May 4-5, 2006
There is a knock on the hotel-room door. Dominique doesn't answer it immediately. There is a moment before the knock comes again. "What do you want?" he asks irritably, as if talking to the door itself. The reply comes that there is a note for monsieur, and he replies curtly to leave it. A small white envelope is pushed under the door, scraping over the carpet, but he doesn't rise to get it. He already knows what it is and what it says. Another card like dozens he's received before, dozens that never mattered, were 'just business'. Damn it, he thinks, so is this. What is so different about this? Nothing. He hoists himself off the chair, putting down his glass next to the nearly-empty decanter that has been filling it for the past hour, and steadies himself on the back of the other chair. He puts a hand to his head - should have asked for another bottle. Should take an aspirin, he’s got a small collection of some in his bag… He focuses again on the door and makes his way to gather the card. He comes back to the table, finishes off what's left in the glass and fills it again with the last of the cognac, and sits down with just the card in his hand. He flips it over - there is nothing on either side, but still, he knows who it is from. It's a small card, no bigger than a cigarette case (a strange thought: he'd give anything for a cigarette now, but he hasn't smoked in ages, can't even remember the last time he had), and it's only lightly sealed. He breaks the seal easily, but doesn't remove the card, plays with the flap a moment; reaches for his glass, swallows a mouthful of brandy, hardly cringing anymore at the taste, and takes the simple note from the envelope:
333, 20h00, non ritardare -S.
Plain, simple, and to the point. Cold, even. He's had notes like it before. For some reason he thinks of Vivaldi, Le Quattro stagioni: every season except summer has a hint of chilliness, something indirect, but there nonetheless: something cold. Even the promise of an Italian spring can turn unexpectedly - Zurich hardly even gives that promise. Not two hundred kilometres from the highest peak in Europe, it still shares the cool weather, and he wonders why anyone would choose to come here. And yet he sees them about the streets of the city, walking, driving, moving - coming, going, not stuck here, just passing by. He took this simple room, he convinces himself, because he needs these movements and sounds of life nearby, needs the distraction of the city. It wouldn't do to be looking over the calm garden, or the mirror surface of the lake, its stillness maddeningly incongruous for a city. It doesn't matter that this room is small, cramped even. It is not out of modesty that it was chosen, it was out of discretion. He's trying not to be here at all.
Discretion, a small voice in his head derides his choice of words; Discretion is Embarrassment clothed in finer raiment. Embarrassment is merely Shame before the cloth is yanked from about her throat and her milk-while breasts are bared before the leering crowd. He banishes the voice with the final swallow of brandy and sneers at the empty glass, dropping it on the floor where it does nothing but clunk against the thick carpet. There is nothing terribly dramatic about any of this. It is dull, boring. Routine.
One glance at his watch. He knows he will be late, despite admonitions to the contrary. He can't be bothered to think that an hour or so matters, not when this is only the first of five such encounters. A few more seconds - in reality minutes, but they don't seem that way - and he stands. Grabs his jacket and holds it at arms length, a disdainful invitation to dance. He accepts, puts it on. Nothing at all different. Routine. He doesn't allow himself to put his hand in his jacket pocket, to disprove the lie. This is not the altering of routine, it is… he will refuse to think about it. He moves deliberately through his room, and shuts the door firmly when he leaves.
A hesitation, but the last chance to refuse is gone when Dominique opens the door and closes it silently behind him. The suite is spacious and the window looks out onto the fading light over the lake. There is still noise, the faint sound of boats on the water, people moving about, and it's driving him suddenly mad. He stands at attention, staring over the divan out the window, feigning not to have noticed Silvio smiling at him broadly, his teeth matching the white of his bathrobe that is open at the chest. Silvio has one leg up on the couch, his arm leaning on it, holding a cigar in his hand; his other leg is tucked underneath him, his other hand cupping a glass of port. Dominique's stomach gives out and he feels ill, but he won't betray it.
"Benvenuto, mio caro," Silvio opens.
Dominique doesn't respond, but he knows that the narrowing of his eyes must not have gone unnoticed.
