To touch is to heal
To hurt is to steal
If you wanna kiss the sky
Better learn how to kneel
On your knees, boy — U2
Cosmo Rawlins isn’t really what you might call lazy. No, he’s more of what you’d call…aggressively unemployed. But he has his music! Yeah, he has his band to consider, so why would he want to submit to the drudgery of a 9 to 5-er when there’s practicing to do and songs to write and band members to clash with? He wouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean Cosmo doesn’t have some experience with the interview process; his expertise in the world of the gainfully employed pretty much extends to knowing exactly how not to get a job but still qualify for those wonderful government bennies he enjoys. Everyone has their strengths, and Cosmo’s is knowing how to work the system without actually working.
The only question, then, is what do you do when you come up against someone who is a cog in that system and who’s at least equally proficient as you are at getting exactly what he wants? I reckon all you can do is bend over and take your licks—and like it.
Alasdair Grant is a self-made businessman who owns his own company, though he wasn’t always the corporate suit he is today. Oh no, Alasdair has a past that had nothing to do with following the status quo and being a slave to The Man, and everything to do with making an easy buck, which didn’t have much to do with a good work ethic and had everything to do with necessity. But now Alasdair is The Man, his work ethic has changed considerably since his biker days, so when he finds a very crafty Cosmo in his office, supposedly interviewing for a job, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that the only thing Cosmo’s working his hardest at is to avoid being hired for the position in Alasdair’s sanitary services company, and Alasdair decides then and there that Cosmo may be well suited for a very different, mutually beneficial position, a flexible and open position—on his knees, on his back, on all fours, bent over a table; it’s all relative, really, as long as Alasdair’s the boss and Cosmo’s following orders. But… there’s always a but, isn’t there?
See, Cosmo’s not exactly the sort of bloke who wants to be dictated to, at least not beyond sex. And even then, he’s only just learning that sexual submission can be pretty freaking intense, at least when he’s with Alasdair and Alasdair’s lighting his arse up with a flogger or a cane or his bare hand. But Alasdair… Alasdair’s a Dom, in the bedroom, the boardroom, where ever. He is in control and doesn’t know any other way to be, which causes a lot of conflict for both men, but it also teaches them a few things too, especially Alasdair, who learns that giving up a little bit of control is sometimes the only way to hang on to the one you love.
Screwing the System is the story of a man who sets out to claim and to tame a work-avoiding welfare abuser but instead discovers the secret to being in command may be far less about managing Cosmo’s life and far more about managing his own, living life on his own terms rather than living by the rules of good business, and forgiving himself and his ex-lover for an ending that was beyond their capacity to control.
This is a May/December romance between two men who are strong in different ways but in all the right ways for each other; it’s a story of teaching and of learning that the exchange of trust and the surrender of control is, in the end, the ultimate strength, and that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks as long as everything works between the only two who matter.
I loved Cosmo and Alasdair in much the same way I loved Ollie and Ben in Handle With Care, not for the similarities in their romance but in the fact that it was the younger men who came along with the passion for their art, and their cheek, and their take-no-prisoners attitudes, and turned the lives of their older men upside down.