Brinkley. There was a question in my man's eyes, but I wasn't ready to answer it yet.

His skin was soft beneath wiry hair, and I could smell his arousal growing on him. After a few minutes of caressing and rolling his eggs in my hand, his prick was entirely hard and quite upright, and fluid began to appear at the tip. I let it gather there, slipping my thumb partway up his length and back, over and over in a slow, not to say languid, rhythm. Jeeves was putting every effort into not showing his reactions to Ginger, but I could tell by the slight tightening of his eyes and the soft catch in his breath that he was beginning to lose himself in the pleasure I was giving him.

"To whom do you belong, Reginald?" I asked.

His eyes closed for a moment and he swallowed. "You, Master." His voice was rough now and I could feel the slight tremors in his muscles as he resisted moving. I knew he wanted to press into my hand, to make me rub harder against his thick, hot prick. The tip of it was glistening with clear fluid now, trailing slowly down his length. Ginger let out a tiny whimper as he watched.

I leaned in and kissed Jeeves's hip, pressing my lips here and there along his side and his belly, avoiding his hard shaft. He made a quiet sound. "What do you want, Reginald?"

He looked down at me again, his blue eyes blown wide and dark with arousal. I could tell there was very little in his world right now beyond the two of us, and my hand caressing him. "Anything you desire, Master. Anything."

I nodded, wrapping my fingers around his cockstand and stroking him a few times, slowly. His head tilted back slightly and his stance wavered a minute fragment as he held back a shuddering sigh.

"Good Christ, Bertie," Ginger whispered. "You'll kill both of us."

"Oh, I assure you, Reginald can take much more than this." I grinned at Ginger, who looked entirely like a handsome, lovestruck flounder, if flounders had ginger hair.

"Please." Ginger licked his lips and swallowed audibly. "Just let me touch him."

I shook my head. "Oh, no, young Ginger. But I might let you have a taste, if you're very good." The dark hint of wickedness in my voice shocked me.

Jeeves's eyes popped open, vaguely alarmed, though he kept his hands behind his back and remained still. I shook my head at him and raised my other hand to the tip of his cock, running one finger through the fluid there. A very thin thread of the sticky stuff stretched between my finger and his prick as I moved it away, finally snapping as I offered it to Ginger. They both stared at me in disbelief for a moment, until Ginger lurched forward and grabbed my hand, plunging my finger into his mouth. He sucked desperately, as though my finger were Jeeves's erect appendage, letting out a tiny moan. Jeeves gasped and shuddered and his prick surged in my hand, hardening further, and growing wetter with each beat of his pulse.

Needless to say, the Wooster corpus was in quite a state by now as well. Teasing the two of them had turned out to be a much more exciting and arousing activity than I would have suspected. There was something to this whole role of Master after all, and I could feel it getting my blood up. The pulse quickened. My prick had gone stiff as marble in my trousers, and my own breathing was growing nearly as ragged as Jeeves's. It wasn't just that Jeeves was obeying me -- I was his Master, after all. Ginger seemed to have fallen into it as well, sucking my finger in the most sensual manner, looking for every last taste of eau de Jeeves. I knew then that I could have both of them if I wanted to, and likely in any way I wanted. I'd promised Jeeves that Ginger wouldn't touch him, but no such promises had been made regarding self. I couldn't do that, though, and didn't really want to. The book had been closed on Ginger and I many years ago and, despite this particular little sensual tableau, I had no desire to bed the man again. I belonged to Jeeves as surely as he belonged to me, and I knew that it would hurt him in no little measure if I had Ginger because of this. That, I could never do.

All of us were quite stirred up now, though. Jeeves was watching Ginger and self as I drew my finger slowly from between Ginger's lips. "That's enough for now, old thing," I said, tracing my friend's lower lip with my fingertip before I withdrew it entirely. He was panting when I took my hand away, but sat back in his chair, goggling at me and Jeeves with something like pole-axed wonder in his eyes. Surely the poor chap deserved some sort of award for self-control.

I looked back up at Jeeves, only to find him gazing down at me with the darkest look of desire on his face that I had yet seen. Unable to resist, I leaned over slightly and took his prick in my mouth. He fought back a quiet groan, and I heard an echo of that sound from Ginger. "Master, yes," he gasped, trembling now but remaining still as I sucked and licked him, reaching around him with one hand to hold one tight buttock as my other hand played with the base of his prick and his eggs.

He was hard and so very hot in my mouth, thick and heavy on my tongue, and the taste of him filled my senses. I could hear an astonished gurgle from Ginger and knew he was watching every motion we made. Jeeves's breath caught, quickening and growing rougher as I sucked, my head bobbing slowly on his cock, letting him slip in and out of my mouth as I took my pleasure with him.

I teased him unmercifully, I'm afraid. I would take him in deep, then back off and tickle the end of his prick with the tip of my tongue, slipping the tip of it under his foreskin and pushing it back, until I had him quite nearly gasping for breath, his eyes half-closed. His body trembled as I brought him to the edge, and I could taste him on my tongue, all slippery with that clear, sticky stuff that I'd offered to Ginger. I was keeping one sidelong eye on Ginger during all this as well, and could see that he'd broken out in a bit of a sweat, his forehead bedewed like a dewy violet. He'd developed a deep blush, as well, almost matching Jeeves's for color and style. Ginger's lap had grown a decided bulge, his fingers digging into his thighs as he kept his hands well away from Jeeves.

"Bring him off, Bertie," Ginger whispered, his voice harsh. "Please, I want to see it." Jeeves strangled a moan, his prick pulsing between my lips; he was very close. It wouldn't take much to push him over the edge. I stepped up and shoved, metaphorically, of course.

One of my hands rose from his hip, tracing up his body to his chest. Jeeves was so dashed glorious, his head tilted back, his lips open slightly as he panted like one of those harts in a poem. I sucked him in all the way, letting the head of his cock push down into my throat, and swallowed as I took a nipple between my fingers and squeezed. Jeeves gave one sharp groan, and his entire body shuddered where he stood, pulsing his release into me; I drank it all down, slipping both hands about his hips to help keep him upright. Ginger made a sound that would have been a squeak, if it weren't so deep. Jeeves gasped for breath, looking down at me with astonished, heavy-lidded eyes as I kept sucking gently at his softening member. His hands were still behind his back and he'd broken into a glistening sweat on his face and body, much like the one adorning Ginger's map. As I kissed the tip of his cock, his lips formed the word, "Master," though he didn't actually make a sound.

"Good Christ," Ginger groaned. I looked over at him and grinned a dashing grin. "Wooster, you devil," he said.

"I'm not done yet," I answered, my own voice a little rough with both emotion and arousal. Both of them whimpered. I felt a flush of triumph throughout the Wooster corpus, unrivaled by anything that had come before.

***

He rose from his chair and kissed me passionately. I was still dizzy and unsteady from my climax and welcomed the solid support of my Master's slender body and his arms about me. I had long passed caring that Mr Winship was here and witnessing my debauchery.

I wondered if my Master would have me on my knees pleasuring him with my mouth, or if he would demand some other act from me, having stated that he was not yet finished. I could feel the heat of his erection pressing against me through the cloth of his suit and longed to give him some fragment of the ecstasy I had just experienced.

Breathless, he nipped at my lips, then spoke. "Over the chair, Reginald," he said, "from where you are here, so Ginger can see you." I bent my body to his will, my heart still speeding with an electric excitement. "I'll have you spend again before we're done," he growled, and I believed him completely.

Mr Winship groaned at my Master's words. "Really, Bertie?" he asked. I grasped the arm of the chair with both hands, my fingers tightening as I looked over at Mr Winship. He met my eyes, lost in a haze of lust that matched my own. There was some movement behind me and Mr Winship looked up again. "Oh, Lord," Mr Winship whispered. I felt one warm hand upon my hip.

"Tell me what you are, Reginald," Bertram said, his voice rough with emotion and desire.

My mouth dry, I swallowed before I answered. "Your slave, Master."

"Shall I bugger you while Ginger watches?" he asked. Mr Winship squeaked.

I felt utterly wanton, unable to refuse any request he might make. "Yes, Master," I gasped. "Please, yes!"

He pressed into me, his hard, thick cock slicked with something cold and viscous. I groaned, shuddering, my eyes closed with the purest pleasure, as he entered me with a long, slow thrust. I thought at first he might take me hard and fast, to satisfy his own need, but he moved with slow deliberation, gliding over my prostate with each movement of his body. Even though I had just spent myself in his mouth, this produced a wave of ecstatic sensation within me and I spread my legs further for him.

"Bertie!" Mr Winship's voice was broken and I could see he was desperately aroused. His eyes were fixed upon the place where my Master's prick penetrated me and his breath was extremely ragged. "God, Bertie, have him suck me, please," he begged.

My Master's fingers tightened on my hips with bruising strength. "No, Ginger," he said, and I could hear the effort he put into speaking. "He's mine. But if you want, I wouldn't at all object to your having Winship minor out for a wank while you watch."

Mr Winship shuddered, his hands moving swiftly in his lap to open his flies and pull his long, hard shaft from within his trousers. It was ruddy and thick and already wet with his desire. I groaned and felt myself hardening a second time, my Master still moving in slow, smooth thrusts that were driving me inexorably toward madness. In only a moment, Mr Winship had himself in hand, pulling slowly at his cockstand, following the rhythm that my Master had set within my body.

The image was too much, and I had a sudden, desperate urge to do what Mr Winship had requested. It would be bliss to have him fuck my mouth while my Master fucked me from behind. I could not take my eyes from his hard prick, and I groaned again, shuddering with the intensity of my need. "You like that, Reginald?" Bertram asked, breathless and still moving inside me, slow and deep. I nodded, unable to speak. "Tell me," he demanded.

"Yes," I gasped. "Yes, Master."

Mr Winship's eyes met mine again, wide and dark, and he watched me watching him as he pulled at himself. I licked my lips, trying to wet them, and he swallowed, squeezing his prick hard. "What's his mouth like, Bertie?" he asked, his voice rough as gravel and shards of glass.

Bertram gasped and shivered, his rhythm faltering slightly before it resumed. "Hot," he said, "and so wet. He's fantastic, Ginger, the way he sucks me." His next thrust was harder and deeper and I moaned, closing my eyes as my back arched; the feeling was beyond description. I had never felt so aroused in my life.

It was not the first time I had indulged in intercourse while another man watched. Those places which I had haunted before I came to serve Bertram were often crowded; in the dim light, it was not unusual to see several men engaged in sexual acts, or to be watched while in the throes of passion. I had thought those days behind me, but this was impossible to resist, and carried me deep into that place where my only desire was to satisfy my Master's needs. I would have knelt before half the Drones club members at that point, sucking any of them at his command. Had my Master but said the word, I would have let Mr Winship bugger me before him in that moment, glad for the opportunity to debase myself for his pleasure.

Mr Winship's hand moved faster, his breath coming in quick, panting gasps. My Master began fucking me in earnest now, as Mr Winship drew closer to his end, and I found myself achingly hard again as I watched him masturbate. His eyes did not leave us and I knew we must have made a striking vision of exquisitely erotic tension. My arms wavered, trembling, and I leaned down against the arm of the chair to rest them as Bertram pounded into my open, willing body. I opened my mouth against one arm, sucking my own flesh as I imagined sucking Mr Winship's long, hard cock. He groaned as I kept my eyes upon his, and my Master gasped, then cried out as I felt him come off inside me.

Without losing his rhythm, he continued thrusting into me. I shuddered, moaning into my arm. After only a moment, Mr Winship found his own completion, a fountain of white fluid spurting from his cock, splattering his waistcoat and trousers. I gasped and moaned again, rocking back against my Master to take more of his thick, hard length. He reached around my body and took my prick in his hand, stroking me hard and fast until I finished with a loud cry, my entire frame shaking with the bliss of my release and the effort of remaining on my feet.

My body drifted in a cloud of absolute sensual ecstasy as his arms came around me, holding me up. "Ginger, get the lap blanket from the back of the settee, would you?" My Master's voice was ragged and breathless, and his cock slipped out of me, leaving a trail of semen running down between my cheeks. I would have collapsed on unsteady legs if his arms were not secure about my body, and he eased me to the floor as Mr Winship carried out his request. A moment later, I was wrapped warmly in the blanket and Bertram sat with me on the floor, curled up around me as he held me, letting my head rest upon his shoulder.

I was nearly insensate by that point, too far gone to care what was happening outside of my own body. I felt the press of my Master's kiss upon my lips, and then a glass held to them. I sipped the water he offered. It tasted like ambrosia in my exhaustion, relieving the dryness of my mouth at last. I heard quiet conversation for some time as I rested, but did not try to follow the meaning. All I wanted was the warmth of my Master's body against my own, and to be allowed to float endlessly in this perfect bliss.

***

Ginger was quick to bring the blanket to me, and a glass of water for Jeeves, but there was a glint of worry in the man's aspect, much like an uncertain lamb contemplating a wolf in his folds. He crouched down beside us, looking Jeeves over with a critical eye. "Is he all right?" Ginger asked, once I had put the glass down.

I nodded. "He's fine, old thing. He gets like this sometimes, if it's been really intense for him. He'll be back to himself in half an hour or so."

"You're sure?"

"I am." I nuzzled Jeeves's hair. "Reg, love.

"Mmm?"

"Ginger wants to know you're all right."

"Mmmhmm." Jeeves shifted slightly, snugging himself closer into my arms. He didn't bother to open his eyes.

"See? He's fine."

Ginger sighed and nodded, then sat down next to us. He reached up to run a gentle hand over Jeeves's damp, sweaty hair. I let him; it was a fond touch that was meant to give comfort, not to take anything at all from either Jeeves or myself. "I don't think I'll ever see him in quite the same way again." Ginger's voice was thoughtful and a touch pensive.

"Don't treat him any differently," I said, "or you may give all of us away."

"I wouldn't." He looked away from Jeeves for a moment and met my eyes. "I never used to quite understand what you saw in one another, you know." I started to object but he continued. "I don't mean that in a bad way, Bertie, just that you always seemed a bit oddly matched, if you see what I mean."

Well, that was true enough. "That's true enough," I admitted. "Reg inhabits higher planes than we mere mortals, most of the time."

"He never shows anything, ever, but this -- I could see so much of him this way, and I don't just mean his skin. I mean how bally much he worships you. It was never any secret how dippy you are for him. Not to anyone who really knows you."

I thought worship was a bit strong, but I knew Jeeves loved me. "It's not that he never shows anything, old fruit, he's just very careful. He has to be, you know. He has so much more to lose than I do, after all." I might disgrace the family and lose what little respect anyone ever had for me, but it wasn't like they could take away the money I had, even if they bunged me in chokey. Jeeves would lose everything, though, and never be able to secure a position again. Prison, followed by starving on a street corner, was a very high risk for him to take for the affections of one B. W. Wooster.

"What you just did, Bertie, that was amazing. Completely and utterly stunning. I..." Ginger hesitated, looking down at Jeeves again. "I don't suppose you'd ever be willing to do that with me," he murmured.

I blinked. "With... Ginger, did I actually just hear you ask if I'd do this with you?"

"I was..." He took a bracing breath. "I could see what it did to him, you having all that power over him, able to take him like that in front of someone with just a word. And I felt it, too, when you were telling me what I could and couldn't do. It was so absolutely thrilling, Bertie. You wouldn't believe it at all, what it did to me."

For a moment, I had no idea what to say. Well, that is to say, I did have an idea, but I couldn't actually get the words to form. "Ginger... I-I'm sorry, old thing, but I can't." I reached over and touched his shoulder, and he looked back up at me again. I could see disappointment in his eyes, rather like a pup whose favorite bone had been stolen and replaced with a handful of pebbles. "I mean to say, I'm terribly flattered and all, but what we have, Reg and I, it's all so very complicated. I couldn't do this for anyone else, I don't think. It's hard enough making sure I don't do something to hurt him by accident, when he trusts me so dashed much. The truth of it is, I'm his as much as he's mine, and neither of us shares terribly well vis à vis one another. This was lovely, and it's possible we might do it again sometime, but I can't promise that, and I don't know yet how Reg is going to react to all of this later, when he's back to himself again." I sighed. "In the thick of it, I can't help but wonder if he might just be doing things for me because I want them, and regretting it later, if you see what I mean."

Ginger nodded. "No, it's all right. I do follow your point, Bertie. You've been so dashed happy since you and Jeeves finally worked out the understanding between you a few years back, and I'd hate to toss a spanner into the works." His lips pursed and then he sighed again and gestured to me and Jeeves. "I would never have thought that you could take such good care of him. He's always been the one looking after you -- I always thought he was the one in charge, you know."

I couldn't help but laugh a bit. "Aside from this, he is. Always. I'd be permanently in the soup if he weren't."

"Well, there is that. This is just such a different side of both of you than I'd ever seen before. When you and I... well, I mean to say, it was nothing like this. It was so much more casual, a bit of a fling, really, not this immense romantic thing you two have."

"Do you regret that?" I asked.

He shook his head. "Not really," he said. "Maybe once in a while, but I know it wouldn't have worked out. I do actually like women, you know."

"You're probably right," I agreed. I was in desperate need of a Jeeves to take care of me when we weren't like this; it wasn't a thing Ginger could ever have done on his best days. The thought of the two of us bungling through life together, and me entirely Jeevesless, was too horrifying to contemplate. "You know you're still one of my dearest friends."

He smiled. "I know." He leaned forward slightly and pressed a soft, brief kiss to my lips. I kissed back, but it was only a friendly bit of the labial press between old chums. Comfortable, that is to say, and familiar, but bunged into the back of the wardrobe years ago in favor of a more suitable model. "I should probably be off and let you take care of Jeeves, old thing."

"Are you sure?" I asked. "You could stay a bit longer if you wanted to. I wouldn't mind at all."

Ginger chuckled. "No, really. It's all right, Bertie. Dinner was just topping, and the rest of it -- well, even if it never happens again, it was a corker of a night, and one I'll likely remember for the rest of my life."

"Well, all right then." I smiled at him.

"I can see myself out."

I nodded toward his sloppy clothing. "You'd best clean that up a bit first. Wouldn't want any dire rumors of debauchery in W1, would we?"

"Oh, right. Sorry." He blushed. Again.

"You can get a damp cloth in the salle de bain, old thing."

Once Ginger was dispatched, I turned my full attention to Jeeves. I tugged at his tie, dropping it on the floor after I'd removed it; unadorned he seemed more vulnerable. No doubt he'd chide me for fiendish tie abuse later, but I didn't mind. He was still a few steps to the left of reality at the mo. I managed to help him into bed and tucked myself in next to him, wriggling about rather newtishly until I was holding him, face to face, the full length of our bodies pressed together in a very cozy manner. He had one arm draped around my chest, and the Jeevesian dial was nuzzled into my shoulder most comfortably.

"Thank you, Bertram," he mumbled.

"That was all right, then?"

"Mmm." Jeeves nodded. "Exceedingly satisfying." His arm tightened around me.

"Oh, jolly good. Glad to hear it." I pressed a kiss into his still-damp hair. "You really are a marvel, Reg."

He looked up at me with blurry eyes. I don't mean that his eyes were actually blurry -- I could see them perfectly well -- but that he looked like he couldn't quite focus yet. "I would have done it," he said.

The Wooster brow wrinkled. "Done what, old thing?"

"Pleasured him with my mouth." Jeeves pulled me a bit closer. I was too stunned to reply. "If you had ordered it, I would have done anything you asked, and I would have enjoyed it because it was what you desired. I was imagining what it would feel like, to have you taking me from behind and him between my lips."

This thought left me more than a bit light-headed. I could picture it, too, and it was very bracing. "Did you want to? I mean, really?"

"In the moment, yes. Now, however..." He sighed. "I don't know. I'm glad you did not ask it of me at this juncture. I-I find myself terribly conflicted in this regard. How can I want something so badly in one moment, and think it unwise less than an hour later?"

"I don't know," I said. "But I promised you that he'd not touch you, and I didn't let him. You're mine, Reg, whether we play this game of yours or not. You belong to me." I could feel that now, in a way I never really had before; all those possessive feelings I'd had about him for years finally made sense. The thought that he was mine had never felt more real or more right. What he'd said, though, about doing something and possibly regretting it later, it was exactly what I'd been worried about.

"The thought of it, as I watched him pulling at himself, was... extremely stimulating." His voice was very quiet, as though he were ashamed of the thought. "And seeing you offer him a taste of me, the way he sucked at your finger, was quite possibly the most wickedly erotic thing I've seen in a very long time." Jeeves paused for a moment, hesitating; he doesn't hesitate often, as I've mentioned before. When he continued, it was in a whisper. "In... in wanting that, I... was I betraying you?"

"No, love." I shook my head. "What utter rot. You didn't do anything wrong. You wouldn't have touched him unless I told you to, and I wasn't about to tell you to."

"But what I wanted--"

"It's not wrong, Reg. It's like... like when we read those stories together. We're not doing anything with anyone else, it's just a corking good fantasy, don't you see? The fact that Ginger was actually in the room with us made it rather more immediate and yes, he was involved a bit more than some fictional cove on a page, but it was still just a fantasy. The only place you were sucking Ginger's prick was inside your massive, fish-fed brain. Wanting to do something but not actually doing it isn't a betrayal, it's just like reading one of those stories. I know we both think of them when we make love after we've had a particularly juicy read."

He relaxed, letting go of tension I hadn't even realized he'd been holding, and let out a great sigh. "Thank you, Bertram." He cupped my chin and tugged me down to kiss me. "There are moments when your wisdom gives me pause."

"Really?" I asked, tickled lobster-pink by his words. "Do you think so?" Jeeves nodded. I might have been pleased, but I was also dubious. "Reg, are you sure we're doing this right? I mean to say, I'm worried I'll have you do something and you'll end up hating me for it later. Like if I'd told Ginger he could have a go at you, and you telling me you'd have gone along in the heat of the whole thing, but now--"

"Bertram."

"What?"

"You did not break your word to me. That is the crux of the matter. What we are doing is uncharted territory for both of us, but your instincts have thus far proved sound. I do not believe you would ever make me do anything that I would regret. We have certainly done things that I resisted at first; I must admit I was extremely hesitant to serve at dinner as your slave tonight, but the pleasure I received in obeying your command was well worth facing those fears.

"I would add that all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare, beloved. Much of this has been difficult for me, but its result so far has been such pleasure as I had never previously imagined. Remember that I trust you." He kissed me again, and I will admit I felt considerably better upon the entanglement of our lips.

"Was that Spinoza?" I asked, when my lips were once again my own. "That difficult and rare wheeze, I mean. You've mentioned it before."

"Indeed."

I nodded. "Should it be different if I ever invite Ginger over like that again?"

He paused for a moment. "That choice is yours, Master," he said quietly. "I am your devoted slave, and my desire is to serve you."

I do believe he really meant it.

***

I should have known that the happiness I had found in giving myself to Bertram, nurtured over a period of only a few short weeks, was too fragile to last. Very little in our lives seemed to survive an encounter with Lady Worplesdon intact. Were I a superstitious man, I would consider our encounters with her cursed.

He returned one afternoon from a walk, only to receive a telephone call from his dreaded aunt. "She's summoned me to Bumpleigh Hall," he groaned. "I have to be there tomorrow." Bertram flung himself into my arms and I held him close. "God, Reg, I'm doomed. She's sure to fling some horrid gawd-help-us at me. And there's always the danger of falling into Florence's clutches. The two of them combined will surely be the death of me."

"I shall not allow you to face the dragon alone, love," I murmured. "We will find some way of foiling your aunt's schemes once again. You know we always do."

He sighed. "I know, I know. It's just so bally painful having to go through the motions every dashed time. When is she ever going to give up?"

"I think that an unlikely eventuality," I admitted. I fully expected her to continue tormenting him until she expired and, quite possibly, to find some way to do so after her demise. She had always been an exceedingly vindictive woman.

Bertram looked up at me, not releasing me from his embrace. "I wish she'd leave you alone, though, at least."

I had known from the earliest days of our association that Bertram's aunt disliked me. Over the years, that dislike had grown to a seething hatred that she concealed only because she considered it beneath her dignity to waste such emotional intensity upon a mere servant. The feelings were decidedly mutual; the only thing I could do to frustrate her was to keep Bertram out of the ill-conceived matrimonial matches that were her continual goal, and stay out of her reach myself. "Unless she forces you to marry, there is nothing she can do to me, Bertram. She has no meaningful authority over me."

With a quiet sound, he buried his face in my shoulder for a moment, then straightened. "I suppose there's nothing for it," he said, resigned. "Pack our things and get us ready to biff off in the morning, old fruit."

"Of course, sir."

Making a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt at a smile, he kissed me gently. "I love you, Reg."

"And I, you, Bertram."

***

I'm quite certain that Aunt Agatha exists solely for the creation of misery in her nephews, her lineaments laid out at the foundation of the world. It is entirely possible that she swooped out of heaven with Lucifer and his various minions at the Fall. She torments me and tries to marry me off every time she lays eyes on me. She's shipped Claude and Eustace off to South Africa. God alone knows what she has planned for young Bonzo. So far he seems to have escaped her notice, the lucky blighter. That probably won't last beyond his release from school, however.

Jeeves and I arrived at Bumpleigh Hall in the afternoon, shortly before teatime. The last thing I wanted was to be separated from the man, but we were now in enemy territory and our usual state of chumminess had to be concealed, as always. It was going to be much more difficult than the last time we'd been here, given the new state of our understanding and how much closer we'd become. We were learning this new dance when we'd been so rudely interrupted, and things were still just a bit off balance between us, though not in a bad way. It was more along the line of exploring the 'here there be dragons' territory off the edge of the map, and unforeseen water hazards and sand traps were occasionally to be expected.

Florence greeted me as Jeeves hauled my things off to the room I'd been bunged into. "Hullo, Bertie, it's been a while." She fetched up a cousinly peck on my cheek.

"What ho, Florence, my young shrimp?" I pecked back, as per the instructions in the manual. I was still wary of her, needless to say. There was no doubt in my mind that she'd find some way to end up engaged to me before teatime tomorrow. I am, after all, the go-to chap for women whose engagements to other birds have broken off; Florence wasn't the only one who regarded me as a standby fiancé.

"My father's got one of his old chums over -- Lord Hubberly. He's brought along his daughter, Winifred." She turned and waved at a young ginger-haired thing up on the steps of the hall. As beazels go, this one looked like a bit of a midge: tiny, with huge eyes, and probably a squeaky voice to match. The only thing missing was a set of transparent insect wings.

"That her, eh?" I could feel the chill already creeping into my bones.

"Now, Bertie, she's perfectly darling. You'll like her." She clapped a hand on my shoulder and hauled me off to meet the girl. "Winnie!"

"Florence, is that him?" She gave me a curious, bug-eyed stare. Her voice was squeakier than a distressed violin string after it had been goosed a good one by an irate pitchfork.

"Bertie, this is Winnie Hubberly, Lady Winifred. Winnie, this is my cousin Bertie Wooster."

I offered the wee thing a hand, a bit afraid I might crush it by accident. "Lady Winifred."

"Mr Wooster." She grinned at me, looking like an exceptionally minute starving hyena. "Your aunt has been telling me all about you."

"Oh, dear." My fears were, I thought, about to be realized. "I'm sorry."

She laughed. So did Florence. "I'm sure you're perfectly charming," Winnie squeaked, with a bit of a simper. I wasn't entirely sure how she could squeak and simper at the same time, but the combination slapped the Wooster eardrums sharply, much like a child practicing scales on the aforementioned distressed v. string.

"He is. Bertie may not appear much at first, but he's an absolute darling." She had one of those ravenous looks in her eye, like a young thing in search of a husband, and I wondered if her on-again-off-again with Stilton was off again.

"I suppose I should go present myself to Aunt Agatha before she sends the hounds after me," I said, readying myself for the leap from frying pan to fire.

"We'll see you later, Bertie," Florence said. Winnie fetched up next to her, still giggling a bit, covering her mouth with one hand. At least it concealed the fangs.

"Toodle pip!" I fled the field, as much out of sorts due to the impending aunting as I was from meeting the ginger midge. The Hubberly name had sounded a minor if muffled chime in the back of the Wooster onion but I couldn't place it and, as the prospect of a skirmish with my dreaded Aunt A. was looming on Bertram's immediate horizon, it didn't seem particularly important and soon slipped out the servant's entrance without my noticing.

Facing Aunt Agatha was every bit as bad as I expected. "You will marry her, Bertie." The auntly glower was firmly in place. I hoped there wasn't a full moon scheduled for tonight, as she looked about to ooze into top werewolf form.

"I've only just met her, Aunt A. She's probably not even interested in me."

"Interest -- yours or hers -- is immaterial. She is from an excellent family and you'll be lucky to have her. She'll be a fine match for you, even if she's not really the firm sort of girl who could mould you into something useful. Once you're forced to provide for a wife and children, you're certain to gain some vague sense of responsibility." There wasn't even talk of my proposing to her, which meant some sort of a foregone conclusion had already been arranged.

I could see that I'd have to throw myself on the mercy of my beloved valet, and quick.

***

After situating Bertram's things in the small room his aunt had assigned to him, I carried my own suitcase belowstairs to the shared room I had been allocated. "Reg?"

I looked up, hearing the familiar but out-of-place voice. "John?"

"I thought that was you, old boy."

"What are you doing here? I thought you were on the continent with Lord Romperlen this month?"

John chuckled. "No. I just got back last week. He met some Nordic valkyrie and decided to marry her and move to Norway. Norway, of all places! Can you imagine? Needless to say..."

I sighed and shook my head, offering him a rueful smile. "Of course. I don't blame you for abandoning the post. I should not care to reside permanently in Norway myself. Are you working for Lord Worplesdon now?" Surely he would not have taken a position in a household I had so thoroughly described in the club book after my own time here.

"No, no." He shook his head. "I'm here with Lord Hubberly. He and his daughter, Lady Winifred, are visiting."

"Oh, dear," I murmured. Lady Winifred was no doubt the reason behind my employer's visit to his aunt's abode. I had every reason to believe he would soon be forced into an engagement, as so often happened within these walls.

"When you described this madhouse," he said, "I always thought you were exaggerating. I've been here two days and I can see that you were understating the case significantly. Poor young Wooster." We walked along the corridor where my room was located and I opened the door. He leaned against the door frame, hands in his pockets, as I set my suitcase on the tiny unoccupied bed. The other belonged to one of the gardeners. "I'm two doors down," he added, gesturing to his right. I knew the room and had stayed in it during previous visits.

I nodded. "I should attend to this," I said, "and then report to Mr Maple to inquire after my duties during our stay."

"Right then, I'll leave you to it." John nodded. "Join me for a cigarette later?"

"I should greatly enjoy that." I closed the door as he left and began unpacking my things for our stay.

***

Retreating to the garden was not nearly as calming as I would have hoped. Not only was Jeeves not in evidence, but I spotted Stilton Cheesewright skulking about the place, sniffing after Florence. Thankfully, he didn't see me, as I tucked myself behind a shrubbery quickly enough to avoid being apprehended. The last time I'd run into him, he'd threatened to break my spine in half a dozen places if he saw me anywhere near the beazel. The fact that I'd several times been engaged to her -- once, even willingly -- loomed large in his mind, and he was entirely convinced that I was pining after her, or possibly toying with her. In either case, being seen in her vicinity was likely to produce a certain amount of undue stress upon the Wooster corpus, along with bluebottle-induced spinal fractures.

I remained concealed in the old Ligustrum vulgare long enough for Stilton to vamoose before my attempt to escape back to my room from the garden had me running straight into Lady Winifred. Figuratively, of course. I didn't actually flatten the tiny thing.

"Oh, Mr Wooster, how are you? You've seen Lady Worplesdon, I take it?" She gave me a curious, beetle-eyed stare.

I nodded. "Yes, quite. Just came from the wrinkled relation's lair, in fact."

"Your aunt has been encouraging me to become acquainted with you. From her description, I didn't expect you to be quite so handsome."

"Ah. Well. Ha ha." Really, I was all right, wasn't I? Jeeves seemed to think so, at least. "We Woosters are a surprisingly dashing lot."

"A bit vacant about the eyes, perhaps."

"I say, now, really." I didn't care for that.

She tilted her head up at me. "You don't actually have to work, do you?" She said the word as though it were some sort of exotic disease.

"I've known a few people who worked," I admitted. Well, Jeeves worked, but that was different, wasn't it? "Can't see the use of it, myself. Bally awful stuff, all that getting up at dawn, having people tell you what to do. Sweat of the brow, toil and tears, collecting one's weekly envelope, and all that rot." Having people tell you what to do. But... Jeeves wanted me to do that to him, at least under certain circs. So he said, anyway.

She smiled a predatory smile. "I'm sure father will be quite pleased with you. He's said a few nice things about you already."

"Why would your father be pleased with me?" I didn't think the chap had ever clapped eyes on me before; someone must have been talking me up to him, but whom? I could feel an itch developing in the soles of my feet. I was sure it meant something.

Her smile grew wider, and slightly more toothy. "He's been encouraging me to find a man who can keep me in a manner that becomes a lady of my nobility."

