Monday, October 15, 2007

Chapter 10, Part 2

The Invasion of Aunt Tittie's Apartment, or "T.A. Day" as Danny called it, started with an informal meeting over afternoon coffee in Valerien's penthouse apartment on the following Friday. Detective Varajian and Medical Examiner Griggs gawked openly at the eighteenth-century splendors of the vast salon, while RJ Casterman and Charlie Putnam merely appreciated them with the vaguely blasé air of people who'd grown up among similar splendors.

"Do you think Aunt Tittie will mind all of us showing up like this?" Danny wondered, a sense of misgiving infecting his desire to get the truth out of Tittie... it was one thing to threaten her, another thing to come banging on her door backed by a delegation of five men.

"I don't care if Carmichael minds it or not," Valerien responded quietly but angrily over the edge of his cup, "I'm the majority owner of this building, I'll do what I like in it. I only wish I'd put 'obstructing justice' as a termination clause in his co-op agreement. Then we could evict him."

"Oh, don't do that," Danny pleaded for his friend, completely reversing his own stance of the Saturday before, "She probably didn't mean any harm, she's just protecting her privacy."

"Privacy, faugh!" Valerien responded, a little more heatedly, "This practice of bringing strange boys into the building and giving them keys and letting them run loose is dangerously idiotic and has to be stopped. I pay a lot of money for the security of this place, and I want it secure, goddamnit, not infested with purple-haired hustlers. Especially if they're going to go around killing the other tenants."

"I'm sure Mr. Carmichael's intentions were not dishonorable," RJ put in soothingly, "And I do agree that perhaps we might not all have to interview him at the same moment. Perhaps if you and Danny would go talk to him first, while we wait in the wings to take his statements and hunt for traces of Cort Johnson afterward, things might go a bit more smoothly."

"I suppose so," Valerien put down his cup and stood to leave, "But never underestimate the power of intimidation."

"Unfortunately, it's illegal," Detective Varajian said, "And I certainly wouldn't want to put you in a tenuous legal position by being present and having to take official notice of an illegal act."

"Besides," Griggs piped in, "an unwilling witness is an unhelpful witness. Mr. Carmichael is more likely to cooperate, and less likely to hold things back, if you soft-soap rather than hard-ball him."

"Hmph," Valerien snorted contemptuously; he'd be damned before he'd pander to the likes and dislikes of Thomas Carmichael.

"Are we sure he's home?" Danny wondered, finally shrinking from the confrontation that he'd been spoiling for all week.

"We've been watching him ever since we connected him to your visit at The Brat," RJ replied, "I know when he farts, if you'll pardon my language, much less leaves his apartment. He's home right now, most likely at the makeup table."

"Oh," Danny sighed reluctantly and followed the angry Valerien out of the apartment to the elevator; it was nearly four, Tittie was bound to be in the very middle of making up for the evening, and wouldn't relish the intrusion. But the thing had to be done, and with everyone else waiting, he certainly couldn't put it off to a more convenient time... besides, once he'd gotten Valerien involved and irritated about the whole thing, it had gone out of his control: Valerien was accustomed to treating the residents of his building as tenants rather than co-owners, and was more enraged by the hustler/houseboy part of the matter than Aunt Tittie's betrayal of Danny's friendship.

"Mr. Carmichael?" Valerien knocked loudly on Aunt Tittie's door, which was on the tenth floor and at the opposite end of the building from Marshall's, "It's Baron de Seguemont. I want to talk to you."

"I'm indisposed," came an irritated voice from far inside the apartment, "Bugger off."

"I will speak to you now, if you please," Valerien seemed to grow larger with his rage at being treated so dismissively, "Don't make me get the passkey."

"Well of all the motherfucking nerve..." Danny heard Tittie banging about in the apartment and swearing as he made his way to the door, "I own this goddamned apartment, how dare you threaten me with passkeys? What in the hell do you want?"

