This Wooster has always appreciated the Sherlock Holmes stories, even if they do make me feel more gormless than ever. And what, Bertram, you say, does this have to do with anything? Not much, but I think of it because Holmes would have known why Jeeves always wore his socks to bed. We had only lately become something much more than master and man, and truth be told, for the first while Jeeves kept me too bally stunned to even notice the socks. Once I did, I wasn't really sure how to bring it up. I mean, everyone looks a bit silly in nothing but socks. Even Jeeves, though being a paragon, the effect wasn't as noticeable.
Still, as the Wooster cranium gradually wrapped around loving Jeeves and his loving me back, I became able to notice extraneous details like the socks. It was strange, because he'd take off everything else readily enough, and seemed quite rightly unashamed of what nature had given him. Where the attraction is for him, I'm not quite sure, but I take it on faith. I was thinking along these lines and smiling softly at him as we lay tangled together one night, when a lazy movement of one of his feet drew my eye.
"Darling," I murmured, "why the socks? I mean, every time it's off with every other aspect of the old kit, but the socks remain where they are, like the last bally shield of virtue. Do we need to heat the flat better?"
"No, sir." He only addresses me thus in bed when feeling particularly soupy, nervous, or submissive. The tone led me to assume a combination of the first two, and I looked at him in some concern.
He sighed deeply. "The covered appendages are extremely repulsive. I do my best not to trouble you with them."
"I don't see how they could be, if they look anything like the rest of you."
Apparently this was exactly the wrong thing to say, for he looked so depressed that I started covering him with kisses and telling him I didn't mean it, though I wasn't sure what it was I didn't mean. He hugged me tightly and stroked my hair until I stopped babbling.
"They no longer look anything like the rest of me, but it is a small thing," he said softly.
I pulled back enough to look at him. "...It's war damage, isn't it?"
My voice was smaller than I wanted it to be, but it's bally hard to talk about some things. Simply put, Jeeves had been in it, and I had not. Too young until the very end. But with Jeeves four years older than me, he had been twenty in time for the Battle of the Somme, and he had bally well been there. Long before I was daffy for him, he had the Armistice off, no questions asked. Sometimes the whole blasted War seemed to stand between us in a dark, icy wall, and I never knew what to do about it. I always felt immeasurably young and naive, and as if there was no way I could even begin to understand or help.
"Hush, beloved. I am simply fortunate enough to be vain." He kissed my forehead and looked into my eyes as if to make certain I was all right. "I still have all my limbs. I do not need a prosthetic face, and I can sleep through the night without Veronal. I need not tell you how many more are not to so lucky."
"Dash it, Jeeves!" I cried, this time more shrill than I wanted to be, my voice cracking at the edges. He blinked at me in frank surprise as I sat up, struggling to find a way to explain what I felt. "I-- I don't want you to feel like you have to hide anything you've suffered from me, as if you're ashamed of it or as if I can't cope with it. I mean, I don't know all that much about suffering, but I can tell you right now, there's nothing on you that's too ugly for me to love."
Feeling a bit overwrought, I lit a gasper and took a few puffs before looking back at Jeeves, who had been silent the whole time. He looked deeply shocked, but in a good way, and also a little bit the way he does before he begins quoting poetry.
Jeeves sat up properly and gathered me into his arms. "Dearest, I must apologize." He kissed me softly, plucking the cigarette from my hand and putting it out in the bedside ashtray before it could burn either of us.
"For not getting my limits, Holmes?"
"Precisely." He kissed me again, and all conversation was forestalled for the next few minutes, until I found myself straddling him, resting my brow against his, his hand warm and heavy on the back of my neck as we caught our breath together. "Bertram, I scarcely deserve you."
"Now see here, old thing--"
"I said 'scarcely,'" he murmured, eyes doing something slightly too dignified to be called twinkling, and I smiled, nibbling his ear the way he likes, and listening to him purr.
"You know," I spoke even more quietly, in deference to my location, "this has been rather a bit of travail to get you take off your bally socks, what?"
"I can refuse you nothing, Bertram," he said, a little ruefully.
He shifted me as if to reach down and take them off himself, but I beat him to it. I had insisted on undressing him the first time, stopping only when he had issued a nolle prosequi on the socks, and was jolly well going to finish what I had begun. He watched me, and I knew he'd see disgust if there was any on my face, but I had the feeling that whatever hellish wreck had been made of his poor feet, that I would be able to deal with it. I had rather arbitrarily started with the one on my left and his right, carefully pulling off the sock, almost as if the wounds were still fresh and I had to be careful of them.
"The right is the least damaged," he said quietly, watching me unveil an ankle as sound and perfect as his wrists, and then still further, fine bones and pale skin.