"Oh, I say. Good luck with that." Anyone but me. I wondered if Oofy Prosser might be available; with my luck, he was probably in Monte Carlo this week.

Winnie giggled. "Oh, Mr Wooster, you do have a wry sense of humor."

"Thanks awfully."

"I know that Lady Worplesdon is going to announce our engagement tonight at dinner; surely she told you. If we're to be married, you really ought to call me Winnie."

"I... ah... yes, right. Winnie." I tried not to bolt. It wouldn't be preux, after all. Despair settled into the Wooster breast as the midge began its slurping of Bertram's life's blood. "Bertie, then."

She gave me the grin of a hyena well pleased. "Oh, lovely, Bertie! I shall so look forward to our engagement." Said midge biffed off toward the house, leaving me feeling entirely trampled, much like an egg placed under the foot of a rampaging elephant. I had to find Jeeves.

***

Bumpleigh Hall has never been a shelter from the stormy blast in Bertram's time of woe. Unable to dig up Jeeves immediately, I had only half an hour left to cower before teatime, when I would find him slinging the crumpets in the parlor, and I still couldn't catch a break. As I rounded the corner into the final stretch toward my room, my elbow was snagged by a huge, hammy hand, attached to one G. D'Arcy "Stilton" Cheesewright, constable of Steeple Bumpleigh and would-be wooer of Florence Craye. "Wooster!"

"Stilton." I cast a longing gaze at the door to my chamber, too far away now to make the mad dash.

"Florence said you were here. You'd best not lay a finger on her, you reprehensible lothario." His glower could have crushed several smaller species of wildlife.

My dignity at least vaguely intact, I drew myself up. Woosters are made of stern stuff. "That shouldn't be any trouble, given that Aunt Agatha intends to announce my unexpected engagement to Winnie Hubberly at dinner tonight." If Jeeves could do anything at all to rout that eventuality, I would welcome the scheme with open arms -- and my valet with open legs, though not until we got home -- but Stilton didn't need to know I was planning for a swift escape. Bertram's lips were sealed on that particular issue so as not to arouse his always considerable suspicions regarding my nonexistent intentions for Florence.

He glared at me. "Lady Winifred?" It seemed to muzzle the beast slightly, though he still looked like he believed any excuse for a Wooster-trampling was to be gleefully encouraged. "I'll believe it when I see it."

"Er, yes." I shrugged out of his now loosened grasp. "If you don't mind, I'm in the midst of something and really have to biff off."

"I'll be watching you," he warned as I faded into the woodwork.

***

As predicted, I found Jeeves in the parlor at teatime, right where I expected him. Unfortunately, I was surrounded by relations and couldn't really speak to him with any privacy. He leaned down over me to pour my tea and I managed a few brief words. "Jeeves -- engagement! Help!"

One ebon eyebrow quirked upward and I knew he'd understood. "Of course, sir. I shall await you in the kitchen garden after tea has been cleared away," he murmured, cool as the proverbial cucurbit. I could explain in some detail then, and he would save me as he always did. I nodded vigorously and felt the weight of several worlds -- Jupiter and Saturn, perhaps -- slip from Bertram's shoulders.

"Thank you, Jeeves," I said, earnest and hoping that the smile on my map would be interpreted as appreciation for his expert tea dispensing, before he oiled off to bring something else from kitchenward.

Several other denizens of Aunt Agatha's country abode filtered in to have at the groaning board. When Winnie entered the room on the arm of her father, it was my turn for an eyebrow raising. I actually recognized the bloke. "Darren? You're that Hubberly? Er, well, this Hubberly?"

A charming smile wound itself round his dial, lighting him up like footlights on a stage. He was a fine looking older chap built along the lines of Jeeves, or of Ginger Winship, for that matter: tallish, broad of shoulder, trim of waist, and moderately muscular, with a very pleasant arrangement of facial features that included a noble nose, eyes of a striking emerald shade, and a dashing amount of sterling silver hair. In short, he was quite the sort that would catch the Wooster eye (viz. the previously referenced Jeeves or Ginger, for instance), though of a somewhat riper vintage than I preferred. "Bertie Wooster, a pleasure to see you again." He offered a paw as he sat next to me, Winnie plopping down beside him. I shook it, giving a smile in return.

I'd actually met the old boy some years back on the coast of France, a year or so before Jeeves shimmered into my life. It was notable because we had both been at a party whose guest list consisted primarily of gentlemen of a particular sort, and there had been a substantial bit of debauchering going on at the time. I'd only met him the once, so I suppose I could be forgiven for not attaching the whole Lord Hubberly moniker to Uncle Percy's pal and my proposed father-in-law-to-be.

"You know my nephew?" Aunt Agatha asked, giving him a bit of an askance look.

Darren nodded. "We've met, at least," he said, entirely cheerful about the whole thing. "Some years ago when we were both in France. A pleasant afternoon's conversation, as I recall." It had been, rather. I'd liked the old boy, though not in that way, if you know what I mean. Some chaps go for a bloke who's old enough to be their father, but I was never that sort.

The aged relation perked up. "You liked him?" She had obviously scented blood in the water. If he knew me and still wanted me to marry his darling daughter, she undoubtedly thought her chances of forcing me to provide a new generation of Woosters had just improved dramatically. I was, however, a bit miffed by the idea that she thought nobody who knew me could possibly like me.

"Oh, quite, quite." Darren grinned at me again, sunny as a mid-August noontide. I felt vindi-whatsit, as in being chuffed by his approval, and warmed by that bit of sunshine.

I could hear the nail slamming shut the lid of my coffin, though. He certainly knew what I was, but if he liked me then that implied he actually approved of the last of the Woosters being shackled to his daughter despite said knowledge. I mean to say, obviously chaps like me have been known to spawn from time to time. Darren had, after all. And quite probably most c. like m. also got themselves hitched as an expedi-something for avoiding a stretch at breaking rocks in chokey, or whatever it is one does while at two years hard labor. I had no intention of finding out.

I was not encouraged, despite thinking the cove was all right otherwise. Maybe he thought he would be giving me an out, an opportunity to marry into a sympathetic family and not have to give up my inverted ways, or some such thingummy. Not that I ever would -- get married to some beazel or, conversely, commit an infidelity if I ever did get shackled to one -- it wasn't the Wooster way. Totally against the Code, you know. I wondered if I'd be able to talk some sense into him, given a few minutes alone. It would be worth a try and, perhaps, Bertram would be able to fish himself from the soup for a change instead of having to rely upon his Jeeves as his ladle. I thought it would be nice to show my man that the young master was able to fend for himself for once.

Stilton eyed me from across the room, his face a mask of blobby pink suspicion. I shot him a nervous smile, hoping that tea would keep him at bay for a bit. I'd noticed over the years that food often tended to moderate peoples' annoyance with me.

***

I waited in the kitchen garden for Bertram once the aftermath of the afternoon's tea had been dispensed with, smoking a cigarette as I relaxed with a book. Eventually he arrived, casting furtive glances about him. "I'm doomed, Jeeves," he said, distress in every aspect of his countenance. "Rally round."

"You mentioned an engagement, sir."

He nodded. "Yes, right. Aunt Agatha's intending to announce it at dinner tonight. That miniature menace, Winnie Hubberly. I needn't tell you that this is not my favored fate, old fruit."

"I understand, sir." Considering the presence of Lady Florence and Lord Worplesdon's ward, Miss Hopwood, at Bumpleigh Hall, I had been uncertain from which direction the threat of matrimony might surface. Lady Winifred had certainly been among the contenders, but Lady Florence had a lengthy history of attachment to my employer and I could never be certain she would not simply declare them engaged yet again. "I shall set my mind to your extrication immediately."

"It's more complicated than that, though," he added, casting another glance over his shoulder. "Stilton thinks I'm here after Florence again, and he didn't believe me when I told him that it was the Hubberly menace I was intended to be shackled to. If Aunt A. doesn't announce the engagement, I'm likely to have him nipping at the haunches like a starving Alsatian, or perhaps a bear after its long winter hibernation in search of a nibble of unsuspecting passer-by. He's a regular Assyrian coming down like a wolf and all that."

I nodded, reaching out to rest one hand on his arm. Since the change in our understanding, I had become addicted to his touch, and already missed it dreadfully. "Have no fear, sir. There will be a way to end these entanglements."

His hand covered mine, his fingers tightening. It was cold and damp, signifying his uneasiness. "I've met her pop before," he said. "It was a while before I met you. We were quite chummy at the time. The old boy likes me, and I might be able to talk him out of this mess," he said, earnest and hopeful.

"You know Lord Hubberly, sir?" I had observed the man watching Bertram quite closely through tea. He had seemed thoroughly charmed by my Master. I was uncertain why Bertram felt he might be able to talk him into allowing his daughter to break the impending engagement, particularly if Lord Hubberly liked him; would he not consider a wealthy, attractive young man like Mr Wooster a very desirable son-in-law? My plan would likely have to once again result in the implication that Bertram was not in his right mind, or that he had criminal propensities; it was a ploy that had often succeeded where others failed.

"A bit," he said, not elaborating. Usually, he would offer me a rather extensive catalogue of his acquaintance with an individual, particularly if he were in danger of matrimony and he thought it might offer some insight into the situation. I dismissed the thought, knowing Bertram was distressed. Perhaps he would provide me with this information later. "You work on your end, and I'll work on mine. We ought to be able to nip this in its poisonous little bud. With luck, we might be back to the metrop in a couple of days, engagements ended, Aunts put off, and Bertram's sanity restored."

"Very good, sir."

He squeezed my hand and let go. "I wish we were home, Jeeves," he murmured. I found myself wishing to kiss him; I knew it was not possible. I could feel how different my needs and desires had become, and to conceal them while we were here was much more difficult than I had anticipated. I regretted that we had not been given a few more weeks to solidify and adjust to this new understanding before we had been summoned away. I disliked the feeling that my emotions regarding my Master were too close to the surface and no longer quite under my control.

"As do I, sir. As do I."

Bertram hurried off. With a quiet sigh, I finished my cigarette. I had a great deal to do, and investigating the particulars would have to be my first action.

***

A game of golf occupied the post-tea segment of the afternoon; Uncle Percy, Darren, Stilton, and I whacked a few balls about, and I sussed out Darren for possible ways to approach the topic of persuading him to let Bertram off the marital hook. That ferret faced young pestilence of a Boy Scout, Edwin, tagged along to haul Uncle Percy and Darren's clubs as his act of kindness for last Thursday, thankfully not breaking anyone's legs in the process. Pure luck, I'm sure. Jeeves carried mine about with his usual silent shimmer. Stilton dragged his own, glaring at me suspiciously the entire time.

Darren was very chummy with me and we had a lovely chat about a trip he'd taken to Spain last year. The upshot involved Basque shepherds, for some reason that I was never quite able to decipher, but it was a jolly good tale nonetheless. He was a topping golfer and I have to admit I admired the man's form quite keenly as he knocked the ball down the fairway. Made me feel like a bit of a piker, really.

I asked him for a few pointers to improve the Wooster handicap and he helped me a bit with my grip and my swing, which involved a substantial amount of him leaning over me and adjusting my hands on the club as we went over a few details. He spoke fairly quietly as he talked me through the whole thing, leading me to tilt my head a little closer to his as he leaned so that I could hear him properly. Getting the hang of how to adjust the corpus and its movement was a little easier with him draped over me like that to guide me, and I let myself concentrate on how the whole thing felt so I'd remember how to do it afterwards.

We spent about ten minutes on it, and I will admit, Bertram's swing was considerably smoother for the instruction. "Thanks ever so, Darren, old fruit," I told him, and he graced me with a blinding smile.

"Any time, Bertie, dear boy. I should be delighted to offer further advice on your game whenever you wish."

Uncle Percy's eyebrows did a wrinkly little dance on his forehead. "Enough with the schooling, Darren. It's a waste of time to try to tell Bertie anything. Let's get on with the game."

"Oi!" That bit stung.

"Of course, Percy," Darren said. He patted my shoulder and we headed off for the next tee.

***

Dinner was every bit the horror I expected. The old dragon announced my engagement, leaving Stilton looking slightly less like an irritated warthog than his usual where I was concerned. He spent the rest of the meal paying more attention to Florence than me, which suited me quite well, but I couldn't help keeping a bit of sub-thingummy anxiety about the sitch. Means it's not quite at the front of one's onion. Subconscious, that's the blighter.

Jeeves seemed a smidge stiffer than usual, but it was probably meant to hide just how dashed much I knew we both wanted to touch each other. The evening repast at Chez Wooster these days had become that golden hour when we spent a good deal of time in a very close state of togetherness that usually involved him at my feet and a shared meal; I was feeling a notable gap in my evening that was shaped approximately like a naked Jeeves, and it left me even more out of sorts than I already was due to my having been Hubberlyed by Aunt Agatha.

I had been putting some effort into remembering not to touch Jeeves or to be too casual when we were together under Uncle Percy's roof. I knew I'd slip up if I wasn't on top of it constantly. It was just too much of a temptation; anyone would be liable to forget when faced with Jeeves looking so very handsome and Jeevesly, particularly if one was used to laying hands on him at all hours in one's own home. I honestly hadn't anticipated how very torturous it would be to wear the mask now.

After dinner, Winnie insisted upon dragging me off for a "romantic walk" in the garden. I didn't have any way of getting out of it, so there I was in a rose garden in the gloaming with my fiancée. Dashed awful place.

"It will be lovely, Bertie," she assured me. "I think a wedding in August would be just perfect."

"It's awfully hot in August," I said. "What about, say, November or something?" The longer I put her off, the more time I had to be slipped from the soup. Not that I believed this would last more than a couple of days, but a chap must always think ahead. One could never account for imponderables, as Jeeves would call them.

Winnie frowned. "Oh, Bertie, do you really want to wait so long?" She grabbed my hand in one tiny, midgey claw. "It's already a long time until August. Father's keen on June, in just a few weeks, but I do love the summer more, and it would give a little time to truly get to know one another. We could marry in Paris; it would be terribly romantic."

"I, er, August, I suppose would do." At least it wasn't June. I had to talk to Darren.

She let out a high-pitched squeal of delight that had probably shattered glassware all the way down in Steeple Bumpleigh, and planted her diminutive lips on the Wooster dial. "Oh, Bertie, I shall go and tell Florence and your aunt -- plans must be made!" With that, she bounced off into the evening like an eager kangaroo who'd had far too much coffee, leaving me dizzy and distressed. I found a bench and sat for a bit, trying to regain my composure. A good strong whisky and s. would have helped immensely.

Once I'd stiffened the upper lip, I made for my room. Jeeves would be along shortly to stuff the young master into his nightclothes and I could find out if we needed to stock up on fish for him to help me out of this particular bouillabaisse.

***

I was uncomfortable with the amount of attention Lord Hubberly had been paying to Bertram over the course of the day; his interest had sparked something at the edge of my awareness, and I did not think it would do to ignore this feeling. His behavior at the golf course was particularly disconcerting, but such instruction was fairly routine if correction of one's stroke had been requested. I had to admit that Bertram had played somewhat better afterwards, and so had to regard the attention as legitimate. I told myself I was being foolish and unreasonably jealous. I knew Bertram loved me and, if this did happen to be what I suspected, he would reject any potential advances. Still, I would watch Lord Hubberly.

Bertram was already in his room when I arrived, pacing nervously as I closed the door behind me. "Jeeves," he said, embracing me briefly.

"We should not, sir," I said, keeping my voice quiet. "Your friends have a disturbing tendency to appear unexpectedly from beneath your bed or within your wardrobe."

He nodded, backing away quickly. I regretted this, for I wanted very much to be in his arms. "Sorry, old thing. Any progress on the extraction of this Wooster from impending matrimony?"

"Nothing has presented itself as yet, sir," I admitted. My inquiries had yet to produce results. "Have you had an opportunity to approach Lord Hubberly as you intended?"

"Not yet." Bertram shook his head. "Right now he seems all in favor of my being shackled to his daughter as soon as possible. June was suggested." I was somewhat surprised. It was only a few weeks away, and most society engagements endured for several months before the actual wedding. "Winnie argued for August. I'd suggested November, but in light of the June issue, I thought I should agree to her prefs and distract them from this whole June thingummy."

"A wise choice, sir."

"I might be able to get him alone for a bit tomorrow afternoon. He's asked if I'd like to have a little walk along the river with him to discuss the whole family wheeze."

"It would seem the ideal time."

He sighed as I dealt with his clothing. Touching him without being able to touch him was torture. "I'll have to apply a bit of the old Wooster charm, I'm sure."

I nodded. "You can be quite persuasive when you apply yourself, sir."

Bertram turned a plaintive gaze upon me as he donned his pyjamas. "I want you so dashed much," he whispered. I turned the bedclothes back for him and nodded, not daring to respond for fear of giving in to a dangerous impulse. "Good night, Jeeves."

"Good night, sir."

***

My afternoon walk with Darren, needless to say, did not go as planned. We'd hardly spoken five words to one another before Edwin blundered onto the scene, fishing pole in hand, wanting to know if he could do us an act of kindness to catch himself up to last Friday. Neither of us could shake the blister off, and Darren didn't have a hunting crop on him, or he might have taken it to the little excrescence. I could see Darren was as eager to rid himself of the young pestilence as I was. He was obviously a chap of extraordinary good sense.

"There are so many things I wish to speak with you about, Bertie," Darren said, favoring Edwin with a glare that by rights should have set his uniform aflame. "Sadly, privacy is lacking."

"Well," I admitted, "I've got a few topics to go on about myself." I resisted the temptation to kick Edwin when he leaned over to poke beneath a stone, looking for worms. Unfortunately, when he stood up, I got the butt of his fishing rod right in the gizzard, leaving me breathless and bent entirely in half. Sadly, this was not the end of it. My anguished "oof!" caused him to turn, catching my kneecap with the reel -- one of those heavy metal blighters with the sharp little handle poking out. I was quite certain that said s. l. h. would cripple me, having dug in under the old patella and jerked, leaving me groaning in the loam, curled into myself and clutching my knee like a homeless turtle that had been pummeled and left without sufficient shell for protection.

My agonized howls finally drove Edwin off, after having offered to apply first aid -- I adamantly refused and threatened to strangle him if I could only unclench myself enough to reach out and grab him -- leaving Darren to give me a thorough once-over to make sure nothing was broken. Once he'd had his hands on my knee and declared it whole, if a bit bruised, he gave a few cautious pokes around the region of my spleen. "I don't think there's any permanent damage here," he said, one hand resting where I'd been skewered as he carefully brushed a few errant Wooster curls from the eyes. "Can you stand up, Bertie?"

I shook my head, the pins not really being quite up to supporting my weight as yet. Darren was kind enough to help me unfold myself and lend an arm as I wobbled to my feet. "I think I need a bit of a lie down," I squeaked, when air finally returned to the Wooster lungs.

"I'll help you back to the house, my boy," he said, concern lighting his dial. Darren tucked a kind and caring arm about my shoulders and I leaned on him as we meandered back toward Bumpleigh Hall. I wasn't in much condition to talk about anything, and the only words I managed to get out were not of the repeatable in polite company variety. Darren held me up, my arm over his shoulder and his about my waist, making sure not to rush me. He was quite solicitous, and managed to make me feel reassured that I'd not require any new internal organs. By the time we got back to shouting distance of Uncle Percy's distinguished pile, I was able to walk on my own again, though Darren kept hold of me. "Just in case there's a rock or a bit of a hole in the turf, my dear chap," he said.

That made sense. With a bruised knee, any little thing might trip me up and land me on my billowy portions again, and I didn't really want to risk further damage to the extremities. So this Wooster draped himself over a convenient nobleman until I was deposted in my room, where I could put my leg up for a bit and read until the coast was entirely clear of Boy Scouts in search of acts of kindness.

***

From an upper-storey window in Bumpleigh Hall, I observed Bertram returning to the house from the river; it was much sooner than I had expected. He was walking with Lord Hubberly, their arms about one another, though Bertram looked somewhat uncomfortable. Disturbed by this sight, I hurried to his room to meet him and inquire after what had happened.

"Oh, Jeeves, it's a relief to see you, old thing." His face was tight, as though he were in pain.

His clothing was disarrayed and dirty. I could not help my disapproving frown. I would have to get out a clean suit for him. "What happened, sir?"

"Edwin," he grumbled. "The blighter's an absolute hazard. My spleen was skewered with a fishing pole and I nearly had my knee amputated. Darren was kind enough to drag the corpus back and deposit me here." He sat up from where he had been leaning against his pillows, a book in hand. This caused him to flinch.

"Shall I get ice for your knee, sir?" I approached to give him a closer examination. He looked as though he had been rolling on the ground.

"Please. And a strong b. and s., light on the s., old thing. I need to anesthetize myself. I didn't get to talk with Darren, either, blast it."

I provided the requested drink, our fingers brushing as I handed it to him. "I shall return momentarily with the ice, sir, and then I shall aid you in donning clean clothing."

"Right ho," he said, wilting back into the pillows.

By the time I returned, he had removed his dirty jacket and trousers, and was leaning against the bed for support. "Please sit, sir. Allow me to get your clothing." He nodded and sank down with a sigh, taking the water-bottle of ice I offered to him and wrapping it gingerly about his bruised knee. I eased a pillow beneath it to support the joint, offering a caress of his leg as I did so, then procured an afternoon suit from his wardrobe that would be comfortable for him as he rested. I laid it on the chair next to his bed. Making sure he iced his knee before donning his trousers would be wise. "I hope you will keep your knee elevated for the next hour or so, sir."

Bertram nodded. "I will. No sense in mangling myself further, what?" I nodded. "Any luck on the soup extraction front, Jeeves?"

"I regret that I am still without a firm plan of action, sir, but I do anticipate some movement by this evening."

"Jolly good. I'm flummoxed, Jeeves. I just can't get a few minutes alone with the chap to tackle the topic. I wasn't exactly in top form while he was lugging me back to Uncle Percy's dump."

"I shall return in an hour, sir, to assist you with your trousers."

He smiled. "That would be just topping, old fruit. Thank you."

I took my leave of him, considering the circumstances and information I had so far gathered. Lady Winifred seemed quite taken with Bertram, as did her father. Mr Cheesewright continued to be suspicious but had, for the moment, turned his attentions to Lady Florence. She, however, did not currently seem amenable to his attentions; this was apparently the result of a disagreement they'd had two days prior to our arrival at Bumpleigh Hall. While Lady Florence was not presently a danger to Mr Wooster's bachelorhood, there was a significant chance that the ending of his current engagement would cause her to turn her attentions toward him. Arranging a quick escape once the engagement was broken was of the essence.

I had as yet been unable to discover much about Lord Hubberly, though I was of course aware of the lineage and history of his family as regards the peerage. It was the psychology of the individual that concerned me. John was of the opinion that the man was an invert, as we were, which gave me sufficient reason to be deeply suspicious of his continuing solicitous interest in Bertram. John was well aware of my goal -- keeping Bertram unmarried so that I might remain with him. He was certainly sympathetic and had agreed to assist me in this endeavor, but he had not been working for Lord Hubberly for very long; Lord Hubberly had never been discussed in the Junior Ganymede club book, so that resource was unavailable to me. John was the first of our members to enter his employ. This meant that he was something of a mystery to both of us and that we would have to ascertain any possible weaknesses as I came up with a plan. I preferred to have resources to hand while formulating my schemes, but I am able to negotiate unusual situations with relative ease, and I would do whatever was required to keep both my position and my lover.

Lady Winifred was likewise a blank page. Without understanding her psychology, I was uncertain what flaws in Mr Wooster's character might be usefully emphasized in turning her away from him. It was essential that she be the one to declare the engagement ended. Had a suitable subject been available, I might have tried to divert her attentions to another gentleman, but this was not currently possible. Bertram could not break the engagement himself now that it had been formally entered into; his scruples regarding a gentleman's behavior toward a woman would not allow him to simply refuse to marry her, and the consequences of that refusal in terms of his aunt's rage would be extremely difficult for him to endure. I honestly could not blame him for not wishing to disobey her directives. She is possessed of a very powerful personality and would doubtless make his life far more miserable than she already did. She would certainly see my hand in such an eventuality and make my own life a trial as well.

There had to be some weakness that I could exploit. All I had to do was find it.

***

Although I spent a good deal of the next day in Darren's presence, there was never an opportunity for us to speak privately. I would get dragged off by Winnie or my Aunt Agatha to be assailed with the slings and arrows of outrageous wedding plans, or find myself in the distinctly uncomfortable company of Florence and Stilton, who seemed quite ready to start heaving spears or javelins at one another, perhaps with the use of an atlatl to get a bit more speed and distance. I found myself wondering if my presence was all that kept them from ripping one another's limbs off and thought that they didn't actually need me around; after all, if they engaged in said ripping, I'd be rid of two menaces without lifting a finger. Darren would swan through with Uncle Percy and haul me away before things got too hot, finding any number of pleasant things to chat with me about, and we did have a thoroughly corking game of tennis in the afternoon, as my knee had calmed considerably overnight.

Jeeves biffed about the place seeking out stratagems and spoils, but seemed to keep coming up empty. I encouraged him to go toss a hook in the river and fill up on fish, but he seemed reluctant to leave my general vicinity. He was, quite possibly, attempting to keep me out of range of Edwin and his limb-endangering tendencies. Upon reflection, I had to admit it was a good idea; Edwin was a well-known traffic hazard and a strain upon the good will of all who knew him.

In the apres-dinner hour, I played piano for everyone. Darren leapt to the piano bench and played duets with me with an enthusiastic hand or two as Winnie hovered nearby. He was a fair to middling player, and I offered to show him a few laps about the keyboard as he had given me aid and succor on the golf course the day before. I thought of it as softening him up for my pitch tomorrow. This occupied a goodish bit of our time until the sweet siren song of the pillow sounded. I noted that evening in my chamber that Jeeves looked slightly more stuffed frog than usual, but he attributed this to his inability to hit upon a contrivance for rescuing the young master from the impending apocalypse. I was feeling a severe lack of Jeevesian embrace and told him so. "I am gratified to hear that, sir," he answered, "but as you are aware, we must continue to wear the mask."

"I know, Jeeves, but it's so dashed difficult lately."

He nodded. "It is, sir." There was a hint of sorrow in his e.'s and I wished once again that we were back in the old metrop, behind locked doors.

That night's dreams were considerably more fruity than usual, and it left me feeling a bit out of sorts when I awoke in the morning. The sight of Jeeves with the tea tray beside the Wooster bower left me wanting to drag him beneath the duvet with me, but it was not to be. He looked like he hadn't slept well either. It was just a slight wilting about the edges, like an orchid left a bit long without a good misting. I was determined to lug Darren off before luncheon for a private consult just to get the whole mess over with so I could haul my man home and ravish him without having to worry about someone noticing anything amiss between us.

I missed seeing his skin. I missed having him pressed against my leg as he sat at my feet. I missed having him wrapped around me at night. I missed running my fingers through his hair, and giving him bits from my dinner, and having him meet me at the door on his knees. Mostly, though, I just missed being able to hold him and make love to him. It was making me thoroughly miserable, and that was before we added ravening relatives and an unwanted betrothal to the mulligatawny.

Despite every effort, it wasn't until after the lunch hour that I managed to get Darren alone. I found him in the corridor near his room, straightening his tie. "Bertie," he said, flashing a brilliant smile at me, "I was just coming to look for you."

I smiled back, thinking I'd caught him in a good mood and I might be able to slick the plan past him. "Oh, right ho, old chap. I was just looking for you, myself. We really do need to talk."

He swooped in on the approach and in a moment was only inches from me, giving me the Rudolph Valentino treatment, self being the shocked sheba to his sheik. "Yes," he said, "we do." With that, he slipped his arms about the willowy Wooster corpus and tucked into a startling and thoroughly devastating kiss that left me hanging onto him so as not to fall over from a certain jellification of the knee region, and gasping for breath once he was done with me. It wasn't that I wanted that particular labial press, mind you, but a chap's body often has a mind of its own, and mine certainly appreciated the skill with which those particular lips -- and tongue -- had been applied.

"I say," I gasped, trying to stay quiet so no one would overhear us. I was in a bit of a swoon and didn't think to look around, being too astounded to do anything but gawp at him. "We absolutely cannot carry on in the hallway! Someone might see us!"

He blushed. He jolly well had reason to, having assaulted my lips in public like that. "Sorry, my dear," he said. He tucked an arm about my shoulders and steered me down the hallway before I could squeak. "We'll go to my room." And with that, he slipped us inside and locked the door behind us. He attempted another oscular intervention, but I put a hand between us and held him off.

"Good Lord, Darren, what do you think you're doing? I'm engaged to your daughter!"

He smiled. "I know, dear boy. Trust me, she won't mind a bit."

"What? Wait! No! I say!"

He took my hand and hauled me over to a chair near the bed. "Have a seat, Bertie. There are a number of things I wish to discuss with you." He perched on the bed.

I sat. "I should say so! We'll have more talking, if you please, and no more of this kissing wheeze."

He gave a glance over my still entirely too traitorous body. I made a desperate attempt to get myself back into a publicly presentable state. "I'd say you enjoyed it," he said, and the blighter was smirking!

I crossed my arms (and my legs) and gave him a proper glower. "Really, assaulting your son-in-law to be? What's next?"

He grinned at me and I regretted the question. "Bertie, my dear, I must explain something to you."

"That's obvious."

"My daughter is not interested in men."

I blinked. "What, you mean she's like us, but with beazels?" That would certainly shed a bit of light on the circs.

"No, not exactly." He shook his head. "She's not interested in women, either. Really, she's not much interested in anything involving actual bodily needs. She has high romantic ideals, one might almost say Platonic, but the idea of the messy bits that come along with marriage she finds terrifying. She doesn't want to bed you, my boy, nor anyone else. And if that is her wish, I don't want to see her forced into a marriage with a man who will expect her to perform her marital duties against her will."

"Oh. I say." I could see it was a stinker of a sitch for poor Winnie.

"I told her that you would have no interest in engaging in those activities with her, and she found the thought quite acceptable. Winnie does like you; she finds you a charming and engaging social companion, and you'll be able to support her properly, as a husband should, given your wealth and the fact that you stand to inherit your uncle's title and properties. My son Bradley is perfectly capable of carrying on my family line, so there's no need for you to produce any children toward that end. Winnie would get a marriage that did not involve any of the things which so repulse her, and you would never be forced into a sexual relationship with a woman that you would find distasteful." I had to admit he had a brilliant idea, but I wasn't the man for it -- I wasn't about to get married to anyone.

"Well, yes, but--"

"I think you're aware that I found you quite attractive when I met you a few years back, Bertie. You are a beautiful young man, and I was keenly interested in you, though you were at the party with someone else and didn't seem to return my interest at the time. I didn't know until recently that you were Agatha's nephew, but when Percy invited me here and your name was bandied about as a potential husband for Winnie, I realized that this was the ideal situation for all three of us. Winnie has a chaste marriage, you have the perfect diversion to conceal your proclivities, and we would both have an outlet for those needs that men of our persuasion so love to indulge." He gave me a look set on simmer.

"I can't," I said. Saying no to a chap was so much easier than saying no to some girl. There didn't ever seem to be quite the emotional explosion afterwards that I so dreaded. It was also notable that refusal of a chap's advances was not covered under the Code of the Woosters. I was qualmless.

An expression came over him like that of a flummoxed but handsome trout. "What do you mean, you can't? Where's the flaw in the plan?"

"I mean I can't. I won't say that I'm not sympathetic, because really, I am, but I have someone already, old boy. I'm entangled in a rather involved romantic entanglement that I have no desire to give up." Had I never met Jeeves, I might actually have been tempted to take the old boy up on it.

He gave me a look of deep and anguished disappointment. "Who?" he asked.

"I really don't think it would be a good idea to give the bloke away, Darren. I mean to say, it wouldn't be right."

Darren sighed. "I do think I could persuade you if you'd just give me the chance. I've seen you appreciating the scenery, as it were, and I'm considered a very talented lover." Well, he was a bit of a looker, I had to admit. Quite the admirable form, really, but he just wasn't Jeeves. There was only one Jeeves, and I was thoroughly attached to him. "It could be very good between us, my dear."

"You do have a very fine form, old thing, but I mean it when I say I'm not available. I'm really quite madly in love with the chap I'm with, and I don't think he'd be terribly chuffed if I suddenly upped sticks and biffed off with you."

"I wouldn't object to you keeping your lover, if he's inclined to share."

The idea wasn't entirely alien to the Wooster psyche, given my recent activities with Jeeves that had involved young Ginger, but including Darren didn't appeal at all. "I doubt he'd be amenable to having only half of Bertram's attentions, Darren. I wanted to talk to you because I was hoping to persuade you to let me out of this engagement to your daughter. I mean to say, it's not exactly fair to me to stick me with a marriage when I already have what amounts to one, what?"

"Bertie," he said, sounding genuinely despondent, "I would like you to give it another day or so of consideration. Please allow me a chance to persuade you. If, in a few days, you can still say you're uninterested, I might be willing to call this off, but I would so love to have you with me. You would be doing Winnie an incredible kindness, and I would certainly treat you with every consideration as my inamorato."

