Sometimes, very rarely, Greg would surprise Alex with a change to the routine. Alex was quite certain he could have muscled through the day with the same shoes that had caused the sores and blisters in the first place, but Greg told him not to wear them. Just this once, as a treat for being a good boy and getting all his work done the day before, he was allowed to go around in his socks. It didn’t feel right, and Alex didn’t entirely like it, but even he knew it was better than what Greg could have made him do.

Greg’s decision may have been influenced by the fact that Alex wouldn’t be going to the cottage that day. He’d be staying inside, and so shoes weren’t necessarily required. Instead, he saw to his morning chores and then fetched his iPad. The iPad had been another surprise; a small reward for good behaviour. Ostensibly, it was his to do with as he pleased, but he’d learned quickly that it had also been a test. A test he had failed almost immediately by downloading things Greg didn’t approve of, but how was he to know that? Greg never told him when something was a test or a trap. Alex was simply left to blunder into failure, which he seemed to do every time.

He’d learned that lesson, though. The iPad was his, but it was his to use only in ways Greg approved of. But what Alex liked about it was that it was much easier to use than the old system of laptops and wires and software that seemed to randomly breakdown with no warning. He’d always been savvy enough to fix the problems with they did come up, but not having the problems in the first place made Greg happier, and when Greg was happy, Alex’s day always went better.

Alex held the iPad close to his chest as he walked to the south wing of the house, and down to the cellar that had once served a purpose made obsolete by preservatives and refrigeration. Now, it had been made up like the rest of the house, with ornate moulding and panelling, expensive rugs and ancient paintings making it familiar and comfortable. He walked all the way to the end of the hall, stopping next to a long, wooden bench that stood out against the rest of the trappings. It was unfinished pine, simply constructed as a temporary item to suit a purpose, but somehow it had never been replaced with anything better. Over the years, it had been chipped at and drawn on in places, scuffed and banged around in others. Somehow, its incongruity with the rest of the house made it seem almost sinister, which may have been why it had never been replaced with anything better. By being out of place and jarring, it was the best thing possible for the purpose.

He stood next to the bench, patiently waiting for the door beside it to open. He said nothing as it did finally open, and the group of five emerged from the small room on the other side. He made notes to himself on his iPad as Greg’s current round of guests settled on the bench next to him, bringing an uneasy tension to the air. They all quietly chatted amongst themselves, none of them even acknowledging Alex’s presence. He did listen in though, taking note of the nervous energy coming from all of them. They were starting to turn on one another, right on schedule. Alex made note of that as well. Once upon a time, Alex had thought that’s what the fifth member of the group was for; to bring resentment and discord into these games Greg like to play with his guests, but now Alex knew that the discord was natural progression of events. They would all turn on one another eventually, whether or not Greg picked a favourite or made sure each group always had one person who wasn’t happy to be there.

Of course, it didn’t stop Greg from picking a favourite or making sure there was a wild card in each group. For this group, the latter was a young man who never quite accepted the situation he’d found himself in. He had been angry from the first day Alex processed him and took his photograph. He alone said nothing while they waited. He stared at the empty wall in front of him, quietly stewing on something, and Alex had a good idea what had got him so angry this week.

Alex waited until his watch read precisely midday before he stepped forward and opened the door. By now, they all knew the routine, and didn’t need to be told that it was time to get up. They filed past Alex, one by one as he held the door open, into the room and to their assigned seats. With them all in, Alex stepped in after them and made sure the door was properly latched.

The room wasn’t a large one, and Greg already sat in his usual place, in a high-backed chair against the wall. The room was unsettling, with ornate red and black damask that made the room feel even smaller than it was. A giant portrait of Greg hung on the wall, as the only decoration in the room. On the opposite wall was a large television, hooked up to the local network so Alex could control it from his iPad. For the time being, the screen was black.

It was a room meant to be unsettling and off-putting, and even after so many years by Greg’s side, Alex still felt uncomfortable in there sometimes.

He took his spot besides Greg while everything settled down around him. Slowly, the group of five quieted, but it wasn’t a quiet that lasted for very long.

