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Trigger warnings for this chapter:
A character in strong emotional distress, fairly intense D/s (Domination/submission), imprisonment, discussion of slavery*.

*Please note that this is dealt with in a sensitive manner that does not negate the very real and terrible issue of slavery in the world, both past and present.


The first order of the day was, apparently, to forget what had already happened that morning. After all, why else would Valois—who had already showered back in Sunset Valley—be asking Gunther to run him a bath?

Something his mother had often said ran through Gunther's mind as he knelt quietly by the bath and watched the water slowly filling it: Ours is not to reason why; ours is just to do or die. Her voice saying those words usually drifted across his thoughts whenever something didn't make sense to him, and now he finally understood it. It was just a way of exhorting oneself to get on with things, even when those things seemed purposeless; another way of looking at service, he supposed.

With the bath run, he crawled back out of the bathroom, through the bedroom, and into the living room. He knew better than to call from the doorway, so he crawled right up to Valois's feet and knelt in the manner that he knew his master preferred.

"Your bath is ready, Maître," he said softly, smiling at the caress of his hair that he received as praise.

Kneeling by the bath as Valois soaked contentedly was both tortuous and comforting. There was all that beautiful pale skin he adored so much, but he couldn't touch it! All he was permitted to do was just be. Be there. Be present. Be of service. And service, he was quickly learning, could be something as simple as waiting quietly until he was needed for something.

Patience was the hardest thing for him to conquer. He'd been a workaholic for so much of his life that just sitting still and being with his thoughts had felt alien at first. But, slowly, he'd come to realise the truth of it. It was a meditation, just as he'd explained to Natalie. And, like meditation, the benefits were profound. Simply kneeling at Valois's feet brought him to an inner stillness that helped him cope with everyday life, and that knowledge helped him to understand why he'd craved this for so long.

In the bedroom, he continued to kneel as Valois dressed. Tamping down the urge to offer his help, to fetch the clothes, to assist his master with a buckle or buttons or shoelaces; he simply breathed and listened to the rustle of fabric against skin. Quiet, calm, still.

"My good boy," Valois murmured, one hand offering another gentle caress to Gunther's hair. "You are doing so well. Learning to sink into your submission can be the hardest thing, but you are such a natural." He paused, then Gunther could hear the smile in his voice as he continued: "In fact, I think you were born to it."

"Follow me. Just at my heel, and a little to one side."

Obediently, Gunther shifted off his haunches and onto his hands and knees, going to Valois's side—

"Like a dog going to heel!" Cornelia's voice whipped through his mind, and he inhaled sharply, With a short whimper, he nuzzled his cheek against the side of his master's leg, finding his comfort there and banishing that hateful thought. God alone knew where it came from, but he wanted it gone!

"I am so damned grateful that woman never had the chance to train you," he heard Valois mutter. "Come, my darling boy. Time to be of service again."

Slowly, with his spine arched as gracefully as he could manage, Gunther crawled after Valois into the living room. Even though he knew Valois couldn't see him, he had memorised his master's favoured positions for everything, including crawling. As Valois sat down, Gunther knelt and waited.

"Turn your back to me—yes, it's quite all right—and then I want you up on your knees but prostrated down and forward, with your forearms on the floor."

Parsing that as best he could, Gunther shifted into position, feeling his master's hands firmly adjusting him. He felt a bit awkward, not to mention uncomfortable. Presenting this view to his master?! Well... it was a bit rude and insolent; not becoming of a sla—

Wait. No. Not that word. That's not what I am... am I?

"Does the word bother you?" he heard Valois murmur, as long legs gently rested along the stretched-out length of his spine. "You may answer, mine."

"It... feels strange to think of myself as that, Maître," he admitted. A footrest. I'm... a footrest.

"Well, you are not a servant, my boy, though you are of service. What else does that leave to describe you, given that you think of me as 'Master'?"

Gunther swallowed, and it was difficult enough in this position, let alone in this position and trying to say that word.

"A... a slave, Maître," he whispered.

"Use the French word, if the English comes too hard to you," Valois murmured. "Although it is similar, the pronunciation is different enough to soften it: esclave."

Again, Gunther swallowed. He knew it was true; that word was the companion to 'Master', after all. But that didn't make it any easier to admit it, French words or no.

"Je suis votre esclave, Maître," he said, his voice hoarse with emotion.

"Good boy. Good boy." The praise sang through him; reward for his realisation. It helped. Well, a little bit.

"I know that word has such meaning, so many bad associations," Valois continued. "Over the centuries it has been warped by powerful men forcing helpless people into positions they cannot escape from. But, mon cœur, there is another kind of esclavage: that of a willing submissive to their Dominant. Unlike the other kind, it is a mutual agreement and exchange of need and want. It is to this definition that you must cling, all right?"

"Oui, Maître," Gunther murmured.

"And now, my darling boy—" The weight of Valois's legs lifted from Gunther's spine. "—I want you over my knee. Quickly now."

Slowly, Gunther straightened, his stomach sinking. Over his knee?!