My heart went out to the poor girl, but I really couldn't stick it. "I'm sorry, old thing, but even given a couple of days, I'm not going to change my mind. You have to let me out of this. My man would never hear of it, and I couldn't possibly go against his wishes." I might be the Master when we were at home but, in this, I would never do anything to hurt Jeeves. I liked Darren well enough, but I wasn't interested in him; even if I had been, I wasn't about to force anything of the sort on my own lover.

"Give me one day," he said, a hint of the desperate in his voice.

"Darren, old boy, you're a dashing chap and I'm sure there's someone else out there who would be more than willing to go along with your scheme. I might even be able to dig one up for you. But I can't do this."

"Though I've not known you long, you've entirely captured me and I do care for you," he said, plaintive. "One day. Just one."

I buried the Wooster dial in my hands. "One day," I agreed. "But then you must let me out of this. Please. I don't care what you tell Aunt Agatha, but it can't look like it was my decision. Stilton's got the idea that I'm actually here to snag Florence from him, and if it looks like I wanted out of this, he'll snap me in half. Aunt Agatha's likely to do so anyway. She's the sort who wears barbed wire next to the skin and eats baby kittens for breakfast. I'll probably have to flee the country for a couple of months until she's calmed down."

"That's unfortunate," he said.

"You have no idea."

"Dearest Bertie, just give me a chance," he murmured. I looked up at him and he had a startling shade of soul's awakening in his eyes. I was used to this from beazels, but coves now, too? It didn't look good for young Bertram.

"I should go," I said. I had no idea how I was going to explain this whole mess to Jeeves. It was probably best to just leave it until after we'd got home again. I thought there would be less chance of my causing a disaster if I managed to keep it under my hat until we were well away from Steeple Bumpleigh.

He nodded. "All right." We both stood and before I could say anything, he kissed me again, slipping his fingers into my hair. This one was just a soft nibble, but I could tell there was some oomph behind it. I wondered if he wasn't being more sincere than any of the beazels who had tried to shackle me. It was a sad thought.

***

"Reg."

I had been in the servant's hall, having a cup of coffee, and looked up from the notes I was making regarding next week's menus at home. The expression on John's face was stricken. "What's happened?" I asked, a chill spiking through me.

"Come walk with me," he replied.

"What--"

"Not here," he said, quiet, his voice tight. He gestured toward the door and I closed my notebook, slipping it and my pencil into my pocket. I rose and followed him, now extremely worried. We exited the building and walked out into the grounds; we were some distance from the house before he spoke again. "Reg..." He would not meet my eyes.

"What happened?" I asked again, emphatic.

"I'm so sorry, my boy."

My heart sank. Something was very wrong. "Please, John, just tell me."

He offered me a cigarette. Uncertain, I took it. He lit it for me, then lit one for himself. "I had just left Lord Hubberly, but I hadn't got far, just out of sight around the corner in the hallway. Your..." He took a sharp breath. "Wooster came up, looking for him."

"What happened," I whispered, suspicious but desperately hoping those suspicions were wrong.

"Wooster said they needed to talk." That I had known. His intention all along had been to persuade Lord Hubberly to release him from his engagement to Lady Winifred. "Lord Hubberly kissed him, Reg."

Despite the fact that I had seen Lord Hubberly's interest in Bertram, I had not thought he would be so bold, particularly not in a public place where anyone might observe them. "Surely Mr Wooster objected," I said.

John shook his head. "No. He said, 'We absolutely cannot carry on in the hallway. Someone might see us.' Lord Hubberly then put an arm about your young gentleman's shoulders, escorted him to his bedchamber, and locked the door behind them."

"No," I said, denying what I did not want to believe. "He can't have wanted Lord Hubberly's attentions. He can't be carrying on an affair. He would have said something."

John sighed, blowing a plume of smoke from his lungs. "It was a kiss with considerable passion, Reg. Wooster didn't fight him at all. Rather, he ended the kiss with his arms about Lord Hubberly, who addressed him as 'my dear'. And I can certainly recognize a cockstand on a breathless young man when I see one. Wooster's rather better endowed than I would have thought."

His words were a blade through my heart. I knew John had not added his comment about Bertram's endowment to be cruel, but to underscore the truth of what he had seen. This made it no less agonizing. Dizzy, I lowered myself to the bench we had been standing beside, and took a deep inhalation from my cigarette, trying to calm myself. There had to be some misunderstanding. I could not speak through the spinning of my thoughts and the cold burn of my fear. My eyes dropped to the ground as I fought my rising despair.

"I'm sorry, Reg. I'm so very sorry that I can hardly find words. I know how you care for him. I hate to have to bring this to you, but you had to know. After... after what you'd told me, I knew that something like this would happen. When you abased yourself before the man like that, it was only a matter of time until he lost his respect for you. It was... I'm sorry, but it was inevitable that he'd find someone of his own station." He took a deep breath as I sat before him in shock. "You should resign, Reg. Walk away before he can hurt you again. Please. I told you I'd be here for you when this happened, and I will do everything I can to help you get out of this."

"I can't," I said. "I can't believe it. He wouldn't do that to me."

"He has, Reg." There was a painful gentleness in his voice.

"He would have told me if something were going on. He wanted to get out of his engagement to Lady Winifred." I knew I sounded like I was attempting to convince myself.

John sat down next to me and put one warm hand on my shoulder. It was the only warmth I could feel. "When have they ever cared about a servant's feelings, Reg? Particularly a servant who's lowered himself to the level you've done. You're little better than a dog to him now. He knows he needs do nothing at all to keep you, if you're willing to do that, so why should he make the effort?"

"He loves me," I said, miserable and aching. "Surely he'll tell me about this. He's never hesitated to say anything when others have made unwanted advances."

"This wasn't unwanted, Reg. If you'd seen it, you couldn't doubt that. Wooster went willingly to Lord Hubberly's room, and he was, beyond any doubt, in a marked state of arousal."

I buried my face in my shaking hands. It could not be. He would tell me. I would hear about it later this afternoon, or tonight when I attended him before bed. He would seek my aid in turning away Lord Hubberly's attentions as he had asked my aid in detaching him from the clutches of Lady Winifred. "He'll tell me," I insisted, numb.

John sighed, his hand tightening on my shoulder. "If you intend to stay with him, and I can see you're determined to put yourself through this, at least confront him about it. If he still cares for you at all, perhaps he'll confess it. If that happens, there may still be a chance for you, but I must admit that I have severe doubts."

I did not look up. "I-I need time to think." It couldn't have been what John imagined. Bertram would never betray me like that. He wasn't cruel or heartless; he had his code and he never went against it. He would tell me what had really happened.

"All right, then. I'm sorry, Reg. I wish I didn't have to bring you this news, but you had to know. If you need to talk, I'll listen."

I nodded, and heard him walk away.

***

Jeeves was strangely quiet that afternoon, and he looked terribly perturbed about something. He wouldn't say what, though I asked. His convo. was limited to a string of yes sirs, indeed sirs, and very good sirs; he seemed thoroughly distracted, as might a baffled leopard seal whose tasty penguin had slipped the net. I had rarely seen him in such a state, but I couldn't imagine what had happened to set him off like that. This was worse even than when he'd heard Rocky Todd often came to dinner in pyjamas and a sweater! I'd thought the poor man about to pass out when he learned that, so you can imagine how peaked he was looking.

Darren was very attentive to me for the rest of the day, though he didn't actually try anything. I was vaguely embarrassed about the whole thing, but all I had to do was persevere until tomorrow, and he might well let me off the hook. He played duets with me again after dinner, but kept his hands quite to himself, so I didn't mind.

When Jeeves bunged me into bed, he was decidedly on the grim side, having deteriorated over the course of the eventide. "Dash it, Jeeves, what's wrong?" I asked, before he turned out the lights in the Wooster bedchamber.

"I could not say, sir," he answered, his voice filled with the finality of the tomb. There was an expectant glimmer in his eye as he said it, but I'd no idea what he wanted. I wasn't going to get a squeak out of the man until he decided to reveal all on his own. He was as tight-lipped as a clam with laryngitis when he was upset, so I settled into bed fretting, and missing him terribly.

***

Despite my dearest desire, I was beginning to believe that John was correct. Bertram looked uneasy and vaguely guilty throughout the day, while Lord Hubberly continued pressing his attentions upon him. I could see Bertram attempting to maintain some slight distance between them, but I could not help but think he was simply attempting to mitigate any potential problems that might arise had he thought they were being observed. I knew he was generally extremely cautious about revealing any affections of that sort toward other men where he might be seen. No doubt the public kiss had unnerved him.

That night he asked me why I appeared perturbed, but I could not tell him if I wanted to allow him the chance to tell me what had happened without my prompting. It was a cold weight in my stomach and a leaden ball in my chest, but I would not allow myself to press him about this. I needed to know that he would come to me on his own, that he cared enough for me, that he still loved me enough to tell me the truth.

I had never previously had cause to doubt Bertram's feelings for me. He had always been remarkably persistent and devoted, even when we were angry with one another. I loved him passionately and wanted more than anything to deny what was becoming increasingly obvious. If he would only tell me, I could find it in my heart to forgive him, I knew it, but he had to tell me. He had to take that first step.

Did he still love me at all? Did he want me for anything other than his plaything or his valet? Would he really use me in such a way and then discard my affections in favor of an older nobleman's attentions? I had to admit that Lord Hubberly was an extremely handsome man, and he bore a general physical resemblance to myself and Mr Winship. Bertram's preferences regarding men had not been terribly difficult to ascertain once I had realized he was attracted to me. There was a particular type that drew his eye consistently, and I fit that pattern. He had not shown much interest in older men before, but I knew that tastes did sometimes evolve; perhaps his had. He'd certainly seemed appreciative of the man's form since we had arrived.

Sleep was elusive for me that night. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw Lord Hubberly pressing his attentions upon my lover, and Bertram enthusiastically returning them. I had to find a way to end Bertram's engagement and remove him from Lord Hubberly's influence. Surely if they were no longer in proximity, Bertram's affections would return to me. But would he be open to advances from other men after that? If I succeeded here, would I eventually lose him anyway?

I did not know, and that lack of certainty terrified me.

***

The next day dawned with a rude shock to the Wooster system. Well, dawn would be a bit of a stretch, I suppose, but I did catch a few bites of breakfast after most of the others had cleared out, then headed off to have a stroll about the grounds when I was accosted by Stilton Cheesewright among the herbaceous border plantings. There were birds cheerfully chirping, oblivious to the stalking Cheesewright as he advanced under the blue sky of morn. He had the look about him of a sly and particularly malicious fox. "I've been watching you, Wooster," he said.

"I haven't been anywhere near Florence, old chap." I'd been sure to avoid her as much as possible under the circs, and hastened to assure him of this.

He shook his head. "No, but I've seen some remarkably suspicious activity between you and Lord Hubberly." His eyes narrowed. I froze like a startled quail beneath the gaze of a thoroughly hypnotic snake. "If I get enough evidence to prove the two of you are perverts, I'll have you up on charges of gross indecency before you can draw breath."

"What? I mean to say, what?" I was shocked and horrified. "Th-that's a dashed awful thing to say about anyone, Stilton. It's balderdash! Absolute bally rot! How could you suspect me--" Well, that was unlikely to work, though I was pretty sure he'd never known about me and Ginger at Oxford. "How could you suspect a fine chap like Uncle Percy's friend Darren of something so thoroughly, reprehensibly disgusting?" One had to play to the audience, as my chum Catsmeat Potter-Pirbright would have it, and this audience was in desperate need of playing to. It was not merely fiddles or bassoons, but the whole dashed orchestra being tuned up. "I mean to say, I know you we're not exactly bosom pals these days, but do you have to stoop to such scurrilous, slanderous accusations? You could thoroughly ruin both of us just by even hinting such a thing! Think of what that would do to Darren, really! Where's the justice in that, Stilton, I ask you? I'm supposed to marry the old bird's daughter, for God's sake! You'd ruin her, too, while you were at it."

"See that you do marry her, Wooster, and I'll say nothing of my suspicions. Florence has been commenting on your charms again lately, and if you weasel out of this, I may be forced to take action."

I gulped, feeling a fine sweat break out like a light rain upon my brow. I had to get out of the engagement, but I couldn't let Stilton do this to either of us. Before I took the sitch to Jeeves, I had to warn Darren.

***

During the course of my day while Mr Wooster is visiting, I have cause to be in his rooms while he is not there. I deal with his clothing, see to it that the chambermaid has performed her work to my satisfaction, restock the small supply of alcohol, and attend to other details. It was while I was engaged in these tasks that I heard their voices. Bertram and Lord Hubberly were walking down the hall, obviously on their way somewhere, moving quickly, their words fading in, then out, as they passed Bertram's door.

"...so you have to be more careful in public, Darren, old thing."

"My dearest Bertie, it's--"

"I'm deathly serious. Stilton suspects us, and...."

It was only a moment, only a fragment of conversation, but it was enough to prove John's accusations. The words took the breath from my lungs. I leaned against the door with one hand, stunned, my heart shattering within my breast.

I was in agony, but I knew that I could not leave him, despite this betrayal. Perhaps John was correct, and I was no better than a dog in my desire to please Bertram and to have his love. I had no idea what to do, but I had to end this farce. I had to get him away from Bumpleigh Hall and this man who would steal him from me. There had to be something I could do to keep him. Pain would eventually give way to anger, I knew, but in that moment I was forced to compose myself so that I could face the rest of the staff while projecting the appearance that my entire world had not just collapsed around me.

After a few quick, steadying breaths, I replaced the stopper on the crystal brandy decanter and left Mr Wooster's room. I could not remain and chance that he would happen upon me while I was in this state. He would know that something was horribly wrong and I was not yet ready to deal with that eventuality. I was not ready to face him. I did not think I would be able to confront him about this until we returned to London, in the privacy of our own home. If it was still to be my home. The thought that he might dismiss me twisted my gut.

I will admit I fled his room, seeking privacy so that I could evaluate my emotions and decide what actions were required. Obviously I would have to set something in motion, even without sufficient information, and hope that it would dissolve the engagement. I knew my shared room would be empty at this time of day, so I made my way belowstairs to find shelter.

John saw me as I hurried down the narrow corridor on which our rooms were situated. "Good Lord, Reg, you look a fright. What happened?"

For a moment, I could not speak. I simply opened the door to my room and held it open for him to follow me. I sat on my bunk and gestured to the chair before the small desk occupying one wall. He sat as well. "You were right." I took an unsteady breath. "God help me, you were right."

"You saw something."

"Heard something."

"Oh, dear."

"He was walking past his room while I was refilling the brandy decanter," I said. "I heard him speaking to Lord Hubberly, telling him that they needed to be more cautious, as Mr Cheesewright suspected them."

John sighed, pained. "Leave him, Reg. Just leave him, I'm begging you. He'll only hurt you further if you stay. If they've been that indiscreet, you're likely to get caught in the scandal."

"I can't," I whispered, feeling utterly broken. "I love him, John. I can't just leave him."

"You have to, for your own safety," he urged.

My breath caught as I tried to speak again. "It's... he's become irreplaceable to me. I need him," I admitted, feeling like a thousand kinds of fool. "Don't ask me to leave him, because I cannot. It would be easier to amputate one of my limbs."

He shook his head sadly. "He doesn't love you, Reg. He doesn't deserve your loyalty. Think, man."

"It doesn't matter. I will do what I must to keep him safe."

"You're a fool, my friend, but you're a fool in love. I'll do what I can to help, not for his sake, but to keep you out of gaol."

I nodded. "Thank you, John. It's likely more than I deserve."

"No, Reg, not more than you deserve. You're a good man, you're just caught up in madness. Love makes fools of us all."

"It's certainly made one of me." I looked up at him. "Thank you."

***

Jeeves was positively glacial when I saw him that afternoon. He stuck with me like a Siamese twin. I was never alone with him long enough to ask him for help, or to find out what was wrong, but it had to be something positively horrid. His level of glaciation had surpassed the Matterhorn and Everest and gone right over into Arctic proportions. He was only ever that way when he was furious with me, and I hadn't the first clue what I might have done.

Darren had asked me to whack a few golf balls about with him, and I'd taken him up on the offer. Jeeves was carrying my clubs, a tall, silent wall of ice, while Edwin had managed somehow to persuade Darren to allow him to haul his. It was this that led to the tragic blessing that got me out of my tight spot in re Winnie.

We were most of the way out to the first tee when Edwin unlimbered one of Darren's clubs. He made a little too free with the end of the blasted thing and nailed me in the eyeball, leading me to fetch him a good one about the ear before I stumbled and dropped to the turf, half-blinded. Edwin decamped, howling like I'd taken his ear clean off. Winnie had been on her way to join us when she witnessed my end of the altercation.

"Bertram!" she squealed. "How could you!" The sound was absolutely piercing, spiking through the old onion like an icepick.

"Uh? Wha?" I wasn't exactly in any condition to do much at the mo. Forming complete words was a slight challenge. Jeeves and Darren were both kneeling beside me, one on either side, and the light of concern in Jeeves's eyes was the sweetest thing I'd seen since his demeanor had changed a couple of days ago.

"Striking a child, Bertram! How could you? Good Lord, I will never marry a man who would beat a child!"

"Ooh?" The Wooster e. throbbed like a bally conga drum, or an entire tuned set of timpani played by deranged chimpanzees.

Winnie huffed, her nose arcing skyward, and she turned on her heel. "The marriage is off!" she bellowed, assuming a midge with a voice pitched so only the local beagle population could hear was actually capable of a bellow. At that, she broke into a mad gallop for the stately heap.

Darren and Jeeves both had a hand on my back, supporting me a bit. "Sir, are you all right?" Jeeves asked, and his slightly thawed, worried voice was as a balm to my spirit. I wanted desperately to curl up in his arms and let him take care of me.

"Get some ice, man," Darren said.

Jeeves said, "But m'lord--" He obviously wanted to stay and aid the young master.

"Ice! Go!" Darren snapped; I thought him inexcusably rude. Jeeves went completely taxidermied amphibian and rose.

"Very good, m'lord." His tone had taken a jag into the soupy. I didn't blame him. I wasn't used to seeing him treated like that, and I didn't like it at all.

"I'll bring poor, dear Bertie up to his room. Meet us there." Darren didn't take his eyes off me.

"Yes, m'lord." Jeeves teleported away to wherever it is they grow ice, leaving me alone with Darren.

He held me there in his arms for a moment while I collected my breath and waited for my head to stop spinning. There was a bit of gentle brushing of curls from the Wooster brow and a tender prod of the egg rising on my head. "Are you all right, Bertie?" he asked.

"I think so."

"Come on, then, let me help you to your feet."

"Right ho." I kept one hand over my eye, hoping it wouldn't roll out of the socket and bounce off into the rough. Then again, it might actually feel better there than it did in the socket.

He hauled me back onto my pins and steadied me when I wobbled slightly. "God, I wish she hadn't seen that," he said. "The whole bloody thing's been scuppered."

"I couldn't marry her, Darren. You know that."

"I had hoped..." He kept an arm around me as we headed back for the house, golf clubs forgotten on the grass.

"I'm sorry, old thing. This was never going to work. Now that the wedding's off, Aunt Agatha's likely to skin me alive."

"It couldn't possibly be that bad," he said.

I shook my head. "You don't know my Aunt Agatha. I'll have to abandon ship, next stop the metrop. God knows I'm going to have to leave old blighty for a couple of months before she catches up with me. I only hope I can avoid seeing her before she finds out."

"Surely you're exaggerating."

"I'm not. You'll witness it for yourself if you're unlucky. It takes a strong constitution -- stronger than mine, at any rate. Chaps who face down tigers for sport have been known to quail in her presence. Carnivorous dinosaurs have fled before her, razor sharp teeth and all."

By the time we'd made it up to my room, Jeeves was already there with ice pack in hand. They both laid me out on the bed, and Jeeves applied the frigid toweling to the ocular region. "Oh, Lord, that hurts," I moaned, putting my hand over his and holding it there with the ice.

"Sir," Jeeves said, the worry lurking in his voice again and peeking about the edges.

"I'm all right, Jeeves, but I'm going to have to leg it. There's no time to pack anything. I'll make the dash for the old two seater and you can bring up the rear with the baggage." It was the only practical solution that occurred.

He went cold again. The man was up and down like a bally yoyo and I had no dashed idea why. "Very good, sir."

"I'm sure you'll have time for your man to pack your things first," Darren said, looking up at him.

"I'll need you to book us passage anywhere but here when you get back to the metrop, Jeeves," I added. "Cannes might be safe. A couple of months should suffice to calm her ire."

"Very good, sir."

It was at about that point that we heard the roar of the coursing aunt, bellowing across the alluvial plain. "Bertram Wilberforce Wooster!"

I bolted to my feet, caring naught for my current condition, which would only worsen if I remained; evisceration did not seem calculated to improve my health. "Awfully sorry, chaps, but it's time for this Wooster to exit, pursued by a bear." I dropped the ice, slammed the window open and scrambled for the drainpipe with all the alacrity I could muster. "Toodle-pip, Darren! Jeeves, I'll see you at home," I called, making like Douglas Fairbanks on a mast, though without the requisite waving of fencing sabres or broadswords that one finds in the swashbuckler pictures. Once toes touched topsoil, I galloped for the garage and shook the dust of Bumpleigh Hall from my wheels with all speed.

***

By the time I got home, I looked like half a raccoon, with one eye thoroughly blacked by Edwin's act of kindness for last Saturday. I couldn't do much until Jeeves returned, so I laid me down with a will to have a kip, hoping the headache would ease before he arrived.

He didn't wake me when he came in; I roused myself just before dinner to find that Aunt Agatha had yet to breathe fire in Bertram's direction. Jeeves had apparently poured a bit of oil over the troubled waters, but the country was still too hot to hold me, and I told him so. "We should go to Cannes anyway, old fruit," I said. "From what you've said, you only appeased her long enough to get Darren off the premises, and I'm sure she'll be champing the bit to have a bite of nephew flambé by tomorrow night, instanter."

My man was still playing the part of Antarctica, much to my bemusement. "I should not like to miss the Ascot this year, sir. It promises to be a particularly engaging race." I couldn't imagine why he wouldn't want to put a bit of ocean between us and Aunt Agatha, particularly after the harrowing time we'd had there. I wanted nothing more than some time alone with him to get things sorted and snuggle between the sheets.

"You've been thoroughly out of sorts the past few days, Reg. What on earth is wrong?" I thought it a fair question. He, apparently, did not.

"I could not say, sir." The stuffed frog had long past transformed into an expressionless stuffed moose, having a much larger helping of chilly disgruntlement than any mere amphibian could possibly muster.

This was beginning to rankle severely. I will admit to being somewhat testy, having been desirous of a certain amount of comfort and succor from the chap whose touch I had been missing so bally much. Said c. and s. was not forthcoming in anything approaching a timely manner and, in fact, did not seem to be on the horizon at all. The cavalry was not to be heard coming over the rise. "Would not, you mean. And what's this 'sir' business, anyway? Haven't we both had enough of that since we were summoned to that house of horror?"

"I'm sure I don't know what you mean, sir."

Now I was getting a little hot under the collar. "What's got in amongst you, Reg? I have no bally idea why you're so upset. What, did I wear a particularly juicy tie that offended your sartorial sense?"

"I had not noted any significant sartorial missteps, sir."

I glowered the glower of a chap who has no idea why his beloved is ticked off at him. "I don't like that soupy tone of yours, Reg."

"I am sorry if you perceive my attitude to be inappropriate, sir." His eyes narrowed a smidge. The Jeevesian mountain was not budging, and Mohammed now had no interest in skipping over to see what was up.

This Wooster knows when he is outnumbered. Jeeves by himself, of course, could outnumber a whole dashed platoon of Bertrams. I obviously wasn't going to get this out of him without the use of a prybar, and I didn't have one to hand. "Right," I grumbled. "Since you're obviously not interested, ring up Aunt Dahlia and see if she wants to come with me. At least she won't be pretending I've done something awful and freezing me out like a plucked penguin on an ice floe."

The temp. in the room plummeted. "Very good, sir."

***

I could not believe he was still denying what had happened. I had been quite concerned after Bertram had been hit in the head with a golf club, but Lord Hubberly had dismissed me and I could not even assist him, nor did we have any opportunity for him to offer me an explanation. I had hoped that when I arrived at home he would finally confess his infidelity to me. He did not.

He had never been so callous to me before. In my pain, I was petty and cold. I loved him desperately and wanted him badly, but I was not going to share his bed if he refused to speak to me about what had happened between him and Lord Hubberly. The look of shock on his face when I refused to sleep with him that night shifted quickly to anger and, very nearly, to tears. "Fine," he ground out, turning his back on me in the bed as I asked him if he needed anything else. "Be that way. Sleep alone tonight. I don't care." He obviously did not mean the words, but his anger was as sharp as my own.

I turned out his light and returned to the valet's quarters. I had not slept in that bed, except on those occasions when Bertram had overnight guests, for more than two years. Standing in the doorway, I stared at the small bunk; I nearly relented and went back to him. I could not bear being away from him, but he was being thoroughly unreasonable and I could not abandon what little pride I had left. I was his, heart and soul, and I knew it, but I could not allow him to hurt me so badly without consequences. I refused to shed any tears. Surely he would see reason. If he would only speak to me, we could put this behind us, but he had to be the one to open the dialogue.

With a sigh, I entered my old quarters and went to bed feeling more broken and alone than I had in years.

The next day was no better. He woke with a look of hurt and anger on his face and we said very little to each other as I prepared his luggage and saw him off on his trip to Cannes. His passage back to London was booked for late July but I honestly did not know when, or even if, he would return. I did not want to lose him, but I had no idea what to do. I hoped that some distance would give us both perspective, and that my absence would encourage him to recognize his need for me, and the benefits of a confession and an apology.

It was not to be.

***

When Jeeves went off to sleep back in his former bed, I was heartbroken. It was the camel's straw, as it were, and I wasn't about to subject myself to more of his glacier impression. I had no idea what in bloody hell I'd done to offend him, but it was obvious he thought I had, and he wasn't about to tell me what it was, which only made it worse by adding layers of misery to the whole thing.

I was furious when I left the metrop, but once I was in the company of Aunt Dahlia and Angela, I had to wear the mask. I spent my days pretending to be just fine, and my nights brooding alone as one walking the moors with heavy tread, though there are, of course, no moors in Cannes. Perhaps I should simply say I trod the casinos with heavy tread.

For weeks, I hoped desperately for some word from Jeeves -- a letter, a telegram, a telephone call, even a bally postcard. There was nothing. I grew more angry and more despondent the longer this heartrending silence kept on. Finally, about five weeks in, I could take it no longer. When two men of iron will dwell in close proximity, they often come to disagreements, but my iron had entirely melted. The absence of Jeeves was painful, and the thought that he might not even be there to greet me when I returned home was, frankly, terrifying. I hoped that he would at least send me a resignation if he were leaving; at least then he might explain what it was I'd done.

I didn't want it to get to the point of resignations at dawn. Something had to be done and, though I was sure I was the wronged party, I knew I had to be the one to do this thing that h. to be d., and sharpish.

I thought for a long time and put pen to paper, finally summoning up the wherewithal to write out a missive in the hopes that I could salvage something of the smoking remains of our once-thriving love.

Dearest Reg,

I can't take this any longer. Your silence is the most painful thing I can imagine. I have no idea what I have done that angered you so, but I beg you to forgive me. I shall grovel before you with absolute abject thoroughness if that's what it takes; Bertram on his knees before you with tears in the e.s and a catch in the voice, offering everything in his possession if you will only allow it. I want to put things right between us but I don't know how. Please, for the love of God, tell me what I did so that I can apply every necessary apology.

You must know that I love you more than anything. More than everything. I don't care what I have to do, I promise I will do it so that I might prove my love to you. I have been waiting in absolute agony for any word from you, but there has not been even a single syllable, not so much as a breath in the branches.

I don't even know if you still love me. I pray every night that you do. Please, if you still care for me at all, write to me.

I love you.

Your utterly devoted Bertram

It was with trembling hand that I consigned my missive to the vagaries of the French postal service.

I waited. Days stretched into a couple of weeks, and eventually I gave in to despair. If he was still there, he no longer cared for me at all. He couldn't be bothered to even tell me so, and it ripped the heart from me like some awful creature from a nightmare. By the time Angela and Aunt Dahlia were ready to return to old blighty, it was the merest shadow of a Wooster who followed them.

***

After he left, I did not know what to do with myself. I slept in his bed -- our bed -- wishing he were with me but furious that he would not offer me even the smallest acknowledgment of his wrongdoing. I waited for weeks, hearing nothing from him, able only to wallow in anger and despond.

I did attend the Ascot, and won a tidy sum, but it meant nothing. It was only a brief distraction from my anger and depression. I rarely went out, and almost never visited the Junior Ganymede. I knew John would be there, and that he would urge me to leave before Bertram returned; I knew that, regardless of the personal cost, I could not do so.

If Bertram would not speak to me when he returned, I would find some way to show my displeasure.

When he finally did return, after two months of a complete lack of communication, he was colder and more angry than when he had departed. So was I.

***

Jeeves was cold and distant but polite when I returned from Cannes. That he was still there at all gave me some vague fragment of satisfaction, but I hated that this was the best I could hope for, given his lack of response to my letter. I hated the fact I was so pathetic that even this would be enough, as long as he stayed with me.

It wasn't long before we were out at Aunt Dahlia's attempting to salvage Angela and Tuppy's engagement, and get Gussie Fink-Nottle hitched to Madeline Bassett. The tale has been told elsewhere, in an expurgated and rather more cheerful fashion than most of what actually occurred, but that eighteen mile bicycle ride in the deeps of a stormy night, sans lamp, after a rather nasty joke to the effect that it would be hilarious if I were struck by a car, only to find I'd been sent for a key that had been in Jeeves's pocket all the time, was Bertram's breaking point.

He didn't love me. No one loved me. I was a fool and an idiot and I had had more than enough. I had no idea what I had done that would ever cause him to want to see me dead in a ditch, but I would find out. I would stand no more sirring. I would, in fact, dig my way to the bottom of the loveless cesspool that my life with Jeeves had become if it were the last thing I did. I could not, however, do it at Brinkley. Jeeves bunged me into a hot bath then wrapped me in warm, dry towels, attempting to at least stave off a potential bout of pneumonia; it wasn't enough. We might have created the requisite happy endings for everyone else on the planet and saved me from a walk up the aisle with La Bassett, but I was livid. It was not a palliative nor a balm to Bertram's soul and I knew I had been treated with utter contempt by the man I loved more than I had ever loved anyone.

"Reginald," I growled, letting some fragment of my accumulated ocean of frustration and anger show, "I am extremely displeased." His eyes widened in a marked manner. I hadn't even attempted to use that tone of voice with him -- or that name -- since everything had gone pear-shaped at Bumpleigh Hall. He stiffened and swallowed nervously. At least I could still command a particle of his respect, even if it wasn't his love. "There is obviously nothing I can do about it here, but when we get home, you will hear about it."

He looked shaken, as well he should, and whispered, "Yes, Master." I had never been more angry with him in my life. I don't think I'd ever been more angry about anything, ever. Once we got back to the flat, I would make him talk to me, if it was the last thing we ever did together.

***

In my desire for revenge I had gone too far, and I knew it.

When the name Reginald fell from his lips in his room at Brinkley Court, I realized that I had pushed Bertram beyond his breaking point, and there would be hell to pay. He believed he had nothing left to lose, and I could not predict what would happen, beyond that it was going to be bad. I hoped what small remaining slip of our relationship that remained to us would survive.

He was just as angry the next morning, when we departed for London. He didn't speak to me at all during the drive back, but when we finally got there and I had got the luggage up to the flat and put away hats and jackets, he turned to me, his eyes ablaze with fury.

"On your knees, Reginald," he spat, and I dropped to the floor before his vehemence, stunned and physically unable to defy him. I thought he was going to shout at me, but he turned and stalked into his bedroom, returning a few moments later with a rattan cane in his hand. I could feel myself go pale. I had no idea what he would do next and, for the first time, I was genuinely afraid of him.

With a movement quick as a cobra, he had his fist in my hair, jerking my head up to look him in the eyes, and I flinched. "You wanted to be my slave?" he snarled. "If that's what you want, I'll show you what that means. This is not a game anymore, Reginald, and I am done indulging you. I'm sick of that blasted wall of ice and I demand some answers." He let go of my hair with nearly as much violence as he had laid hold of it, straightening up and spinning away from me sharply to pace across the room and back. "In the past, you have humiliated me, you have led people to believe that I was a loony, and you have put me in a position to end up spending time in gaol, but I would never have believed anyone who told me that you could do something like this to me, Reginald. I have no idea what I could have done that you would send me off into a sitch where I could have literally ended up dead in a ditch by the roadside. I could have fallen and broken a limb. I could have been struck by a car. I could have missed a turn and hit a bloody tree or a stone wall.