“Why isn’t Alex wearing shoes?” one of them asked.

There were only two women in the current group, and Libby had done nothing to hide her contempt for Alex. She had been desperate enough to answer an ad, and signed on without even listening to how she’d be spending her next ten weeks.

“Never mind him,” Greg said.

He reached over to scrape his nails through Alex’s beard, pulling the hair and making him flinch away. Everything Greg did before his guests was done to unsettle and unnerve them, and it worked. The point had been made without giving a word of explanation, because everyone knew by now that anything Alex did was at Greg’s command. If Alex wasn’t wearing shoes, it was simply because Greg had told him not to. It was enough to settle the room back into an uncomfortable silence so Alex could begin reading from the notes on his iPad. Greg had his lists of things he wanted to see done, but it was largely up to Alex to decide the order in which the list got done. It didn’t matter that the things Greg wanted done didn’t make sense. If he wanted a room painted or the fridge cleaned out, he’d hire someone, or make Alex do it. The things Greg had his guests do for him made no sense because it was a thrill for him to watch strangers drive themselves to madness to please him, and then fight over the remaining shreds of dignity they still possessed. Had he been lord of the estate a few centuries earlier, Greg would have kept fools and jesters and made them fight to the death for his entertainment. As it was, he had to sate that part of him in other ways. And like so many other things, Alex had long since learned not to question it, and to simply do as he was told.

There was a comfortable rhythm to this game, and Alex fell into it easily. Greg was like a cat that preferred to play with the mouse it caught before finally crushing it, and Alex knew exactly how to do that for him. He let Greg’s guests think they had done well, and knew exactly how to pull the rug out from under them at the perfect moment to get them angry, and it took only a few minutes to get them all fighting with one another for Greg’s favour. It didn’t matter that they were fighting over frozen peas and egg cups, because it wasn’t about frozen peas and egg cups. It was about what happened later, after Greg made his final decision.

As the shouting grew louder, Alex found himself inching closer to Greg. Libby didn’t like him, and Kieran outright hated him, but neither would dare do anything to him with Greg so close.

“You can’t tell me he gets points for that!” Libby shouted, jabbing her finger right in Kieran’s face. “He had Alex counting for him! He didn’t count for me!”

Alex shrugged. “You didn’t ask me to,” he said.

“I did it by myself!” Libby shouted, now turning her ire to Alex. “I completed the task as it was written.”

Alex looked over to Greg and cringed dramatically, to make sure everyone knew what was coming.

“Except you didn’t,” he said.

Libby looked as though she was ready to launch herself from her seat. “Alex, you stay the fuck out of it,” she said.

Again, he looked over to Greg, having absolutely no intention at all of staying out of it.

“The thing is, I counted after you’d left. You only had ninety-seven peas in the egg cup,” Alex said. “The task was to get exactly one hundred. So actually, you get no points, instead of four. Right, Greg?”

Greg shrugged, almost indifferently. “If the task said one hundred, then she didn’t complete it as written.”

Kieran laughed wildly, Libby screamed, and Alex tried to find a way to hide behind Greg without leaving his seat.

“Look. If you’d followed the rules given to you, you’d have five points right now,” Greg said. He reached over to Alex, petting him on the head. “But you didn’t, so you get nothing. Isn’t that right, pretty boy?”

Alex nodded as he looked down at his iPad. There was nothing relevant on it, but it was a surprisingly effective tool at getting the guests more riled up.

“Those are the rules, yes,” he said.

Greg shrugged. “Then no points.”

Alex nodded as he marked the number down for both of them, and then moved on to the next. For over an hour, the same argument rolled on, changed only by who had made the next big mistake. Stakes were getting higher, and winning Greg’s approval meant more as the weeks drew on. By this point, losing meant something real, and for those who had rarely done well, losing would hurt even worse. For Libby, who had never done better than third place for the entire duration of her stay, it was starting to become personal.

This week, she was dead last.

At the end, they all got one final envelope before being taken back to their rooms elsewhere on the estate. Alex handed them all out individually, while they still sat in their seats, and watched as they read their tasks quietly to themselves.

