The Terrible Truth

Ravello - Bosch Apartment

At the top floor of the Ravello, this loft apartment is everything an artist could ask for. Spacious, open, with high ceilings and numerous windows and skylights which not only fill the room with natural light, but give it an open and airy feeling, the sky within easy reach. With the exception of the bathroom, the entire space is open with no walls. To the left of the entrance is a large kitchen done in silver-shot black marble with stainless steel appliances and a large floating counter dividing it from the rest of the apartment with stools along the far side for casual dining. Just past that is a dining table, large enough for six to sit comfortably, made out of warm chestnut wood with copper inset details. To the right of center is a raised platform 'room', the bedroom, with pillars at the two corners that jut out from the wall, heavy yet translucent curtains separating the sleeping area from the rest of the apartment. The bed dominates the space, with dressers flanking it and the bathroom leading off to one side. The rest of the apartment is free to be whatever one wants. At the moment there are a few comfortable couches and chairs by the bedroom area with an entertainment center for music and viewing pleasures. The rest has been blanketed in canvas drop cloths, a myriad of rolling carts and tables covered with paint tubes and pots, brushes, jars of mineral spirits, and a variety of other artist tools and utensils. Canvas are stacked up against a wall and a work in progress dominates the interior wall that is free of windows.

After leaving the country club, Desiree slips into Hugo's Porsche, waiting for him to assume the driver's seat. "Hugo—" she begins, not really knowing how to word what she needs to say. "Instead of taking me home, can we go to your place? I've a good reason for it, and I'll explain but it may not make any sense." She looks down at her hands folded in her lap atop her purse. "We have to talk, and I'd rather we not be interrupted by … anyone." It's fairly obvious she changed her mind there, not saying a name, but using the ambiguous "anyone."

She waits in silence for his answer, feeling a slight chill of after midnight Dallas summer weather. The air is humid, but not nearly as hot as it will be later in the summer. "I know you have questions for me. I'll try to answer them, but please realize there are certain things I can't discuss as they were given to me in confidence."

The evening certainly did end sooner than expected after Michael and Paige left. Desiree's conversation was a little too bright, a little too cheerful, covering up her mixed emotions and uncertainty over her conversation with Paige. In turn, Hugo kept their conversation to a minimum, and the slow dancing they did on the floor was taciturn and modest by their usual standards. Turning to look at Desiree's profile, Hugo's hand lifts to rest lightly upon Desiree's thigh. The warmth of is palm is oddly reassuring as he replies in a voice calm and mild, "Sure." There is no commentary on her words though. No questions asked, no demands made, no accusations thrown out. The warmth of his hand fades as he pulls it back to start up the car, the Porsche purring like a contented cat beneath his hands as he checks the mirrors and then pulls out, driving them smoothly and safely back to his home.

Desiree has yet to be to Hugo's place, and as such after he enters in and turns on the lights, he gives her a few moments to simply walk around and get the lay of the land, as it were. Technically it isn't really his place, he's just swapping apartments with a friend. But he'll wait to see how she likes it before fessing up to how much or little he had to do with the decor. The only thing he asks is, "Would you like something to drink?" as he takes off his jacket, throwing it lightly over a chair before making his way to the kitchen area.

Walk around and look is exactly what Desiree does. She seems quieter than usual, perhaps a result of the discomforting evening. Her eyes take in first the entire place, then begins to look more intently at specific areas. The kitchen draws her attention first, and she smiles as she looks it over. "I'd love something," she tells Hugo in response to the offer of a drink. "I'll have whatever you're having." That makes it easy.

Desiree continues her perusal of the loft, heading toward a bank of windows. "The view from here is magnificent," she says, her voice soft in the openness of the apartment. "Which way does it face?" Directions are not one of her strong points. She pauses there for a time, looking out over the horizon. Finally, she turns away, moving toward the open part of the apartment.

Her next stop is to look over the couches and chairs, the entertainment center and to glance at the paint daubed drop cloth. "To hazard a guess, I'd say this's where you work, yes?" It's a question which may not even need an answer. And then she turns to look at the sleeping area. A smile touches her lips. "And that is where you work your magic." Her laughter is almost musical in the loft. "It's a beautiful place, but I don't feel a lot of /you/ in it, save for the work area. I'd expect to see more art on the walls on a place you call home." She pauses. "Perhaps Impressionists, or maybe even abstracts. Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh. Starry Night, perhaps, in the bedroom."