Finally, fingertips trailing over his heel, I could feel a shallow depression, where he seemed to have lost a bit. The arch was fine, sweeping smoothly along until another missing patch just below the great toe, which was itself quite all right when I finally unveiled the whole thing. The smallest toe was completely gone, as was half the second smallest. The others were covered in purplish scarring, a bit withered and strange, as though they had been nibbled at by some horrid thing that ought to have been trodden on. The scarring extended to about a quarter-inch back from his toes, but as I ran my fingertips over it, the contour of the bones was what it should have been.
"Jeeves, did you really think I'd balk at this?" I kissed the spot where scar met spotless skin, looking up at him. "What happened?"
"Trench foot." He shuddered, watching me. "A grotesque condition caused by prolonged immersion, low temperatures, and constrictive footwear."
"Good Lord." I kissed the spot where his smallest toe had been, now smooth and inevitable as if he had never had one at all. "Darling, I can't begin to imagine."
"A circumstance for which I am far beyond thankful."
I could think of nothing to say to that, and took each scarred toe into my mouth instead. Whatever else they might be, Jeeves's feet were clean and dry, and it was no hardship to kiss and lave each scar. Feet are rather like hands, after all, and I have always loved his. He still tensed a little as I moved to the second one, and I soon saw why. All three of the middle toes were gone, the places they had been pitted and uneven, and the arch was the only unscarred portion of the sole. Feeling along the top, I found a divot of flesh had been excised, and a slight and gruesome twist to one of the long bones.
"Unevenly sized boots" he said, slightly hoarse. The two remaining toes curled pitifully, as if they wanted to hide, and I kissed them both, sliding my hands over the reduced sole and up the perfect ankle and back again, feeling the slightest bit exasperated.
"Damn it man," I said softly, "I love you, I love your feet, and you've nothing to hide from me."
"Bertram..." He trailed off, staring down at me as I pressed a kiss to that terrible gap, the skin smooth and sound under my lips, roughness gone from its craters and pits. I was at a loss for words for the umpteetnth bally time that night, so I just kissed and licked and lightly sucked, wanting more than anything to let the poor mangled appendages be a source of pleasure instead of pain or embarrassment. After all, I had meant what I said before, and I pressed kisses to the sole of his foot, nuzzling along his instep like a cat.
"Not to be rude, Jeeves..."
"Don't 'sir' me, I was just wondering how you balance so well, and if your shoes fit properly."
"You are certainly generous enough for me to have them made to order."
"I am? Jolly good." I wrapped my mouth around his great toe again, making him squirm and blush.
"As to my balance, I made use of a cane during my recovery, but vowed I would not do so afterward."
I pulled off, kissing the tip of his toe, the trick similar enough to one I had been known to do rather higher to make Jeeves whimper quietly. "As I might've expected, really. You are a marvel, Jeeves."
"Thank you, beloved," he breathed. "Though I see nothing marvelous about simple perseverance."
I just smiled and switched feet, giving him an anklet of kisses. "That's why you need me to see it for you, darling."
"Come here." He reached down and pulled me up into kissing distance, the slide of skin on skin making me shudder.
I made a sound Jeeves has described as cooing (though I staunchly deny it), and let him get on with it, crushing me just a little in that good way and simply devouring my mouth. Weak with lust and sentiment I melted, my head spinning when Jeeves finally broke the kiss, gazing into my eyes as if I were something a great deal more wonderful than I am. I couldn't do much but shiver as he ran his hands over me, nuzzling his chest and loving him too much for any mortal agency to express.
"Jeeves?" I finally murmured.
"It's really all right, that I'll never understand?"
"Dearest," he said, his voice cracking a little. "Please. Your unscathed condition gives me hope, and I love you exactly as you are."
I laughed, feeling perilously close to tears. "Of course you do, I'm not wearing a chartreuse necktie."
"Hideous neckwear causes my love to manifest itself in stern disapproval, but does not change the nature of the emotion," he said, carding his fingers through my hair.
I sighed. "So is love then an ever-fixed mark?"
"As far as I am concerned," he said softly, and kissed me again.
We slid into a second round after all, Jeeves's scarred feet caressing my legs as I took him slowly, lacing our fingers together and holding his forearms over his head. He whimpered into my mouth as I kissed him, our breath and our heartbeats becoming one thing until he bucked under me and cried out, two-toed foot clutching at my thigh, beautifully unselfconscious. His climax brought on my own, and we lay there in a stunned, sticky pile for a bit before Jeeves slithered out from under me, insisting that we bathe and not even glancing at his discarded socks as he padded off to fill the bath.