“Do you all understand completely?” he asked.

One by one, they all nodded and mumbled confirmations that they had read and understood. They each had their own individual tasks to complete before their next visit to the cottage, but it was Libby he found himself most concerned with. These tasks wouldn’t help her win any approval or favour. They were punishment or reward for their work over the previous week. Theo, the week’s winner, had been given the single, simple task of enjoying his weekend. Alice had to watch ten films, each from a different decade and a different genre. Keiran’s weekend task was to send a text message to a given phone number once an hour over the next 48 hours. Adam was not allowed to eat or drink any item which contained the letters A or E in the name. And Libby, who stared daggers at Alex over the top of her task, had to arrange her room alphabetically.

“What does this even mean?” she asked.

Alex pointed to the task in her hands. “All the information’s—”

“Yes, I know,” she said over him. “But this is impossible.”

“You’re free to leave whenever you like,” Alex said.

For a long moment, Libby glared silently up at him. But he knew she wouldn’t leave. If she left, she forfeited everything, and she knew it. Not once had Alex ever seen anyone leave early. Every single person he’d helped Greg humiliate, degrade, and abuse stayed for the full ten weeks, even when it had passed the point of being bearable. He had seen people leave broken and worn down, but never early.

“Fine,” Libby said, slapping the task down on her knee. She looked at the rest of the group, shook her head, and shrugged. “Looks like I’ve got a busy weekend, then.”

Alex nodded, and after a quick glance back to Greg to make sure he was happy, he opened the door and invited the five to leave. A driver would take them all back to the terraced houses they stayed in on the other end of the estate. With them all out of the room, Alex closed the door again and turned back to Greg. It was always difficult to know what Greg would want after these games he played with his guests, so Alex simply waited patiently for Greg to decide. It took Greg a little longer than usual to decide, and when he finally made up his mind, it wasn’t what Alex had expected.

“Go wait for me in the sitting room,” Greg said, waving Alex away.

It felt like a trap, but Alex couldn’t figure out why it might be one.

“Oh. Really?” he asked, still trying to figure out how this might be something Greg could use against him.

“Go, before I change my mind and put you to work,” Greg said.

Alex knew Greg would do exactly that if he questioned him again, so he turned to leave as quickly as possible without looking like he was running away.

Moving out of the flat was embarrassingly easy. Alex didn’t have much to take with him, but getting it all into the boot of his car only highlighted the lack of belongings. He’d thought he’d at least have to cram some stuff into the back seat, and maybe ride with a box or two in the front seat as well. But it all fit a little too comfortably into the boot.

The room that would be his through the duration of his contract was small enough to make it look like Alex had a more appropriate amount of things for a man his age. His first full day working for Greg was to be spent getting to know the house and schedule. And that started with his room. The wardrobe had four matching black suits with a red silk lining, and four plain white shirts. Alex had half expected that it had all belonged to his unfortunate predecessor, but unless that fellow was also uncommonly tall, it seemed unlikely. More likely, Alex realised, was that there was a room somewhere that had the livery in all sizes, and that a particularly skilled guess had been made at which size to provide. The trousers somewhat confirmed this, being the first set Alex tried on was almost unreasonably long. He found another pair that wasn’t quite as long, and made a note to himself to have the others either hemmed or swapped out.

The biggest surprise of all of it was finding three packs of brand new socks in the small chest of drawers, all in various bright colours. There was a certain whimsy to it that made him feel a little more at ease with the whole situation. He had also received an enormous set of keys and an entire notebook full of instructions, which hadn’t seemed unusual given the size and scope of the job. But even upon double checking the section on dress code, Alex didn’t see anything that mentioned socks specifically. He picked a pair of bright pink ones and simply hoped they’d be good enough.

The keys were alarming. It wasn’t a giant comedy set, on a ring the size of a football, but there were considerably more than Alex had anticipated. The house was big, but Alex was surprised he’d need every single key to every single lock on the property. There were even two keys to two different cars. Nobody had told him about cars being involved in his job description. There were also half a dozen smaller, but robust keys, obviously for small safes and lock boxes, which at least made some amount of sense. Mr Evans had him doing a lot of admin, and Alex assumed that would at least be part of the “personal assistant” part of the job. Admin, he could handle. The numbers and spreadsheets made sense to him in ways he knew weren’t quite normal. Though whatever admin for an actual lord looked like, Alex could only imagine.