Aunt Tittie threw the door open and then stepped back, more than surprised to see Danny standing just behind Valerien. He was dressed in a very large silk kimono with cranes painted all over it, his sparse hair covered with a stocking cap, his face a blank mask of foundation with one eye dazzlingly lined and painted in peacock hues.

"Oh, hello, Danny," he had the grace to smile uncomfortably and lower his voice, "What's this all about?"

"I'm sorry to barge in on you at this hour, Aunt Tittie," Danny said apologetically while smoothly entering the apartment and giving him a peck on the cheek, "But we need your help."

"It's not a very effective way of winning friends and influencing people," Aunt Tittie observed dryly, trying to regain her cool, "Threatening people with illegal entry."

"I could swear I heard you calling for help," Valerien said in an offhand way, "And your behavior is not going to sit very well with the co-op board, of which I happen to be the president, as you well know."

"Val, please," Danny gave Valerien his most potent puppy-dog eyes, "Don't be antagonistic. Aunt Tittie will understand once I've explained it to her. See, the thing is, we need your help finding your ex-houseboy, Cort Johnson."

"Are you responsible for those PIs and SFPDs harrassing me about Cort?" Aunt Tittie nearly bellowed, "I would have thought better of you, Danny Vandervere."

"Honestly, I didn't know about the detectives until recently, and you've not spoken to me once since that weekend when I was arrested," Danny turned the puppy-eyes on Tittie and evinced a welling of tears, "I would have come to you directly if I'd known that was you in The Brat with the purple-haired boy."

"I'm sorry, but that's not good enough," Tittie was regretting his behavior but didn't want to admit it just yet, "You could have come to me directly with your questions, even if I was cold-shouldering you, which I assure you I was not."

"I'm sorry, but who comes to whom with questions is beside the point," Valerien inserted himself into the conversation hotly, "The point is that you had an unauthorized tenant of unknown origin on the weekend that a murder was committed in this building; furthermore, you withheld that information even though it would help someone who considers you a friend, for reasons I cannot comprehend. That is the point."

"Well, how the hell was I supposed to know it would help? Cort isn't even connected to this. And what do you want me to do about it, anyway?" Tittie was defensive again, "I don't know where the little shit went, and if I did I'd happily turn him over to you. He stole money from me."

"But you can still help," Danny put himself between Tittie and Valerien and grabbed Tittie's hand pleadingly, "You can let the medical examiner and my detective friend look for traces of Cort, so that if he is found we can place him at the scene with forensic evidence."

"You want to turn my apartment upside-down for fingerprints? I think not."

"I'll pay for the cleaning, naturally," Valerien said scathingly.

"You wouldn't find anything if I did let you," Tittie huffed, "I have cleaned during the last few weeks, I'm not a pig. And besides, he didn't leave anything behind."

"Still, please let them look. I'm desperate," Danny almost cried, "Please?"

"Oh, all right," Tittie relented and walked back into his apartment, "You might as well get on with it. I'm going to go finish putting my face on."

Valerien went off to fetch the detectives while Danny followed Tittie through an apartment crowded with beautiful antique furniture and cluttered with a multitude of movie-themed porcelain collectibles ranging from Gone With The Wind plates to Wizard of Oz figurines.

"Why have you been so distant with me, lately?" Danny asked gently as Tittie settled down at a messy and brightly-lit dressing table in a very untidy bedroom, "I thought our friendship meant something to you."

Tittie looked at him steadily in the mirror for some moments before answering, "I didn't know what to think, whether you were a killer or not. So I decided it was best to just wait and see without getting involved. I'm sorry if that hurt your feelings."

"If it helps anything, I am innocent," Danny offered with a small forgiving smile.

"You think Cort killed the guy? Why?" Tittie was intent on painting his other eye.

"There were purple hairs found in the stairwell near Marshall's apartment, which had been bleached down immediately after the murder. The entire stairwell and all the hallways between that floor and this were bleached, which suggests Cort was watching Marshall's apartment, and didn't want anyone to be able to prove it."