"Not only did you send me out into the storm for no reason, at risk to life and limb, but you had to joke about it! What the hell did I do to you, Reginald, that could possibly make you want to hurt me like that?" he shouted, turning and striking the chair beside me with such ferocious wrath that the cane snapped. I could not help shying from the blow as it whistled by me; he had never been like this before, and I was wide-eyed and cold with fear when it hit, panting slightly, my stomach a knot. Disgusted, he threw the thing to the floor. "You never even bothered to answer the damned letter! You couldn't be arsed to tell me to sod off, after I threw myself at your feet to beg you to forgive me for whatever the hell it was I did!"

My breath caught; I was shocked. He had written? He had apologized? I had never received it, but every single thing about his demeanor insisted he was telling the truth. Regardless of anything that had happened in Steeple Bumpleigh, despite all my justified anger, I had just made the gravest error of my life.

He turned to me again with tears in his eyes, grabbing me by the hair, and crouched next to me. "There are only two ways this can go now, Reginald," he said, speaking softly but with absolute intensity in my ear. "If you no longer love me, you will get up right this instant and walk away. You will pack your things and leave and I never want to see you again." I was trembling at the frightful passion in his voice. "If..." His voice cracked, but he took a breath and recovered, rage still burning in his words. "If you do love me, even a little, then I will have answers, and I will punish you for putting my life in danger. I will not tolerate you shutting me out like this, ever again." He took a shaky breath. "I will never strike you when I am this furious, Reginald; I will never do you an injury like that, but you will feel it when I give you what you damned well deserve."

Rising again as he released my hair, I could hear the rustle of cloth as he turned his back to me. "What will it be?"

I braced myself, trying to get some semblance of control over my body's reactions, though by this point it was a hopeless endeavor. My voice was rough with the tangled immensity of my emotions when I spoke. "Doubt thou the stars are fire; doubt that the sun doth move; doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love."

I heard the breath he had been holding escape him, raw and unsteady. "Get up and strip, Reginald. When you've done that, go into my wardrobe and bring back one of the canes I have in there."

"Yes, Master." I did as he ordered, folding my clothes onto the chair beside me, then retrieving one of the three canes remaining in his wardrobe. When I returned, he was standing where I had been kneeling only moments before. I knelt before him, naked and ashamed, and offered him the cane, my head bowed. He took it from my hands.

"Now, Reginald," he said, not in the least mollified by my actions, "you are going to tell me what it is that I did to get you angry enough to not care if I lived or died."

I felt a spark of the anger I'd nursed for months rise up. "You know very well what you did, Master."

"No, I don't!" he bellowed. "If I knew what I'd done, I wouldn't be standing here asking you after this hideous train wreck, would I?"

"You don't think that carrying on with Lord Hubberly behind my back was wrong, Master?" Anger burned in my veins again, but I had accepted his terms for remaining with him, and he was my Master. No matter what happened, I belonged to him and even this would not break the bond that I felt so deeply.

His eyes widened and his mouth gaped open for a moment before he regained his composure. "Carrying... What?" He put one hand over his face and took several deep breaths. "Good God, Reginald, nothing happened." He looked back up at me. "The man made a pass at me, but I told him no, because I had someone else -- said someone being you -- and I wasn't interested in what he was peddling."

I found it difficult to believe. "I was reliably told that you followed him into his room in a state of some arousal."

"Ha!" He shook his head in disbelief. "The old boy kissed me, yes, but I'd have to have been six months dead not to feel it. He's got lips that could raise Lazarus. You can't tell me that you've never in your life had an involuntary bout of stiffness in the trouser region, Reginald. There's no man over the age of puberty who's never had it happen at the worst possible time. I followed him back to his room because I couldn't very well talk to him about breaking the engagement right there in the bally hallway, now, could I?" The rage in his words was still raw.

A cold thread of fear cut through my chest. He was not lying. I always knew when he was lying. "But I heard you telling him that Mr Cheesewright suspected you both."

"Stilton wanted to snap me in half again, Reginald," he growled. "He'd seen Darren doing things in my vicinity that he thought were improper and said he'd have me up on charges if I didn't marry Winnie. What else was I supposed to do? I couldn't not warn him! Stilton would have ruined all of us -- and you'd have been dragged down too, don't doubt that for a single instant! I would never say a bally word to incriminate you, not on my life, but you can't possibly think that if I ended up in dock on gross indecency charges, somebody wouldn't draw a few lines and get to the spot marked by the big red X, that big red X being you and the fact that we really have been violating that particular law with great regularity and enthusiasm."

I knew in that moment that I had allowed fear and doubt to rule me, and had made an inexcusable, possibly irreparable error. I had misunderstood everything, seeing the evidence, hearing John's misguided concern, and drawing an entirely erroneous conclusion. I must have gone pale again, as a wave of dizziness swept through me. Frustrated, he gave a sharp cry of incoherent anger. "How could you believe that I would do that to you? If I had any intention at all of messing about with Darren, it would have been like what happened with Ginger -- right there in front of you, with you a part of it! I would never dash off with another man behind your back, Reginald. I love you more than my own life, and you're the best damned thing I've ever had. I thought you said you trusted me?" The hurt on his face and in his voice was devastating and I could no longer meet his eyes. My misunderstanding had very nearly cost me everything I held dear. "Why didn't you even answer my letter?" he asked, plaintive.

"I never received it, Master," I whispered, truly horrified by what I had done. I had to make this right, I didn't care what it would cost me.

He pushed my clothing to the floor and sank into the chair, burying his face in his hands, his shoulders wavering slightly. I realized after a moment that he was weeping, and that I had caused this. "I asked you over and over what was wrong," he said, muffled and agonized, "and you never even bothered to try to tell me. You went all iceberg on me and you wouldn't tell me. I can't read your mind, dash it, and I can't explain if you never give me a chance. You know how dashed stupid I can be sometimes, and how I don't see what's in front of my own bally nose."

Bertram looked up, his face wet and his eyes red; he sniffled. I could no longer remain still, with the shame burning inside me. I crawled the few paces to where he sat and abased myself before him on my knees, my head resting on his feet. "I am the worst kind of fool, Master," I whispered. "There is no apology I can utter that could possibly approach the magnitude of what I have done to you. I can only beg your mercy and your forgiveness, though I deserve neither."

"You're right," he said, his voice low and still angry, "you don't." I trembled at his feet. "You don't trust me. You didn't believe in me enough to ask me what was happening; instead you thought the very worst of me, after all we've been to one another. And you deliberately set out to hurt me. Well, let me tell you, you did hurt me. You gouged a blasted trench in my heart. It's going to be a while before I can forgive you, Reginald, but I'm still in love with you and it doesn't matter what you did, I can't let it sink us like the bally Titanic."

I still had a chance. He still loved me, and I still loved him desperately. "Please, Master, let me make this right."

He sighed. "You'll have your chance, but first you are going to swear to me that you will never let such doubts arise between us again without talking to me first. If I ask you what's wrong, you will tell me instead of slapping on the stuffed frog mask and assuming I know what's going on."

"I swear it, Master." I nodded as I spoke, not raising my head. I could never allow a similar incident to bring us within miles of this point, ever again. I could not endure the thought of losing him, and I knew I would if I ever hurt him again.

He reached down then and his fingers twined in my hair, more gentle this time. He tugged and I rose on my knees and looked at his tear-stained face. Bertram leaned to meet me and kissed me; I welcomed that sweet brush of his lips as a man dying after days in the desert without water would greet an oasis. "I am going to punish you," he murmured when he sat back.

"It is no more than I deserve, Master," I answered, lowering my eyes. "I have made grave errors in judgment and I am responsible for bringing us to this juncture."

"I'm at least partly to blame. I should have told you about Darren's whole wheeze. I thought it wouldn't matter and that I could handle it myself. It's obvious how wrong I was." He got to his feet and sighed. Looking around the room, he made a decision and pointed. "Lean over the back of the chesterfield."

"Yes, Master." I knew that this was going to hurt; it would no doubt be far more severe than any of the canings he'd given me over our disagreements regarding his clothing, and I would likely be unable to sit comfortably for a couple of days, but his rage had subsided and I would endure whatever he dealt me. I stood and proceeded to the chesterfield, positioning myself as he had ordered.

The caning was harrowing. I had broken a sweat by the time he was done and was gasping with pain but, as happened so often, I also had an intense erotic response to the stimulation. I shivered when he touched me, running his fingers over the welts he had raised on my buttocks and thighs. "Please, Master," I whispered, spreading my legs further and blatantly offering myself to him. I wanted and needed him desperately; it had been over two months since we had last had any sexual contact and my body craved him.

"No," he said, quiet and sounding slightly numb. I turned my head to look at him in shocked disbelief. "The caning isn't the punishment, Reginald. Not the whole of it, anyway. It's more of a beginning, really."

My brow wrinkled with my confusion. "Master?" I was still breathless and painfully aroused.

"Your punishment is that you are not to come off until I tell you that you may."

"I don't understand." He toyed with my bollocks, making me shiver with want.

"You don't need to. Go take care of the luggage, then you'll deal with the rest of the day as usual. You may not dress today until I allow it."

"Very good, Master." I stood, moving gingerly in deference to the aching hardness of my prick and the burning stripes on my backside, and went to comply with his orders.

***

The only thing I could imagine was that there had been some kind of bally miracle. They say God looks after fools, and so he must, for Jeeves hadn't walked out on me. He still loved me, and that was miracle enough for half a dozen Bertrams. That my man had accepted my terms left me with a great deal to think about. He was still with me. He still loved me -- I kept repeating that one to myself like one of those manta thingummies those Indian johnnies chant. Mantras, Jeeves tells me. I held onto that like an octopus clinging to something it held very dear. I understand they can cling like the dickens, what with all those arms and suckers and such. I was still angry as a badger with a bee sting about the whole dashed sitch, but Jeeves had promised he would work on setting things right, and it was enough for me right then.

What truly twisted the knife in the Wooster gizzard was that all of this had been over a misunderstanding. I hadn't even done anything wrong. It rankled. It dug beneath the skin and burrowed. It hurt like bloody hell and I doubted I'd be ready to forgive anytime soon, but I loved the man with everything in me. That the whole Master and slave wheeze had suddenly become real left me a bit dizzy, but it had been the only way I could possibly see to get us both through the disaster. I didn't think he would take me seriously otherwise, and I desperately needed to be t. s. after all that had happened. I needed him to understand how dashed badly he'd hurt me without hurting him back just as much. It wasn't that Bertram was not tempted; I'm human, after all. If you cut me, do I not bleed, and all that load of donkey kidneys? When one is gutted by the one he loves most, the twitching reflex is to strike back just as hard, particularly when one is descended from a long line of warlike knights and crusaders who would be inclined to hand any offending bird his liver on the end of a sword. I couldn't, though, not if I ever wanted to have Jeeves love me as he once had. And I needed him to love me just as much as I needed him to take me seriously.

Telling him no when he'd been so clearly begging for me to take him had been near as a toucher to impossible. I'd wanted him so awfully after months of not even seeing him, of thinking he'd not even be here when I got home. I knew, though, that if I did, neither of us would have enough control to let him obey me when I'd told him not to come off. We'd both have gone over the edge and that would have been the end of it for certain. He would never see it as real, and I needed him to understand that, from now on, what the young Master demanded, the young Master was going to get.

I intended to make Jeeves suffer for what he'd done to me, but not in a way that could actually hurt him. A sharp caning that left welts and made him unable to sit comfortably for a few days was one thing, but causing him a genuine injury was not something I could bear doing. It would kill me if I hurt him like that and I would never forgive myself.

Later that night, I would finally let myself touch him the way I'd been craving for so long, but watching him shimmer about the place in nothing but his skin after everything that had just happened was too much for any Wooster to endure. I told him I'd be at the Drones if anyone rang for me and that I'd take dinner there, but I'd be home afterwards and we'd talk again then.

***

When Bertram left, I had ample time to calm my body. When he walked away from me and left me hard and aching for him, telling me that I was not to have release without his permission, I was too deeply enmeshed in my desires to understand why he would do such a thing. Once I had regained sufficient control over my body, I found myself in a serious contemplation of my own arrogance and folly.

I had assumed I knew what Bertram was doing at Bumpleigh Hall, and that he was concealing an infidelity from me. Although I had, at first, resisted John's claims that Bertram was being unfaithful, it had not taken a great deal to convince me of his wrongdoing. I would not ordinarily have leapt to such a conclusion, and I should have trusted him. I knew both what he was like and the kinds of problems and misunderstandings that continually cropped up in his presence. Granted, these incidents had always previously involved women, but it should never have been beyond my capacity to imagine that such complications might also occasionally arise with a man as the focus.

The difference, I concluded after much thought, was that I considered another man an actual threat to my place with him. No woman would ever be able to take Bertram from me because of his nature; his true affections lay with the male of the species, as do my own. Jealousy, roused by Lord Hubberly's attentions to my lover, and Bertram's known predilection for men of a certain type -- of which Lord Hubberly was a fine example -- had undermined my usual confidence and colored my perceptions of the situation. I had allowed my emotions to blind me.

Jealousy was not an emotion I took pride in. I suffered from it, but had always previously attempted to keep it under a tight rein. The thought of losing Bertram, however, had been enough to shake me badly. I had not regarded Mr Winship as a threat because of my Master's history with him, and the way Bertram had brought about our encounter. By the time the situation had become sexual, a certain amount of groundwork had been fairly carefully laid. Lord Hubberly, on the other hand, was an unknown quantity. John's cautions about Bertram losing his regard for me and casting me aside had struck deep hooks into my psyche, and I feared that he would consider another nobleman a far more suitable companion. My fear and jealousy had not taken into account Bertram's lack of concern for social standing in this regard or his genuine love for me; my arrogance had insisted that I had all the facts, that I could safely draw a conclusion, and had that I the right to punish him for his slighting of me.

Bertram's innate kindness and generosity, and his now-unquestionable love for me were the only reasons I was not looking for a new home at this very moment. He would have been more than justified in dismissing me with prejudice, placing such a black mark on my record that I might never be able to work as a valet again. Any other man would have done so. I felt thoroughly unworthy of him.

My mind spun and tumbled, chasing itself in circles as I worked. How could I possibly offer him any kind of meaningful apology? I still had him, but I knew I did not have his forgiveness and I needed to find a way to earn it from him. In light of the way he had offered me the choice to remain, I knew that I had given myself to him utterly. My obedience was an absolute necessity. I did not yet know what that would entail. I was uncertain whether Betram knew.

He arrived home late that evening with a thoughtful look upon his face. I took his things and put them away, then went to my knees before him, head bowed, not knowing what else to do. After a moment, he touched me, his fingertips warm on the back of my neck. "Up here, Reginald," he said, his voice soft. I rose to stand before him and he reached out to me, taking me into his arms.

I could hardly believe he would give me this gift. His slender body was so warm as he held me, and I raised my arms to embrace him. We stood there holding one another in silent, trembling desperation for a very long time. I buried my face in his hair as I clung to him, needing to feel him, to have the scent of him in my nostrils, to let his weight rest against me. Slowly, his hands moved on my back, one finding its way to my shoulder to cling there, the other clasping one sore, striped buttock and clasping me to him. I could feel the hard ridge of his erection against my body, pressed close to my own, and he moved, turning his face to me and taking my mouth in a slow, deep kiss that roused my passion to a flame.

My need for him was overwhelming after we had spent so long parted by my inexcusable arrogance. His hands moved on me and I moaned softly into his mouth, answered by his own quiet sounds of want. I did not hope that he would allow me to pleasure him or share his bed. I could not imagine being granted that privilege.

When he pulled away from me, I was aching, but I offered him the brandy and soda that he often wanted before he retired for the night. "No," he said, shaking his head. "It's been a long day and I'm knackered."

I nodded. "Of course, Master." I followed him into his room to assist him with his clothing. When he was abed, he gave me an expectant look, which I could not interpret. "Where would you have me sleep, Master?" I asked, fully expecting to be dismissed to sleep in the valet's quarters.

He raised the covers next to him. "Here, Reg." My heart leapt at the familiar address, despite the tired sadness in his voice. I slipped between the sheets to lie next to him. He took me into his arms again as we lay on our sides facing one another. "I've missed you absolutely dreadfully and I'm in desperate need of a good buggering."

I kissed him deeply, wanting to please him. I would have thought he would take me, as much to assert his dominance and his ownership of me as to have his pleasure, but I would give him anything he wished, in any manner he might want it. "Anything, Bertram," I whispered, reaching to find what I needed in the bedside drawer. "I am yours to command."

Bertram nodded. "You can dispense with any fancy preliminaries," he said, rolling onto his back and opening his legs to me. "I need to feel you. I need to know you're here."

My breath caught and I prepared him quickly then slicked myself, taking him with a hard thrust that dragged a deep, throaty groan from his body. He wrapped his thighs about me and pulled me down to kiss me frantically. It had been so long since we'd been together that I was already highly aroused, moving within him and taking us both very quickly to the edge. We rutted together, holding one another with desperate strength as our bodies rocked and shook. My prick was hard and aching within him as I fucked him, and he cried out over and over as I found that place that gave him such intense pleasure. He trembled and tensed, his body clenching around me as he came to a fast, hard finish, gasping and shaking, his issue flooding hot and wet between our bodies, and I was there on the brink with him.

He caught my chin with one hand and I opened my eyes to look at him as my hips continued pounding into him; I was balanced on that blinding edge of ecstasy, about to fall. "You may not finish, slave," he panted, his eyes locked with mine. I could not help my cry of agonized frustration as I ruthlessly crushed my body's need. I stilled in his arms, gasping, my entire body trembling helplessly as I fought to drag myself back from the edge of the abyss. My heart battered against my ribs, threatening to burst as I forced myself to comply with my Master's order. When I opened my eyes again, still struggling for breath and shivering with want, he was watching me intently, and a slight smile touched his lips. "That was very good, Reginald," he said. I whimpered, my forehead falling on his chest with a hollow, muffled thump.

I was still sheathed within him, my cock achingly hard and throbbing with the wild pace of my pulse. His fingers twined in my sweat-damp hair. He kissed me forcefully, then let his hand trace my neck and down my shoulder. "I want more," he murmured. "God, I've missed you. Take me slow and deep, and make me spend again."

Nodding, I caught my breath for a moment. "Yes, Master." My body shook, but I was determined to obey him. After a deep, bracing breath, I began to move again, pushing myself to remain in control as I brought him slowly back to full arousal. The sounds he made were absolutely wanton; his pleasure was blatant and obvious and he writhed beneath me, using my body for his own purposes. I felt a deep, sudden pang of bitter elation at the realization that this was a part of what I had craved when I initially offered myself to Bertram as his slave. My need for this was as devastating as my need for completion.

With renewed energy, I moved inside him, covering his body with my own, clinging to him with all the love I possessed. I kissed him again and again, grateful to still have him, that he still wanted me. Slowly, carefully, I drew him to the edge of his second release, ignoring my body's own needs. When he had spent for a second time, I trembled in his arms, maintaining my control by only the finest thread. "Please, Master, allow me to finish."

Still panting, his body slicked with sweat and his semen, he shook his head. "No. That will be all. Go clean up and come back to bed." He ran a finger through the mess on his abdomen. "I'm a bit sloppy myself. You'd best bring me back something to wash up with, old thing." I nodded, swallowed against the dryness of my mouth, and withdrew from his body, my muscles still quaking. I did as he bid me and returned to clean him, then took the dirtied cloth to put in the laundry hamper. He had told me to come back to bed, so I hoped he would not banish me to the valet's quarters now that he had been satisfied. I breathed a silent sigh of relief when he allowed me back into his bed.

I lay on my back, still half-hard, my bottom uncomfortable with the still-painful welts from the caning, and he wrapped himself around me, resting his head upon my shoulder. I held him, savoring the feel of his body against mine, despite my frustrated need. "That was really just corking," he murmured, nuzzling against my neck.

"I endeavor to give satisfaction, Master," I said, my voice still rough from my exertions.

"You bally well did," he said. His head tilted slightly and he looked up at me. "I still love you, Reg. You hurt me more than you can imagine, but I still love you."

I turned to him, taking him into a close embrace and burying my face in his fair curls. "I am so sorry, Bertram," I whispered, aching with the truth of my contrition. "I was an arrogant fool. Please, forgive me."

He sighed against my skin and held me tightly, twining his legs with mine. "In time, old thing, in time."

***

Jeeves woke me unexpectedly in the middle of the deep and dreamless, gasping and holding me to him, clinging like a bally octopus or squid, with his prick hard as the gear shift of my Aston. He was asleep and wrapped up in a particularly juicy dream, clearly quite close to the brink. Before all this mess, I'd have slipped under the sheets and taken him in my mouth to give him a cheerful surprise to wake to, but I was still quite sore at him and wasn't going to have him disobeying me, even in his dreams. I reached down and wrapped my fingers around the base of his prick to stop him coming off and gave a firm squeeze; he squeaked, his eyes popping open as he gasped for breath.

Once he'd got his lungs working again and calmed down a bit, I asked him what he'd been dreaming. He blushed. "I-I could not say, Bertram," he murmured.

I shook my head. "No, Reginald. I'm not accepting that particular answer anymore." I leaned in closer and purred in his ear, "What did you dream? It must have been a good one." He was still quite hard in my hand and I could feel his pulse beating between my fingers.

He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath and shifting uncomfortably. "It... I..."

"Tell me, slave," I demanded, letting my thumb brush up the underside of his prick, teasing him. If he was going to respond to that word, I was dashed well going to use it. I didn't have too many weapons at my disposal, but this one was a corker.

His voice was rough but very quiet when he answered, and his breathing was a bit unsteady again. "You had..." He gulped and gave it another shot. "We were at the Drones club, Master," he finally said. "You had... you had ordered me to remove my clothing. You forced me down over the billiards table, as you had that first night over the dinner table." He took a sharp breath, not meeting my eyes. "You offered me to your friends, allowing them to bugger me one after the other, then took me yourself." Jeeves shivered. It was a pretty dashed fruity dream, all right, I had to admit. "I was very near to my finish when you woke me," he whispered.

"Well," I said, "you didn't, which is good, because I didn't tell you that you could." I gave his prick a long, slow stroke, and he shivered again, harder this time.

"I cannot be held responsible for the contents of my dreams, Master," he said, worried.

I raised an eyebrow at him, having learned that wheeze well from his own noble brow. "Are you presuming to tell me what I can and cannot do?"

His eyes went wide and he shook his head quickly. "No, Master, not in the least."

"That's the correct answer," I said, and then I kissed him. He moaned and kissed back, holding me in his arms with a great deal of passion; it felt quite desperate, as though he were trying to convince me to change my mind about this whole not letting him come off thingummy. I just enjoyed the kiss, stroking his prick slowly and driving him slightly mad before I let him go and rolled over onto my back. "Good night, Reg."

He stared at me for a moment in disbelief, then flopped down onto his back beside me with a disappointed whimper. I grinned into the dark. Yes, this Wooster had truly come up with a topping scheme for teaching Jeeves who was the Master of the house. If this kept up, I might even be able to forgive him.

***

Jeeves was at the Wooster bedside in the ack emma, tea tray in hand, dressed impeccably as was his wont when I woke. He was quiet and solemn as he presented me with the elixir of life. "What kind of a day is it, Jeeves?"

"It is a pleasant, warm morning, with a promise of great heat this afternoon, sir," he answered.

I nodded as I sipped at the tea and nibbled at the eggs and b. "Sounds just topping," I told him. "I think I'll lounge about the flat this afternoon. Wouldn't do to work up a sweat just by having a walk about the neighborhood."

"Very good, sir. Shall I draw your bath?"

"You biff off and do that, Jeeves," I said, shooing him away with one hand as I tucked into the rest of my breakfast. By the time I was done, the bath was ready and I nipped into the room in my altogether, not having worn any pyjamas last night. I could feel Jeeves's eyes on me as he finished preparing my shaving things. "Come over here, Jeeves," I said, slipping into the wet and sloshy. He approached with his eyes lowered in a respectful manner.

"Yes, sir?"

I looked up at him, laying hold of the little Wooster and giving myself a friendly stroke or two. His eyes widened slightly. I smiled at him. "Hang about a bit," I said, determined to give him a show that would leave his knees in a bit of a jellified state. "You will watch, Reginald." His breath caught as I gripped myself and let him watch me pleasure myself. Just watching him react to what I was doing would have been quite enough to get me hard. He stood there with his hands behind his back, his nostrils flared just a bit, trembling slightly as I sighed happily and spread my legs for him. I wanted him to have a good view of what he wasn't having at the mo.

Within just a few minutes, I could see the smart line of his trousers tenting out a bit and knew that he was considerably more affected than he wanted to let on. It was pretty obvious that he was trying hard to control his breathing, though the damask Jeevesian cheek was flushed and his eyes had gone dark. That got me more stirred up and I pulled and squeezed myself with a bit more vim and vigor, applying my other hand to the rest of the corpus, playing with my nipples in a really quite arousing manner.

He swallowed and the tip of his tongue came out, wetting his lips slightly and making them glisten a bit under the electric light. A little breathless, I said, "Pop the old todger out, Reginald, and come here."

Jeeves made a tiny, strangled sound, but complied swiftly, opening his trousers with trembling hands. His prick was very hard, standing up with every indication of being able to support a whole reef of signal flags along its length. It was ruddy against his dark, pinstriped trousers, the tip shiny and damp from the fluid one puts out when one is quite stirred up, and I couldn't wait to taste him. The scent of him was dark and thoroughly aroused, and it struck something deep inside me, sending a tingling jolt of excitement through the Wooster corpus. I reached out and grasped him by the bottom, which made him flinch slightly. It probably still hurt after the caning I'd given him, but I drew him closer and sat up a little. "Remember what I told you, Reginald. You may not come off unless I tell you to."

Wide-eyed, he swallowed hard and nodded. His voice was rough when he answered. "Yes, Master."

"Hands behind your back, as you were doing before." I hadn't stopped stroking myself; watching him in this state of fluster was quite exciting.

"Yes, Master." He stood next to me, absolutely trembling, with his hands now tucked behind his back.

I leaned against the side of the tub and licked my slave's cock from stem to stern, as it were. He shivered, his breath stuttering. He tasted wonderful as I ran my tongue around the head of him, playing with it and pushing the foreskin back, caressing into the little slit at the tip with the t. of my tongue. He made a pained, breathy sound when I finally sucked him in, pulling at my own prick with renewed enthusiasm. Doing this with the thick heaviness of his hot cock filling my mouth, knowing how he was holding himself back for me, was wonderfully intense, and I groaned, sucking him deeper.

His breathing grew more ragged and he made small, desperate sounds; I tilted my head slightly to look up at him. His eyes were closed, his mouth open as he panted, and his head was tipped back a bit. My usually prim and staid man looked thoroughly wanton; it left me shivering and close to that petit mort whatsit. I could feel my stones drawing up tight, my breath coming more quickly. I let him slip from my mouth for a moment. "Look at me, slave," I told him. "I want you to watch me finish."

He groaned and, with obvious effort, looked down at me. His eyes were blown and dark, a little wild. "Yes, Master," he panted. I took him back into my mouth and sucked him deep and hard, pumping at my prick with a tight grip and a bit of a twist that had me coming off after only a few moments. I heard him make a strangled noise as I went over the edge and felt his prick jerk in my mouth, leaking more of that salty, slightly bitter stuff, but he did manage to maintain control. Gasping for my own breath, I leaned back against the tub and looked up at him through half-open eyes. There wasn't a hair out of place on him but he still managed to look thoroughly debauched, his eyes wide and his face flushed. His prick jutted out, wet and shining from my sucking him, moving slightly with his fast, hammering pulse.

I sighed happily, feeling quite lazily relaxed, rather like a cat in a spot of sunshine after a good stretch. "That will be all, Reginald."

His eyes squeezed shut and he swallowed hard, looking quite pained and put upon. "Yes, Master." He took a deep breath then tucked himself away, still trembling slightly as he shimmered off to do whatever it is he does in the morning when I'm not looking.

***

It was nearly fifteen minutes before my body had calmed enough to resume my morning routine after Bertram's blatant teasing of me in the bath. I wondered how long it would go on; surely he would not maintain this level of tension between us for more than a day or so. I hoped that tonight, or perhaps tomorrow morning, he would finally allow me my release, feeling that I had been sufficiently chastened. I was not quite ready to admit that I was hiding in the kitchen as I polished the silver, hoping that he would not come to me and torment me further. I had to remain on my feet as I worked, as sitting for any length of time was still somewhat uncomfortable.

The power that he had claimed stirred me very deeply. I wanted him to forgive me and I would do anything to have that forgiveness, but the thought of him having such control still left me uneasy. My trust in him had failed when we were at Bumpleigh Hall; what he had done in allowing me to remain with him, both as his servant and as his lover, demanded my absolute trust. As his slave, I knew I should not question him and so I tried to quiet my mind through the silent, repetitive motion of the polishing cloth moving over smooth, bright metal.

I no longer had any idea what my life would look like a day from now, a week from now, a year from this day. Eventually I perceived that, as long as it still contained my Master, I could accept that uncertainty, though not without trepidation. I had come to realize, during his absence, that I needed him more than breath, even when I was furious with him and wounded by what I imagined was his infidelity. After I finished the silver, my mind still greatly conflicted, I prepared his luncheon.

I brought it to him at the table, where he had already seated himself in anticipation of the noontide meal. He nodded as I laid it out before him. "Come sit with me, Reginald," he said, gesturing to the floor beside his chair.

Although sitting would be painful, I knelt beside his chair, murmuring, "Thank you, Master." If I adjusted my legs every so often and left most of my weight on one hip, I would be able to remain there without cutting off my circulation, particularly if he allowed me to lean against him as I once had. His eyes softened and he smiled at me, caressing my hair with one hand. I sighed and rested my head upon his thigh, grateful that he would allow me this. He said little during the meal, but did offer me food and drink as he ate, and I accepted it with reverence.

When he was finished, I rose to clear away the table. "Come join me in the sitting room," he said. I looked at the table, distressed at the thought of leaving soiled dishes and cutlery uncleaned; if someone were to call upon him unexpectedly, it would reflect very badly upon me. "I know it pains you to leave something undone, old fruit," he said, "but you can take care of that later."

"Very good, Master." He nodded and I followed him, placing myself once again at his feet when he sat. He allowed me to put one arm about his hips, laying my other on his knee as I rested my head upon his thigh once again. He picked up one of his mystery novels and read, his free hand slowly caressing my hair, my cheek, my neck, my shoulders. It was hypnotic in its gentleness. After a time, I finally allowed myself to relax, breathing in the solid warmth of him with my eyes closed.

I don't know how long we remained that way in the heat of the afternoon -- I half asleep and he reading silently -- but eventually I was conscious of slight movement and heard him set the book on the table beside his chair. He sighed quietly and I looked up at him; there was a sadness in his eyes that shot a pang of remorse through me for causing it. "What am I going to do with you, Reginald?" he whispered, tracing his fingertips along my jaw.

"Anything you wish, Master," I responded, subdued. One fingertip moved slowly along my cheek to my lower lip, tickling a bit. I opened my mouth slightly, touching it with the tip of my tongue. He slipped it inside my mouth, gently, to the first knuckle, and I suckled on it, closing my eyes. I caressed it with my tongue, feeling the slight roughness of the ridges that marked his fingerprint and the smooth hardness of the nail. He removed it slowly, the motion deeply sensual.

"I love you," he murmured. He leaned toward me and I knelt up to meet him, wanting far more than his mouth. His kiss was filled with an aching tenderness and I returned it with longing, sighing between his lips. When he sat up, he caressed my cheek again, that sadness still in his eyes. I could only look away. "Go finish up the afternoon's valeting, Jeeves," he said. "It's a bit too warm for this Wooster, so I'm off to the Drones for a splash about in the swimming bath."

I nodded and rose. "Very good, sir. Shall I prepare your bathing costume?"

"Oh, no, Jeeves. I have one there. I'll see you after the dinner hour, when things are a bit cooled down, what?"

"Very good, sir."

***

Half the Drones had taken the same idea I'd come up with, so it was a loud and active crowd in the swimming bath. The heat of the day had taken me on a turn toward loathèd melancholy, complete with Cerberus, blackest Midnight, and a Stygian cave or two. At any rate, it was a somewhat downhearted Bertram who dived into the drink to join his friends. The splashing about cheered me a bit, leaving me in a better state of mind after ducking Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps a few times; it satisfied something in my soul to take out some of my frustrations somewhere other than upon Jeeves. Barmy just regarded it as another of the high-spirited games of the afternoon.

I was resting off at the deep end, leaning my chin upon crossed arms at the edge of the pool, when Ginger sloshed on up and leaned next to me. "Bertie, old chap, it's been a couple of months since I've seen you. You're looking a bit pensive."

I cast a sidelong glace at him without swiveling the chin in his direction. "I am, rather, young Ginger," I said.

"What's wrong?" He heaved himself up from the water, getting it all over me, and sat next to where I rested.

The lips pursed into a moue of vague distress. "I can't really talk about it here," I said, talking more to his hip than his face. It was a very nice hip.

"Ah. Jeeves," he said.

I looked up at him and nodded. "Rem acu teti-something." He gave me a puzzled look. "One of Jeeves's wheezes. You've conked the thing on the head, old fruit."