The notebook itself was a whole other situation to deal with. Every instruction had been handwritten, and as he flipped through the pages to familiarise himself with the rules and expectations, he noticed that it hadn’t actually been laid out very well. The hand changed at least six times, and each person who added to the pages seemed to have amendments to something that came before. As he got farther along, it became clear that something wasn’t quite right. There was an underlying urgency, and maybe even a paranoia about some of the later instructions. At first, Alex wondered if it was some sort of hazing ritual, but it didn’t seem like anything of the sort as he read further on. With each page, it became more and more clear that there was some sort of obsessive-compulsion at play. Alex was expected to cook, clean, drive, shop, and generally run errands for Greg, even though some of those jobs would be better suited for someone who specialised in that area. Alex knew there were other staff in the house, because he had seen several of them, but they hadn’t seemed very friendly toward him. Now, he thought he might have a better idea as to why.

His entire first week was spent learning how Greg liked things done. He expected everything done to a certain standard, but it was a difficult standard to meet with all his bizarre eccentricities. But that was the thing about people with money and titles, wasn’t it? They were allowed to be a bit odd. Alex just hadn’t counted on Greg being quite as odd as he was.

Alex was expected to be on call all hours of the day, but he was given time to himself once Greg had his evening bath. After that, he liked to unwind by himself, and didn’t much like to be bothered. Alex spent this time in his room, working on memorising names and routines he was expected to carry out. Usually, he wound up falling asleep fairly early, because Greg had absolutely been right about the amount of work Alex needed to do in a day. He was certain it would get easier as he learned certain tasks by rote, and figured out which corners could be cut, but as it was the job was nothing short of exhausting. After the second day, he no longer even cared that the man who had slept in his bed just weeks earlier was dead.

It all went to hell when Greg shot someone in the back.

The man was an old mate of Greg’s, and Alex hated him immediately. He was loud and had an opinion about everything, and his opinions were never wrong, even when they clearly were. Whether he’d got Greg wound up, or Greg had got him wound up was academic. All that mattered was that Alex was up three hours past when he’d usually gone to bed, and the two of them were shouting at one another in the sitting room. The argument was either about money, or a dead sheep. Alex couldn’t keep up. But he didn’t dare try to step in and stop any of it, because it wasn’t his place. And then, suddenly, there was a gun, and Greg shot the man right in the back.

It took a long moment of stunned silence for Alex to realise the gun hadn’t been real, though in Greg’s hand it certainly looked it. It seemed to take Rhod a moment to figure out what had happened, and when he did, he shouted even louder than he had before, calling Greg so many foul things the air practically turned blue.

While Rhod shouted, and Alex tried to figure out what the hell he was supposed to do, Greg laughed like he’d been possessed. Then, Greg pointed the gun at the brand new laptop Rhod had been showing off not ten minutes earlier, and put a hole right through the screen, proving that the gun had not been quite as fake as Alex had thought. Again, a stunned silence fell over the room, broken only as Greg began laughing again.

“Well. That’s the Mac fucked,” Rhod said.

Without another word, he strode out of the room and saw himself out. For a long moment after, Alex stood with his back pressed flat against the wall, too frightened to say anything. Then, Greg tossed the gun down onto the table and waved his hand toward the destroyed laptop and turned toward the door.

“Find out how much that thing cost and send him a cheque, would you?” he said on his way out.

Alex nodded, still struggling to process what had just happened. “Uh. Yes. I’ll do that.”

Alone in the room, Alex looked around frantically for anything that might help him out of this situation, but it was just him and a broken laptop that had its screen smashed through. Alex took a moment to examine the machine, and realised that although the laptop had clearly been destroyed, he had once again misread the situation when he found a BB lodged deep in the screen. Rather than digging it out and risking causing even more damage, Alex pretended he hadn’t seen a thing. Even if it was only a BB gun, Alex wanted no part of whatever that display had been about.