"Ou peut-être tu es plus à l'aise en français?" his host attempts, and the accent makes him see red.
"Stop it, Silvio," Dominique spits, "you know we can both do perfectly well in English."
"Well!" Silvio laughs. "It's not a beautiful language, but it is the language of business. Jacques can't seem to recognise that, but then, he's become boring in his old age."
Dominique says nothing, offers no defence for the man he now loathes almost as much as the one sitting half-clothed in front of him. He sees he's upset Silvio by his insubordination - merely the momentary flicker of an expression across his face. His heart is pounding in his head and he can barely hear anything else.
Silvio moves with deliberation, placing his cigar in an ashtray on the table
"Any other requests - while we're at it?"
A deep throb of relief fills Dominique's head, and he nearly lets out a sigh as his hand jerks to his pocket. He hesitates, reaches inside - his hand closes around the contents; he finally moves, placing himself directly in front of Silvio. Dominique presses his fist against Silvio's chest, then he lets go and turns his head away. The small white and blue packages fall into Silvio's lap, and he is confused for a moment. Another moment and there is recognition, a flash of anger; then he gathers them up calmly.
"This is not negotiable," Silvio clips his words, throwing the handful forcefully into the small bin under the table next to him. The offer to leave now is implicit in his tone. Dominique feels ridiculous tears swimming in his eyes, but he doesn't flinch - and he doesn't move.
"You offend me, Dominique," Silvio says, anger flaring then smouldering. Dominique knows Silvio is asking for an apology, but he is engulfed by a wave of panic, making him want to fall down before him, to beg him, please, I don't want to do this, please help me, please take pity on me - all stupid sentiments, because there is nothing about this that should matter. Then the wave passes, moves smoothly over the sand, and leaves calm in its wake.
Dominique swallows these idiotic feelings, comes to his senses, turns back to Silvio.
"I'm sorry, I don't know what I was thinking," and he is aloof, no hint of the hidden desperation, only the façade of control.
"That will do," Silvio determines, and his tone lightens again. "We didn't start this right - you haven't even said hello," he says, pulling Dominique down by the neck, kissing him on each cheek, and Dominique is nearly ill at the heavy-sweet smell of the cigar.
Neither is Silvio impressed - he is suddenly severe again: "You've been drinking," then immediately dismissing his disappointment, so as not to spoil his mood, says casually: "That won't do. Have dinner with me - that's not an option. It's still warm," he nods to the meal laid out on the table behind them and smiles, "I knew you'd be late."
Silvio stands up and Dominique tries not to panic at their proximity - this is, after all, why he's here. He is taken by the elbow by Silvio and led to the table. He tries to accept gracefully when Silvio pulls out the chair and sets it back for him, but as he's seated, Silvio brushes his hand across his neck and Dominique flinches and shudders at this first caress.
"Don't do that, Dominique," Silvio scolds, resting his hand for a moment longer, "it's not me you should be revolted with - you're the one who came here."
Silvio pours himself a glass of wine, allows Dominique a glass of water, not drawing attention to the fact, assured it is enough of an insult. They begin to eat in silence without so much as a bon appetit or a clink of glasses. Dominique can't even taste his meal, despises himself, tries to push all sentiment down with each forkful of food, wash it away with every sip of water. He is having trouble remembering what this should be like, chastising himself for being unable to recall, and unable to pretend. Brings himself to his senses by hissing one word to himself over and over: professional.
Half-way into their silent meal, Silvio casually throws out a question.
"What do you need my money for, anyway?" Dominique's fork clanks against his plate harshly; Silvio doesn't pursue his question. Dominique can't shake the feeling that he is under observation. They finish their meal in silence.
"Make yourself comfortable," Silvio makes a motion for Dominique to move to the divan. Dominique removes his jacket and his wristwatch forcing himself not to look at it before hiding it in his now-empty jacket pocket, and sits down. Silvio pours himself an after-dinner drink, not offering anything. Silvio resumes his place from earlier, and Dominique complies when he is asked to come closer, when he is told to relax. He finds himself lying back on Silvio who plays with his hair.