Ginger shook his head. "Right ho. If you're sufficiently cooled down, we could biff off and find a suitable place for such conversations."

"I suppose I should," I said, and heaved myself up next to him, dripping extensively. He stood and gave me a hand up, and we ankled into the dressing room to dry off and slap on the outer crust of the English gentleman again. Neither of us spoke while we were there, the walls being quite echoey and not particularly conducive to a convo of the sort I needed to have. Once dressed, we stopped by the bar and sloshed a couple of whisky and s.'s then beetled upstairs to one of the unoccupied sitting rooms. Ginger flopped himself onto a couch and I locked the door behind us before joining him.

"Tell me all, young Bertram," he said, leaning back and sipping at his cup of the needful.

I tucked my knees up under my chin, my feet on the cushions. "Something went horribly wrong," I said. "I mean to say, I think I might be able to salvage it, but it was awful." I slurped down my share of the old blushful Hippocrene and set the empty glass on the table next to me, resting my chin on the knobby knees. "I spent the last two months in Cannes without him because I had no idea what had gone south and then, when I got back, it only got worse. And all over a bally mistake."

He gave me a look of deepest concern. "Oh, Bertie, what happened?" I told him, sparing no detail, down to the whole screaming at Jeeves and breaking the cane on a chair thingummy, and when I was done, he gave a low, astonished whistle. "Good Lord," he said softly. "And you let him stay?"

I nodded miserably, holding back an unshed t. "I can't live without him, Ginger."

"What we did at your flat that night," he said, a worried look in the old e.s, "that didn't start this, did it?"

"No." I shook my head. "He was fine with that. Still is, in fact. Probably better than fine, actually. It was Darren, and whomever was telling Reg that I was being a cad."

"How could he think that of you?" Ginger looked offended on my behalf, and I was grateful for a chum's heartfelt support.

"He was afraid, I think."

He blinked, astonished as a stoat whose breakfast had turned out to be a live lion rather than the expected small rodent. "Jeeves? Afraid of anything?"

"It does happen," I said with a shrug. "It might not always look like it to other people, but he's human too. It just hurts, him thinking I could ever do that to him."

Ginger nodded, his dial sicklied o'er with that pale cast of thought thingummy. He was quiet for a few minutes, and I wasn't really feeling like filling in the blank spaces with any chatter. Eventually, he finished his drink and looked back over at me. "You still love him, don't you."

I nodded. "The divine pash has not diminished, it's just been bruised a bit."

"Right, jolly good. I have an idea."

The last time he'd had an idea, it had been a real corker. I leaned in toward him, feeling slightly hopeful. "Do tell, my fine young friend. I'm possessed of a whole platoon of ears."

He imparted to me the mysteries, and I smiled.

***

Bertram returned fairly late, but I had been expecting that. The heat of the day had continued well into evening, and I knew that he would prefer to spend the time with his friends in a place where cooling off was merely a matter of donning swimming costume and slipping into the water, rather than in the somewhat uncomfortable heat of the flat. To my relief, he appeared in heartier spirits than when he had left, and I hoped that his mood would last. I took his hat and whangee and put them away, then knelt before him, eyes lowered.

"That's lovely, Reginald," he said, running his fingers through my hair. "I'd like you to suck me."

"Yes, Master." I moved forward slightly and opened his trousers. His prick was flaccid but hardened quickly in my mouth, his fingers tightening in my hair as I pleasured him. He tasted slightly of pool water, but that quickly dissipated. His voice was soft and deep as he breathed the sounds of his pleasure, eventually thrusting gently into my mouth. I welcomed him in, my own prick hardening with my desire for him. My quiet groans left him shivering slightly, until he withdrew. I looked up at him, breathless, wanting his hands on my body.

His eyes were dark as he looked down at me. "You are so dashed beautiful like this," he whispered. A slight tug on my hair brought me to my feet. "Come to the bedroom."

I helped him remove his clothes and then turned down the bed for him; he took a quick shower bath and joined me as I laid out his pyjamas. "I won't need those tonight, and neither will you," he said. "Off with the upholstery, Reginald."

"Very good, Master." He took my tie from me as I stripped.

"Down on the bed, on your tum." I lay face down, as he ordered. "Hands up here." He gestured toward the head of the bed and I extended my arms toward it. He bound my wrists with a length of rope and secured them to the head of the bed; I shivered, my breath quickening. He was going to take me, and I wanted it so very badly. My Master tucked a couple of pillows beneath my hips and began caressing my back with his hands, eventually taking some lotion from the bathroom and giving me a fairly thorough massage. I relaxed into it after only a few moments. Having my wrists bound helped me fall into that place where I could simply let go and allow my Master anything. I had nearly forgotten how peaceful that place was for me, and how much I needed it.

I was aroused when we entered the bedroom but, after this indeterminate time of his hands upon me, I was close to a state of bliss. He loved me. His hands caressed me. His weight spread itself upon my back and, when he pushed his prick slowly into my body, there was no resistance at all. I moaned softly with the deep pleasure of it, my Master pushing my legs open with his thighs as he wrapped himself around me. I could feel his breath on my cheek and he kissed my face and nipped at my neck, sliding his hands beneath me to tease at my nipples with his fingers.

His cock moving in me, slow and deep, was utterly decadent, sending waves of erotic sensation throughout my body. I moved with him, my hips rocking slowly, grinding my prick into the pillows beneath me for more stimulation. My pulse and my breath quickened and my Master raised himself up, pulling me up by the hips so that I knelt before him; he began thrusting faster and deeper, giving me more of his hard, thick prick, and I groaned. I was not in a position to stretch enough to push back against him, leaving me still and trembling beneath him as the rhythm of his body quickened. I gasped and shuddered as he took me harder, my need growing sharper and more intense.

He leaned down over me again, keeping me on my knees, and bit my shoulder and the nape of my neck. I groaned aloud, gasping at the mix of pain and pleasure in it. "Do you like it?" he panted, one arm tight around my chest as he cupped my bollocks with his other hand. The angle of my body did not allow me to nod.

"Yes! Yes, Master," I gasped. His hand clasped my prick and he began to stroke me. I tried to shift my weight to deepen his thrust and fuck into his fist, but I could hardly move without possibly straining a muscle. My body was completely under his control and he moved powerfully within me, stroking my prick with a slight twisting motion that shot pleasure through my every nerve. Sweat trickled down my sides and my temples. "Oh, God," I panted, "oh, i-it's so good, so good."

"You're close," he growled, fucking me harder.

I shuddered and groaned. "Yes, yes." My hands fisted on the rope that bound my wrists to the headboard and I tugged helplessly. It only intensified the pleasure. I was so close to orgasm that it was like a living presence, just beyond the tips of my fingers.

"You may not finish, slave," he panted, using his body to drive me to madness. I cried out, needing completion as I needed air, desperately fighting to obey him as the pleasure he gave me overwhelmed me. I was breathless as he shuddered to his own finish, managing by force of will alone to keep myself from falling to it. My body trembled violently as he lay draped on my back, both of us gasping for breath. Finally, my cock still hard and throbbing with my pulse, I could feel him stir again as I struggled to support his weight. His legs moved behind mine, gently shifting them enough that I could move once again without being likely to hurt myself. I could not help the small mewling sounds I made, my face buried in the sheets, my fingers still in their death grip on the rope. He eased my body down onto the bed.

He sat beside me, running one trembling hand up and down my spine as though stroking a large cat. I was incapable of speech. He carefully untied my wrists from the headboard then pried my fingers from the rope before unbinding me. Bertram gently rolled me onto my side as I panted, my eyes squeezed shut with the effort of maintaining control of my body, for I was still in painful and desperate need of release. He rose and returned a moment later, stroking my face softly. I managed to open my eyes, only to see a glass of water being held before me. "Here, love," he murmured. "Drink a bit."

I was still shaking, too weak to rise, so he moved and tucked an arm beneath my shoulders, helping me sit enough to drink without spilling. I nodded when I'd had enough and he put the glass on the bedside table, taking me into his arms and letting me curl into his body while I trembled. He rocked me slowly as my body began to relax, but as my muscles unclenched, they shook even more; I felt palsied, utterly helpless in his embrace.

"It's all right, Reg," he said, speaking softly into my damp hair. "You were wonderful. You did so well. I'm really quite proud of you, you know."

"Thank you," I whispered. My heart felt as though it would burst with gratitude.

***

The next day was difficult. It had got to the point where every passing touch of his skin, even the whisper of his breath on my cheek, was a torment of frustrated need and desire. I had never thought Bertram capable of such diabolical ingenuity as he had shown when he devised this punishment for me. During his morning bath, I was ordered to bring him off with my hand; the act was unspeakably erotic after all I had been through in the past few days. His kisses as I stroked his hard, wet prick were hot and passionate and he writhed under my attentions. My dreams the night before had been deeply sensual and this only added fuel to the fire of my fantasies.

After I dressed him, I went about my daily work, still aroused. It was a much cooler day than yesterday, with afternoon showers breaking the heat, and he remained at home with me. I was finally able to sit comfortably again, and he had me rest at his feet during luncheon. The longing I felt as I leaned against his body was nearly overwhelming.

It was a little before teatime when my downfall finally arrived. We were not expecting guests, and all of his relatives were safely out of range, so there was little chance of interruption. He looked up at me from where he sat at the piano as I finished dusting, a particularly lascivious gleam in his eye. Bertram rose, swift and elegant as a leopard, and grabbed me by the tie. I was startled, but followed him into the bedroom, unable to do otherwise given that he had me on a lead as though I were wearing a leash and collar. That, my body informed me, had its own intense and unexpected erotic possibilities. I was half-eager and half-dreading the pleasure that would surely follow.

Rather than leading me to the bed, he moved all the way into the room. "Against the wall," he ordered, his voice dark with lust. He gave me a shove, one hand between my shoulder blades, and I stumbled forward, my hands slapping against the wall to brace me. A moment later, his long, slender body was pressed against my back, his arms about me, the ridge of his prick hard against my buttocks. I felt wanton, arching back against his weight, already panting with want of him. He held me tightly, his breath hot as he covered my neck with kisses.

Bertram's hands fumbled with the buttons of my trousers, opening them, then tugged at the buttons that secured my braces. A moment later, he pushed a knee between my legs, separating them further, and my trousers dropped to catch at my knees. My pants followed. I was hard and wanting; I needed him, needed what only he could give me. Surely he would not be so cruel as to demand that I hold back my release this time. It had been three days and I was close to breaking.

"You are so dashed glorious." His words were a low, rough rumble in my ear as he pressed slicked fingers between my cheeks, rubbing across my anus but not entering. I couldn't help the small, desperate sound I made. "I love you," he said, as he thrust hard into my body. I was unable to quiet my shout of pleasure. Bliss flooded me as I gave myself to him, gasping for breath as he took me, strong and deep.

He shifted his weight to spread my legs further and his cock struck within me in a way that caused my entire body to tighten and jerk. Every muscle spasmed and I came off in a blaze of absolute ecstasy, howling as my Master bit down on the place where my jaw met my neck. I was aflame with it, drunk on the rapture of my body. He pulled his cock out of me and my legs crumpled; I slid down the wall, gasping and still dizzy with the euphoria of my climax as it kept shuddering through my body. My head spun wildly.

His voice was in my ear, breathless and quiet but annoyed. "Did I tell you that you could come off, slave?"

Trembling and still half out of my body, I shook my head. "N-no, Master." I could barely speak, but I knew from the sound of his voice that I had made a tactical error.

"I believe I recall telling you that you weren't to come off without my express order."

I nodded, fighting to catch my breath. "I kn-know, but it's... b-been three--"

"I know how long it's been, slave." His hand was on my shoulder. "When I give you an order, I expect to be obeyed."

My head thumped against the wall, as I could no longer hold it up. "Yes, Master." I knew he would punish me, but my body was so lost in the exhausted aftermath of my sated need that I realized I would not likely feel it very much, regardless of what he did.

"On your feet and strip," he demanded. Bertram tucked a hand under one of my elbows, hoisting me to my feet. I wobbled and managed to remain upright, one hand braced against the wall to keep my balance. "Your disobedience requires punishment."

I nodded again, my muscles quivering as I tried to comply. "Y-yes, Master." The tremors made me clumsy but I managed the job. He was still fully dressed, his prick jutting from his trousers, rampant and flushed with blatant arousal. He did not seem angry, and I was thankful for this. I was sure he knew how difficult the past few days had been for me, and he was not an unreasonable man.

He gestured for me to resume my position against the wall, my hands braced, my head bowed. I shivered as he drew his belt from the loops of his trousers. My Master thrashed me with the belt, striking my shoulders and back as well as my buttocks, though not a single blow fell in a place that would cause me actual harm. Had I not been in a state of near-euphoria, it would likely have been extremely painful, as the caning had been three days ago. I certainly felt it, even through the buzzing of my nerves. Some of the blows were very forceful and I groaned as I submitted to them.

By the time he was done, I was once again profoundly aroused by the intensity of his punishment. I shuddered, my body slick with sweat, and panted harshly. "Now," he said, leaning in to speak quietly and fervidly in my ear, "I'm going to have my satisfaction and you are going to hold off until I give you explicit orders to finish. That will not be today."

I was barely able to remain on my feet due to exhaustion and a painfully euphoric delirium, but I nodded. "Yes, Master," I gasped. I would obey him, no matter how difficult it was. I would please him, I would give him satisfaction, and he would forgive me for what I had done to him.

When he took me, it was as rough as the beating had been. I needed it desperately. He used my body ruthlessly, supporting my weight with his arms wrapped about me, hands on my shoulders to give him more leverage for his deep, nearly brutal thrusts. I could only grunt with the force of his prick pounding into me. His breath was harsh in my ear and I shuddered when his hips twisted, dragging his cock across my prostate in an arc that shot an electric fire through me. I tried to dig my fingers into the unyielding plaster of the wall. "Yes, yes," I groaned, wanting more.

He bit down on my shoulder at my words, coming off within me with a violent shudder. We both sagged slowly to the floor, trembling, my body still held in his close embrace. Breathless, he asked, "Are you all right, Reg?"

I nodded, waiting until I could form words again. "Y-yes, Bertram."

We slumped against the wall and he held me, nuzzling my sweat-dampened face as he curled around my body, raising one shaking knee. "I was awfully rough on you."

I let my head rest on his shoulder, one hand on his heaving chest. "It was magnificent," I whispered, beginning to feel some hint of the pain that would no doubt be my companion for some time.

He cupped my cheek in one hand and raised my face, making me look at him. "You're sure?"

"I'm certain," I answered, my voice still rough and a little breathless. "I will admit, obedience was... very difficult."

"You have to be punished for what you did to me, Reginald," he said, his voice soft. "If it were easy, it wouldn't be a very good punishment, would it?" He sounded as though he were attempting to convince himself as much as me.

"No, Master," I agreed, not happy to be punished, but entirely willing to be his slave, with everything that entailed. "It would not."

He kissed me, his mouth cold and dry from his panting. I rested my head on his shoulder once more; every time I tried to move, my muscles would begin trembling again. "I love you, you know."

My eyes closed and I murmured to him, "Take me to you, imprison me, for I, except you enthrall me, never shall be free, nor ever chaste except you ravish me."

His breath caught and he clutched me to him desperately, burying his face in my hair. I could feel him shaking as he held me tightly. With some effort, I raised a hand and covered one of his, squeezing it with what strength I could summon. We stayed like that for some time, until our trembling stopped. Eventually, he spoke. "You should get up so I can have a look at you."

I nodded. "Yes, Master." He helped me to my feet, as I was still somewhat unstable and growing slightly stiff now that my euphoria was abating. Passing one hand down my back, he looked me over.

Bertram sighed. "You've got some bruises here. What's that smelly stuff you put on me if I pull a muscle when I'm playing tennis or something?"

"Liniment," I said. "There is an amber bottle of it in the medicine chest in the bathroom, Master." I considered objecting, but I knew I was going to be aching soon, and there was no particular reason beyond sheer stubbornness for me to torture myself if he had no wish for me to be in pain.

"Here," he said, bringing me to the bed. "Lie down. I'll get it." I lay prostrate upon the bed, aware of the deep ache beginning to manifest in my muscles. Bertram returned after a moment and I could smell the oily substance when he opened the bottle. Before he did anything else, he gave me a glass of water, and I drank. He then spent quite some time applying the liniment to my back and my buttocks, where he had previously applied his belt. His hands were gentle and warm and I relaxed beneath them, resting with my eyes closed, still feeling as though I were floating. When he was done, he spread a blanket over me. I looked up at him, curious.

"You lie here for an hour or so. There's no pressing business, and I just want you to rest for a bit, all right?" He looked vaguely anxious.

"I'm all right, Bertram," I insisted, "but I will rest if it is your wish."

"It is," he said, "and see to it that you do. You may read if you like, but you're not to be up and biffing about the place working for at least an hour. Tea can wait."

I raised an eyebrow, slightly affronted. "Tea should never be delayed, sir."

He snorted. "It will be today, Reginald."

"Yes, Master." He leaned down and trailed his fingers over my cheek. They smelled strongly of liniment and his touch tickled a bit. Bertram departed and I lay there for several minutes just allowing myself to take an inventory of my body's condition. The liniment had helped, though it was quite strongly scented. I would need to shower before I put my uniform back on, or the oils would soak into the cloth and permeate it with the medicinal scent. That would be unacceptable. Overall, I would be stiff and sore for a day or two, but I could feel that no actual damage had been done. Given my reaction to the roughness of our intercourse, I suspected I would like having Bertram do this to me from time to time just for its erotic value. I was uncertain how he would react to a request for it, though. He had seemed somewhat worried by the whole event.

With a sigh, I tugged at the bottom drawer of the bedside table, where we kept some of the licentious literature we sometimes read; it was not a particularly secure place, but Bertram was unlikely to have anyone search his flat for such things. Very few of his friends ventured into his bed chamber and, thankfully, none of those were prone to rummaging through his drawers or wardrobe. My hand found a volume and I withdrew it. It was the book Bertram had brought back from France that had set us on this path. Tucking pillows under my chest to prop me up, I opened the book to the story that had so profoundly both disturbed and aroused me.

Now that I had experienced what it was to be Bertram's sexual slave, the tale had lost a great deal of its power to unsettle me. I still found it deeply arousing, but some scenes were now completely transformed within my imagination. One violent scene, in particular, stood out as having an entirely different weight and meaning than I had previously understood. The Master in the story, the improbably-named Lord Addersting, was a considerably more sadistic man than my Bertram, and young Albert, the slave, was far more histrionic than I would ever be. This had created a disturbing illusion of violence and even rape. Yet, perceiving it through the lens of having just experienced a very similar moment of intense power that had tangled discipline, pain, and overwhelming pleasure, I suddenly realized that everything in the tale had occurred with Albert's full and willing consent. His cries of pain and pleasure were like my own, his desires to please and obey, just as deep.

I stared at the words on the page, breathless with my revelation. What had happend therein was not arbitrary, nor even particularly cruel; it was a punishment for disobedience, as I had just suffered. There was no love between the protagonists of the story that I could recognize, but there was certainly a powerful and compelling erotic attachment between them. Master and slave needed one another if they would have the intensity of carnal experience they sought. I cast a glance over my shoulder toward the bedroom door, knowing that Bertram was just beyond it, very likely in the sitting room reading. I wondered if it was like this for him, as well.

Sighing, I put the book back into the drawer. Yet again, Bertram had given me a great deal to think about.

***

I watched Jeeves the rest of that day. He shimmered about the place looking slightly pained and moving a bit stiffly, but otherwise everything seemed entirely oojah-cum-spiff in the Wooster abode. He'd told me when we started into this whole thingummy that he'd tell me if he thought I'd taken things too far, but I wasn't sure that he really would, particularly now, when he was trying to set things right between us after what he'd done. I felt like one of those circus chaps that Catsmeat has been known to keep company with, balancing on a wire far too high up a pole, without one of those bouncy nets beneath to catch me if I fell, or even a pool of water to keep me from going splat on the pavement.

I had liked it, laying into Jeeves like that. It wasn't about anger, because I hadn't been at all angry with him when I'd done it. A bit disappointed, perhaps, but I had to admit I'd been expecting him to stumble and fall eventually. It was part of the point, really. He wasn't actually perfect and he had to realize that. He could make mistakes, and those mistakes had to be remedied in some way, particularly when they were m.s that had hurt me so terribly as that whole business with Darren. No, I had liked it because it got my blood up, thoroughly stirred and a bit fizzy, like a soda siphon in spring, when a young chap's fancy turns to things he fancies.

What was even more bothersome was how much I'd enjoyed taking my man so roughly afterwards. He'd said he enjoyed it. Actually, he called it magnificent, which wasn't a word one used when one was feeling a bit half-hearted about a thing. It's never "that was a magnificent cup of watery, lukewarm coffee," or "the way you gouged out my eyeball with that golf club was magnificent," after all. No, one damns such things with faint praise. One allows the hint of a suggestion that they might be slightly substandard. Jeeves doesn't go about calling things magnificent lightly. I'd rarely heard the word pass his lips, in fact. Yet what kind of a man did that make me, wanting to rough him up and enjoying buggering him with an enthusiasm that bordered on violent? I shivered a little as I contemplated the whole wretched mess.

This whole Master wheeze was a bit of a puzzle. The way it made me feel was more intoxicating than an entire block of New York speakeasies. I didn't usually come across a sitch where I felt at all powerful or in charge, even though Jeeves was my employee and technically was supposed to do what I told him. I mean to say, that had never worked very well. He always got his way eventually. Yet here, in this, he was mine in a way that nothing else ever had been. That feeling of owning him was heady stuff and it had got down in my bones and warmed me through. What he'd said this afternoon, about wanting me to imprison him, to enthrall and ravish him, it was the real tabasco. I thought maybe it was too much, but I had to have it; I had to have him. More than that, I had to do that enthralling and ravishing bit.

He was contrite, I could tell, but I still felt like something was missing. I wasn't sure he quite followed just how hurt I was, or the tears I'd shed over the thought that I'd lost him. Just telling him hadn't really done much. I knew he felt things, and pretty deeply, but the fish-fed brain was what ruled him, and I wasn't much of a match in that department. Until I could wedge that soppy emotional stuff I felt around the whole mess into him somehow, I wasn't sure I'd be able to really forgive him for it. It made me feel petty, but I supposed I was sometimes. I knew I had a few flaws of my own, and Jeeves liked to point them out to me, usually with a chilly yet well-placed 'indeed, sir.' He was entirely too good at the c. yet w.-p. i. s.'s for my liking. Frost often developed about his feet when he deployed them.

Jeeves's frost seemed to stop dead, though, when I used one particular word. I'll admit to having been afraid of it at first, given that it was packed to the gills with several tons of dynamite, sloshed with about a gallon of nitroglycerine, and topped with a Christmas cracker. Calling a chap one's slave carried a frightening amount of responsibility, not to mention being tab-something. That forbidden thingummy that's a bit scary and dangerous and possibly polynesian. It did something rummy to both of us. He got wide-eyed and breathless, and I felt like I actually knew what I was doing. Astonishing, really, considering I usually didn't. Know what I was doing, I mean. It was like Aladdin mumbling 'open sesame' at a brick wall -- pure magic.

I was less afraid of it now, having used it a few times and seen its absolutely topping results, but I still worried about abusing the whole thing. I could say I liked it but the truth was, I loved what it did to my man. He was still just as brainy and Jeevesian as ever, but when I said that word and he gave in to me, it was like something inside me went all melty. The Wooster exterior, however, could at the same time become chilled steel, as was befitting a chap like Bertram when he was being masterful. I reveled in having a strong, powerful, entirely self-possessed cove like Jeeves submit to me like that. I could order him to do this or that, and he did, without the slightest hint of soup being slung about. It thrilled me like nothing else. It was that thrill that sparked the worry, you see. I knew I could get completely sucked into it if I didn't watch myself, and I didn't want to venture into that hippogriff-laden territory. We were wandering past the far edge of the map already, and mythological beasts with aunt-like powers were absolutely not a part of the plan.

Hippogriffs notwithstanding, the evening was unremarkable. Jeeves bunged dinner before me and sat at my feet both during and after, as I liked. It was a pensive Bertram who stashed himself between the sheets, though. I snuggled up to Jeeves and he snuggled up to me and I gave him a warm, friendly labial press, which he returned with a gentle sort of gusto. "Are you sure you're all right, Reg? I haven't hurt you?" I asked.

He offered one of those tiny sighs he sometimes sighs and put on his 'I am being patient' look, pat. pending. "Bertram, while the stripes on my back and my posterior are painful and there is some bruising, you have not done me an injury. You've asked me several times, and I do wish you'd believe me when I answer you." He tucked a finger under my chin and made me look up at him. There was a vaguely embarrassed look on his dial. "In truth, I would not at all be averse to a repeat of the act from time to time." He shifted uncomfortably and his eyes tightened. "Not, however, tomorrow, please," he mumbled.

"You actually did like that thrashing."

He glowered a bit. "What can I do to convince you?"

"I'm not sure, really," I said, wishing I knew.

The nonplussed expression on his face lasted for a moment as he blinked, then he blushed furiously. "I want you to beat me, Master," he said, obviously struggling to get the words out, being such a proper chap most of the time. "With a cane, with your belt, with whatever implement that might strike your fancy. There is pain, but that pain arouses me in a very powerful way, and I need that. When you take me afterwards, the climax is invariably extremely intense and intoxicating. It is a visceral demonstration that you are my Master and I am your slave, and..." He glanced away, swallowing before he finished the sentence. "I need to know that you own me," he finished quietly.

"Oh. Right ho." There wasn't much one could say to a thing like that. I kissed him instead, which always seemed to work when Bertram was at a loss for words with his Jeeves.

When we made love that night, he did gently suggest that I not bugger him, as he was still a bit tender in the southerly regions; it was a more than reasonable request, considering how rough I'd been on him earlier. It was just us, though -- Bertram and Reg, not Master and slave, and that suited both of us. The only concession to that whole wheeze was the standing instruction that he not come off, but he seemed to take it with equanimity and said that he honestly did want to please me. I was a thoroughly jellified puddle of Bertram by the time he was done, so pleasing had definitely been accomplished.

***

The next morning, while I was mangling a kipper or two, Jeeves came shimmering in with the morning mail. He looked slightly uneasy as he proffered it to me, which was quite unusual. I mean to say, postal anything doesn't usually give the man pause. Well, I suppose if one were shipping live cobras or mambas or some other poisonous serpent that had been annoyed then left unfed for some days, and possibly unexpectedly shipped in a cardboard box, it might cause him to raise an eyebrow, but I'm certain he wouldn't pause at all.

"What is it, Jeeves?" I asked, setting the morning breakfast tray aside and peering up from within my cosy nest of pillows. "Do auntly horrors await me?" But no, auntly letters and telegrams didn't bring out that look on his phiz. "Or... oh dear, Reg, you haven't got bad news from your family, have you? Is someone ill? Or has there been an accident or something?"

He shook his head. "No, sir." He held the mail out to me. On top of the pile was a battered and torn envelope.

A battered and torn envelope addressed to Jeeves. From me. From Cannes. It looked like a chipmunk or gerbil had got at it. A disturbed and very hungry one, at that. At least the letter was still inside. God alone knows what might have happened if someone else had read it.

I took it from the stack of letters and held the bedraggled thing out to him. "Read it," I said.

"I-I should not, sir." Should not? Oh, no. He needed to see exactly what he'd done to me, what he'd reduced me to.

I gave him a frozen glare. "Read it, Reginald."

He took it from me, hesitant, then opened it carefully. The letter itself was more or less in one piece, though there was a tear in the middle along the crease and it was pretty badly crumpled. He unfolded the letter and the envelope fluttered to the floor. Completely forgetting himself, he sat on the edge of the bed, his face pale. I could see his hands trembling as he stared at the missive.

Jeeves looked over at me, looking absolutely stricken. "Sir, Bertram, I..." He swallowed, like he'd got something large and unpleasant in his throat. His breathing went all harsh and then caught. "Oh, God," he whispered. "You didn't... you didn't do anything, but..."

That was when the waterworks started. The chap has rarely shed even a single tear in my presence, so when he sniffled and several t.s made their presence known on the damask Jeevesian cheek, it was something of a shock. The Wooster words had obviously beaned him a good one. If he'd been pale before, he was absolutely ghostly now, and he slid off the bed to his knees. Shaking, he buried his face in his arms on the bed and at first I couldn't hear what he was saying, then I realized he was repeating, "Oh, my God," over and over, all choked up and, if the way his shoulders were jerking slightly was any indication, quietly sobbing as well. It was a heartrending picture. I had to admit I was moved.

I scooted over and slung the legs over the edge, sitting next to him. Carefully, worried that he might startle like a woodland fawn, I slipped my fingers into his hair. "Reginald."

He took a great, shuddering breath, obviously trying to pull himself together. A moment later, he looked up at me, his face wet. His eyes were red and considerably soggy. "What have I done to you?" he whispered.

"I would have crawled back to you," I said, still feeling a fair bit of the anger I'd had after that blasted bicycle ride. "I would have got on my knees in front of you and offered you every dashed thing in my possession. I would have wept for joy just to have one single word from you to let me know you still cared about me. And what did I get when I got home? You humiliated me and you sent me out on that bloody bicycle because you were too dashed proud to tell me what you thought was going on."

His eyes lowered again as I growled at him. He deserved to be growled at, I knew that much. He deserved to be sacked, really, but what I'd said to Ginger was true. I honestly couldn't live without him, and I knew he was doing everything I asked of him so that I'd forgive him. He just knelt there, silent, like he was waiting to have a few inches off the top by way of guillotine. "I still love you, Reg," I said.

He shook his head. "You shouldn't," he said, his voice rough as a box of very sharp rocks. "You hadn't done anything and you were still willing to... And then I..." His breath caught again and he choked back another quiet sob. Jeeves wiped his face with the palm of one hand. "No apology will ever be sufficient--"

"Reginald." He knelt there, silent and shaking, his face turned to the floor, looking resigned and slightly terrified. "Now you know," I said. "Now you know just how dashed much you hurt me, and what I would do keep you. A Wooster has his pride, but I would have given all of it and anything else you asked, so long as you would stay with me. I know you have your pride too, but you were wrong, Reg. You thought you knew everything and you weren't even willing to talk to me to see if you were right. That has to end. You have to talk to me, even if you don't really want to. Our pride just isn't worth losing what we have together. We can't let it come between us."

Jeeves nodded, slightly calmer now but still trembling a bit. "I don't deserve to be your slave, Master. I-I should offer my resignation. You shouldn't be required to suffer my presence."

I hadn't expected that, though it was a comfort to see that he finally understood how I'd felt. "You don't get to make that decision. A slave can't resign his position. I own you, remember?"

My answer was a whispered and truly abashed, "Yes, Master." I knew he needed something to reassure him a bit, but I couldn't really be too kind right now or I didn't think the lesson would stick. Being too kind wouldn't let me feel like I'd got what I needed from this, either. I figured giving him an order that showed I still wanted him would do.

"I will not have your resignation, slave. What I will have is my prick in your mouth."

He gave a little shiver and finally raised his eyes to look at me. "Yes, Master." He was hesitant but hopeful, and his hands were at my pyjama flies almost before he'd finished saying it. He didn't say anything else for quite some time, as he was a bit busy sucking me until my brain leaked out my ears.

***

After Bertram dressed, he said that he had a number of things he wished to do that day and that he would be back in time for dinner; when he left, he stopped at the door and put an arm about my waist, kissing me gently. I still felt broken after reading the letter he'd sent me from Cannes. I could barely focus. I tried to work on some of the mending that had accumulated recently but I was so unsteady that I pricked myself several times and had to stop. There was marketing to do, and I had to deal with the clean laundry, but if I was pricking myself with the mending, I was certain to scorch something -- quite possibly myself -- if I attempted to use an iron. I decided to walk down to the Junior Ganymede for an hour or so, hoping John would be there. I needed to talk, and he was the only person I could possibly speak to about this.

I must have looked a fright, because the young page who took my jacket and bowler was trying very hard to look like he was not staring at me. "Is Mr Barbel in the club at the moment?" I asked.

He nodded. "Mr Barbel came in about fifteen minutes ago, Mr Jeeves. I believe he's in the library."

"Thank you, Carriston."

The policy in the library was silence, so we would not be able to speak there, but it would be easy enough to extract John from his reading. I entered quietly and approached him, announcing my presence with a soft cough. He turned to me, the welcoming smile on his face melting away sharply when he looked at me. He stood and I followed him from the room; he did not ask what I wanted, but simply led me up to the Red Room and locked the door behind us.

"Good God, Reg," he said as I sagged -- gingerly, as my backside was still tender -- into a chair, "what's happened?" He hovered near me, uncertain.

"I've made the most horrifying mistake of my life," I murmured. I buried my face in my hands.

He laid a hand on my shoulder. "I'm sorry, Reg. I wish you'd listened to me. I wish you'd never started down that path with him. It was sure to lead to your ruin." I should have known he would make incorrect assumptions based upon our last contact.

"No." I shook my head. "You don't understand." I looked up at him, feeling nothing but anguish. "We were wrong, John. Bertram hadn't done anything."