"Well, maybe Cort is your killer... he cleaned this place spic-and-span before he took off with the contents of my wallet and a few of my favorite silver antiques, leaving not a wrack behind."

"You didn't ever take a picture of him?" Danny wondered.

"I did, when he was sleeping, but he found it and took it."

"What about underwear?"

Tittie gave Danny a long, somewhat angry but also begrudgingly admiring look, reached into a drawer at his right, and pulled out a pair of generic white briefs with a few telltale stains of wear, size Medium, "I was hoping you wouldn't ask for that, but since you did, I hope they help."

"You're the best, Aunt Tittie. When you're done getting dressed, can I take you for a drink? I have my car here."

"Some other time, perhaps. But why don't you get going so I can finish putting on my face, I don't want to be here when your myrmidons are tearing my apartment apart. And if they break the tiniest bit of lace off the meanest piece of my Royal Doulton, I'm going to bill your prissy little Baron for it."

"Oh, Valerien's not that bad, he's just a bit autocratic when he's angry. He'll make it up to you when he's calmed down," Danny stood and kissed Tittie on the top of his head, "Thank you so much for your help. I'll take you to dinner any time you're free, OK? And I'll send over a pair of my underwear in exchange for these."

"Mmm-hmmm..." Tittie was putting on lip-liner so couldn't make a more distinct answer.


"Nothing, absolutely nothing," Griggs nearly screamed in disgust the next morning when he reviewed the last report of the evidence taken from Aunt Tittie's apartment.

Nothing in the way of hair or bodily fluids was found in Aunt Tittie's apartment, but the smell of bleach still lingered in some of the crevices and corners. The DNA samples found in the underpants had looked so promising, but they didn't match anything in any of the identity databanks; and after dusting every single surface in a fairly large apartment crowded to bursting with surfaces, only four sets of fingerprints were recovered: one belonging to Tittie, two belonging to known hustlers whose movements on the night of the murder were easily established, and a fourth set found on a lightbulb in a closet belonging to someone completely unknown to law enforcement agencies. The mysterious Cort Johnson was, forensically speaking, a non-person.

Nevertheless, the evidence was sealed and stored in connection to the Drayton Marshall files, just in case Cort Johnson ever turned up... which didn't seem very likely. Medical Examiner Griggs reluctantly turned his attention to the several other cases on his desk and put the plight of Danny Vandervere out of his mind.


Danny took the news lying down, literally and figuratively. He was enmeshed in his latest pastime, posing for a portrait with Jacky Alvarado, when RJ Casterman and David Varajian came to tell him about the outcome of the forensic search of Aunt Tittie's apartment and the complete lack of identity for Cort Johnson.

"At least we know he was there," Danny shrugged from his position on the dais; he was lying face-down and nude on a velvet-draped mattress in the pose of Waterhouse's Narcissus, staring at the painter through the mirror that lay beneath his head, "And if he does commit a crime somewhere, it will show up in the database, won't it?"

"That's a pretty big 'if,'" Varajian sighed sadly, resting his eyes on Danny's perfect back and buttocks; he couldn't decide if he was more turned on by the nudity or by Danny's complete disregard for who saw him, but was more interested in keeping his arousal hidden from RJ, whose jealously now knew no bounds. Varajian could see, out of the corner of his eye, the younger man flexing his fingers angrily as if wishing to crush somebody's windpipe.

"But isn't it a truism that criminals can't help but get caught eventually? Don't they always get sloppy or return to the scene of the crime, or something?"

"Only in fiction," RJ said, trying, in his turn, to decide if he were more angry at Danny for continuing to pose nude in front of David, at David for continuing to stare at Danny like a hungry dog, or at himself for being jealous of either of them, "In real life things aren't usually so tidy."

"Still, it's better than nothing," Danny shrugged a little but was hissed at by the painter for moving.

