"Good evening, sir. I trust--"
I could not help stopping to stare in disbelief as Mr Wooster stepped through the door. He had been to the theatre that evening for one of the popular musical entertainments he so enjoys, dressed in his finest white tie. It was a suit I had always particularly liked on him, and it was the state of this suit that so arrested me upon his arrival at the flat.
His top hat was missing. His opera scarf was in tatters. His cummerbund was ripped in several places. His entire suit was rent at seams and torn here and there, collar and cuffs in disarray, a large flap of his jacket and the shirt beneath hanging down over his chest, exposing a wide swath of his skin.
Startled, I stood in shock for a moment until I realized that Mr Wooster was wavering there in the doorway, his eyes wide and distressed. He teetered toward me and I reached out for him, not wanting him to fall to the floor. "Jeeves," he said, slumping against me. His voice was high and somewhat tight and I could feel him shivering slightly.
"Sir, what happened?" I took a closer look at him as I guided him into the sitting room and assisted him to perch gingerly upon the chesterfield. His face was scratched and bleeding, and I noted that he also had scratches in many of the places where his suit was torn. He appeared to have what looked very much like small, bloody bites here and there.
"Organ grinders, Jeeves," he said, looking down at himself.
"Organ grinders, sir?" The non sequitur alarmed me.
"Seventeen of them, Jeeves," he answered. "Or rather, their monkeys."
"Capuchins, rhesus, spider monkeys, that sort of thing. Long tails. Sharp, pointy teeth. Little red jackets and tiny fezzes. You'd have been utterly horrified, old fruit. Consider, if you will, seventeen tiny Oofy Prossers, with terrible orthodontics and a taste for Tunisian headwear." He shuddered, one hand in the air with his thumb and forefinger held about an inch apart. "It was really quite terrifying."
"You are injured, sir." I was uncertain if he had struck his head, so I reached down, took his chin in one hand, and tilted his head up so that I could peer into his eyes.
He nodded, looking up at me. His face was tight but his eyes were clear. "I'm in rather a bit of pain, I will admit."
"I should get the first aid kit, sir. Your wounds require cleaning and it would seem you need bandages as well."
He looked back down at himself and sighed. "I'm sorry about the suit, Jeeves. I know it was your favorite."
"Please remain here for a moment, sir. I shall not be long."
"Right ho." His voice wavered slightly as I turned and hurried into the kitchen to retrieve the necessary supplies. By the time I returned, he was curled into a small ball, leaning into corner of the chesterfield, his arms wrapped about his knees to hold them to his chest.
"Sir," I murmured, "I need to see your injuries in order to treat them appropriately."
With a sigh, he slowly unfolded, trembling slightly. "It was awful, just awful."
"What happened, sir?" I set the kit upon a side table and assisted him to remove his opera scarf and jacket. His white tie was askew beneath his half-connected collar, flecks of blood on the fabric.
"I had departed the theatre and was walking along Piccadilly when I thought I'd like a bit of a snack, so I got myself a banana. Further along the street was a rather raucous gathering of chaps dressed in brightly colored clothing. It turned out they were organ grinders having something of a territorial dispute. Their monkeys caught sight of my banana, Jeeves, and the next thing I knew, it was monkeys everywhere. I felt like a bally fruit tree! They were shrieking and tearing at me and biting me trying to get to my intended yellow repast, and then the organ grinders dashed up and started trying to pull the creatures off me. The blasted monkeys wouldn't let go, and I feared having to return home wrapped in nothing but The Times, or perhaps The Guardian."
"Surely not, sir." The image was a startling one, and he blushed slightly. I felt my own cheeks flush at the thought.
"It was utter chaos, old thing. I'd rather face Aunt Agatha and Florence Craye in full marital steam than these chaps and their simian accomplices!"
As his jacket came away from his arms, I could see blood on his shirt and many scratches and bites showing through the rents in the fabric. His trousers were nearly as damaged as the shirt and he was hurt in far more places than I had originally thought. There were too many bites and scratches to clean them individually without taking a great deal of time. "Sir, may I suggest a hot bath to help you relax, so that we might clean your wounds more easily."