"You deserve to be humiliated, Dominique," he says, soothingly, the tone of his voice at odds with his words. "You and France - like you humiliated me and my country - someone needs to put you and your arrogance in its place." Dominique repeats to himself the one word that reassures him this is nothing and keeps him from hearing anything that is being said to him.
Silvio takes another sip of his port, and his hand slides down to Dominique's chest, playing idly with his buttons. Silvio slips his fingers between the buttons in Dominique's shirt, bare skin touching bare skin. Dominique tries not to cringe at the intimacy. Silvio's fingers linger there, caressing, hot, and Dominique represses a shudder, forces from his mind thoughts of the only man he ever willingly allowed these intimacies, the man who no longer wants him.
"You're beautiful, does anyone ever tell you that?" Silvio asks, tracing Dominique's ear lightly with his thumb.
Dominique doesn't answer, but his mind whispers: yes… He drowns the painful thought with the repetition of his mantra.
Silvio's finger is replaced by his lips, and Dominique cringes as Silvio's tongue flows along the contour of his ear. He chokes back a whimper as the exploration continues, the too-close breathing and clicking loud, over-present. The tongue follows the whorl to its end before being plunged inside - Dominique can't help himself, shudders and whines at this invasion, jerks away, but is caught by the sharpness of teeth on his earlobe, a cat pouncing on his prey. Silvio lets go only to scold:
"Behave, Dominique! Why do you think you're here, if not for exactly this?"
Because you don't deserve any better than this, his thoughts add, as Silvio tightens his grip, pulling him in closer, ensuring he feels the firmness straining against him. Resignation washes through him at this familiar duty, his end of the exchange, as he turns and slides himself down Silvio's body, taking him in his mouth, just as he has countless other clients before.
A satisfied moan at contact, and Silvio leans back, settling into the pleasure, letting his body move naturally with its urges, still able to articulate that talent like this should not go to waste. He tangles his fingers in Dominique's hair, lightly at first, haphazardly, then more firmly, more insistent, pressing Dominique closer, not allowing him to breathe, not letting him move away even for an instant, suffocating - Dominique panics, can't breathe, can't move, takes, without thought, the only option available to him, and bites down.
He gasps, partly from need, partly from shock as Silvio wrenches him up by his hair and shakes him.
"I'm not paying you like a cheap whore!" he yells, and slaps Dominique forcefully across the face, "don't think you can get away with acting like one!"
Dominique makes no move to touch his stinging cheek, he merely trembles slightly, looking away, mind blank of everything except that he will somehow be made to pay for this mistake. Silvio yanks him down by his shirtfront so that they are face to face.
"You have to learn how to control yourself," Silvio lectures, the disdain in his voice tempered only by condescension. "You're supposed to be a professional - this is the kind of behaviour I expect from an unpractised schoolgirl." Silvio moves up against him, to show he's still hard. "Now, I believe you have a job to finish…"
Dominique responds to the order he has been given, returns to his position. A moment later and Silvio is swaying beneath him, groaning at first, then unable to make any sound, his breathing deep and heavy, flaring, quickening, steadying, flaring again, teasing him, taunting him, and Dominique tries not to count the seconds as minutes, tries not to imagine time like the trickling of sand, and he is caught off guard by the hot, salty eruption he forgot to expect, and the slackening of Silvio's body beneath him. He sits up, holding his mouth shut. Silvio has contentment burnt onto his face, and he opens his eyes ever so slightly, enough to pull Dominique closer to him. He doesn't say a word, but presses his fingers against Dominique's lips. There is no argument: Dominique swallows.
"Molto bene, caro," Silvio smiles, patting Dominique on the cheek. "I hate to sound like I'm teaching you your own job, but you're doing much better than before. Now," he says, moving his thumb over a bit of wetness at the corner of Dominique's mouth, "go get yourself cleaned up."