"In the meantime," RJ continued, "My people have been canvassing the tenderloin and all of the customers of The Brat about our mysterious young Cort. It seems he never tricked while he was there, he was just hanging out, pretending to be a hustler. The only person he was ever seen leaving with was Carmichael, I mean Aunt Tittie, and that one time with Marshall. He lived in a cheap hotel before he hooked up with Tittie, so the boys all assumed he was a runaway and hadn't completely used up all his money yet."

"And absolutely nobody has any idea where he went," Varajian put in, "He never said where he was from, or where he wanted to go. But hustlers are like that, they're very of-the-moment, no past, no future, so nobody thought it was odd."

"Gentlemen, do you mind?" Jacky Alvarado came out from behind his painting, his hazel eyes flashing with irritation, "You're breaking my concentration."

"I'm sorry, Jacky," Danny apologized without moving, "RJ, David, thank you for coming by and letting me know about the results."

With a few more words of good-bye, the two detectives left, and Danny lapsed back into the indescribable boredom of sitting for an oil portrait.

At first, spending time with the artist was a lot of fun. Jacky was a very handsome young man, with an admirable Latin-American angel's face, delicate bones, big eyes and a succulent mouth, all on top of a small wiry body simply bursting with energy most of the time. When they'd first met, Jacky rhapsodized over Danny's beauty, photographed him for three hours solid, and threw out a thousand ideas for portrait poses.

But then came the actual posing, first for sketches as the artist tried out different compositions and styles (Jacky had declared him a "pure pre-Raphaelite" and tried out Burne-Jones, Leighton, and Morris Hunt before deciding on Waterhouse); at those times, Jacky lapsed into an intensely still concentration, neither talking nor allowing Danny to talk. And though the recumbent pose that was finally decided upon allowed Danny to go to sleep whenever he got too bored, the minute he moved Jacky would yell at him irritably and spend a few minutes making sure he was back in place before returning to the silent painting.

When the two- or three-hour session was over, Jacky would come alive again, snapping pictures with his camera as Danny moved around the studio getting dressed (all of the pictures he shot belonged to Valerien, by the terms of his contract for the painting, and so Danny was able to relax in the knowledge that they would never get out to the general public). He was a wonderful chatterer, and could spin running jokes out of the most mundane pop-culture material; Danny just wished that this liveliness was part of the posing as well as the before and after.

Danny was also worried a little by the fact that these sessions were cutting into his early evenings with Valerien; he didn't miss the hour or so of Valerien's company, but had to wonder if Valerien missed him... or if this portrait were an excuse to have time away from Danny. He didn't dare ask Valerien to declare his intentions, for fear that their escapade would come to an end; and though he was not in love with Valerien, either, he loved their relationship and feared its cease... and so he let the worry fester inside of him, especially during the still hours of his posing.

More worrisome was the fact that his filial relationship with Poppy had turned carnal a few days after the painting was started. One afternoon when he and Poppy were working together in the studio, Poppy had let out a low growl and, as promised weeks before, pounced on Danny without so much as a by-your-leave. He stripped Danny naked and fucked him silly on the couch, and that performance was repeated almost daily thereafter.

This new sexual relationship, though wildly enjoyable (a good deal more enjoyable than his sexual relationship with Valerien), worried him on two counts: first, how would Valerien react if he found out; and second, what had Valerien told Poppy about their relationship that made the older man feel free to pounce on Danny... would Poppy do something that might conceivably take away from Valerien something that Valerien valued, or did Poppy know that Valerien was no longer particularly interested in Danny and was just letting things ride until something better came along?

And even with these worries and the boredome of posing, Danny's life was satisfying enough to keep him really quite happy. His remaining time spent with Valerien was still carefree and romantic, and his work with Poppy was developing into something that Danny considered he might actually make a career of. And he looked forward to the completion of the painting, a form of immortality that he'd always wanted (though he was aware that the immortality would depend largely on whether or not posterity would think as much of Jacky Alvarado as he and Valerien did).