Wine it is then. Hugo pours a second glass of red wine for Desiree, ocean eyes watching her as she wanders about the apartment. Chuckling softly, Hugo shrugs and murmurs, "How would I know that? I've only just moved here…" But then as he thinks about it, he replies, "West. It faces west. I get the sun in the afternoon. Following after her, Hugo hands Desiree a glass, ringing his against it lightly and nodding as she comments on his work area. But he laughs softly as she comments on the bedroom, noting, "Some would argue that the magic happens in the studio, not the bedroom, but everyone's mileage varies." He takes a sip from his glass and notes, "That's very astute of you. It's not my place. I'm apartment swapping with a friend while I'm here in Dallas. But you're wrong about the art. I don't have any prints - only actual paintings. As such most of them are contemporary pieces - art I've bought, that I've traded for, that friends have made … whatever moves me." Studying Desiree quietly, Hugo finally asks, "What is it that you wanted to tell me?" They could dance around the topic if they wanted. They're both proficient, both on the dance floor and in conversation. But Hugo tends toward the direct, to speaking his mind and speaking honestly.

Desiree nods. "Still, I think whoever owns the place needs art on the walls. Something— " She pauses, thinking. "— colorful, to spice up the place. Tell your friend." She taps her glass to his, then sips. The heady flavor brightens up her expression, and she smiles. That is, she smiles until he asks what it was she wanted to tell him.

"Let's have a seat, shall we?" Desiree moves to one of the couches, seating herself. She waits for Hugo to take his own seat, whether across from her or beside her. Either works for her. Desiree looks at her wine, swirling it in the glass a moment before speaking. "I'm sure you've figured out there's something more between Michael and I than simple family friends or business partners— although both are true," she says softly. "Michael's also a friend. A /close/ friend." She lets that settle in while she takes another sip of her wine. "I honestly don't remember ever meeting him when I was growing up, but he knew my parents and, I suspect, their parents and so on. My family's been in Texas long before the Alamo, and so has Michael, I understand."

Desiree takes a deep breath. "Hugo, we have wonderful times together. The dancing, the sex— it's all wonderful, and I don't want anything to ever cause that to end. But, I've not been entirely truthful with you. Rather, the sin of omission, not outright lying." She breathes again, taking a slightly larger sip. "I don't want this to end, but … I'm afraid of how you'll react when I tell you I've slept with Michael." She pauses to let that sink in, then adds, "And I allowed him to feed from me. More than once, in fact." A beat. "Even worse, I guess, I've had his blood, but there were extenuating circumstances in that case."

There. It's all out in the open. "I know we have no strings on one another, but please don't hate me, or think I'm a fangbanger. I'm not. I've only ever been with Michael. No other vampire's touched me." A hand goes to her throat. "Well, one other, but he only touched me to frighten me."

Taking another sip, Hugo shrugs and muses, "He might have taken the art work down. Maybe he doesn't trust me not to steal it or something." But he's smirking then and notes, "Most likely though, knowing Jethro, it was all pornographic and he didn't want to shock my delicate sensibilities." When Desiree suggests that they take a seat for this conversation, one brow lifts slightly, but Hugo nods. Taking a seat next to Desiree on the couch he sits sideways, facing her, one arm resting along the back of the couch, his head leaning into the palm of his hand. He says nothing as she talks. He doesn't interrupt or move or become angry or storm about the apartment. Hugo listens to what she has to say quietly and calmly, his only reaction the occasional lifting of an eyebrow. And when she is done, he takes a sip from his glass and rumbles, "Hmmmmm."

Shifting upright at this point, Hugo starts to stroll about the room, though he doesn't venture far, replying, "Curious. See, while you were in the bathroom, I can only assume telling Paige all of this, I was sitting with Michael, commenting on the fact that you were clearly talking about something you wanted to keep private from us. And during our conversation Michael said a great number of things. For one, he specifically intimated that you two were not intimate. He first said that you were just business partners. He later said that he was a friend of your parents. He also said that I should trust you and that if I ever hurt you that he would make sure that I regretted it." He takes a thoughtful sip before turning around, his weight tilted to one side. "Desiree. Who you see, who you sleep with, that's your business. So long as everyone is being an adult and not putting anyone else at risk, I have no issues with that." His shoulders shrug as he notes, "If you enjoy sex with Michael and feeding him, it's not my place to tell you to stop. I will, however, caution you to make sure that your understanding of the relationship is the same as his. Vampires can be surprisingly… capricious. If he's had your blood, and you've had his, some consider that sufficient to indicate that they have a claim on you and thus own you." One hand lifts lightly to rub over his cheek and neck in memory of when he was reminded of such a claim that he didn't even know about. Walking over to stand beside her, looking down, Hugo rumbles, "I certainly don't hate you. But I'm guessing that since you didn't tell me about Michael, that you probably didn't tell Michael about me. I think that until you have discussed the matter with him fully, we should probably… abstain for awhile. The last thing I need is a jealous vampire knocking on my door so he can rip my limbs off and beat me to death with them." His eyes drop to her throat at Desiree's final comment, but Hugo doesn't touch that point for the moment.

