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Short shorts

Chapter Text

I thought we'd never escape the hive. I was almost right.

Aunt Agatha buzzed towards me, shouting 'Have you wax in your ears, Bertie? Stop!' At that moment I knew all hope was lost; the die was cast and I'd thrown a one. I was going to have to accept my aunt's command and join the Queen's harem.

But then Jeeves danced, and all eyes were drawn to him. In the afternoon sunlight, beside the hive, he danced the waggle-dance, the call to harvest. It is almost irresistible. The nectar is waiting, it says. Go, go now! And it won, for my aunt and her offspring and the family servants and the extended family who had gathered for the wedding took off in a cloud, bowed to Jeeves and flashed away towards the begonias.

I alighted, breathing heavily. 'I say, Jeeves, that was inspired!'

'Thank you, sir. Might I suggest that we depart? I have sent them to the hornet's nest in the old oak, sir, and I think it possible that upon their return they may be a little out of sorts.'

'Oh, rather,' I said. 'But thank goodness for you, Jeeves. Only think: if you hadn't stopped that wedding, I should have become her fifteenth husband. Imagine the queues, Jeeves!'

'Sir?' said Jeeves reproachfully, and I blushed to my bristles.

'For the morning paper, I meant. And husband number two would probably steal the sporting pages. You'd never get the crossword to yourself, either...'

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The beach was busy; no matter where I looked, miles of peaky white flesh assaulted my eyes. In this part of Europe, it seemed, the well-dressed seaside bather wears his birthday suit and little, or nothing, else. Still, when in Rome, as the fellow said - we weren't in Rome; I mean it figuratively.

We bought our tickets from a middle-aged gentleman wearing nothing but an incipient sunburn and a pen and whistle on a string around his neck.

"Jeeves," I said tentatively, "Is this a nudist beach?"

"I believe so."

I stripped, though I covered my head with a knotted handkerchief. Jeeves protested, but my hatred of a sunburned scalp exceeds my need to successfully emulate the well-dressed nudist. Leaving my clothes in a neat pile, I went for a swim.

My leisurely splashing was interrupted by a sudden cramp. I yelped and clutched at my leg, going under. Fighting back to the surface, another cramp tore at me. Strong arms grabbed my shoulders: I thrashed, hearing Jeeves' voice but too panicked to respond. After a moment, something clocked me one and I went limp.

When I came to, I was sitting on a neatly laid-out towel in the shadow of a four-seater blue-striped basketwork beach-chair. Jeeves knelt beside me, bearing a tray. "A drink, sir?"

I took the glass. Dashed odd thing to be served cocktails by a nude valet.

He inquired after my health.

"Much better," I said. "Thank you, Jeeves." Mindful of the great debt I owed him, I made the ultimate sacrifice. "Jeeves, you may dispose of my knotted handkerchief. You have saved my life. The least I can do is to burn with good grace."

He smiled slightly, arms folded across his splendid chest. "Thank you, sir. I have already done so, sir."

Unbidden, my hand went to my head, finding nothing but salt-stiffened hair. I looked around: the lifeguard now wore nothing but incipient sunburn, a pen and whistle, and a neatly tied handkerchief protecting his privates from the midday sun.

"Jeeves!" I said.

He raised a silent eyebrow.

"Jeeves, I..." I paused, wondering what to say. "I have to admit," I said at length, "it probably looks better on the lifeguard."

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The day began, as all the best days do, with a bath before breakfast. Stepping out of the steamy suds, I blinked the steam from my eyes, towelled vigorously and tottered back into the bedchamber for shirt and trews. As I combed my hair I sang a song, accompanying my mirror image, for it and I like to share a duet from time to time. My eyes travelled down to my shirt, white and crisply ironed, and lingered idly on the starched collar, where - I could not believe it - the snowy perfection of my left shoulder was marred by a scorch mark.

I tottered off to breakfast, brain abuzz. Should I speak, I wondered? Must I spoil this perfect Saturday with heartless critique?

I sat, opening the paper for camouflage. Jeeves shimmered in with coffee and toast. I held my breath, but he merely faded from the table, his errand done.

Relieved, I applied myself to the coffee and turned to the comic pages. A moment later, however, Jeeves returned.