As the date of his arraignment neared, however, Danny had new worries to consider in his still hours: Mr. Casterman painted a very bleak picture of the evidence that would come out at that proceeding; and also outlined the extremely slim but still real chance that Danny's bail could be revoked at that time if the judge were to come to believe Danny was dangerous or that he was more of a flight risk than the ten-million-dollar bond could guarantee.

Though he would ordinarily be inclined to keep the arraignment restricted to a simple plea of Not Guilty, Casterman had decided that a parade of character witnesses could lead to a dismissal before a plea had to even be entered. The downside of this ploy, however, is that the Prosecution could turn some character witnesses to its own ends, and undermine Danny's respectability... especially since it was known that they already had wind of his past filled with mercenary romances.

"While this is certainly not my usual advice," Casterman advised Danny in the Victorian mahogany-paneled confines of his downtown office, "I want you to be perfectly candid about the gifts your various lovers have given you. The Prosecution will use those gifts to paint you as vicious and conniving, and I want the judge to get a load of you at your most disarmingly honest... you're a good enough actor to lie well, but you tell the truth so much better. And besides, you've done nothing illegal, only morally questionable."

"OK," Danny said vaguely, more intent on the notes he was taking of the meeting than of the tone of Casterman's remarks; his time with Poppy had habituated him to writing everything down and then thinking it over later.

"I also want to bring your great-aunts down from Vandervere, but not without your consent."

"Oh, I don't know about that," Danny looked up from his notebook, "I'm not sure I would want them to hear all those details about my sex-life, you know?"

"They'll read about them in the papers next day, anyway," Casterman reasoned, "And they and your former nanny would, I think, be the best witnesses to your character."

"Aren't my friends enough?"

"Your friends here in town have all known you less than two years," the attorney got up and walked aimlessly around his office, "and none of them really knows you all that well, you must admit. Besides which, many of them would look a little shady to a judge... no, I think that we should concentrate on people who've known you a good long time."

"Just don't ask my parents, I doubt they'd give a very glowing report of me."

"Unfortunately, the Prosecution might drag them, and some of your more disreputable friends, into the courtroom to give an account of you. What would your parents say about you?"

"That I'm lazy and sneaky, probably," Danny shrugged and sighed, "That's what they always accused me of. They assumed I didn't get in trouble with Mademoiselle Marnie, when my brother always did, because I was better at subterfuge... it would never have occurred to them that I was simply well-behaved. My brother Tay was an absolute terror. He still is, as far as I can tell."

"That's another thing that will come up... it's being whispered that your family has the town of Vandervere in such a grip that you could have run around killing babies and eating puppies in the town square without official notice being taken."

"Well, that's true to an extent," Danny laughed at the image of a baby-and-puppy barbecue in the gingerbread bandstand of Vandervere Town Square, "Though nobody ever did more than speed a little or get rowdy in a bar. We are WASPs, after all; even our sins are boring."

"Nevertheless, it would be convenient to have a bad report of you from the Vandervere Police to balance that out. Were you ever caught doing anything?"

"Having sex with another boy in the park at night," Danny answered immediately, "The officer let us both off with a warning and never said a word about it to my parents. But I bet he'd be willing to talk about it if it would help me. He's something of a friend."

"How close of a friend?" Casterman asked sternly.

"Just a friend. I was friendly to him when he was new on the job and gave him a tour of the town once. Nothing sexual. He's straight as a board."

"I have a feeling that even boards bend a little when exposed to you," Casterman joked.

"Can I help it if I'm lovable?" Danny joked back, though he wondered if he were bending the great attorney in any way... he really didn't have the energy, between Poppy and Valerien every weekday, and the casual tricking he'd recently resumed over the weekends, to entertain another affair.


Soon after the painting was finished, Valerien organized a party to celebrate and unveil the masterwork. Though it would eventually be hung in Valerien's library, due to its greenish color scheme, it was displayed for the first time in the very center of the long salon, a pair of bright lamps on either side of it and a drape of golden damask over the top.