As he stared down at the broken laptop, Alex realised he had absolutely no idea how much such a thing cost. The easiest way to find out would have been online, but Greg didn’t seem to own a computer, and Alex couldn’t afford one. Unable to do anything until morning, Alex made sure all the lights had been turned off and went to bed. He spent several hours the following morning phoning various shops in the area and getting quotes for the destroyed machine. Going with the average, he wrote out the cheque and left it on Greg’s desk to sign.

Two days after that while carrying out his morning chores, Alex found a strange woman in the sitting room, covered in powdered cheese dust and sleeping on the sofa with the telly on full volume. How she could sleep through the racket, Alex had no idea. Worse, he didn’t recall seeing her the night before. But there she was, snoring loudly like she belonged there. For a long moment, Alex stood by awkwardly, unable to figure out where to even start. He’d never had to kick anyone out before, and had no idea how to go about it, especially when the other person was a woman. He imagined if it was a bloke, he could simply haul the invader out through the front door, but that didn’t seem terribly appropriate now, given the circumstances.

He got as far as shutting off the television before Greg wandered in and rescued him from the situation. The first clue that throwing her out would not have been the right choice was the way Greg immediately burst into a mad, cackling laughter at the sight laid out on his sofa. That woke the strange woman up with a sharp jolt. Greg called her a disgusting mess, she called Greg a fat old gorilla, and the two of them left to go have breakfast together elsewhere.

Alex didn’t like any of Greg’s friends much, he decided. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for Greg’s friends to pick up on it.

Sometimes, very rarely, Greg let Alex sit on the sofa with him. Alex didn’t particularly enjoy watching Greg’s boring old World War II documentaries, but he did like being snuggled up next to him, with Greg’s hand petting his hair. More than once, Alex drifted into a light sleep, content to simply have a chance to rest. But then some loud noise would come from the telly, or Greg would shift to get a bit more comfortable and Alex would wake again. But after a while, sitting around doing nothing began to feel like a trap. There were a dozen things he could have been doing that Greg would have appreciated more than this, and somehow not doing them gave Alex the uncomfortable feeling that he was getting dangerously close to becoming an annoyance.

“Shall I go start on your dinner?” Alex asked, already sitting up.

“Yeah, you do that,” Greg said flatly.

It was earlier than Alex would have normally started dinner, but he thought he might need the extra time. He was stiff and sore from sitting in one place for so long, and even in just his socks, standing proved more painful than he’d expected. But he’d worked in worse conditions, and he knew how to get on with it without annoying Greg. As he reached the kitchen, Alex used his phone to play music. His phone wasn’t meant for playing music, but on this Greg looked the other way as long as Alex didn’t play it too loudly.

He moved slowly, taking his time to make sure everything was exactly the way Greg liked it. Greg had barely moved when Alex brought him his dinner nearly an hour later, and hardly looked away from the television as Alex took small bites from his plate to show he hadn’t done anything to it. He left Greg alone again to go tidy up after himself, and he took his time at that too. When he was done with that, he reshuffled the fridge to make sure anything that needed to be used quickly got rotated to the front, to keep it from going into the bin.

Once Greg was in the bath, Alex set about getting his bed ready, making sure the blankets were turned out properly and his pyjamas ready. Once he had everything perfect, he poked his head back into the bathroom to see Greg involved in his book again.

“Can I help you with anything?” Alex asked.

Greg shook his head and waved him off. “No, go have your dinner and wait for me.”

Alex nodded. “Thank you,” he said.

He wasted no time getting back to the kitchen, and ate quickly once he was there. By the time he was done, Alex was acutely aware of every ache and pain through his body, and wanted nothing more than to lie down properly. After locking up the kitchen, he went to go change for bed, moving through the halls as quickly as possible. He nearly made it all the way to his little space before a member of the security detail caught up with him.

“What are you doing here?” Alex asked.

It never meant anything good when the staff sought him out, and Alex needed only see the determination on the man’s face to know he was going to hate whatever was said to him. Alex didn’t even know the man’s name, which somehow made it even more irritating to be waylaid by him.