Dominique moves himself off of Silvio, makes his way to the bedroom door - he knows there's only one washroom - ignores the dark room he's passing through and lightly shuts the bathroom door behind him. He doesn't dare risk locking it, but once behind the door he starts to tremble uncontrollably. The amber glare of a streetlight pushes through the fogged glass, and that is the only light. He puts his head in his hands, what am I doing here? He doesn't know, doesn't remember. He has… something about he has a duty to… he has a duty to something. He's been told that over and over these last three months, but he's forgotten what his duty is. And he's forgotten why it's important.
The water from the tap rushes cold and noisily, and Dominique kneels before the sink. He places his forehead against the marble counter and it feels cool. His dizzy mind recites him a prayer: Ô que ma quille éclate! He thinks of searching the cabinets for some way out, but is stayed by his duty, whatever it is, stayed perhaps merely by the need to find out what it is. He will see this through.
He cups his hands under the water, not bothering to stand, rinses his mouth, though it's useless at this point, shuts off the tap and pats his face dry. The towel smells fresh, and he is reminded that this will eventually be over, and can be washed away, cleansed, forgotten. He tosses the towel aside, and gets to his feet.
Silvio has already settled himself on the bed, relaxed and reclined in the soft light of the lamps. The covers are only folded down on one side, and Silvio strokes the bare sheets beside him in invitation. Dominique sits down next to him. He finds himself playing tentatively with the edge of Silvio's bathrobe, then watches as his own fingers, seemingly foreign, run over Silvio's tanned chest, playing with the covering of dark hair. Silvio takes Dominique's wrist, a smile flickering over his lips when he flinches, and slowly undoes the button on his cuff. Silvio's hand runs along Dominique's arm, across his chest, and down to his waist, tugging there, urging Dominique closer. Dominique straddles Silvio's hips, evoking a smile and light praise from his patron, a pat on the side.
"Undress yourself for me… slowly," Silvio requests, and Dominique complies. Silvio strokes every newly revealed piece of Dominique's flesh, and Dominique closes his eyes under the caresses. Silvio's hands play from the centre of his chest outwards, teasing his nipples, then down his sides, trailing his thumbs over each rib, exploring his navel, squeezing his waist, palms searing his buttocks. Dominique feels the heat flush up to his face, and he undoes his trouser button. He moves off Silvio for a moment, discarding his trousers and shorts, and moves back into position fully naked, brushing back Silvio's bathrobe, which is barely hiding his renewed arousal. Dominique presses against him, and undoes the belt tied loosely about his waist as Silvio's hand resumes its journey over his stomach, detouring to his hip, then gliding naturally down the contour, over his pelvis. Dominique gasps and opens his eyes as he feels himself swell unexpectedly under Silvio's fondling. Silvio's smile widens at Dominique's reaction, and Dominique feels himself blush. He pushes down the disgust that rises inexplicably from seeing Silvio's teeth, too-white against his skin, too bright in the dimness, and pushes back against Silvio instinctively in his distraction. He is exhausted having to lead like this, and is almost relieved when Silvio finally manoeuvres so that their places are reversed. Silvio continues to press against him, his hand firm as it moves over his buttock, offering no resistance as his legs are spread wider, then pressed up against his chest. Silvio slides his hands between Dominique's buttocks, strokes him, then, without warning, presses his thumb roughly into him. Dominique starts, jerks, his acquiescence punctured for a moment and he lets out a frightened plea: "No!"
"You don't have a choice here, Dominique," Silvio manages hoarsely, the anger in his voice further igniting his lust. His breath is hot, Dominique can feel it burning against him, stale with the smell of alcohol that is still helping fuel his ire. Dominique is clenching his eyes shut, trying to block it all out. There is a reprieve as Silvio removes his thumb, but a moment later a shock as he is thrust into almost dry. Dominique is unable to repress a cry, but it goes unheard or unheeded; there is no pause, no concern - he is not allowed niceties, he is selling himself, his compliance is his value. Silvio's rapid, harsh breathing is occasionally interrupted by a grunt as he thrusts stroke after stroke deeply into the body that is his for the night. Dominique doesn't feel his limbs anymore, he can't feel anything but the pain, and even that is waning. He hears his own breath, ragged, but following the forced, frantic rhythm of Silvio's. It seems to him like this will never end, until at last he feels more heat inside him, another rush like the sting of hot lava. Silvio withdraws immediately and collapses on top of him.