With a sigh, Mr Wooster deflated. "Yes, right. That's probably a good idea." He looked up at me, his voice plaintive. "It just hurts, Jeeves. I didn't think monkeys were nearly that vicious. I mean to say, they're such awfully cute little things; you wouldn't suspect they had the temperament of an irritable rhinoceros when confronted with unavailable comestibles, if comestibles is the word I want. And then the bobbies made their appearance, drawn by the commotion, and we all fled. I didn't even have the heart to try to nick one of their helmets, Jeeves, I was that out of sorts. It wasn't sporting at all."
"I am sorry to hear it, sir." I found myself quite relieved that I had not been called upon to post bail for him in addition to dealing with his injuries.
He reached up to me with one hand in a mute request for assistance in rising. I took his chilly hand in mine and helped him to his feet. "Jeeves," he said, "would you think less of me if I said I required a manly press of the shoulder and, perhaps, well... a bit of a friendly embrace? It was a terribly trying evening." His lower lip was trembling and he looked near to tears.
I would not even have considered such a thing for any other employer, but Mr Wooster is not like any of my previous gentlemen. I am, as I have occasionally noted, quite fond of him and he was in a remarkably pitiable state. "No, sir," I said quietly, "I would not."
At this, he threw himself into my arms and held on tightly. After a moment's hesitation, I slipped my arms about him, attempting to avoid the worst of his injuries. He shivered and clung to me, sniffling slightly. A few moments later, I began gently rubbing my hand over his back in a slow circle, attempting to calm him. He was warm and solid in my arms; it was extremely disconcerting to be so close to him, particularly with Mr Wooster in such a vulnerable state. His face nuzzled against my neck, his hair tickling my ear, and I feared I might lose my composure.
To say that I was fond of him was, in retrospect, a lie, or at least a diminishment of the truth. My attachment to him ran much deeper than mere fondness; if anything, it was an enamored desire that I feared tremendously and had worked for some years to keep at arms' length. His distress moved me far more than I would have preferred. Unable to resist the man under such circumstances, I brought him gently closer, allowing him to press the length of his body to my own. He sighed softly against my neck, sending a slight shiver up my spine. "Thank you, Jeeves," he whispered, his lips moving against my skin in a manner that might have been specifically calculated to arouse me. I knew better than to believe it had been deliberate on his part, but its effect was marked.
"Of course, sir," I murmured, holding him close for several minutes before stilling the movement of my hand. "I shall prepare your bath. We would not wish to allow infection to set in."
"No. No, of course not." He seemed reluctant to release me, and his eyes met mine as my hands slid over his slender waist to ease him carefully away from me, finally coming to rest on his hips. We stood there in this partial embrace, just looking at one another, and time seemed to still in its movement, trapped in crystalline clarity as an insect in amber. His expression was indecipherable, which was quite disconcerting, considering how open his expressions usually were to my understanding. I was painfully conscious of how very much I wanted him and hoped that none of it showed on my face or in my demeanor. I felt a frightening degree of tenderness toward him in his obviously wretched state. With a blink and a deep breath, I tore myself away from him and proceeded to the salle de bain to prepare his bath. He followed me, moving cautiously and making small, pained noises as he did so.
Once I had started the bath water, I turned to Mr Wooster and divested him of his white bow tie. I carefully removed the studs from his shirt, mindful of those places where I had seen blood upon his skin and the cloth. He stood quietly as I did so, simply allowing me to perform this task without offering any comment; his quietness was somewhat disturbing, as he usually spoke to me when I readied him for bed. Such silence was highly unorthodox. When I opened the shirt I was perturbed to find bruising as well as the expected bloody scratches and bites. He hissed slightly as I removed the shirt; there were a number of places where the cloth stuck to his injuries, fused to his skin by drying blood. I did my best not to aggravate these places, but there was only so much that could be done.
Carefully, slowly, piece by piece, I removed the rest of his clothing while hot water splashed in the tub. Each new bit of skin revealed some new scratch or bite. Though he was obviously in pain, Mr Wooster bore it with more grace than I expected. Once he stood, nude, before me I poured epsom salts into the bath to ease his bruises and help to clean the wounds, turning off the water. Steam rose around us from the heat. "The bath salts may sting somewhat, sir," I warned him, aiding him into the tub.
His face tightened as he lowered himself carefully into the water. "You're right, of course. It does sting a bit," he grumbled.
