You know how these work by now. No images; just text. This is a side-scene set after Gunther’s collaring but before the events of Chapter 38. It’s a small window into his life with Valois. This can be taken as canon for the story.
Park. Handbrake. Ignition. Breathe.
In the quiet of the car, its hot engine ticking as it began to cool, Gunther closed his eyes and inhaled slowly. God, what a day.
It had started with Natalie calling in sick. That was not a problem, for – although she was pretty much indispensible to Gunther – he could always manage for a day or two without her if he needed to. And it wasn’t as if she ever had much sick leave anyway. She was reliable as clockwork, bless her loyal heart.
But, ugh. The directors had insisted on foisting a work experience kid on him in Natalie’s stead. The boy was eager enough – possibly a little too much – and had been full of, “Yes, sir,” and “Of course, sir,” within minutes of walking into the office. But there the positive aspects of his presence had ended.
What hadn’t the kid broken thus far? The coffee machine refused to work after he’d poured ground coffee into the water reservoir. The projector in the boardroom had a broken arm after he’d knocked it onto the floor. Oh, and Natalie’s computer had been infected with a virus after Gunther had caught that little shit surfing dodgy gaming sites on it during his tea break.
With a sigh, Gunther opened the car door and heaved himself out into the cool evening air. It was a bloody relief to get home.
Close car door. *blip!blip!* Footsteps. Key in the lock.
There was Valois, sitting on the couch reading the newspaper. He didn’t look up as Gunther walked in, but then he never did these days. Unspoken rules and rituals now guided Gunther’s life. This was one of them.
Gunther placed his briefcase and car keys on the table and switched off his cellphone, adding it to the pile. With a quiet and careful tread he made his way into the bedroom and undressed, folding his clothes for laundry or a second wearing the following day. Then, picking up the two small boxes on the dresser, he took them into the living room.
Slowly, gracefully, he knelt at Valois’s feet, and – finally – the newspaper was folded and set down on the coffee table. A pale hand cradled his cheek and he turned his face to kiss the palm of it.
“Good evening, mine,” Valois murmured. “You look tired.”
“Work was stressful, Maître.” Gunther opened the larger of the two boxes and held it up.
Valois took the collar out of the box and laid it against Gunther’s throat. “Hm? Tell me about it,” he said, wrapping it snugly around Gunther’s neck.
“Natalie called in sick and I had to deal with a kid fresh out of school on work experience ‘helping’ me out. I think he’d broken about four things by lunchtime.”
With the collar buckle firmly fastened, Gunther held up the other box and – once Valois had taken out the cuffs – Gunther raised one wrist, resting it gently on his Master’s knee.
“We all must begin somewhere,” Valois reminded him as he fastened the first cuff around that slender wrist. “Education is a constant process.”
“Yes, Maître,” Gunther said quietly, offering his other wrist. “I’ll try to be more understanding of him tomorrow.”
“No.” The buckle was snug and Gunther’s hand fell back into his lap as Valois raised his face with a gentle finger under his chin. “You will not try, my boy. You simply will be more understanding. He is but a boy and he will learn from your example, hm?”
Gunther looked up into Valois’s eyes, suitably chastened. “Oui, Maître,” he whispered.
“Good boy.” Valois’s hand slid into his hair; a loving caress. “Take your place and find your peace for half an hour, and then we shall have dinner.”
Shifting onto one hip, Gunther rested against the side of Valois’s leg, curling one hand around his calf and the other around his ankle. Bending low, he pressed a kiss to the side of Valois’s boot before straightening and resting his cheek against Valois’s thigh and closing his eyes.
The newspaper drifted back onto Valois’s lap, brushing against Gunther’s face, but he didn’t mind. It was good to be useful, holding up one half of Master’s reading. And, oh god, it was so inexpressibly comforting to be home again.