"I believe you will find a small article on page 17 of particular interest," he said.

I turned the pages. "There's nothing there but an article about frogs," I said.

Jeeves leant across the table to peer at the newspaper. "No, sir. I refer to the small insert beneath."

I read on, discovering that Pongo Twistleton, related to me by ties of society, had given notice of intent to pledge his troth. "The article," added Jeeves, so close that his breath was hot against my neck, my skin feeling the warmth of his own, "continues on the Society pages..."

Then he straightened abruptly, and said, "I believe you are wearing yesterday's shirt, sir. It is unfortunately rather stained."

I smiled brightly at him. "No harm done," I said cheerfully. "It's only a little scorch mark - "

"No, sir," said Jeeves. "It is advisable to replace the item before leaving the house. It may attract adverse comment." I looked down. He was right, too; the scorch mark had been a mere mirage. The left side of my collar was liberally daubed with the remnants of a lipstick kiss.

I retired to the bedroom, where I unbuttoned the beastly thing and substituted another, wishing I could remember the kiss in q. I had spent the previous night at the Drones, but even the most liberal of those fine fellows shrink from anything more than a little discreet face-powder.

Returning to the breakfast-table, I looked searchingly at Jeeves. Funny, I thought. I'd never noticed the redness of the man's lips. Wasn't there something smeared on his cheek? Ketchup, perhaps? But where there are clean shirts there is serenity of mind, and soon I was tackling the eggs and b. with nary a thought to the Mystery, as the fellow might've called it, of the Errant Rouge.

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It was the day the funicular failed. A creak, a twang and we were plunging into the briny depths.

I shrieked manfully and clutched at Jeeves, whose raised eyebrow bespoke the depth of his concern.

We were saved, of course, or you’d be reading this in the obituaries column of the Times. One of those superhero Johnnies, blue shirt, red cape, clean-cut and muscular. I’d have thanked him brokenly, but he flew away.

Dear old metrop’, I thought, and said as much to Jeeves.

“Indeed,” he said. “Although - “

“Underpants on top?” I said. “Bit much?”

“Indeed, sir.”

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“I’ve found it!” I called, sloshing wetly up the slimy ladder. Behind me, water surged into the lock as Jeeves reopened the sluice-gate.

I surrendered the salamander. “Gussie gets his newt, slithers into a Royal Soc. Fellowship, marries the Basset and I cancel the spongebag trousers. A water-tight plan.”

Jeeves frowned. I froze. “What?”

“Mr Fink-Nottle is mistaken. This is no new species, but merely an albino.”


“I propose we deliver it, and -”

“Say toodle-pip to all, slink off to Cannes before the penny drops?”

“The Riviera is highly recommended.”

“Right-ho, Jeeves. You pack. I’ll get the two-seater.”

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Filming day dawned on a floodlit California rooftop. I donned the quick-release Lycra trousers commando as per the script and stood patiently while the costume assistant fastened my ridiculous bat-belt and cloak.

Ten minutes left. Performance anxiety struck. Uncomfortably aware that I look awful in Lycra, I tried unsuccessfully not to think of cricket, cold showers or Gussie Fink-Nottle. Oh lor’, I thought miserably as my trouser-tent receded: I’ve lost it -

There he was. Blessed relief. A presence at my side- well, crotch. Jeeves, fluffer extraordinaire. “So glad to “ - his hands and mouth were busy already - “ to – see – you...“ I panted. “Old chap...”

Moments later, the director cried, “Action!” Lance at the ready, I rode into battle. Thank goodness for Jeeves: I couldn’t play the preux chevalier without him.

Chapter Text

Northumberland was no place for a nerve-restoring holiday, unless weathering storms in creaking Gothic mansions were one's idea of fun. Despite the bolted doors, I jumped at each crack of thunder. My sheet music remained unread, Ain't Misbehavin' unlearnt.

"A bit thick, Jeeves, what?" I ventured.

Jeeves stood tall by the casement, looking out through the streaming rain. "The lightnings exalt the sky, sir," he said.

"One of yours?"

"Alas," said Jeeves, "no."

Outside, something howled. The front door crashed open. “It can't be -”

Eyes wide, Jeeves said, “Sir, I fear that-”

I clutched at him.

“Aunt Agatha!”