The weight of Silvio's body disappears, and moments later the white noise of the shower hisses from behind the bathroom door. Dominique allows his own hand to find his unattended frustration. Joylessly, without thought, he pulls unenthusiastically at himself, merely to bring the relief he was denied through inattention. He stains the sheets on the far side of the bed, but thinks little of it - there likely won't be the option of sleeping at such a distance. He moves back to where he was, and, eyes open, waits.
An eternity of listening to nothing ends when the shower is shut off. Dominique sighs, and turns over, exposing himself to view. In compensation, he shuts his eyes. The world comes through sounds - the bathroom door shutting, Silvio drying off, approaching the bed, leaning in, appreciative.
"Bello," he whispers in admiration, and kisses Dominique lightly on the lips. Dominique finds himself kissing back. Silvio caresses him, lies at his side, and falls asleep.
As Silvio's eyes close, Dominique opens his. He listens to Silvio's steady breathing, hypnotised by the rhythm, and, despite a vague awareness of the need for vigilance, falls into sleep. He doesn't dream.
Sometime later, Dominique awakes in confusion. He finds himself on his stomach. There is heavy breathing at his ear, then lips caressing his neck, hands exploring his body, and a heaviness on top of him. He is only half aware, his eyes fall shut for a moment, then fly open as he gasps at a familiar pain. He is shushed harshly, and so remains quiet, pressing his face into the pillow, clutching at the sheets with his fists. The ordeal continues, and he wishes he could fall asleep, not have to feel this; he's not a participant in it. Eventually it ends, and he is left unceremoniously. He wills himself to fall asleep, but want of the thing keeps it from attainment. Tears start to fall out of frustration, he muffles the sound of his crying in his pillow, and finally drifts off.
In the weak morning light Silvio can just make out that it is four thirty. He has been awakened by a faint whimpering behind him. At first he is confused, a little startled, then he remembers. He turns over.
"Dominique," he whispers, "cosa c'è?"
Dominique, asleep on his back, doesn't answer except to reach out his hands which find Silvio's chest and rest there softly. His eyes are closed - he is not awake, but he is crying.
"Je ne t'ai jamais quitté," Dominique pleads.
Silvio doesn't know what to do, whether to wake him. Before he can decide, one of Dominique's hands finds his, moves it down over his body, pressing it against himself.
"Je ne te quitterai jamais."
Silvio says nothing as Dominique moves himself against his hand; he fondles him gently, firmly. Dominique moans softly and sadly, clasping weakly at Silvio's arms, his head turned to the side, still crying, his breathing soft but fast. There is a box of tissues next to the bed, and Silvio manages to grasp a handful just before Dominique comes feebly with a small whimper. His arms glide up around Silvio's neck and he lowers him to his lips. After a soft, tender kiss, he whispers:
"Je t'aime - je t'aimerai toujours."
With this, Dominique relinquishes his loose grasp and he is again sleeping dreamlessly. His arms have fallen awkwardly, and Silvio puts them at his chest, covering Dominique with the sheet and blanket. He moves away noiselessly and sits on the edge of the bed; he is neither vain enough nor stupid enough to in any way imagine he is the recipient of Dominique's intended affections. He doesn't know what's wrong; he doesn't need to - this isn't his concern. In the coolish air, he is consumed by hot guilt. He crosses himself three times. Anger flares up over the guilt - this is not his concern, and he shouldn't have to deal with it. He decides it's best to let Dominique sleep. He yanks his bathrobe over himself, but still closes the bedroom door quietly behind him.
Dominique opens his eyes in the grey of the early morning. He remembers having the same dream, again. Disgust tints his face - he didn't utter those same pleas, didn't make those same promises. Futile, like tossing seeds to the wind. Pathetic, like talking to ghosts.