The painting itself was breathtaking, soft and yet dramatic, filled with dappled light that looked so real you felt as if there were slight warmth coming off the canvas. Danny was represented in a perfection that was almost impossible, but the artist swore that he had not idealized one square inch, it was all exactly what was there; and since it was an angle he'd never seen of himself, Danny was fascintated by this new facet of his own beauty.

In his usual manner, Jacky Alvarado had inserted a few additions into the painting that Waterhouse's original lacked: first, the subject was not staring at himself in the reflection of the pond, he was regarding the viewer intently, and the dark brown eyes had been painted in such a way that they seemed to follow the viewer quite eerily; the background vegetation was shaped in such a way as to suggest inorganic objects, vases and pictures and bits of furniture that actually existed in Danny's living room, and there were pieces of Danny's own jewelry secreted in the grass and the bottom of the clear pond. The artist himself was mum on what these little additions were supposed to mean, preferring to let the viewer draw his or her own conclusions.

To Danny it was a revelation... he had always thought of himself, in his darker moments, as vain and materialistic, and the pose of Narcissus certainly reinforced that opinion of himself. But this Narcissus, gazing out at the world through a mirror of vanity, or rather through a veil of beauty, was actually more interested in the people who looked at him than in himself or the things people gave him. It rang of truth, and made Danny like himself a little better.

The reception, however, brought him crashing right back down. It was attended by the very highest cream of society, the outside hall was crammed with bodyguards, and people who were famous for never going anywhere were seen there that night; however, though everyone was perfectly charming to him, Danny overheard whispers about himself, and the whispers weren't very flattering. Nobody said anything outright against him, nobody would dare speak in opposition of Valerien's and Marquesa's sponsorship and support; but there was an undertone to their private conversations that demonstrated a widespread belief that Danny had "hooked" Valerien, that he probably had killed Marshall and would also probably get away with it because of his looks and his willingness to grant sexual favors in exchange for whatever he wanted.

Though the Alvarado portrait showed him as a sensitive and lonely soul, the portrait Society saw was the same old surface of the high-end hustler, more whore than courtesan, sharply on the lookout for what he could get, and not very nice at all. And to drown the sting of this unflattering view of the portrait, Danny drank far more wine than was good for him and was quite drunk only halfway through the evening.

Another sting that sent him running for the bottle was seeing Marquesa there with Richard Allenwhite; though they had arrived separately and alone, they spent their time at the party together, side-by-side, an accepted couple. It was vividly clear, even from the furthest distance of the vast salon, that Marquesa was besotted with Richard, insanely happy just to be standing next to him in a public place; Danny felt the unfamiliar gnaw of jealousy in his heart.

Richard Allenwhite was so godlike that Danny couldn't blame anybody for being in love with him. He was extremely tall and broad with muscle, with golden skin and bright gold hair, bright gold eyelashes around brilliant blue eyes, so dazzlingly handsome that it almost hurt to look at him; he was in his mid-forties, his face lined with laughter and outdoor sport, but he was so vital in his personality that he seemed much younger. He fairly glowed with divine light, and Danny could imagine himself falling in love with the man.

But at the same time he hated him intensely: for no matter how much he tried to convince himself otherwise, he was deeply and painfully in love with Marquesa, and Richard stood implacably between them.

By the time everybody had gone home and Valerien and Danny were in bed together, Danny was so drunk that he couldn't perform. Frustrated and depressed, he broke into tears and spent half an hour just wailing inconsolably into Valerien's neck. And though Valerien tried his best to comfort Danny, he was unequal to the task... he'd never himself experienced an emotion so strong as to inspire such heart-wrenched weeping, and felt rather inadequate in the face of Danny's obvious pain.

"Nobody loves me," Danny finally said pathetically when his tears had slowed enough to allow speech.