After removing my morning coat and rolling up my sleeves to avoid dampening them, I got down on one knee beside the tub and took up soap and a cloth as he leaned back against the white ceramic. "Allow me, sir." I gently brushed and blotted at the scratches on his face, washing away the dried streaks of blood on his forehead and cheek. He sighed, closing his eyes, and finally began to allow himself to relax. I tried not to focus upon his nakedness, though this was a hopeless cause. I had often seen him in the bath, but the embrace we shared not long before had shaken me and left me extremely sensitive to the sensual physicality of his presence.
"Thanks awfully, old fruit."
"None of these injuries look severe enough to require stitches, sir."
"Oh, jolly good. I wasn't sure." He hissed sharply as I cleaned a particularly deep scratch on his chest. "Some of them are dashed uncomfortable. I was bleeding rather a bit on the way home. Thought I might be leaving a trail, like some murder victim in one of those Rex West mysteries, what?"
"I should not like to think of it, sir." My hands moved slowly over his exposed body and swirls of pink moved in the water around him as the blood rinsed away. I took care to be as gentle as I was able but it was impossible to clean all of his injuries without causing him some pain.
Mr Wooster paused for a moment before he spoke again. "Thank you for being so careful, old thing." He watched me as my hands moved over his body, his eyes half-closed.
"We shall be done very shortly, sir. Once you are dry, we can get out the sticking plasters and some gauze and then I shall lay out our coral pyjamas." I would most likely need to assist him with the towel as I had in the bath.
He nodded. "Something for the ache, as well, I think."
"Of course, sir." I touched his shoulder and gently urged him to lean forward so that I might deal with his back. He rested his arms on his knees and let his hands dangle, his chin resting there. He shuddered slightly and hissed again as I tended a bite near one elbow. "My apologies, sir."
One wet hand lit warmly upon my wrist. "Don't apologize, Jeeves." The tips of his fingers trailed over the back of my hand, raising gooseflesh on my arm. He looked up from where our hands touched, not raising his face. There was something cautious but assessing in his glance. "Your hands are a balm for the young master's spirit, though I'm not sure anything would be a balm for the Wooster corpus at the mo." A blush colored his cheeks.
"Thank you, sir." I did not want to prolong the torment I felt at having his body beneath my hands, yet I could not work too quickly, lest I hurt him. I tried instead to focus only upon my intent to aid him and ease his pain. This carried me through the task of cleaning his wounds, though I am forced to admit it was quite difficult to avoid thinking of the reasons I would prefer for having my hands upon him. I could not meet his eyes as I touched him.
Once he was clean and dry, I gave him aspirin and applied disinfectants and plasters, with the occasional larger bandage for particularly bad bites. When I finished, I found myself on my knees before his nude body, placing the last of the plasters on his thigh. Looking down at me, he trembled slightly. He bit his lower lip and whispered, "Jeeves." My breath caught as he reached down and caressed my face, one finger trailing along my lips. I could not help my quiet gasp, or the jolt of arousal that shot through me at his touch.
"Sir," I responded, equally quiet. I dared not move for fear of breaking the moment, of banishing this strange erotic tension between us. After a slight hesitation, his fingers traced their way up my cheek and into my hair. He let out a soft sigh as he ran them along my temple. Emboldened by this act, I leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his skin at the place where his pelvic bone met his waist. He shivered. I could feel the slight twitch of his prick against my jaw. His fingers tightened in my hair.
"I've wanted you for a dashed long time," he murmured, astonishment in his eyes. "I didn't think you wanted me, too."
I slipped my hands up his thighs, holding his hips gently between my palms. "For years," I admitted, finally allowing myself to speak from my heart.
"Years." The astonishment in his eyes drifted into his voice.
"Yes," I whispered against the skin of his belly, placing a bolder kiss above his curling pubic hair, sucking the soft flesh there between my lips as I caressed it with the tip of my tongue. He made a soft, aroused sound. I allowed my hands to drift along his hips to cup his buttocks, taking him into an embrace as I turned my face to rest my cheek upon the slight rise of his abdomen. The emotions rising within me were tidal in their intensity; I had never thought to be given such an opportunity and I found the thought that he wanted me as his lover nearly overwhelming.
He tugged at my hair. "Come up here and kiss me."
