It was always awkward to sleep at Damien’s. Not the sneaking in after Damien’s child had fallen asleep part or the having wild sex on a movie star’s bed part or even the waking up to find Damien’s morning breath mingling with his own awful morning breath in a good morning kiss that was equal parts horrific and erotic. No, the awkwardness came because Damien didn’t want to set a bad example of having “sleepovers with his friends who were more than friends.” He had, in the past, snuck out the occasional boyfriend or club pickup or fellow party guest—and yes, on a few occasion, handsome, fawning fans—either before Track awoke or while Track was being bathed and dressed by the nanny. Levi’s visits to the house in the Hollywood Hills had followed this pattern; if Levi stayed the night, he either arose and drove off before Track awoke or ate breakfast in Damien’s room with Damien playing the part of both room service waiter and adoring boyfriend while Track ate breakfast in the enormous kitchen, unaware of and oblivious to his father’s late night-turned-morning company. So when Damien snuggled up behind Levi in the bathroom while Levi was brushing his teeth and growled into the blond coiffure Levi had combed his hair into, “Stay for breakfast with Track and me.” Levi took it as no small compliment. And no big compliment. He took it, not as any type of compliment at all but, rightly or “Wrong, Lee” as Damien telegraphing the message, “Yes. We are a couple now.”
“Uh—are you sure?” Levi asked him in the mirror.
“Yes.” Damien growled back, pushing Levi against Damien’s front.
“But—to Track—will my being here be a ‘Surprise!’—” Levi made a face of mimed happy shock, “Or will it be ‘Traumatized’?” He then made a face like a tragedy mask.
“I think it’s time he shared his Daddy’s happiness.”
In the mirror, Levi’s face broke a little. He almost said, “I love you” to Damien. He held it back, the protective villagers in his head screaming, “Don’t say it first! Don’t say it first! Remember how X used that as leverage over you! You stupidly slurred, ‘I love you’ and he laughed at you and said it was too soon. It’s too soon, now, too. He has to say it first!”
And so Levi didn’t say in words what his heart beat out in its racing thump-thump-thumping beat . But anyone gazing into that mirror would have seen it in his vulnerable eyes, his gently parted lips, full of surprise, and the brow, no longer furrowed but flat with the flatness of the truly stunned.
Realizing that Damien was staring into the mirror as he nibbled on Levi’s ear, and had witnessed this nakedness, he wiped his own face clear and grinned at him.
“Let’s go surprise Track then.”
And so, wearing last night’s uniform from the Fab Friend Factory and looking only slightly tousled from the bedroom athletic tournament of the night before, he walked behind Damien as they went down the suspended staircase with its gravity-defying stairs and across the glass-like tiles to the kitchen—bigger than Levi’s entire apartment–designed for culinarians.
Track, at first, did not seem to recognize Mister Lee. He was out-of-place, out of his store. Even though wearing the same red pants and colorful shirt which he always wore, Mister Lee was, momentarily, a stranger. One of any of the handymen that came to the house to hang paintings, do the landscaping, clean the pool, or deliver furniture or fix the roof. Or the fast-talking types who came to the house to consult with his father about this movie or that book they should buy the rights to or what he should wear at this premiere or a new designer that would like him to wear that. But then. . .suddenly. . .mid-bite on a slice of banana. . .it clicked who the man entering the kitchen behind his daddy was.
He uncharacteristically raced past his father while screaming, “Mister Lee! Mister Lee!”, completely bypassing Damien’s kneel for a morning hug and going straight to Levi.
“Daddy! Why is Mister Lee here?”, Track asked as Levi returned Track’s hug. Not getting his answer quickly enough, Track turned back to Levi. “Why you here, Mister Lee?”
“I just had to come by and see my favorite customer!” Levi told him, losing his kneeling balance and wobbling slowly to the floor with Track’s arms around his neck. “And to check in on Helga and Gretchen—”
“And Claudia, too!”
“I go get them!” Track squeeled.
“No, no,” Levi said. “Why don’t you finish your breakfast first?”
“Mister Lee is going to have breakfast with us,” Damien explained to the perplexed, energetic little boy and the young nanny who quickly did the math as to why the stranger dressed like a demented Mousketeer (“Hey there, hi there, ho there; This is as awkward as can be!”, the villagers in Levi’s head sang) was here so early–and that it had nothing to do with a customer service call for three drag queen teddy bears.
Damien surprised the nanny by giving her the rest of the day off, with pay—a surprise he tried to give his household staff from time to time. While the three ate breakfast, Levi noticed how affectionate Damien was to Track, wiping Track’s mouth as Track often dribbled while he chattered excitedly, rapid-fire, to Levi or patting Track on the back if he coughed, fondly running a hand through Track’s hair if Track giggled. But Track, Levi noticed, seemed preoccupied with “Mister Lee.” And paid his father little mind.
After breakfast, as Levi helped Damien clean the pans and the griddle, the dishes, and the bowls, Track vanished to his room, returning with a scream of, “Mister Lee!” and his three teddy bears overpowering his tiny little arms. Levi acted thrilled to see them all—Gretchen’s headdress was looking a little bent and he quickly fixed it for her–and his act was contagious to Track. Within minutes, Track had dragged from his bedroom to the kitchen all sorts of toys: more stuffed animals, a puzzle with jumbo-sized pieces for his tiny hands, some toy trucks, an assortment of giant illustrated storybooks, and a pillow-thing Levi couldn’t identify as anything other than a demented-looking sun.
