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CHAPTER 54 ~ WARMTH
When Gunther opened his eyes the next morning it took him a moment to remember where he was. White fluff surrounded him, and he blinked as he stared at it. Oh, yes. The floor.
He moved, stretching out, and winced as his body—not accustomed to sleeping on such an unyielding surface—protested.
"I think you need a nice deep, hot bath, mine," he heard Master say above him, and the sound of that beloved voice was what forced him to roll up and onto his knees. Slowly, and a little stiffly, he bent forward to press a kiss to Master's boot, then straightened up again.
"Good boy." Master's approval sang through him and helped to ease the aching of his body. "Now, we'll be going downstairs again, because I have a special sunken bath area down there. Crawl behind me as you usually do, but once we reach the stairs, you may walk until we are in the bath house. The flooring is all stone and I do not wish for you to scrape your knees."
"Oui, Maître," Gunther murmured, following on his hands and knees and keeping as close to Master's heels as he could.
They went down the same flight of stairs as before, and then down a second flight. It felt a little strange to be walking beside Master—well, to the side of him and one step back—but once they turned a corner and Gunther saw the corridor open up into a room filled with lush plants and a steaming sunken hot tub, that weird feeling vanished in a little sigh of, "Ohhhh!"
Master chuckled. "Yes, my boy. A luxury indeed, especially in winter. Now, stand still so that I may remove your collar and cuffs. The leather will be ruined if it's immersed in water."
Another weird, and if Gunther admitted it, unsettling moment. Master's hands gently removed his cuffs first, and then his collar, and Gunther mourned the loss of them... until he felt the invisible restraints of Master's will taking their place.
"That's it," Master coaxed. "I know how much they mean to you. Now, in with you. There are steps on each side. Sink down and just relax."
Slowly, Gunther dipped one foot into the water. it was hot and scented faintly with sandalwood—that beautiful incense scent that Master had all around him—and, with a blissful little moan, he stepped down into the bath and settled onto one of the seats.
Oh, it was heavenly! Hot, steaming water eased out every ache in his bones, every knot in his muscles, and he let his head fall back against the side of the bath as he breathed in the steam.
"Does that feel good?" he heard Master say softly, from somewhere behind him.
In reply, all Gunther could do was purr, much to Master's amusement.
"I'll take that as a 'yes,' my darling boy."
Tilting his head back a little, Gunther strained to see behind him. Master was sitting in a low leather chair in a corner of the room, watching him. Gunther just gave him a blissful little smile, and settled back down again.
"I love seeing you like this," Master said. "Now, today. The same chores as yesterday—which I know may seem a little pointless, but it is routine, and that will be good for you—and tonight... you will not be sleeping on the floor."
He paused, and Gunther held his breath, his stomach sinking. No... not the cage again...
"Not that place, no," Master reassured him. "Tonight you will sleep on my bed. Not in it, but on it; at my feet."
"I can keep your feet warm, Maître," Gunther murmured with a little smile, and he heard an answering chuckle behind him.
"You can, at that. I'm sure you'll do a wonderful job of it, too. How's the water? No too hot?"
Gunther shook his head and sighed. "It's wonderful."
"Well, you can stay in for a little longer, but I don't want you to turn into a prune."
All Gunther could do at that was laugh, and he sank just a little lower in the water, letting it lap against the nape of his neck and caress his chin. For the moment, Master let him just soak, and all of the aches and pains of a night spent on the floor just eased out until Gunther was warm and happy.
Alas, it had to end, and Master's gentle hand tousling his hair pulled him out of his blissful soaking.
"Out with you now," Master said softly. "It's time for breakfast, and then your chores, my boy."
The rest of the day passed much as the previous one, but this time Gunther noticed Master was quite a bit more attentive. He would walk into the bedroom as Gunther was working, and stroke a hand down Gunther's spine, or ghost a feather-light touch to Gunther's cheek as he walked past. Those little touches were so nice, and Gunther leaned eagerly into each one, his face lit with happiness.
And then came the night. He knelt quietly as Master got undressed and slipped into bed, and then he climbed onto the bed himself. He was to sleep at the foot of the bed, or so Master had told him, but he wasn't sure which way around he should be, until Master placed a pillow on one side of the bump that was his feet beneath the covers.
"Curl up around my feet, mine. You should be comfortable enough without a blanket, as you were last night, but a pillow will help to relieve some of the aches you felt this morning."
"Merci, Maître," Gunther said quietly, resting his head on the pillow and carefully curling his body around Master's feet, on top of the covers.
"By the way..." Master rose on one elbow to look at him. "Do not fear that you will fall off the edge of the bed, all right? I have ensured that you will not."