"Yes." I rose, my hands whispering along his skin as I took him into my arms, avoiding scratches and plasters as I moved. Our lips met, cautious for a moment until the kiss suddenly became deep and desperate. I had always been aware of my desire for him but to actually hold him in my arms, to kiss him in more than a night's hopeless fantasy, had unleashed a torrent like some wild river tumbling swift and rough into the sea. He caught my jacket in tight fists, holding me hard against him, and we gasped and panted into one another's mouths, taking what we had both so desperately craved.
Finally, breathless, we rested our brows against one another, noses touching, eyes closed. "I-I can't really do much tonight, old thing," he said, apologetic.
I shook my head. "No. I know." I raised my head and peered into his eyes, caressing his face gently. "It doesn't matter."
"It does matter. Now that I know I can have you--"
"That will not change simply because you are injured and hurting. I shall still want you tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow," I promised.
"Come to bed with me."
"Of course." My heart leapt at his invitation; he was offering me more than a simple satiation of physical desire.
"Do you know how often I've wished I could say that?"
"As often as I have wished to hear it, no doubt."
He smiled at me, his face brightening like sunlight on an August afternoon. "I wish I'd known," he said, taking me by the hand and leading me into his bedchamber.
"To suggest such a thing is dangerous."
He sighed. "I know, which is why I never did. I never wanted to risk your leaving." He tugged at my tie as we stood beside his bed, loosening it before slipping it from around my neck and tossing it to the floor. I felt only a momentary twinge at the mistreatment of my clothing; it was far more important that I be as naked as my beloved and that I take him in my arms again to feel his skin on mine, his body pressed against the length of me. I quickly divested myself of my uniform and held the covers of the bed for him to slip beneath. He gestured for me to join him and I did, rolling onto my side to take him in my arms.
Our legs tangled together, pulling each other closer, and I relished the sensation of slight friction as we moved against one another, seeking a comfortable position. We kissed deeply as we shifted beneath the sheets. He was a glorious warmth in my arms and I grew hard as we moved together. After a few minutes, we settled, I on my back and he resting his head on my chest as I ran one hand gently up and down his spine. I could think of nothing more perfect than this moment, lying entwined in his bed, touching and caressing him as I had always desired. He sighed happily, pressing a kiss to my chest.
"Have you -- I mean to say, do you ever think about love, old fruit?"
Part of me wanted to laugh, but I knew how difficult it was for him to speak of such things. "When you are in the room, sir? Constantly." It was only a slight exaggeration.
He shook his head, his arms tightening about me. "No, please. Not sir. Not here."
"Bertram," I murmured, and he shivered. "I shall call you whatever you wish when we are alone like this."
"I just want to hear you say my name. It sounds so much better when you say it than anyone else." He buried his face against my neck. "Could I call you Reggie?"
That, I realized, had been inevitable. "You may, although I will admit I prefer Reginald, or just Reg."
"Ah. I see." He leaned up on his elbows and looked into my eyes. "You know I'm utterly mad for you, don't you Reg?"
I cupped his cheek in my hand, tracing my thumb along his cheekbone. "Yes, Bertram," I whispered.
"Absolutely lost without you. A lamb without a sheepdog. Gilbert without Sullivan. Tea sans toast."
"Tea without toast is a horrible, lonely thing, Reg."
I could not help smiling. "I would never serve you tea without toast."
He shifted his weight and his body covered my own. Leaning down, he kissed me again. "Tomorrow, when I'm feeling better, I believe a ravishment is called for."
"I believe I could comply with that request."
A wicked look sparked in his eyes. "Oh, that wasn't a request, and you won't be doing the ravishing. The young master intends to hold you down and do entirely obscene and ungentlemanly things to you."
I laughed. "I believe I could comply with that request, as well, Bertram."
"Jolly good. See that you do."
"It will be entirely my pleasure."
"Not entirely, if I have anything to say about it. I intend to have a bit of it myself."
"I shall be certain to see that you do."
He sank down onto me again, lying atop me and relaxing into my arms. "You're not going to get up to wake the birds before the crack of dawn tomorrow and biff off, leaving me all alone in the morning, are you?"
I considered the tasks that had to be done the next day; we would have to replace his ruined suit, but the thought of waking in his arms and watching him slowly awaken as I held him close was utterly compelling. "I assure you, my dear, the morning will find me here with you, just as I am right now."
He sighed happily. "If this is a dream, I don't think I want to wake up."
"Nor do I, Bertram. Nor do I."