Desiree listens to what Hugo says, nodding now and then when she feels it's appropriate. She doesn't speak at once, not even when it's obvious Hugo's finished. Finally, "I suspected as much, but I wasn't certain until now. I don't know why Michael intimated we weren't— /hadn't/ slept together, save to not embarrass me. Or, maybe because we're not exactly having sex right now. He does occasionally still sleep at my house, but we haven't been intimate in …" She pauses, thinking, "… a while. Nor have I had his blood in over a month. I left Dallas for New York shortly after I was attacked by … something down at the lake. I was badly hurt, and Michael's blood is what saved me."

Desiree sips her wine again, then sets the glass down. "I guess I feel obligated to Michael, in some small way. He's helped me out, watched over me, given me protection— all of that. But, he's never made me feel that I /must/ either sleep with him, or give him my blood." A pause. "Nor does he have a claim on me, which is bad and good, depending on your point of view. It's good because it leaves me free to make my own choices, to be my own person. Bad in that it leaves me without protection in Vampire society."

A hand goes to her neck. "There's another vampire, not as old as Michael, and he's … there's no humanity in him. He's … I think he likes to know he frightens me to death. The other night, I was on my way to fencing with my friend Diego, and he … saw me. I tried to keep my distance, but you know the studio's right down the block from Hotel Carmilla. Before I knew it, he'd got to me, hands around my throat. He didn't harm me, but …someday … I think he'll kill me." Her voice goes cold and there's fear in the words. "So, I'm caught in a trap, Hugo. Without Michael's protection, I'm nothing more than a … a lamb to the slaughter. With a claim, I belong to Michael, and I lose my freedom." Hands rest over her eyes a moment, then she looks up. "So, yes, I know about capricious vampires, but I'll make certain Michael's told the truth, too. As for abstaining? Probably wise— but I'm not going to give up your warmth willingly or easily. I /like/ being with you, Hugo, and Michael's just got to understand that. Even if I have to sever all ties with him."

"Just… be sure," Hugo cautions softly. "I had a similar experience some years ago, where a vampire stepped in and saved my life and gave me his blood to heal me. And from time to time he would want something from me. He never gave me any reason to think I wasn't free to live my life as I chose … until I came to Dallas without telling him. As a result, he came here and forcibly 'reminded' me of his claim on me, that I belonged to him. And in talking with certain vampires here, I was given the impression that for all intents and purposes, regardless of my feelings on the matter, he did have a legitimate claim on me." The marks have faded by now, but Hugo still remembers what it felt when Tareq attacked him and took what he wanted, his fingers rubbing on the spot idly. "Michael seems decent enough, but vampire's are skilled at deception. They've had to be." Taking a seat, Hugo leans over his glass and stares into the wine, frowning slightly at the rest of her story. "Strange isn't it? How vampires are supposedly obedient to human law, and yet these sorts of situations occur? I mean, what happens if you go to the police and report this vampire? What recourse can be taken for being assaulted by a vampire? Any?" Sitting up, Hugo states bluntly, "I can't protect you. If you truly fear for your life, then perhaps you should accept Michael's claim on you, make it official. You've already shared enough to make it binding in the eyes of vampiric laws from what I understand."

There's just the faintest glimmer of tears in Desiree's eyes before she drops them to look at her own wine. "That's what Paige told me," she whispers. "I … I don't want to be owned, Hugo. I spent a few years feeling owned by my ex-husband, and I swore no man would ever own me again." Now there's no doubt the glisten in her eyes is tears. "When I was little, my mother owned me, forced me into beauty pageants because she was only a runner up. She wanted me to be Miss America, but I wasn't cut out for it. So, she set about making me a star— " She swallows a gulp of wine, liquid courage. "— I didn't fail her, but she failed me. And when my father finally stood up for me, they divorced, and he started drinking. My older brother and sister had their own lives, and resented all the attention I got. So, I've been alternately owned and disowned all my life. Only now am I free, and I'm being told I have to give up my freedom to protect my life."

The last of the wine in her glass is drank, the empty goblet set on the table. "Well, it maybe that Michael already owns me, but I'm not going to be claimed. Not officially. Maybe with my dying breath, but not now. If it means I have to move away from here, I will. I can go to LA or … or New Orleans. I have friends in one, family in the other." She dashes away tears that threaten to ruin her eye makeup, turning glistening green eyes on Hugo. "I'm not asking for your protection, Hugo. I'm not asking for /anyone's/ protection. I don't need protection. If I have to, I'll rescind Michael's invitation to my private home. I can't keep any vampire out of the studio, but I can keep them out of my home." She stands up. "I guess you'd better take me home— or I can call a cab. There's not much more we can say, really." She moves toward the door, her steps slow and weary. "I'm sorry, Hugo. I was going to tell you before this, but … we were always involved in other things. It never seemed the right time."