“We’ve had an alarm at the other house,” he said.

Alex stared at him for a long moment, willing it to be some unfunny joke. There were only two copies of the keys to the cottage, and Alex possessed one of them. The other was upstairs with Greg, and only a suicidal fool would ask him. Instead of getting into his pyjamas, Alex gingerly slid his shoes on instead and followed the security officer through the house. He had hoped that maybe the man would be lazy enough to drive around the long way, rather than walk, but his hopes were shattered as they made their way to the front door. The earlier snow had given way to wind and rain, and Alex took a moment to stare out the window at it before doubling back to the coat room to fetch his overcoat. He popped his collar against the wind, which he thought made him look cool, even though Greg always told him it made him look like an idiot. But cool guys didn’t like rain running down the back of their necks, and Alex didn’t like rain on the back of his neck, so it must have made him look cool.

Neither man said anything as they trudged down the path along the golf course. Even though his socks, his shoes rubbed against the same spots that had been rubbed raw the day before, but he clenched his jaw against it and tried to hurry. The faster they got to the cottage to figure out what the problem was, the faster he could go home and go to bed.

The gate leading to the garden remained locked, as did the gate to the road. Still, he’d have to check everything, so he unlocked the front door and stood aside so the security officer could enter first. While he looked around for intruders, Alex walked straight back to the lab, having a good idea of what might have set off the alarm. Sure enough, he found one of the mounted cameras knocked at an odd angle. He reached up to try to fix it, but the hinge that mounted it to the wall was too loose to hold it properly, and it fell back to its previous broken position as soon as he let go. Alex was not in the mood to fiddle with it, so he stood by and waited for the security officer to figure out that there was no one else in the house. The security officer wandered through the house, taking ages to check every single room, before finally making his way back to the lab.

“This thing’s fallen again,” Alex said, pointing to the busted camera.

The security officer actually had the audacity to look annoyed. “Why didn’t you say that?” he asked.

“I did say it,” Alex said. “Just now.”

Sometimes he wondered what would happen if he annoyed someone enough that they took a swing at him. He knew what would happen to himself. It would hurt, and he’d probably bleed a bit. But he wondered if Greg would get angry at the person who hit him, or at him for being overly irritating in the first place.

The security officer didn’t swing at him though, so it was a question that remained unanswered. Instead, he shook his head and turned out of the room. Alex spared one more glance to the camera, knowing he’d have to fix it before Monday. But there were two full days before then, and he could deal with it when he wasn’t quite as miserable. He followed the security officer back through the front door and made sure the door was locked before beginning the trudge back home. He had been perfectly fine before he got waylaid for this pointless trek, but the rain and the wind on his face and his shoes rubbing his ankles raw all over again had caused his good mood to completely evaporate. He took his shoes back off as soon as he stepped through the door, and before he even got his coat off. There was no thanking him for opening the house for inspection, or an apology for wasting his time over a camera he already knew was broken. The security officer simply left him at the door without a word.

By the time he got dressed for bed and returned to Greg’s room, Greg was already out of the bath and waiting for him. Alex halfway expected him to be angry about being made to wait, but he gestured for Alex to join him in bed instead. Part of Alex thought he’d rather sleep in his spot on the floor, but he didn’t argue. He got beneath the blankets next to Greg, and immediately decided this was better. Greg had been handsy with him all day, and he continued the habit by immediately pulling Alex close and holding him there. But there was a certain comfort to it, especially now that his mood had been spoilt.

“What was the problem?” Greg asked, signalling that someone had already told him where Alex had gone.

“Camera in the lab fell again,” Alex said.

“Did you fix it?” Greg asked.

Alex shook his head. “Didn’t have the parts. I figured it could wait until tomorrow.”

“I suppose it can,” Greg said.

He scratched his fingers against Alex’s beard, getting too close to Alex’s neck for comfort with each stroke. Alex tried not to flinch away from it, but he increasingly felt like he’d wandered into a trap he didn’t know how to get out of.