He blinked, shocked. "What? You can't be serious. I saw--"

"You know the kinds of things that happen around him, how women throw themselves at him without his ever doing anything to encourage them. How people always seem to mistake his intent. I'd never thought that a man would do the same."

"Good Lord. Are you certain? He's not lying about it?"

"No. I know when he's lying, John. He is entirely transparent; he's never been able to lie to me." John sat in the chair next to me. Taking a breath, I told him everything that had happened at Lord Worplesdon's home that we had not been privy to -- what Lord Hubberly had done, what Bertram had told me about Lady Winifred and her circumstances, and about Mr Cheesewright's threats. I spoke of my own arrogance in assuming I knew what had occurred, and my injured pride that had caused me to refuse to simply ask Bertram directly.

"That... that would explain a number of things that have been confusing to me about the household," John admitted. "I told you to confront him, Reg. It could have saved you a good deal of pain. But that was months ago. Surely that's behind you. Why are you upset now?"

"The initial problem was the result of my arrogant pride, but that was not the worst of it," I said. "When we got home from Bumpleigh Hall, he asked me to go to Cannes with him. He wanted to repair things between us, but I refused. I thought you were right, that he had been conducting an affair behind my back and that, since we had entered into this altered state of our understanding, he did not believe it was wrong for him to do so." John nodded, silent, waiting for me to continue. I told him of the painful two-month silence between us while he was away, of my anger and jealousy, of Bertram's return, and of the circumstances at Brinkley Court, including the bicycle ride and Bertram's cold fury. John was shaken by what I told him, but I was not finished. I pulled Bertram's letter from my pocket and handed it to him. "He mailed this to me from Cannes, John. It only arrived today. Not only was he innocent, he was willing to do... anything to have me take him back. He apologized, having no idea what he could possibly have done to offend me or why I was treating him so coldly. He returned home thinking I had ignored his abasing himself to me, and that I then went on to punish him further at Brinkley."

He read it, barely breathing. John went pale and looked up at me, deeply disturbed. "Oh, God, he's sacked you over the whole thing, hasn't he? I'm so sorry. This is my fault, Reg, I--"

"John," I said, halting his apology, "he hasn't."

He stared at me, silent, for a very long time. Finally, he took shook his head. "He hasn't sacked you. After all this." He held the letter up. I could hear the disbelief in his voice.

I shook my head. "I deserve nothing less, but no. I offered him my resignation in a feeble attempt at compensation and apology but he refused it."

"Any other man would curse you and see to it that you'd never work again," he said. "Reg, I... I have done an immense injustice to both of you. I'm sorry that I didn't believe you when you told me that he was different and that he loved you; he surely must. I'm sorry that I encouraged you to think the worst of him and to leave him. More than anything else, I'm sorry that I thought you were wrong when you gave yourself to him like that. If he's kept you after this..."

"I am... being disciplined for my trespasses," I said.

He exhaled heavily, deflating. "Burn this," he said, handing the letter back to me. "Burn it here, now. With your names on it, it's absolutely damning. If anyone ever finds it, it'll be the ruin of both of you."

I looked down at the sheet of paper in my hand. If I kept it, Bertram's words would remind me never to be such an arrogant fool again.

John took an ash tray from the sideboard and brought it to me. "Don't hesitate in this, Reg. You know that this would be prison for both of you, and he'd never survive that. The man's too pretty and too delicate. He wouldn't last a month."

It was an argument that I could not answer. I could never risk him like that, not for anything. To do so would be yet another inexcusable act of blind arrogance on my part, putting myself before my Master. Nodding, I crumpled the paper and put it in the ash tray. With unsteady hands, I took out my lighter and set it ablaze. It was gone in only a moment. John stirred the ashes, ensuring that not even a shadow of the words remained.

"That may be the wisest thing you've done in some time," he said.

"I don't deserve him," I whispered. "He shouldn't love me so."

"But he does, that's obvious now. And you'd best find a way to live up to that, my friend. If he's kept you after all this, I can't see him ever letting go of you."

"He's angry. He may never forgive me."

"As long as he's not thrown you out, you have a chance. Carpe diem, Reg. Don't just wait on it, give him a reason to forgive you. He wants to, very much, or you'd not still be with him." John set the ash tray down and crouched before me, one hand on my knee. "You have to prove to him that he can trust you again. If I understand your relationship with him correctly, I suspect you're also going to have to prove that your desire to serve him is more important to you than anything else."

I stared at the floor as I considered his words. Through everything, even in that blissful place where I could allow my Master anything, my desire had been for him to satisfy my needs. Although this had brought me a great deal of physical pleasure, it had also conflicted deeply with my emotional need to serve him, to give him everything; that need had sparked a fear that I would lose myself entirely in his service. Yet, despite everything that had happened, he had never attempted to constrain my daily actions in regard to maintaining the household, or in my private life on my own time. Had he intended to take away my autonomy, he would certainly have tried to do so after this egregious sin against him.

I had imagined that having my needs fulfilled and serving him as his slave were mutually exclusive states of being. The absolute horror I had experienced in knowing how deeply and senselessly I had hurt him, and how willing he had been to offer me everything if I would only return his love, had placed me in a position for John's words to affect me very powerfully. These needs were not magnetic poles, ever pushing one another away. They were the obverse and reverse of a coin, inextricably linked.

For years, serving him had been an act of love, even if it were sometimes grudgingly given. My search for perfection in my work as a servant had always been a part of my nature, and it had come to its natural culmination in my service to Mr Wooster. Truly being my Master's slave would not be the loss of myself that I so feared, it would be a fulfillment of everything I was, everything I had striven for in my life, and an embodiment of my profound love for him; that service was the true root of my pleasure, both physical and emotional. In denying my sexually submissive nature and my need to give myself completely into his keeping, I had wounded both of us, almost beyond healing. For the first time, I felt my way was clear before me.

"You're right, John. I've had it all backwards," I said. "All this time, I've been going about it the wrong way."

His brow wrinkled in his confusion. "I don't understand."

"I'm not certain I could explain it in a way that would make sense to you," I said, finally feeling some genuine hope. "There are a number of complications beyond just my need to submit to him sexually. Suffice it to say that you have given me the key to everything. This... this could be my salvation."

"That seems a bit extreme, my boy."

I shook my head. "No. In light of everything that has happened these past few months, it is simply a reframing of the question in a way that suddenly allows everything to make sense to me."

John sighed. "If this is truly what you want, Reg, then I think you've actually given your soul to the right man. I would never have thought young Wooster had that kind of genuine nobility in him, but if everything you've said is true, it's the only possible explanation. For a servant to want to be submissive to his employer in this way would ordinarily only result in destruction for the servant; Wooster's refraining from taking some kind of cruel retribution in this situation offers the most incisive possible commentary on the kindness and essential decency of his character."

"I can only strive to deserve his love. I used to believe he was dim, John, and an easily manipulated fool, but he has more kindness and decency in him than any dozen of his peers. Please, don't ever let me forget that."

He moved from his crouch to kneel on one knee, putting an arm about my shoulders. "I'll do my best, Reg. If you think you can trust me after I so wrongly pushed you to believe he was becoming involved with Lord Hubberly, I'll do everything in my power to maintain that trust and to be here for you. I'm so sorry for my part in this misunderstanding. I should have trusted your opinions. You're not the only fool in the room, my friend."

"You were just trying to take care of me in a situation like many that you had previously seen fail."

"It's true. That doesn't excuse my ignoring your insistence that Wooster wouldn't do that to you. You know the man far better than I."

"We've had enough recriminations for one day, John. I've seen the depth of my folly. Now I must put my efforts into repairing what I've broken. I love him, John, and I have to prove that to him all over again. I only hope I'm equal to that task."

He smiled at me, gently. "If anyone is, it will be you."

***

I'd biffed off early in the day, going hither and thither with several specific goals in mind. I had a number of things to purchase for tonight and tomorrow and, if all went well, for later, too. A few of them had been a bit difficult to come by without arousing any suspicions. I'd found myself a bit ghoulishly heartened by Jeeves's distress over the letter from Cannes. I supposed it meant that he really was horrified by what he'd done, and that he had honestly got some fragmentary hint of what I'd gone through when I thought I'd lost him. It left me much kindlier disposed toward him, and believing that we might actually salvage our relationship and the love we'd once had for each other.

I still loved him absolutely madly. That, more than anything else, drove me in all this. I loved him, and he still seemed quite desperate to serve me. I wasn't about to run the majority of his life. I wasn't that much of an idiot. But if this was going to work between us, I needed his obedience and his submission in our most private affairs. When I'd given him permission to do anything necessary to get me out of engagements, I hadn't meant he could go to the extreme of risking my life. Thankfully, he was beginning to seem properly chastised.

But, as I'd said, there still seemed to be something missing. I felt like there was still some bit of him that thought this was a game, like a tennis match or a spot of darts, that was designed for me to provide him with pleasure. That bit had to end. While I was glad the thrashing hadn't really hurt him, the fact that it gave him intense pleasure didn't seem to be quite what I was looking for in re the whole disciplinary wheeze. I hoped that the letter had finally flipped some switch for him, but I wouldn't know until I saw how he reacted when I got home and actually expected service from my slave.

If his attitude hadn't changed, I'd keep him suffering without letting him come off for as long as necessary to emphasize my authority. He hadn't seemed inclined to disobey when I told him he wasn't to do so without my permission. Last night's incident had seemed more accidental than anything else. I got a bit over-enthusiastic and he'd not been expecting it. He'd popped like a balloon and, by the time I'd realized what was happening, it was too late to stop the whole thing. I had to be more careful in how I pushed him to the edge. That, I had decided, would be my project for the night.

I will admit that I found a great deal of pleasure in teasing Jeeves. I enjoyed taking him to the edge and watching him struggle to obey me when he so desperately needed to fall. There was something so raw in it, so powerful. I loved that look of mingled pleasure and pain that blossomed on his face when I told him to hold back when he was about to come off. I would never have thought such a thing could give me that kind of enjoyment in much the same way that I'd never suspected that being rough with my lover would be so exciting for both of us. If that made me sadistic, then I supposed I was, but at least I wasn't actually hurting him, and he appeared to enjoy it when all was said and done.

He wasn't home when I got back, but that was all right. It gave me time to put some things in convenient places, and to hide one particular item where I didn't think he would find it. That, I was saving for when I thought we'd finally managed to put ourselves back on the right path. I couldn't give it to him before I had forgiven him; it was something that had to be reserved for once we'd made things right again.

Jeeves finally arrived a little after teatime; I'd told him I would be out until dinner, so that wasn't a problem. "I am sorry, sir," he said. "I was unaware you had returned home." He looked rather better than he had when he'd left. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad one. One can't really tell with these things. It could have been that he'd just decided it wasn't worth it to try to work things out with me, or it could have been that he'd given that letter a dashed large portion of thought, finally realized what it all meant, and was now applying that great fish-fed brain to the problem. I'll admit that I hoped for the latter.

I followed him into the kitchen, where he began putting away the foodstuffs. There were vegetables and whatnot, and he busied himself with his tasks as he always did. "I, er, what did you do with the letter, Reg?" I asked him.

He paused for a moment, set down the head of cauliflower, and turned to me. "After I had given it sufficient contemplation, sir, I burnt it. To keep it in my possession as a reminder of my folly would have been far too dangerous to you." He looked quite contrite.

"You actually thought about keeping that bally thing?" I wanted to know what he'd been thinking. The thing was dynamite. It could have bunged both of us in chokey just by existing. I'd been a fool to write the blasted thing in the first place, but I seem to be rather good at the whole being a fool wheeze.

He lowered his eyes as he spoke to me. "I must admit, the thought did cross my mind for a few moments. To keep it and read it on occasions when I might otherwise be inclined to arrogance would have been a sovereign cure, sir. I could not possibly read the words without knowing what I had caused you to suffer at my hands. Yet even that reminder would not be worth endangering you; if it ever somehow fell into the hands of anyone unscrupulous, it could do irreparable harm to you and to your reputation. I will not be responsible for you being disgraced or imprisoned, sir. I have already utterly failed you and caused you far more pain than you have ever deserved. I shall never do so again." He looked up and met my eyes for a moment before looking away again. "I would rather die than hurt you like that again, Bertram," he said, his voice soft but intense.

I nodded. "Thank you, Reg. It's a weight off my mind, burning that thing." That was certainly a relief, knowing the blasted thing was no longer of this world. "I don't know what I was thinking, writing it."

"You were thinking that I was being cruel and unreasonable. I was." He finished putting things away as I sat at the kitchen table, then came and knelt before me, looking entirely humbled. "I can never offer you sufficient redress for the wrong I have done you, Master. I know that. But as long as you will suffer my presence in your home, I will do everything in my power to make amends. I shall serve you faithfully until the end of my days if you will allow it."

It was a pretty hefty statement. Jeeves sounded like he was being crushed under the weight of it, and it was a bit painful to see a proud and dignified chap like him brought so low. While he didn't look like there would be tears in his e.s again anytime soon, I could hear them still hanging about inside him, like juvenile delinquents on a street corner, just waiting for a chance to mug him. This Wooster is not a cruel man; I was moved by the whole thing. My heart went out to him. So did my hand, which found itself in his glossy, brilliantined hair. He didn't move, simply staying where he was with his head bowed, my fingers going for the tender caress.

"Come here, love," I said. He moved a little closer and I urged him near and let him put his arms about my waist, holding him to me and letting him rest his head in my lap. Jeeves knelt there silently, clinging with just a tiny hint of desperation as I petted him. I was that much closer to forgiving him, just looking at him like this. I was pretty sure he really meant all of it. I knew he was good at that prevari-thingummy -- it's not exactly a lie but more manipulating the truth -- but all of this felt one hundred percent genuine. I was willing to follow the whole thing where it led. I did still love him, after all, despite feeling a bit cautious in the face of what had happened.

***

I didn't let Jeeves sit at my feet during dinner. I supposed it was more of that reinforcing stuff I'd wanted to do, making him think about all he'd done and what this whole wheeze might mean to him if he didn't have it. He'd hesitated at first, when I didn't tell him to sit with me, but he retreated to the kitchen between courses as he used to before we'd changed the way things happened at chez Wooster, with a look of mild worry on his face that on anyone else might have been wide eyes and flared nostrils. I had plans for after dinner and didn't want to let him get any hint of it; sending him off to the kitchen was the best way for me to keep it under my hat.

The post-prandial gasper and glass of b. and s. were quite satisfactory and I spent a little time banging out a few cheerful tunes at the piano. Jeeves lurked uneasily in the background, surely wondering what was going on in the Wooster onion. Finally being able to have the man guessing, instead of ten steps ahead of me, had me considerably chuffed. It's not everyone who can get one over on Jeeves, after all. I had a final gasper, then headed into the bedchamber a bit earlier than usual. Jeeves shimmered in after me, looking like he rather expected me to pull a fast one on him. It was the hint of anxiety about his eyebrows, I think.

"Off with the outer crust, Reginald," I told him; the order seemed to ease his mind a bit, as some of the tension in his shoulders went away. While he was turned away from me, I pulled four cheerfully colored and deliberately mismatched ties out of the wardrobe where I'd stowed them. On their own, any of them might have barely passed Jeevesian muster but, together, they were a bit of an eyesore even to me. I popped over to stand by the bed and he looked at me. His eyes widened slightly as he took in the colors. He looked up at me. "On your back on the bed," I said.

He looked at me again, but did as I'd told him. "Master, surely you're not going to--"

"Remarkably cheerful, aren't they, Reginald? Lovely, bright things." His lower lip trembled slightly. I tied one around one of his ankles and secured it to the bed. It was a brilliant chartreuse. His unspoken distress was plain on his face. "Now, Reginald, I never tell you what to wear with your uniform or when you're off on holiday, do I?"

He shook his head. "No, Master." He started going slightly puce when I wrapped the cerise one about his other ankle. The crimson, which clashed admirably with the cerise, I used on his wrist on the same side.

"I think I should have the right to decide what you wear when I want to play with you, though."

His shaky, "Very good, Master," was ripe with undertones of horrified 'you cannot be serious about this, Bertram.' Serious, however, is exactly what young Bertram was. I tucked a couple of pillows under his head and back so that he'd be able to watch me before I tied his final wrist with the salmon tie. He closed his eyes and manfully stifled a whimper.

"Oh, that's lovely," I said. He couldn't even reply to my assertion; it was entirely too far beyond the pale for him to agree and I knew he wasn't going to contradict me at the mo. I barely managed to refrain from a spate of rather wicked laughter. I knew how much it pained him, without harming him in the least. This was probably far more painful to him, actually, than the thrashing I'd given him last night. Much more satisfying as a punishment, too, making him wear the sorts of things that he'd forbid me, even if this wasn't exactly in public.

Come to think of it, I might just make him wear that cerise tie the next time I have company. It would certainly make the man squirm to be seen like that. Probably even more than having Ginger see him naked had.

"Comfy?" I asked him. I ran one hand up his side as he opened his eyes to look at me.

"Physically or psychologically, Master?" he grumbled.

At that, I couldn't help a chuckle. "Physically, love."

"Yes, Master. I am not uncomfortable." He was, however, quite glorious, all stretched out like that. I leaned down and sucked on one nipple. He gave a small, breathy sigh.

"Just relax," I told him.

"Yes, Master." He shifted a little bit, then settled in.

"You remember the rule."

"I am not to come off unless you expressly order it, Master." There was a look in his e. that suggested he was more comfortable with the idea than he had been before.

"Good. Lovely. Quite right." I kissed him -- a slow, deep thing that eventually had him breathless and a bit jellified, except for the portion of his anatomy that I wanted to stiffen up a bit. That, happily, was doing exactly what I wanted. I played with it with my fingertips for a few moments before bending down to lick up the little drop of fluid that had gathered there. His breath caught, but he remained pretty well relaxed. I kicked off my shoes and curled up on the bed at his hip, running my hand up and down his belly and chest for a while, like one might do with a sleepy dog or a contented cat in the sunlight. I'd occasionally reach up and squeeze on a nipple or use my nails on his sides, which would make him shiver a little.

When he'd relaxed enough that his eyes were closed and he was just lying there with his prick jutting up, content for me to touch him as I pleased, I got into the bottom drawer of my wardrobe, where I'd hidden the thingummy I'd planned to use on him tonight. It had taken several discreet inquiries and a bit of dashing about outside of my usual environs to find. The thing was largeish and made of dark, polished wood. It was shaped like a rather substantial prick, though not too much bigger than my own, and it had something of a handle on it so I could get it into him fairly far without losing my grip on it. I brought out the little jar of petroleum jelly we used as well, and slathered the thing down generously. He was still lying there, thoroughly relaxed, when I knelt back on the bed.

"Just stay relaxed," I told him. He nodded and took a breath, letting it out slowly; when I started to press the thing into him, though, and he realized it wasn't my prick, his eyes shot open and he looked down at me. "It's all right, Reginald. It's not so big you can't take it."

He nodded. "Yes, Master." At that, he deliberately relaxed again and let me push it into him in one long, slow thrust. His eyes closed and he let out a soft breath of a moan. His prick quivered as I moved the thing inside him carefully.

"How's that?" I asked him.

"Chilly, Master," he said. "It feels... unusual."

"Fair enough. It should warm up in a bit." I slid it slowly in and out of him until his body began to move a little, his head rolling slowly back and forth on the pillow, unable to stay still against the pleasure of it all. His breathing quickened a bit and his nipples were dark, tight little peaks on his chest. He was absolutely beautiful like this and I wished I could have one of those French picture cards of him, spread out and so completely wanton.

"It's so hard," he whispered. "It feels so good." I smiled and gave the thing a little twist and he groaned aloud, gasping. Licking his lips, he looked up at me. "Does my pleasure please you, Master?" he asked.

My prick was already almost as hard as the wood in my hand, but his unexpected question shot through me like I'd stuck a finger in an electrical socket. "Yes," I whispered, and my voice was rough and dark and a little more dangerous than I would have believed. It pleased me immensely, and I knew that his being tied down and helpless was a part of that. He couldn't move, and his pleasure was entirely at my mercy. I leaned down and sucked his hard, leaking cock into my mouth, and he took a shuddering breath, his chest heaving, then he went still again except for a series of tiny shivers as my head moved slowly up and down, my lips and tongue teasing his length. I moved the wooden prick inside his body as I sucked him and he moaned again, quiet but intense.

"Thank you, Master, thank you," he murmured, his hips moving slightly. He couldn't move them much, given that he was tied down, but I let him do so. He'd started to pant, so speaking was a little bit of an effort for him. Hearing him thank me for this as I was giving it to him was another thing that made me feel powerful and in control of his body and his pleasure. Heady stuff, and I wanted more. I let my other hand run along his side and up his chest, just caressing him gently. I could feel the heat of him, and the way his skin was starting to slick just slightly with sweat.

I let his prick slip out from between my lips. "Do you want to come off, slave?" I asked him.

He looked up at me, his eyes dark and half-closed. "If..." He tried again to catch his breath. "If it would please you, Master," he said, panting slightly. "My pleasure is for you to give or deny. I-I have no desire but to serve you."

Good Lord. It was like a straight shot of bliss down the gullet, hearing those words. I felt almost tight from it, my head spinning pleasantly, and all that just from a few words. That was what I'd been waiting for; I knew it as soon as I heard it. Every other time we'd done this, he'd been wanting his own way, even as he called me his Master. I could see it in his eyes, that something had changed, that he wanted to serve me in any way I might want, rather than expecting me to bring him off by beating him or buggering him.

"That's perfect, Reginald," I whispered to him, leaning up to kiss him. He sighed into my mouth, looking pretty well under the surface himself. "Are you close?" I asked, still quiet, breathing into his mouth.

"Yes, Master," he replied, equally quiet, but without the desperate expectation I'd heard in his voice on the other occasions I'd asked him. He really did mean what he'd said, that his pleasure was mine to give or withhold. I quite nearly melted. I think that was the moment I forgave him for everything. I wasn't ready to let him come off tonight, but that complete willingness to give himself to me without reservation was what I had so badly needed. That was what had been missing all along.

"Be still," I told him, letting go of the wood in my hand.

Half gone, he nodded, settling his trembling body as best he could. I got up and stripped my clothes off, bringing him a glass of water. His mouth was very dry, and I lifted his head carefully so he could drink while he was still tied down. Setting the glass aside, I popped back onto the bed and settled myself on my knees between his thighs. I was just achingly hard from all of it.

"Can you see me clearly from there?" I asked.

He opened his eyes and nodded; they were dark with his need and arousal, and traced my body up and down. "Yes, Master."

"I want you to watch me," I said, taking myself in hand and giving myself a slow stroke.

His breath hitched. "Yes, Master." Clearly, this was pretty juicy for him; his eyes grew darker, which I hadn't actually thought possible. I looked down at him, bound and helpless in front of me, with that thick wooden cock pushed into his tight little hole, his prick standing away from his body like a pole, his dark nipples all peaked in the curls of his chest hair. Oh yes, it was the real tabasco, all right. We watched each other as I slowly pulled myself off, our breath growing more ragged as we both became more and more aroused. I could see how badly he needed to be taken, but he didn't ask, he just watched me, willing to let me make any decisions about what would happen to him. After ten or fifteen minutes of stroking my prick, faster or slower depending on how close I was getting to the edge, he was thoroughly gone. A small pool of thick, clear liquid had gathered beneath the tip of his prick on his belly, a thin thread of the stuff stretching from the heights to the depths. It glistened in the light of the bedroom lamp.

I was desperately close to coming off, and I could see that he was holding back with some difficulty, but he wasn't fighting the idea, just his own body. Leaning down, I sucked him in slowly to get a taste of him, the breaking strand of fluid cold upon my lip. He gasped and shuddered, whispering, "Oh, God, Master."

It was enough. I knelt up away from him again and, with a final couple of strokes, I came off quite furiously, my seed splattering on his prick and balls, some landing up on his belly as well, while a good bit of it dribbled south between his cheeks to drip slowly down either side of the wooden prick that was still firmly penetrating his tight entrance. Jeeves shuddered, gasping a few harsh breaths until he could control himself, but he didn't come off. It was near as a toucher, though, I could tell. I shivered my way through my finish and leaned down over him, straddling his waist, resting my weight on one hand as I held my prick in the other. When I finally managed to get myself together again, I kissed him quite thoroughly and he arched up into my kiss, moaning.

I very carefully slid the wooden prick from his body, tossing it on the floor, then let both of us calm down quite a bit, just holding him for a while, before I untied him. He was at half-mast when I freed his ankles, and I snuggled on him again for a few moments, then moved on to his wrists. "Are you all right, old thing?"

He was a little wobbly, but managed to get his arms around me, holding me close. "That was wonderful," he whispered, burying his nose in my hair and kissing my temple and my ear before moving on to my neck.

"When you have legs again, you should go clean things up, Reg." I kissed him again.

Once his lips were free, he smiled at me. "I shall do so momentarily, Bertram. But I might burn the ties. They are absolutely abominable."

"I couldn't advise it," I told him, giving him the gimlet eye. He blushed.

My sleep that night was absolutely top hole for the first time in months.

***

Even though I had not been allowed release, the complete and willing submission of my body and my desires to my Master's service had made that night one of the most profound sexual encounters I had ever experienced. He had kept me somewhat off-balance throughout the afternoon and evening with his actions and his conversation. I had not known what to expect, but I realized as I walked into the bedroom with him that I did not need to know. It was enough that I would serve him wholeheartedly. Anything he wanted, I would give him, anything he demanded, I would provide, any act he requested, I would perform. I would expect nothing -- not pleasure, not release, not forgiveness. Only my most impeccable service would remain.

I will admit to having been distressed by the ties he used to bind me. He had obviously chosen them with the express purpose of my discomfort in mind; the clashing colors were absolutely painful in a way that no thrashing could ever be. I endured them for his pleasure, difficult as it was, determined to fulfill my new resolve to serve him with all that I was. It was not that I had no preferences, but my determination was to let go of any expectations of exercising my own will when I acted as his slave. To be his slave was an act of love on my part and a slave could not choose what his Master should demand of him. Such choices were not a slave's to make. Certainly, I would prefer to be allowed my release, but my preference was immaterial. What my Master desired would be my desire. What pleased him would please me. I would give myself to him without reservation and not allow my fear of dissolution or loss of control to keep me from that surrender; this fear was what had nearly destroyed everything I held dear and I would not succumb to it again.

When he bound me, I meditated once again upon what I had realized during my conversation with John that morning. Expecting my Master to please me had been a terrible mistake. As his slave, I existed to please him and serve him; it was that I would focus upon, no matter what happened. My truest need was to be his slave and to give him the perfection of my service. Until my need for submission had become explicit, I had always loved serving him and had never been frightened by that. I needed to find that love within myself once again and to deepen it into something all-encompassing.

He treated me with gentleness that night. Being bound, I was able to simply accept his every touch. He teased and aroused me until I was hard for him, my body needy and wanting. I was conscious of his rising from the bed, but thought he was simply removing his clothing. When he began to press the large, cold dildo into my body, I tightened at first, startled. I looked down at him, but he assured me that it would not be too much for me to take. I had to trust him; not trusting him had been one of my primary errors. I let my body relax.

I was the instrument upon which he practiced his musical expertise. He played my body as though I were his piano, leaving me in a place of blissful, all-consuming need. When he twisted the toy within me, the jolt of pleasure was intense. In observing me, he looked as though he were the one being buggered into a state of near-ecstasy. "Does my pleasure please you, Master?" I asked, hardly able to breathe.

His 'yes' was dark and dangerous, and he leaned down to suck me, granting me more of that exquisite sensation; that I had pleased him made my heart soar. I gasped out my thanks, knowing that I was utterly at his mercy and wanting to remain there as his plaything. He asked me if I wanted to come off but, while I certainly felt the need, I honestly did not care whether he would allow it or not, so long as I pleased him, and I told him this. I had no will but to serve his needs, his wants, his smallest whim. Nothing else mattered. In being bound hand and foot and being taken in accordance with my Master's desires, which were completely beyond my control, I had found a sense of consummate, absolute freedom.

He kissed me, and my descent into slavery was complete. I was his, utterly and beyond question. I would do anything for him, suffer anything for him, give him anything, everything. I loved him and there was no sounding the depth of it; I would do so whether he ever forgave me or not.

I fought to maintain the control of myself he'd demanded as he pleasured himself before my eyes. He was beautiful in his ecstasy and I worshipped him with my perfect obedience. Holding back as he came off and his hot semen splashed across my body was a sharp, difficult moment, but I was floating with the pleasure that glowed on his face as he regarded me, pleased that I had done his will. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. Truly surrendering to him, being his unconditional slave, had brought me to this. Love, bliss, and service had become one.

***

I was in the midst of my morning bath when I heard the blasted doorbell. Thankfully, I'd already given Jeeves his morning diabolical tease, making him let me suck him as I nibbled a bit of breakfast. He stood by the side of the bed and I'd have a couple of bites then lean over and suck at him a bit then go back to having a bite or a sip of tea. He handled it gracefully, but he's Jeeves and he never does much of anything less than gracefully. In the midst of all that, I'd also told him that at some point today, I would probably allow him to come off, but I wasn't ready for that just then. He seemed a bit unsettled by the assertion but simply said, "As you wish, Master." I thought the anticipation would be good for his soul.

There were no visitors planned for the morning, so I had no idea who might be disturbing me at this ungodly hour when only the birds and Jeeves are cheerful. It was certainly too early for any of the Drones. Jeeves materialized next to the tub. "Mrs Travers is here, sir. She requests luncheon from you today, as she is spending the afternoon in London."

I glowered, feeling like I'd just been rained upon. "Can't she take luncheon with Aunt Agatha at her club or something?"

"Lady Worplesdon is not in London at the moment, sir. Mrs Travers is extremely insistent."

"Right," I grumbled, finishing the rinse of my hair before I stood to get out. "Hand me that towel, would you?"

"Of course, sir."

"And go tell the wrinkled relation I'll bung some lunch before her, but I have company coming later today and you have things to do before that happens. I won't have her here too long after she's strapped on the nosebag." He raised an eyebrow at that.

"Very good, sir." He paused a moment. "May I inquire as to the identity of your guest this afternoon?"

"Not right now, old thing. We'll deal with that once we've given the old bat the heave-ho."

"Very good, sir." He shimmered out but was back again once the drips and splashes were sopped from the Wooster corpus so that he could slap on the outer togs. I wore my salmon tie, the one I'd used on him last night. He squinted at it slightly. "That is not an advisable shade, sir," he said, his tone slightly soupy.

"I'll wear what I like today, Jeeves," I said. "We shall discuss your disagreement with my fashion sense later."

"Very good, sir." That one was more along the lines of 'go boil your head, Wooster.'

I followed him into the sitting room, where my Aunt Dahlia was occupying the chesterfield like a fox-hunting blight. "What ho, what ho, aged r.?" I said.

"Can't you speak like a normal person, Bertie?" she asked, glowering.

"You wanted luncheon? What brings you to the old metrop?" I sat in one of my comfier chairs.

"Tom. He's after another bit of silver."

My eyes narrowed. "I'm not stealing it."

She snorted. "I'm not asking you to, Attila."

"Nor am I denigrating it, observing it, evaluating it, tarnishing it, or offering it a polish in my kitchen."

She laughed. "Bertie, do stop that. I have a couple of hours at loose ends before Tom and I are off to visit friends in Hampstead. You'll mangle a spot of lunch with me and then I'll be off."

I gave her the chary eye. "And that's it? Nothing nefarious?"

"Not a scurrilous motive to be found, my young eyesore."

Given her promise not to entangle me in anything I would later regret, I relaxed a bit. "Jeeves, make free with the domesticated ungulates and slap something together for us, would you?"

"Very good, sir." He melted silently into the air to deal with kitchenry. I got myself down to a spot of convo with the auntly one.

While things went along reasonably swimmingly for a while, about halfway through the actual mastication portion of our activities, she felt it necessary to bring up the events of Brinkely Court viz. Bertram's most recent, and still painful, misadventure. "You were quite the sight, Bertie," she yowled. As I have said before, this aunt has a set of lungs like bagpipes, used to terrify the enemy in the heat of battle in ages past. "You looked bedraggled as a drowned Persian cat!"

"I would thank you not to remind me of my recent humiliation, Aunt Dahlia," I said, and I meant it to sting. Jeeves, who had come in to swap off the plates for a nibble of dessert, looked a bit distressed about the edges.

"Oh, really, Bertie. Must you be so blasted sensitive? You weren't to know the key was right there on the window sill the whole time."

"No, I wasn't," I growled. Jeeves shrank slightly, shimmering back into the kitchen with slightly less shimmer than usual.

She laughed. "It was absolutely the most hilarious thing I'd seen in ages!"

I glared at her with a look that could easily have incinerated the plaster of the wall behind her. "I fail to see what's so funny about sending me out into a miserable storm in the middle of the night in my pyjamas, without even a lamp to keep me from being struck by a passing lorry!" Jeeves crept into the room as I was railing at the aged r., looking like I'd snap his neck for him.

Aunt Dahlia looked down her nose at me. "I thought you had a sense of humor, young blot."