"Have I done something wrong, Maître?" he whispered.

"Not at all. Over my knee, boy."

His cheekbones striped with heat, Gunther draped himself carefully across Valois's lap. He hadn't been in this position since he was a very small boy indeed, caught scrumping apples from the neighbour's garden. By god, his father had given him such a spanking back then that he quickly learned that even apples shouldn't be taken from trees without permission.

The first slap landed, hard and without warning. Gunther's body stiffened as he fought back a surprised gasp, and the second slap landed almost instantly. Valois's hand was open and relaxed; each slap stinging like hell, the sound sharp in the quietness of the room.

"This is not a punishment," Valois said calmly. "Do you understand that?"

Another slap; harder than the ones that preceded it. Gunther had already opened his mouth to answer, so it elicited a harsh gasp before he could get out the words, "Oui, Maître!"

"I believe there is a mortal saying," Valois continued, in a bizarrely conversational tone, considering what he was doing. "There is method in my madness, or something like that. I have a good reason for doing this. Can you guess what it is?"

The slaps rained down now, and Gunther's arse was getting really fucking sore. He tried hard not to writhe as each one sent a tiny shock through him.

"Don't... ah! Don't know, Maître," he moaned.

"Then tell me something that you enjoy. Something that leaves you with a similar result as this."

His skin felt like it was on fire now, and he was openly panting, his mind desperately searching for what his master was asking for. "I...I... when you fuck me so hard, Maître, and I carry the ache of it with me all day?" he ventured, before another slap stung so much that he actually whined. For all that, though, he was ashamed to admit that this was hot as hell, and not just in the sense of how his skin felt...

"Précisément. I do this that you may carry me with you for the remainder of the day. Every time your heels dig into your backside when you kneel, you will feel it and remember me. When you sleep the sheets will feel rough against your skin, and you will remember me. I do this to give you constant thoughts of me, and par Dieu, what a beautiful shade of red your arse now is, my boy."

Several rapid slaps across Gunther's blazing skin made him sob, and then Valois's hand stilled, resting—too hot!—against reddened flesh. Slowly, Gunther drew in a ragged breath.

"I think you enjoyed that rather a little too much." Valois's amused whisper reached him as he stroked over and over; the softness of his hand only emphasising how sore and hot Gunther's arse was. "Up with you now. I want you in the bedroom."

Slowly, agonisingly, Gunther managed to get down from his master's lap with something approaching a semblance of elegance. As he began to crawl behind Valois, every movement of his legs worked the hot, red skin of his backside. Oh god, this was indeed a bloody good reminder of Master's presence!

"On your feet and lean forward across the desk."

Gunther blinked. Surely not another spanking?! As he stood, the soft sound of a zip made him bite down on his lower lip. Master was going to fuck him? With his arse this sore?!

Mindful not to disturb the open book on the desk, Gunther bent forward, groping for a handhold and finding none. He felt Valois move up behind him—still fully clothed—and pale hands firmly spread him open; once again too hot on his blazing skin.

"There is nothing on earth," Valois said very softly, "like fucking a well-spanked arse."

And, with that, he pushed slowly and inexorably in, letting Gunther feel every inch, until the roughness of fabric and the scrape of a zipper made Gunther hitch in a sharp breath.

"Tell me again, boy," Valois muttered, as he pulled out and then pushed back in, "what this is not."

With all the breath forced out of his body by that thrust, Gunther had to gasp in more air. "Not... not a punishment, Maître!"

Fingers slid into his hair, fisting it and pulling his head back. He whined, half in pain and half in pleasure. The firm hand. Oh god, the firm hand he so desperately needed!

"And I do this because...?"

"You—AH!—you do it because I must remember you all day, Maître."

"There is no 'must', boy. Only 'will'." The hand in his hair pulled again, and Gunther whined. Valois's open pants zipper was scratching and scraping against his reddened skin, but Gunther was sinking down into the mindset that was buried deeper than the others: pure submissive headspace. Controlled and held, spanked and fucked; under Master's hand, and—as Master had promised—truly free. Gone were the semantics of freedom, the oxymoron of the words 'free' and 'slave'. In that moment, Gunther was more free than he'd ever been in his entire life.

"Yes," Valois hissed behind him, now fucking hard, the desk shaking beneath Gunther. "Now you understand, mine. Now you know. Deeper. Fall deeper, boy. Sink into it and let it close over your head. This is your home."

Panting now, scarcely aware of anything but his master, Gunther let go of his final fingernail-cling to reality, and as he tumbled headlong into that space he felt Valois's hand in his hair tugging once more; a last comfort as Master found his pleasure in his slave's body.

Slowly, light and sound bled back into Gunther's awareness. He was curled up on the floor, aching and sated. In front of his face he could see booted feet, and as he opened his eyes he heard Master laugh softly above him.

"Oh, my darling boy. Welcome back. Do you feel all right, hm?"

"What happened?" Gunther mumbled, slowly struggling to get back onto his knees.

"You slipped into a deep headspace, mon cœur. Here."