“But you have been a very good boy these last couple of days,” Greg said. “Getting all your work done, without needing to be told, even.”

Alex dared to look up at him, acutely aware of how close Greg’s hand was to his neck. He didn’t know what was going to happen next, and the anticipation to find out, and the apprehension of knowing what could happen warred within him as his nerves slowly began to unravel and fray.

“I like making you happy,” he said, having nothing else to say.

He expected some biting, sarcastic remark; for Greg to call him irritating or useless. Instead, Greg hummed lowly.

“I think my precious little boy deserves a reward,” Greg said.

For a moment, the whole world stopped, and Alex nearly forgot how to breathe. He looked for any sign that this was a trap, but Greg looked at him expectantly as he continued to scratch at Alex’s beard. Understanding now, fully, Alex nodded and slowly sat up, never once taking his eyes off Greg. They both shifted around one another, Greg moving to sit up a bit better as he set his book aside, and Alex moving to between Greg’s knees. Even as Alex pulled the blankets away, Greg was already hard beneath his pyjamas, and all thoughts of getting caught in a trap vanished from Alex’s mind. He didn’t need to be told what to do next. He knew what Greg liked, and rested his weight on his elbows so he could get closer.

Greg’s hand was already on the back of Alex’s head before he even got started. He may have known what Greg liked, and knew how to make Greg very happy by doing it, but having a cock in his mouth was fairly low on the list of things he enjoyed. Even if it was Greg’s. He spared one more look up to Greg before pulling down his pyjamas and getting to work on him. He knew how to keep his teeth out of the way, and what to do with his tongue. But he forgot all about how much he hated it the moment Greg groaned above him and tried to grab onto a handful of Alex’s hair. Even as Greg forced Alex to take him deeper, holding him against pulling away, Alex wanted to give him more.

“That’s a good boy,” Greg said as he dug his fingers into Alex’s scalp.

With those few short words, Alex was no longer his own concern. When Greg was happy, Alex was happy, and he needed to hear Greg call him a good boy again.

“That’s a very good boy,” Greg said.

Greg held Alex in a tight grip, fucking his mouth. All Alex could do was keep up, unable as he was to even use his tongue once Greg took control. Each time Greg called him a good boy, each time he dug his fingers into Alex’s flesh did something to him that went through his body like a shock. He didn’t know why it made his cock hard the way it did, but he kept his hands on Greg so they didn’t wander where Greg didn’t want them. It still embarrassed him, filling him with a shame he couldn’t let go of. He could feel his face growing hot from it, but he couldn’t stop. He needed to hear Greg call him a good boy again, or he thought he might not survive this.

“That’s my good boy. Just like that,” Greg said.

Alex hummed against him and tried to shift up onto his knees so he wasn’t as tempted to start rubbing himself against the bed.

“Precious little boy,” Greg said.

Alex could feel his face burning, but it didn’t matter, because Greg was happy. It didn’t matter when Greg’s grip on him changed, shoving Alex away from him abruptly. Alex closed his eyes, but he still flinched at the familiar sensation as Greg came on his face. For a moment, they both stayed still, Alex keeping his eyes screwed shut as cum dripped over his eye and onto his cheek.

“Thank you,” he said after a moment.

Greg let go of him, giving Alex the freedom to sit back on his heels. Even as he worked out that his left eye had been spared, he couldn’t meet Greg’s gaze directly. He couldn’t look down either, because then he’d have to look at his own cock, hard and needy beneath his pyjamas. He stayed where he was, gaze averted off to the side while he waited for Greg to tell him what to do. Part of him wanted to run and hide in his cupboard. But the part of him that had managed to forget how much he hated this needed still more.

“You’d sit there all night like that if I told you to, wouldn’t you?” Greg asked.

Alex nodded, still not able to meet his gaze. “If you wanted me to,” he said.

Greg hummed like he was mulling it over, and for a moment Alex thought that’s exactly what Greg would make him do.

“Come on, then,” Greg said instead as he tugged on Alex’s wrist. “Good boys get rewarded for good behaviour.”