"Once, but no longer. It was washed away in that storm." I glared. "I'll thank you not to remind me of that particularly painful moment while you're under my own roof."

Her aspect turned to that of a displeased and possibly dyspeptic python. It about matched my mood. "I'll just finish my dessert and be off," she grumbled. I wasn't sure if she wasn't going to have another go at me, but she didn't. She was remarkably and pleasantly silent as she forked the bit of cake into her mouth and sipped the last of her coffee. With a final pat of her lips with the serviette, she stood. "I expect you to be a better host next time I'm in town, Bertie."

I stood with her and accompanied her to the door, where Jeeves handed the lesser dragon her things. "I would hope you'll be a better guest, Aunt Dahlia."

With a huff and a whiff of brimstone, she legged it.

The instant the door was closed, Jeeves was on his knees in front of me with his eyes down. "Master, please allow me to apologize again. I--"

I sighed and gave his hair a gentle brush with my hand. "You may have sent me off on that bicycle, Reginald, but you didn't summon Aunt Dahlia to the metrop like some genii from a lamp and tell her to give me the pip over it. I'm not in the least blaming you for this, and I'm not going to take it out on you just because I'm frustrated with her. Aunts are mysterious and angry beings, as you well know."

"Thank you, Master." His voice was quiet but he sounded relieved.

"Come on, then, Jeeves, up with you. Ginger will be here a little before the dinner hour, and you're to prepare something festive."

He rose as I bid and met my eyes. "Yes, sir." There was a bit of a question in his dark blue eyes, but he didn't say anything. He started to turn away to biff off into the kitchen again.

"It'll be all right, Reginald." He stopped and looked at me again with that bit of a q. in his e.s. "You told me once that there could be no love without perfect trust. We're going to find out just how much you trust me."

"As you say, Master. I am yours; my pleasure is to serve you in any way you might require." He didn't hesitate when he said it, which pleased me.

"You remember when you told me that my asking you to do difficult things proved that I loved you and that I really did own you?"

He nodded. "Of course, Master."

"I'm going to ask you to do some things tonight that you might find difficult, Reginald. I want you to remember that I love you."

The slight tension in his body eased. "Yes, Master. Thank you."

I reached out and took him by the tie, tugging him closer. He eased into kissing range and I planted one on him, gently but with feeling. He returned it with equal intent. "Off with you, then, love."

"Yes, Bertram."

***

No one else would ever have noticed, but I could tell Jeeves was just a tad nervous about the upcoming evening. The only question he asked was what the menu should be, but I told him I'd leave it in his marvelously capable hands, as he's much better at that sort of thing than I've ever been. The answer satisfied him; his shimmer brightened a bit upon hearing it. I knew he'd been fretting a little about losing himself if he entirely gave himself over to this whole Master and slave wheeze. That sort of thing had never interested me at all. There were times and places where I would demand what I could now consider my due but, as far as I was concerned, beyond that he was still and always would be his own man. After all, he generally ran my life better than I did, so why would I want to run his?

A little before Ginger was due to arrive, Jeeves came to me and asked if he should strip off, like he had last time we'd had the chap by. "No, not yet," I told him. "Things will be going rather differently tonight. I'll let you know what you should do, and when, Reginald."

"Very good, Master."

"Please don't fret so."

He offered that slight tilt of his chin that signified a nod, still looking slightly fretty, as might the neck of a guitar or mandolin. "Very good, Master."

I sighed. "Come here," I said, holding my arms open to him. He did and I wrapped him up in a warm hug, which he returned. After a moment, he seemed a touch steadier. "What's wrong, then? Are you worried about what I'll ask of you tonight?"

"No, Master. I... I merely find the uncertainty somewhat unsettling; this is not a bad thing, I assure you. I am your obedient slave and shall carry out any order you choose to give."

"This is about trusting me," I told him, planting the Wooster lips on his cheek.

"I do trust you, Master." The weight of conviction lay behind the words like an elephant kipping behind a door. I was considerably chuffed.

"Depending on what happens, Ginger may be staying over tonight. You should go and get the guest room ready." I let him draw his own conclusions from the statement.

"Very good, Master." He oiled off to take care of the task then came to slap me into the old soup and fish, given the festive nature of the repast to come.

Ginger appeared at the appointed hour, resplendent in his own evening costume. I must say, he looked quite the sight; I hadn't seen him looking that good in a few years and was pleased with the thought and effort he'd put into it. Jeeves took his things and ushered him into the sitting room. "What ho, Bertie?" he said, giving me a hopeful and slightly nervous smile.

"Whisky and s. for both of us, Reginald," I said, waving Ginger to a seat. "Dinner will be ready in just a bit, old thing. Do have a drink."

"Thanks, Bertie." Jeeves offered us each a quantity of the elixir after we'd planted ourselves in our chairs, then shimmered out of the room to get things ready to bung onto the table for us. Ginger leaned forward toward me, his glass held in both hands. "You really didn't give me much to go on about tonight, old bean. I mean to say, what should I expect?"

"You remember how you asked me last time if I'd do something like that with you?"

His eyes went wide and he grinned. "Really?"

"We'll see how things go, but yes." I grinned back, quite decidedly excited by the idea. I'd been toying with it ever since I'd realized I needed to show Jeeves that I wasn't going to run off with anyone else, regardless of what happened. He liked Ginger -- as much as he could be said to like any of my friends, I mean. He'd enjoyed what happened when I'd invited Ginger over before, and had expressed a certain willingness to take things further, particularly if his fruity dreams about the Drones had been any indication. It had seemed to me that he really wanted me to take him there and toss him into the deep end. Ginger was not just a dear old friend, but a former swain, so I felt quite comfortable with him as the imponderable in this particular sitch.

"Oh, Bertie." His voice was quiet but heated and he looked entirely enthusiastic about the whole thingummy.

"You'll do as I say, Ginger," I told him. "That's the rule for your participating in this whole wheeze. You may only touch my slave or me if I say you may; I'll tell you what you're allowed to do and when. Do you agree to that?"

He nodded with verve and rather a charming bit of gusto. It warmed the cockles of the Wooster heart, whatever those are. I'm sure I must have them, given how much people talk about the blasted things. "Oh, yes, absolutely! That sounds just topping!"

"Right, then. Have a shot of the needful, my young Winship. Cheers."

"Cheers."

Jeeves oiled in after a bit and announced that it was time to mangle a spot of dinner. He managed everything with aplomb, though I knew he was wondering what was going to start when. Ginger just managed to look eager and kept an exceedingly appreciative eye upon Jeeves, despite that the man was fully and impeccably dressed. Knowing what I wanted to have happen only made that more delightful.

I made with the gentle caresses upon the Jeevesian posterior and the occasional soft buss to the lips as he shimmered here and there, serving, clearing things away, and refreshing the wine. He allowed that tiny fragment of a smile that indicates his happiness when we're in the presence of others. Ginger watched with a longing expression on his face, rather like a basset hound who'd been deprived of several meals in a row. About the time the main course hit the boards -- a lovely pheasant in a brandy sauce -- I put a hand on Jeeves's arm to keep him from biffing back to the kitchen. "Would you like to touch my slave, Ginger?" I asked.

"Oh, yes," Ginger breathed, looking quite gobsmacked. Jeeves didn't react at all and I knew he was just waiting for me to let him know what to do; it was pretty much as I'd hoped. He was going to follow my lead and he seemed like he'd enjoy the whole thing.

"You may kiss him." I looked up at Jeeves and he gave me that tiny tilt of a nod, moving over to stand at Ginger's chair, hands behind his back. Ginger swiveled the old onion about and reached up to lay a gentle hand on the back of Jeeves's neck, guiding him down for a bit of oscular action that had every appearance of a high pash to it. By the time he was done, both of them were a touch glassy-eyed and breathless, looking at each other with darkened e.s; it had been quite stirring, even when seen from across the table. Ginger's fingers traced across Jeeves's cheek as he let go, and Jeeves resumed his former altitude, putting his dignity back on despite his obvious arousal.

"Thank you, Bertie," Ginger whispered. I shooed Jeeves back to the kitchen with the wave of a hand and he vanished. That had been a thoroughly corking sight, and an encouragement for the rest of the night to come.

"You liked that?"

His head bobbed. "Oh, God, yes."

I couldn't help smiling. I picked up a fork and pointed to his plate. "Don't let Reginald's perfectly spectacular cooking get cold, old thing. Wield the fork with gusto."

Slightly startled, he looked down at his plate. "Oh. Yes. Right. Sorry!" With that, he turned his attentions to the fodder.

I allowed them to have a couple more snogs before dinner was finished and both of them got more enthusiastic with each one. It was quite stirring, seeing two excessively handsome chaps that I was quite fond of kissing at my command. Jeeves always kept his hands behind his back, as he hadn't been instructed to touch, but I told Ginger that he could lay his hands upon the Jeevesian corpus as it pleased him while they kissed. He took the opp. to run an exploratory mission over the territory, being particularly eager to give a bit of a caress to the increasingly evident bulge in Jeeves's trousers. That led to a quiet, breathy moan from Jeeves, with a similar answering sound from Ginger.

The little Wooster was certainly taking a keen interest in the proceedings. "Over here, Reginald," I told him, pointing to his usual place at my feet. "Kneel here so I can give you a proper kiss."

"Yes, Master." There was a chuffed thingness in his voice and he knelt for me. I wrapped him in my arms and he slipped his about me as I kissed him deeply. When we were done, I let him rest his head on my shoulder.

"I'm very proud of you, love," I whispered, so Ginger couldn't hear. "You're being an absolute corker." I nuzzled at his cheek and kissed his ear.

Jeeves gave a tiny, happy sigh. "Thank you, Master."

"Up, then," I said, giving him a last little kiss. "Clear all this away, then we'll retire to the sitting room for a bit, what?"

"Very good, Master."

As Jeeves cleared away the remains of our repast, I had Ginger go to the sitting room. I followed him in and had him sit, but passed through it on the way to my bedroom, intending to get some things for what I wanted to come next. I wrapped everything up in a towel from the saille de bain, partly to keep the various bits together, but also to keep them out of sight until I wanted to use them. I didn't want to ruin any of the surprises, or to cause excessive anticipation if things didn't actually go in that direction. It wouldn't do to disappoint either of them, after all. Trust was the object of the evening, but I also wanted all of us to be happy with the results; disappointment wouldn't do for either of those goals. I sauntered back into the sitting room, tucked the bundle under my chair, which was next to Ginger's with a little side table between them, and plopped down to await Jeeves's entrance for the dispensing of our post-prandial sippage.

After he'd brought forth the b. and s., I called him over to my chair and tugged him down by the tie, kissing him gently. He sighed into my mouth, still a bit stirred up after being kissed and touched during dinner. "I'd like you to take your clothes off now, Reginald, and fold them out of the way somewhere. Keep the tie, though. You'll be putting that back on."

Ginger's eyes lit up as Jeeves said, "Yes, Master."

"Slowly. I'd like to enjoy the whole wheeze."

"Very good, Master." There was a touch of pleased yet aroused amusement in the tilt of his ebony brow. Jeeves faced us both as he started carefully peeling away the outer crust. He handed me his black bow tie, his eyes on mine as he removed the layers one by one -- his jacket, his waistcoat, the bracers and his shirt -- it was all thoroughly delightful, and I could hear Ginger's breath growing rougher as Jeeves revealed more skin. Jeeves folded things onto the chesterfield as he took them off, then went down on one knee when he was done to tuck it all beneath said furnishing so that it wouldn't be in the way of anything. He was, as always, entirely glorious wearing nothing but skin and a prominent erection.

Ginger, to his credit, was excited but entirely patient through the whole process, just watching and shifting slightly uncomfortably as he grew more aroused. Jeeves came over and I handed him his tie, which he slipped about his throat and knotted into the perfect butterfly effect without even having a look in a mirror. No matter how long I try, I shall never understand how he manages it. The man is a wonder.

"Lovely," I said, meaning every dashed letter of the word. "Come here." I reached up and tugged him down by the tie again, one finger crooked beneath it. It looked so very like a collar, and I found the whole bally thing entirely affecting. I kissed him quite hard, leaving both of us panting when I was done. Ginger made a quiet, strangled sound but stayed right where he was, like a good guest. "Now, slave, I want you to let me know if you get too close to popping, because you're still not allowed to come off until I tell you that you may."

"Yes, Master."

Ginger's eyes went a bit buggy at that. I'd told him that Jeeves was being disciplined, but I don't think he had quite got what that meant. I looked over at him. "Does all this excite you, young Winship?" I asked.

"God, yes." He was quite thoroughly breathless.

"You'd like to touch him like this, wouldn't you?"

"Please, Bertie," he whispered, all owl-eyed at the thought.

I looked up at Jeeves. "Reginald, kneel in front of him. Hands on the arms of his chair, if you would."

"Yes, Master." Ginger gave a nearly audible gulp and stared at the man as he knelt before him.

"Touch him if you like," I said. "Nothing below the waist though."

They looked at each other and Jeeves gave a little shiver, his prick twitching as Ginger reached out to him, fingertips tracing gently along the muscles of his chest. He ran his fingers slowly over Jeeves's chest and sides, teasing at his nipples, and Jeeves closed his eyes, panting a bit. They were like that, with Jeeves very still except for the occasional quiver, Ginger's hands moving carefully on his skin. Ginger couldn't take his eyes off Jeeves; there was something almost reverent in the way he touched him. I loved watching them. It was so dashed erotic. Quite the towering tree was developing inside Ginger's trousers -- and in mine, I must admit. "Kiss him, Ginger," I whispered.

He leaned forward as Jeeves opened his eyes, and their mouths met. They kissed each other as though both of them were starving and about to devour one another. I was quite thoroughly appreciative of the whole thing, beginning to really take a shine to the possibilities I was seeing. Ginger held Jeeves's head between both hands to better direct the kiss, which Jeeves obviously greatly enjoyed, and both of them were blowing like a couple of racehorses after a steeplechase when the kiss ended.

I was awfully stirred up by the whole thing, very hard and already aching. I thought it was time to play a slightly different game. "Back here, slave," I said, meeting Jeeves's immensely darkened eyes. "I want you on your hands and knees in front of me." I indicated a place in front of and just slightly to the side of my chair, between mine and Ginger's, where said friend would get an exceptional view.

Jeeves crawled over to me and put himself where I wanted him, his head lowered, his body relaxed except for that extremely excited bit of him that had been standing at attention for rather a while now, its dark head peeking out from the foreskin and glistening cheerfully. I tucked a hand into the little bundle I'd brought out of my room and pulled out the wooden toy and a jar of petroleum jelly. Ginger's eyes went boggled and glassy. "Good Lord, Bertie," he said, sounding half scandalized and half about-ready-to-let-me-use-it-on-him-myself. I gave him a wicked grin as I opened up the little jar and slicked the thing up.

"He likes this thingummy," I said. Jeeves shivered, as I'd just let him know what to expect. I ran one still-goopy finger about the little ring of his opening to ease things a bit. Wiping my hands off on a cloth that I'd pulled from inside the towel, I took the wooden prick and pressed it slowly into Jeeves, who let out a quiet moan as it sank into him, and leaned his weight back slightly as I penetrated him with it, all the better to get it more deeply inside him. "No, slave," I told him. "Just be still and let me take you. This isn't yours to control."

He was breathing rather roughly now but nodded, trembling as he spread his legs slightly and went still. "Yes, Master." His voice was deep and slightly gravelly.

Ginger leaned over the arm of his chair a bit to get a better view of the proceedings. "Oh, Lord, may I touch him, Bertie?"

I shook my head. "Not right now, Ginger. Later. I'm rather enjoying this and don't want to share at the mo." His disappointment was nearly audible, but he kept his hands to himself as I very slowly buggered Jeeves with the toy. I could see that it was taking some effort for him to keep still, but he was doing quite well with it anyway. I played with him for quite some time, as he trembled and Ginger made tiny sounds of distressed desire. I could see he wasn't at all used to the idea of having to restrain himself. Eventually, I took pity on both of them, and on myself, for I was feeling just as anxious to move along as they were. I just had control of the sitch, where neither of them did, so I could change the rules whenever I wanted to. It was, after all, good to be the Master.

I withdrew the wooden toy from Jeeves's body with a slow, gentle motion. He sighed as I did, content to allow me full control of his body even though he was obviously deeply aroused. "Do you want to have Winship minor out for an airing, young Ginger?" He nodded frantically. "Right, then. Pop out the old todger, then put your hands on the arms of your chair and don't move them unless I say you may."

He moved, quick as a rabbit, to follow my instructions. When his prick was jutting up from his black trousers and his hands were clutched on the arms of the chair, he let his head fall against the back of the chair and groaned, his eyes tightly closed. I gave the toy a quick swipe with a cloth so it wouldn't be messy if I wanted to use it again later, and reached out to caress Jeeves's glorious fundament. He made a small, shivery sound, but didn't move.

"You've been a very obedient slave, Reginald. I'd like you to go over and suck Ginger's prick, but don't let him come off. I have some rather fruity plans for him in just a bit."

His "Yes, Master" was nearly a groan, and he turned and knelt before Ginger, between the man's knees, looking at the considerable presence in Ginger's lap. He and Ginger were of a similar size and body type, and their endowments were fairly similar as well, though with those entirely endearing differences that make any man unique. Ginger's prick was slightly thicker than the toy I'd just used on Jeeves. Jeeves took the base of Ginger's prick in one hand and bent down to lick him from base to tip. Ginger gasped and his hips jerked, but he stayed where he was, hands where I'd told him to keep them. I watched as Jeeves's tongue circled the head of Ginger's cock. Ginger began to pant as Jeeves slowly began to suck him, his head bobbing slowly in Ginger's lap.

It was absolutely gorgeous to watch them. Ginger's fingers tightened on the arms of his chair and Jeeves moaned in quiet pleasure as he gave Ginger his very finest service. I knew what it felt like to be on the receiving end of my slave's mouth, and it was an absolutely corking sensation. The heat and the way his lips and tongue slipped up and down the shaft and teased at the head was blissful. The man was an unrivaled expert in the art of cocksucking, and it was much more thrilling than I'd expected to be able to share his talents with someone else, particularly when it was done under my direct supervision.

It was only a few moments before Ginger was unable to resist any longer; his hand slipped from the arm of the chair into Jeeves's hair. "No, no, Ginger. Put your hand back where it was. I told you not to touch him. I may just punish you if you disobey." He groaned loudly, his hips jerking as his hand moved back to the arm of the chair. "Would you like that, Ginger? Being punished? I do have a cane, you know. I've used one on any number of naughty boys."

Jeeves backed away from Ginger's prick, squeezing at the base of it to keep him from coming off, as Ginger gasped, "Oh, God, yes, Bertie. Please, I'd like that so much." Well, I can't say as I'd known Ginger had such a soft spot for a taste of the old rattan, but it is rather common among a certain class of English gents. I would be happy to oblige him, given how much I liked dispensing such things.

"On your feet, young Winship. Reginald, you'll help him peel off the rind, would you?"

"Yes, Master." Jeeves rose with a certain catlike grace, despite his obvious and intense arousal, while Ginger rocketed to his feet like a flushed and overly excited pheasant, tearing at his tie as Jeeves worked on the studs of Ginger's shirtings. Ginger wasn't used to the services of a valet, so there was a bit of limb entanglement as Jeeves went about his work and Ginger attempted, unsuccessfully, to speed the process along.

Once Ginger was even more naked than Jeeves -- lacking a bow tie, of course -- I had him stand away from the chair and circled him with the cane in my hand, looking him up and down. He was trembling and panting heavily, his eyes blown and terribly dark, presenting a thoroughly delicious picture of desperate desire. Jeeves stood by beside the chesterfield with his hands folded behind his back, awaiting any instructions the young Master might have. I was quite pleased with him and would let him know later. Right then, the Wooster attention was riveted upon Ginger.

I reached out with the cane and touched Ginger's thigh, running it slowly up his leg and over one cheek. He let out a shuddering sigh, closing his eyes and letting his head tilt back in pleasure. "Please, Bertie," he whispered.

"Reginald."

"Yes, Master?" He was quite as aroused as Ginger, but had considerably more practice in keeping control of himself. A lot of it was the years he'd spent in service, where a chap just doesn't show what he's feeling when the quality is about, but a fair amount of it had also come about since we'd started this whole Master and slave wheeze of ours. I could see he felt for young Ginger, but he also seemed quite eager to see him take a few of the juiciest across the haunches.

"The ottoman over there." I pointed at it with my cane. "Bring it over here, if you would." I indicated a place in front of Ginger.

"Yes, Master." He moved swiftly to the task, placing the thing firmly in front of Ginger.

"Now, my naughty young Winship, you'll lean over and place your hands on the ottoman and keep them there while I give you a few good ones."

His answer was a breathless, "Yes, Bertie!" He was bent over before the words were entirely out of his mouth, his bottom raised and his legs spread enough to show his eagerness and support his weight in the awkward angle I'd put him in. Ginger's head was down and he was absolutely trembling with anticipation. I ran a hand over his buttocks and he gasped. Jeeves watched with dark, excited eyes from a place near me where he would have a good view of the proceedings.

The first blow brought a slight jerk and a little, breathy, "Ah!" Not knowing what he might be able to take, I'd started fairly easy on him. The second blow was much sharper, and Ginger's "Ah!" was considerably louder, his body jerking from the sting. It left a red stripe on his bottom that I found quite pleasing. I landed several more of the same, knowing that the cumulative effect was considerably more than any one blow by itself would be. He was a bit dewy about the flanks after several quite fruity strikes, and he moaned quite deliciously as I laid down a lovely series of parallel welts on his bottom. His prick had let loose a long string of that lovely clear stuff one gets when one is terribly excited, and I gave him a couple more at the end, even harder, just because I could. Those each brought a genuine yelp. I ran my hand over the heated stripes when I was done, and Ginger gasped, "Thank you, Bertie, thank you! God, I've needed that so badly, you can't imagine." He took a deep, shaky breath and added, "I haven't had a good caning in years, old thing."

I smiled, quite delighted by the way things were going. Jeeves looked like he wanted to pounce on Ginger and ravish him right there, but he was quite firmly under control. "On your knees, now, Ginger. Catch your breath."

"Right, yes, of course." He nodded as he wobbled to kneel where he'd been standing.

I looked over at Jeeves. "Come here, slave," I said, tossing the cane onto my chair. Jeeves shimmered over, and I gave him an absolutely smashing kiss that left both of us completely breathless. The look on his face afterward was filled with such utter devotion that I completely melted.

He was entirely breathless and cupped my cheek in his hand. "I don't think I can hold back much longer, Master," he whispered; he looked pretty close to the edge, and I agreed that he might just be right.

"It's all right, I have just the thing for it." He gave me a curious tilt of the head and I bent down to rummage in the towel of whatsits for a moment. My fingers found what I was looking for and I pulled it out. His eyes widened.

"Master?" He gulped. "Wh-where did you find that?" he squeaked.

I grinned at him. "I knew a chap who knew a chap who knew a chap," I said. "You know what this is, I take it?"

Jeeves nodded, his head bobbing in a startled bit of disbelief. "Yes, Master."

"I'm reliably told it helps with this sort of sitch." Ginger tried to turn and see what it was, but I tapped him on the head with one fingertip. "Eyes forward, my boy. You'll see soon enough."

"Right," he yipped, doing as I'd told him.

I took the little black leather strap and wrapped it about the base of the little Jeeves and behind his bollocks; it was tight enough to do the job as advertised, without doing any damage to my beloved. Damage was the last thing I wanted, after all, particularly to his tender bits. The thing closed with a little metal snap that would be easy enough to let loose when I was ready to have him come off, or when he was sufficiently calmed to have control again. He gave something that resembled an uncomfortable sigh of relief when I'd closed it. "Thank you, Master," he gasped, suddenly not nearly so tense as he had been.

"Move the ottoman out of the way, then I want you to kneel over there, facing Ginger." I pointed to a place a few feet in front of where Ginger was kneeling.

"Yes, Master." Jeeves got right to it while I skinned out of the old soup and fish. Once he was done, he placed himself in front of Ginger and they looked at one another, both of them breathless. Ginger couldn't stop staring at Jeeves's tightly bound prick, absolute astonishment on his dial. I finally got out of the rest of my clothing and tossed it all aside. Jeeves could deal with it much, much later.

***

I was immensely relieved when my Master tightened the cock ring about my prick; it had offered me an immediate ability to liberate a good deal of the attention and energy I had been focusing upon obeying his command to refrain from attaining orgasm without his permission. I knew it was still possible to come off when wearing one, and that it was much more intense when one did, but it was theoretical knowledge on my part and not direct experience.

Finally able to breathe a bit more freely, I knelt before Mr Winship as I had been directed. There was enough room between us for either of us to position ourselves on hands and knees, and I believed at first that Bertram intended to take Mr Winship in front of me. What did happen was both more shocking and much more invigorating. "Right, then," he said, taking up the cane again. He stood behind Mr Winship and tapped at the insides of his knees. "Spread your legs a bit more and lean back a bit; hands at your sides for the moment, my boy."

Mr Winship did as he was ordered, looking up at Bertram and giving him a brilliant grin when he saw that my Master was both nude and very much aroused. Bertram smiled back down at him. He was extraordinarily beautiful like this -- confident, at ease, and in complete control of the proceedings. Until we had begun our new understanding, I had never actually seen him in this state. It suited him much more keenly than I think any of his friends or family would have believed; they saw him as weak-willed and overly yielding, always knowing that if they pressed him hard enough, he would give in to their often unreasonable demands. I wished that he was able to show this part of himself to the world, but I also knew that it currently hinged as much upon my submission as it did upon what lay within him.

Bertram took the jar of petroleum jelly and knelt next to Mr Winship. My Master's friend looked as though he was expecting to be ordered to bend over but, instead, Bertram applied it to the man's hard, heavy prick, stroking slowly from tip to root and back up as he spread the lubricant. Mr Winship shuddered, his eyes closing, and gasped at the chill of the jelly. "Oh, God." He fought with himself to keep still, understanding that this was what my Master wished. After a moment, Bertram applied some of what was left between his own buttocks and I felt my eyes widen, knowing what he was about to do. He picked up a cloth and wiped his hand with it, tossing it aside, then moved to face me, straddling Mr Winship's spread legs.

"Hold yourself steady, Ginger," he said.

Mr Winship slipped a hand between them, holding the base of his prick steady as my Master lowered himself slowly to impale himself upon it. Bertram let out a soft, decadent sigh as he felt the penetration of Mr Winship's prick, while Mr Winship's eyes squeezed shut and he whimpered, "Oh, Bertie, Bertie, oh, God, yes!" He was panting harshly by the time his cock was fully pressed into Bertram's body. I could not help the small sound of deep arousal I made as I watched them; I was torn between an uncomfortable spark of jealousy and absolute, undilute lust. I wanted to be the one pleasuring my Master. Yet, I was his slave. To submit to his will and to see to his pleasure were my deepest desires, and this was what he wished. He had said that tonight was intended to test my trust of him and I suddenly realized just how deeply this was challenging me. I knew what I had to do.

"M-may I touch you, Bertie?" Mr Winship asked, holding his hands slightly away but looking like he wished to cup Bertram's hips and begin thrusting into him vigorously.

Bertram closed his eyes and leaned back against Mr Winship's body, sighing, "Yes, please, but just your arms around me. Don't touch my prick, Ginger." There was an expression of near-ecstasy on his face as Mr Winship's arms came up, embracing him, his hands caressing Bertram's body, holding him close. He groaned and buried his face in my Master's neck, shuddering as he caught his breath again. "Lovely, just lovely," Bertram whispered. "Move your hips for me, boy, just slow and easy." Mr Winship's hips began rocking, fucking my Master slowly and gently as he caressed Bertram's body; every motion was filled with a deeply erotic tension as he made love with my Master and fought to maintain his control. The sounds he made were pained and desperate but absolutely blissful.

A few moments later, Bertram's eyes opened, soft and so very dark with his arousal. He looked at me, his arms holding Mr Winship's to his body, moving with the man beneath him. His own hips rocked slightly as he rode Mr Winship's thick, hard prick. "Are you jealous, Reginald?" The question was a serious one, gently posed and not intended to provoke me but to make me think.

I licked my lips, as my mouth had gone dry watching them. "S-slightly, Master," I admitted, "but I am your slave and your pleasure is my own." I took a shaky breath. "And you are so very beautiful like this," I whispered, struck to the heart by everything that was happening.

He nodded, a small but ecstatic smile on his face. "I love you," he said, breathless. I felt a bolt of absolute adoration strike through me, leaving me shaken. His eyes held mine, steady and commanding. "No matter what I do, Reg, I will not leave you." He gasped as Mr Winship's cock struck deeply within him, leaving him shuddering with pleasure; Mr Winship groaned and clutched him more tightly. It took Bertram a moment to continue. "I-if I ever want anyone else, it will happen just like this," Bertram insisted, "right here in front of you, with you fully involved. Do you understand?"

I nodded, loving him even more. I knew he was not lying; there was nothing but truth and love in his eyes. "Yes, Master," I whispered, feeling absolute relief flood through me. He reached out and touched my face, wiping away a tear I hadn't realized I had shed.

"Come here," he murmured, gentle, and I leaned forward to meet him as he kissed me. Mr Winship was obviously quite moved by it, for his breathing hitched and I could feel his copper-blond hair against my cheek as he kissed Bertram's neck and shoulder. Breathless, I leaned back when my Master released me. "Suck me now, slave," Bertram said softly.

I bowed before him on my knees, taking him into my mouth and giving him every pleasure within my power. It was a thing of incredible beauty, to have him in my mouth as Mr Winship took him languidly from behind, both of us submitting to his desire, both of us giving him physical bliss. I brought him slowly toward his peak until my Master tugged gently at my hair. "Enough, slave," he whispered, panting and shivering. I rose to my knees again. He was leaning back, his head on Mr Winship's shoulder. They kissed deeply as Bertram reached down with one hand and stilled Mr Winship's hips. "Oh, Lord, that's glorious," he murmured when they were done. Slowly, with trembling limbs, my Master rose from Mr Winship's encircling arms. I reached out to aid him and he took my arm. I brought him into my adoring embrace, holding him close for a few moments before he asked me to let him lie on the floor.

Mr Winship was shivering with need when I looked up at him. He had performed admirably, but he was obviously very near his end. "Ginger, come closer and kneel here." He patted a place on the floor near his shoulders. "Hands and knees."

"Y-yes, Bertie." He was unsteady as he moved, but he complied with my Master's request.

"Reginald, I want you to take him. Bring him off, as he's certainly earned the pleasure." Although I was deeply in need myself, I knew it would not take long; Mr Winship gave a relieved groan and spread his legs for me as I moved behind him. Bertram handed me the little jar and I applied some to my bound prick, handing him back the container before I thrust into Mr Winship's sweating, heated body.

He cried out desperately as I took him, fucking him vigorously. He came off within only a few moments, shouting and shuddering, his entire body convulsing with the force of his release. I was nearly undone myself, but the cock ring kept me steady enough to maintain control. We stilled, my arms wrapped about his body, gasping together. "Oh," Bertram whispered, "that was absolutely topping. Ginger, you were thoroughly gorgeous, my boy." Mr Winship whimpered and nodded, slowly collapsing onto the floor beneath me. I did not allow him to injure himself, but lowered him carefully and let him go when he was lying on the rug.

"Get a blanket for him, Reginald," Bertram said. "When your legs work again, I mean. That had to have been quite tiring. Oh, and some water for all of us. I'm desperately in need."

"Yes, Master." I was not quite in extremis and, though my legs were slightly wobbly, I was able to comply immediately.

Bertram was slowly stroking his prick when I returned with a blanket and a tray with water for all of us. I set the tray on the side table between the chairs and gently wrapped Mr Winship in the blanket. He looked up at me. "Thank you, old thing," Mr Winship said, his voice quiet and slightly rough after his efforts.

"It was my great pleasure, sir," I said, realizing that, in fact, the statement was entirely true. I had very much enjoyed bringing him off for my Master's delectation. This night was causing me to face and reevaluate several of my previously held assumptions and values, and I felt I would be much to the better for it. If this was what would happen if my Master wished to have occasional encounters with other gentlemen, I was, contrary to what I had originally believed, likely to find the whole prospect thoroughly exciting and to very much look forward to the opportunity.

My Master took me in his arms as we all relieved our thirst, holding me and letting me lay my head upon his shoulder while we rested. We were both still quite hard, but the activity he had requested of me had allowed me a few moments to resume control over myself. "You clean yourself up, Reginald. We'll move things into the guest room once Ginger's able to beetle on in there himself," he said.

"Good Christ, Bertie, you're going to kill me," Mr Winship muttered from within the blanket.

Bertram laughed. "Well, dear boy, you wanted to know what it was like. Are you enjoying yourself?"

Mr Winship looked up at him, wide eyed. "Oh Lord, yes!" he said, nodding sharply. He looked over at me, sounding almost reverent when he spoke. "I can see why you just worship the man, Jeeves. I have no idea when he became so masterful."

