Jeeves and Wooster is a British comedy series based on a collection of novels by P.G. Wodehouse. Set in the 1920s, it stars Hugh Laurie as Wooster, a slow-witted and foppish aristocrat, and Stephen Fry as his impeccable and erudite valet, Jeeves. Together, they conspire to prevent Wooster from getting married. They also hide from Wooster’s formidable aunts and play duets on the piano. Jeeves often disapproves of Wooster’s clothes and tries to throw them away. In one episode, they break up when Wooster will not stop trying to learn the trumpet, but are reunited by the end of the episode.
They are so obviously in love, the actors have such great chemistry, and yet the show does not provide me with the consummation I yearn for. Luckily, I’m a writer. So I’ve set out to fix what the BBC’s long mistake in the years 1990-1993.
To me, the most interesting part of the Jeeves/Wooster pairing is that it defies the traditional top/bottom dichotomy. Jeeves is, in some ways, “the top”—he knows how Wooster should live; he has Pygmalion-like vision for his master that’s reminiscent of James Spader’s turn as an obsessive-compulsive dominant in Secretary. Jeeves is also older and smarter than Wooster. In the first episode of the BBC series, Wooster says “I am not one of those fellows who become absolute slaves to their valets”, but this statement is understood to be ironic; by the end of the episode he is relying on Jeeves completely.
However, Jeeves cannot be said to be a traditional top in that he is in Wooster’s employ. Wooster basks in Jeeves’ servitude. In one scene we see him in the bath, cheerily contemplating a rubber duck, while Jeeves irons his shirts in the background. Jeeves brings him tea in bed, presses his pants, accepts the erratic behavior of his friends, and for the first two seasons of the show, follows everything he says with “sir”, including when he is asked to sing. Wooster also defies Jeeves’ wishes by buying white dinner jackets, dating women (accidentally or on purpose), and disobeying Jeeves’ elegantly simple suggestions for getting out of danger (thus requiring Jeeves to thwart Wooster with more complex schemes). He also introduces Jeeves to jazz, nightclubs, and the concept of fun in general.
Their D/s, thus, is perpetually in motion: Jeeves engages in service to benefit Wooster; Wooster cheerfully subjects himself to humiliations in the service of Jeeves’ elaborate plans. This stuff, in other words, writes itself. My biggest concern is figuring out how to faithfully translate that relationship dynamic into bedroom maneuvers. I’ve decided that Jeeves is a prudish homosexual, Wooster a boarding-school bisexual, and that they both suffered traumatic losses in World War I. When they meet, Wooster is a committed ne’er-do-well who drinks all day (a read supported by the first episode of the real series, where we first see Wooster receiving a fine for drunkenly stealing a policeman’s helmet), and Jeeves has long ago given up hope of having any kind of long-term relationship. But together they begin, slowly, to rediscover intimacy and mutual reliance.
It’s also a story about the progression of consent: how when two people who respect and like each other set out to build a sexual dynamic, beginning with no assumptions that either of them will want to do anything, the process of putting everything on the table happens gradually, in stages of advancement and retreat. As two men who aren’t sure how far the other is willing to go, both tops and both bottoms, every stage of courtship is charged with eroticism: what can they ask of each other? What do they dare ask? Sure they’ve fucked but when are they gonna talk about the War?
This fic is my most beloved long-term project. It has never vexed me in the way that any of my more “serious” work has. It lacks any urgency. The world is not clamoring for it, nor do I feel any compunction about the idea of not finishing it. I know that I will finish it, and that when I do, it will be the greatest thing I have ever completed.
I can be very secretive about my work, so it was a while before I told the Other that I was writing it.
Him: Hm. What’s it called?
Me: “A Gentleman’s Gentleman.”
Him: Oh, that’s good.