Even as his face burned hotter, Alex went where Greg wanted him, straddled against his hips. Greg played with Alex’s waistband, teasing him with promises Alex knew wouldn’t be kept, and he wasn’t sure if he hated Greg for teasing him, or was glad that teasing was all it would amount to. He could barely breathe through the need and confusion.

“Hands behind your back,” Greg said.

Alex did as he was told, and all it took from there was Greg planting both hands on Alex’s hips and forcing him to rock forward. Anything that was left of Alex evaporated in that instant. He forgot about the shame and discomfort of what he was doing. Hands still behind his back, Alex held his hand around the other wrist, holding tightly so he didn’t put his hands where Greg didn’t want them. He got whatever Greg gave him, and what Greg gave him was a needy, shameful rut against his body. Still, Alex took what he was given, because he thought he might just lose whatever was left of his mind if he didn’t. He shifted his body against Greg’s, trying to find the right angle, and the right place to seat himself. With his hands behind his back, he lacked enough balance or leverage, so he turned his head away to rest against Greg’s shoulder.

“You get spunk on my shirt, and I’m knocking your teeth out,” Greg said, doing nothing to stop him.

“Thank you,” Alex said.

Even in this state, he was acutely aware of the state of his face, and he did everything he could to make sure he didn’t make a mess on Greg’s shirt with his own cum. He wished Greg hadn’t have done that, because then he wouldn’t have to think about it, and it might have been easier to get this whole thing over with. But he was preoccupied with the mess on his face, and he worried Greg would get bored before he finished.

“God, you’re like a disobedient dog, you know that?” Greg said.

Alex didn’t know why that sent a different thrill through him, but he hated it.

“I know,” he said, getting desperate as he rubbed himself on Greg.

Greg didn’t do anything to help him. His hands lay still by his side, making Alex put in all the effort.

“A disobedient dog that needs to have his nuts chopped off,” Greg said.

For some reason, that did it. Alex came with a shuddering gasp, and immediately wished he hadn’t. He wished he’d had the control to not do any of it, but there he was, straddling Greg’s hips with cum on his face and all over his pyjamas. Struggling to catch his breath, Alex sat up again, staying where he was atop Greg with both eyes shut against the shame of having to look at him. It felt like an eternity that he sat there, face so hot he thought it might actually cause physical damage. Then, Greg patted him a little too roughly on the thigh as a signal to get off of him.

“Go clean up,” Greg said.

Alex nodded and tried to find his way to his feet. “Thank you,” he said again.

Only then did he uncouple his hands from behind his back. He got to his feet, finding his balance shaky and uneven, and walked across the floor to the bathroom. As he opened the door, he half expected Greg to tell him to use his one downstairs, but the order didn’t come. Greg reserved that command for when Alex had misbehaved somehow. But even that was better than being made to sleep in such a state.

He scrubbed his face with a flannel, making sure to get every last trace from where it had got in his beard by the end. Rather annoyingly, he didn’t have a second pair of pyjamas to change into, so he did the best he could to clean himself up from his own mess as well. Once he was done, Alex wrung out the flannel and tossed it into the washing bin so he could deal with it properly in the morning. By the time he stepped back out of the bathroom, he found Greg already back in his book. Alex cautiously got back into bed with him, still expecting the rug to be pulled out from under him. But Greg moved to make room, and let Alex cuddle up against him with his head resting on Greg’s chest. He barely even got settled before Greg’s hand found his hair and started petting him again.

“I want some teams next week,” Greg said absently.

Alex looked up at him, taking a moment to catch up with the non-sequitur. “All right,” he said.

“I want to see them hurry.” Greg didn’t even look up from his book as he spoke. “Lots of running.”

Alex nodded. “How about eggs?” he asked.

He knew there were a few things on Greg’s endless list that could satisfy this new craving.

“Yeah,” Greg said after a moment. “Something with eggs.”

Alex nodded again and tried to get comfortable enough to get some real sleep, but he was far too aware of the close contact between the two of them. Greg’s hand, scratching his hair and his beard, their bodies pressed together, Alex having nowhere for his arm beside draped over Greg. But he was a good boy, and Greg wanted him right where he was, so that’s where he’d stay.