"If Michael is as trustworthy and good as you say he is, then there is no ownership. He says you are claimed, he extends to you his protection, your relationship remains the same and your life remains the same." Reaching out, Hugo lays a hand over Desiree's and states simply, "Talk to him. Find out exactly what being claimed entails, just what he would expect of you. He clearly cares for you deeply. If he wants you to be happy, he won't make his protection a cage that you have to live inside of." Putting down his glass, Hugo tilts Desiree's face up, fingers gently wiping away her tears as he frowns. "You're making assumptions before you even know what is involved, Desiree. Find out what your options are before making a choice. The vampires want to get along with the humans. If one vampire is threatening you, he threatens the goal of the Vampire Coalition. There's a good chance that consequences will not fall onto you, but onto the vampire in question." His lips curl into a small ironic smile as she echoes his words from just a few weeks ago. "Now, now, there's no reason to jump to conclusions or do anything drastic. Come on, take a deep breath, there you go. It isn't the end of the world. Take another." His hands rest on Desiree's shoulders as he comes up behind her, rubbing them gently. "Why don't you stay here tonight? You'll be perfectly safe from both me and any vampires who might think of coming around." He gently turns her about, forestalling her exit. "I think you need a nice hot shower, something warm and soothing to eat or drink. Some cocoa? A warm brandy? A cup of soup?" His hands lightly stroke over Desiree's hair in soothing strokes. "Everything is getting bent all out of shape. Time to take a step back and just relax for a bit."

It's hard for Desiree to resist the invitation to stay. "I don't want to put you out," she says softly, not wanting to turn around, but unable to resist Hugo's hands on her shoulders. She feels drained, tired, as if she's leaking out a little at a time. "I plan to talk to Michael," she says, still softly, still not really looking at Hugo. "He deserves the truth, too." She sighs. "We've already discussed what a claim is and isn't, so I know about everything I need to know— but I'm going to clarify it again. I'll probably piss him off by asking again, but … maybe I've forgotten something."

"I can stay, yes, but let me sleep on the couch. I'll call a cab in the morning," which is only an hour or so away, "and you won't have to worry about taking me home. If you'd … if you'd like to cancel your next lesson, I'll understand." At least she's not crying any longer. "I'm fine, really. The wine kind of took the edge off of … things. The hot shower sounds good, though I don't have any clothes with me." For every positive thing, Desiree can find a negative.

Finally, she looks up at Hugo's face. "I'm sorry," she says, and it's sincere. The honesty is there in her eyes. No slyness, no flirting, just honesty. "I don't want to lose what we had, Hugo, but I don't think it'll ever be the same." There's sadness there. "I mean, can you forget everything said tonight and just go back the way things were?" She's afraid of the answer, but needs to hear it once and for all. "After I talk to Michael, I mean. Can we go back to where we were, or will it be … too much to ask?"

Pulling Desiree close, Hugo just wraps his arms about her and holds her, rocking every so slightly from side to side. "It's a mighty big apartment," he notes reasonably with just the tiniest hint of teasing in his voice. "I think I can find the space. Hell, the bed is so big we could both sleep in it and not even be touching." Clucking softly as she finds something to bitch about for every one of his suggestions, Hugo chides, "Since when have you been such a negative Nancy? Here's what we're going to do," he decides, turning her about and marching Desiree to the bathroom. "You're going to have a nice hot bath or shower, your choice," and one of the few he's going to let her make tonight, "and then you're going to come out and put on a nice big shirt of mine, have a nice hot cup of soup, and crawl into bed and get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow you're going to sleep in, have a big decadent breakfast after which I will drive you home. Tomorrow night you'll talk to Michael and get all of the facts so you can make an informed decision as to the best course of action." As she bemoans the loss of everything, Hugo just shakes his head, hands lifting to capture her face between them, his mouth taking hers softly, seductively before pulling away. "Nothing's changed, Desiree. Of course I can't forget what's been said, but since I was already figuring that you and Michael had slept together it really doesn't change much. Your life is your own. I have no interest in owning you or controlling you or telling you what you can and cannot do. You're a grown woman, you make your own choices." Kissing her lightly on the lips again, Hugo pushes her to the bathroom. "Now go and relax. I'll put a shirt on the counter for you. There will be a nice hot mug of soup waiting for you when you're done."

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