Gunther just smiled and nodded, curling up a little bit more and resting his hand against that beloved little foot-bump.
Before he knew it, it was morning again, and this time he felt sleepy and lazy and not at all achy. Carefully, he eased back a little—trying not to disturb Master, who was still sound asleep—when he felt something soft and warm behind him. Turning to look back, he saw nothing, and realised that Master had created some sort of invisible magical barrier to prevent him from falling off the bed.
Something about that little care for his safety made Gunther hug himself inside, and he settled back down again, once more resting his hand against the bump of Master's feet beneath the covers.
"Hmmm, come up here," he heard Master say, as a pale arm reached out from beneath the sheets and extended a welcoming hand to him. He needed no further prompting, taking that hand and sliding up the bed until he was lying alongside Master.
"Under the sheets with you," Master whispered, with the kindest and most loving smile Gunther had ever seen. "Come to me, mine. It's time for your reward for being such a good boy all weekend."
With a stifled whimper of happiness, Gunther slipped beneath the covers and felt Master's arms wrap around him, pulling him close. Tears sprang to Gunther's eyes as he all-but tried to burrow inside Master, held so tightly and so tenderly.
"That's it. My good, obedient boy. You needed this weekend so badly, didn't you, hm?" Master's hand stroked his hair. "Now, though, it is time to slowly bring you to reality again. Speak my name, darling one."
Gunther swallowed. "Valois," he murmured. It felt strange. Wrong.
"Good. You must use my name today, all right? I still want your submission, but I also want my name to be in your head and leave your lips. In short, we will converse as normal."
"All right." Gunther nuzzled closer.
"I am so proud of you, my boy. Today we will begin to forge the relationship that I would like us to have as we walk through our long lives together, hm? You will stand and walk between rooms, and talk with me as normal, but you will kneel to be hand-fed, perform the same chores, and sit or kneel—whichever feels most right to you—at my feet whenever we are seated together. Obviously, though, only the chores should be done when we are in company."
Gunther raised his head and gazed into Mas— into Valois's eyes. "And make our home, whichever one it is, as comfortable as possible for you. I can buy flowers for every room, and more cushions, and... learn to cook even more things!"
Valois laughed and hugged him close. "Those all sound wonderful, and of course I will teach you to cook more. I am sure that Mortimer will appreciate that, too. It is time, also, I think... for us to begin planning our wedding, hm?"
And now the tears came again. Gunther gave Valois a watery, happy smile, and nodded.
"I'm going to be a mess of tears that day. I just know I am," he whispered.
"Then you will join Natalie in setting up a salty fog around the proceedings." Valois chuckled. "I am fairly certain she will be carrying as big a bundle of tissues as she can cram into whatever tiny and stylish purse she decides to bring to the ceremony."
At that, Gunther couldn't help but giggle as Valois rolled them both over until Gunther was on top, then pulled him down for a kiss. "There's so much to think about. A church wedding is out of the question, because I'm divorced, and I don't really want a registry office..."
"I know just the place." Valois kissed him again. "The country club in Sunset Valley has beautiful grounds. We will hire an area in those grounds, put up a marquee and maybe some chairs and an arch outside. I will endeavour to ensure the weather is fine that day, and if she is able to then Natalie will help keep any rain at bay. And we must begin to consider the guest list, too."
"Is there anyone you want to invite?" Gunther asked. He wasn't even sure if Valois had any surviving relatives, and he'd never been introduced to any of Valois's friends.
"Your friends are my friends," Valois murmured. "I have none to invite, my dear one, so the list is in your hands."
"Then there's the photographer, the catering, the wedding rings, the— do we want bridesmaids and pageboys and all that? I promised Mort he could be the Best Man."
"We will have whatever you want, mon cœur. Do you know enough young boys and girls to have a little coterie of them trailing along behind you and looking adorable?" Valois grinned at him.
"Oh. Good point. I don't, actually. Well, Natalie's already informed me that she'll be my bridesmaid; mainly because she refuses to be called anything like Matron of Honour."
"I cannot say that I blame her." Valois chuckled. "She seems not the matronly type."
"I... have nobody to, y'know, give me away or anything, though." Gunther lowered his gaze. "I mean, that might sound daft, because I'm not a bride or anything, but... I like the idea of someone giving me to you."
"As do I." Valois kissed Gunther's forehead. "Why not ask Natalie if she will do that instead, hm?"
A slow smile curved Gunther's lips. "She'd love that," he said softly, looking up into Valois's eyes. "I love you," he whispered. "So very very much. Thank you."