"I love you," Valerien said, trying to soothe him.

"But you're not in love with me, are you?"

"No, I guess not. But I do love you."

"I love you, too; but I'm not in love with you, either," Danny sat up, suddenly feeling quite sober after his tantrum, and accepted the towel Valerien handed him.

"I never thought you were," Valerien said seriously after a period of thought, "Why are you bringing it up now? I thought things were going well."

"I thought so, too, until I saw Marquesa with Richard tonight. They're in love with each other and I'm in love with Marquesa, and it hurts like you wouldn't believe."

"I'm sorry," Valerien put his arm around Danny's neck and kissed him gently, "I didn't know."

"I didn't know either, until tonight," Danny said, though not entirely truthfully... he'd known all along that his love for Valerien was a pale shadow compared to his love for Marquesa, but he tried to talk himself into loving Valerien just because he was available while Marquesa wasn't. But he didn't like to admit he was using Valerien in such a manner, so hadn't allowed himself to think about it.

Valerien was silent for a long time before asking in a small, unsure voice, "Do you think about him when we're together?"

"Oh, God, no!" Danny was quick to reassure his friend, "I only think about you when I'm with you. And myself, of course. Why, who do you think about?"

"Nobody in particular," Valerien answered with a sly smile.

"Does this mean we're breaking up?" Danny wondered after another long silence.

"I don't see why we should. I'm happy. Are you happy?"

"Mostly. It's 'the next best thing to love,' isn't it?" Danny sang the lyric to one of his favorite torch songs.

"Then let's make a pact: we'll go as we are until we get bored with eachother or 'until the real thing comes along,'" Valerien sang back, surprising Danny with the knowledge of a pop song's lyrics, something he wouldn't ordinarily admit to knowing.

Danny had discovered that Valerien secretly liked a lot of things that he pretended not to for some strange reason... once Danny woke up in the night to find Valerien listening to music on Danny's handheld, demonstrating both an enjoyment for pop music and a knowledge of how to operate a small electronic device, two things he publically disdained. Danny found this strangely endearing, though he was always puzzled by why Valerien would bother to be so vocally against something that he actually liked. And since they were being so candid with each-other, Danny decided to ask.

"Why do you pretend you don't like pop music?"

"Oh, I don't know," Valerien replied, "I'm just proud and stubborn. And I guess I just don't want everyone to know all about me. I like to have secrets."

"Really? I never would have thought anybody'd make a secret of anything so everyday as music."

"Well, I don't have any big secrets, I have to make due with little ones."

"Tell me another little secret," Danny nestled down beside Valerien like a small child asking to be told a story.

"My father isn't dead, or institutionalized," Valerien said quickly, "He lives at the chateau with a nurse. He's completely insane, but harmless."

"That's a pretty big secret," Danny said, admiringly, pleased that Valerien had entrusted him with something like that.

"But it's not mine, so I make mysteries of my likes and dislikes," Valerien shrugged and turned off the light, then settled down in the bed to go to sleep, "Do you have any secrets?"

"I've been sleeping with Poppy for a few weeks, now," Danny admitted warily.

"That's not a secret, I knew all about it. I never considered sexual fidelity a part of our relationship. Tell me a real secret."

"Well, I guess I don't have any. I can keep other people's secrets, but I can't keep any of my own. If it occurs to me to say something, I usually say it. I've always had a problem with chronic disclosure."

"I think it's cute," Valerien said, smiling in the dark.

"I think your secrets are cute," Danny smiled back, his cock finally behaving as it was supposed to, his hands drifting around Valerien's waist, "I think your ass is cute, too."

"Incorrigible little satyr," Valerien laughed, turning the lights back on; he loved to watch Danny making love to him.

"Who're you calling little?" Danny teased, climbing on top of Valerien and pressing their cocks together. Suddenly Danny was happy again, all his doubts, fears, and worries forgotten as he frolicked in bed with his wonderful fuck-buddy friend.