"About the time someone needed me to be," Bertram said softly. I shivered slightly in his arms and held him tightly to me before I cleaned myself as he had ordered. "Are you steady enough to move, then, Ginger?"

Mr Winship nodded. "Legs are a bit jellied, but it's not far."

"Right then." Bertram kissed me again and patted my hip. "Up you get, Reginald. Help the lad to his feet and we'll proceed."

"Very good, Master." I did as he asked, while my Master picked up the bundled towel and the other items he'd brought out and carried them into the room behind us. I would have done it for him and he was aware of that, but I believe he was feeling somewhat impatient, as he'd not allowed himself release yet. I was certain he would want to find his own completion soon enough.

"Have a seat, Ginger," Bertram said, setting the bundle down on the bedside table. "And you," he said, looking at me, "on the bed on your back." He patted the center of the bed. "Here, if you please." I complied, hoping that this meant my punishment would be over soon. If he wished it to continue, I would endure it for his pleasure, but he had told me early in the day that I would be allowed my release sometime today and I did not believe he had been lying. It had heightened my anticipation which, I suppose, had been his intention. When he withdrew the salmon and cerise ties from the bundle, I could not help cringing. He chuckled. Leaning down over me, he kissed me, then he bound my wrists with the salmon tie he had worn earlier in the day. He tugged my hands up over my head and secured my wrists to the headboard with the cerise tie, and Mr Winship stared at the proceedings, curiosity and a spark of renewed arousal in his eyes. I could not help my own lustful response to the situation, as I greatly enjoyed being bound for Bertram's pleasure.

My Master caressed my face gently. He turned my face to his and bent down over me again. I imagined he would kiss me again, but instead he nuzzled my ear for a moment. "I forgive you, Reg," he whispered, lifting his face to look me in the eyes. My breath caught and I opened my mouth to speak, but no words were adequate to express the rush of love and gratitude I was experiencing. I blinked back tears, feeling utterly overwhelmed. "It's all right, love, I don't need you to say anything." He pressed another gentle kiss to my lips. "This is for you."

He turned to Mr Winship. "Now, Ginger," he said, "we are going to make my slave feel very, very good. You may touch him with your hands or use your mouth on him, but you may not touch his prick, because that would make it too difficult for him to obey me at this point."

Mr Winship's head bobbed quickly up and down. "Oh, yes, Bertie! Thank you!" He let the blanket slip from around his shoulders and he and Bertram both began caressing and kissing my body, one on either side of me. They both moved slowly; after a few minutes they had begun mirroring one another's actions, each of them on one side. Together, they sucked my nipples, caressed the soft skin of the inside of my thighs, kissed my neck, nibbled my ears. I could not suppress my quiet moans and soft cries of passion. It was the purest sensual torture I could imagine, and I was floating in a sea of absolute pleasure for an interminable time. Only the cock ring was keeping me from losing all control.

Eventually, my Master's voice was in my ear once again. "You wanted to suck a cock while you were being buggered, slave, and you'll have that now." I groaned aloud at the thought, my body desperate for completion. Pillows were tucked beneath my buttocks and Mr Winship pulled me into his lap, slowly thrusting his thick, hard cock into my utterly willing body. He was larger than my Master -- slightly larger, even, than the toy with which Betram had buggered me earlier. It felt glorious. A moment later, Bertram's prick was in my mouth and I took him in with desperation; the sensation of being filled by both of them was nearly overwhelming, and my wrists being bound only added to the pleasure of my helplessness and total lack of control over anything but my own fight to refrain from orgasm.

It was better than I had ever imagined, better than the filthy dreams I'd had of being taken by my Master's friends, but when Bertram's mouth closed around my prick after some lengthy time of them both taking me, I cannot describe the sound I made as my body jerked in their grasp. I very nearly came off, the sensation was so very intense. A moment later, Bertram moved away, pulling his prick from my mouth. I turned my face toward him, seeking him blindly with open mouth as a child might seek its mother's teat, but he ran his fingers through my hair. "No more," he said, panting. Panting, I opened my eyes to see him putting a few knots in the absolutely repellant chartreuse tie he'd used to bind one of my ankles. A moment later, he tucked the knotted tie into my mouth and gagged me with it, tying it securely behind my head. My eyes closed and I groaned into the cloth. It might not entirely suppress my cries, but it would muffle them somewhat, and I knew that he meant to finish me very soon.

"Now, Ginger," he said -- Mr Winship was still taking me deeply, his hips moving slowly as he fucked me -- "I'm going to want you to finish him here in a moment but -- and here's the thing -- as soon as he starts coming off, you're to move out of the way, because I want to be in him."

"Y-yes, Bertie."

"He likes it rough, Ginger." Bertram's voice was a lewd growl. I could feel Mr Winship shiver. He whimpered.

The order made no sense to me until Bertram addressed me again. "When I pop the ring off your prick, slave, you will be permitted to come off, but not until then, do you hear?" I nodded frantically and Bertram bent his head back to suck my cock again, this time with absolute intent. I howled, feeling it down to my bones, and he was sucking me in earnest as Mr Winship began fucking me hard and deep. All pretense of teasing had passed. They were dragging me deliberately to a higher peak of erotic sensation than I had ever before experienced and intended to cast me from it in only moments. I held back desperately, awaiting his permission, aching for the ecstasy I knew would consume me.

And then he released me. It was like my body combusting, and my Master sucked my cock for only a moment longer before he had Mr Winship out of the way and thrust himself into me. To feel my Master taking me again only heightened my bliss, though there was a fumbling wobble with a loss of rhythm wherein I could hear his frenzied order for Mr Winship to fuck him; they found their rhythm together after a mere moment, but I was still coming so desperately hard that I felt like I was flying. I had never experienced anything so intense in my life. I imagined this must be what it felt like to die of rapture.

There was no thought beyond that point. I remember vague visual impressions of my Master leaning low over my body with his cock moving deeply within me, Mr Winship taking him from behind, Bertram's eyes closed in a bliss that must have been much like my own. I remember the impression of Mr Winship's copper hair and freckled skin against Bertram's paler frame. I remember that my own cries were not the only ones echoing in the room.

The next thing I remember was lying warm between them, beneath the covers, my hands freed, the gag removed from my mouth, and their arms about me. I was floating in a sea of euphoria, surrounded and buoyed up by their arms. "Reg," Bertram whispered, when he saw my eyes open.

I still could not speak, but turned my face to him and pressed my lips to his cheek. He smiled, chuckled, and gestured to Mr Winship, who provided water for me. This helped, but I still simply felt too enervated to do much more than breathe. "You're absolutely aglow, love," Bertram said. I smiled and closed my eyes again.

Bertram and Mr Winship talked quietly while I drifted, paying very little attention to any of it. My Master had forgiven me. He had shown me what a deep trust between us truly was. And he had given me a gift of bliss such as I had never before known. I could only marvel at the entire experience.

It was the better part of an hour before I was able to move well enough to be aided back to our own bedroom. When we were finally settled into our own bed for the night, he held me very close. I wrapped him in my own still-weak limbs. "Will you be all right?" he asked.

I nodded. "I have never been better," I assured him.

"You were gone for longer than usual." There was a look of concern in his eyes.

I pressed a gentle kiss to his chest, where my head lay. "I have never been at such a peak before. The combination of factors involved ensured that I would be utterly incapacitated when you were through with me."

"It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," he said, his fingers in my hair as he slowly caressed me.

"Yes, you were," I agreed.

He offered a short, huffed laugh. "I meant you, love. I think you still need to sleep."

I nodded. "Thank you, Bertram." I settled myself more comfortably against him and murmured, "I still don't deserve you."

"Hush, you. Sleep."

***

I rose not much later than my usual hour the next morning. I had been utterly exhausted by the activities of the night, but there was a good deal to do to make the flat publicly presentable, from dealing with the remains of the night's meal to cleaning the sitting room and airing it out so that it no longer smelled of debauchery. I had showered, dressed, and done a bit of preliminary cleaning before setting to making myself tea and breakfast. I was well into this task when Mr Winship peered into the kitchen. "Oh, I say, good morning, old thing. Could I bother you for a spot of breakfast?"

"Of course, sir." I turned to the icebox to take out two more eggs.

"Er, do you really think that whole 'sir' thing is necessary?" I turned to look at him. He was taking a seat at the kitchen table and looked up at me, blushing slightly. "I mean, we did rather spend a good bit of last night shagging one another and all that. It just seems... a bit awkward, if you know what I mean."

"It would be inappropriate for me to address you otherwise, sir. You are, after all, a gentleman and my employer's friend, and I am a valet." I felt the awkwardness of the situation as well, but it would not do to allow a liberty; I would still have to interact with him in other contexts and I did not wish to encourage a familiarity that might cause problems later.

He sighed. "I'm sorry," Mr Winship said. "I don't mean that it should be like that anywhere else. I know that could be trouble for all of us, after all, and I don't want any of us to be suspected of anything improper, regardless of what happened. Calling you Jeeves right now just doesn't feel right, though. Not after all that's happened."

The eggs from the icebox were cold in my hand. I set them on the counter beside the ones I had been about to use for my own breakfast. "I would not know what to call you, Mr Winship," I said. "It would be entirely inappropriate for me to use the soubriquet that Mr Wooster uses."

He looked confused for a moment, then replied. "Well, you could call me Harold, I suppose. You don't have to call me Ginger. You're such a formal chap, I couldn't really see you going for that anyway, I have to say."

I sighed and sat at the table opposite him, folding my hands before me. He seemed quite sincere but also, perhaps, slightly uncomfortable, and I did not wish him to feel that way. If for no other reason than that he was Bertram's friend, I felt I should at least try to accomodate him in some way. "Is this so important to you, sir?"

He paused, slightly uneasy. "Yes, actually," he said quietly. "I'm not the sort of chap who can do all that with someone and not have it change at least a little something between us, if you see what I mean. I know that you and Bertie have something that I'll never be a part of, but I can't go back to treating you like you're hardly there. It wouldn't feel right. He'd always talk about you like you were some kind of demigod, you know, and all I'd ever seen was that stone face you present to the world. After all this, I know that you're not either of those things. I know you have to wear the mask, as Bertie says, but should we really have to do that here, right now, after what we've done together?"

That he should make an effort to reach out to me in this manner was touching, I had to admit. I did like the man, and we were, in some sense, kindred spirits. Perhaps here, for now, it would not hurt to break with my usual strict protocol. Bertram had trusted him enough to bring him into our home and involve him in the complexity that lay between us. "Perhaps you are correct, Harold," I said, equally quietly. The weight of what I was doing did not escape me, nor did the risks of establishing such a familiarity with any gentleman other than my Master.

His lips pursed. "What... I mean, what should I call you, then? Jeeves is right out, and I'm under the impression that Reginald is, well, used in a rather specific sense."

I nodded. "It is." I was uncertain that I was doing the right thing, but it did not, at least, feel wrong. "My relationship with Bertram is, perforce, a complex one. This is not just because of the difference in our social classes or because of what we are to one another, but because I work for him. We must have ways to denote the boundaries between one state and another." I took a slow, bracing breath. "In informal situations, such as this, you may address me as Reg."

He smiled at me, relaxing. "Thank you, Reg," he said, offering me a hand. I took it for a moment, until he released mine and leaned back in his chair again. "I... I can't tell you how much I appreciate what you and Bertie did for me last night. I know that it wasn't really about me at all, just about setting something right between the two of you, but I'm honored and delighted that you would trust me with that."

"Everything about last night was my Master's will, and that is not something I may question or dispute. I will state, however, that my own appreciation for your part in last night's proceedings cannot be understated," I replied. "I... I quite enjoyed your participation." The admission was slightly embarrassing to articulate, but he deserved to know. "Please, allow me to prepare breakfast. I would not mind continuing to talk while I do so, but I do need to have a number of things done before Bertram wakes this morning."

He nodded as I rose. "That's fine, old thing. I have an uncle demanding an audience this morning myself, so I shouldn't stay too long." I turned my attentions to cooking as he continued. "I do wish I didn't have to dash off." He paused for a moment as I beat the eggs for omelettes. "Will everything be all right with you and Bertie now, Reg? I mean, he told me about what happened. He was just so heartbroken over the whole thing."

I knew that Bertram had spoken to him. He was one of the very few individuals to whom Bertram could turn regarding such matters. Still, it was uncomfortable to hear it from him. "Yes," I said quietly, not turning to look at him. "I made an extremely foolish error that will never be repeated." It still caused an ache in my chest to consider how close I had come to losing him.

"Bertie's a complete lamb. He loves you absolutely madly, you know."

I looked over my shoulder at him, feeling ashamed of my bloody-mindedness in suspecting Bertram of anything at all. "The fact that I am still here in his home is empirical proof of that, Harold. Anyone else..."

He stood and came over to me, laying a hand upon my shoulder. "You're so dashed lucky to have each other. I know you'd never hurt each other like that deliberately."

"Never." I set the eggs aside and poured two cups of tea, handing him one. I had already set milk and sugar on the table; he would be able to prepare his beverage as he preferred while I tended to the rest of breakfast. He took the cup from me, holding it carefully in both hands as he stood by my side.

"When he told me about what you'd asked of him a few months back -- about this whole wheeze, you know -- I wasn't at all sure what to make of it. I was awfully surprised when he invited me over that first time. I could hardly believe you'd do that for him. For anyone, really. You just never struck me as the type."

I suspected he wished to speak of his own proclivities in that direction. "It was a very difficult thing for me to even consider."

"He said that you'd had some very long talks a couple of years ago about the whole gentleman and his valet having an understanding thing. I remember how much he needed someone to talk with back then. I can only imagine how much this must have complicated that." He sipped at his tea, to which he had added nothing.

"I believe such a thing would be considerably easier for you; the social expectations for a gentleman keeping company with another gentleman are very different than those of a gentleman who might be... trifling with the affections of a servant."

"He's not trifling with you, Reg. Not in the least." He sounded quite earnest.

"I know. I would never imply that Bertram is doing so. Yet what I have offered him could easily be seen by some as only his due from someone like myself, to be used then discarded when he grew bored."

I turned his omelette and two strips of bacon onto a plate for him and handed it to him. "I see what you mean," he answered. "And I suppose, in that light, I can see why you'd be afraid of him wanting someone else."

"I was wrong about all of it. He has never been that way and I should have remembered that," I said, pouring my own eggs into the hot pan. They sizzled and the edges began to change color. It was all still terribly raw for me; although Bertram had forgiven me, I had not entirely forgiven myself. "He is the most honorable man I've ever met. This... this desire I have to be his, I found it extremely unsettling at first. I could hardly even approach the idea, particularly given my station in life. A friend told me that I was a fool for even considering it. I'm afraid that, though I objected to his cautions, some seed of it took root in me, and it was that which nearly destroyed us." I looked up at him again. "I do not believe you will ever have that problem, should you be lucky enough to find another gentleman with compatible desires."

He sighed and took his plate and cup to the table, setting them down and sitting once again. "I want to marry some day," he said, a note of hopelessness in his voice. "I'm not like Bertie. I actually do love women, I just like men quite nearly as much." He chuckled, rueful. "I'll never find a woman who'll be able to give me a good caning and bugger me afterwards, I can assure you."

"The possibility does seem remote," I answered, amused despite the seriousness of the statement. I appreciated the difficulty of his position.

"And I won't be the sort of chap who carries on an affair behind his wife's back."

I decanted my own omelette and bacon onto my plate and took toast from the toaster for both of us. "That is most admirable."

"Bertie, though. Things are only going to get harder for him over the years, especially with those aunts of his constantly trying to get him married off. Eventually, someone's likely to figure it out." He looked up at me with sympathy as I brought my food and his toast to the table; I sat with him.

"I shall do everything within my power to see that they do not. He, like you, would not carry on an affair if he were married, and..." I hated the thought of leaving him. "I could never stay with him if he married," I murmured, staring at my plate because the thought was too painful.

"That would be awful for both of you."

"It will not come to that if I have anything at all to say about the matter." It was my most ardent wish, and I would do whatever was necessary to preserve what I had with Bertram.

He smiled. "No, I think you'll be able to keep him from it. Things might get difficult, but you're the cleverest chap I've ever met. If anyone can see to it that you're both safe, it will be you."

"Thank you." I hoped he was correct.

We were quiet after that, simply eating together. He had his appointment to keep, and I had the tasks of the morning to see to before my Master awoke. Finally, both of us finished, he rose. "Please give Bertie my regards. Tell him I'm sorry I had to bolt before he was awake, but when uncles summon, they can't be ignored."

"Of course."

"Thanks awfully, old thing." I accompanied him to the door to return his things to him and see him out. "Thank you, Reg," he said, as I handed him his hat. He held out a hand to me once again and I took it. "Do you... might I give you one last kiss, for last night's sake?"

I had to admit that I was not averse to the idea. He was quite talented in that regard, and I certainly felt a fondness for him. I did not believe Bertram would object, so I nodded. He kissed me, gently and with great affection, and I returned it with appreciation. "Thank you, Harold," I said, when we had finished.

"Take care of him."

"I shall."

He smiled as he headed out into the morning.

***

When I woke, Jeeves was right there ready to bung the tea tray before me, just like any other day. "Good morning, sir," he said. "It is a clement day, with some slight cumulus clouds to the west. There was a slight shower earlier."

"Mmm. Is Ginger up and about yet?" I wedged myself up to sit amongst the pillows and got in amongst the breakfast items.

"He sends his regards, sir, but noted that he had been summoned by one of his uncles to an appointment this morning."

"Oh. Ah. Yes, I can see why he'd not want to wait on that. Uncles aren't quite so fearsome as aunts, but they, too, must be appeased."

"Indeed, sir."

As Jeeves laid out my upholstery for the day and began to run my bath, I laid into the eggs and b., doing them fairly keen damage; I was really quite famished, but I supposed it was only reasonable considering what we'd got up to last night. There was, however, something that I felt it was finally time to do today, after how well last night had gone. I'd wait until after I'd had a splash with my ducky, though. I needed time to consider how I was going to creep up on the idea.

I was sure he wouldn't be averse. At least, I hoped he wouldn't be. Jeeves now seemed to be pretty well able to go along with anything I wanted, so long as it was in the context of our more intimate relations. He still gave the old stink-eye to my fruiter ties when he was just my valet, of course. That was unlikely to ever change. This, however, had nothing to do with ties, beyond being in the general neckwear family. It was, I supposed, the same genus, if you will, but by no means the same species.

By the time the Wooster corpus had been given its morning ablutions and stuffed into the tweed, I felt ready to face the whole thing. Jeeves put the finishing touch on the knot in my tie -- I'd been kind and allowed him to pick one today -- and I asked after his plans for the day. "There is laundry to be done, after last night's exertions," he said, "but aside from that, nothing out of the ordinary appears on today's schedule, sir. Did you have plans of which I should be aware?"

"I'm not liable to inundation by aunts, random beazels, or fellow Drones before luncheon?" I inquired, hoping that we would have some privacy for what I had in mind.

"No such indications have been received, sir. There have been no telegrams or other communications from such directions."

I nodded. "Lovely," I said. "I'll see you in a moment in the sitting room, then, Jeeves."

His eyebrow rose a querying eighth of an inch. "Very good, sir." He shimmered off, leaving me to dig out the last bits that I'd had to go looking for the other day. I only hoped I was doing the right thing. The bits were in a black box; it wasn't terribly large, but it was a bit larger than would fit into any of the pockets of which I was currently possessed. I'd have to carry it in with me.

He was standing patiently in the sitting room when I arrived, his hands behind his back, as was his wont when he was waiting. He watched me as I set the box down on the side table. I beetled over and planted a kiss on the Jeevesian dial, wrapping him snugly in my arms, and he returned the embrace with enthusiasm. "May I enquire as to your intentions for this morning, sir?" I knew he was asking if I was going to pounce on him, but that wasn't quite what I had in mind. It might look like it at first, though.

"This, well, it shouldn't really take terribly long, provided it's received in the spirit I intend it, but this is a thing that has to be addressed by Bertram as the young Master, if you will."

He nodded. "Of course, Master," he said. I slipped out of his arms and sat, feeling nervous as a feline in an aphorism.

"I'd like you to be in your pristine state, Reginald," I said, gesturing for him to remove the outer layer.

He gave me a curious look but complied. "Yes, Master." In moments, his uniform had been shed, folded, and tucked under the chesterfield.

"Come here, love. Kneel in front of me." He popped into existence at my feet, his head bowed. It was a glorious sight; it always had been. I ran my fingers through his lovely black hair. "We've been together for a while now," I said. "I mean to say, under other circs, if the world were different, I'd have married you long ago. I think you know that."

He nodded. "Yes, Master." His voice was soft, but pleased. Even after all that had happened, I knew he felt the same.

"I couldn't ever buy you a ring. We both know where that would lead. Questions, various types of criminations, both in- and re-, I'm sure. No doubt it would end in tragedy, and I don't want that for either of us." He looked up at me, curiosity in his dark e.s. "What I'm trying to say is, I've thought of something that seems suitable to represent that, but that also suits the fact that I'm your Master and you're my slave. As you've said, I own you now, and we should have something to mark that, something that says this is one of those forever sorts of things." The expression on his face was not entirely describable at hearing those words. This wasn't at all bad, mind you. There was just this intense thingness that was radiating something between adoration and disbelief.

I picked up the box and opened it. "I got this a few days ago, when I hoped that we might finally be able to work this out. I had to wait, of course, until I knew that we would be all right, before I could give it to you." I took my gift to him from the box. It was a black collar, made of very soft leather; it actually smelled quite delightful. It had a silver buckle on it and a small silver ring that a lead might be attached to. It also had a silver nameplate on it, engraved Property of B. W. W. in a very plain style; he would never have stood for anything fancy, after all; he hated monograms, and I wasn't sure if this fit into said category. I showed it to him. "I... You understand why I chose this, don't you?" I asked, hoping he did. He nodded, resembling a lovestruck haddock in several more ways than might be expected for such a brilliant, fish-fed chap. He didn't, or perhaps couldn't, say anything, so I kept on, hoping I wasn't sticking my foot in it up to the old patella. "When Ginger first came over, some months back, and I had you wearing just that tie, I couldn't stop thinking about how like a collar it looked, you see, and how much that stirred me up. I couldn't get the picture out of my head if I'd taken a steam shovel to the old onion and done a complete excavation. And then there was the day, more recently, when I tugged you along by the tie as though you were on a lead, and you... well, you really seemed to appreciate that."

I took a shaky breath. Jeeves was still stunned speechless. I handed it to him as I continued, and he looked at it as though it were the crown jewels, one thumb moving slowly over the outer surface of it. "This... it's my promise to you, Reg. This is my promise to be with you always, to love you like the dickens, to care for you, and to do all those other things that married sorts do, except with rather more of the whole Master and slave whatsit and very little of the sort of soppily romantic slush one might find around beazels." I took it back from him and looked at it. I opened the buckle. "It's also your promise to me, Reginald, to talk to me instead of assuming things, to keep me out of the soup, and to be mine always. Do you accept those terms?"

"I do, Master," he said, his head bowed again. "I am yours, always and with all my heart. I am..." He took a shaky breath, and I could hear just how hard this had hit him. I was feeling it in the cardiac region myself and the vision was getting slightly blurry. I'd have to get my eyes checked. "I am honored that you would have me as your slave, and I will serve you faithfully and with love for all the days of my life."

"Here, love," I whispered. "Hold your head up." He looked up at me, and I buckled the collar about his neck. It lay low at his throat, where it could be easily concealed under the collar of his shirt. It was narrow enough that it wouldn't show, and soft enough not to irritate him. While he wasn't actually in tears, a few had dared to well up in his eyes and were considering escaping, and his lower lip was trembling very slightly. I took his face between my hands and kissed him with a deep and abiding pash. We were both breathless when I let him have his lips back.

"I have this, too," I said, taking a matching lead from the box. "I know it's not quite the thing I'd prefer, just having it around the flat." I sighed. "I wish that I had somewhere it would be safe to take you and show you off to other chaps who might understand. Having Ginger over last night was wonderful, but it's unlikely to ever be a regular event in our lives." I clipped the thing to his collar and tugged him in for a kiss that made the last one look like a tame peck on the cheek between a nanny and her charge. Jeeves moaned into my mouth and I barely restrained myself from doing likewise. He was thoroughly stirred up when I loosed the lead slightly so he could sit back, his face flushed and his prick very much interested in the proceedings. Mine, I must say, was signed up for it as well.

"I want you," I told him.

"Anything, Master." He could barely speak for his excitement.

I stood and tugged at the lead again, bringing him to his feet. This only seemed to serve to make his eyes even darker; he was already trembling slightly as I led him toward our bedroom. I didn't have in mind quite what I think he did, but there was something in there that I wanted, and I wasn't going to pass up my first chance to lead him about like this. His breathing was quiet but slightly ragged by the time we got in there. I opened the wardrobe and pulled out a shortish bit of rope. I really didn't want to torture the poor chap with one of my fruity ties right now, after all.

The rope in my hand, I wanted to tie his behind him, but I had the lead in one hand and the rope in my other. This, of course, would not do. And Jeeves couldn't exactly hold the lead in his hand while I tied his wrists. I didn't want to let Jeeves know I was being indecisive, though. It really wouldn't do for the young Master to do such a thing right at this particular mo. I had a bit of a brainstorm go dashing through the Wooster onion like a herd of thundering wooly mastodons, but without the subsequent damage to the surrounding landscape. "Open your mouth."

He gave me a slightly startled look and I slipped the leather lead between his teeth. "Hold that, Reginald." I'm sure he would have said 'Yes, Master' but the man's quite superlative oral cavity was slightly occupied. I bent to tie his wrists and chanced to look over his shoulder. He happened to be standing so that I could see the full length of him in my dressing mirror. It was the most fascinating thing I could imagine; his eyes were closed and he had a look of absolute arousal and utter bliss on his face as I bound him. I couldn't help leaning in and pressing a nibbling kiss to his neck just above his new collar. His breath hitched and he shivered. "I love you," I whispered into his ear as I finished with his wrists. He made a tiny, helpless sound that went straight to the little Wooster and made me feel thoroughly tingly.

I could hardly resist him standing there looking so dashed gorgeous. I made free with my hands, caressing his body from just above his beautifully hard prick up to his shoulders, pressing my body along his bare back. He moaned softly. I watched us in the mirror for a moment, appreciating just how wonderful the collar and lead looked against his skin. I shivered a little myself at the wonder of the whole thingummy. After a desultory tickle of one of his nipples, which caused him to make another soft sound, I took the lead back from him. His eyes opened as I tugged. There was a chair in my room, where I often sat of a morning or evening dealing with the Wooster footwear. I placed myself on said furniture and tugged on the lead. "Kneel here."

"Yes, Master." He'd hardly been touched but he already looked quite thoroughly debauched. Perhaps it was a preemptive debauchment. Jeeves is really extraordinarily talented, so I'm sure he could manage it if he tried. I opened up the flies of my trousers and made free with the little Wooster and his two closest companions. The look on his face would have been entirely at home on a chap who'd been starving and suddenly found himself with one of Anatole's finest in front of him.

Another tug of the lead brought Jeeves's face down to my lap. I could feel his breath on my skin. "Let me have your mouth, slave."

"Yes, Master." Quick as lightning, or possibly its quicker and somewhat sparklier sibling, he had my cock in his mouth, all warm and wet and so bally soft and slippery. I gasped and fisted my hand in his hair.

It was a moment before I could collect myself enough to do more than melt with pleasure. The broad flat of his tongue was working up and down my shaft as his head slowly rose and fell in my lap, his lips stretched tightly around me. I guided him a bit with my hand, pushing him to take me in more deeply. "You love this, don't you, slave?" I murmured. His mouth full, he could only answer with a soft moan.

He was so dashed beautiful kneeling there, his hands bound behind him, his head in my lap, and the dark line of his collar marking his neck. It was more stirring than anything, knowing that he was really mine, that he had wanted this as much as I had. I'd been worried, when I'd chosen to do it, that he would think I was just making him out to be a dog, but this was completely and entirely different than that. He had wanted me to own him, wanted to be my property in a way that was completely forbidden, and a collar was the only way I could imagine that would carry anything even close to that kind of meaning. To see it around his neck while he did this -- it was more powerful than any drink or drug the most brilliant chemist could ever create. It was absolute perfection, like he was, and I felt adored. I felt more than that, I felt worshipped by the man, and I worshipped him right back.

Jeeves's breath was hot against my skin as his head rose and he licked his way down to my eggs, slipping his tongue between them as his nose pressed against the side of my shaft. He licked there, pressing softly into the space between them, caressing me in the most intimate way I'd ever experienced. Gently, he took one of my bits into his mouth, then the other, teasing them, then sucking both of them in at once and tugging slightly, leaving me gasping breathlessly with pleasure. "Oh, yes, that's just corking," I told him, one hand fisted in his hair, the fingers of the other caressing his cheek; I brushed the leather of the lead along his skin there and he shivered again.

"You suck me so bally perfectly, slave. You're so good at this, so good." He moved up my prick with his lips, pressing wet, sucking kisses from the root of me up to that devastatingly sensitive place just at the base of the head. I gasped. He moaned.

"Oh, Master," he whispered, his lips still moving on me, "I love this so very much. You are my fill of bliss on bliss." He dipped in for another slow suck at just the tip of my cock and my fingers tightened in his hair. He moaned again.

"I want you to come off just from doing this," I said, breathless and loving him more deeply than I could ever have imagined.

The sound he made was incredibly sensual. "Yes," he panted. "Yes, please, yes." He shifted slightly and began taking me in very deeply; I thought I was going to come off right then but managed to catch enough of a breath to hold myself back. By now, along with one of my hands fisted in his hair, I had the other one all knotted up in the leather lead attached to his collar, holding it tautly, which only seemed to increase his excitement. He began taking the head of my prick all the way down into his throat in slow, deep motions that were punctuated by deep, moaning breaths, and I could feel how much pleasure he was getting from it in the way he was trembling.

Watching him was like downing a dozen hefty whisky and s.'s with a very sparing hand on the s. My head was spinning and my entire body was just tingling from how it all felt. "Do it, slave, come off for me. I want to see you spend with my prick in your mouth."

He gave one last, loud groan, and shuddered, taking me down to the root into his mouth, his nose pressed into my body as he swallowed convulsively. I could feel it hit him, shaking his body and making him utter a deep moan around my prick. It was devastatingly erotic, having him spend himself just from the pleasure of sucking my cock. There was no possible way I could have remained unaffected by his pleasure. Unable to hold back, I let out a shuddering groan as my head fell back against the wall with a thump, and I gave my slave a rather substantial stream of my own pleasure to swallow. My eyes could possibly have rolled back in my head as well, but I will admit that it was rather dark behind my eyelids, and I was not paying enough attention to be certain. It took both of us a few minutes to collect ourselves after that, with Jeeves pressing heated kisses to my thighs as we both panted for breath.

Once I could breathe again, I raised him up into my arms and kissed his mouth. It was slow and extremely appreciative, with a good bit of the tender caress and the adoring nibble of lips.

Still a bit breathless after that, Jeeves replied to my earlier expression of distress about having nowhere to display him properly as I untied his wrists. "Re-regarding your previous lament, I have heard, Master, that there is a certain mansion in Cap d'Antibes, owned by an American millionaire, where entertainments are occasionally held that are attended by men like ourselves."

Cap d'Antibes? That struck a jangling memory, like a piano wire sounding in a large and particularly echoey cavern. "Cap... Wait, are you talking about Reedy?"

"'Reedy,' Master?" He looked confused.

"Carleton Draper-Reed. American chap. Has a place there. I went to a party of that nature once, though I don't recall seeing anything of this sort happening there."

"That would be the name of the gentleman in question, Master," he said, raising an eyebrow. He wrapped an arm about my waist and leaned into me, as he loved to do.

I shook my head. "Really. I mean to say, that's where I met Darren, before you shimmered into my life, old thing."

"Indeed, Master?" Thankfully, I didn't see that spark of jealousy in his eyes. Last night seemed to have driven most of it out of him, and I was glad. He knew that Darren would never have me, no matter what happened, and that anyone else would be a momentary bit of excitement, the merest flicker, where Jeeves was the banked fire in my heart, there for the duration.

"Well, yes. I was there with someone else at the time; a chap I'd met in Paris. No real interest in Darren, of course. Handsome, but much to old for this Wooster's preference. I'd asked once or twice what was happening upstairs at the stately heap, but everyone told me it wouldn't be to my taste. I wonder if..."

"It is quite possible, Master. You did not, until very recently, know that such things would appeal to you, just as I was unaware of my own nature."

A plot was hatching in the old lemon. "I say, Reginald. Perhaps I ought to look up old Reedy again. It would be lovely to take you along and make everyone insanely jealous of me, having you on a lead and you being the perfect slave in addition to the world's best valet." I grinned at him. "And if Darren is there, I can show him exactly why I'd had not the slightest interest in him. It would be quite the wheeze, showing him what I'm really like, what?"

A broad grin blossomed on Jeeves's face, wild with the sort of promise one detects in an entire case of the finest single malt. It was quite possibly the wickedest grin I had ever seen on anyone, anywhere. "Indeed, Master."

~~fin~~