A small glass of orange juice was being held out to him. With shaking hands, he took it, and he realised with a twinge of pure happiness that Master was crouching before him, one hand still beneath the glass, helping him to drink it.

"All of it now," he was murmuring. "It will raise your blood sugar, which may be a little low after that scene."

The juice was cool and sweet, and felt so good. When Gunther had finished with it, the glass simply vanished in a glint of light, and Master stood again. Only then did Gunther realise just how fucking sore his arse was.

"Mmhm, and now it is time for you to see why you need that reminder. Follow me, boy."

Through the living room and past the massive fireplace, and there in front of them was a door that Gunther hadn't noticed before. Weren't there... potted plants in that corner before?

"Illusion." Valois opened the door and stepped through it. "The door reveals itself when it is needed. Come."

It was a tiny room, with a spiral staircase ascending and descending through its centre. Gunther watched as Valois walked down the stairs into the... basement? This house had a basement?

"Come down, boy," Valois called up to him, just as Gunther was trying to figure out how to get down those stairs on his hands and knees.


A chuckle floated up. "You may walk, mine. I do not expect you to attempt stairs on hands and knees."

It felt odd, even after only a few hours on his knees, to be walking again, and Gunther held onto the rail to steady himself. His arse was still sore, and this was a new movement for it to cope with, feeling so hot and stiff as it did now.

As soon as his feet were on the floor—hard stone floor this time—he went to his knees again, a lot more carefully than before.

"Good boy. Now look up at me."

He did, and was rewarded with a tender smile.

"This will be the most difficult thing for you to cope with during the weekend," Valois murmured. "You will not enjoy this as much as the spanking or the fucking. In fact, I guarantee that you will hate it." A pale hand slid into Gunther's hair. "But, mine, you will bear it. For my sake, and for your own. Follow me, and be careful not to scrape your knees on the floor. I will not place carpets down here."

His stomach sinking, Gunther slowly crawled behind his master. All he could think of were those words he'd heard when they ate breakfast: Caged, you learn the value of companionship...

They turned a corner, and his worst fears were realised. At the end of the dim room they stood in, he could see bars going from wall to wall. Behind them, a small area held a basic bed and what looked like a chamber pot on a stool. The lights were just two flickering candles; dim and already burned halfway down.

He whimpered, backing behind Master's legs. No... no, he didn't want this! Yes, he was a slave; he'd admit that now. But he didn't belong in a cage! Why did Master want to put him in a cage?!

"You will learn from this," Valois said softly. "Solitude gives time to think, to ponder, and to miss another's touch."

"Please, Maître," Gunther begged, rising up on his knees to wrap his arms around his master's waist. "Don't make me go in there!"

"I know for a fact that you do not suffer from claustrophobia," Valois said. "Why do you fear a simple room?"

"It's not a room, Master!" Gunther whimpered, forgetting the French honorific. "It's a cage!"

"It is a room with one wall made of bars. I ask again, why do you fear it? Look deeper. What is it that you fear you will lose when you are in there?"

"My freedom!"

"That, my darling boy, has already been given to me. It is my desire that you enter that room. I ask one last time: what is it that you fear losing when you are in there?"

Gunther sobbed, clinging tighter. "This," he sniffled. "You. Your touch. I... I don't want to be alone in there."

"Précisément. So, for one night, you will be alone in there, for I wish you to truly learn the value of my touch. In with you."

The door swung open with a soft creak, and Gunther turned, staring at it. He looked up at his master, but Valois didn't return his gaze. Instead, his eyes were hooded, looking down at the floor, ignoring Gunther.

Master? Please look at me?

Gunther hung his head and slowly let go of Master's waist. He dropped down to his hands and knees and crawled across the hard stone floor into the room. The cage.

The door closed quietly behind him, and now bars separated him from the man he loved so desperately. He covered his face with his hands, trying to control his emotions. One night. Master had said only one night. Surely he could do this? So why was he so upset? Oh god, he couldn't even smell Master's scent in here; that soothing incense that pervaded the air around him. It was as if he wasn't even standing there, just a few feet away!

"One night, mine," Master was saying. "I will not be far away, but you will be utterly alone down here. I want you to think of me, and cling to those thoughts as your comfort. Just the thought of me will bring you peace. Do you understand?"

Sniffing, Gunther wiped his nose with the back of his hand. "Yes, Master," he rasped, again forgetting the French honorific that Valois demanded.

"Tell me what you understand."

Gunther looked up at him. Still, Master did not meet his eyes, and it hurt to not be looked at, to not see that tender smile.

"I will..." he whispered. "I will think of you, Master, and just the thought of you alone will bring me comfort—" He hesitated, something clicking in his mind. "And..." he continued, as enlightenment settled over him, "I will learn the lesson that... that I only need to think of my master and I am home, safe and loved. I understand... I understand this now."

And then, finally, he was rewarded with a look and a smile.

"Good boy. I will check on you during the night, but think of me and find your peace."

And, when Valois crept down to the basement a few hours later, he found Gunther asleep with a faint smile on his face.

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