“Oh, Track—this is too much,” Damien told him when Track raced to show off more of his toys. “Mister Lee is just here for a visit. Not to see all your toys.”
Track ignored him, shouting back at Damien as Track ran to his bedroom, “Just one more, Daddy!”
“It’s okay,” Levi told him. “I think it’s cute. He just wants to show someone all his toys and. . .play with him, I guess.”
Damien joined Levi on the floor with an easy effort; he might have been a decade or more older than Lee, but he sure didn’t groan about aches and pains aside from an occasional request for a lower back massage. He just slid down to the floor, folded his legs, brushed up against Levi warmly and casually picked up the schizophrenic sun pillow thing.
“I don’t know what this is. . .” Damien admitted.
“I was going to ask what that was supposed to be. . .”
Damien changed the topic. “You’re off today, right?”
“Are you asking?”
“For you, I’m free.”
Damien placed a quick kiss on Levi’s forehead. “Good. I was thinking we could go to the zoo. . .Track hasn’t been there in awhile. Maybe grab some lunch somewhere. Catch that new Disney flick at the El Capitan after lunch. . .”
“I would love that,” Levi told him.
Something in the way Damien looked at him then, puppy dog eyes full of appreciation, perhaps, made his heart speak.
“Corny pass. Can I have a pass to say something really corny?”
Damien smirked and adored him nakedly. “You don’t need my permission.”
It hadn’t occurred to Levi that he had been requesting it. . .and it bothered him to realize that he had. X really had done a number on him. Well, fuck X. He would not intrude here.
“I love how you look at me,” Levi blurted. “You have the most expressive face of anyone I’ve ever known—”
“It’s my trade,” Damien reminded him by way of modesty.
“Oh, I know. But what I love is how you can scowl because you don’t like something I’ve said—like when I told you that I liked the movie you just did and. . .there you go! You scowl. Your brow gets all furrowed and your lips do that pucking thing. But your eyes still. . .they’re kind. I guess that’s what it is. It may not be how you look at me but you have kind eyes. I just really love how it makes me feel when you look at me. . .with those eyes. Not that you could look at me with your nose or your ears or your clavicle. . .”
He threw his hands in the air awkwardly and picked up one of Track’s toy trucks. “I just love looking into your eyes. Corny pass utilized.”
Damien cast a quick eye to the entrance to the kitchen and, seeing they were still alone, placed a hand behind Levi’s head and a quick kiss on his lips. And, for maximum effect, he intentionally stared into Levi’s eyes at such close range, Damien’s eyes were all Levi could see.
And then they both burst out laughing.
“I can’t go to the zoo dressed like this,” Levi reminded Damien before Damien went to dress Track. “Can we swing by my place so I can change into something less. . .Technicolor by Natalie Kalmus?”
Damien inspected him and grinned. “Like what? A Flintstones costume?”
“Haha. You know, I have to wear this five days a week. Be kind to the uniform.”
“I’m teasing you,” Damien told him, looking him up and down. “We’re about the same size, aren’t we?”
“Eh. . .I doubt it,” Levi said. “You’re like a foot taller than me.”
“But, I mean if you wore some of my shorts and a shirt. . .You could wear those, couldn’t you?”
“I guess so.”
“What size shoe?”
“We match!” Damien announced.
Brad and Chad flashed across Levi’s mind and he visibly cringed.
“Sorry—“, Levi apologized. “I just had this awful vision of you and I dressed like twins and—”
“No. We will not be ‘those guys’.”
“Thank you so much,” Levi said in a relieved sigh. “Let’s make sure the shirt I wear is not the same color as the one you wear and so on.”
And, in full commitment to them not matching like a pair of twin gay lovers, Damien picked out and lay out on the bed a shirt he thought would look good on Levi, a pair of golf shorts, a woven belt, a pair of briefs, socks, and sneakers.
“There. All different colors from what I’m wearing,” Damien stated before leaving the bedroom to help Track bathe and dress.
After Levi showered and began to dress in the clothes Damien had left for him—the underwear seemed a bit intimate but, after all, Levi had sucked on Damien’s cock and balls so what was so strange about now wearing a clean pair of briefs that would otherwise cup them—he heard his phone vibrating on the nightstand. He ignored it, stuck as he was in the mid-looping of the belt. After he had finished dressing, he stepped into the dressing room—a former bedroom had been converted into a closet that looked like a high-end retail store– and observed how he looked in Damien’s clothes. It wasn’t that he no longer recognized himself but that the clothing—its style and its quality—was so not what he, Levi, would normally wear. It was as if, like Damien before a camera, he was in costume to play a part.
But he liked that feeling. Liked the feeling that he was dressed entirely in clothing that Damien had worn. Liked that Damien felt so close to him that he would lend him his clothing. Share him with his child. Share his entire day with him.
He walked back into the bedroom and gazed out at the sight of the hills of Runyon Canyon sliding down into the flats of Hollywood and, in the distance, downtown Los Angeles’s office towers. Los Angeles, for all that he loved it, had never looked so beautiful.
He retrieved his phone, flipping up the screen to see his notifications.
“”Cuddles?” read a text message from Barry. “I’m off today if U R.”