He closes his eyes and drifts back off to sleep, waking again in weak sunlight, this time forgetting the dream but remembering where he is. For a minute he doesn't move, listening for sounds around him, for the feel of someone else in the room. There is no presence, and the only sound is the distant knocking of boats against the piers. He sits up, making the sheets rustle around him, and finds he is alone in the bed, alone in the room. There is no colour in anything, and he sits dumb for a moment, wondering if he'll wake from this dream. Nothing. The clock reads quarter to six, and he is convinced that he's awake. The emptiness that makes him collapse inside for a maddening moment confirms it. Pushing the feeling down, he slips out into the cold without a sound and to the bathroom to take a shower.
In the main room, the sun full now, the table is full of an array of plates and cutlery, baskets, and a pot of coffee. Silvio, bespectacled and reading the paper, looks up at him over his glasses, nods for him to sit, and resumes his reading. Dominique doesn't sit - he is worried.
"Have I done something to displease you?" he asks quickly.
Silvio rustles the paper, glares at Dominique and turns back to his reading.
"Don't make me ask you to eat your breakfast again," Silvio says a little irritably.
Dominique sits down. There is a thick brown envelope on his plate. He stares at it for a moment.
"Forty cashier's cheques," Silvio informs him without looking up. "In different denominations, all small enough to go relatively unnoticed, and in no way traceable back to me. They were all purchased in France, mostly at different banks, all at different locations, on different dates. You can check them if you like, but I assure you they add up to four million."
Silvio rustles the paper again and says coldly, "I hope you appreciate the effort."
"Thank you, Silvio," Dominique says meekly, and removes the envelope from his plate. As he touches it, memories come flooding back in a wave that tightens his chest. He shakes them off as he places the envelope in his pocket, and turns back to the table to pour himself a cup of coffee.
Out of politeness, he takes a croissant and forces himself to eat it. It is fresh, but it feels dry and cottony in his mouth.
"I don't have to be back in Italy today," Silvio mentions casually behind his paper after a long silence. "I would prefer not to spend the night alone…"
He looks at Dominique, who nods in compliance.
"I'm sure you have things you need to get done today?" Silvio queries, implying that Dominique is allowed to leave. Dominique mutters an affirmation, drapes his jacket over his arm, and makes his way lightly to the door.
Outside the room he finds he doesn't have the energy to stand properly, and leans against the wall. He is shaking again, just barely able to support himself. He hears Silvio call his name from inside the room, and he turns, but is caught, frozen by a gaze that meets his from the end of the corridor. Dominique finds he can't move
The door opens and Silvio steps out, turns to him.
"Caro, scusa," he apologises, "I nearly forgot - I didn't think it would look proper to have your room on my account, so this should take care of it…"
Silvio places a small wad of large notes in his breast pocket as Dominique still stares. His body is rigid, but he is reeling in horror, unable to look anywhere but straight ahead at the unexpected gaze, knows that every word can be heard from where he stands. Silvio, oblivious, takes Dominique's cheek in one hand, kisses him on the other.
"Until tonight, then," Silvio says, only now really seeing Dominique's preoccupied expression. He turns to look behind him, only to see an empty corridor.
"Go back to your room, caro," Dominique is advised. "Rest up, you've had a long night…"
Silvio disappears and Dominique finds himself somehow passing through the corridor, somehow in front of his own room, somehow able to open the door. Inside, the curtains are open, the light is now harsh and bright. He grabs the envelope and the notes and tosses them away, onto the table, imagining how the same scene will play out back at Matignon, followed by the implicit order: You know what to do with this.
He looks again at where the envelope has landed, next to a vase that has been placed there, a vase that wasn't there before, filled with a dozen healthy red roses, supporting a small card that reads simply: Grazie -S.
Dominique reaches the table in two strides, and with one hand forcefully sweeps the flowers aside, sending them and their fragile receptacle crashing against the wall. He collapses on the floor, leaning against the bed, head in hands, unable to hear the sounds of his own sobbing.
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D/V CANON TRAIL: You are in Volume 09 ("Weekend of Silvio's First Two Nights"), Chapter 03
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